Sunday, September 30, 2012

Inverting in Reverse De La Riva

                                I                                                                              TO INVERT                                                       

Really.  I do it all the time from reverse de la riva.  One of my favorite techniques is shooting under my opponent from reverse de la riva and taking ze' back or sweeping.

I want to share a few pointers on my theory about how to make this technique work correctly and efficiently.  The main points you should focus on when you invert are:

1.  Grips

2.  Staying in a ball

Here is my short article about my theory of "Ball BJJ" if you haven't read it:

3.  Manipulating your opponent's legs, abdomen, and crotch area all at the same time

First, it's important to have the right grip.  Make sure arm is wrapped around your opponent's leg like this:

Notice, there is no space between my hand and my opponent's leg.  Also, I am making contact with my own leg and touching it. 

Next, and this is the most important thing about the technique, you must remain in a ball for it to work.  That means your legs are always together and close to your chest, your back is arched, elbows in, and your chin tucked. 

If your opponent breaks any part of your ball, the technique will not work and you may get your guard passed. 

Also, and this is very important as well, you must remain close to your opponent at all times (like glue).  If you are too far away, the technique will not work.

                     This is bad.  Very, very bad.

For example, this is not good at all.  Not only do I have a big scary Arab on top of me, but look at my body.  First, I am not in a ball.  My knees aren't close to my chest, and my legs are spread like a whore on nickel night.  Consequently, my back is on the floor.  Also, I'm not grabbing all the way around his leg with my right arm and I'm not touching my own leg like the picture above.  I have no grip either. I should have a cross collar grip with my left hand grabbing my opponent's left lapel.  Finally, look how far away I am from my opponent.  I am not up against him like I should be.

All he really has to do is shift his right knee in and flatten my little ass out.  I've already done half of his work for him, and maybe he will oblige me.  Once my ball is broken, it's over for me. 

Now, this is what the technique should look like:

Notice, my knees are close to my chest, and my body is arched.  My left hand is grabbing his left lapel.  I am off at an angle to him and not directly in front of him either. I want to stay very close, too.

As I invert, I want to invert into him.  Think about your opponent like he/she is invisible and that you are going to go right through them.  I keep my right arm around his leg, my knees in close,and keep my grip on his lapel.  This is a very strong ball that he will not be able to break. 

*Important-if you are training with foot locks, the above picture could take you to toe hold city.  If you are playing with foot locks, make sure to grab and control your opponent's left sleeve or wrist (no gi) instead of the left lapel place (foot on bicep is optional), so they can't put you in a toe hold.  Make sure to still keep your knees close to your body.  Sometimes you can use the sleeve/wrist control (or if your foot is on their bicep) to push them forward, which works to your advantage.  Once you start to get your left leg under, you can let go of the sleeve or wrist. 

At this point, I'm not worried about the top of his body.  That's too heavy for me, and if I try to fight that, I lose.  Manipulating his legs, abdomen, and crotch are much easier to do.  Again, my only concerns are his legs, abdomen, and crotch. 

Now, I'm going to use my arm that is wrapped around his leg, my DLR hook, my cross collar grip, and my knees to manipulate his lower body and go under him.  Don't think about this process as separate steps that you have to do one after another.  They should be done all at the same time. 

My arm has his leg in place so he can't move and I'm slowly bringing it towards me all the time.  I keep my de la riva hooked leg close to my chest and use that in conjunction with my arm to move my opponent forward or back  (preferably forward) to keep him off balance.  My cross collar grip keeps him close to me, and my left knee and the bottom part of my left leg are going to be pushing his abdomen or lower crotch forward to make more space for me to get under.

I am pretty much under and have let go of the cross collar grip (but not the hook on his leg-keep the hook).  Notice, that I am still in a ball (knees touching my chest) with my elbows in.  My knees are directly under his midsection, and all he can do is post his arms out as I move him forward.  I'm actually rocking him forward with my knees.  *Look where my left hand is in the above picture.  I will now grab his pant leg here, which will help me push him forward and also prevent him from escaping.

