Friday, May 28, 2021

Summer Lull

I was talking to Jason the other day about class attendance.  It seems that there are certain predictable ebbs and flows throughout the year.  One of which is the predictable lull of attendance is the last week of school and/or first week of summer vacation.  
During the last week of school students are busy cramming for finals.  Parents are busy making sure their kids are studying for their finals.  All of which makes all aforementioned parties far too busy to make it to Jiu Jitsu class.
After finals are over, families want to take vacations.  Singles want to get out and about, blow off some steam, and... well... mingle with other singles.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean?

This usually lasts for a couple of weeks.  Then once everyone's gotten everything out of their systems, they come back to Jiu Jitsu class.
But during this time of cramming and post exam revelry Jiu Jitsu classes are pretty bare.  Not too many studs around.  
There is an upside however.  If you're one of the dedicated few to make it to class during this lull, sometimes you'll be the only one in class.  Usually when that happens, your instructor will ask you if there's anything particular you're having trouble with or want to work on.  It's basically like getting a private lesson for free!  
Other times it's just you and one or two other students.  Same deal here.  Your instructor asks if there's anything you guys have questions about or want to work on.  If you come prepared with an answer, it's the next best thing to getting a private lesson... and you get it for no extra charge. 
I've had some of my best training sessions during these lulls in attendance.  They've been a huge source of those aha moments.  You know, the ones where you come away saying to yourself, "Ooohhh, so THAT'S how it works!"  There's nothing better than a little one-on-one, individual attention from your instructor to get you through those sticking points.   

So my advice for you during these times of low class attendance is this.  Go out.  Have fun.  Blow off some steam by all means.  But do yourself a favor and make it to one or two classes when nobody else wants to attend.  Come prepared with some questions in mind.  I think you'll be glad you did.
Happy training!

- Big Mike

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Broken Toe Guard

So my broken toe has been healing slowly but surely... well at least slowly.  I THINK it's getting better.  Not wanting to miss too many rolling sessions, I've had to do what we all do when we're broken and still want to roll... modify.
I started out by teaching a whole lot of closed guard.  It turns out I get up on my toes a lot more than I thought, in a lot more positions than I would've guessed.  Turns out that kinda hurts even when you're just demonstrating moves with a broken toe.
I find that closed guard is relatively safe though.  I can keep my broken toe relatively out of play pretty well when my ankles are locked behind the other guy's back.  
I gradually eased into positional sparring from the bottom guard position.  Stayed away from getting too spider-guardy if my opponent opened the legs, and pretty much just allowed the pass for awhile.  
Once I became comfortable, I decided to start experimenting.  I pulled out one of my old instructionals, The 92 Double Sleeve Guard by Jay Wadsworth.  It's a snazzy little guard where you cross grip the guy's sleeve, grip around the tricep with the other hand, put one foot on the hip, and the other knee across the chest... or something like that.  It's great for frustrating bigger guys who like to smash you by the way.
Anyhow, when Jay demonstrates it, the leg of the foot that goes in his opponent's hip stays bent.  And his off leg stays in contact with his opponent's torso kind of like a knee shield.
Any time I'd try it however, would always end up canted outward with my off leg flapping in the breeze.  I was never able to bring it in like a knee shield like Jay does.  It worked well enough to keep my opponent off balance, but I was unable to use all of the moves Jay showed in the DVD since... I wasn't really in the 92 Double Sleeve Guard.
Anyway, since my injury I've found myself butt scooting around with the leg of my injured toe  way out to the side.  This naturally leads to my jacked up version of the 92 Double Sleeve Guard with me on my side, my hip checking leg ramrod straight, and my off leg (with the broken toe) straight up in the air mostly out of reach of my training partner.  
I've found that people want to grab that leg, usually at the knee.  When they do, it's relatively easy to swivel my shin up over the top of their forearm, and wedge my heel in their bicep.  My toe stays relatively safe when I do this.  From there I kick into his bicep and my leg falls naturally between their neck and shoulder forming the one arm in, one arm out positioning which happens to be the fundamental prerequisite for a triangle submission.
It's a ridiculously goofy looking guard... but it seems to work well enough so far.  In fact I'm not sure what people are more frustrated by... the fact that it seems to be working so well, or the fact that it looks so dumb.  But hey, if it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid.  Right?  
I've dubbed it "The Broken Toe Guard."  Perhaps one day I'll release an instructional on BJJ Fanatics, and become rich and famous because of it.  Well, maybe moderately well off and Jiu-Jitsu-famous anyway.
Until then, happy training!

-Big Mike

Friday, April 30, 2021

Broken Toes and Closed Guard

So I broke my toe a couple of weeks ago.  We were in the 50/50 position going for leg locks, and my toe got caught in my buddie's gi.  


"Dude, I'm sorry.  Are you okay?"

"Yeah.  I'm fine."

"I thought I broke it."

"Nah.  It'll be fine."

"I'm pretty sure I heard it snap."

"No, I think that was just the snap of the gi.  It'll be sore tomorrow.  But it's not broken.  It'll be fine."

It wasn't fine.  The next day it swelled up... swelled?  swole?  The next day it was swollen pretty bad.  Black and blue.  Puffed up and painful.  The whole nine yards.  

I've been walking with a limp for the last two weeks.  My plan of only going for leg locks for the next two months is pretty much kaput thanks to this little injury, but that hasn't stopped me from making it to class.

Figuring out what to teach with a broken toe was somewhat challenging.  We had been working through our tournament strategy, but it turns out I use my toes a fair bit for those techniques.  

I figured I could teach some techniques off my back.  Maybe some escapes.  But it turns out I use my toes a lot when working escapes as well.  I like to bring my toes to my butt when I bridge, Marcello Garcia style.  It usually works really well for me... but not so much with broken toes.

So I settled on going old school with little closed guard.  My broken toe stays pretty safe locked behind my training partner's back for the most part.  Depending on what submissions or sweeps I go for, I can keep myself out of trouble pretty well.

Closed guard is one of those things I feel like everyone needs to know.  But I also feel like I have to be sneaky about teaching it.  Everyone wants to learn the flashy new guards out there.  And there are so many of them now.  I worry sometimes that people will find the good ol fashioned closed guard... well... too old fashioned.  

Thing is it still works.  I was reading the other day how Gordon Ryan was using it after his leg injury to dominate everyone in the blue basement.  I figure if it's good enough for the King, it's worth teaching every now and then.

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's I played a lot of closed guard.  Back then I had trouble hitting submissions from closed guard and mostly went for sweeps instead.  But my understanding of the position has improved since then.  

Instead of just going for random techniques from there, I start by attacking my opponent's posture.  Basically, I grab their head and pull it down.  Once I've broken their posture, I'll go to work on their structure, isolating one of their arms from their body.  I'll trap their other arm as well if possible.

It turns out that once you've broken your opponent's posture, isolated one arm, and trapped the other one, it's relatively easy to sweep or get a submission from there.   

So far the response has been pretty good to what I've been putting out.  Everyone is having success with breaking posture and structure from closed guard.  And from there even our white belts are able to improvise techniques once they achieve these goals.  I love it when white belts are able to apply what I teach while sparring.

Lock up closed guard.  Break posture.  Break structure.  Then everything's easier.  Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

- Big Mike