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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.

Modern Catch As Catch Can: Written By Kris Iatskevich

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

” Let me show you how to properly do a front face lock”

Thinking that there wasn’t much an old ”pro” wrestler could teach a veteran grappler like myself, but having been brought up to respect my elders (and this guy was old, very old) I let him do his stuff, telling myself it would make the old man’s day ( I’m nice that way). He wrapped his still massive arms around my head, placed a hand on my shoulder, figure foured his wrists and cranked. Although he didn’t seem to apply much pressure, my knees buckled. My jaw, neck and spine made a loud cracking noise. I was certain he had just ripped my head straight off of my shoulders.

But he wasn’t done yet…he took me down and put me in a leg lock, a half Boston of all things, a fake ”pro” move (or so I thought).

What hadn’t cracked on the earlier move cracked then. Two weeks of regular chiropractor visits later, I humbly made my way back to the gym, armed with a new found respect for the old ”pro” wrestler and a desire to learn more about the old wrestling methods.

And so began my journey into the world of Catch as Catch Can wrestling… REAL ‘‘pro’’ wrestling.

(you can see the half boston crab in a MMA fight at 6:00 in, in the clip above)

Much like today, the Catch wrestlers of old were always looking for new ways to pin and submit their opponents. Their livelihood depended on it. In the past, these men dedicated themselves to the very real tradition of wrestling and engaged in completely real professional bouts. Furthermore, this wrestling was not the collegiate, free style or Greco-Roman wrestling we see today. It was submission wrestling, using techniques these men called “hooks’’

These submission wrestlers, called “hookers, shooters, pistols” by those in their trade, were the sort of men who sought real challenges and were not afraid to learn or show anything, Of course, this lead to a blend of wrestling styles. European styles mixed with Russian, Indian, and Japanese styles. So anyone claiming to know the ‘’true system’’ of CACC is either ignorant or trying to confine it to a mould that never existed before. There is no ‘’one way’’ of doing things, only principles and rules for you to use and play with. These principles and rules are what define Catch as Catch Can Wrestling and give it its unique flavour. I do admit that there are some Catch techniques and set ups that I have yet to find in other grappling systems, but what really sets it apart are the underlying principles behind the techniques, the philosophy of the art if you will.

After making its way to North America, around the end of the 19th century, the English Lancashire CACC wrestling style was blended with the “rough and tumble” American mentality of the era and a more aggressive catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling emerged, creating some of the most outstanding grapplers of that period.
In all the annals of history you would be hard pressed to find tougher and more skilled mat men than the Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestlers. These old time shooters took on all comers from all over the world and emerged victorious through a flood of blood, sweat, tears, and broken bones.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

Catch can be particularly aggressive. Unfortunately, some mistake this aggressive pace for a lack of technical finesse.

The system is based on domination and pain compliance, but also on leverage, physics and control. The use of pressure points is also encouraged to set up techniques and keep opponents on the defensive.

All forms of submission holds, heel hooks, neck cranks and small joints manipulations are allowed within the CACC curriculum.

Catch has a wide appreciation of body mechanics and demonstrates a flexible and innovative mindset when it comes to submissions.

Not only does it use the typical subs you see across styles, but also flows freely from one technique to another, often times improvising subs to better take advantage of whatever the opponent leaves open during a scramble. Hence the name Catch as Catch Can (Catch a hold anywhere you can).

Basically, besides gouging, fish hooking, biting and deliberate striking, all is permitted within the CACC rule set. It’s all about getting the job done, as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Actually, the term ‘’ No Holds Barred’’ was originally used to describe the wrestling method prevalent in CACC tournaments during the late 19th century

, Meaning that no holds were banned from competition. That is why the CACC Wrestling men had to know how to throw, control, pin and submit their opponents from every angle and position imaginable. These men coupled brutal submissions (double wristlocks, neck cranks, toeholds etc) with an ability to twist their opponents into pretzels to pin them.

Since a Catch as Catch Can match can be won by either submission or pin, Catch wrestlers pay particular attention to positioning; high level of proficiency in breakdowns, rides and pins is required to excel in this system. Position is crucial to pulling off any submission, and even more so to obtain a pin.

