Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Another New Car?

The wife wants me to buy a new car...  She is driving our 2013 Audi A4, and she wants me to get rid of our trusty 2007 Mazda 3.

My response to her was that if we look to do that, we should look to trade/sell our Audi.  That would get us something like $15K to $20K.  Trading/selling the Mazda would get us something like $2K...  Not really significant when you look at the cost of a new car.  She didn't want to give up the Audi so soon, AND what if we want to have another baby?  We would need to look for an SUV or minivan or something.  SO...  What if you want a new car, don't want to keep it for a while, AND you don't have very much equity to use for down payment?  LEASE!!!

Here are the requirements:

  • Gotta have all of the cool tech
  • Gotta have All Wheel Drive
  • Gotta have a largish cargo area
  • Gotta have 4 doors
  • Gotta have some additional room for growing baby and car seat 

Here is what I am looking at...

Audi A5 Sportback

from $42,600
252 HP
3,704 lbs
0.29 Drag coefficient
24/34 MPG
7 Speed Transmission
186.3 / 79.9 / 54.6 Length / Width / Height
39.4 / 37 Headroom front/rear
41.3 / 35.1 Legroom front/rear
55.7 / 54.5 Shoulder room front/rear
21.8 / 35 Cargo capacity (cu ft)

Mercedes Benz GLC 300 4Matic Coupe

from $46,600
241 HP
4,001 lbs
0.31 Drag coefficient
21/28 MPG
9 Speed Transmission
186.3 / 82.5 / 63.1 Length / Width / Height
38 Headroom (in)
40.8 / 37.3 Legroom front/rear (in)
57.3 / 56.5 Shoulder room front/rear
17.6 / 56.5 Cargo capacity (cu ft)


from $47,600
240 HP
4,130 lbs
0.36 Drag coefficient
20/28 MPG
8 Speed Transmission
184.5 / 74.1 / 63.9 Length / Width / Height
39.3 Headroom (in)
40.4 / 34.8 Legroom, front/rear (in)
57.2 / 56.0 Shoulder room, front/rear
17.7–49.4 Cargo capacity (cu ft)

All of the cars are comparable in terms of price and specs.  The Audi stands out in terms of tech (the most bad ass of the bunch).  I was surprised to see that the overall head room was comparable between all three.  I would have thought that the MB and BMW would have won that battle.

Overall look, I have to go with the Audi as well.  The lines are clean and it looks aggressive with out getting dated or weird.  The BMW and MB look like beefed up cars...  A lot like an AMC Eagle that a friend owned in High School...

What gets me is the MPG.  All cars are the All Wheel Drive option.  All have turbocharged 4 cylinder engines.  The Audi has a slight edge in HP, but they are all about 245 HP. 
The MB and BMW are significantly heavier, 300 and 400 lbs respectively, than the Audi.  That, and the drag coefficient, make for a big difference in MPG. 

I like my current Audi, and being at risk of being called the "Audi family," I don't think I can go wrong with the A5 Sportback.  Just have to find a way to keep the price around that $42K...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why Iron Fist Sucks

Iron Fist and the Defenders have been out for a bit, so I feel it is OK to talk about them without worrying about spoilers for anyone.

I was really excited when I heard that Iron Fist was coming to Netflix.  Then I watched the first season of Daredevil.  Then I was chomping at the bit.  If Daredevil was this badass, Iron Fist, the Living Weapon, the pinnacle of Martial Arts, should be insanely off the hook.

I heard Finn Jones was starring and I wasn't too worried.  Charlie Cox of Daredevil wasn't know for his Martial Arts, and he made DD look amazing. 

Then it premiered.  My expectations were high.  I was devastated.  It wasn't the story.  It wasn't the angle they took for Iron Fist.  That was all OK.  They played up the whiny rich kid angle way too much but that's fine.

The fight scenes that featured Jones just stunk up the room.  No energy.  No talent.  With out trying to exaggerate at all, my 43 year old non-acting, inflexible, fat ass could have done a better job.  EVERYONE, including Rosario Dawson, did better then the supposed "Living Weapon." He was terrible.  Awful.  Unforgivable.

What's worse is that Marvel had a change things when the filmed The Defenders.  They KNEW that Jones was terrible.  They did NOTHING.  There were times in The Defenders where Charlie Cox and Finn Jones were in the same fight scenes.  I can't even remember watching Jones.  I remember Krysten Ritter's Jessica Jones movements more than I remember Jones.  Ritter's moves basically consisted of her throwing someone in to a wall. 

