Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chrome Dome HOWTO

For those so good looking their face is taking over the rest of their head.

Patrick Stewart

Maynard James Keenan
Credit: Rolling Stone - Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty

Some other dude
Courtesy: Stuart Nairne

I've been shaving my head for about ten years. With my father and grandfather both slapheads before their fifties, it was pretty much preordained at a cellular level. I knew what was coming and prepared myself well ahead of time. "Accept yourself" and "tell the truth" are powerful statements to live by.

The benefits of going bald

I didn't want the John Howard style hubcap, 

John Howard

let alone the Skullet.

Might be time to accept, change it up and grow old disgracefully, Lars

And definitely no rugs or hair transplants. Andre Agassi has some awful stories to tell about that in his book. 

The thought of a hairpiece coming off while training Jiu Jitsu, and the inevitable unsympathetic reactions of my training partners, was a nightmare situation not to be countenanced. I would deserve derision. Totally.

Once the number three haircut at the barber was no longer cutting it (no pun intended), I knew the time had come ...

I started using the cheap disposable blade razors, and bought a barber-style electric razor and took it all off during one Christmas break.

Both tools took surprisingly long to finish the job if I did it myself, and made it hard to get one hundred per cent right. 

I'd often ends up with bits missing - or rather, not missing - unless I went to the trouble of using a hand mirror to see the back of my head in the wall mirror, which is challenging if you are also trying to wield a razor. 

It also usually took at least five minutes. A bit longer if I was more than usually concerned about leaving the house looking intellectually capable of grooming myself.

I avoided the cut-throat razor lest it live up to its name.


 Vincent van Gogh was not good with cutthroat razors. Image from Wikipedia

It was too easy to nick myself with the disposable blades, and I'd too often have to stop mid-roll at Jiu Jitsu to stop a bleeding shaving cut with tissue or toilet paper Norman Gunston style. 

The purpose made blades for shaving the head might work, but I'm too cheap and fearful for that.

The barber type electric razor was less risky, but quite heavy and slow to use. I also had trouble negotiating it around my ears and the bumpier parts of my skull.

Not my preferred options

Aldi, which, as some of you know, is my favourite supermarket by far, were having a sale and I decided to take a punt on a cheap ($29.95), triple head rotary, chargeable, electric razor. If it didn't work for my head, it would still work for my face, hopefully.

This turned out to be an excellent decision. I could get my entire skull, face and neck down past the T shirt line done in less than two minutes. Zero scratching or irritation, and effortless coverage of the spots the other tools couldn't reach without determined effort.

The price point turned out to be a little low - the light indicating charging, and fully charged, when the shaver was docked in its charger, stopped working after a couple of days. It continued to charge and work OK after that for maybe a couple of weeks until ...

I knocked it off the bathroom counter onto the tile floor. And it shaved no more.

You can see now why the cutthroat razor would not have suited Mr Clumsy here.

The Aldi shaver was a Special Buy ... and of course they had sold out on the day. NO!

I replaced it with a similar unit from Woolworths, which cost about ten dollars more, and had to be plugged into the wall. It's not a cordless phone and I don't don't have much call to wander around the house or the backyard while shaving as a rule, so this didn't bother me that much. Fewer pieces and moving parts is always a plus.


Once you accept the chrome dome lifestyle, and find a workable solution, life becomes simple. Low maintenance, cheap.

If the aerodynamics and other worthy attributes of this non-hairstyle appeal, or if like me, your choices were limited, hopefully this information will prove useful to you.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Creativity and Martial Arts Training II

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." Maya Angelou

This is part II of a series on Martial Arts and Creativity.  Part I.

Me? Creative?

You may not think you are creative, but you are. Every time you work towards a new goal, or find a unique (to you) way to solve a specific problem, no matter how small, you are creating.

Problems and goals can be almost trivial in nature, or close to cosmic in scale and significance.

