Competing in Brea

I had a great time competing this past weekend at Brea Jiu-Jitsu’s free tournament. I was in the same division with 15 other folk, 2 of them being good friends. I’ve already mentioned this, but I really respect the friends I have in this division as they both work tirelessly and have what seems like effortless technique time and again.

We got to the venue early, checked in, checked my weight and watched some of the white belts. Scott and I talked about perspective a bit and how it changes as your game develops. More on that later.

Weighed in, relaxed and watched some more matches. The best part was that I got to bring JD along, my 10 year-old nephew. I was incredibly nervous, but he managed to make me think less about that; there was some open mat time at one point before the blues went and I got to wrestle around with him, warm up with a decent sweat and have some fun. That’s what jiu-jitsu is about – just enjoying the movement of it, the comraderie, the brotherhood on the mat.

When my name was called, I was nervous but had no fear. I didn’t look at my opponent until we faced each other across the mat and had no intimidating thoughts one way or another. My body told me I’d be going to war and I agreed. Scott talked to me about nerves beforehand as well, because I ordinarily suffer tremendously from them. I felt the nerves and apprehension, but as Scott said, “It’s normal. Tell yourself it’s a normal response and you’ll be fine.” — and he was right.

Standing on the mat across from my opponent, the nerves fell away, replaced with a desire to display solid technique and make my instructor proud. Though I don’t carry his name on my back via patch, I understand that I am representing him, his lineage and his technique.

We shake hands and circle. He pulls guard and immediately breaks my posture and throws up a triangle. I get worried that I’d lose so early on, hear Kenric in my ear telling me “Back straight, head up, Keith! Back straight, head up!” I escape to side control and he reclaims guard almost immediately. Guard opens and I look for the straight ankle lock for about 2 seconds before Kenric tells me “No!” and I go back to trying to pass.

Scramble, no points thus far and we’re both standing, but my posture is broken and he has a hand behind the head, looking to pull me to the ground. I go down and he tries to scramble to my back, but I sit out. I am now on top in half-guard. I’m up 2-nil, I believe. He tries to reclaim guard and I shut him out. Scramble as I go to mount and I end up on top again — half guard. I look for the kimura to no avail. Kenric and Frank are giving me excellent instruction the entire time, how to pull the lapel, to be patient, etc.

My opponent gets the underhook and I reclaim it. Shoulder pressure of DOOM, I tell ya, kids. I can tell he’s not comfortable and I am HEAVY on top, smashing as best I can, looking for the pass. I pass by sitting on my hip and hipping away, kicking out the quarter-guard foot to side control. 5-nil. I think there is a sweep in there somewhere and it’s 8-2, somehow. he locks his arms over my head from side-control and I go for the armbar, but fail miserably at retaining control, fall badly and he comes on top. There’s a scramble and I’m grabbing his lapel on top and he’s threatening the sweep. His knee comes out somehow awkwardly and Kenric is telling me to get a better grip and “SIT UP!” There’s another scramble and I end up on the bottom, with my left leg in the reaping position. There are 4 seconds left. Time is called early. I am disqualified.

As the ref stops time, I know I’m DQ’d. I know it and it sucks but somehow, I am not angry. I’m happy at my showing because I went out there and showed up, finally. My opponent went on to take gold in the division; knowing that, and how well I did against him – knowing I was ahead the entire time and in no danger of losing the match – I had some anger later that evening in the shower, but honestly – I showed up. I’ll get him next time.


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Prep Work

I’m competing in a free tournament with some friends tomorrow at Brea Jiu-jitsu. 16 man, single elimination. Should be good. For the first time ever, my nephew is coming out to watch. He’s 10, excited and a great motivator. I’d love to win for him.

Even though I’d love to walk away with gold, here are my other goals for this tourney:

1. Attack. – Don’t think about points, just go out there, have fun and attack, attack, attack, from all positions.

2. Recover – After the first match, I need to do a good job recovering. Having a minor case of asthma and probably as a result of the adrenaline dump, this is a hard one for me.

