Saturday, October 21, 2017

Creativity and Martial Arts Training I

The Natural Order of Things?

A recent seminar with John Will brought home to me the value of imagination and a creative approach to martial arts training, and, specifically, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The seminar was on half guard on the bottom - more specifically, a type of Z guard - and we were looking at how to attack from there with a kimura.

As white belts, students are usually taught to force the opponent to put his hand on the mat, and then grab the wrist with the same side arm, then sitting up and overhooking the elbow, securing the kimura grip, and applying the kimura submission.

John explained that this hardly ever works on an experienced grappler, as they will rarely put their hands on the mat, or allow you to grab the wrist, as they have seen that setup so many times before. And even if you do manage to pull that off, you may still have to contend with them grabbing their belt or inner thigh to avoid being submitted.

John's alternative was to overhook the elbow first, kick the top leg out and rip the elbow away from the hip and rib cage as he flattens out. Then grab the wrist. This will significantly reduce the size of the window of opportunity he has to grab his belt, and give you a significantly better chance of completing the submission.

John discussed the possibilities involved in kickboxing when, instead of stepping into range, then throwing the kick; instead, throwing the kick, while/then sliding or hopping towards the opponent. Old-time greats Bill Wallace and Chuck Norris' premier fighter,  Chip Wright, both employed this tactic to great effect.

More generally, by changing the order in which things are done, we may end up with a significantly better result. It doesn't always work, but when it does ...

This seemed to be a good jumping off point for a wider consideration of creativity and its role in martial arts training and evolution.


From a strict psychological perspective true creativity is very rare. In this context, creativity can defined as your ability to, from one idea, come up with a number of ideas that are both useful and novel. "Novel" here meaning ideas that that not nearly everyone else will come up with in the same situation.

Monetizing your creative output to any meaningful extent is extremely difficult and rare. The number of people who can make a decent living solely from their creative output is vanishingly small.

One of my intellectual heroes, Dr Jordan B. Peterson, discusses these issues in considerable detail in this video:

About 45 minutes, worth it if you have an interest in this area

The good news, however, is that just about everybody can - and does - harness their creativity in everyday life. Much of it is extending pre-existing ideas or concepts in various directions, or combining them in different ways. There are heuristics and methodologies for this which we all can employ. 

If you don't think you have a creative bone in your body, the book "Steal Like An Artist" may change your mind and give you some confidence. No Jiu Jitsu in here ... not specifically, that is. 

This applies to  Jiu Jitsu and other martial arts training, and indeed just about all areas of life.

Creativity and Evolution in Jiu Jitsu

Many Jiu Jitsu positions and techniques have been invented through necessity. The mother of invention. As John Will states often, it helps to understand the origin of how and why techniques and positions originated. Also, finding out how a top Jiu Jitsu player learned a technique, rather than how they do it now, and only then learning about the steps in between that led them to the current way they do, may be highly instructive to understanding that technique fully.

The de la Riva Guard (as one story goes) was invented out of necessity because people got really good at blocking Ricardo de la Riva from putting his feet on their hips in open guard. Swinging out to the side and getting an outside hook is one counter to that strategy.

The X guard came about when opponents started standing up to avoid the butterfly guard.

You don't need the berimbolo if you can sweep them to their back from DLR guard and thus just lie there. You can go to mount. It's when they begin to struggle to get back up, and that mount is no longer an option, that the berimbolo and subsequent back take can come into play.

Many chains or groups of techniques come about as responses to counters that people developed to an original lone technique. The techniques John Will showed at the most recent seminar at Red Boat were an example. 

From Z guard, you kick up and get the underhook and frame on the opposite elbow. Then:
  • If he does nothing, come to your knees, drive him forward and go to his back
  • If he whizzers to stop the back take, go to tthe Dogfight and take him down with the Dogfight Double (Eddie Bravo calls it the Half and Half)
  • If he whizzers to avoid the back take, and stands up on his far foot to stop the Dogfight Double, you roll under and sweep him over you with the Plan B.
There are more techniques from Dogfight - limp arm out from the whizzer to take the back, a triangle entry called the Powder Keg, and a roll to the Spider Web position called the Drowning Wizard. And more, much of which is still to be invented, no doubt.

Z guard itself is arguably the solution to a common problem, the battle for the far side underhook in half guard. If he wins the battle, he can flatten you out and will probably pass. If you get the underhook, you get to try your stuff. Using Z guard rather than the flat style of half guard increases your chances of getting the half guard from 50/50 to 80/20 ... or thereabouts.

These are a series of creative solutions to a succession of related problems. One problem arises, you find a solution. Somebody counters that solution, they present a new problem. You work out a solution to THAT problem, someone will eventually come up with yet another counter. And this arms race continues, indefinitely. In this way, Jiu Jitsu becomes truly endless.

Creative Problem Solving

I bought a book back in the early 1970s called "The Universal Traveler", by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall. The cover blurb goes on : "A companion for those on problem solving journeys, and a soft-systems guidebook to the process of design." It is still in print today. The fact I still own and use it 45 years later indicates that I continue to find it significant.

 Jiu Jitsu is, at one level at least, a continuous process of problem solving.

The Universal Traveler describes creativity in this way:
The 'design process' is a process which demands creative, constructive behavior ... it is an exercise in the activity of attempting to improve existing conditions. 
... Although  partially necessary, problem solutions which merely 'work' and last for a time do not represent what we refer to as 'creative solutions'. Creative problem-solutions are those which lead, which inspire, which provoke; those which help us to imagine more advanced problems or which provide us with the models for solving other, similar problems, and which generally turn others on to the correctness or appropriateness of themselves.
Essential to creativity, the book goes on to say, is an attitude of constructive discontent.
... constructive attitudes are necessary for a dynamic condition; discontent is prerequisite to problem solving. Combined, they define a primary quality of the problem solver: a constantly developing Constructive Discontent.
Martial arts training is a constructive activity. Being unable to complete a sweep from half guard because the other person counters it, or getting swept yourself from half guard, are pretty strong sources of discontent in my experience.