The lives of most martial artists abound with problems and challenges of varying scope and complexity.
  • When I get the Whip Up and go for the Old School sweep, he stands up on the foot I want to grab, thus foiling my sweep. What should I do then, or instead?
  • How do I get inside this guy's killer front kick?
  • I've got a new job (which helps solved some financial problems). How can I fit regular training in around the scheduling changes of the job and my other responsibilities?
  • I'm sixty-two years old. How can I keep improving at Jiu Jitsu without getting injured and smashed?
  • I have an injury or a disability. How can I train, or keep training?
  • I have a new gig teaching martial arts a couple of days a week. Awesome! But how can I keep my own training up to scratch with that "me time" gone?
While all of us find a way, if we are still training and didn't give up, a systematic approach to problem solving could assist us in coming up with the best solutions, and maybe let us reach them more quickly.

The Creative Process

The book, The Universal Traveler, which I discussed in Part I, divides the creative process up into phases or energy states:
  • Acceptance - you accept you have a goal, problem or challenge for which you want to devise a solution.
  • Analysis - gather information about the problem. As you can explore many topics, like Jiu Jitsu, effectively forever, it might be best to set a time limit.
  • Definition - In the light of your analysis, what exactly is the real problem you are trying to solve? What are your objectives.
  • Ideation - generate ideas for possible solutions. As many as possible. Defer judgement, go wild.
  • Idea Selection - consider those ideas you generated and select those which most closely match your objectives?
  • Implementation - implement and act upon your best ideas.
  • Evaluation - How did you go? What did you learn from the process? What new problems or opportunities can you identify as a result?
It is important to understand that this is not necessarily a linear process, it may go an an iterative circular process or loop back one or more times between the various phases.

For example, it may be difficult to select which of your ideas will best help solve the problem. You may need to go back and define your objectives more clearly.

You may find, while trying out your selected solution idea, that you hit some unexpected obstacle or an unforeseen limitation makes it impractical as is. "No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy." * You may not have to go all the way "back to the drawing board" every time, but you may have to go back a bit and select another idea to try, or you may generate some new ideas that you can now add to the list for idea selection.

[*German military strategist Helmuth Graf von Moltke.]

There are other methodologies and demarcation of the various phases or energy states involved. An online course I took about eighteen months ago, Coursera's Ignite Your Everyday Creativity, broke the process up into four phases:
  • Clarification
  • Ideation
  • Development
  • Implementation
Yes, this is meant to be a martial arts and Jiu Jitsu blog, and I will get back there soon, I promise.

What was also mentioned in this course, much more so than in The Universal Traveler, were the concepts of Incubation and Illumination.

You've been mulling over this problem for a while and can't quite seem to get anywhere.

Gary Larson, The Far Side

Go outside, go to the beach, go train.

Get out of your head for a while. Let your research and analysis incubate.

Maybe, a little later, in the shower, while walking around, or when you wake up in the middle of the night from a dream ... BANG! There it is. A possible solution. Illumination.

Archimedes. Be a little more restrained than this at home, kids

Not exactly systematic or repeatable on demand ... but we have all hopefully experienced illumination and know the feeling. Powerful stuff, and not even the most regimented and rational of us can ignore it. Counting on illumination to strike without the preliminary effort is ill advised, though. The muse is saving grace indeed, but you have to have skin in the game first.

Enough theory. If you want to find out more about problem solving methods, I can't recommend The Universal Traveler too highly. And the online course I mentioned might better suit those who don't like reading (if you got this far, presumably that isn't you).

Generating Ideas

OK, I've gone a long way off the martial arts track and risk falling off a cliff. An example.

I'm dissatisfied with my straight front kick. Or, more likely, my instructor told me HE wasn't satisfied with it. Too slow, not enough control or accuracy, I can't hit anything with it, or when I do I knock myself over, or they catch my leg, ...

Perhaps I'm an instructor and looking for a multiplicity of training methods for a front kick to keep classes interesting.