The best scenes in BOTH shows where when secondary characters, Iron Fist is the primary in both shows, fought.  Davos, played by Sacha Dhawan, was amazing in Iron Fist.  I was actually cheering for the bad guy when Danny/Davos finally faced off.  That fight SUCKED, because Dhawan was obviously holding back for the craptastick Finn.
The Electra/Daredevil fight in The Defenders was incredibly badass.  NOTHING that Finn did was badass.  Even the should have been insane Luke Cage/Iron Fist fight.  Just terrible.

There will be a season 2 of Iron Fist...  I will watch it, because of the interconnection between the Marvel Netflix series.  I hope they teach Finn some Martial Arts, or have other people fight his battles.  Because he sucks.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How To Escape Mount

One of the most fundamental positions in fighting is the mount position.  As children my brother...  and my older sister, used to put me in this position all of the time.  It just feels right.

Mount is achieved when you pass your knees above your opponent's hips.
This is one of the most superior positions in all of fighting.  You can punch, choke, or go for a myriad of submissions from here.  Escaping this position, therefore, is a primary, fundamental skill that must be mastered to progress as a fighter.

First and foremost...  If you are mounted, you messed up very seriously previously to getting to this position.  You must attempt to avoid getting in to this spot with strong escapes and movements in one of the inferior top positions previous.  But...  I well know, that is MUCH easier said than done.

Secondly, when you train and drill this position, realize what a powerful position it is.  Getting out is very very difficult.  If you do escape, you are likely to be in a bad position afterwards, just not as bad as you were before.
Because you are in such a bad position, realize that you are going to get mauled before anything positive happens.  Most of the escape positions involve you moving your arms away from defending against punches and chokes.  Know that if you are in a situation where you can be hit, you WILL be hit, likely several times, before you complete the escape.

Beginning the Escape - Theroy

When mounted you MUST defend first with your grappling.  You have to make your opponent adjust their position according to your movements.  This means disrupting their balance with hip pops and movement.
You MUST avoid allowing your opponent get his knees in to your armpits.  If that occurs, you are in very deep trouble, as he has taken away your ability to use your most powerful muscles and your center of gravity to disrupt his balance.
If they DO get their knees in to your armpits, you must attempt to move them back down on to your waist, BEFORE you can begin your escape movements.  Otherwise they will be too high on you body to catch their legs.
It is here where you will be at your most vulnerable.  Your elbows will be exposed.  You need to uncover you face and neck to get your elbows in the best position to move your body up/move their body down.  It is at this time where you will get your nose broken, or you will get choked out.  Beware, and try to time your movement to minimize the amount of damage you will take.

Best Time to Start is Before They are Finished

The BEST time to begin your escapes is just before your opponent finishes moving to mount, before they can solidify their position.  This takes timing and experience.  You have to know when to stop defending the mount and start escaping it.  I would rather give up position escaping a position early than start escaping a position too late.  

Escape Number 1 - Hold and Roll

This is one of the easiest and most intuitive of the mount escapes.  Essentially your isolate an arm, block the same side leg and roll.  However, there are subtleties to the escape that you must be aware of.  


When you begin your roll, you must BRIDGE!!  Not straight up, but at a 45 degree angle.  I turn my head until I am looking at the mat.  I then take the roll to my inside shoulder.  NEVER just roll linearly.  Your opponent will base with the arm you have not isolated, and shut your movement down.

Leg Placement

One of the most difficult aspects of this escape is the leg placement in the roll.  Your inside leg threads UNDERNEATH your outside leg.  This sets your hips and your center of gravity in to a position to complete the escape.  It makes it very difficult for your opponent to stop your movement. The natural movement is to step over with your outside leg.  This movement is slower and much less powerful than the leg thread movement.  

If all goes well you end up in your opponent's guard. This is known as the Rickson Gracie mount escape.  No one better to demonstrate it than the man himself:

Pay special attention to when Rickson's opponent is giving him a hard time. Rickson demonstrates the leg thread movement effortlessly.