I discussed above how problems posed by the opponent in Jiu Jitsu obligate creative problem solving. One of the reasons Jiu Jitsu is so attractive to "assassin nerds" like us.

Jocko Willink and Joe Rogan: BJJ makes "assassin nerds"

We also briefly discussed one method we can try to solve a common problem, where the most common entry to the kimura, grabbing the wrist. results in the common counter of the opponent grabbing their belt. John Will's solution to this problem was to REORDER the sequence of movements in which we applied the kimura, resulting in significantly reducing the window the opponent has to grab his belt and shut the submission down.

What other methods are at our disposal to creatively solve Jiu Jitsu problems? I'll discuss that in part II of this article.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Black Belt - Rick Spain

Not many people get to have the privilege of occasionally teaching a martial art to their own instructor.

In 1998, I'd been training in Wing Chun Kung Fu for close to a decade, with Rick Spain as my Sifu (instructor). Under his tutelage and expectations, I sought and found competence, and a way to transcend some former physical limitations resulting from youthful injury. I was literally, indeed physically, transformed - not into a specimen or prodigy, but into a capable martial artist and instructor. Rick Spain would not allow me to remain limited and average as a student, and fortunately I did not.

The sense of freedom and confidence I achieved as a result cannot be overstated.

 My gold sash instructor level grading, 1995

Now Sifu brought in a friend from his early training days in Melbourne, John Will, to teach an introductory BJJ seminar at the Surry Hills kwoon.  This, we were told, was the necessary next step in the evolution of the Academy.

John Will (L) and Rick Spain

John is a living legend, one of the Dirty Dozen, the first twelve non-Brazilian BJJ black belts. His autobiography (see the bottom of this blog post) reads like a martial arts action/adventure novel.

There weren't enough mats on the floor for everybody. I was toughing it out on the polished floorboards, baby.

Some of the purple belt assistants that accompanied John, like Anthony Lange, John Simon, and Sean Kirkwood, moved like ninja Jedi on the mats, as did John.

We wanted some of that.

I took the Jiu Jitsu red pill, and couldn't get enough, enthusiastically sticking my face into the BJJ firehouse, trying to gulp down as much knowledge as I could without drowning in the deluge.

Running a full time Wing Chun school like the Red Boat Academy six or seven days a week is a huge commitment, which doesn't leave a lot of time left over for Sifu to train deeply in a second martial art, especially one as demanding as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Everyone reading this should understand at a deep level that this is a huge challenge.

I had a different career, and thus the luxury of being able to immerse myself in Jiu Jitsu exclusively for quite a few years. As a result, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a black belt in Jiu Jitsu by Anthony Lange in late 2013.

I still made it to the Red Boat Wing Chun Academy every now and then, with some significant breaks. Life is what happens when we have made other plans, as John Lennon said.

Last Thursday, and not for the first time, I taught a lunchtime BJJ class in which Rick Spain was an avid student. A privilege and an honour, every time.

Then, on Sunday, John Will was at the Kwoon in Redfern to present one of our regular seminars, and presented Rick Spain with his BJJ black belt.

Presentation and speeches by John And Sifu

This is a great thing for Rick Spain and the Red Boat organisation. While we were always super legit, this takes it to yet another level.

8th Degree Karate Black Belt and BJJ Black Belt Hanshi George Adams, Rick Spain, and myself 
(L to R)

I have been proud to have been on this Jiu Jitsu journey with you right from the start, Sifu, and I owe that start to you. I am confident that Jiu Jitsu at the Red Boat Academy will go on and on to greater and greater things.

Another milestone on an endless highway, but a pretty damn significant milestone.

Peace, Love, Jiu Jitsu.

John Will's autobiography - in three parts:

John Will's seminar schedule. Get on board with one of the best Jiu Jitsu coaches on the planet.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

John Will Seminar 15 Oct 2017 - Half Guard, the Seed

The seminar was held at the Red Boat Wing Chun Academy in Redfern.

A wonderful surprise at the start with Red Boat Wing Chun's chief instructor, Rick Spain, being awarded his Jiu Jitsu Black belt by John. David Suker of Stealth Fighting Arts in Bargo, received his the day before, and drove John to the seminar.

I will have more to write about this, shortly. This is a great thing for Sifu Spain and the Red Boat Academy.

 John Will and Rick Spain

L to R: George Adams, Rick Spain and myself

The Seed

John is keen when teaching to come up with a "seed" for a particular position or concept, from which everything else can go. If John taught that lesson and never saw a properly motivated student again, that student could take what John had taught him and come up with an entire system and the many other existing variations that come from that position or concept.

Pulling half guard from standing

Do not just sit down and pull your opponent straight on top of you. He will knee slice pass straight over your bottom leg and get side control in a millisecond.


Grab his R sleeve with your left hand and his L collar with your R hand - judo grips, more or less. Kick your R leg out to your L behind his R leg as you sit down and fall to your R, pulling his R arm hard over the top to your R with the L hand grip on his sleeve as you do so. Grab his R leg with your R arm, and come to your knees. Do some sort of single leg takedown now (the exact technige depends on how he steps or falls) and put him on his back, or side, ready to pass.

Starting half guard position

We start from a Z guard position, rather than the older style flat and close style of half guard. This avoids the underhook battle initially, and gives us a significant advantage for getting the underhook when we are ready. We are:

  • On our right side
  • Our R leg is between his, not too deep. We want our R knee bent with our calf hooking around the back of his R thigh but no deeper
  • Our L knee is framing near the front of his R shoulder, keeping him away, our L shin under his R armpit, our L foot close to his hip to avoid footlocks
  • Our head is angled towards his L knee, our R hand controlling below his L elbow, the L hand above his L elbow. Our hands are shaped in a "paw" grip, like a fook sao in Wing Chun. We control with the wrists rather than the palms or fingers. Our main aim here is to prevent him grabbing our head with his L arm.
  • Or L elbow is under/inside our L knee, the arm frame backing up the frame with the L knee
While passing guard we are pummelling for advantageous grips or arm positions. Using Z guard instead of other types of half guard gives you a better chance of getting what you want, the underhook.