Front kick. WKA World Championship 2011

I accept I have a problem. Or a challenge. My sub-par front kick.

I analyse the problem. My particular problem could be one of the shortcomings I mentioned, or several. I need to seek information, ask my seniors and peers, watch myself kicking on video and in the mirror, get as much information as I can about what I am doing well and what I am doing badly.

I try and define as precisely as possible what I am doing incorrectly or what I need to improve, and what my objectives are in undertaking the search for solutions.

Once I have a pretty decent understanding of what I want to achieve or fix, I go to ideation, and use a number of documented methods to generate ideas. For this I need to undertake divergent thinking, casting my net for ideas and possible solution. Dismiss no idea, no matter how apparently absurd or impractical it sounds. If you run out of ideas, go back to existing ideas and change them a little or a lot, keeping the old and adding the new, riffing off what you already have. Get a group of people involved. Cooperate.

Back in the late 1990's, Rick Spain challenged his senior students, including me, to come up with as many ways as possible to train the front kick. The objective here was to come up with new ways of training to keep our own and the junior student's training varied and interesting, and have many strings to the teaching bow that could be tailored to develop the individual.

I spent a little while on this on evening at home, and after a slow start, got on a roll and quickly came up with over thirty different ways to train that technique. I still have that list handwritten in a volume of my training diary.

Training diaries going back well into last century. Just about all electronic for the last few years

Ideas went like this:

1. Single front kick - concentrating on form
2. Doubles/triples - one side or both
3. Numbers for duration or speed
4. Lead/rear leg
8. Slow kicks with or without ankle weights, for strength and balance
9. Between two sticks held horizontally or vertically for accuracy and knee elevation
10. Against focus bag, partner stationary
11. Against focus bag, partner moving in - for stop kick, teep, timing
12. Against focus bag, partner moving away, chasing
18. In combination with various other kicks, hand strikes, parries/deflections
23. With bungee cord used for resistance
24. With bungee cord used for overspeed
27. Squat and front kick for leg strength and endurance
28. Upkick from the floor, from various guard configurations
32. Isolate in sparring, only technique either one or both sparmates can use

After John Will's recent seminar I'd add stepping into range then kicking, and throwing the kick while hopping/sliding into range.

Once I got going, I felt I could have gone on to more and more options had I so decided.

Coming up with lots of ideas isn't that hard. Remember to defer judgement and not reject ideas out of hand or jump on the first half decent idea you come across.

Selecting the most useful ideas from the list requires a bit more work.

Select and Execute

Now we need to use convergent thinking. We assess each idea against the objectives we determined in the definition phase. We choose the top three of four ideas which seem most likely to take us in the direction of those objectives. If we have trouble working out which ideas are best suited to our objectives, maybe we need to back up for further analysis, or more precise definition, of those objectives.

If we our our student's most pressing problem was that he falls backwards whenever his kick connects with a decent target, from our list of ideas we might come up with the following short list:
  • Kicking an immovable object like a wall to get used to recoil
  • Specific exercises for leg and hip strength (like what? A new problem! Now you have a process you can follow to come up with solutions)
  • Kicking a swinging heavy bag as it comes towards you
  • Slow kicks for strength and balance
  • Kicking a focus bag held by a partner who rushes at us (starting slowly and ramping up the speed might be a good idea)
We implement the solutions and get the student to do the drills. We monitor and evaluate the student's performance. Some ideas might turn out to be useless, some might work really well, or the experiment gives us new ideas, or ways to tweak those we have for greater effectiveness. We can go back a phase or a few and start again.

So, there's one example. The process you go through to work out how to counter to counter Harry Kimura's setups for his signature submission might be different, but the conceptual steps I mention of of inventing or reinventing possible solutions can almost certainly be applied effectively to any situation requiring creative problem solving.

I will look at more specific ideation techniques and other possible sources of illumination in the next article in this series, Creativity and Martial Arts Training III.

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.

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.

Rick Spain speaks

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.

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