Posts

Top 5 uses of Jiu-jitsu in the Movies

If you were thinking Mel Gibson, triangle choke, Lethal Weapon or Gina Carrano and RNC in Haywire, you’re way off! No, I’m talking deep Jiu-jitsu, real Jiu-jitsu, Meta-jitsu, I’m talking Jiu-jitsu that’s so hard core, it transcends Jiu-jitsu itself. Yeah, I’m talking about the good stuff. So let’s get started.

At number 5 we have Lucifer and his play for John Constantine in the movie “Constantine”. You see, old Lou has been waiting desperately to take Constantine’s soul back to Hell with him, but in a final selfless act of sacrifice, Constantine earns his place in the pearly gates. Just as he is about to ascend to Heaven, the Devil reaches inside Constantine’s lungs and removes his terminal cancer then repairs his opened veins thus bringing Constantine back to life, giving Constantine a second chance to screw things up and giving himself another crack at his coveted prize, John Constantine’s soul.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to give something up, not to win, but to give myself a second chance to have the other guy make a mistake and screw himself up. It’s like being mounted and having a guy go for a V-Lock/Figure 4 Americana Shoulder Lock. Sometimes the only move you’ve got is to turn and give up your back just to stay alive and hopefully allow your opponent to slip up and let you back into the game. It is for this desperate but savvy maneuver that Constantine comes it at number 5 for the best use of Jiu-jitsu in the movies. No Neo, you don’t know Jiu-jitsu but Lucifer surely does.

At number 4 we have “The Hunt for Red October”. WTF you say? Yes, you heard me right, when the captain of the Russian sub hunting fleet fires on Captain Ramius of the Red October, Ramius does the unexpected. Instead of turning away from the oncoming torpedoes, he turns into them and moves to engage them at full speed. By doing so he is able to collide with them before their safeties can disengage and thus arm their explosives. This leads his foe to disable the safeties which eventually leads to his own demise.

There is so much here that merits it’s place on the top 5 list. First is the idea of closing the distance and smothering your opponent to minimize damage to oneself. This is an essential element in Jiu-jitsu. But then there’s the idea of off balancing your opponent, both physically and emotionally and allowing them to kill themselves. It is for demonstrating these key characteristics that The Hunt for Red October gets it’s spot at number 4.

And this leads us to number 3 on our list, the “The Avengers”. Here we see a perfect example of luring, and off balancing used by the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson (insert an Austin Powers purr here…). Oh and we’re not done yet. The fact that she’s a knock out is an integral part of the reason that “The Avengers” is at number 3. You see, many times, misdirection is utilized in Jiu-jitsu to grab a hold and keep a hold of your opponent’s attention. While they’re looking at the shiny, sparkling, glittery thing over here, the real threat is over there and by the time they realize it. It’s already too late.

And it is for the picture perfect execution of this concept and the Black Widow’s ability to feign weakness and vulnerability, coaxing her opponent to over commit, that “The Avengers” gets number 3 on our Top 5 uses of Jiu-jitsu in the movies.

The runner up on our Top 5 List is “Searching for Bobby Fischer”. In it, our Hero, Josh Waitzkin while competing in a highly anticipated and prestigious Chess Match, corners his opponent and offers him a truce. What happens next is not as important as was Josh’s gesture of compassion, understanding, mastery and true gamesmanship. What does any of this have to do with Jiu-jitsu you ask?

It has everything to do with Jiu-jitsu. Beginners only see the move in front of them. They are checkers players. Great players see two, three and sometimes many more moves ahead. They are Chess players. And then there are the Josh Waitzkins of the world. Players who not only see the moves that inevitably follow based on the positions of the pieces and the eventual end games they will produce, but also have the ability to see what lies off of the board or the mat as it were. These players understand how certain moves like face cranks, or the manner in which you catch a guy will effect how teammates will view him. How the way he rolls will result in the admiration of his peers, and in being the guy who everybody wants to roll with, or how they may make him the guy who people run from like a raging case of mat Herpes or that ring shaped lesion peeking out from underneath a pair of TapOut shorts. They understand the bigger game that’s at stake. Crank your instructor too many times or in a nasty way and how long do you think he will continue giving you the inside lane. I mean, let’s face it, who wants to go out of their way to make their own life more difficult and miserable to lead. Checkers players play the move in front of them. Chess players play two and three moves ahead, but still they are focused on winning a game. Josh Waitzkins are looking at having people to play games with tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. They are interested in keeping their mentors counsel and in losing battles to win wars.

Josh Waitzkin saw what was at stake off the mat. He could see that losing this match for the boy in front of him would mean earning the disapproval of the boys father. He could see how it would destroy his self esteem and spirit and to Josh it wasn’t worth it. He didn’t need to win the game to have that sense of validation or self worth. He was bigger than the moves he made or the roll he was in with his opponent. And this is why “Searching for Bobby Fischer” is numba two.