Bottom escapes is another aspect of the game that is perfected. knowing that your opponents will work extra hard at keeping you on your back to obtain the pin, an incredible amount of time is spent working our way back up from bottom .

CACC became by far the most popular American sport during the post-Civil War period up until just before World War I, especially in the carnivals and fairs.

The carnival’s wrestlers challenged the locals as part of the carnival’s “athletic show”

and the locals had their chance to win cash reward if they could defeat the carnival’s strongman by a pin or a submission. This eventually led to the carnival’s wrestlers preparing for the worst kind of scenario and aiming to end the wrestling match quickly and decisively. As carnival wrestlers traveled, they met with a variety of people, learning and using techniques from various folk wrestling disciplines, many of which were accessible due to a huge influx of immigrants in the United States during this era

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

It is important to remember that there were also many style vs. style matches. In this way, the Japanese, amongst others, became very aware of the CACC tradition and vice versa.

Judo expert and prize fighter Mitsuyo Maeda also known as ‘’Count koma’’ perfected his fighting system by competing in and learning Catch as Catch Can before moving to brazil and teaching is style of fighting to Carlos Gracie.

Another judoka, Masahiko Kimura, also learned Catch as Catch Can while working as a professional wrestler. Kimura would go on to defeat Helio Gracie with a staple hold of CACC the Double Wrist Lock aka ‘’The Kimura’’.

Karl Gotch after honing his skills at the infamous ‘’Snake pit’’ in Wigan were he learned CACC, travelled to india and studied Pehlwani (Indian Wrestling) and then to Japan were he studied Judo and Sumo. My coach Edouard Wiecz Carpentier, , practiced Greco Roman Wrestling, Boxing and Savate before turning his attention to Catch as Catch Can. Later, he also became an avid Judo player.

Much like many of their contemporaries, these men were cross training even before we had coined a term for it.

I often thought that, were Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Edouard Wiecz and many of the old time greats in their prime today, they would be at the forefront of MMA fighting, as it is results oriented instead of performance oriented like pro wrestling. Given their training and dedication, they would have been at the top of the mma food chain.

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Unfortunately, while many of the ‘’Old Timers’’ kept a very open mind towards training. Some coaches today seem to adopt a very dogmatic approach to teaching.

Beware of all teachers who tell you that their method is the only legitimate one. All Grappling styles are good, it’s up to you to find witch one suit you best.

On a closing note, here is what I have learned in my 30 + years of practice.

Judo, Sambo , Wrestling (Freestyle/Greco Roman/Folk style) , Catch as Catch Can and BJJ are all legitimate combat sports. They’ve all been proven effective.
Nothing else needs to be said.

If you want to be good at grappling, find a good grappling club and train there. The rest all comes down to the instructor and the individual.

We all know what styles are effective and which ones are not. Just pick one you have access to and train hard. For the best grappling system out there, the only one worth devoting yourself to, is the one you enjoy practicing.

And to paraphrase my good Friend Jake Shannon president of Scientificwrestling .com

‘’So what is modern Catch as Catch Can Wrestling? ANYTHING that is legal under the rules of a catch wrestling contest IS catch wrestling. I think a lot of people get confused that because catch wrestlers show a lot of little known but effective techniques that they think there is some sort of secret society where a few anointed people “know” catch wrestling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Catch wrestling is “Open to suggestion”. Anyone can contribute as long as their contribution “works”.

The only “proper” way to pin or submit a man is the way that works. That’s it. Catch wrestling isn’t necessarily a canon of technique; it is a METHOD and a set of rules.
Each person will chain the techniques their own way. Each person will apply the subs and pins based on their individual body types and knowledge base. Catch is rigorously individualistic.

That is why we are here, to continue experimenting in new ways to pin and submit people; no points. The permutations are endless.

That is why it is called Scientific Wrestling; test it, prove it, use it, teach it to others to help them.

These men will champion catch (their own brand of catch) and will have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know their subject. It is truly an exciting time!’’

Exciting times indeed!