Z guard demonstrated by Stephan Kesting of Grapplearts. He has his top hand on the shoulder and forearm against the throat, whereas we would just have it on the other guy's bicep. Note how he holds his right hand

Getting the underhook - the first move

Use your L leg to kick him away slightly, so you can sit up and get your L underhook, wrapping your arm tight around his waist. Waist, not  his L armpit or lat. At the same time sit up and bring your R elbow underneath you, so you are angled away from him slightly to his R. Your upper arm and chest should be aligned so that he is unable to force your back back to the mat.

Drill this move, repeating many times. What judo guys like Dave Camarillo call uchikomi.

Getting the back from the underhook

You get half guard and the underhook as above. He employs no countermeasures like the whizzer (explained below).

Move your R foot to the mat and take your L foot over his R shin, so both your feet are between ("inside") his. Go to your knees HARD, keeping your R foot between his legs, and drive your L shoulder to the mat. He should slide straight over your head, you do not need to shuck your L arm up to free your head. You should now be able to jump on his back, getting a seat belt control, with the L arm under his L armpit and R arm around the R side of his neck. Put all your weight on his R shoulder and break him down to the mat.

Move your hips away from him as he falls onto his R side. You do not want him on top of you, but beside you. If all goes well you are both on your R sides, you behind him with your R hook in and the seat belt control. Use the outside of your R foot to "staple" his R calf to the mat, and use your head (your R ear to his L ear) to "staple" his head to the ground as well. Get this right and he should be very strongly controlled.

He whizzers to stop the back take, go to Dogfight Double

You get the underhook as above. Knowing the backtake is coming, he overhooks your L arm with his R, so his arm is between your bodies. This will prevent you from going to his back.

The overhook counter to the underhook like this comes from wrestling, and is called the whizzer. It has many other uses besides this in grappling, usually as a counter to an underhook from any position, including standing.

So, he gets the whizzer. Keep the underhook and move the feet inside his as before. Use your L heel to "scorpion tail" his foot out toward you as you come to your knees hard. Your R foot should come out and you should end up on your knees, sitting with his R lower leg trapped between your L calf and hamstring. This is a position Eddie Bravo calls the Dogfight.

 Dogfight position. Athlete in blue has applied the whizzer

You are going to take him down to his and your L. Rather than reach for his L knee with your R hand, which won't work, instead:

Post your R hand on the mat, elbow locked, fingers pointing away from him. Push with the hand and try to headbutt his L knee. He will fall to his L side. Pass around to his back and move your L underhook so it is under his R arm. Get up on your L side and put all your weight on his R arm, trapping it with your L underhook. Get your hips off the mat for maximum pressure and block his R hip with your R leg (maybe L?). Your L arm goes over his head, above eye level.

He will want to get his L arm around you and try and go to the top. The pressure on his R arm from your L underhook should make this impossible. This move of his allows you to get your R arm around his neck and move to headlock control.

Move to headlock control in three steps:
  • R knee comes underneath you
  • L foot steps out ahead, allowing you to
  • scoot/step your R foot through again all the way to consolidate headlock control.
Trying to be greedy and rush the process may leave gaps for him to escape or counter.

Keep the underhook. Your L elbow and thigh should stay joined so he has no opportunity to get his R arm around your waist. Instead it will be out in space and available for you to attack.

Moving to headlock control is what John terms a "Blowfish" technique, referring to the traditional Japenese dish of fugu, or poisonous blowfish. One wrong move on the Japanese chef's part while preparing the blowfish for consumption, and everyone dies.

Many of the more obvious ways of moving from headlock control from side control etc. can leave you vulnerable to getting your back taken or reversed with a bridge and roll. The method John uses with the underhook is much, much safer.

He gets the whizzer and posts on his L foot, stopping the takedown

Get the underhook as before. He whizzers. Before you have the opportunity to push him down and get headlock control as above, he posts up on his L foot, effectively preventing the Dogfight Double.

Still come to your knees and trap his R shin in the crook of your L knee (the Dogfight position), as for the Dogfight Double. You will be unable to push him over. Instead, put your R arm and shoulder on the mat and roll to your left over your back, using the scorpion tail pull of your L calf on his R shin to roll him over you and onto his back. Most of the drive from the technique comes from cranking his R leg with your L, rather than the roll itself. Though pushing into him and timing the roll to use his energy as well as the shin crank as he pushes back would not hurt.

Not that if their leg is bent at ninety degrees and you are pulling on it near the foot, this configuration will give you maximum leverage.

You end up in a similar position to that of the Dogfight Double, and can go to headlock control the same way.

John demonstrated how you might pull the L lapel out of his belt with your R hand and pass it around his back to your L hand to aid in pulling him over. Though the scorpion tail crank on his leg remains the main driving force in the sweep.

John told us about Todd Nathanson, a Californian black belt who used this sweep extensively if not exclusively during John's visits. He even used it to deal with a road rage incident which kicked off outside a jiu jitsu academy in front of many other students. I'll let John tell that story with the funnier details if you see him.

In both the Dogfight Double and the sweep, it is important that you realise ahead of time that if you leave the underhook around his waist for too long it will get trapped underneath him, making the follow up move difficult. Do not "over-clap". As soon as he starts to go, you should already be setting up for the follow up. 

Do not oversweep, do not get too far behind or ahead of what is happening in the present moment.

If in either the Dogfight Double or the sweep he lets go the whizzer to post in front of him and prevent the takedown or sweep, switch then to drive your L shoulder to the mat and take his back, as for the first technique.

Attacks - Kimura

Grabbing the wrist first and the trying to apply the kimura is unlikely to work against any experienced grappler. They are too used to such attacks and can see them coming. They will pull their elbow to their hip to stop it, or if you get the lock on, grab their belt or inner thigh.

Instead, from Z guard:
  • Wrap your L arm around the top of their L arm, elbow to elbow
  • Kick your L leg through and go flat, pulling their L elbow away from their hip and rib cage as their body extends and also flattens out
  • Grab the wrist and complete the lock.
The closer your elbow is to theirs, the better the leverage. NB there are situations where you do not want to cut this too fine as they may be able to reverse it on you. This is not one of those situations if set up as described.

