Friday, November 17, 2017

Combat Jiu Jitsu

If your a fan of current Jiu Jitsu competition, especially the submission only trends as promoted by guys like Eddie Bravo and his invitational tournament then you have seen it. If your not familiar the basic explanation is that its a sub only grappling match where open handed strikes are permitted on the ground.

Seems simple enough.


While to me this sounds completely reasonable, it seems the "open handed" part becomes quickly viewed as "slap fighting" and silly by many viewers. Especially in Jiu Jitsu circles. It's always odd to me the type of in fighting and division inside such small groups of people. This happens in the firearms community all the time. Hunters who's world view doesn't include your particular rifle, guys that carry a gun but don't see the need for normal capacity magazines, and so on. Truly in these small groups we can be our own worst enemies. 

" Combat Jiu-Jitsu... Lots of back and forth banter on if its good or not.  Who really cares? If you want to do it, do it. If you want to watch it, watch it. If you don't want to do it, don't. If you don't want to watch it, don't..  Stop hating."
-Tom DeBlass

Let me just say I'm a fan. It's fun to watch, and especially for the readers of this blog interested in self defense its applicable and accessible. What we have is a safe way to incorporate striking with our grappling while maintaining real ungloved gripping ability and without the practitioner needing to go full in on MMA ground and pound. It's a step between the two. And it's not entirely new for anyone that has heard of Pancrase.

We often hear BJJ guys contemplate if their deep half will work "in da streetz" or how effective their guard game will be once strikes are introduced. Its not often though that most people (current company excluded!) get the gloves out and get at it. Sometimes the step between pure grappling and dropping bombs on a dude is just too big of a gulf.

Personally I'm excited to see it evolve as it picks up popularity. I always enjoy watching the adaptations that happen in new environments, new rule sets tend to push the desire to innovate and improvise. The athletes today, even those with MMA experience, are still just learning how to maximize their effectiveness in this context and it should prove outstanding for us to see what we can learn from their experience.

This is but one more expression of the core art that is Jiu Jitsu. I often have discussions about what people prefer. Wether thats GI or No GI, points, sub-only, MMA, wrestling, playing guard vs passing, and so on. Personally I love it all, and I like to be well rounded and able to thrive in any rule set. At least that's the long term goal. My rules, your rules, his rules, or no rules at all I'm down! I want to be free to experiment, to be curious, to adapt, and to feel out those core principles that tie it all together.

Shawn Lupka

Friday, November 10, 2017

Structuring Training

I'm a big believer in organized, focused, and mindful training. It's been my experience that I see more consistent meaningful progress when I train with goals and structure than just showing up. I've spoken about this before but lets discuss some specific tools we can use to help us.

"Learning how to learn is one of the keys to success in life in general, and jiu-jitsu in particular." 
-John Danaher

I know some people like to use a Mind Map to study their training. I personally like more of a Flow Chart structure.

My mind map attempts sometimes go a little off the rails


For example as a white belt one of my first flow charts looked something like this:
Closed Guard
>Overhook
>>Cross collar choke
>> Flower sweep > mount > cross collar choke
>>> Posture up > hip bump sweep > mount > cross collar choke
>>>> Post > kimua
>>>> Pressure in > guillotine 

To use something like this as a tool to direct my practice I would suggest focusing either getting to the start position or starting from position and then trying to execute the plan. As reactions and failures appear pay attention and fill in the gaps as they present.

For example lets say my hip bump to mount is straight fire..... but...... often when I mount my opponent they escape by executing a knee elbow escape. This highlights a hole in the system, and informs me of where I am weak. I can then speak to my coaches intelligently about a specific technical issue rather than just vague "How do I get better?" or "My mount sucks." The type of counter I see will inform where the flaw is.

Now, armed with this knowledge I can say ok, I've defined a weak spot, I can train open mat this Tuesday and try to start from mount, or schedule a private lesson where I have an idea of where the flaw is, and I can more clearly see when this spot approaches in a live roll and be more mindful and attentive to the details as the position evolves. 

In the shooting sports for example I found when walking my stages that often I would drop a shot wide on the last target in a array before a movement. By being mindful and reviewing video I was able to see that I was not staying in position until the shot broke but would start to move and break my eyes as the shot broke. This is why I could never call those shots, I was leaving early and would drop an uncalled D zone hit on a wide open target usually laterally. With this information I could structure some focused training on this specific issue and isolate the skill in drills.

Often this will also reveal counters. As I pay attention perhaps I will see that all the upper belts do a specific counter to my plan, or otherwise deny me a control that's a prerequisite for the technique to work. Often times I see the newer practitioner write a move off, claim it wont work for their body type, or otherwise disregard a technique due to initial failures. The flower sweep was like this for me. As a new white belt I recall being in a tournament and attempting it over and over again as I gassed out and was cursing myself ever aware of my team mates watching, my wife, the video being taken, and I just failed and failed. Surely this technique just wouldn't work for me! My hips aren't right! I'm not fast enough! It wasn't until years later that I hit one at open mat and realized all this time I just wasn't getting the right angle! Had I not disregarded what is a pretty common fundamental sweep so early on I could have had years more of reps improving on it and improving my overall understanding of jiu-jitsu. Lost opportunity.

As a good general rule, if its in the fundamentals curriculum trust the technique and try to get all the details correct over a period of time. Like a long period of time. Like years.

I have normally 3 dedicated 1-2 hour drilling sessions a week. Currently I am working on a Single Leg X passing strategy, a back take from scorpion hook that needs added to an already developed series, and tuning up some details on my knee cut pass. I also do one dedicated session working on take downs. Add to this several classes and open mats and the schedule fills up pretty quick!

It's up to me to take responsibility for my progress. Even if I do occasionally get the gift of someone pointing out a flaw, or highlighting a strength, they aren't there all the time. They wont be there whispering in my ear at open mat "don't forget to work on your back take" , they wont be waking me up an hour early to lift weights, they wont be popping into my living room and forcing me to dry fire or watch videos. It's on me. It's always on me. It's ok if I want to just relax and have fun for a little while, I'm not a professional athlete, but when its time to improve then its time to go to work!

Shawn Lupka