Dec 14

Picking up steam as the rock rolls down the hill

At a certain time, and in a place far from here, a man stood in front of a massive pillar of concrete. It towered high into the sky. Immense. Heavy. Immovable.

But he had to do the impossible. The tower had to fall, and he had to be the one to do it, no assistance allowed. There was a gun to his head. Do or die. But how?

With his current strength, there was no way to even budge that much weight. Straining against it would have accomplished nothing, but there were variables in the situation that weren’t apparent at first glance.

In addition to the pillar of concrete that towered into the sky, there was another one right next to it. It was different though. Smaller. Lighter. And then next to that, there was yet another and another and another. Each smaller and lighter than the one before it.

Once he noticed that, a small seed of an idea starting to form in his mind and he ran until he found smallest and lightest of the pillars. He pushed against it, and it MOVED. Whoa! What if? His eyes drifted back to the largest pillar, the immovable object, with a smile on his face.

There was now a possibility of success.

And he seized it by pushing the smallest pillar with all his might. As it toppled over, it crashed into the pillar next to it, toppling that one over as well, which crashed into the next one. And so it went. Each time more force was generated, until a pillar finally struck the last one. The sound was loud, and the force was enormous.

And as the largest pillar toppled over, it was like watching a giant fall in slow motion. And when it hit the ground, dust flew, the earth shook, and tremors were felt far and wide.

What’s the Significance of the Story

This story is a dramatic way of telling you about a physics experiment. And when I saw it, I immediately thought of the power of the smallest step forward in achieving any goal.

Of all the massive goals that exist in Jiu-jitsu, reaching black belt is the most universal desire. And it’s not something that can be achieved easily or effortlessly. Thousands upon thousands of small almost insignificant steps are required to achieve that goal, and many fail along the way for numerous reasons.

Black belt is that massive pillar.

And in order to topple it, you have to start with one step and then build momentum until one day you look back and can’t believe all that you’ve achieved.

The Smallest Step Forward

The first step is effortless. It’s something that you’ve already accomplished. You went out. You found a reputable gym. You contacted them. You visited. And you tried a class.

It was easy. Not everyone takes that step though even if they desire to learn. They hesitate. They have excuses. I know because I once did. I trained at Evolve Academy for almost a year before I finally convinced myself to try Jiu-jitsu. Now I wish that I had started earlier.

Momentum Builds

In that first class, you learned a bit, and then promptly forgot most of it. No worries though. At that moment you started the journey towards mastery, and you’ve already completed the most important step. Starting.

Once you’ve begun, it becomes easier to take the next step and the next after that. The momentum you build by continuing to take small steps forward like showing up to class, drilling technique, and taking notes starts to create a domino effect. And consistent effort is what determines how far you will go in the journey.

Other Applications

There are also specific ways that you can use that focus to develop aspects of your game.

Imagine this.

One day, you walk into class, and your instructor is showing a technique that blows your mind. It seems like something far outside of your ability. You try anyway though. It just doesn’t turn out pretty. You’re forgetting steps. Some movements are hard to do. All kinds of problems.

In that case, there is a method you can use to ensure that you’re still improving. Take the technique and break it down into its individual components. Pick one that is easy for you to do, and then just drill that for a moment. Once you have a firm grasp of it, try another step and another and another.

You still may not get the technique perfect that day, but progress has been made. If you continue to work on it, you’ll master it. That’s a certainty because…

Momentum is powerful.

Dec 06

All white belts should know these side control escapes

“I can’t breathe. He’s too heavy. This sucks. I need space.”

All those thoughts and more go through your mind when you’re trapped under side control. It’s rough. Especially when you’re rolling with someone who understands pressure. They know how to make you feel every last bit of discomfort. They know how to make you wish you were somewhere else. And they know to make you tap to pressure alone.

Have you ever been in that situation? Whoa, if you haven’t, it’s only because you haven’t been training long enough. I know because I’ve been there more times than I can count.

It’s Not A Fun Place To Be

You want to escape. Hell, you want to do more than just escape. You want to do it easily and effortlessly. You want people to start believing that you simply can’t be held down.

Wouldn’t that be great?

When you get to that level of ability, that’s when you really start to have fun. It’ll mean that you’ll be able to try out all of those new and fancy techniques because you won’t be concerned about getting passed. That’ll allow you to truly explore the art and discover where you want to focus.

So You Should Escape

Listen: the title of this post promised you 4 effective side control escapes. And you’re going to get them below. It will even include added details and conceptual focus.