This brings us to what you’ve all been waiting for. THE BEST USE of Jiu-jitsu in film… Drum roll please…

“WATCHMEN”

Oh yes! Rorschach! My favorite! I’ll just let the movie clip speak for itself.

You see, many of these clips have personal significance to me and my experience with Jiu-jitsu. And being the size of an prepubescent teen, I am always getting dominated and held down in “bad positions.” For years I learned the escapes and on players at my level and below, they worked alright. But on my seniors, my escapes only seemed to lead into deeper, murkier, more sinister waters and eventually they’d drown me… or better yet, they’d watch sadistically as I drown myself.

And then I realized that these positions, Back Mount, Mount, Across Side, Quarter position and the like were like my prisons. Every time I tried to escape, I was shot or got burned by the electric fences or entangled in the razor wire. So I decided to take a step back. I changed the way I looked at things. My prisons would no longer be what caged me in, but rather what kept the bad guys out. They would be my fortified castle, not my source of imprisonment. As Rorschach would say, “you guys just don’t get it. I’m not locked in here with you… YOU’RE LOCKED IN HERE WITH ME!!!”

You see, if they lock you in a cell, they’ve got to open it up and take you out in order to walk you down to the executioner’s chamber. That’s when I’ll make my break. In the meanwhile, I’m going to sit back in the deepest part of my cell and if anyone sticks their hands inside to tug at me… I’ma break em off.

Don’t like my list? Think you’ve got a better example or question some of my picks? Leave me your thoughts and your picks in the comments boys. The score is 1 to nuthin… come and get me.

Erik Paulson’s Baseball Grip Takedown Series

Anytime I get to film my favorite instructors teaching a technique that I request is a real thrill for me. I get to learn hands on, and then review with the video until I finally remember all the important details. On this occasion, at the 2012 Erik Paulson Seminar in Salt Lake City, Utah I had the privilege of asking for a series of takedowns that Sensei Paulson had shared the previous year.

I had most of the big details down but could only remember one of the many options that Sensei Paulson had shared. Now, with this excellent video, I was able to capture all of them. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I do and can make as much use of these takedowns as I have.

If you enjoy this series, please visit https://www.facebook.com/erik.paulson.3910 and drop a comment letting him know. It helps us to get him on camera with us and it’s really the least we can do to pay our respects to one of the very first true Mixed Martial Athletes in the world.

MMA Techniques: The Mat Wars Saga Episode 1

The Back Story

There is an arms race taking place, an on going struggle that began in the not so distant but aging past, in a garage, in a galaxy… well, it was in our galaxy but those times and places now feel, far, far away.

Two forces, Kiser and Yamasaki met on the mats of one of Professor Pedro Sauer’s old academies as Kiser’s private lesson with Khuen Khru Bernales ened and mine began. From that point on, we would be competing for the attention of our instructor, and trying to best each other whenever and wherever our paths crossed.

Since that time, the struggles continue, with one having the upper hand for months and even years at a time before the tide of battle would change and the playing field would again be leveled. Something we’ve alluded to before in posts such as our “Arm Triangle and Kimura Counter” which is a small glimpse into the arms race and ever evolving counter measures that Kiser and I will forever be interlocked.

Every week, new lines are drawn, scores are settled and new feuds born. Over time, even new Factions have arisen. Some have fallen and been lost to time, but others have taken root and begun to grow strong. I could go on forever about the counters and re-counters employed, sought out and developed between Kiser’s evil empire and Yamasaki’s solo Resistance, but that will have to wait until another time. For this hour, belongs to the new clan, the rising power, the Wiggins Faction.

He and his followers have begun a full scale assault on the happy and peace loving members of the Mushin Self Defense gym. Their calling card… The Arm Bar. I invite you to come along as I fumble my way through the mine field of Wiggarian Arm Bars, and attempt to mount a counter offensive through preventative measures, escape systems and counterfuge.

The purpose of this on going series of articles (The Mat Wars Saga) is two fold. One, to share a little more of our own personal world with our DCMMA friends and family, and two to share and further develop my own MMA problem solving methodology (and not necessarily in that order).

The problem solving methodology is a work in progress. I by no means claim any expertise in that department and am myself still trying to improve and simplify the process. I hope by sharing it, I will both clarify my own thought process as well as learn from your comments and experiences.

I often say, “THAT your technique failed is of little to no importance. HOW it failed, the specifics of where arms were placed, hands were positioned, hips were angled, feet were moving, etc. is of ultimate importance. Therein lies the body of evidence that will lead us to finding what killed our technique.” It’s a game of MMA CSI.

This is one piece of the problem solving methodology. Taking many snap shots at the scene of the crime. And make no bones about it, for a move to not work the way you would have liked, is indeed a crime.

We will use the Mat Wars Saga as a case study in these methods. Starting with the on going Crime Scene Investigation, the Wiggarian Arm Bar. This Serial criminal comes in many shapes and sizes, and attacks from many different angles. But as a starting point we will be investigating perhaps the most sinister variation of them all. The Kimura Set Up From Guard.

