Monday, June 29, 2015

18 Months

18 months is how long it took for me to win an adult purple belt division.
Yesterday at US Grappling's event I won the Adult purple belt Absolute.
I took 2nd in the featherweight/lost on a guard pass.

I have a box full of 2nd and 3rd place medals since I moved up to purple belt. I also have had plenty of days I was "1 and done" and out in the first round.
I might get pissed about not getting a bye or be pissed it's single elimination or whatever but those are all the part of the game.

To quote Hunter S. Thompson, "buy the ticket, take the ride."

I've talked about how many times I've competed since getting my faixa roxa.
It's been 18 months without an external reward/indicator of my training and time on the mats.

It's not about chasing medals. It's about grinding through without reward. It's easy to discount the points scoring or the hierarchy of points or the rules or the whatever to validate why you haven't gotten the results you wanted. Sure, I can go to the gym and have peaks and valleys but showing up on the day and facing other guys training that extra little or a lot bit harder because they are competing is a staunch litmus test.

By the end of blue belt I could win the adult and the 30+ division in the same day with almost the exact same gameplan. Blue belt was also my first exposure to high level tournaments when I did the IBJJF Pans and the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials.

At purple belt it's this manic game of chicken where the first guy who blinks or misses a transition likely loses. Against recreational level competitors at purple belt you can still make some mistakes;
not so against the upper echelon of purple belts.

This post isn't about how awesome I am. 
In fact, 18 months probably sounds like forever to not win a division at your belt level. That's the point.
It's a marathon. It's not about how you start but rather how you finish that matters.
It was a long, dark time going to tournament after tournament with poor performances, close matches, getting submitted, not making it past the first round of my weight class and not making it past the first round of the absolute and the long drive home afterward to feel the letdown of expectation(s) after training for months and months up until that point. I had days where I showed up feeling ready to crush everyone and not win a single match. I had days when I was overtrained or under the weather and managed to win some matches and medal.

This post is also about mindset.
Realistically speaking, after a trip to see my brother's graduation out of town, I hadn't trained to top form before this tournament. I had to work until 4am the night before/night of the tournament then drive 3 hours, referee, and compete.
It was less than ideal but something was clearly able to compensate and the only thing I can determine is mindset.
I didn't feel pressure. I just felt this relentless mindset like I was going to just push and grind and not stop until time ran out, regardless of the situation or points of whatever. I remember reading months back Keenan Cornelius talking about how he finally decided he was just going to fight so hard that even if they guy beat him his opponenet would lose his next match from the relentless pace it would take to beat him. He finally let go of the expectation to win and simply fought as hard as he could in each match.

Yesterday, despite in my conscious brain, knowing this above idea/concept and having heard this, something changed where I felt that mindset. In my matches I was almost completely in the moment. I could hear, as though far away the voices of friends, teammates, coaches, guys I know from all the grappling events....but it never took me out of the present moment. I just kept grinding and didn't stop. I don't think I rested more than a moment or two in any of my matches. I just kept working.
When I was tired and folded in half upside down defending a guard pass or would shoot the omoplata and the guy would defend then look to pass I could feel how tired I was but it felt far away, like a quiet voice drowned out by this voice that just kept saying "keep going, push, go, push." 

This post is for everyone out there grinding. It's not pretty. The full court press is denigrated in basketball. The reality of hard work is that it's not pretty. It's tedious, long, boring, discouraging, and often doesn't manifest for a very long time.
If you're like me and not a natural, not an athlete, not a whatever-the-*&^%-people-say, it doesn't matter in the long run.

Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard.
Grind on.
It's not pretty but when it pays off the reward is deeply gratifying.
People who don't know me might see my matches and thing I'm strong or fast or have some attribute(s), but anyone who knows me knows that I am by no means a natural athlete. I never have been. I've never actually been naturally good at anything but rather I simply log a lot of hours on the mat and forgo much of what resembles a personal life to pursue this. It's not pretty and it's not glamorous and it has been a long haul to be sure but it's just beginning.