Escape Number 2 - Knee Elbow Escape

The Knee Elbow Escape involves a very special shrimp movement.  To execute this correctly, you must first "umpa" to knock your opponent off balance, then you have to shrimp, while keeping as much as your back on the ground as possible.  Expose too much of your back, and your opponent snaps in to an "S" mount and your goose is well and truly cooked.
The movement begins with putting the shrimping leg on the ground.  Your same side elbow then is placed on the closest knee of your opponent.  
You then start an oblique crunch to push your opponent's leg backwards, while you simultaneously push your hips upwards.  As this happens, you stick your shrimping leg knee in to the space between your opponent's instep and shin.  Your goal is to bring your elbow to your knee.  This places your opponents's knee in between your legs, giving you the half guard position.

Leg Placement

Many of these movements must be executed simultaneously, or in such close proximity for them to be essentially the same movement.  This is true with the umpa and the shrimp movement.  Leg placement is difficult for the student at first, because the two movements have the direct opposite leg placements.

The umpa requires that both feet be on the ground.  The hips are then raised explosively upward.  Once the maximum height has been achieved, the leg that you will be shrimping into needs to be set flat on the ground.  This is to pre-position it to move the knee in to the space between your opponent's instep and shin at the ankle joint.
So, the idea is to explode upward, then fall back to the mat while extending one leg.  The other leg remains in the umpa/shrimp base position.

The knee of the straighted leg then begins to move upward.  What is important is that the knee remain flat on the ground.  It is imperative to the escape that your knee fit in to this area and pass all the way in.  The knee moves forward until it meets the escapee's same side elbow.

Body Position

One of the big dangers with this position is your opponent moving to "S" mount.
Most of the time, this happens when the bottom person lifts their shoulder off the ground too much.
Another big danger is that as you place your elbow on his knee you expose your face to punching.  To counter both of these, you are going to do an oblique crunch.

How do to an oblique crunch? Try this.  Lay on your back with both feet on the ground, knees in the air.  While keeping your back on the floor, thread your left hand through your left leg and touch your right ankle.  Do the same for the other side.  This is an oblique crunch, and a fun exercise you can do for warm ups.

You have your elbow down at your side, your hands high to protect your neck and your face. You execute your umpa that knocks your opponent off balance.  As you flatten out your leg and begin to move your knee upwards, you begin your oblique crunch that places your same side elbow on your opponent's knee.  You then begin pushing your opponent's knee backwards  in to your upward moving leg.
This pincer movement forces your opponent's leg between your own, and you close for half guard.

Ritchie Yip has an excellent video on how to execute this movement.

Half Guard

When I teach this escape, I like to continue on to the Half Guard part of it.  It is necessary to think of the half guard escape as part of the mount escape as a whole, because, without teaching and training the movements as a whole, students tend to make it to half guard and stop.  This allows their opponent to begin their own half guard escapes.  By teaching everything in the same movement, a more complete escape can be envisioned where the escapee ends up in a superior position.

After completing the knee elbow escape, it is important to immediately switch your hips outward, and search for the underhook with the elbow push arm.  More often than not, you will end up in a very low half guard.  The two escape strategy that I use here is first the foot grab escape, followed by the roll under escape.  Stephan Kesting, as always shows these two movements with excellent detail.

Put It All Together

How do black belts escape the mount?  They chain their movements together.  When I roll 99% of the time I use the above two movements to escape the mount.  I normally start with the roll escape then, if I'm stopped, I immediately move in to the knee elbow escape.  The two complement each other very well.  The important point is that I never stop moving.  I'm always trying to disrupt my opponent's balance so that they cannot begin their submission movements.  They are always dealing with my movements, trying to grapple me.  If they miss or if they pause, I have them, and I escape.
It is important to note that you mustn't spaz out.  Your movements to disrupt must have purpose.  If you are simply flopping around like a dying fish, you cannot take advantage of your opponent's mistakes, and execute your escapes.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

House Renovation - What You Need to Know if you Know Nothing

We are finishing up on a medium sized house renovation.  I want to say major, because we are spending major money...  Anyway, background and scope is this:


We found a new construction house in the neighborhood we wanted to live in.  Prime location.  The house was someone else's dream house, who couldn't afford to actually keep it.  They realized this just as the house was finishing up, so we got a high end, custom house that had some very obvious sacrifices made to finish to sell.  Two of the most obvious were the kitchen and the outdoor porch area.

The kitchen area is a combined kitchen/dining/living room open concept.  The stove is a 36" Viking Professional.  High end and expensive.  The refrigerator is an Fhiaba built in.  Idiotically expensive.  So expensive that I would have never in my life bought such a thing had it not been in the house already...  The island had a very large butcher block counter top, with the rest of the kitchen having Alabama White marble counter tops.  Very expensive.

