A Breather…

As the end of the year comes around I find myself getting busy.

I work a full time job. Leave for work at 7:20. Get home at 5:30

I have a wife and 2 children. My wife is Naomi. My oldest boy is Josiah. He’s 2 1/2. My youngest is Noah, who is 6 months.

I travel most weekends teaching, preaching, playing music, or just hanging out at some conference or church or something like that.

All that has finally caught up with me. Last weekend did me in. I came down sick on Sunday morning and have just recovered on Wednesday. I decided (well, my body decided) that it was a good week to take evenings off.

So, I’ve missed three training sessions in a row, and haven’t worked out once this week.

That’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s probably the best decision I’ve made in a while. I missed getting on the mats. I missed learning some new techniques, or tricks to apply to old techinques. I missed chats with my instructor about the things that happened at class the night before. But, I know I am going to be better off for it. I’ll come back to the mats fresh.

I’ve realised that my body needs rest. Go figure.

I’ve also realised that my mind needs rest. Double, go figure.

After a week off I feel ready to take in some new stuff. That brings me to my newest revelation.

There’s such a thing as too much information.

In my week off I got a BJJ newsletter that highlighted the fact that for the first couple years of BJJ you should only concentrate on the basics. I also re-read an article from JB Will saying the same thing. I also ran over a note in my journal in big, bold letter saying, “DO THE SIMPLE THINGS WELL”. 

It’s been a very timely reminder for me in my week off. I am now simplifying my training, simplifying my thinking, and simplifying my gameplan. I’m not starting over, I’m simply getting back to some things that I know work.

What I expect will happen is that I will see them from an angle I’ve never seen them from before. I will gain new insight into some old stuff. It’s already happened through some visualisation that happened on the train home from work. A new path to a sweep combo.

Oh the glory that is A Breather…


Mount-ober: Session four

My last training session didn’t actually bring with it any specific lessons. Mostly, I just found that I was still making the same mistakes, although slightly less. It’s progress, but I won’t be fully satisfied until I’m not making those mistakes at all.

If you’re wondering what I’m going on about read this, this, and this to see the lessons I’ve picked up so far in my training focus on the mount.

In today’s blog I would simply like to make an observation, or two.

My focus is attacking from the mount position during sparring. I’ll lay out my current game plan and make note of the things that I find interesting.

From Head to Head the Arm Drag is what I’m looking for from standing/kneeling starts. From standing I would likely look for a single leg as my second option. From kneeling I usually look to (1) Arm Drag, (2) Pull Guard, or (3) Collar/Neck Drag. This is where those usually lead to:
Arm Drag to Back/Turtle Top/Guard Top
Pull Guard to Guard/Half Guard
Collar/Neck Drag to Turtle Top/Back

From Guard Top I look to pass the guard (obviously).

From Turtle Top I look to pull over and attack the Back.

From the Back I look to scoot around to Mount.

From Closed Guard I look to sweep into Mount (Scissors Sweep, Hip Bump Sweep), or scoot around onto the Back.

From Open Guard I look to sweep (Hooks Sweep, X Guard Sweep). Usually I end up either in Side Control or Guard Top.

From Half Guard I have been looking to get deep and scoot out the back door to the Back.

From Side Control I either look to switch base and Mount or transition to North/South.

From North/South I look to take the Back, or go to the other side into Side Control.

Now, that all looks pretty simple and straight forward. Here’s what I’ve observed from this game plan.

I have developed a Guard to Mount game.

I would say that I’m in one or the other 80% of the time, if not more. I believe a lot of this has to do with the previous month I spent working in Guard. It didn’t make me some amazing guard player, but it did get me very comfortable there. It also made me confident in my ability to get back to top once I am in guard. The previous month was spent on escapes, so I’m still rather confident getting out of trouble once I’m there.

When I do get to Mount I am not worried about getting rolled back into Guard. So, if I get a deep collar grip and have to give up the upa in order to get the other grip in, I’m happy to do that, and finish it from Guard. I’m comfortable and confident there.