As an addendum to the original article, Coach Iatskevich asked me to include the following links for reference:

first is an article written in 1905 and debates catch wrestling vs Jiu jitsu
http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_leonard_0802.htm

second Is an overlook of the history of MMA and it,s link to catch wrestling
http://www.kocosports.com/absolutenm/anmviewer.asp?a=18493&z=9

third is the story of Ad Santel vs judo
http://www.sherdog.com/news/articles/ad-santel-and-catching-our-history-11623

From Kris Iatskevich: “I know some of these stories seem a bit negative,I personally don’t like comparing systems. But what you get from them. is the understanding of how much these arts influenced each other.”

Kris Iatskevich has studied different fighting arts for the last 30 + years.

– Catch Wrestling under the guidance of Eddy Wiecz Carpentier since ’96
– Lead Instructor for the Scientificwrestling.com certification program
– Black Belt and Regional rep. for SAW (submission arts wrestling) Hidetaka Aso
– Black Belt Judo
– Canadian rep for FIAS Sambo
– President of Catch Wrestling Canada Association
– Owner and Head coach of the Quebec Toe hold Club

You can learn more about him, his system and more at his official website:
http://www.catchwrestlingcanada.com/

__________________________________________________________________

As a final note from me (Brian Yamasaki), I would like to add that I own both of Coach Iatskevich’s Competition Catch as Catch Can DVD’s and consider them some of the best DVD’s I own.  They contain an enormous amount of useful information and give a fresh perspective to the art of Submission Wrestling.  I highly recommend either or both of these wonderful volumes.

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

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?

A Solid Clinch Game For Takedowns and Submissions


Professional MMA Fighter Nick Diaz waxes philosophical and demonstrates a great supplemental series for Chris Well’s Takedown Trifecta (Knee Tap, Spiral, Body Lock). These along with Billy Robinson’s Grovit, Ajarn Greg Nelson’s Foot Sweep Series and Sensei Paulson’s Grovit Lockflow (to be released later) form a very solid set of options from the standard wrestling tie up.

I have included the other clips here for reference. The techniques by themselves are solid but together they form a really solid game with decent options depending on your opponent’s energy.

Reference Videos:

The New Gladiator Challenge Welter Weight Champion

Jake Paul, Gladiator Challenge Welter Weight Campion


Going into the weekend, Coach Kiser and I had 4 fights on the docket.  2 on Friday night in Salt Lake City at the Ultimate Combat Experience and 2 on Saturday night in Wendover at the Gladiator Challenge.

Preparations for these fights began over 2 months ago as Fighters Jake Paul, Paul Roberts, Johnny Miller and Aaron Okura began to ramp up their conditioning and put together game plans for their respective opponents.

As training progressed, the opponents began to shuffle and add the usual X factor to the challenge of preparing these guys for fights.  Originally Jake was to fight Brad Johnson, and Aaron Okura was to fight Paris Swain.  Jake’s opponent declined the fight half way through preparations and Lee Doss out of Jeremy Horn’s Elite Performance gym stepped up to take his place.  Paris stepped down the week of the fight and Zack Wojcheck, a very seasoned and hearty opponent took the fight last minute.

Team Bernales and The Mushin Fighter Corps

Team Bernales and The Mushin Fighter Corps

The training camp was solid as both Team Bernales and the Mushin Fighter Corps banded together in usual fashion to show each other and their teammates a huge level of support.  Kensei Sato, Konrad Jones, John Mckean, Jeremy Sullivan and Ultimate Fighter Brandon Melendez, among many others offered themselves as consistent sparring partners and moral support for their fight family.

There are particulars that are important to consider when preping guys for fights, Lee Doss has a striking game as opposed to Johnson’s wrestling based style.  Paris Swain is a left handed fighter as opposed to Wojcheck’s orthodox stance.  But again, throught he power of TEAM, we were able to create drills that mimiced the tendencies and energy of the various opponents.

From Left To Right, Will Bernales, Paul Roberts and Brian Yamasaki

From Left To Right, Will Bernales, Paul Roberts and Brian Yamasaki

Khuen Khru Will and I worked the corner for Paul Roberts who dispatched an undefeated Kevin Hanby :30 seconds into round one.  After delivering a punishing flurry of punches and knees and stringing together a 3 sub combination lock flow, Kevin tapped out to a Triangle. Like a true gentleman, Kevin was graceful in defeat and wished Paul good luck on his UCE title bout vs. Daniel Grass.