The floors are all natural hardwood taken from trees that were on the property before it was cleared to build the house.  They are extraordinarily beautiful.  It is difficult to find old growth wood for flooring, like the old days, but somehow they pulled it off.

The fireplace is large with a bench like brick front.  The bricks were all kilned in Birmingham, and were reclaimed from some old buildings around town.


The cabinets were all Ikea.  As inexpensive as you could get.  There were no overhead cabinets.  And all of the cabinets were drawers.
There was no backsplash.  Just painted walls.
The oven hood was the smallest that could pass inspection...  and it was about an inch off center...  and it vented in to... nowhere.
The marble counter tops are gorgeous.  We love them.  They are impractical as all outdoors.  Everything stains them.  They scratch and chip easily.  They need to be regularly sealed.

The fireplace bench protrudes about two feet in to the living area significantly shrinking the already scarce space.

The outdoor porch area was...  Just a roof with supporting telephone pole like columns, and pea gravel floor.

The fireplace firebox protrudes about two feet in to the outdoor area, again significantly shrinking the already scarce space.

It was obvious that the family had intended something much more grand.  When we bought the house, we knew that we would have some work to do.  Now...  A little look in to my crazy.  I hate fireplaces.  I think they are outdated and should have been eliminated with the outhouse.  Wood burning fireplaces are even worse because they add smoke, soot and additional cost in firewood to the mix.
So... That is what we are doing.

Scope of Work

  • Kitchen
    • Replace all cabinets with custom wood cabinets
    • Replace all counter tops with marble looking quartz
    • Replace and extend cabinet around the built in refrigerator with a place to put small appliances.
    • Replace hood with stainless steel 42" Viking hood with 1200 CFM vent that vents outside.
    • Replace refrigerator door with stainless steel door.
    • Add two overhead cabinets
    • Add tile back splash 
    • Reduce the footprint of the island to allow more dining space
  • Living room
    • Remove fireplace
    • Add 16' sliding glass door to porch area
      • Gives an 8' open area when both doors are open
  • Porch
    • Remove telephone poll supports
    • Frame and screen in porch
    • Add ceiling, recessed lighting, and 72" ceiling fan
    • Add polished concrete floor.
    • Add concrete pad on one side of the porch for grilling
  • Landscape
    • Add sod and plantings as needed
So a good sized project with a lot of moving parts.

What to Know if You Know Nothing

I know nothing about construction.  It isn't my area of expertise.  I don't know how much things cost, or how much time they take.  What I do know is that it is MY house.  I am signing the checks, so I am the ultimate boss.  Me.  Never ever ever forget that.  

So the first thing you need is a contractor.  But not just any contractor.  You need to know things about your contractor.  You need to ask around.  You need to meet with people and really interview them.
I needed someone who was honest, felt the same about quality of work, could accurately manage my expectations, who could deliver on time, and who could guide my wife and I to the decisions that we had to make.

Everyone knows about the horror stories of the renovation that drags on and on and on.  Or get something they didn't ask for.  I don't what that.  

So, what do you ask?  How do you find this person?


First thing first.  You have a conversation to find out how well the contractor listens.  You need someone who will listen to you, not talk over you, or try to force their opinion on your.  You need someone who isn't afraid to be HONEST with you about the scope of work, or the costs, or even if you are being unrealistic.  So, ask their opinion on what you are planning.  You can tell if someone is telling you something you want to hear.  
You need to get a sense as to how this person does business.  Do they accept that this is YOUR house, YOUR project, and YOUR standards of quality?  

Find out if the contractor uses subcontractors and for what work.  Then find out if they use the SAME subs on each job.  That is important to know.
Ask about how he schedules his jobs.  Does he have multiple jobs going at the same time?  If so, how many crews does he have working.  

Next, get references.  But not just good references.  Ask them for three references.  One that loves them, one that is a return customer, and one that hates them.  Then call all three.  Get as personal as you can with your questions and the job that was done.  

  • Job completed on time
  • Costs, estimate accurate or not?
  • Work quality
  • Quality of the crew
    • Were they working or standing around playing with their phones?
  • Overall project management
Get in to the nitty gritty as far as the reference is willing to go.  Even the customer that loves them will have somethings they don't like.  If you can live with that, you are good to go.