If they straighten their arm, move it up next to their ear, get your R ear pushing on their tricep near the armpit and wrap the R arm around the neck for an arm triangle. (Result of a great question asked by a visiting brown belt).

Experimenting with the order in which things are done can be worthwhile. It does not always pay off, but occasionally may produce something of real value. This approach to the kimura is such an example. Chris Brennan on his "King of the Kimura" video also advocates sitting up, wrapping the arm, and isolating the open elbow before grabbing the wrist, this time in the context of applying the kimura from closed guard.

The traditional way of setting up a kick is to step into range and then chamber and throw the kick. Back in the 80's, guys like Bill Wallace and Chuck Norris student Chip Wright(?) started experimenting with throwing  the kick while out of range, then (very shortly thereafter) hopping or sliding in to connect. The step after the kick instead of before. This worked well for a number of high level fighters.

True creativity (creating something entirely new from the Void) is very rare. Most creative solutions are the result of combining or synthesizing pre-existing elements, perhaps from unrelated disciplines. An interesting subject which deserves its own blog post.

Kimura - they grab the belt

You are a bit slow with the kimura or they see it coming and grab their belt to counter. Let go of the wrist with your R hand, "high five" with your R hand and place it on your L bicep as you slide your R hand onto your R bicep, trapping their L wrist under your R elbow. They should feel totally unable to remove your arm, with some bicep slicer pressure to boot. Let your R leg go flat and allow them to pass their R leg over it to side control on your R. If they don't pass, move your leg out from under theirs so they pass by default. Take your R ear to your R hip. Bring your feet over to the L and right up near your butt, up on your toes. Bridge and roll them and end up in top in side control. 

Do a "commando crawl" and push their wrist away from their body. "Jump the fence" and get your R elbow between their wrist and their body so they cannot grab their belt again.

Switch base, take the L leg over their face, use it to lift their L shoulder off the ground and up on their side slightly so you have room to apply the kimura from side control.

John talked about he Kimura and its history, and Masahiko Kimura, the great Japanese judoka aftern whom it was named. Here is the iconic picture of Kimura-san beating Helio Gracie which John mentioned (which is actually a perfect illustration of how the technique should be performed).

 Masahiko Kimura applying eponymous technique to Helio Gracie

The kimura can also be applied By moving your body over to the other side of his head, with your arm beneath his, and putting pressure on his wrist with your hand and on his shoulder with your chest. Your body cannot abide both wrist and shoulder on the floor in such a position. John advocates using his weight and the pressure of his rib cage to drag the opponent's arm into position before applying the lock from here.

Bridge and Roll Escape from Mount

With Sifu's promotion, John discussed how this is a new beginning, and we start learning EVERYTHING over again, properly this time. The bridge and roll escape from mount, which many people learn in their first Jiu Jitsu lesson, is no exception.

They have mount on you, but you can trap their R arm.
  • Trap the R elbow with your R hand on top, L hand behind their elbow. 
  • Your L foot traps their R shin, as usual. 
  • Bring both feet up close to your butt.
  • Move your head to the right, try to touch their R hip with your R ear.
  • Flare your L knee out to your L, putting pressure on their R calf with your thigh, at the same time pushing their R foot into the centre. This pressure on its own should make them feel very unstable, and their leg trapped, in a poor position, about to lose balance, and under pressure. 
  • You should need only a small amount of bridging energy to take them over. As they fall to their back and you come on top, bring your R knee up between their legs to prevent them closing their guard. 
  • Finish on a "combat base" position ready to pass.
Combat Base position, demonstrated by excellent Jiu Jitsu blogger Cane Prevost

That's all, folks.

A morning well spent

John's autobiography. Ripping yarns and great advice.

John Will's seminar schedule. Get on board with one of the best Jiu Jitsu coaches on the planet.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dave Camarillo 16 Sep 2017

The seminar was held at Higher Jiu Jitsu in the Woolloomooloo PCYC, organised by John Smallios.

Dave's first major statement was "Athleticism begins on the feet." You want to be on your toes, moving, and always in a position to move. Not flat footed.

All the running, sideways stepping, two in two out, etc. that you do in the warm up assists athleticism.

We played a few games to warm up:

You and a partner face off, and try to tag each other's knees with your hand without getting tagged yourself.

Next, everyone against everyone, try to tag anyone's knee without getting tagged yourself. Situational awareness.

Next, with a partner, each tries to get the other with a two handed grip on one wrist, or even an actual 2 on 1 Russian tie, while avoiding it yourself. When you do get the grip, put your hed in the pocked next to the shoulder, push them around and do not let them get their arm back for a couple of seconds.

Games like this get you active and warm without the "workout"  or "drill" drudgery vibe and can develop good attributes.

The Offline Grip

This grip was used to set up all the following takedowns.

Rather than a "strong side" and a "weak side", Dave and the US military prefer the terms "strong side" and "stronger side". You should normally engage you opponent with your stronger side forward.

The technique is a counter to a lapel grip, or attempted lapel grip. He should tend to try to grab your collar with a parallel grip (e.g. he tries to grab your L collar with his R hand. A cross grip should expose his back. With your stronger side forward (say, the R), the collar on that side should be most accessible to him, especially if his R side is the stronger and he too is following Dave's advice.

He goes to grab your L collar with his R hand. Break the grip  with your R hand gripping underneath his wrist (cloth grip is great if you can get it, but the best grip you can get if not), R hand goes over the tip of his wrist. Step/move your chest straight back as you push his wrist forward with both hands this creating a push/pull effect - "two step pressure", this breaking the grip. If you get your grips on and control his wrist before he has a chance to grab, that's a bonus.

Quickly step forward and drive your head in next to his  R shoulder and just under his jaw. Go STRAIGHT in, don't circle. The straight line is the shortest and quickest. While keeping the grip on his wrist with your R hand, extend your L arm fully as you reach around behind him to get a grip with your L hand on the far waist/hip. Gripping both belt and gi skirt would be ideal, but get the best grip you can. Thinking of fully extending the arm as you reach stops you tensing up and short cutting the move. Cinch the grips in and experiment with driving into him, on your toes. Also drive shoulder pressure into him with your L shoulder to stop him squaring up.