Now, I am behind him and he is in trouble.  Notice how I am still in a ball.  Notice as well that my opponent is not in a ball as knees are not close to his chest, his arm are out, torso flat, back not arched, and legs spread somewhat straight out.

Voila!  There you have it. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rooftop view

The idea of living in a little concrete box stacked on top of hundreds of other people is starting to grow on me.  Especially since I live two floors from the top of my building.  My wife took these beautiful roof top pictures last night. 

                     South view

   North view

                     Heoshimchung bathhouse (the building with the domes)

SHOOTO gloves

Here are my babies.  I got these awesome SHOOTO gloves from Japan.   They are made of leather, and all the stitching is black (it looks white in the pictures, but it isn't).  The tag on the inside has the size on one side and Made In Japan on the other.

I was also lucky enough to attend Shootor's Legacy 4 in Tokyo last year, too.  The crowd was a lot more lively than at DREAM and the tickets were super cheap. There were also some pro Japanese fighters milling about watching the fights.  A guy I trained with in Japan told me that the last time he went he saw Gomi walking around and watching the fights. 

If you are ever in Tokyo and want to go to a show, find a Lawson's convenient store (they are everywhere).  They have ticket machines there, and, if you ask nicely, one of the clerks may help you purchase tickets.

                               Merchandise booth 

Also, there are a limited number of standing room only tickets available the day of the event for purchase at Korakuen Hall. 

    Shin Kochiwa v.s. Shinji Sasaki

                     Karokuen hallway

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Knee Bar


What the hell, man?  What is it with this submission?  I mean, really.  I couldn't hit one if my life depended on it (which is unfortunate for a leg lock stud like myself).  Also, it's one of the the subs I get caught in most often.

Okay, okay I know what you're thinking (*cue dude bro voice), “Listen man, if you want to get better at knee bars, practice more knee bars and stop acting like a baby”.

Well...I HAVE!

I remember never  getting a guillotine until well after I was a blue belt.  I would try them and never pull them off.  When someone would teach them in class, I would be dumbfounded.  Basically after awhile I just gave up on them completely.  

One day, my instructor was teaching guillotines and showed one little concept that changed everything.  Suddenly, it clicked.  I started submitting people with them all the time (especially from half guard).

Still waiting for that “Ah ha!” moment with the knee bar....What's that one sub you can never hit?  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Hard Way

“Judo teaches only through pain and effort”

From my friend Tom Gate's blog here in Busan, Korea (

Being involved in the sport of judo takes a lot of guts.  To obtain technical proficiency, physical strength and stamina, as well as intelligent strategy requires a long term, sustained effort.  It is a sport that requires sacrifice, focus, and just plain guts.  To remain in "judo shape" over long periods of time is a truly difficult and challenging thing.  The master instructor of the judo school at which I practice in Busan, South Korea is a real-life example of this sacrifice and dedication.

One day I had brought my camera to class and before anyone showed up (other than the head instructor seen in parts of the video below) I asked if he would demonstrate some of the strength building exercises for judo.  He obliged.  He walked onto the mat cold and did some things I simply can't imagine being able to do.  In addition to this, he is 64 years old!!  Unbelievable.

A true judo master.

This video is so awesome that I just had to ride Tom's coat tails and post it.  Seriously though, this stuff is awe inspiring and unbelievable.   Make sure to pick your jaw up off the floor after you are done watching.  I hope I look this good at 64.  Judo rules.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


   Baek Byung Won (hospital) in Busan

A little over a month ago, I completely lost all the power in my right arm.  Part of my strength training routine is doing weighted pull ups and weighted rope chin ups with 25 kg (55 pounds).  One Saturday after practice, all of a sudden, I was too weak to hoist myself up over the pull up bar.  I was left dangling on the bar like a little baby turtle kicking its feet.

“What the.....!?” I thought.  Then I took the weight off and couldn't even do one proper pull up without any weight.  I was pulling on my left side, which meant my right arm was weak.  What was even weirder was that my arm didn't even hurt!  I had only been to practice twice the week before, so I knew it wasn't from over training.  The only thing I guess I could say was that when I tried to flex my bicep muscle in my right arm, it didn't feel anywhere near as strong as the muscle in my left arm (come on, you know you flex in the mirror, too).