I have collected the necessary evidence in a series of snap shots. And it’s funny to mention and include these as I recall years ago, hearing one of my instructors defending a move that was being questioned with the following statement. “No move is 100% all the time. Anytime you take a snap shot of a technique, you can point out a number of ways to pick it apart.” We’ll that just what I intend to do.

Below is a re-enactment of Joe’s Crime. Prosecuting him for count two “Trying to tap out his own instructor” will be something we address at another time.

Joe Wiggins starts his evil and malicious crime (the Arm Bar) from Closed Guard

He then opens his guard and violently turns to his left side, which allows him to place his opponent's right hand on the mat and obtain wrist control

Here Joe locks up the Kimura but in the process, allows his left leg to slide downward until it hits the mat and invites you to step over and begin to pass his guard in a counter clockwise direction.

Kensei obliges Joe's invitation and begins to pass Joe's left shin across his midsection. Keep in mind that the threat of being finished by the Kimura itself is ever present.

As Kensei moves to finalize the pass (his motion and direction of force is shown here in green), Mr. Wiggins simultaneously moves his hips in the opposite direction (shown here in red, a clockwise direction of force), which gives him space and the potential for a parallel body alignment with Kensei. This is an important detail as at this juncture, Mr. Wiggins has 4 simultaneous options. 1. Finish The Kimura 2. Utilize Parallel Body alignment to execute the Kimura Sweep and finish with the Kimura 3. Execute the redundant Kimura Sweep and finish with the stereotypical Arm Bar or 4. Move directly to a Quarter Back Mounted Arm Bar

I generally fight to maintain my base and top position which usually persuades Joe to take option 4. To do this he immediately inserts his left shin in front of Kensei's left arm.

He then places his right leg over Kensei's head and inserts his right foot into Kensei's right hip. The whole while Joe maintains a T Wrap/Figure 4 Grip on Kensei's right forearm.

Joe finalizes the Arm Bar by using his hips to break Kensei's grip and extend Kensei's arm. In this case the direction of force on Kensei's arm is along the mat and towards Joe's head.

If Kensei is able to power his arm back in to defend the Arm Bar, Joe simply transitions to a Kimura. Kensei can look to his left and defend the Kimura by summersaulting over his right shoulder but then he runs straight into the stereotypical Arm Bar and is finished from there.

You’ve seen the evidence, you’ve had a chance to study the crime scene. Now let’s take a moment and discuss the problem solving methodology.

The Problem Solving Methodology

The problem solving methodology is two fold. I try to address said problems from both a technical and a tactical vantage point. The CSI approach is more on the technical level. It involves looking at the mechanics of the technique in question and then, countering the technique with other techniques or simply dismantling the technique by means of negating one or more of the necessary mechanics.

On a Tactical level we look at paradigm shifts. Sometimes, you get so stumped trying to untangle the limbs and levers, the weights and pulleys of a technique that you basically hit a dead end. A mental block if you will. When I experience these I usually try and attack the problem at the tactical level. That is, to look at the problem itself from a completely different vantage point.

Take for example this Wiggarian Arm Bar from a Kimura Set Up. I have attempted to break it down and disassemble it from a technical level, with limited success for months now. Frustrated at this progress or lack thereof, I’ve now begun to approach the problem at a tactical level. I try not to put myself in positions where Joe can set up his heinous technique in the first place, but as with many things, it’s a lot easier said than done. As a result, I’ve recently begun to postulate a new idea.

By understanding how Joe sets up his damned Arm Bar at a technical level, and by looking at the problem from a tactical vantage point, I’ve been able to decipher that his set up is based on a brilliant strategy. He sets his technique up and finishes it based on movements from his opponents that follow fundamental, but predictable predispositions. You see, if you’ve had any instruction in guard work at all, you are going to be predisposed to eventually attempting to pass guard whenever you’re caught in it. This is how Joe finishes. He will set up the arm bar from within the guard, but it’s the act of you passing that enables him to finalize it. As a result, he will actively create opportunities for you to pass and in doing so tighten the noose around your own neck. Tricky bastard!

Thus, I am led to believe, that if I do the opposite of what is expected, that is, once the arm bar is set via the Kimura Set Up, I move into his guard, I can stall and perhaps even completely demise his ability to finalize the arm bar or at least this iteration of his arm bar. I will call this the “Chinese Finger Trap Defense”.

Tune in to the next episode of the Mat Wars Saga to find out how it goes.

I also invite you to turn in your own solutions to this problem, and eventually your own Technique Failures for us to CSI and problem solve. Together, we can catch the bad guys and rescue your technique.

Now the challenge, for both you and me is to apply these same problem solving methodologies to the challenges that face us in our daily lives, at work, at play, in the home as well as on the mats. It’s the Jiu-jitsu of Life as my cousin would so aptly put it. The most important Jiu-jitsu of all.