I remember before the start of the Absolute thinking well, if I lose the first round, I will fight for third. I watched the first match and felt confident I could beat the guy who lost.
I caught myself and stopped that line of thinking.
I've heard Donald Cerrone call those "red light thoughts."

Instead I asked/told myself, "Why not? Why can't I win the Absolute? Why not shoot for the moon? I'm here. I train hard. This is my opportunity. It's right here."

I could settle for focusing on just getting a medal in the Absolute (would have been the first time since I became a purple belt) but I admitted to myself that was just fear. Fear of letdown. Me rationalizing something I feared I would try to achieve and fail. So I told myself, "No. Today we are going to go for it."

I remember someone nearby looking at the guy I would face first round, about 40 lbs heavier than me/wrestling background, and saying "I wouldn't want him on top of me."
I said "I believe in my bottom game."

And I did. I've put in the time. I've put in the work having bigger, heavier, better guys try to pass my guard. I've worked it virtually every day I have trained since before purple belt.
I've had bigger and better guys struggle to pass my guard. I knew it would be a grinder of a match unless I caught a mistake by him on top but I also knew I didn't want to concede takedown points and get stalled out so I played on the feet just a bit then pulled guard. When I got into trouble I pulled him into closed guard and worked to break him down and threaten submissions, being careful not to overextend and as every small(er) Jiu-Jitsu guy knows not let a submission attempt turn into a guard pass for my opponent.

I grinded out what felt like forever despite being only 7 minutes and got a referee's decision due to submission attempts and my guard retention nullifying his guard passing attempts.

All I can say is hard work isn't glamorous but staying humble, believing in your process, doing what others aren't willing to do, and simply getting after it eventually pays off.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

US Grappling Richmond This Weekend/General Update

Got a stripe on my purple belt last night. I think for guys who train 5-6 days a week or more, stripes are silly. I'm going to grind regardless and my belt is faded enough that no one who sees it thinks I just got my purple belt anytime recently. That being said, as my coach reminded me, "it's not up to you."

Point taken.

At any rate, this weekend I return to competing after what, for me, amounts to a minor break from the training/competing regimen I've been at since I got my purple belt (competing 23 times: tournaments or superfights in the first 18 months at purple belt - roughly every 3 weeks for a year and a half).

I didn't stop training  between mid-May and now, but had some weeks where I only trained 4-5 times and haven't competed since May 16th and have had weeks where I actually took consecutive days off and even a couple weeks where I took 3 days off in a row.

At some point diminishing returns is a real phenomenon and everyone from my coach to my girlfriend told me I was headed toward if not already in full blown burnout. Everything from general malaise to being tired yet unable to sleep and the range of emotional reactions to overtraining/exhaustion.

More than ever I can see the divide increasing between recreational training and guys training to compete. I know that even now there's more levels to how I can arrange my training and maximize the already substantial amount of time I'm grinding. If this is what it's like at purple belt I can't even honestly imagine brown and black belt. I'm no longer satisfied beating recreational competitors but rather now it's about looking around at the others in my division I can tell train with the frequency and goal(s) that I do.

With that, I'll leave you with two of my favorite quotes from the Miyao Brothers:
"The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants in life is merely the will to try and the faith to believe that it is possible."
"So you lost ? Shut up and train more."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015 Mundials Analysis: Leandro Lo vs Matheus Diniz - Grip or Die

Matheus does a lot to shut down the usual parts of Leandro's guard. Matheus gets hit with a sweep that while not initially successful leads to turning and thus having to flee when Lo dives at his legs: the same sweep I've seen Leandro hit against Keenan when he crosses his legs/locks his ankles with a position like a guard around the knees and tips the guy over.
It's an interesting adjustment to guys fighting off Leandro scooting underneath to come to his other more common sweep where he would normally set it up with that far spider hook on the arm.