This is the offline grip. (Will put up some pictures in the near future).

Reverse Single Leg Takedown

From the offline grip, drive into him, pushing his weight onto his back L leg. Quickly drop your level and scoop up his R leg with your R arm. Don't just grab with the hand, you want to get your elbow under it. You can grab your lower lapel with your R hand to keep the grip. often you will end up keeping his R arm trapped as well. Your slightly bent left leg can also serve as an additionaal platform to hold his leg up. From here you can either:

Trip him using your L foot on his L leg to take him down (kouchigari?)

Backstep with your L leg, drive him backwards using your head, circling him anticlockwise to the ground.

Keep the grip on his belt, as this will prevent him rolling to his back. Keep driving your head into his jaw as you set up a control position on the ground. Dave talked about staying below the "elbow line", thus keeping his hips controlled while preventing him effectively using frames with his arms to create space or reverse you.

Complete the pass and consolidate your control position.

Foot Sweep

Important points about foot sweeps:
  • Think of sweeping with your little toe inwards, not the big toe. This naturally turns the little toe side of the foot down, making the sole rather than the edge of the foot the point of contact, making the sweep both more effective and less prone to injury.
  • Keep the sweeping leg straight. This allows most efficient use of momentum.
  • The idea is not to kick his foot out from underneath him, but to hook and hold it off the floor while you push him over.
  • You want his weight on the foot you are NOT trying to sweep, so the leg you are sweeping is light.
From the offline grip on his R arm, drive him back so his weight goes onto his L leg and his R leg becomes light. Step R with your R foot so your foot and both of his form a roughly equilateral triangle, then sweep his R leg to your R with your L foot. Hold his R leg up with your L and drive him down with your upper body controls and your head. Keep the waist grip and drive with the head as you take him to the ground as before.

In side control, turn your feet out and engage the toes for better base and pressure.


Similar setup to before, get his weight on his back L leg. Step R with your R to the triangle position, this time turn your back to him a bit more and lift his leg by lifting it with your heel and the back of your R leg, while driving his upper body down towards the floor with yours. Keep his R leg elevated with your L as you hop toward his R foot with your until he falls over. Keep the belt grip, use your head and move to pass as before.

(Fanboy moment - Dave told me I had a good uchimata. Which I have seldom practised. Jeez, I wonder what I should do with that information? 😎 )

Combination / Kuzushi

Set up the foot sweep and go. He manages to free his foot, or you find it difficult to throw him and let his foot go. Immediately his R foot touches the ground, hit him with the uchimata.

Stumble Throw / Modified Taiotoshi

Set up the offline grip as before. This time he is trying to square up to you again, as most trained people will do, and gets there or most of the way.

This time, step your L (not R foot) onto the triangle point with his feet. Take a small backstep with your R foot so it is outside his R foot, then take a bigger backstep with your L foot inside his R, the back of your L thigh hits the front of his R thigh just above his knee, this knocking his R leg out from underneath him so he needs to put his hands out so as not to face plant.

While you could follow him down, this time stay on your feet, and let go momentarily, ready to grab whatever opportunity for attack is now presented. You want to be on your toes and balanced, ready to move no matter what he does.

Do NOT overextend the step back with the L that bumps his thigh. You do not want to compromise your balanced stance. The move is subtle, not brutal. You should not need your feet any wider than double shoulder width to take him off his feet. He can attack YOUR legs if you take them too wide. Always trying to keep a stance you can move quickly from.

Attacking the turtle and rolling him to the King's Chair

Dave prefers getting double underhooks and lapel grips, rather than the seat belt grip, when attacking the turtle. The seat belt will not stop a good wrestler from turning towards you and attacking your legs. Seat belt is OK once you have him face up.

Get double underhooks with lapel grips on your turtled opponent, on his R. Pass his L lapel from your L hand to your R underneath his chest. Run around behind him to your L to gain momentum, put your L shin on the ground next ot his L shin to block it, post out in front of you with your L arm and use the momentum and your R hand in his collar ("the straitjacket") to roll him into a sitting position between your legs.

You are sitting behind him supporting yourself on your posted L arm. You want him sitting up at this stage, not flat. Use the R reverse hook under his R leg to stop him spinning out that way. Your L foot should be flat on the ground, it and your L knee stopping him from escaping that way. You still have your R hand grip on his collar.

This is the King's Chair. You have dethroned the King.

Setting Up the Kimura Grip and Moving to the SAP

Once you decide to move, let go your post with your L and go for the seat belt grip, R arm under his R armpit, L arm over his L shoulder around his neck, R hand grabbing his L fist.. Push on his L hip with your L foot to help you move your R foot to his L hip and if possible hook his hip with your R heel and/or toes, as you fall onto your R side. This is the Belt Line Hook.

Your head should be below his, your L ear to his R ear, preventing him getting his head and shoulder to the mat to escape.

Grip his R wrist with your R hand. Your L hand snakes around behind his neck, the forearm sliding down the R side of his neck, the R hand grabbing his R wrist under his forearm in the Kimura grip. Your R fist goes wrist to wrist with your R. Drive the R fist down ("Thor's Hammer") as you drive your hips into him as if bridging and use the bicep slicer pressure with your arms to open his elbow and drive his R upper arm and elbow away from his ribs as far as possible. Do a small hip escape if necessary to get the space to omve off to his R and get your L leg over his face. Cross your ankles. flare your knees and go to the Standard Armbar Position (SAP).

SAP variation demonstrated by Draculino

Do not allow your elbow to go below the line if his chin when applying the kimura, as this allows him to grab your upper arm and counter. Your elbow should be driving into the side of his neck. This position means you no longer need to use your head to prevent the escape as the forearm is now performing that function admirably.

The SAP is a control position. Get really good at setting up and keeping this position with maximum pressure on the opponent. The sub will come from the pressure.

