Progress Report, September 2010

(And July, and August. Oops.)

This will also answer Kintanon’s request for a breakdown of my game. (Game? I have a game? News to me ;))

Positions, Techniques, Submissions


This seems to have become my default position. Even though I try not to consciously go there, I go there anywhere. Sometimes when they’re passing my guard, but also when I’m turning in from side control and sometimes, it seems, just because. And then I get stuck. My legs generate no power in any direction. They generally control my far arm and/or jam their knee in, all with little effort. And. I. can’t. get. out. I feel like such a dunce. I try rolling through back to guard or doing a sit-out. Fail. I try getting to half guard, which occasionally works. I think I need to watch Demian Maia several million more times.

Half Guard

Half guard seems to be the default position in our gym. (Open guard over closed guard, and some version of half guard — often Z-guard, even — over anything else.) So I’m forced to work on my half-guard game whether I want to or not.

On top in half guard (and side control), I have decent shoulder pressure. (Or so guys say.) I only have about a 50:50 chance of passing, though — other options are getting swept to the far side or the guy going to guard.

On bottom in half guard, no matter how tight and hidden I have my top arm, everyone D’Arces me. Even going to Z-guard myself doesn’t give me enough leverage to defend against it or escape. It’s annoying and frustrating.

Mount & Back Mount

Working on pressure here, too. (I got an “oof!” out of Tim the other day.)

If I do get back mount, I can’t control them. They just turn and push back and are out. I’m decent at defending when someone else gets my back, though I’m generally only defending and can’t actually escape; they just haul me back over and re-establish control.


I like to start from butterfly. Elevator sweep and armdrags are no good, though I practice them a lot; I still telegraph both way, way too much, and no one seems to have any trouble anticipating them or defending them. (I think I need to use my head more to stretch them out or something.) So, I try them first, because I know I need to practice — and hopefully one day they’ll finally work — and then usually transition to a sweep to the other side. I really thought we’d learned this in class, but apparently not. Huh. Likely something I picked up from one of the advanced guys, then. Fairly high success rate, though, I think.

(Sweep: As you’re going for the underhook, they start jockeying with the arm on that side. Trap their arm on the inside. Never seem to do this the same way twice, though. Then roll to your shoulder on the trapped side. Use the opposite hook to lift and sweep. Sometimes I get the inside hook on the outside of the leg and get almost a scissor-like boost from that leg.)


I’m dumping myself into triangles again, and I can’t figure out why. I’ll think I’m keeping track of both arms, and then I suddenly realize that one’s in and one’s out. And I can’t defend them.


Everything I do seems to be reactionary. I initiate little. Aside from choosing the starting position, I do little. I even roll this way with Theresa a lot — I let her dictate where the roll goes. Occasionally I decide that I want her to work on something in particular, and I will turn up the intensity just a bit to guide her where I want it. But then, once there, I let her choose which way she’s going. Sometimes I’ll dial it up a tad when I want her to have to transition to something else, e.g., armbar to triangle to armbar.

I guess I do have some go-to moves from each position. Not much success, but still try them. From my guard, I go for push scissor sweeps. Cross-collar chokes if they’re being lazy. From their guard, I usually work towards the standing, knee-up-the-middle break. I can often break the guard, but not pass it. From bottom half-guard, I try to go to the back. From top half-guard, I want to get them flat, of course, and pass; then from side control, to mount. Mount… cross-collar choke, armbar if they give it to me, or americano when they get lazy with their arms. I’m starting to go for guillotines from there (Will & Justin do it, and I’ve caught a few on people who didn’t know what to do). From the back, I want a clock choke, but can’t ever seem to get things arranged properly. From being back mounted, I try all the usual escapes, but really I’m waiting for them to transition to an armbar or mount when they finally get frustrated with my defense, and then try to escape during the transition.

I was hoping this analysis might turn out to be more positive, but I still seem to be discouraged. I really can’t think of much that I do right. (Sometimes I think I might have perhaps done something right… or perhaps the guy was giving me positions so that they can work with little threat and little pressure.) Perhaps there are things in which I’m unconsciously competent: I do it right without knowing it. I did ask Tim, after a long roll with him, if there was anything I needed to work on or if he had any suggestions, and he said no, that I was doing fine. I do trust him to tell me if I have a problem. So perhaps I am doing a lot better than I think I am.