3. Light-footed – don’t plod along – be light and quick on my feet.

4. Win or Lose with honor – pretty simple. Don’t be an asshat if I win; don’t be a ninny if I don’t.

I’m excited about this one as I will be among friends, enjoying the day. Hopefully, I don’t put too much stress on myself beforehand.

To prep, I rolled last night and had a great evening on the mats. At our gym, they’re preparing to take down a wall and have been doing some painting, so that was a bit of a distraction at first, but after warm-ups, I got into my groove and the hips responded in kind.

For some reason, everything just felt like it was clicking in place. I hope that continues into tomorrow.

Today, I’ve been doing some visualization and positive self-talk. After a light meal this evening and some good stretching/rest this evening, I should be good to go.

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The Long and Awkward Silence

It’s been too long since I’ve last written, but I will attempt to catch up and post more often.

For Christmas, got the Galvao book as well as the bag I wanted. Score! Drill to Win is helping me immensely, though I’m sure people hate it when I lead warm-ups in class and do some unnatural thing we haven’t seen yet as a group …

Since the New Year, I have been training inconsistently, but am working back to 4 or 5 times a week. Tournament coming up this Saturday, but I’ve got some kind of sinus thing going on and hope it clears up by then. Since I’m not training with anyone as a result of that this week, it means more work with kettle bells, solo drilling and running to maintain weight.

Participated in a Grapplethon in Laguna Niguel as well. Can’t say enough good things about the host academy (Optimus Jiu Jitsu), or the organizers (Montay Wiley and Brett Weekley). It’s always a huge plus when we can gather as a community and invest our time into those who could use our help, either financially or otherwise. Got to see some old friends, make some new friends and enjoy the moment. Also gave myself a bone bruise, but that’s another story.

Finally, saw Metamoris III this past weekend…. I don’t have an opinion on the final match, but wonder how many people will begin to learn things like the Electric Chair or Vaporizer as a result of it? Even though these are pain response techniques (meaning, not a choke and you’re counting on your opponent to respond to the pain of the stretch – similar to CACC), they were proven effective against someone who had never seen them before, even at an incredibly high level. This is the same thing the Gracies did in the 90s with the advent of UFC — no one had seen BJJ on that level, so when Royce decimated people (not saying Eddie decimated Royler), the martial arts world reaction was imminent (though not immediate).

That’s enough of the parenthetical asides for me. Hoping to catch up more soon.

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Top 10 List: Christmas edition

I saw a top ten list over at SharkGirlBJJ’s blog ( and opted to create my own here as well (in no particular order):

1. More mat time: I’d love to have more time to roll instead of sitting in traffic, working, sleeping or … etc. More mat time means better technique and timing.

2. This sweet gear bag from DaKine: OK, it’s not specifically built for a gi, but it would function just as well since it has a wet pocket for the stink.

3. Orangahang Grip Trainers: These bad boys look like they mean business and who couldn’t use better grips?!

4. Back Attacks DVD Set with Ryan Hall: Ryan Hall is the man. I need work on my game. Enough said.

5. Drill to Win: 12 Months of Better BJJ by Andre Galvao

6. A GoPro to record mat time and study my own game.

7. More hang time with training partners off the mat. I love those who I get to experience jiu jitsu with – just wish I’d get to see them more off the mat. (yes, I’m a sap – I know)

8. This very light XGuard gi in white. Can’t ever have enough gis.




9. Short-sleeve rashguards. I’ve got enough long-sleeve rashies… but only one short-sleeve.

10. New non-crappy blender:  I have a blender as it is, but my wife hates it. Also good for smoothies to perform at peak.

And there you have it? What’s on your BJJ wish list this year?

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Perception and timing.

Here’s a funny thing to note: the way you roll and the way others perceive the way you roll are not always the same.

I’ve been thinking a bit about this recently because two of my friends/training partners have said the same thing about my overall technique – something I never would have guessed to say about myself. I’ve noticed that my timing has been “off” now and again and that I get caught while being out of position, but I never really gathered why before.

Then, a couple weeks apart, Dustin and Jeremy both said the same thing:

Slow Down.