Frustrated, I went home that night and, like other smart people, made an attempt to self diagnose myself.  In fact, whenever I get an ache, pain, bump, or discoloration I purposefully avoid the internet, because I am a paranoid freak and will most likely come to the conclusion that I have cancer or ebola.

The only thing I found was a lifting forum where a few guys had had the same symptoms as me.  They said that they had had a pinched nerve in their neck and suggested seeing a chiropractor to work the nerve out.

Cool, I thought.  Only, there was one problem.  My boss told me to be very careful, because there are a lot of yahoos here in Korea practicing without a license.

Luckily, I found a reputable chiropractor, who happened to also have a degree in Eastern medicine (a very nice man as well).   He checked me out and told me that I had some muscle damage, and that there wasn't much he could do.  He injected some  bee venom into my arm (yes, bee venom), gave me a pat on the butt, and sent me on my way.

I decided to get a second opinion, so I made an appointment at Baek Byung Won (hospital) in Haeundae.  I told the doctor my symptoms, and she asked me if I do any physical activity.  I explained what BJJ was and that I usually had big guys throwing me around and stacking me on my neck.  Her immediate response was, “Why do you do that”?

Anyway, she told me that she wanted to to an EMG.  Now, fellow grapplers, if your doctor ever suggests an  Run hard and run fast my friend.   It was extremely uncomfortable and painful.

                                 This device was actually used during the Spanish Inquisition

An EMG or electromyography is a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by the skeletal muscles.  What does that mean?   I have no idea.  What I do know is that they stuck needles into my arm muscles, forehead, and scalp, and that sent electrical shocks through my body.  The shocks weren't so bad (they kind of tickled).  What hurt was the small ass needles they stuck into my muscles and dug around with.  You'd never think a small little baby needle would hurt so much.  Thank God, I had a really kind doctor who made the process a little bit more bearable.

I had to do this process not once but twice.  The doctor told me that the results from the second test were different from the results of the first test.  She said that most likely one of the discs in my neck had filled up with water from trauma and was pressing on a nerve, which was cutting off power to my arm.  I have actually gained a substantially amount of power back, and she said that I would just have to wait for the disc to dehydrate.  Watch out for your necks guys (and girls).  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Teaching philosophy

Short, fat, bald, and ugly.  That's the way my philosophy professor described Socrates.  The man was larger than life though.  At social events, he would party the hardest and drink everyone under the table.  While everyone else was either passed out or puking in the corner, Socrates would manage to walk himself home.  He was hardly a physically intimidating man but was brave enough to jump into a river to save a drowning boy once when nobody else would.

   Socrates was hideous, so enjoy this picture of three naked Greek women that I took at the Louvre.

Socrates disagreed with many other philosophers and thinkers of his time and with the prevalent ideas that many institutions were teaching.  Chiefly that, “might makes right”, and that if you had the power to take something from somebody then you should do it regardless of morality.  Socrates taught his students different ideas, which was one of the reasons he was sentenced to death (he was charged with corrupting the youth).  In Plato's The Republic  Socrates explained his ideas of justice and outlined how to run society.

The dude was an epic troll as well.  When having debates with other philosophers he would continually ask them questions to try and get a rise out of them, but he  would never actually answer any questions himself.  When the guy he was debating had enough, he would turn to Socrates and say, “Okay then, what is the answer smart guy.  What do you think”?    To this Socrates would reply with something like, “Oh, you are the master, and I am but the student.  You know best.  I know nothing”.

True to his convictions (and not a coward), Socrates drank poison when he had the chance to escape prison.  Even when his students and friends begged him  not to take it.  He was the ultimate teacher; willing to die for what he believed in.  I wasn't a philosophy major.  In fact, a lot of the material gave me a raging headache (I was about ready to tear my hair out after reading The Republic).  Fortunately, I had an instructor that inspired me and was able to teach the material impeccably.      

Last Saturday when I went in to class, my instructor aksed me to teach. I've only taught a handful of times, but it's something that I enjoy immensely. I especially like the process of breaking down moves and all the small things that go into making a certain technique work or not work.