In fact, in my last four sessions I have only finished once in Mount. All my other taps have come from a setup in Mount and a finish in Guard. Triangles, Armbars, Guillotines, and Cross Collar Chokes. All are set up in the Mount position initially. In order to lock them in I have been allowing the opponent to roll over into Guard. If they’re turning me, they’re not protecting their necks or arms.

If I don’t get the finish I let go and look to sweep back to Mount, or climb around to the Back.

Back to Mount. Mount attack. Finish in Guard OR restart.

This was not expected, but it has become welcome. It’s part of learning to embrace my natural game.

Mount-ober: Session three

More lessons from a month of mount-ing attacks.

I’m into my second week of mount month. Again, this month’s game plan revolves around gaining the mount position, and finishing the opponent from there. Technical training focus is on submissions from the mount, and transitions to get there. I’m also working on balance, and quickness in transition. 

for lessons 1-2 click here

for lessons 3-4 click here

Lesson 5: Attack like you would if you were striking

The two main attacks I’m going after while in mount are the Cross Collar Choke and the Armbar from mount. One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to get them only when I don’t force them. I have to think of it in the same way I think about striking.

When striking with an opponent you can’t just insist on the right cross, stand in front of the opponent without moving, and continuously throw it. By ‘continuously’ I mean, literally just throwing the right cross without pulling it back. It gets blocked so you just keep pushing it forward, from the same spot, towards the same spot. Why wouldn’t you do that? Well, because it would be really easy to defend.

So, why do I do that with my submissions?

Instead, I need to send in the first grip for the choke, then I need to treat the second as if I’m trying to find a home for the right cross.

Picture my right hand deep inside the right collar of the opponent.

I just try bringing the left hand over and in on the shoulder. The opponent blocks. I bring it back.

I use my right elbow to make room underneath my forearm to sneak through to the collar. He blocks that. I bring it back.

I push the arm he’s using to block up and bring my leg up towards his head. That creats a different angle, and isolates an arm a bit more. That makes him think about the Armbar. I attack the arm. He pulls it out. I go straight after the left collar.

You get the point. See, I’m changing angles. I’m attacking from up high. I’m attacking from down below. I’m throwing the jab (attacking the arm) to make room for the cross (left hand collar grip). I just keep switching it up until I can get through.

It’s the same with the armbar. Most opponents are very aware of the armbar when mounted. That makes it hard to get. I’m no where near strong enough to just force an armbar. Even when I get an underhook I still have to get my body into place in order to attack with the armbar. I have to change angles. I have to attack, and let go, and re-attack.

I have gotten the armbar most from people trying to escape. Usually people start thrashing when the cross collar choke is semi-deep. Pressue on the collar, they push, I trap and go into the armbar.

Other than that, it’s usually too predictable to pull off.

Submit like you’d strike.

Mount-ober:Session two

Wednesday was my second session in October, where attacking in the mount is my focus. Here are some more lessons I’ve learned.

For lessons 1-2 click here

Lesson #3- 100% of the shots that you don’t take, won’t go in
I’ve quickly realised that I’m not willing to pull the trigger on submissions. For example, I got into mount and worked into a deep cross collar grip on my opponent. From there, I reached over to grab a palm-down grip on the other shoulder to put on the choke. However, I only went towards the shoulder at 30% pace. I was thinking, “Surely, he’s going to stop this”. Sure enough, he did. Would he have stopped it if I’d gone at full pace, with full determination? I don’t know. But I do know that he was able to easily stop the 30% attempt. I didn’t actually take the shot.

He brought an arm up to defend, so I grabbed the elbow, pushed it across into the underhook, moved my legs halfway into place and thought, “Surely, he’s going to stop this”. So, what happened? Well, my prophecy came true. He stopped it. Would he have stopped it if I’d gone at it 100%? I don’t know. I didn’t take the shot.