Aaron had an altogether different experience against his opponent, Zack Wojcheck.  None of us expected him to be able to keep up with the pace that Aaron put forth.  Especially after taking the fight with such late notice.  Not only did Wojcheck go all three rounds and put together a steely performance, he concussed Aaron with his heavy handed punching.  But after 3 rounds of non st0p action, the judges saw it a split decision in Aaron’s favor.

From Left to Right, Brandon Kiser, Will Bernales and Aaron Okura

From Left to Right, Brandon Kiser, Will Bernales and Aaron Okura

After celebrating late into the evening, Kiser and I retired to our homes and prepared for the trip out to Wendover the next morning.  At the weigh ins on Thursday night, Johnny Miller’s opponent Chris Julkenun showed up 20 lbs. over weight and as a result the fight was canceled. We were all disappointed but, sometimes that’s how it goes in the fight game.

At any rate, Kiser and I loaded up into the Honda Civic with Kade Anderson and Brittany in tow and headed off to Wendover.  Little did we know of the adventure that lay before us.

On the road again, Trainers Yamasaki and Kiser enroute to Wendover

On the road again, Trainers Yamasaki and Kiser enroute to Wendover

Shortly after passing the airport, traffic came to a dead halt.  I-80 West had been shut down due to a freight crash which involved live ammunition that had ignited and begun to go off.

Generally, the trip takes about 2 hours.  It took us about that long to get to a point where we could turn around and try another route.

Next up was I-215 and it looked pretty promising at first.  But shortly after reaching Kennecott, we found that that route had been shut down as well.

Gridlock on the way to Wendover

Gridlock on the way to Wendover

We were told of some secret back road passage around the crash, through Lehi and Grantsville down route SR 73 or something like that so we headed off. Once to Lehi, the traffic there was too intimidating and so we headed back to Kiser’s abode to use the bathroom, and re-think our options.

At that point I-80 was re-opened and we started back down the original route, determined to make it to Wendover, despite the one lane closure and awful delay. 5 hours into the drive I started to get nervous about our fuel situation and was feeling the effects of being pent up in a sub compact so we decided to shut the engine off, stick her in neutral and push the Civic for the occasional 10 to 20 feet move forward. We ended up getting a decent little workout amidst cheers and cat calls from our gridlocked audience.

After seven hours of driving, we finally arrived at the Gladiator Challenge hosted by the Wendover Nugget. Kiser and I literally ran from the car to the warm up area.

Jake Paul warms up with Brandon Melendez

Jake Paul warms up with Brandon Melendez


Konrad and Melendez had Jake taped up and sweating. 5 minutes later, we were ringside watching Jake put the hurt on Jeremy Horn’s Lee Doss. Round 1 began with Jake pressing Doss into the cage and delivering a stylish Spinning Elbow from a Single Leg before taking Lee down and dominating the action. Round 2 had Jake taking Lee down with a Blast Double and eventually taking mount to finish the fight by GNP.

Jake Paul has his hand raised after defeating Lee Doss

Jake Paul has his hand raised after defeating Lee Doss

It was a long trip but the journey and the 2 months of grueling training to prepare these warriors for their bouts made the weekend of victories all the more sweet.

JTS After Party

JTS After Party

Congratulations to all the fighters for their successes and a special thanks to the Bernales Team and Mushin Self Defense Student Bodies for helping our boys prepare for their bouts.

Escapes From North South Position

Former Bodog Fighter Kaycey Uscola demonstrates the “Sit Out” and “Far Side Knee Tap” Escapes to the Front Headlock – North South Position. Notice, Kaycey is executing this escape before his opponent locks in the dreaded Anaconda or Darce Choke.

Body Lock Suplex

Coach Chris Wells completes his takedown Trifecta (aka the Wellian Menage-A-Toire) with the body lock suplex counter to the Judo hip throw (O-Goshi). This is a one of a kind look at a beautiful takedown technician. For more information on seminars and workshops with Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and takedown specialist Chris Wells, please contact Mushin Self Defense at instructor@mushinselfdefense.com