Uchikomi Drill

Get back control on your fellow trainee, with both arms underhooked. Fall to your R and set the blet line hook with your R foot while getting the kimura grip on his R arm with both of yours, then taking your L leg over his face and sitting up for the SAP. Spin back to hooks in back control, do the same thing on the other side. Repeat. Your partner needs to move cooperatively with you to allow the drill to flow.


So - work the Stumble Throw to get them on all fours, get double underhooks and roll them into the King's Chair, fall to your side, get the belt line hook and kimura grip, move to the SAP. Repeat.

Better to start slow and move smoothly, then make that smooth and quicker. Dave prefers to use "quick" to "fast". As John Smallios relates, "slow is smooth and smooth is fast".

Dave demonstrated a nice clock choke to rolling back take to SAP combo.

He also answered questions about people who try to push the leg off the head from the SAP. Dave stated that as soon as you see that hand moving to start pushing the leg, grab the wrist and attack it immediately. Be prepared to move to attack the other arm or go to the back. Do not hang onto a position that you have more than a thirty percent change of losing, Move on.

Dave uses chokes or their threat to set up armbars. Every time you pull his arm away from your neck your arm becomes vulnerable.

The SAP can work from guard the flared knees push his head sideways, making the stack very difficult.

"Pressurise the position", e.g. using crushing chest pressure when getting the underhook and moving into the top kimura position. The pressure on his elbow in the SAP should be such that he wants to give you the arm.

Dave also talked about will being as important as correct technique. I mention this as food for much further thought rather than just another statement.

Many people felt they got a lot out of Dave's last seminar, even to the extent of "that seminar changed my game". And they had huge success with the SAP.

I found Dave extremely impressive, friendly, encouraging, approachable. Watching him perform jiu jitsu is a pleasure, he moves so smoothly and quickly and always has multiple options from anywhere. Only when you read some of his online biographies do you realise what a badass he is as well. I feel bad that I didn't work harder to encourage more of my jiu jitsu friends to attend the seminar.

Another writeup here from John Smallios. Really good, and picked up on aspects I overlooked:

The Return of Dave Camarillo - Reflections

Video showing just how slick and smooth Dave's Jiu Jitsu is

Dave's speciality, Machine Gun Submissions

Dave Camarillo and myself

Marlon Lambert (L), John Smallios (R) and yours truly

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Gathering 2017, and a Rigan Machado seminar 10 Sep 2017

The Gathering 2017

I travelled to Melbourne to attend the Will/Machado Gathering, a competition organised every year by John Will. This year celebrating thirty years of BJJ in Australia.

"Fawlty Towers", where I stayed with the Langes, the Lazichs, Pete King and Elvis Sinosic. Unlike the TV namesake, staff are professional and the stay was quite enjoyable

Saturday the ninth was a competition held at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. I was refereeing and otherwise officiating. I saw some excellent matches, including many at brown and black belt level, refereeing some myself with Anthony and Pete.

The next day was an early start at Dominance Mixed Martial Arts.

Nice gym. There's another matted area of equivalent size with many punch bags and a boxing ring

Group photos, promotions:

Anthony Lange - Black Belt 4th degree

Simon Farnsworth - Black Belt 3rd degree

Peter King - Black Belt 2nd degree

among quite a few other degree promotions.

Then we began seminars with Rigan. The first was brief, ostensibly for school owners, though no one stopped everyone else there from joining in.

Apologies for video and sound quality - I was breathing heavily from exertion, plus suffering from the death throes of a sinus and throat thing, plus had to sprint and weave through masses of humanity each time to grab a reasonable camera position. Everything goes sideways in one video. Sorry, but, um ... what you get is what you get.

Rigan showed some drills he teaches at his school to facilitate hip and leg movement, and overall mobility, from guard.

Drill 1

You are on your back. Your partner has your feet in his elbow joints and holds your ankles like spider guard. You bend and extend your legs, this spinnig on your back to lightly touch each of your partner's lower legs with your hand. AS you get used to the drill you partner can start to step arond, so you need to move with him. You can also look at extending this to go underneath him, garb or underhook his ankles, inverting, etc.

Drill 2

You are on your back with your feet up near your partner's hips, your partner does a light leg drag on your L leg and steps around to the outside of the leg. Raise and turn your hips and bring your R leg across to his hips, then square up and reestablish your open guard. Repeat both sides, keep swapping.

Drill 3

You are on your back facing your partner. He steps around, bringing his L foot up near your R shoulder. You grab his L ankle with your R hand, crunch and ball up so you can spin to face him again. Repeat on the other side, keep swapping.

Drill 4

You are on your back. This time your partner is standing up behind your head. Make sure you have enough room between you and him for the next move. Grab both ankles with your hands, then reverse crunch up, lifting your hips, ankles crossed until you can place your feet on his hips. Using his hips as a pivot point, spin on your back so as to uncross your legs and face him again. He walks around behind your head again. Repeat on the other side. Get used to spinning back toward him in the way that uncrosses your legs. Repeat on both sides and keep swapping.

Do each drill for time rather than number of reps, and also mix all the drills together during a single time period.

The next seminar was for coloured belts, including black belts. It dealt with what Rigan calls "distance passing", where we try to gain control over the opponent and initiate the pass from a distance where the opponent does not have an easy opportunity to establish a proper guard.

Ankle and Leg Control Drill

Stay well out of range and look to grab an ankle in a parallel grip (e.g. R hand grabs his L ankle) from above. Fingers around the achilles tendon. You can drag his leg to one side and step around, change the grip to the other hand, push one or both ankles down, lift both ankles up and change the grip to underneath, grab the other ankle if he uses his free foot to block etc. Experiment with a partner at low levels of resistance, which you can probably ramp up as you become more proficient.

Pass 1

Push both his ankles down, step in and more or less sit on his shins. Push his knees forward and to your L as you grab his R collar with your L hand. Your L shin goes over both his R ankle and thigh, your L knee toward the floor so as to pin his R leg, while your L hand goes to the floor under his L armpit. Lean forward and put your chest oh the outside of his L knee to push his L knee towards you L / his R. You should be able to backstep over his R shin with your L leg and complete the pass.