This is where the rubber meets the road.  Subcontractors are specialists in a certain aspect of your job.  For instance, on my job we needed 
  • Masons
  • Cabinet maker
  • Landscapers
  • Tile people
  • Floor people
  • HV/AC
  • Window mill-workers
  • Painters
  • Concrete
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
It is likely that your job will have this many and more.  The important thing to know here is that each one of these subs has their own agenda and time line.  Most renovations get hung up on the subs.  So, when you are finding your contractor, it is very very important to find out how much work is done by the subs and how much work is done by the contractor directly.
Find out who the subcontracting companies will be.  If the contractor is cagey about who will come, you DON'T want that contractor.  You need time to check in to those companies.

What you are looking for is a contractor that consistently uses the same subcontractors.  Why?  Leverage.  Think about your own job.  Which customer is treated better and given preferential treatment?  The large customer that keeps coming back or the first timer that you aren't sure that will ever come back?  Companies bend over backwards to keep large customers happy.  A contractor that uses the same subcontractors every time IS that big customer.  

Case in point.  When the slab was poured for our porch, there was a problem.  There was a slight bulge in the concrete that wouldn't allow the sliding door to go in.  The solution was to break down the slab and re-pour.  Because my contractor does the majority of his concrete work with this same company, they were out the next day early and working late breaking up the slab and re-pouring the concrete.  The contractor had the leverage, and the relationship to get the work done and keep us on schedule.

The main reason you want a contractor using the same subs isn't the problem fixes above, though.  It is the schedule.  With a strong relationship the contractor can get the subs to come when he wants them to according to his schedule, not the subs.  This means that you won't get the long delays between work.  


There are a lot of decisions to make.  Your contractor will help you get through them.  Your contractor, in the planning phase, have drawings for you to look at.  They should come on to your job site and show you what things will look like with tape or string or something that you can walk around at different angles to make your final decisions.
You will need to make decisions on colors.  This needs to be done as soon as you can.  You need to make decisions on placement.  You even have to make decisions on what kind of cover you want for your electrical outlets.
A good thing to do is to look at your current house and living area.  Get in very close.  Everything you see is a decision you have to make.  Trim, paint, plastic, placement, size, shape, etc etc etc.

The Work

When the work begins...  It will be DIRTY.  Very dirty.  Dust EVERYWHERE.  It will be noisy.  Bangs and saws and motors and everything else.  There will be smells.  Wet paint.  Floor varnish, etc.
You will lose the use of the part of your room that work will be done in.  Your electric bill will be much higher.  If you are doing work in the summer, and you have your AC on, people will be in and out of your house, so your AC use will be much higher.

The Workers

The workers...  It is unavoidable that you will have some shady looking people working in your house.  That is the nature of the business.  That isn't the worst part.  The worse part is that the workers will treat your property like crap.  Trash will be everywhere.  They don't pickup after themselves.  YOU must be the trash enforcer.  You must make it clear that you will not accept abuse of your property or your grounds.  Make it clear that they are to throw away trash in to a designated pile to be hauled away, or they must bring cans or something to put personal trash in.  Be insistent.  It is your house, your rules.  Be very clear on what is acceptable.  Some construction debris around the site are inevitable and unavoidable.  Have some discretion, but obvious stuff, cans, bottles, etc.  Be firm.

Smoking...  Some of the workers will smoke.  If you don't smoke in your house, make sure that everyone knows that the home is a no smoking zone.  Zero tolerance.  I set up a smoking area for them.  I did not allow any smoking on or near the materials that would go in the house.  I was very firm about this.  Again YOUR house.  YOUR job. YOUR RULES.  If they give you static, simply ask them if they would like to be paid for the job.  This is something that you have to jump on EARLY.  You can't pull it on them half way through the job.  

Once it is established that YOU are the ultimate boss, things are set.  The workers will listen to you.


You may run in to a situation where a working is intoxicated on the job.  Let the contractor know immediately.  It is a safety and liability issue for both you and the contractor.  If you are uncomfortable about confronting the intoxicated person, you have the right to revoke your invitation to anyone at any time.  Talk to one of the other workers.  If need be, call the police. Let that be your last resort, though.  Get with the foreman or your contractor before you do that, unless you fear for your or someone else's safety.  If you do call the police, do so quietly.  You don't want to have the intoxicated person become more agitated by announcing that you are calling the police.