So, can a shot that’s never taken hit a target?

The answer is, no. It can’t. Because it never left the gun.

This links into lesson 4

Lesson #4- Don’t be scared to jump… especially when you know how to land
I rolled with my coach last night. He let me pass his guard (he rewards proper technique. If you try to muscle through a pass he’ll shut you down and sweep you. If you use proper technique he’ll allow it, even though he knows full well how to stop it. It’s quite nice of him, really). I get into side control, switch base to face his legs, and pull his far knee towards me so that I can switch to mount.

Then I just froze. I sat there looking at his legs.

After a few seconds he says, “So… are you going to go to mount, or what?”

I froze because I was thinking, “He’s setting me up for something. He’s going to put me right back into guard if I try to go to mount”. But, let me think about it for a minute. I’m in side control without an underhook, and not a ton of control over the bigger, stronger, more technical, more experienced opponent. Would I actually rather stay there than attempt a switch to mount and maybe get caught in half-guard (which I have always been confident in passing)?

Risk vs Reward

If I stay in side control until I know I can get mount (when would I know that anyway?).

Risk = losing side control and ending up in full guard. Being swept would probably be the worst case scenario. Considering I’m pretty comfortable on the bottom, and confident in being able to sweep, I’d say this ins’t a huge risk. But, just staying there till mount presents itself would give me:
Reward = absolutely nothing, since I didn’t have a controlling side control anyway. I’m not attacking from there, so there’s no insentive.

Now, what if I’d just taken the chance and attempted mount?

Risk = getting caught in half-guard on the way through. I’ve always been confident in my ability to pass the half-guard. Esspecially if I get caught coming through from side control because I tend to be able to gain some kind of head/shoulder control in transition.

Reward = mount…

Risk vs Reward points (overwhelmingly) to attempting mount instead of just sitting there.

Finally, I’m comfortable on the bottom because of my last two months of work (escapes in August and guard in September). So, attacking on the top shouldn’t worry me at all. I should be attacking liberally when I’m up there.

My fear of jumping into transition and submission isn’t rational.

And that is the glory of being able to fight off your back. It frees your top game up to be fast, flowing, and attacking.

So, I will be doing a lot more of that for the rest of the month.

Mount-ober:Session one

October for me, in my BJJ life, is known as “Mount-ober”. Get it?

Anyway, Mount-ober is the month where I will be soley focused on obtaining mount, and finishing from there. So, my solo drills will revolve around escape paths to mount, mount transition movements, and balance while in mount. I’ll also have my normal strenth and flexibility training.

My visualisation training will mostly be around submissions from the mount position.

Rules are simple. In sparring I’m only allowed to finish from the mount position.

I just had my first training session with this focus. I’d like to share the lessons that I’ve already learned.

Mount-ober: Lesson #1- Patience

Mount is not a position you can force against any level of practitioner. Tonight I tried to force it. I obtained it twice. Once from a sweep from guard. The other time from a guard pass. Both were sloppy, forced, and took way too much strength (you know something takes too much strength when you either have to hold your breath and close your eyes, or grunt in a way that would embarass you in every convievable situation).

In the future I am going to deal with whatever is in front of me. If I’m in someone’s guard I will worry about passing the guard FIRST. If I’m in side control I will worry about that position before I try some wild transition into mount. I just can’t force mount.

I’m going to make a wild assumption that the next time I roll, with the attitude of using proper technique in order to patiently obtain mount I’m going to find it much easier to come by, and much more of a solid position once I get there.

My gameplan will be simple. I will plan all the best case scenarios, like using guard passes that can lead straight to mount, but if they don’t come, I won’t force. I will take what’s given to me, patiently waiting and working towards the mount position instead of acting like a two year old child that’s simply decided that he wants a blue hat and will do nothing else until that blue hat is resting securely on his head. I’ll earn my blue hat, thank you very much.