Dustin, last night, mentioned this to me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. He noted that I overstep/miss a step/leave something open because I rush the technique. This is done, in part I think, because I respect them as grapplers and I want to “be first.” However, I got my back taken, caught in a kimura from top-half and and armbar last night, probably because I was rushing the technique.

This is something I really need to sit down and try to go over because, overall, I also don’t hit submissions enough. I spend too much time getting into position in order to find that submission, so somehow I have to justify these two opposing forces into a cohesive method of rolling because, like it or not, the way others perceive me to roll has some truth in it. While I’d prefer to actually work faster, I can’t begin to do so until those transitions are done cleanly and efficiently. Thousands of time.

I’d love to hear any feedback on this; how to hunt for the submission in a methodical way; how you perceive me to roll (if we’re partners); or anything else relating to perception on the mats.

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That Next Gear

I haven’t been on the mats since Saturday, but it has given me a few days to get some perspective and think through the sheer, smiling destruction that I experienced.

A few of us got to the gym early and did some takedown drills for 45 minutes. I really feel like this part of the art is by and large ignored and consider it a disservice to jiu-jitsu as a whole. Afterwards, we had the usual suspects show up to class and I was feeling pretty good after drilling, then running through technique with Joe.

During live rolls, I paired up with Dave, our resident purple belt, and we went to. A few things need to be mentioned here, though. I’m 31 and weigh in right under 160 lbs. Dave is 46 or so and is lighter than me by 10 lbs. But make no mistake – Dave was ranked number three (or four?) in the world at blue belt last year in his division after winning gold in three major tournaments. He’s an ass kicker if there ever was one. When we normally roll, he lets me get position and then defends and breathes through it all – not really paying much attention to me, except maybe to say good job here or there. Because of this, my expectations with him had changed. I thought this was how Dave ALWAYS rolls.

Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday, he destroyed me and laughed the entire time he was doing it. Over the course of the 5 minute roll, I think I tapped 7 or 8 times. (but who’s counting!?) He’d bait me one way, dead-end my path so I could only go the way he itended and he’d joke around the entire time he was giving me an ass-whooping. At one point, I was working on a Toreando pass; I got most of the way around him, went to hop one last time and he grapped my pant leg while it was in the air and YANKED. I fell to the floor in a heap and he just chuckled like a sage. I had to stop and laugh because THIS WAS SOME NEXT LEVEL SHIT.

After the roll, I told him as much and asked him not to go back to his defend and yawn mentality with me, because I need these kinds of beatings if I want to get any better.

I’ve been thinking about that training a lot over the last couple of days – and how it relates to the rest of my jiu-jitsu game as well as how I relate it to competition. At Old Man Worlds this year, I was talking to another training partner and at one point, even said, “If Dave can do this, so can I. We seem to be able to keep up with him just fine in class. What the hell is wrong with me if I can’t make that transition to competition?”

Here’s the thing I’ve realized: Dave “dumbs it down” for me. A lot. I don’t think I was shocked at this at all, because we all know Dave is a humble, ass-kicking guy. However, I don’t think I realized exactly how much better he is than me before. This might sound odd, but it makes me want to roll with him more often – and to go harder – so that one day, I’ll have that same gear that he seems to keep in his pocket.

Hell, for all I know, that was just his “second gear” – and he’s got 4 more stuffed away somewhere, waiting to come out during competition.

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Lessons Learned, Consistency and Thursday Night Training

As promised, here are the lessons learned from Old Man Worlds 2013:

1. Prepare mentally leading up to the event, but don’t psyche yourself out the day of: I learned this lesson, not because of a mistake made, but because I actually managed to make this work. Carpooling with Scott and going first helped out a lot on this front as well. Too often, I get into my own head hours before I’m supposed to roll, try to plan for every scenario, freak out and do more harm than good. Listening to the ball-game last night, I heard a similar anecdote about a guy that got the OK to start a game in the Post Season. Instead of putting on his headphones and sequestering himself 3 hours before the game, he just had a normal day and then played a great 9 innings. Have fun out there!