Final Product

Before you call the job complete, or a section of the job that a sub does that is complete, go over every inch of it with the contractor.  If ANYTHING is not to your liking, let the contractor know so that they can fix it.  This is an important thing to keep in mind.  This is YOUR job.  YOUR house.  The job is done when YOU say it is done.  You have the right to be as picky as you want to be. Once they leave the job, they are gone and you must pay to have anything corrected.  Be anal.  Be specific.  Don't worry about anybody's feelings.   The only person that matters is YOU.  The only feelings that matter are YOURS.

Be sure that the job site is cleaned and finished to your satisfaction.  There will be construction debris everywhere, and the workers will not be good about cleaning it all up.  Again, be insistent.  Make sure that you are understood and that you won't accept the job being done before everything is looking beautiful.  


If you take anything away from this, take this:  It is YOUR project.  You must live with it.  Make sure that you have something that you will enjoy.  You must take ownership of the project at a personal level, because it is very personal.  This is your house.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Working Through Impostor Syndrome

One of my friends saw my blog posts and mentioned how he liked my honesty on dealing with Impostor Syndrome.  I asked "Dealing with the what now, whondrome?"

Doing a bit of research, it is a subject that comes up quite a bit in BJJ.  Largely due to the length of time it takes to progress, and the not so subtle fact that you get absolutely SMASHED for a good long length of time.  It puts you in the mind set of "I will never be as good as INSERT GUY HERE."  When you achieve the rank of said guy, you feel like you are a poor substitute for him/her.  You feel like you don't really deserve the rank/praise, and that any moment, you will be revealed for the pretender you are.

When I started BJJ, I rolled with our black belt, Rodrigo Vaghi.  He crushed me.  Stole my will to live.  Then he did it to the next guy.  Then the next guy.  Then the NEXT guy.  That was my understanding of what a Black Belt was.  What I didn't know was that Rodrigo is an elite black belt.  One of the very best.  What I didn't know was, had I gone to his academy in Rio, I would have seen that he would crush their black belts the same way.

Others have written about the same thing:
Valerie Worthington 

Nick Chewy Albin

Higher JiuJitsu

I have taken some time to really think about it.  To pull out my soul and take a good look.  I realized that I'm just starting my journey.  I have passed the minimum qualifications to become a black belt.  I have a good idea of base, and a basic understanding of leverage.  My fitness is good.  It's time to play.

For the last few months, I have started to "play" with my jiujitsu.  I've begun to open myself up and try different positions, different movements.  I am also taking time to drill the basics consistently.  I've completely given up on always having to be the guy who wins.  I can lose, as long as I learn.  By concentrating on the basics, and drilling them I have strengthened and deepened my knowledge of them.  So, when I get in to trouble after trying a new position, I can fall back on what I know works.
It is something that I should have done a long time ago.

I feel that now I am trying new things, I have expanded my game.  Best of all, I'm having more fun.

I know that I won't be what my mind's eye expects of a black belt.  But I also know that I am not undeserving of the rank.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mind = Blown!!

Sometimes you hear something and it completely changes your way of thinking.  In Jiu-Jitsu, you must always be thinking, re-evaluating your game and improving your weaknesses.

My instructor in Oklahoma, Giulliano Gallupi, said something to me once that didn't make a lot of sense at the time, but as I progress in BJJ, it becomes more and more mind blowing.  He told me "In guard, if you open your guard, you are playing Open Guard.  If your opponent opens your guard, you are getting passed."
"Of course." I thought at the time and dismissed it.  I didn't think deeply on what his actual meaning was.  What he was actually talking about was who has the initiative in the movement.  This is very important, because reaction time is always slower than initial action.  I also KNOW when the initial action is started.

Using the Open Guard/Passing Guard example, if I open my guard and place my feet on my opponent's hips I can then execute my next movement as my opponent is reacting to the opening of my guard.  I am one move ahead.  If my guard is opened by my opponent, I am reacting to the opening of my guard, trying to get to a spot where I can play open guard.  All the while my opponent is moving to pass.  My opponent is one move ahead.

Now let's apply this concept to escapes and sweeps.  In side control, I like to shrimp to my knees.

I then base with one arm down, opposite foot comes out to and the same foot as the arm down shoots forward to take butterfly guard.  This looks like a sit out, but instead of coming to the outside, you end up in half-guard.

