Flowers in Bloom


Day 91: You've also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied

Accept as an axiom that I will not keep current with my training blog. By inspection, it is trivial to derive that I have been training my ass off.

I'm finally getting into a regular groove. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday I train jiu-jitsu, weights or intervals on Sunday, and Tuesday and Friday are rest days. My body has toughened up, and I'm recovering faster and more completely. I added some carbohydrates and protein to the liter of water I consume during my grappling workouts, and that has helped my recovery speed immensely.

The training is paying off. Last time I weighed myself I was around 187, and the mirror agrees. There's still a bit of padding around the middle that I'd like to take care of, but as of now I am very satisfied with my progress.

My jiu-jitsu is improving as well. Omar is back from vacation, so we have been drilling and rolling together frequently, and learning quite a bit. He is bringing out the best in me, it seems, and I am securing solid submissions that I have not been able to get in the past. The other day I transitioned a Kimura from top half guard to a straight armlock when he straightened out to escape. Today I had an iffy back control, but I was able to sink in the bow-and-arrow choke for the tap. Larry and Naps are right-- getting taps is quite addictive. I'm imagining a huge surge of dopamine and serotonin flooding my gourd every time I finish a submission.

Obviously, I still have a lot to work on. I've made some progress dealing with bottom north-south, where I was previously getting victimized by the Kimura. Now I'm staying very tight with my elbows (duh), and scissoring my legs and attempting to get to my knees when my opponent moves from side control to north-south. Far fewer Kimuras-- imagine that. Still, I am very uncomoftable in bottom N-S and will continue focusing on it.


Day 76: Murderers' Row

Keeping a training log is no joke, especially when one is as ignorant as I. Every session is full of useful bits of new knowledge and refinements to old techniques, scarcely grasped or otherwise. In a perfect world I would commit every iota of wisdom to this digital diary, but by now I am convinced of the futility of that notion. Sparse updates will have to suffice, and here's to hoping that my memory can pick up the slack.

Recently I've begun to search for another submission from the mount. I have some confidence in my armbar, but I felt the need for more balance, more options. Jason suggested the "wrestler's choke", basically an arm triangle. From mount, get your opponent's left arm across his body, ideally with his shoulder compressed against his neck. You can use the "gift wrap" if you like to control the wrist from behind his head. Slide your left arm under uke's trapped arm, and lock in the triangle by grabbing your right bicep. Here, it pays not to shoot your left arm so deep behind uke's neck: the best choking is done by the blade of your forearm, so you want that on his carotid. With the triangle locked, unmount to your right and drop your weight down onto the trapped shoulder, squeezing for the tap.

This week Kahlil had us working another choke from the mount, the simple cross collar choke. It's pretty tough to sink in when your partner is expecting it, but understanding the biomechanics of the choke and mount stability are key. Get the first grip by crossing your right hand over to get a deep, palm-up grip. You want to be deep enough that the blade of your forearm is against your opponent's carotid. If you are performing the choke on a corpse, bring your left arm over your right to secure a palm-down grip on the opposite lapel. Drop your head and pull your elbows to your abdomen to finish. However, on anyone with a pulse, you are in imminent danger of being rolled as you pursue that second grip. Base hard to your left while you search for the handle. You can grapevine the legs, and stretch uke out as you drive your pelvis into his diaphragm. One way to get the grip is to hook your thumb into the collar on the left, then loop it over uke's head to sink the choke. Tough.

After drilling the choke dry and and against some resistance, I sparred with some gnarly grapplers in succession. Jack didn't sub me this time-- he transitioned to spider guard, I postured up (expecting the triangle), and instead he kicked me in the temple trying to get the triangle anyway. I begged off to collect my wits, and he moved on to healthier prey. Small victories, eh?

Cobwebs cleared, I rolled with Thomas next. It was our first time sparring, and I was a bit nervous. He is an intense purple belt who favors leglocks and is known for an absurd reluctance to tap. Great. I think I surprised him a bit, as he plowed forward with choke attempts with nary a setup, but I was able to defend adequately. He armbarred me once, and I think finished a choke as well. I was able to keep my head, however, and work escapes and defenses without panicking.