Shooto Lockflow Series

CSW has many influences, perhaps one of the main influences was originally Shooto

CSW has many influences, perhaps one of the main influences was originally Shooto

O.k. Superfans, this week I stumbled upon a series of videos that is absolutely awesome. Especially for those of you who enjoy the culture of technique and Martial Art as much as you do watching the latest moves on the mat. This is a timeless classic that holds an important place in the history of MMA, especially for me personally and any of us that have been influenced by Sensei Erik Paulson and CSW.

Below is a series of lock flows from the Original Shooto Lockflow series. I have never seen these all compiled online like this before and so I thought I’d share.

For those of you who have been studying with Coach Kiser over the last few weeks, this is what he has been teaching you. If you’ve ever wanted to see the whole lockflow documented so that you’d have an easier time remembering everything, here you go.

Learn to Fight MMA: Off The Cage

When was the last time you worked cage tactics?  When was the last time you incorporated the cage wall into your takedown to nullify your opponent’s ability to sprawl and protect his hips?  When was the last time you defended having your head crushed in the cheese grater of chained links?

Ignoring the importance of this aspect of MMA competition can be detrimental to your MMA game.  If this is the first time you’ve given these situations any consideration, or if you drill these positions as frequently as you clean your bathrooms, than this article might have some use for you.

Below are two more basic options for when  your opponent takes you down and attempts to drive you into the fence, a tactic that can severely cramp your ability to use your guard to it’s full extent.  These clips are Damage Control MMA exclusives for our friends here at www.DamageControlMMA.com

Basic Turn Off The Cage

Cage Walk Arm Bar

Here is an older clip we released with UFC Veteran Todd Medina. It contains more information pertaining to the use of the cage in an MMA fight.

And one more little bonus for you loyal followers of Damage Control MMA. A scrap from an old shoot we did that never made it to production because of a problem we had with the mic. The audio is unsalvageable but maybe you might find something of use in this one. A different way to look at knees while your opponent is against the cage.

MMA: Coming To Grips

Hand Fighting or Grip Control has taken an increasingly important role in the development of my MMA and Submission Grappling Game. One of my Jiu-jitsu coaches, Mike Diaz impressed upon me the fact that

he who controls the grips, dictates the subsequent, incremental battles for control in general, e.g. Posture, Balance (Kuzushi), and Relative Body Position

(Belly To Belly, T-Position, Back Mount or Back From Standing).

Grip fighting or limb control, usually precedes any major engagement in a grappling contest. Footwork, Level Change and Bridging the Striking Gap are all equally important factors that must also be taken into account as they precede grip fighting in MMA style competitions. But when it comes to contests restricted to grappling, grapplers can elect to concede these ranges and begin from the clinch (elbow and collar tie up, Over – Under, etc.).

Often the grip is the means by which one breaks his opponent’s posture, off balances him and prevents his opponent from doing the same in return.

Last week we discussed training and the injuries that come along with it. Since that time, I’ve managed to add a severely sprained big toe to the line up of injuries.

I just can’t seem to catch a break. In the last three weeks I’ve managed 3 fairly serious injuries.

A sprained ankle, a subluxed rib, and a sprained big toe respectively. It’s times like this that I have to dig deep to find something that I can work on as I allow my injuries time to heal. Grip fighting is an area of study well deserving of some attention.

I learned another novel idea from working with Sean Weaver, another one of Professor Pedro Sauer’s wonderful Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belts. We were working in the gi, and I asked Coach Weaver how to deal with an opponent who gets a grip on your sleeve that you cannot break. He responded by telling me to look at the situation differently.

If you can’t break his grip, grab his sleeve back. Now you have him as much as he has you. I suppose this same strategy would work without the gi as well.

Fighting for grips is essential. This skill applies both in the standing clinch as well as once the fight goes to the ground. For either the top or bottom player, he who controls the other’s arms, generally controls the other elements of the game.

So until next time… Get a grip!

A special thanks to Coach Billy Robinson and Jake Shannon of www.ScientificWrestling.com who have been so kind to share their tricks of the trade with us.

MMA Training and Injuries

Brian with a snapped elbow and Kiser with a missing tooth... Lessons learned in the school of hard knocks.

Brian with a snapped elbow and Kiser with a missing tooth... Lessons learned in the school of hard knocks.

“If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”

– Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris; Million Dollar Baby –

So true is this statement for anybody who has really applied themselves to the combative arts. And in the case of our friend, Kevin Dillard, the price was even higher… Yeah, can you say, broken Neck?

The following is Kevin’s account of the horrific ordeal along with my thoughts on the general subject of training and injuries.

——————————————–

Saturday:

This past weekend (August 16th) marks the tenth anniversary of my broken neck. I’d just had my birthday (August 8th), I had a brand new baby girl who was weeks old (the youngest of my three children).

Saturdays were a big thing for me. Every Saturday morning me and 5 to 10 other guys all met at Oates Gym here in Columbus, Georgia to train. Train hard.. REAL hard for about 3 hours.. every Saturday.. rain or shine.. well or sick.. healthy or injured.. NO MATTER WHAT.