13 thoughts on “Progress Report, September 2010

  1. I am sure you are 🙂 Ourselves are our own worst enemy when it comes to being critical of our abilities! (hmmm…I’m sure that is not grammatically correct…good thing I’m not an English teacher!)

  2. Hey Leslie! I’ve got some great news for you. Saturday I won first place in my division at the Battle of Houston. I wanted to thank you, because you gave me the courage to stick with BJJ. Glad you’re feeling better. PS, the prob I emailed you about worked itself out.

  3. K, Your game is a little disjointed.

    Here’s how my BOTTOM game flows:
    Establish Butterfly Guard -> Pummel for under/over
    if yes then Under/Over sweep
    if no then -> Go for Collar and Sleeve or Head and Wrist control
    if yes then Elevator Sweep
    if no then attempt to establish Leg Hook guard
    If yes then Leg Hook sweep
    If no then attempt to Establish Full guard
    If yes then go for Collar and sleeve or head and wrist control -> Move I have no name for that I use to break opponent down in guard -> Collar choke/Collar Sweep/Back take
    If no then Situp Sweep
    If no then Scissor sweep
    If no then triangle choke off of the failed Scissor
    If no then Butterfuly guard and start over.

    If you look at where my opponent puts themselves by defending those almost all of them feed right into the next step. For my TOP game I just go to knee on belly and move a round until I get a Kimura or an Armbar or they give up the collar for the single collar choke. If I can’t finish it I move back to KoB and try again or in the case of the single collar choke sometimes I will take the back.

    The key to all of this is controlling the hips of your opponent. People kept telling me that for years and I had no idea what they actually MEANT until about 10 months ago it all just came together. Unfortunately while I can demonstrate hip control it’s one of the things I don’t have a good vocabulary for explaining yet, once I do I’ll try to post something about it in my blog.

  4. @Reginadabean: Thanks 🙂 (P.S. “We ourselves” makes it work.)

    @Jodi: Congrats! And, aw, shucks. I’m glad my insane ramblings are good for something :P. (And glad to hear about that situation.)

  5. @Kintanon: Lol, ya think? 😛 Thanks for taking the time to look at my mess and post your own.

    I think mostly my problem right now is as I said, I’m only reacting to what they first impose on me rather than, as you do, forcing them to react to me. Or in the few rolls when I can actually control what happens or when they’re giving me space to work, I dabble in trying out too many techniques and half-remembered techniques rather than working through a “game” flowchart. (Ooo, flowchart! The business analyst monster awakes!)

    Hips, huh? Hmm…

  6. If you’re a fan of flowcharting (Like me) then check out Freemind, it’s a free mindmapping software package that I used to chart my BJJ roadmap. It helped me a LOT early on when I was developing my game.

    Now, remember that there is a time in training for experimentation, working on some half remembered thing from youtube, intentionally working your weakest areas, etc… But there is also a time to work your “A” game, look to impose your will on people, and really tune up your strengths. I organize my training into month long blocks.
    Month 1: Experimentation. This is the month where I browse around youtube or talk to jits folks and look for some new move, or revist an old move or try to put together a combo. I get tapped a TON, people pass my guard like it’s not there, etc… because I’m trying all kinds of weird stuff I’m not good at.

    Month 2: Make it mine. Once I’ve settled on a move I want to add to my regular game I move into this phase. During this month I will use about 85% the single technique that I have selected. The other 15% is devoted to whatever it takes to get me to that technique launching point. This tends to get me multiple hundreds of reps of the selected technique during a month.

    Month 3: Integration. Now that I feel like I own the move in isolation I start adding it back into my complete game. This is where I determine how it fill fit into my existing set of techniques and I bring back my full arsenal for this month.

    Sometimes I’ll have 2,3 or even 4 months of “Make it Mine” after my experimentation month. That’s because I frequently find more than one thing I’d like to integrate. Sometimes during the integration phase some of those moves get dropped because they don’t mesh well with my overall game and I keep them as fallback moves off of some tangential branch.

    I just finished up with an “Integration” month for my top game where I really solidified all of sweeps that I’ve been experimenting with since february and got my KoB tightened up to the point where I can use it in competition. I’m about to start a new “Experimentation” month and I think De La Riva and X-Guard will both be on the list this time around as well as lower body attacks since I’d like to find one or two foot locks that I like to integrate into my main game.