Finally Del asked to have a go. He pulled guard, and scissored his leg across. I had a feeling he was not really interested in the scissor sweep. I worked to pass back around the leg he pulled across my waist, but his hip movement was good, and he captured the far arm for the sweep to the opposite side from that position. I was able to get guard, but he neutralized my game by staying low and tight. I attempted the pendulum sweep a few times, but his base was too good. He baited me into a triangle attempt, stacked me, and passed to side control, and quickly, mount. He was putting the pressure on pretty hard, so I wound up giving up my back. I was almost able to turn into his guard, but he went for the armbar. I stacked him, but he was able to hip out for the belly-down armbar and the tap.

Rolling with such tough competitors is a huge resource for me. My submission defense and escapes are improving at a rapid rate. I don't feel threatened by submissions from anyone at my level of experience, at all. Now if I can just find some partners that I can work an offensive game on, I'll be all set.


Gi Pants: Solved!

Jiu-jitsu rewards problem solving. The most intractable problem I have faced in my brief tenure in the sport has been the dreaded gi pants drawstring. WTF, drawstring? Why are you so difficult to tighten? Why are my pants seemingly made for a man with a 50 inch waist? Isn't there a better way to do this? YES.

  1. Pull the drawstring tight while you are not wearing the pants.

  2. Put on the pants, loosening them if necessary.

  3. Profit.

That is all.


Day 70: Mount Escapes, Knives

On Monday (day 69) I had some good rolls that spanned the jiu-jitsu spectrum. Christian and I had a protracted, deliberate, technical roll that ended when I got stupid and got armbarred. It's the first time I have really been subbed because I lost focus and not because I lacked skill. Jason then took over and sent me off with a painful 350 pound pressure sub. Finally Jack transitioned a triangle to an armbar for my last tap of the night.

Today I was a bit worse for wear. Khalil had me work mount escapes with Marc. We started with the standard elbow escape. From there, we worked a re-counter to an opponent posting his leg and turning when you get on your side (looking for an armbar, perhaps). If you are on your right side, uke has his left leg posted over you. Keep your left arm in tight against his belt, and underhook his posted leg deeply with your right arm. Slide your left arm under his butt as you upa, shift your hips, and drive through with both legs now underhooked. Stack him, get a lapel grip, and pass to side control.

Lastly we drilled a reversal for situations where your opponent tries to get mount from side control. If you are too slow to stop the attempt, but fast enough to react, you can grab his far knee and get your forearm in his ribs and drive to take him over. You end up in his guard. This works if your opponent is sloppy or tries to mount too fast and lets his momentum carry him past your center of gravity.

As we were finishing up, Damon and Craig stopped by to hang out in their work clothes. Damon showed us some nifty Youtube stuff, like this awesome knife fight from the Korean action flick City of Violence. Where is your jiu-jitsu now, eh?


Review: Sirius Athletic Ultra Lite Gold Weave Kimono

Inspired by Jason Clarke's excellent review of the Padilla and Sons gold weave BJJ gi, I decided to write a short review of a gi that has gotten some very positive word-of-mouth on the web: the Sirius Athletic Ultra Lite gold weave.

My point of comparison is the Koral Classic that I have been using for almost five months. The criteria I am concerned with are fit, comfort, features, and price.

I am 5' 11' and about 195 pounds. I ordered the A3 traditional style from budovideos.com because Sirius themselves were sold out. Out of the packaging, the jacket was a bit big but the pants were perfect. I washed the jacket in cold water and dried it on medium heat for 10 minutes at a time until I got the fit I wanted. I like the length on the sleeves, though some may consider them a bit short. There is a bit of bagginess in the body, but it's not excessive. I probably would have dried it more if I were not concerned about the sleeves shrinking too much. When the kimono is pulled closed, the hip splits ride right on my hips where they should be. The skirt is longer than the one on the Koral, so the lapels don't get pulled out of my belt as often.

The pants have an enormous waist, but so do the Koral pants. When I have the waist cinched up over my hips, the cuffs come right to my ankles. Wearing the Koral pants the same way results in a slightly higher cuff. I've got big thighs, but I've got enough room in the Sirius pants, while the Koral pants are a little more form-fitting in the upper leg area.