Oates Gym was one of those wonderfully exquisite dungeons. A true and bonafide hole in the wall. No heat, no air, no hot water for the showers.. just cinder block and iron.. sweat and rust stains.. not to mention the occasional blood stains.. But legends had trained there.. Future stars of the MLB, NBA, NFL, WWF, IFBB.. Not to mention a couple of future governors of California and Minnesota.

There we no potted plants or ferns.. and NO daycare… and EVERYONE who was there was there to WORK. WORK HARD.

The gym was owned and run by Jerry Oates, a well known and respected professional wrestler and body builder. He was extremely well respected in Japan. Particularly All Japan Pro-Wrestling; who were known for their brutally stiff and rugged style.

My group of workout partners and myself were all some of Jerry’s “boys”.. Professional wrestlers or hopefuls aspiring to one day complete training to become a wrestler. Unlike most, I’d already been wrestling for almost 10 years; but still took part in the daily and weekly workouts. I only wanted to stay on top of things and always felt (and still do) that you could never learn enough.

The sessions were long and brutal. A few small athletic mats on a thinly carpeted concrete slab floor.. that was it… guys came and guys went.. most never got to leave that room and ever actually climb through the ropes into the ring..

The theory was if you could survive “taking bumps” (breakfalls) there.. Any ring would be gravy after that. This was a truly “old school” style wrestling camp.. If you couldn’t take it and if you couldn’t dish it right back out.. You simply weren’t going to make it.. No fluff.. No sugar coating anything.. Everything was brutally all out.. all the time and nothing pulled or held back and seldom did anyone ever ask for or expect you to lighten up on them in anyway.

Despite being sore and beat up constantly;

I loved it. Loved everything about it. Took pride in the amount of pounding I could either endure or administer

. It was and still is my true passion. So this one fateful Saturday morning 10 years ago, it started like any other.. Myself and the guys meeting to do our thing.. A lot of things were all chained or flowed together..I was paired up with this kid and he and I were going through a really physical series.. Suddenly out of nowhere; I find myself planted.. head first.. on concrete..

I sat up and in a split second I was right back down again. Only now, I couldn’t move a thing. I was on fire from head to toe.. Nerves going nuts .. incredible burning pain.. I could feel everything, but I could move nothing.

An ambulance was called and I was assured it was probably just a really bad “stinger”, but that they’d tape me down to this backboard “just to be safe”.. I knew right then and there that it was over.. EVERYTHING was over..
So a few hours later I find myself still taped down to this board, only now I’ve got my head taped in some kind of orange box and I’ve got a collar around my neck.. I’m going into an MRI machine and they’re having trouble getting me to fit into the damn thing At the time I was about 240 lbs and I run about 6’1 .. So my arms are crossed over my body and taped down into place and they’re rubbing some kind of lubricant (Vaseline, KY..? ?) up and down my arms to help shove me into the tube.

Kevin Dillard during his Pro Wrestling Phase

Kevin Dillard during his Pro Wrestling Phase

Later on I would be told that I had shattered my c3 and c4 vertebrae and that the disc between the two was still intact only now it and all the bone fragments were trapped behind my carotid arteries..

Oh yeah.. and by the way.. your spinal cord is trapped between the collapsed neck column.. And your paralyzed from the neck down…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY

..lol.

Later in the afternoon I’m greeted by a neurosurgeon who is going to do a fusion of the neck using a titanium plate and some bone taken from my left hip. He says that maybe once the swelling from the spinal cord trauma goes away, there’s a remote possibility that I could get the use of one of my arms back.. Of course there’s a whole slew of thing that can go wrong because of where all the bone fragments and disc are located. I tell him that at that point I’m basically just a head so go for it.. I’m obviously NOT going anywhere.

Sunday:

It would be a seven and a half hour surgery. I come out of it and I’m told that the fusion is a success..

Monday:

I’m told I’ll never walk again. They take me out of ICU and put me into a room and that’s that.

Thursday:

While waking from a morphine/Demerol cocktail fueled sleep, I could’ve sworn that I just moved one of my legs. After what seemed like forever.. I managed to slide my left leg just inches across the bed sheet.. I never knew you could actually think yourself into a sweat I start yelling and screaming for a nurse.. For anybody within earshot to come.. NOW!

After performing the same feat for a nurse.. then a therapist.. then my personal physician AND then the neurosurgeon.. ALL of whom could offer NO explanation on how it was even possible for this to happen.. I was placed into a halo and collar and released from the hospital to begin a long physical therapy/rehab program..
The rehab would take 18 months. Relearning how to walk properly and how to use my hands again..

About 6 months into the process, I’d started lifting weights again.. yeah.. in my halo and collar..

Guys would ask.. “are you even supposed to be in here? ?”.. And I’d look ‘em right in the eye and say.. “OH YEAH.. my doctor said its okay.”..no one ever challenged me or called me out on it.. And I figured that my level of conditioning was one of the reasons that I was able to even survive the accident in the first place.. So why stop moving.. ESPECIALLY if you’re given a second shot at moving… NOT being able to move sucks.. Imagine not being able to feed or dress yourself.. Or not being able to hold your children.