  7. Re: reacting to your partners

    It sounds like you need to own your training a bit more, both in choice of training partners (always getting stuck with the same parter) and also what happens during those rolls.

    If you’re reacting to someone, you’re not playing your game, but you’re just responding to theirs. That’s not really your game! While it’s not always time to establish your game in a roll, it should probably happen at least sometimes, and should probably happen all of the time when you’re getting ready for a tournament.

    E.g: If my game is takedown, pass the guard, side control, knee on belly, mount, cross choke – I should be working to establish that at least some of the time. If I get side tracked and end up getting swept, the plan should be to escape the bottom, sweep or reverse the position, get back on top, back to the game plan.

    Now not 100% of my rolls should reflect this, but at least some of them should. This can also be varied with Plan B (e.g if I pull guard instead, I want to work the submission, sweep, etc).

    Good luck in your training!

  8. Regarding your analysis being less positive than you thought: a detailed outside opinion might be helpful. It’s way too easy to think of all the things you do unsuccessfully; far harder to realize the areas in which you’re doing well or progressing. You may want to talk to other students who have a more objective view of your game.

    As for the reactionary aspect of your game: I’m not sure if that’s an introvert thing, a girl thing, a combination of the two, or something else, but I have the exact same problem, and my guys are trying to get me to be more aggressive in dictating terms. That can only happen through a shift in thinking. The flowchart Kintanon suggested would probably be a huge tactical help to you (and to me as I gain more experience) in terms of establishing procedures and mini-goals to follow, and in figuring out how to integrate new techniques.

  9. Ok, I put up my thoughts on hip control and the various methods that I use and some general philosophical meanderings about it over at mah blog. Some of it might be helpful, some of it might just be my demented ranting.

  10. @Kintanon: Thanks for that breakdown. I think to start, I already know a bunch of things, but don’t usually consciously evaluate them. So then I don’t know if it worked for reals or not. (Or, I suppose, failed for reals or not.) That’s probably my first month — consciously choosing techniques that I know and focusing on them for a night or two. I used to do that, to pick a couple of things to work on, but have gotten away from it.

    One problem I always seem to have is getting to that technique to work on it. Often it seems that no matter what it is, my partner never wants to go where I need them to go — even if I want them to take mount so I can work an escape, it seems that their plan is to maintain side control. Any advice on how to try out moves when I can’t always get where I need to be to do it?

    @Anne: Very good point that just reacting isn’t a game. And it’s an especially bad tournament game.

    @Jenn: Good idea. I have a couple of guys in mind to talk to; just haven’t had a chance yet. Or even maybe get someone to video me rolling in class. An outside view on myself might be helpful, too.

    @Kintanon: Thanks. (Here’s the link for anyone else.) Am reading and working on it.

  11. @Leslie: “One problem I always seem to have is getting to that technique to work on it. Often it seems that no matter what it is, my partner never wants to go where I need them to go — even if I want them to take mount so I can work an escape, it seems that their plan is to maintain side control. Any advice on how to try out moves when I can’t always get where I need to be to do it?”

    I could write entire volumes on just this I think. Your example is actually one that came up for me a few times, my solution was to modify a side control escape and actually drag the person into mount and let them get settled. I stepped over, got a half butterfly hook under their knee and rolled back to pull them on top of me. OF course, I’ve since learned that it’s WAAAY easier to just say “I’d like to start from under mount.” and just make them start there a few times.
    But you have touched on an interesting issue that comes up. For example, say I want to work on a particular butterfly sweep, but my opponent keeps pulling guard on me. What do I do? I can either ask them to let me start with butterfly, or I can create a map from Guard Top to Butterfly Guard Bottom and traverse it.
    For me that map involves passing guard and taking mount and then allowing the person to sweep me so that I can then work on my transition to butterfly and work my sweep.
    The more common issue is something like constantly getting stuck in halfguard bottom when I want to work on a collar choke from side control. The solution for that is to again create a road map and work it. That’s one of the reasons my game developed the way it did. My submissions were one of the last places I started working because I had to figure out how to get to the advantageous positions. So I worked establishing my guard, then I worked the sweeps, then I worked the subs. Now I’m working transitions to try to take it to the next level.
    Knowing how to get from one position to another through multiple different paths is one of the things that will elevate your game.

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