The Sirius jacket is very soft and light. Even after a wash on cold and a hang dry, it retains its softness and flexibility. My Koral sets up very stiff and scratchy. I would not want to wear the Koral jacket without a rashguard after hanging it dry, but the Sirius is as comfortable as a bathrobe. Though nominally a gold weave, the Sirius jacket fabric is thinner than Koral's, which I would consider a single weave. Despite this, I find the Koral much more breathable and cooler when training.

The Sirius pants are soft as well, despite being considerably heavier and thicker than the Koral pants.

First off, I love the collar on the Sirius. It is thick and dense. Though I'm well aware that one shouldn't rely on a collar as protection against chokes, it is a nice safety blanket. My training partners have a hard time grabbing and holding on to the Sirius collar, since it does not deform easily. While the Koral has an adequate collar, it is rubber, so it is much easier to grip and manipulate. A downside of the Sirius collar, and a flaw that rubber collars are designed to address, is the drying time required. It takes a day and a half, hanging, to be fully dry. The Koral dries in about twelve hours. Not a huge problem, since I've got two kimonos now. The dryness of the southern California summer should also increase drying rates in a few months.

The other key feature of the Sirius is the tie system on the pants. There is a rope tie, instead of a fabric tie, which makes a world of difference. Tangling within the waistband is greatly reduced. I can pull the rope tight without thrashing around like a hooked marlin. It's heaven. Even better, there are three loops, instead of two. This helps keep the front of the pants from dipping under the knot and falling down, even though the rope is tied tight.

Koral: $145.
Sirius: $95.
'Nuff said.

The Sirius ultra-lite gold weave deserves the praise it has received, especially at this price point. The pants are stellar, from the fit, to the fabric, to the tie system. The jacket has a great collar, but could be a little more snug in the body. I would like a more fitted sleeve cuff as well, but the already short sleeve length prohibits me from drying this baby again. Time will tell if the durability is there, but I have a good feeling. If this one or my Koral springs a leak, I'll be sure to post about it here.


Day 68: Jarhead

I peeled myself out of the sack with just enough time to get to Saturday's class on time. My alacrity was of course rewarded by Roger being late. Turnout was good, however, and after warming up my old bones I sparred a bit with Marc after we practiced the hook sweep from butterfly guard. He is still much better than me and showed me a measure of positional control that I would like to emulate. Oh yeah, and he's 17.

Varush was looking lonely, so I asked him if he wanted to drill a bit. He is a friendly guy so he was game. We worked the pendulum sweep-amrbar combination (what a coincidence!). In his variation, you underhook the leg the same way for both the sweep and the armlock. When your free leg swings out, instead of chopping the leg for the sweep, you bring it back over uke's head for the armbar, taking him over under your mount for the finish.

Roger arrived and continued the armbar-from-guard theme. When your opponent pulls his arm out, you have several options.

  • Triangle. If uke pulls his right arm out, control the left, and bring your left leg over his head to the left. Push off his hip with your right foot to get a better angle. Adjust your leg with your hand and lock up the triangle.

  • Z/Shin Armbar. Slide your left leg down so your shin is on uke's throat and your foot hooks his head. Cross your right leg over for the armbar.

  • Omoplata. Control the wrist and let it rip.

There was also a sweep and some other fancy stuff from there, but I had my hands full with the basics. I drilled the combinations with Varush and Larry for a bit and felt pretty comfortable. After fifteen minutes or so Roger broke us up for some guard circuit training. I got passed, swept or submitted every time, which was pretty sucky. The Saturday crowd is pretty accomplished so it was nothing to be ashamed of.

During free spar I got Varush to roll with me. He's a big thick guy, goes 250 I guess, with crazy grip strength and some nice moves. Last time we rolled he wrecked me pretty good. This time, I pulled guard from the start. Varush worked his pass by trying to pin my biceps and back out. I was able to prevent that and threaten his arms and neck. I think I went for a triangle and he stacked me and passed. He was very fast when I ended up turtled, and I'm still not entirely sure how he failed to get my back. Nevertheless, we ended up neutral, facing each other from our knees. I must have done something clever.

Soon enough the big man had me in side control once more, and this time he got the keylock and submitted me. Definitely a learning tap; I picked up a lot from Varush's pace, positional control, and selective explosiveness. Great class.

Oh yeah, and I shaved my head.