The next 18 months were full of challenges. My marriage was falling apart.. I’d been labeled “damaged goods” so to speak.. The career was going down the tubes.. there wouldn’t be anymore wrestling or combat (at least as far as I knew back then)..

The next 18 months were filled with many dark days. Eventually, I was released from rehab.. I had all my functions about me.. The only residual effect was a loss of feeling in the skin of my right leg from the hip to the floor (due to the trauma to my spinal chord).. a small price to pay to walk again.

All was great.. I was thinking that I’d find a way to somehow fix everything and everyone.. including myself.. only to find myself a few months later in the middle of a divorce and being given full custody of my three kids.. The youngest being my 18 month old baby girl along with an older brother and sister.

Intellishred Author: Kevin Dillard

Intellishred Author: Kevin Dillard

I’ll skip all the sticky bits about single parenthood and the trials of rebuilding myself and a life.. Suffice to say only this.. I have no regrets in life at this point.. There is no way I could have learned as much as I know about myself, parenting, life and living if it wasn’t for having gone through all of this.

If anything… I learned that I am a fighter.. Once its in your blood.. whether on a mat, in a ring or in dealing with whatever life throws at you.. We as fighters just attack it and deal with it differently than most.. We accept the challenges. We’re participators rather than spectators.

Now I have been blessed with a beautiful, loving and intelligent wife, who is not only my partner, but my best friend and fellow combatant in taking on life’s challenges. I’m back to training. I work out five days a week in the gym with weights and conditioning. I train submission grappling and BJJ at least two nights a week and I’ve been blessed to have a career in my second passion as a full time working musician.

And so my journey continues… everyday is another unread page.

_______________________________________________________________

Like Kevin, I too have had my share of injuries, shoulder dislocations, broken noses, a shattered eye socket, torn MCL, countless sprained ankles, broken fingers and toes, the list goes on and on.

Many of these could have been avoided with proper discipline and safer training practices. But I was young and thought that I would live forever and that Technique would prevail over size and strength. And, in my defense, there just weren’t that many, experienced and qualified instructors available at the time who where skilled and familiar in MMA style training and could guide me and those like me in the proper, safer way to do things.

But that is neither here or there. What is done is done.

It would seem that these hardships are not without their benefits, if you take the time to find them.

I can recall hearing Ajarn Greg Nelson, a legendary Professional MMA Fight Trainer and the first survivor or stage 5 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma AND neurolymphomatosis, recount how his way of understanding Martial Arts Techniques was forever changed when he learned how to look at movement from the very ground up. He credits this new insight to his struggle to teach himself how to walk again by understanding how each and every muscle fiber did what was necessary to put one foot in front of the other. And then by sheer force of will, fired them up, one by one, to make it back to his feet. Below is a clip of Ajarn Greg, post Cancer.

I have learned much from my own wounds.

I have learned how to be an opportunist. Maybe your arm is broken, it’s an opportunity to work on your footwork, for striking, for takedowns, for guard passes.

Recently my shoulder has been diagnosed as having early onset arthritis. As I recover, I’ve been using the opportunity to isolate and work on leg locks, leg lock defenses, counters, etc.

After reading Kevin’s article and revisiting the lessons taught by Ajarn Greg, I have reflected on my own situation and learned anew, what a privilege it is to move. To just be on the mats, and to be able to do what I love. So many times in my past, I could have been without health insurance, or not been blessed with a surgeon who was able to properly diagnose and treat my ailments and that could have been it. With my arthritis, it got so bad at a point, I thought that I might even have to walk away from the Martial Arts altogether. Now, I am in recovery and I am so thankful to have the opportunities that I have.

I can hear the voice of my instructor Khuen Khru Will in my head now, relaying a prophetic quote to help drive home the point

Master Uguay: “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, Thats why it’s called the Present”

Any day you are on the mat is a day to be celebrated, it is indeed, a very good day! I am taking my present, my gift and enjoying every second of it. Don’t waste a single moment, for it may be your last.

It’s time to go train.

The Frontiers of Submission

In the modern game of submission grappling it seems as though new rules are being written, old rules are being revised or recounted, and sometimes even broken at a break neck pace.

At times this leads to great leaps in the progress of the art and at others, great disasters. And there are still other instances, where these changes in conventional thinking simply further a particular strain of the overall submission fighting game. For instance, there are many techniques and tactics that work well within the confines of submission grappling, but not as well when applied in the area of Mixed Martial Arts. Even within MMA, there are rule structures (soccer kicking/kneeing the head of a downed fighter) and environments (cage vs ring vs open mat) that will foster the development and favoritism of differing methods.

The object of this article isn’t to pass judgment or to push an agenda (stick to the basics vs. explore the frontiers of possibility). I think there is great value in both areas of study. The object of this article is simply to compile some material I’ve found interesting and explain why I feel it has some merit.

I’ve found similar types of articles on other sites, though their subjects are a lot more focused. To this day, I believe that the Darce/Brabo study and the “No Posture Guard Pass” articles on www.aesopian.com are some of the most ground breaking compilations on the internet.