Once there, I'll do the sweep of my choice.  If I have an underhook and an overhook, I'll go for the standard butterfly guard sweep.

If I have double underhooks, I'll start the roll over pass and if he bases with his arms, I'll take his back.

This all starts with my intention to escape.  I start the bridge and shrimp.  My opponent moves to retain side control, reacting to my bridge.  I scissor my legs and get to my knees.  As my opponent reacts to my change in position, I am already moving to butterfly guard.  My opponent now has to sit on his knees to counter the butterfly.  As he begins his movement, I have already selected, and have begun my sweep.  With the intention to escape, and getting to my knees I immediately was three steps ahead of my opponent who was still reacting to my initial shrimp.

Another excellent example is in the baseball bat choke from the bottom of side control.  In this movement, I ALLOW my opponent to pass.  BUT, I must make sure that it is ME who is controlling the initiative.

Here, Magid Hage sets his hands in guard, and baits his opponent to pass. He allows the pass to occur, on his terms, and springs the attack.

That is all well and good, however, this concept becomes more powerful when I am in the middle of defending my opponents movements.  I RETAKE the initiative by deciding when my opponent can complete the motions of his movements.  In these moments I move from being passed/attacked to becoming the attacker.
An excellent example of this is the "Ghost Escape".

In the first part of this video Kenneth Brown shows us the escape. The outside arm overhooks the opponent's outside arm. Bridge to make space, then the inside arm shoots underneath the body. Then you push on the body of the opponent while using your legs as a pendulum scissor movement. The momentum of the movement along with the push from the arm moves you in a circle and out of side control. The second half of the video demonstrates what I am talking about in this pass. The opponent begins a cut pass. They have the initiative, they have begun their pass, and have put their knee outside ours and have effectively stapled our leg to the ground. Knowing that the next movement will be the slide in to kesagatame, Kenneth recognizes that he will be passed and needs to take steps to recover the initiative. He moves to his side to take control of the sliding leg. At the same time he gets his ovehook, and moves his inside arm in to the push position. He then allows the pass to progress. Because he is in charge, he knows when the pass is going to occur. As the pass completes, he initiates his movement and is able to turn into his opponent in butterfly guard.

When you are training, who has the initiative? Are you playing open guard, or are you being passed?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How Not To Become a Crappy Black Belt

In BJJ you have various things that you need to be learning and doing at the various belt levels.  Your ability to learn and execute these things will determine your success in competition and in the gym.

As a white belt you job is to learn base and apply it to the basic movements of Jiu-Jitsu.  Whoever has the the best knowledge of base in a white belt competition will be able to overcome the majority of his opponents, because they will be able to execute their passes, set up submissions and counter the other guy's game.  Even if your opponent knows more than you do, if you have a better base you are much more likely to counter his movement.

As a blue belt your job is to deepen your knowledge of base and the basics, but add endurance and stamina.  Put two Blue Belts with equal base and knowledge in a match and the one with better endurance is going to win.  At Blue Belt you will be smashed and smashed and smashed.  You will need to learn how to defend and keep going.  You will learn how to attack and chain those attacks together.  Base is always important, but keeping your movement rolling is the key to success at this level.

As a Purple Belt your job is to develop a game.  You should already know what positions seem to work well for your body type.  The idea now is not to focus on those positions and drill so that you feel absolutely safe in those positions.  Then progress on to some very specific movement in those positions that you get some "signature" submissions from.  From there, instead of just looking to "escape side control" you are moving to escape side control in to a sweep/movement that will put you in to my game.  You see this in upper level matches, their movements are dedicated to directing their opponents in to their specific game.  

At Brown Belt you refine and solidify your game.  All focus is toward that game.  You explore new moves and other movements for the sake of defending them or using them to focus your game.  You hear the complaint, "You always use XYZ pass to XYZ submission."  Your drills are designed to put you in bad situations, so that you can escape, and progress directly to your game.  Your game movements are drilled to the point that even though someone may know exactly what you are going to do, they can't stop it.

At Black Belt your game is at the point where it is as natural as breathing.  Your flow is always, naturally, moving you into and around your game.  Your drilling is for the various "branches" of counters and movements of your game.  Instead of hitting XYZ pass to XYZ submission, you hit XYZ pass to XYZ submission, then flow seamlessly in to XXY submission because XYZ was blocked in one way or another.  This is natural movement, no thought was required to move submissions they just appear.