2. Meal Plan: I need to do a better job of meal planning, skipping the caffeine and sugar and getting my weight under control. I don’t think I’m muscular enough for my current division and need to cut about 10 lbs to get down to Feather by next year’s Pan Ams. So, I’ll be working on that for the foreseeable future. I’ve also enlisted the help of my friend Gino – who seems to always be in the most elite of condition and takes meal planning to another level – so hopefully, this part of my training will begin to take root.

3. Light feet, heavy hips: I realized I plod along during the stand-up portion of the match – this could either be because I’m carrying too much weight or I’m just too heavy on my feet. To counteract this, I’ll be taking some circuit training and perhaps boxing to work on my footwork. I really wish Judo was offered at my gym though; I’d pounce on that opportunity. Conversely, I need to work at being heavier from the top position, especially in half-guard. This was seen last night during training as well (more on that in a minute).

4. Work on take-downs: While I have decent take-downs during that part of training, it’s rarely if ever in a live environment. I will work to combat this with extra training, dedicated solely to timing and take-downs, outside of the normal class schedule. No, I will not pull guard. Ever. It’s a matter of principle.

5. Stop being a sore loser: This one pretty much speaks for itself. These matches are not fight-to-the-death and I shouldn’t take them so seriously. I want to win and I want to medal, but I don’t want it more than I want to remain honorable, regardless of the result.

If I work on all of these things, I think I’ll be a better competitor come December for the NABJJF Worlds, which I plan on competing in. But, this is dependent on whether or not I’ve been training and supplementing consistently. Why show up if you’re just going to hand another guy the W?

That brings me to last night’s training. I hadn’t been on the mat in 10 days but felt pretty good during warm-ups. This week, the only working out I did was Allie’s HardCORE Conditioning class at 5:30 on Tuesday morning and my abs and lower back were still sore during the opening segment of class. I will continue to make it to that class, though, because it was awesome and I need the work.

I paired up with Andy for take-downs and his hip throws are really starting to come along. He outweighs me by about 15 pounds at the moment, so I’m hoping his extra weight helps me with my technique. For the technique portion, we went over three different scenarios from a failed single leg: rolling loop choke, cross-collar choke and rolling omaplata. I really enjoy all three of these scenarios and they’re completely dependent on what the other guy gives you, so I’d like to work on them more.

Positional rolls with Andrew and then Esteban. In both cases, I played guard – starting from closed guard and then working to get to spider. Got a decent couple of sweeps on Andy and Esteban and I went back and forth.

Live rolling: Esteban and then Kenric. Esteban and I have similar styles, I think, but he does a great job of forcing me to work new angles and is always changing his game. I kept trying to float over his modified half-guard and nearly took a couple of hook sweeps as a result. I’d go to grab his pant with my lower arm and, in doing so, would relieve some of the shoulder pressure, so he’d sneak up on his own shoulder and dive his head inside, looking for that sweep. I’m also working diligently on weaving when he tries for the scissor sweep and having some success with it. Overall, a great roll.

When rolling with my instructor, Kenric, I always feel like a cub being swatted by an adult bear. Thursday night was no exception. I found myself stuck on the bottom of reverse kesa gatame, but with both of my arms out and free to flail about. When I asked how to get out of this position, I was told “you’re stuck. You shouldn’t have gotten yourself there.” Reminded of Kurt Osiander, I resolved not to get there anymore. Kenric also mentioned that I used a lot of power in that round, so I need to analyze that as well. Saturday is normally my best day of training, so I’ll try to break these things down more on the mat.

After gi, I stayed to help with no gi and it was primarily lots of drilling. I’m showing up to this class because I like to help out and because my no gi sucks. Hard. The only way to get better is to keep showing up.

Had a decent roll with a new kid, whose name I don’t know, and managed to stay on top and pull off a couple of swinging arm bars from side-control (when they put their arm over your shoulder). After I got it off twice, I let him know not to put his arm there. I’m looking forward to developing this new aspect of my game – it’s fast-paced and will force me not to try and stabilize for too long. Get the position, then work for the submission.

No stalling.

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