Tuesday, September 28, 2010

50/50 Guard

While the 50/50 guard has been out there for a while and I'm usually pretty technique-inquisitive, Anthony has been encouraging me to work various other open guards: butterfly (hooks-in), half guard, quarter guard, De La Riva, X guard and I figured that was more than enough to keep me occupied.

He introduced it to most of us in class last night. Simply put, the position is with both of you sitting up. You lock a leg triangle on his near side thigh; he can do the same to you. There is the usual plethora of video clips which are easily found via Google. Anthony said he wasn't a fan but knew he would have to learn the position because guys would be trying it on him and his students in competition.

To me it seems to run against the philosophical grain of what I have been taught that good BJJ is about. My understanding is that good BJJ involves achieving a superior position, so your opponent is put in an inferior position. With the 50/50 guard, you both end up in an identical position, and it comes down to who has the better understanding of the position and can apply it first.

Anthony showed us an entry to 50/50 from where the opponent is on his back and you are standing, and another from a failed legbar attempt, where you keep spinning and end up in 50/50. He also showed us several footlocks - heel hooks are right there, though illegal, so we looked at straight footlocks instead. We also looked at a sweep, and defense against all of those attacks, and a method to pass the guard. All of these would need a LOT of work for me to use them effectively. The guard pass in particular seemed to have large gaps.

Much of the criticism of this guard seems to be that it often ends in a one way or mutual stall on the competition mat, with both guys locked together for minutes with next to nothing going on. You can sweep the guy and then keep him locked up till the match times out. Can you really call it a sweep if the guy is already on his butt?

Love it or loathe it, this is something every competitor will have to deal with at some stage. The continual evolution is one of the things you have to love about this art.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A nice vacation, and reassessment

I'm just coming to the end of a couple of weeks vacation. During this time I only went to Jiu Jitsu once, the Monday night class with Anthony.

The first week Pat and I spent on Daydream Island in the Whitsundays. We felt a bit locked in on a small resort island and there were peculiarities like the water getting turned off between 11:30 pm and 6 am, the room aircon not always working, and one of the three main restaurants normally available for dinner being closed for renovations, but really it was pleasant and from what we saw it looked to be one of the better resorts in the Whitsundays - Long Island had a fantastic outlook but had fewer facilities than Daydream, and the buildings and facilities at Hook Island were way run down, though it had nice snorkelling right off the beach. If we ever go up there again I'd go for staying at Airlie Beach and go for day trips to the islands. Being on the mainland we could rent a car and get out of the place for a while too if necessary. Airlie had a much wider range of facilities than any of the islands. Hamilton Island has lots of facilities as well, including an airport, but I'd been there before, a business junket back in the late 80s when companies still did that sort of thing, and was looking elsewhere.

We took day trips to Airlie Beach on the mainland, Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, and Knuckle Reef, part of the outer Great Barrier Reef.

I got up early most mornings to do some training. I'd had some niggling back problems after an injudicious session of kettlebell windmills - with a permanent spondyolisthesis of L5/S1 there ARE some things it is counterproductive for me to do. I did some yoga, ROSS solo grappling drills, one arm and divebomber pushups. Felt strong and flexible.

I went into the gymnasium there to do some pulldowns on the cable machine - there were two women there running on treadmills. There's one of the more beautiful environments on this planet and a .5 kilometre track to run through it on right outside the door, but no, stay indoors on that treadmill and watch Robbie Williams music videos instead. People are strange.

I've decided to stop using my age (55 now, 56 in December) as a reason to treat myself with kid gloves as regards my training. Aging is inevitable, and your sphere of possibilities may gradually shrink, but you can still push up close to those limits rather than not even try to find out where they are. I'd cast myself as an old man who has to to go easy because of fear of injury or making a fool of himself otherwise - I'm changing my role to that of a sensible but mature athlete who still pushes himself as far as he can. Or someone who will, as George Carlin advocates, "Take a f***ing chance!"

I live about a kilometer from Pennant Hills Park, a bunch of sporting fields which back on to Lane Cove National Park, a large and pretty unspoiled stretch of Australian bushland in the middle of northern Sydney. Before I started to have knee problems and let the psychology of aging get to me, I used to run a couple of circuits on the fire trails and single tracks there - one about 6 K's the other about 8, each with a big, demanding hill either at the end or towards the end, depending on which way you go around. I resolved to run the big circuit, going from home, through the bush and back to civilisation after 6 K's through the bush at Thornleigh Oval, then another 2 K's home again via the back streets and Pennant Hills Road. It was further than I'd run in ages, and I had to slow to a walk on the final big hill through the bush to the Oval, but at the top of the hill I started running again and kept it up all the way home without dying and without knee issues. This was much more of a mental rather than physical challenge.

I reread Pavel Tsatsouline's Naked Warrior before the break and resolved to get some of the bodyweight skills back. In my early BJJ days I'd learned to do pistols (single leg, butt-to-heel squats) using a progression involving a flight of stairs and progressively lowering your butt to the third stair, then the second, then the first, and then finally going all the way down and back up without the stairs.

I had an arthroscopy on my left knee about 18 months ago, to fix a meniscus tear, and my other knee is also a bit dodgy, and thus had assumed that pistols were of necessity a thing of the past. I used Pavel's "Grease the Groove" - I got the left pistol on the second day, but my right knee didn't feel up to it. Lots of what Scott Sonnon calls "Fear-Reactivity". I was hoping I'd get the right pistol by the end of the week before I went back to work but I ended up getting it on the second day and am currently running on sets of two with alternate legs. My right knee gets a bit sore and cracks a bit, so I'm not going to push it by stacking on kettlebells or adding jumps, but regaining the pistol is hopefully part of reclaiming my potential and raising my standards.

I'm also working on standing ab wheel rollouts. Rolling out to a barrier (in my case, the doormat) and coming back up, and gradually increasing the distance between the barrier and my feet. These are a bit harder to manage than the pistols because they really fry my abs and the DOMS is a b*tch for the next day or so. I got there today, the full monty with no barrier, though my form could be improved. I did five (not one set of five, but five sets of one, or more accurately three sets of one and one set of two, which is about all I want to put on my abs at the moment, because it really does stress them to the max. Tomorrow, it's gonna hurt, and Sunday I want to roll.

Rest assured, dear reader, that you will not have to wade through microdetails of my fairly ordinary numbers and achievements. This is more about challenging my self-imposed limits and self-image, and is way more mental than physical. Challenge and living outside the comfort zone is what develops and sustains a warrior.