So lets get down to the analysis and explanation.

The first article, the “Brabo Choke Homework” caught my attention because it showed so many different angles and set up possibilities for this one type of choke. It’s funny because I am horrible at it. Despite all the research and information available though articles like this as well as first hand personal accounts from my own, very qualified instructors, I swear, I can’t remember the last time I was even close with one of these arm chokes.

I want to say it’s because I have short arms but the truth is more likely that I am an epically slow learner and not that bright to begin with.

But what I took away from this article was a realization that paired with something I heard Sensei Erik Paulson once say concerning triangling with the legs.

“So long as you have an arm and an leg between…” you’ve got a triangle choke. This article made me realize this to a much broader and higher degree.

Moving on to the second article, The No Posture Pass series. I thought this to be very interesting. For me, I think it would be dangerous to try this pass as a first option. I much prefer to establish and maintain solid posture from within the guard. But that doesn’t mean that I have to turn my nose up to something like this. In fact, there are plenty of times when my opponents or training partners are skilled to a degree that I am unable to regain or establish posture in the first place.

This is where I give ideas like the No Posture Pass series, their due. They have a place in my game as a last resort or plan B. I haven’t necessarily had that much success with this series either. But to be honest, I haven’t worked on it that much either. I put my effort into keeping, regaining and maintaining posture. But I like knowing that there is another route I can take if things don’t go the way I plan.

I like to keep series like this in my back pocket for rainy days. They’re like building a motorcycle in your garage on the weekends.

You work on them, piece by piece, now and again, when you have a moment of free time. You never know. One day, you just may be riding that bad boy right out of a nasty situation.

Recently I’ve found some new food for thought at www.jiujitsushare.com

The Kimura and Straight Arm Bar from within guard from Phil Migliarese and Jiujitsumatrix.com. This is another technique that I just don’t ever see myself “going for” when given a choice. But, as I’ve said before, there have been numerous times where I’ve found myself without a choice. Where a skilled BJJ Black Belt has set me up and put both my arms to one side of his body, or God forbid, I made a mistake and put them there myself.

When my opponent is all over me and simply will not let me get my arm back over to the other side. Why not go for a Kimura? If you are unable to get your arm back into position, your opponent’s probably going to take your back anyway. At least this way you might be able to put him in a reactive mindset and possibly on the defensive.

I like these types of clips because they are unorthodox and can catch your opponent off guard.

The challenge is really in finding how they fit into your personal game.

I like this technique and those like it because they give you a ray of hope, just when things are at their darkest. Sometimes you might even be terrible at pulling them off, which more times than not, is how I roll.

But so long as you have something to pull off, you’ve got a glimmer of hope. You’re not just sitting there waiting for your back to be taken.

The Kimura with your legs from bottom Side Cross:

This is craziness. And I Love it! This one is so far out there that I haven’t even drilled or begun to try to figure it out for myself. But I still really enjoy the clip.

What I like most about it is that it dares to think of the possibilities and challenge the limits. It looks at the essence of a submission hold and then asks, what tools do I have at my disposal to make this work?

And that to me is what is most valuable about this clip. If you can think that way about a Kimura, you can think that way about any submission using any available machinery to get the job done.

And finally, Ryan Hall’s 50/50 Guard and No Hands Leg Lock: http://pageman.multiply.com/video/item/109/ADCC_Verbal_Submission_via_5050_position_Ryan_Hall_Vs._Rafael_Gordinho_Correa

I’ll be honest, when I started hearing about this new thing, the 50/50 Guard, I had to learn more. But once I got a look at it, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. It just looked like a plain old, leg lock war to me. Nothing out of the ordinary, or exceptional about it. It just looked like a position I’ve seen plenty of times before and worked within myself over the years.

But once I saw Ryan ripping knees apart without so much as hooking a heel, I took a second look.

This was what sparked my imagination. Being so technical with the isolation mechanics of a lock that you could submit or even break someone without even putting on the final touches. It inspired me to look at all my submissions in the same way and to begin the refining process, an over hall, of my submission arsenal if you will.

The first clip or Mr. Hall reminded me of Imanari’s iconic leg Kimura, except that Ryan’s was inverted/reverse but essentially the same mechanics were utilized to effect torque on the knee.

I’d love to see the clips that have inspired you guys or made you think again about your game or a technique in your repertoire. Please post them here and share.

I’ve shown you mine, it’s time to show me yours. It’s alright… I’m a Doctor.

The Half Guard and Guardless Guillotine Chokes

For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the Guillotine Choke. I’ve had more changes of opinion concerning this technique than perhaps any other. I’ve gone from simply noting it as a possible option/threat, to considering it a total asset, back to being casually aware of it and then back to thinking that it’s the cat’s meow. No other move has had the ability to reinvent itself to me as the Guillotine.