For a guy like Matheus fighting Leandro's right hand grip (often at times Matheus was using BOTH of his hands to control that hand), or a taller guy like Keenan who is also avoiding the spider hook, the guard around the knees level sweep is an interesting adaptation.
Matheus (something I've noticed Marcelo does continually is never concede grips) and Matheus and company clearly prepped for Leandro's hand placement. The 2nd scoring sweep or rather sweep that leads to a scramble and then finally a sweep happens when Leandro adjusts and gets a single leg x-guard type position and if you look closely, there's a split second where Matheus doesn't control Leandro's right grip and Leandro gets the lift necessary to come up on a single leg type of stand up then eventually finishes as Matheus dives for a leg.

I was just out in LA talking to my friend/owner of the Cosmic Training Center and he mentioned he noticed this quite a bit in the Worlds matches at the higher levels: 1) as a tool to prevent lapel guard or other lapel feeding-worm-guard-type stuff and also as a passing tool for the top player if he controls and punches that grip down and controls it against the mat.

Food for thought.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Go Read This

It's a post by one of the nicest people I know in Jiu-Jitsu, none other than Dirty White Belt, himself, Jeff Shaw.

When he blogs, I read it/listen. 
You should as well. 

Hey Guys! Hey Guys! Ken Shamrock and Kimbo are Fighting Tonight! & UFC Fight NIght 69 Picks

The UFC event tomorrow in some far flung place you've never seen on google maps has all the earmarks of a minefield for gamblers. Guys with questionable records in the EU circuit facing guys with losses against anyone whose name you recognize in the UFC versus guys from those countries that turn out tough fighters like Russia et cetera.

I've made some picks that are not anything I'd put cash behind. There's not a one I'm super certain about save perhaps Amirkhani as I think he's going to get a more durable guy this time to test the waters a bit and Mustafaev has a more impressive record to make me feel good about picking him over Piotr Hallman.

Beyond that, it's honestly anyone's guess.

As for Bellator's fights tonight they're not bad minus the co-main of Ken Shamrock vs Kimbo in a weight mismatch of roughly 30 lbs.
Strauss, Chandler, and Freire are all on the card.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jiu-Jitsu in MMA: Bruno Frazatto

When it finally gets to the mat at about the 8:00 mark, Bruno makes quick work of his opponent. I've been a fan of Bruno ever since I watched his several battles over the years when Cobrinha was featherweight King before the beginning of the Mendes era.

His opponent, for his efforts, pulled a Mitrione and got his back taken after a pretty telegraphed shot at a takedown.

It's good to see high level Jiu-Jitsu in MMA getting the finish.

Speaking of which, the UFC this past weekend was bonkers.
Talk about a night of finishes?! Everything you could possible want on a card: submissions, KO's, striking, omoplatas, sweeps, cuts, standing elbows.....It was incredible.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why You No Gripfight Buchecha and Evangelista?

Evangelista does a good job of countering Buchecha's wrestling with his grips early on.
As soon as Evangelista opts to get in a wrestling stance and really plant that lead foot and not establish grips...he gets taken down.

They both adopt neutral grips early on and it's no wonder they stalemate up until this point.
Buchecha would overzealously spin to the back and hunt for the finish allowing Evangelista to get back in the game, but only due to Buchecha's mistake did Evangelista have that opportunity.

Food for thought.
This isn't black and white footage of gentleman's agreement Judo non-gripfighting.
Establish a dominant grip and don't allow your opponent to do the same.

Friday, June 5, 2015

UFC Fight Night 68: Henderson vs Boetsch - MMA Betting Man's Picks in 60 Seconds

This is a card I feel with some entertaining scraps on it.

Henderson really does find himself at a crossroads. He thinks he still has enough to get a few paychecks and wins minus the TRT but I think he's never looked flatter than he did in his last fight and the fact that he's coming off of two stoppage losses and is facing Boetsch is no softball pitch to be sure.

I think we see Dan Henderson go out on his sword in this fight in one that will have longtime fans of the veteran wincing and shaking their heads.

Mitrione feels like he's has more visibility than Rothwell who I feel like hasn't fought in forever. My feelings aside, both guys are hit and miss in their UFC careers with Mitrione racking up a bit more high profile wins but faltering when he stepped up against the best. That being said, I still think he has more than enough hand and foot speed to pick apart Rothwell.