These escapes will give you a firm foundation for escaping the position once it’s been established (the hardest thing to do). You’re going to have to drill them though. It’s going to take time, but it’s worth it. In fact, it’s a better investment for your time than learning any advanced technique.

Hell, I wish I had spent more time drilling side control escapes when I was a white belt. Because being able to escape bad positions gives you freedom.

Essential Elements for the Side Control Escapes

Every last one of these escapes require two things. One, you must create space. And two, you must move within the space you create. Those two essential elements is what we are going to focus on in this quick review of technique.

Escape #1

  • The elbow frame against the hips will help you maintain space once you create it. Without it, escape will not be easy.
  • Rolling the head will help you create space. The body always follows where the head leads, and when you move someone’s head, their body will naturally follow.
  • The bridge and shrimp are used to create more space, and you have to move back in while that space is still present.

Escape #2

  • The elbow frame serves the same purpose here.
  • Space is created by stepping away and rotating your hips towards your opponent. This reduces the flexibility requirements for your leg, and give you another space to weave the foot inside.

Escape #3

  • Rolling their shoulder towards you will create a small pocket of space and shift their weight slightly over you. It’s a small detail, but it works.
  • Bridge towards your opponent. That creates space, and it allows you to bring the arm that was framed against their hips under their body.
  • Use both arms to scoop yourself out as you roll. This movement should only be done while you’re elevated. You must create space and then move within that space.

Escape #4

  • This time, you pull their shoulder away from you to maintain space. The constant pull will make it hard for them to follow you once you start moving yourself.
  • Lifting one shoulder and then the other, as you walk backwards will help you create space. That movement is otherwise known as the shoulder crawl, and it has broad applications.

I didn’t outline the techniques as I have done in the past. But these little elements are things that you can focus on and apply elsewhere. For the actual techniques, watch the video and go drill. Being able to escape from side control is liberating, and you can never get good enough at the basics.

Essential Elements for Side Control Escapes

Oh, and let me know if this was helpful. I’m also willing to do requests.

Nov 21

Three basic armbar drills that must be learned

Every technique begins with movement.

And even the most basic technique isn’t always easily learned. It takes time to develop the correct movement because Jiu-jitsu is so different than most common activities. That’s the reason why drills exist.

They allow us to isolate specific movements and repeat them over and over again until they’re mastered. That’s the true basis of excellence when it comes to Jiu-jitsu. Master the movement, and the world opens up to you. You can start playing, and that’s incredibly fun.

Armbar Drills for White Belts

If you’ve started Jiu-jitsu recently, and you don’t know the three armbar drills in the video below, it’s time to rectify that.  They each teach you specific movements that are necessary for the future of your development.

So study the video right now, and we’ll break it down afterward.

First Drill

This is the most common drill, but it’s common for a reason. It works, and you will benefit from mastering it.

  • In the drill, the first step is to post both hands on the shoulder, surrounding the arm you want to attack.
  • Use that post to elevate yourself so that you can rotate into S Mount, with one knee pressed against their ear and the other knee pressed against their armpit.
  • Lean slightly towards their hips while keeping your knees pinched tight. That will shift your weight off of the leg closest to their head, making it light enough to easily move.
  • Slowly slide the leg that was pressed against their ear over the head and pinch your knees tight.
  • Fall back into the finish position, and then disengage to reset back to mount.

Second Drill

This armbar drill is less common, but it really complements the first drill extremely well. Add it to your arsenal, if it’s not already there.

  • Your partner is going to defend the armbar by clasping their hands in some fashion.
  • Grab the sleeve or elbow of their far arm and pull it towards you with the hand that is closest to their hips. Your goal is to make that arm immobile.
  • Plant your other hand on the mat. That’s your post. It’ll help you keep balance as you make your next transition.
  • Rotate your hips across their chest. If done right, it should place you in S Mount on the other side of their body.
  • From there, lean towards their hips, and bring your top leg (the one pressed against their ear) over their head, before falling back into the finish position.
  • Release and let them defend again.

Third Drill

The armbar from closed guard is fundamental in Jiu-jitsu, but the transition to the arm can be difficult to learn. I’ve seen so many students struggle with it, but once you simplify it by taking out the hand grips, it becomes easier to learn. That’s the purpose of this drill.

  • The key to the drill is tight transition. At all times, you must keep control of their arm using only your legs.
  • That starts with the first step. Place one foot on their hip, and immediately pinch that knee against the back of their arm.
  • Bridge off their hip, which will elevate your hips and increase your control of their arm.
  • Straight your other leg and rotate it high into their armpit, before clamping down to immobilize their upper body.
  • Slide your first leg in front of their face, pinch your knees, and lift your hips for the imaginary finish.
  • Reset back to closed guard.