It's also a challenge to try and convey information in an effective manner that sudents of varying levels can understand, while at the same time making sure the techniques that you are showing that particluar class fit toghether as a cohesive whole. Personally, I am not going to show a trianlge choke, followed by X-guard, and then a leg lock. I'd rather the techniques I show to flow together and be directly related to each other.

Being a teacher is a very challenging, yet rewarding profession.  To be successful, you have to be an instructor,  mentor, authority figure, positive role model, actor, and stand-up comedian all rolled into one.  It's like walking a tight rope.

Your students feed off the energy you give them (positive or negative), and emulate the values you instill in them and the examples you set.  Patience is a virtue you must cultivate.  Kindness and understanding is a necessity, however you must dole out punishment when needed as well.  It is filled with incredible highs (sometimes you leave work feeling like you are on top of the world), and the lowest of lows (sometimes you feel like jumping out a window).

My long term goal is to attend graduate school soon and earn a Master's degree in history and education (and maybe even a Ph.D. later).  One day, I hope to open my own BJJ school, and I would like to start some sort of after school BJJ program for young children and teenagers.  Being a teacher has definitely influenced my views on how I like to teach BJJ, and how I want to run a school or a program in the future.  I think many of the same approaches to teaching academics can be applied to instructing students in BJJ.

Here are a few general things that I really want to focus on:

1.  Showing only a few techniques per class-I think it's important to keep things simple. When I say simple, I don't just mean showing simple techniques.  What I am saying, is that I don't want to overload my students' minds with too much information at once.

2.  Positional sparring based on a certain guard, sweep, sub, or escape -One thing that really improved my BJJ (even more than drilling) was positional sparring.  After class I would partner up with a buddy and practice half guard, DLR, open guard, spider guard, sweeps, different positions, escapes, and submissions going at about 70% resistance (eventually turning it up to 100%).

After showing a few techniques, I really like to set up a rotation and have everyone practice the positions and techniques we learned that class going at about 70%.  I feel this is the best way to learn BJJ rather than showing techniques and then just sparring after the technique portion of class is over.  It's a fantastic way to reinforce what was taught in class, and a way to develop muscle memory.  I also feel that repetition is the best and most efficient way to improve in BJJ (and academics).

3.  Positive reinforcement-A small comment on a job well done, or an acknowledgment of some kind of improvement can go a long way.  Whenever I receive a complement from my instructors (BJJ and university professors), it feels like I'm walking on air.  Positive reinforcement encourages learning and builds confidence.  I'm not saying to blow wind up people's asses, but offering a kind word every now and then is something that I think is overlooked at many gyms and even in academics.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mountain training

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”-Henry David Thoreau

I'm an avid hiker and nature lover.  I don't care how hippie it sounds, but there's nothing more relaxing or pleasing for the soul than enjoying the beauty and simple pleasures of nature.  Thoreau got it right.  There was a real man.    

Hiking also lets me kill two birds with one stone:  I get to spend some quality time with the Mrs., and I get a good work out for BJJ.  This past Sunday I spent the day hiking at Geumjeong Mountain located about ten minutes from my house.  The great thing about Busan is that the mountains are located only minutes away from just about anywhere in the city.  

Hiking here in Korea is considered an “older person” past time by the younger crowd (they are too busy playing Starcraft, listening to K-Pop, and eating fried chicken), so I guess that makes me somewhat of an ajusshi (old guy).  The mountains are always full of the middle aged and elderly people (and cats), and let me tell you most of them are seriously fit and legit badasses.  I remember being passed up one time by an older, dual walking stick wielding gentleman who was at least pushing seventy.

                                         There are tons of cats....everywhere

This particular mountain used to be a military installation that housed a very large, impressive fortified gate.  Unfortunately, most of Korea's historical sites were destroyed long ago by a succession of wars and a long Japanese occupation, however Geumjeong still contains some beautiful temples and steles.  

                          This stele cost 4,585 bags of rice and 1,552 yards of cloth...yikes!

                               A temple

One of my favorite things about Korean forests are the trees.  I grew up half of my life in New England and the other half in Texas, and I have never seen anything like them. They are really beautiful.

    Temple fish