Soto I'm taking over Birchak because I've actually seen him fight before and as for Rivera, I think his bombs in his hands will be enough to hurt Caceres who I simply don't believe has the power in his strikes to keep Rivera off him long enough to stick, move, and take a decision.

Jordan as a heavyweight is tough and dangerous but too green to threaten the upper echelon. That being said he has the slightly better wins in the division than his opponent and should get a stoppage here to  move him up a spot or two. Ebersole has an impressive list of submission and stoppages to his credit and I think unless Akhmedov is some new wonder kid I haven't heard of, I think Ebersole's experience takes it here as well.

I'm actually kind of excited about this card as I think stylistically enough of these guys have some holes in parts of their games we might get a pretty good card out of this. 

Because You Didn't Ask: My Thoughts on Cormier vs Gustaffson

Why is the guy who lost his last fight now fighting the champ for the belt?
It's impossible to defend this booking.
You know the one I'm discussing: Gustaffson who just lost to Johnson will next face the guy who just beat Johnson.

Wrap your brain around that.
Last minute cancellations aside (Belfort fighting Jon Jones et cetera - at least Belfort once held the strap at 205, was also champion before weight classes), this booking is just impossible to defend.

If anyone out there can defend it, please hit me with the rationale. I've been racking my brain all day trying to do just that.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Personal Update

My coach is competing at Grappler's Quest in NJ this weekend as part of their "Grapplers Quest U.S. National Championships and All Star Pro Challenge." 
He's competing for cold hard cash, the stream is available HERE:

Pre-Lims at 12:00 PM and Finals at 8:00 PM on LIVE

I took a short break from training, first break longer than maybe 3 days in a row since I got my purple belt in December of 2013. At some point I finally had to admit that it was diminishing returns on training no matter how much I continued to grind it out. I visited my girlfriend for a few days, and even though I love dropping into to train whilst out of town with new people or those I haven't seen in awhile, I forced myself to actually just enjoy a few days with her and do what I guess normal people do when they leave town: eat out, see the beach, do a ropes course, see a movie et cetera.

I haven't even done any sports betting recently, I've been on full break from combat sports. I didn't watch the Worlds and only recently watched the finals and some of the quarter and semi finals.

US Grappling has two events coming up: June 27, 2015 in Ashland, VA &
July 25, 2015 in Morrisville, NC  for which I'll referee and compete.  

I'm planning on doing an IBJJF event in July or August, I haven't chosen which one yet. I haven't done an IBBJ event since I did the Pans as a blue belt shortly before I had my knee reconstructed. I've been grinding it out at purple belt and I'm looking forward to winning and/or learning.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

BJJ Hacks: John Danaher and Dillon Danis


Because You Didn't Ask: My Thoughts Post 2015 IBJJF Mundials

I've gone through and watched all my favorite competitors matches that I could find: Lepri, Faria, Keenan, Miyao et cetera.

I think Miyao beat Malfacine. I'll just leave it at that. The waving off the last advantage was in effect a referee decision made. I think they want a whatever # time World Champion, and Malfacine fits the bill.

Faria imposed his will but as usual, almost got caught a couple times getting greedy (this is a good thing). Seeing Rafa get after it and finish everyone on his way to the finals was also pretty badass. That wrist lock from the crucifix was bonkers. I had to rewatch it a few times and find photos online to be sure that's what it was until I heard more from people there/articles online. Cobrinha also looked incredible until he once against found himself very, very early in trouble against Rafa.

Guilherme was missed as he's a guy whom most of my knee through and top passing game I've reverse-engineered and copied (as well as his baseball and lapel choke from knee on belly.

Calasans must be sleeping well after meeting Oliveira in the final (who knocked out Otavio) and Leandro moved up (and beat Keenan yet again) and Calasans now finally has the medal I would bet he was fiending after the most. I saw a lot of tight, pressure matches and that Keenan flying triangle to armbar on Leandro was awesome. I saw guys moreso (at least it looked like it) legitimately looking to submit to set up other things.

Queixinho looked good against Cobrinha, I've seen Cobrina walk through many a black belts guard over the years and Quiexinho/Moizinho fought him off for quite a bit.