Where did I go wrong?  At purple belt, I didn't develop a game.  Sure I have positions and stuff that I really like and that are my "go-to" but...  I have too much fun with new positions.  I keep trying them, drilling them.  It means that my execution isn't where it should be.  A good black belt is able to teach the positions, but also has their specific game that is attuned to their use and their body.  A good black belt says "Ok, we are going to go over lasso guard to triangles." when their game is closed guard to top position to mount submissions.

My problem is that because I want to try so much stuff all of the time, I really have no defined game.  I get beat by those that do.  When I run in to someone with a specific, refined game, I get served early and often.  
So, what am I to do?  Well...  I need to build a game.  I need to focus on it.  I know what my game should be, I just need to take the time and drill dirll drill.  But...  I don't want to.  I want to practice all of the new stuff, while tying it together with the old stuff.  I want to drill  a cool way to get to the berimbolo off of a traditional half-guard pass, and I'll throw in a kneebar just for fun.
I am a hobbyist.  I'm 43 years old.  BJJ is not only my exercise and workout, but my decompression and fun.  I'm not competing anymore.  I really don't "have" to create and solidify a game at this point.  BUT...  If I do want to represent my school and my belt when I train other places, I do need something to execute... 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Confessions of a Crappy Black Belt

I promoted to Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Saturday.  I am having lots of conflicting thoughts and feelings.
On the one hand, I feel that I deserve the belt.  I have been training for 12 years now, and I feel that I have put the time in on the mat, paid my dues, took the injuries, and that my knowledge level is on par with most Black Belts.
I know the positions, I know the movements.  I can teach and execute them.
I'm not pushing any innovations, but neither am I behind in the new movements.

I know the rule set and scoring for IBJJF and the other most common tournaments.  I can run a fight camp and make sure that the students in the class are ready to compete at their level.

Functionally, my technique is good enough to overcome all but the higher belts at my gym, and I have worked favorably against others at other gyms.  When young, strong, athletic, wrestlers with no BJJ experience to speak of come to the gym, I am able to hold them off and finish them.

I know that in the overall bell curve of BJJ Black Belts, I am not at the bottom of the curve.

But, on the much bigger other hand, I don't feel that my ability to apply technique is at the Black Belt level.  I don't "feel" like a Black Belt.  Of course, my promotion is not up to me.  It is up to my instructors.  Samuel, who runs the gym feels I am at the Black Belt level.  Rodrigo Medeiros, Samuel's instructor stated that he feels that my technique is at the Black Belt level and allowed the promotion.  But I don't feel worthy of the belt.

This is very different from my promotions to Black Belt in other martial arts.  I promoted to Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do not more than 4 years after starting.  The same for Hap Ki Do.  It is fun to note that I stayed longer at Blue Belt in BJJ than I did in training for Black Belt in both Korean Martial Arts.
Despite the time factor, the big difference between the Korean Arts and BJJ was that I was at a school with a lot of TKD and HKD Black Belts.  It wasn't something over the top to see and train with a Black Belt.  They weren't mythical figures who's technique was so much better than my own.
However, when I started BJJ, my instructor was a newly promoted Purple Belt.  Just having a Blue Belt was very very special.  The Black Belts I knew were directly from Brazil.  They were former world champions, trained by the Gracie family, at the Gracie gyms in Brazil.
These guys were top of the food chain in Brazil, and accepted the sacrifice of moving to a different country because they loved BJJ, and wanted the art to grow.

However, if I would have looked back at their gyms in Brazil, what would I have seen?  I would have seen that the majority of Black Belts would have been just like I am today.  Guys with jobs.  Guys who have been training for years, who have the technique, but do not, nor will they ever, have the ability of the guys who went to the U.S. to teach.  They are hobbyists.  Just like me.

So, while I don't feel worthy of the belt, and I know for a stone cold fact that I would get my clock cleaned by many purple/brown belt competitors, I am still a Black Belt representing the BJJ Revolution and Carlson Gracie Jr. gyms through Samuel.  I will do my best to represent them and be worthy of the rank bestowed upon me.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Lot Happens in Two Years...

Ummm....  Well...  Yes.  So...

  1. We bought a house and are living in Birmingham.
  2. We conceived, carried, and had a baby daughter.
  3. I was promoted to Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

So...  Yeah...  More on being a Black Belt than the other stuff....