So with that, you’re able to see the drills in action, listen to an explanation, and read a written breakdown. Whew, that’s a lot, right.

Now it’s all up to you. Go out, grab someone and master the movements.

Sep 20

The fundamental laws of the triangle choke

One of the biggest issues beginners face when learning the triangle choke is locking their legs in the proper way.That’s especially true when physical attributes hinder the process like when you have shorter legs. There are ways to work around that issue though, and when you learn how, the fundamental laws of the choke will be revealed.

First of all, some assumptions have to be thrown away:

  • You do not have to properly triangle your legs to finish the choke.
  • And you do not have to pull their trapped arm across your body.

Instead, your focus must always remain on the fact that your intent is to choke someone out, and to accomplish that, the only thing that you must do is cut off blood flow to the brain.

Old School Choking Mechanics

The old school method focused on the position of the arm because of how force was generated with the legs. It was either squeezing the knees tight (adduction) or pulling the head down and elevating with the hip.

Both methods work, and they were chokes, but they required significant amounts of force which easily led to muscle strain.

If you increase the amount of force that can be generated without effort though, the arm position becomes irrelevant.

The Four Stages of a Triangle

An early philosophy that I was exposed to was the four stages of a triangle. It’s a conceptual framework for understanding the triangle both offensively and defensively, and it’s been a part of my thought process ever since white belt.

The Stages:

  • Threaten – The first moment when the legs going over the shoulder, trapping one arm inside and one arm outside.
  • Lock – When the legs are triangled, strengthening the stability of the position and the threat of the choke.
  • Angle – When the ideal angle for the finish has been found.
  • Tap – All hope is lost, and there’s no escape in sight.

There are exceptions to this progression, but overall, it’s solid framework to work with.

The wiggle room lies in the middle two stages. How you configure your legs and the angle you use to finish can be changed without losing the effectiveness of the choke.

What Must Happen

There are many triangle variations but even among them all, there are some things that must happen in order for the choke to work:

  • You must control posture. (Because otherwise your opponent will be able to posture hard and escape easy.)
  • You must control distance. (Because otherwise you will be stacked hard and that will make generating force harder.)
  • You must apply pressure as soon as possible. (Because otherwise you will leave openings for escape setups.)
  • You must effectively block the carotid arteries on both sides of the neck. (Because that’s only way to choke someone out.)

Those laws are simple and irrefutable, but how you accomplish them will depend on your knowledge and imagination.

Jun 21

Technique Brainstorms – Armbar, Triangle and Canto Strangle

Technique Brainstorms - Armbar, Triangle and Canto Strangle

Last week at Randori, we set a drilling challenge for the students. They had to perform at least 100 armbars from closed guard outside of class. It’s a high goal but interesting things happen when you aim high.

That was true in my case.

I joined in on the challenge, and to make it more fun for me, I started playing with variables of the submission. I modified grips, I cycled through variations, and I landed on an interesting possibility. That was the start of the innovation.

The Armbar

As I played with different armbar variations, one of the setups used was a cross sleeve and tricep grip. It was initiated by using hip movement to pass the arm across your belly button to the position where the armbar can be threatened.

There were two issues though.

  1. Once the arm was passed, the arm had to be attacked immediately or a grip had to transfer for posture control. It left a wide probability of escape.
  2. The establishment of the two on one grip was a clear trigger. As soon as you grip, they’ll know that you want the arm and they’ll be able to make it difficult.

With those issues identified, the question became: Is there a way to address them? And an answer occurred.

All that was required was the change of a grip and a movement. The hand that was controlling the tricep switched to the collar (palm down). That gave a lot of control over posture, and the sleeve grip by itself is a weaker call for action. That switch though meant that it was no longer possible to easily control their threatened arm. It had become an even battle, arm against arm.

So the solution was to bring the legs into the fight and make it unfair again. Putting both feet on the hips and pushing as you pull with your hands off balances their body, isolates their arm, and makes it easy to transition into the attack.

The Triangle

For every attack, there is a counter, and understanding the counter opens the door to recounters.

This triangle specifically geared for when someone tried their absolute best to keep their elbow tight to their side. In that case, you exaggerate the pull then release. Their arm will fly back and there will be an opportunity for the triangle.

The Canto Strangle

The canto strangle is an awesome submission. It was only shown to me once, but I’ve wanted it since. For that reason, one of my projects is to figure out a way to make it work for me. This is the current attempt at that goal using the foot on hips to create the required space.