Comeback

1

Hello again, Jiu Jitsu world!

I am done with full-time study and am headed to my first appointment as a Salvation Army Officer. My family and I head to Rolleston which is a town 25 kilometers outside of Christchurch in New Zealand. I take with me my lovely wife, Naomi along with my two sons Josiah (4) and Noah (2). With that comes my BJJ blue belt and a stack of nine mats (thanks to my coach, Glen Tarrant).

As a new chapter in my life starts it also brings with it a new chapter in BJJ. I am no longer able to continue with my original coach. This is sad, but was always on the cards due to the profession I am committing to. So, the comeback begins.

I have been on a jiu jitsu break for about six months as I finished my studies. I am now in the worst shape of my life (thanks lazy-time break!). My game is slow and limited, mentally and physically. So… here goes my list of BJJ goals for 2014 (seeing as it is the 1st of January)!

#1- Find a gym There are various gyms down in Christchurch and I plan to check out a few. My goal is to to find a good place, with a good mat culture made by a group of good people in order to step into my next goal.

#2- Get into shape- I have a ways to go to get back into shape. I have to start somewhere. I will start on the mats. I have played sport my entire life and I can say with all confidence that I have never been more fit than I was when doing jiu jitsu. It gives you great core strength, mobility, flexibility, and (unless you adopt a lazy game, which is very easy to do) good cardiovascular conditioning. It is also the only time I haven’t had a sore neck and/or back. The reason is because you need neck and back strength to do BJJ. I want to train a lot, stretch every day, drill on non-training days, and get back all that child-like mobility.

#3- Find some partners- After I get into shape and establish a relationship with a gym I plan to start finding some training partners. The reason for this is because Rolleston is well enough out of Christchurch to be its own gym eventually. I don’t have much of a desire to start a gym though. I want to find people that want to train. So, I’ll be matting out the garage and going for glory with recruiting people who want to learn jiu jitsu.

#4- Get back to blogging- Finally, I want to get back into regular blogging about my BJJ experiences. I miss it, and it feels like it’s time for a comeback.

The next time I post will likely be out of shape and sore… but glorious.

Visualisation

I have had the flu for a week, so haven’t been able to do any physical training. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t done any training.

I am a decently strong believer in visualisation. There are two main kinds that I use in my training.

Visualising a technique in the same way that I would drill it. Drilling creates the muscle memory, and shouldn’t be overlooked (which it is by the VAST majority of BJJ practitioners). Visualisation creates mental memory. You see, when I can’t drill something live, like when I’m on the train, at work, in the bathroom, on the plane, in the car, in bed, etc, etc, I just drill it in my mind. I go through the steps. I think about it so that it becomes something natural.

Then, when I get to live drilling it’s not about trying to remember. I can let my muscles do some work, feel the technique, and create the muscle memory. I don’t have to stop every step and think, “Alright… what’s the next step?” It’s already all in my head. As I drill, and feel the technique I can adjust my mental picture to work with what I’m feeling.

This leads me to my second kind of visualisation.

Because I don’t have to think about a technique while rolling, and I have drilled it enough to not have to worry about the feel, I can start thinking in depth about it.

If you study the games of the best BJJ practitioners in the world you will see that they have extremely deep games based on basic moves.

Marcelo Garcia is a great example. He has a dominant hooks sweep from butterfly guard.

Hooks sweep from Butterfly Guard is a great example of this depth concept. If you study his game you’ll realise that he’s taken one of the most basic sweeps in jiu-jitsu and turned it into a powerhouse. Here’s why:

Every technique has a counter. But, the glory of BJJ is that every counter has a counter. When you know a technique so well that you don’t have to put any thought into it you can start to see how people are countering the move. When you can recognise the counter, you can develop a way to counter the counter.

Garcia’s hook sweep from butterfly guard has an entire series of counters to counters. If you block by posting low with the leg he has a counter to that. If you block by posting high with the leg he has a counter. If you block by posting the arm, he counters that. If you block with posture, he counters. If you block with weight, he counters. He also has developed ways to force you into the posture needed to get the hook sweep. It’s amazing

It’s an example of one of the most basic moves in BJJ being turned into an unstoppable method of sweeping.

Watch the 2010 World Champs. Garcia wins the middleweight division with a hook sweep from butterfly. He’s produced books, and DVDs, and a web site laying out his ENTIRE game, and this basic move still can’t be stopped. Why? Because, he has given it depth.

Roger Gracie has the most devastating cross collar choke from mount in the world. Basic submission turned into a powerhouse through strategic thinking. He’s added depth.

So, in my study of the scissors sweep I have spent my sick week visualising variations, counters to counters, and set-ups from any position. I have focused on the depth of the move. The next time I roll I am going to try my set-up from being pinned in side control. I am going to try my counter to the common counters I’ve experienced. I am going to work on what I do when they won’t give me the grips I want. What I do when they’re postured well. What I do when they counter a counter. This will all be noted mentally, and visualised some more.

All of this has come from visualisation training. Just taking the time to think in depth about a move. I go from seeing a basic sweep from one position, with one set of grips, and one posture, into seeing an entire game plan.

It becomes this immense web of strategy and movement all based on one of the most basic techniques in BJJ.

This is possible because of time invested in visualisation.

A greater understanding

For me, I use things that I have learned about. If I have a question about something, I look for information on it. I try to understand it better. I dig into the mechanics of it, the history, the tradition, the current uses, the science, the experiences of others, and so on. That’s what lead me to BJJ in the first place. Research lead to understanding which lead to action.

In BJJ, when I am learning a new technique, I learn the mechanics of it. That way, I can understand how something works, why it works, and what ways to go about applying it.

For example: Side Control Escape to Guard

This technique is based on creating enough space to bring your knee through, under the opponent in order to recapture guard. The mechanics of it include a bridge, an arm brace, a hip escape, and a hip in with a leading knee.

The bridge creates space for space. It bumps the person up. This is actually, by itself, eliminating space. You’re getting closer to the opponent. But, in the entire scheme of the move, it creates space for the creation of space.

The arm brace fills space. If you’re escaping with your arms in a good defensive posture you are able to use them to brace the opponent. You created space for space with the bridge, then as you hip out you fill that created space with a bracing structure of your arms. Again, this in itself is not an escape. If you stop here you’ll likely get yourself into trouble.

The hip out creates space between you and your opponent. It’s extra space because you bridged. It’s filled space because you’re bracing. The further you hip away, the more space is created for you to fill with your leg as you bring it in to establish guard.

The hip in with the leading knee refills the created space with what you want instead of what they want.

When I understand all that, even in its most basic explanation, I can start to put the move into action. That understanding should drive me to action that reflects the information I have about it. This helps me to see what I’ve missed when the move doesn’t work. Sometimes I doing bridge, or hip-out, or bring my knee back in. Sometimes the opponent blocks a key element of the move. That doesn’t delegitimize the move, it simply presents a problem to be solved, which is why other moves are created.

The vast majority of my submissions lately have come in the form of the cross lapel choke. The reason is because I have developed an understanding of the mechanics of it. That understanding lead to action. That action lead to experience, which lead to problems, which lead to analytical thinking, which lead to new strategy based on the original understanding of the mechanics.

So, if you struggle with a technique, go away and do your homework. Learn why a move works, I bet (not that I’m a gambling man) you’ll see it in a whole new light.

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