It’s such a simple move but just when you think you’ve got it pegged you come across a different variation, a small tweak, a different way of using it. It’s like the duct tape of submission holds. And here is a real beauty demonstrated by my good friend and CSW coach, Brandon Kiser.

I’d like to note a couple things here. You will often find us demonstrating or sharing unconventional techniques on this site and our youtube profile (www.youtube.com/TakingItToTheMMAT). This is not because we value the unconventional approach more than the conventional. It is not because we think these techniques are any better or higher percentage than the basics. Our position is that our viewers should be training under qualified instructors who should be more than capable of presenting and teaching the basics and traditional methods. And there are plenty of resources where more information can be found concerning these.

Our hope is that we can share some ideas that may not be so readily available and or give our viewers food for thought concerning possibilities they may not have otherwise considered.

The Eternal Grappling Match

The Good Wolf vs The Bad Wolf

The Good Wolf vs The Bad Wolf

For your listening pleasure, as background music for this post.

Now or never, Face yourself, No one else will do
Face your weakness, Face your past, Let your scars show through
It’s now or never, Don’t look back

– Michael Hedges –

There is a struggle that takes place everyday within us all.

An eternal battle waged between our better selves, our greatest being and our basest incarnations. Sometimes the rivals are confidence and self doubt, other times they are integrity and that part of ourselves that wants to give in because it’s easier to sell out.

The conflicts are innumerable but for me, on the mats, most often the battle is waged between the Ego and the Empty Vessel, the pure artist who is ultimately only there for the impermanent tapestry that is the live go, the free roll, the sparring session itself rather than the outcome or the one-upsmanship that can accompany such a session.

The Truth Hurts

Earlier this year, at the annual CSW Instructor/Fighter Camp, I had yet another opportunity to vanquish that foe. I even had people there for inspiration. Mentor figures who have been there and done that, people who I actively seek out to learn from and glean wisdom.

I remember Sensei Paulson telling all the guys who wanted to spar to go to one side of the room. The rest he told to go work on the heavy bags. I remember standing smack dab in the middle as I looked over at one of my seniors, making his way to the heavy bags. I remember thinking to myself, man that’s one cool customer, smart and experienced I should follow his lead. He even looked at me an smiled and said “I’ve got nothing to prove.” Then I sided up with the sparring group.

First round of the first day, I get into it with a youngster (twenty something). He snaps my head back a little with a punch so I return the favor. His head snaps back an when it comes back down he smiles at me. I think to myself… oh $#!T.

After the round, I don’t know what’s happened but my ankle is really hurting. I can barely stand on it. And of course, the next guy I get paired up with is a big 185er also in his twenties. He’s made a point of coming after me every year for the last 3 years. I’ve been able to hang with him in the past but now I’m a year older and in bad shape with my ankle hurting the way it does. He gets the best of me and I am bitter as Hell. One because I didn’t do as well as I wanted and two because now my ankle is screwed for the remainder of the camp (two more days).

I was even more pissed because I look at camps like that as vacation time. I’m there to have a good time and learn. I don’t like to feel like I’m being challenged. But then it dawns on me. I am the one responsible. I am the one who feels challenged because I am the one who has an ego and who gets upset when that ego is challenged. I could have gone over and punched the bags. I could have backed down and let the youngsters have the upper hand willingly and in so doing preserved my body and my vacation.

A Turning Point In The Battle

I vowed right then and there to put up twice the fight next time my ego came a knocking and two months later it did. I had decided to take advantage of an invitation one of my instructors had extended to me to come to his other school and train with a bunch of his guys that I am familiar with but haven’t spent much mat time with. Right off the bat I get paired up with a bigger guy who’s one rank ahead of me.

Speak into the microphone Ego

Speak into the microphone Ego

He says “Hey, I’ve watched your show.” He slaps hands and then begins to wrestle. I hate when people say that kind of stuff to me. I never know what it means. It could mean that they are a genuine fan, but I swear, most times the thought bubble I read over their heads says “And I really don’t think you’re all that good… And now I’m going to prove it to you boy.”

Anyway, his intensity level starts to rise quickly and I think to myself, I could make this a lot tougher on him if I wanted to (not to say that I could have beaten him, tapped him or even escaped) but whenever he got close to a submission I tapped.

I maintain this mindset for the remaining 5 partners and get through the day uninjured and really actually having one of the most enjoyable, fun learning experiences of my career. I didn’t know if that first guy was just trying to defend his belt or if that’s just how he rolls or whatever but later that day, I hear a loud snoring sound. I look over and see him convulsing on the ground. Above him is a bigger white belt who had choked him out. I think to myself. That could have been me, but today I left my ego at the door and it was a good day.

On the drive home I was reminded of an old Cherokee fable:

A wiseman was speaking to his grandson:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a long minute, and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed the most.”

Kneego my Ego!

Kneego my Ego!

Next time I am at CSW Camp I will be along side my mentors on the heavy bags. My ego will be inside those bags, and I will be feeding them my fists and this time, it won’t be able to punch back. And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll pick up a tip or two from the wisemen.

How goes your internal grappling match?