Pass 2 - Leg Drag

His L foot is on your R hip. Grab his L ankle with your R hand, fingers around the achilles tendon, thumb over his shin. Grab under his L knee with your L hand. Step back with your L foot and trun slightly to dislodge his L foot from your hip, and drag it over past your L hip and you step your L foot in close to his butt. drive your L knee over his R thigh, pinning it, dropping down. Trap his R thigh from the other side with your L elbow, grabbing his R collar with the L hand. You can move around behind him (to your R) to complete the pass, ideally catching his L arm between your L arm and your chest, making it hard for him to roll away from you.

Pass 3 - Leg Drag to Knee Ride

Grab his L ankle with your R hand and his L calf with your L hand. Leg drag as before, but this time push his L knee down and away with your R hand as you step around to his L and go to knee ride.

Pass 4 - Leg drag, he Blocks with the Free Leg - Shoulder Control and Knee Slide

You start the leg drag on his L leg as before. This time, before you can consolidate the knee pin, he brings his R log over the top to block your R side, stopping you from dropping down. Underhook his R thigh with your R arm and push his R leg forward and down using shoulder pressure with your R shoulder. Push his L leg down with your L hand and knee-slide your R shin over it, dropping onto your R side and turning towards him to complete the pass. After some practice the shoulder control and knee slide can be done quite quickly.

Pass 5 - Leg Drag, he Blocks with the Free Leg, Wax On Wax Off and Leg Drag on the Other Side

You drag his L leg, he brings his R leg over and blocks your R shoulder with his R foot. Your L hand circles inside and  to take the leg off your shoulder and then bring it down and across to your R hip, near the end of this movement grab his R calf with your R hand and drag his leg past your R hip. He may black with the L foot on your L shoulder, do the same thing on the other side. Can repeat as a drill or eventually beat his block with one of the previous passes.

The arm movements are very similar to the defence against an attempted lapel grab where you parry the arm to the outside and then take it down and across into an arm drag.

Pass 6 - Shin and Shoulder Control to Knee Slide Pass

Get a grip on both ankles, then lift them up and change the grips to under and behind the ankles. Drive both his legs back and to your L. Get your L shin over his R thigh, and trap his L calf with your shoulder as for a basic under leg pass. You could now pass either way. If you elect to do the knee slide pass, or he gives you his R sleeve - grab his R sleeve with your L hand and pass it to your R hand, your R arm under his L leg. Drive forward and crossface him with your L arm, using an L collar grip to move in progressively, as you backstep with your R leg and drop onto your L hip, keeping his R leg trapped with your L knee. Once your backstep is complete, you can take you L ship off his R leg and drive your R knee into his hip to complete the pass. Gripping and pulling in with your R hand on his sleeve will torque his spine and greatly affect his abilities to block the pass.

Pass 7 - Shin and Shoulder Control to Under the Leg Pass

You get the position as for the previous pass where you control his R thigh with your L shin and his R calf with your shoulder and R arm. This time he pushes on your chest or shoulder with his L hand. Grab his L sleeve with your L hand, using your R hand to pass it to your L if necessary. Move around to your R under his L leg, getting your R thumb in his R collar at the earliest opportunity. Drop your weight onto your R elbow, adding a nice amount of forearm choke pressure, and pull your L elbow to your hip as you complete the pass.

Pass 6 and 7 and probably well know to most blue belts, but adding the sleeve controls and various pressures turbocharges them.

"Pass" 8 - Pass Pressure to Back Take

Grab his ankles, lift them up and swap the grip to behind as before. Push his feet up over his head. Use your R shin/knee to temporarily control his L leg. Change the grip on his L ankle from your R hand to your L hand. Grab his belt with your R hand and use it and pushing his L foot back over his head to lift his hips off the mat, drop down onto your R knee, placing it close to his butt and ideally slightly to your L of it. Now drop onto you R hip and slide your R knee under his hips. Get your L hook in over his L leg and roll him to your L into back control, getting your R hook in and upper body controls as you go.

Super Review

Final Thoughts

TL;DR: I had a fun, interesting and worthwhile weekend based around Jiu Jitsu, spent some great times on and off the mat with Rigan Machado and some of the best Jiu Jitsu people in Australia. Heard plenty of stories about the early days of MMA and BJJ in Australia, Learned a nice and effective passing strategy that does not appear to require superhuman athleticism. A weekend very well spent.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why you aren't a streetfighter ... and why you don't want to be

From "Taking It to the Street; Making Your Martial Art Street Effective" by Marc "Animal" MacYoung, Paladin Press, 1999

A lot of martial art instructors claim to be streetfighters. They brag about how their system is street proven. To listen to these people, you'd think they were real hardcore street savages. And to give them credit, they may have been bouncers and even brawlers. Still, that's a totally different league than streetfighters.

Simply stated, most martial art instructors who claim to have been streetfighters don't have the stink. 

There is a certain psychic odour that comes from growing up and living on the streets. It's a rot that comes from constant exposure to violence, death, alcoholism, drug addiction, sociopathic behaviour, poverty, sadism, and viciousness. It's reflected in a person's attitude, speech patterns, personal interactions, and how he looks at the world. It's a certain hardening of the spirit that comes from living years with the attitude "do unto others before they do unto you." Add to that the chronic paranoia of having spent years looking over your shoulder, lest someone you have wronged slithers out of the shadow you just passed with revenge on his mind.

When I say I was a streetfighter, it means that I was a vicious, self-centred, misbehaving, drunken, stoned thug among other vicious, self-centred, misbehaving, drunken, stoned thugs. We were the worst kind of savages. Man to man, mano a mano was bull. Numbers and weapons were always used to increase our odds whenever possible. Once you realise the other side could and would shoot back, you did everything in your power to make sure they never got the chance. You always stacked the deck in your favour. You hit first, and you hit hard enough to make sure he didn't get up. You ran as often as you hit, and you hit from behind as often as you could. Anyone who didn't play that way didn't last too long. The blood, the bullets, and the knives were real. In the streets, life and death were determined by whims, intoxicants, and sheer stupidity.