Which brings me to lesson #2

Mount-ober: Lesson #2- Establish

When I finally get that blue hat that I’ve worked so hard for, I’m going to ensure that it’s tight enough to not blow off before I start running around willy-nilly yelling about how amazing my wonderful blue hat is.

There was one time that I got to mount tonight only to get immediatly rolled off. Why? Because I jummped straight into a submission. I didn’t establish the position first.

Position over Submission

That doesn’t just apply to where you go for submissions. It also applies to when you go for submissions.

I’m light compared to most of the guys I roll with. Therefore, I’m not hard to bump off when I’m on top. That means, I have to have balance, and movement when I’m in mount. I can’t just lock myself into a guy.

For example: When I go for a cross lapel choke I have to post out the leg on the side of my attacking arm. That way, they can’t just grab the arm, trap the foot, and roll me over. In order to do that I first have to get to a place in the mount where I can comfortably post out that leg and reach in that hand. The position has to be well established if I’m to do this. If I go too early with the arm, I get rolled. If I go too early with the leg I give away double underhooks on the legs, which leads to a simple reversal, and complete loss of the position.

So, establishment of the position that I’ve so patiently earned comes before the submission attempt.

In the same way that the two year old kid really should tighten that treasured blue hat on his head before he runs across the bridge. Many a tears would be avoided.



September is over. That means that I’m no longer in ‘Guard Month’. So, what did I learn?

Activity is key

If you want a solid guard, activity is the number one thing you can do to help. Maintaining guard is more about keeping the opponent too busy to pass than it is about having some magical, inpenitrable wall.

Even in gaining the guard position got interesting. People knew I was going for the guard and would start, from head to head, in their defence of it. So, I had to come up with new ways to get into guard. The number one way was activity.

Grip fighting, submission attempts, sweep attempts, etc, etc.

I just keep going from one thing to another. A key to this key is not to let myself get occupied with one thing. If I see an arm on the mat I switch to a figure 4. If they block it, Iquickly switch grips to a sweep. If they block that I change angles and attempt an armbar. If they block that, into a tringle, back to a scissors sweep, into butterfly guard, attack the collar, threaten the sweep, attack the posted arm with a figure 4, sweep attempt, guillotine attempt, armbar attempt, armdrag, closed guard… it just keeps going and going and going.

When I did this I found that my opponent’s just didn’t have the time to pass the guard. They were stuck, not because of control or strength, but because they had to defend what was being thrown at them.

Constant activity was the best guard maintainence.

Attack with everything.

When in guard, you’re not able to use your weight to control your opponent. However, this makes it so you can attack with your arms and legs.

If I have grips with my arms (collar and sleeve, for example), then I attack with my legs. Armbars and triangles from guard are leg attacks. Omoplata is a leg attack. Arms control, legs attack. Most sweeps are leg attacks. Arms control legs attack. So, if I have the grips I want, I attack with the legs.

If I don’t have the grips I want I use the legs to control. I push on hips, knees, feet. I hook under legs. I get shins across people to keep distance. While I’m doing this I’m attacking with figure 4s and guillotines and lapel chokes and whatever else I can get my hands on.

Then, it starts to become a process of slowly gaining what I want. So, I want the cross lapel choke from guard.

I get blocked on the way to the deep collar grip, so I grab the sleeve instead. Then, I use my feet to push on the hips to help mess up posture. Then I get a hook in, which they decide to fight against. While they’re fighting that I slowly work my hand up the collar until it’s nice and deep.

I can’t just go in and attack with the other hand. That usually gets blocked. So, I keep that sleeve grip and push for some sweeps or armbars. They defend by ripping the arm away. When they do that I just reach up, get a deep palm-down grip, close my legs around them, and pull down for the choke.

Activity leads to openings.

So, the big lesson I learned in my month spent in the guard is that activity is my key to a sucessful guard.

What’s in store for October? 

Well, I asked my coach what he thought I should go for. His immediate answer was, “Getting to mount and finishing”. So, that’s what I’ll be working on in October.

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