Being, or having been, a streetfighter is nothing to be proud of. Nor is it something you turn on and off. It's not a job that you go to and come home from. It's a way of life (and often death) and it's constant. It's living with being the hunter and the hunted every day and night. Knowing that the next corner you turn could end your life, you don't swagger boldly around it. You cautiously turn that corner.

It's not aggressiveness or how many people he's beat up that makes a streetfighter - that's just a sadistic brawler. Such people don't last long in the streets. A brawler goes into places, picks a fight, and then leaves the area to go back to a home far away from the trouble he caused.

Streetfighting isn't stomping someone and then contemptuously forgetting them like so many brawlers and bouncers do. It's spending two weeks after a conflict watching approaching cars lest a gun barrel comes poking out of a rolled down window. It's dashing wildly through alleys to escape six guys who suddenly jumped out of a car. Of course having  the guy you beat up waiting in the shadows with a baseball bat as you come out of a door is also loads of laughs to deal with. That is what being a streetfighter is about. It's surviving the aftermath of your actions when someone backs up on you on his terms, not yours.

There's a lot of pain and paranoia involved in being a streetfighter that the fakes don't know about. Standing over a friend's grave is a horrible experience. Spending your life always looking over your shoulder doesn't do your social graces any good. Waking up with the cops pounding on your door for what happened last nights really compounds the suffering of a hangover. Long nights spent in the emergency room because someone blindsided you with a beer bottle or scrubbing your friend's blood out of your car seat - these are the experiences of a streetfighter. The scars, both physical and psychic, stand out clearly. Trying to impress people by claiming to be one is like trying to impress people by claiming that you're a leper.

Most people I knew in the "Life" are now either dead, in prison, totally burned out courtesy of drugs or booze, or crippled because of a shadow with a shotgun. That's what happens to most "streetfighters". The few that do manage to escape know about the downside, and that's why they left. Even people who weren't players, but grew up in lousy neighbourhoods and fought their way out, have the stink. It stays with you forever. Someone who thinks going out and picking fights or working a few months as a bouncer in a local watering hole means he's a streetfighter is very much mistaken.

You can see why such a life would give someone a spiritual stink. I should know - that is how I was raised and that was the environment I operated in while running in the streets of Los Angeles. Even though I left it behind, the residue still remains with me to this day. It's taken me many long, hard years working to improve myself from that state, and I still don't have it down.

Oh, by the way, something I've noticed for you social climbers: One of the more interesting things about "civilised conversation" isn't so much what you talk about, but what it is you DON'T talk about. If a subject is discussed it's reached round about, you don't just blurt it out. That kind of directness is one of the marks of someone coming from the street, not someone with so-called class.

It's knowing the downside of the "life" that is the litmus test for telling ex-streetfighters from wannabees. Basically, you can see now why someone who brags about being a streetfighter isn't one. What's there to impress people with? "Hi! I'm a dysfunctional, intoxicated thug who hurts people unnecessarily ... what do you do for a living?" Gee, that goes over well at dinner parties.

In the same way that a lot of camp cooks suddenly became snipers when they returned from Vietnam, a whole lot of martial arts instructors became ex-streetfighters when they opened their schools. It's a marketing ploy. It sounds really good. It attracts students, and people who don't know the difference believe them - thinking that streetfighting and aggressive sports training regimes are the same thing. The problem is, it's not true. If you believe such a person in good faith, you are the one who will bleed to discover what he's teaching won't work in the real thing.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Plan for an "Introduction to Jiu Jitsu" Seminar

Introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ is a style of grappling, developed in Brazil from a base of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, with elements added from other grappling arts over the years.

Excels in fighting on the ground, and especially off your back.

Sport and self defence aspects

You never want to go to the ground in a defence situation. Will you always have that choice?

Jiu Jitsu trains for worst case scenarios. On the ground, your attacker on top of you, trying to hurt/damage you, or choke/strangle/punch you unconscious. You must expect the worst and have strategies and tactics to deal with it, if you train for self defence.

Jiu Jitsu allows a spectrum of control and lethality, more so than striking arts. If you hit someone, you'd better hit hard enough to knock them out or hurt them, and be prepared to deal with an assault charge. Grappling has gradations. you may be able to defuse a minor situation via control with Jiu Jitsu. Though you can do real damage if necessary.

Bigger and stronger people are much more dangerous to you if they are on their feet and mobile. If you can put them on the floor, their size and strength matters less (though it still matters).

Wing Chun Strategy vs. Jiu Jitsu strategy

Wing Chun – bridge the gap, go to the blind side, control the elbows and knees, hit them until the threat is neutralised

Jiu Jitsu – take them down, achieve a position of control, move through successively better positions until you are in a place where you can apply a submission hold – choke or joint lock. Negotiate of possible, otherwise snap or nap.

Wing Chun blind side vs Jiu Jitsu inside control

Practical – standing self defence

Warm up, revision of ukemi (breakfalls)

Explore the principle of non-resistance with a couple of standing drills

Introduction to inside control
- try to push and be pushed
- bicep control, stopping a straight punch

- bicep control, stopping an uppercut or body hook
- against haymaker, bil sao to side clinch

- from side clinch, he goes to grab your head, duck out to get the back and spin takedown
- from side clinch, he squares up, bearhug takedown
- from side clinch, he steps behind, hip toss
- from side clinch, he tries to retreat, hook his leg and trip

Short break

Practical – ground defence

- Mount position
- your options from mount
- keeping the mount
- bridge and roll escape
- guard
- his options from guard, and yours
- basic pass to side control
- step over to mount
- basic circuit as a drill
- americana from mount
-drill RNC from sitting
- he tries to turn under mount and stand up
- side mount – gift wrap
- he turns to stomach, go to hooks in back control with underarm wrist control, break him down
- from there, rear naked choke (RNC). Drill first in isolation, then add to the mount / turn to stomach sequence.

Where to from here?

Evolutionary rather than traditional art
The role of competition in evolution
It goes on forever
How much does Wing Chun help?