Two Blue

Today is 2 years since I got slapped with a blue belt. So, since I owe Kintanon an explanation of my current “game”, I figure this is as good a landmark as any to address that. Although, well, there isn’t much to say.

Honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve progressed any further toward having a “game” of any kind, mostly because this last year has been a crapfest. The one bright spot is that I’m now getting to where I actually feel comfortable and (sometimes even) confident in rolling with new unknown guys. Also, a small glimmer of hope seems to be appearing recently, as well. (I was reading back through the last year’s posts earlier and saw my tournament footage from December. And as I watched some of the matches, sure, I still saw a lot of issues [“Post on her face! Not the mat! Face!” and “Hips down! Hips down!” were the two big ones], but I actually acknowledged some of the things I was doing well.)

But mostly this last year — pretty much September to September — has sucked, to put it very mildly. I think it started back around when I started training for the tournament in December (so sometime in October), and has carried through. And I think it was training for the tournament that really started it because I was training a lot with the higher ranks and better guys and they were actually going harder with me than they ever had — and I couldn’t keep up, never seemed to learn anything, could never figure out what I was doing wrong (aside from “Everything!“), didn’t seem to be able to challenge them in any way, and I constantly felt like I was wasting their time and letting them down and I felt terrible about that. Cue emotional distress. And there I stalled for months and months and months, never seeming to find any way forward, just lots of ways backwards.

Recently I’ve realized that this lack of progress is my own fault; I’ve been getting in my own way all this time. (Don’t say “I told you so.” You did, and you were right.) I’m just now realizing (right around the same time Bakari wrote up something similar) that I’ve been “playing” too much in class and not actually often working for myself; that is, that I’m too aware of what my partner is trying to work and so I go along with what they want and will play around where they want to and tend to stay where they want me to, rather than ever trying to assert what I want to work. So then when I roll with the better guys — and I want to work on my stuff and they’re willing to let me — I’m not used to actually going for anything with any sort of intention, and so they steamroll over me.

I tell myself that I’m just trying to keep the intensity low — and that’s useful at times (read: against spazzes) — or that I’m just playing around and have fun, but I do it so often that when I try to “turn it up,” I lose the “up” very quickly and fall back to this other way. And when everyone else is not “just playing around,” it’s a difficult road to be the only one who is. There are occasional high points, like when I can chill while some dude works himself in to a lather trying to pass my guard, but mostly it’s a series of being beat on by people who are taking this far more seriously than I am.

I’ve also noticed that I pay too much attention to who everyone has rolled with during a class, which leads to me avoiding guys I would actually love to roll with because I know they’ve already rolled with every kid, girl, or white belt, and I think that I should let them have a roll for themselves.

In other words, all the things I was doing that I thought were helping me have actually probably been hindering me this last year. Meh.

That’s frustrating to hear, and annoying to realize. All that wasted time!

But I’m working on changing that. The last two weeks or so, I’ve been trying to roll less passively. I’m finding it very hard to do right now, as my brain has lots of reasons why I should go light (new person, teenager, unknown guy, etc.), so I’m working on recognizing that rationalization and fighting back. Of course, I don’t want to be one of these people who goes Abu Dhabi speed all the time, or tries neck cranks, or throws elbows to the face; I don’t want to be a bad training partner. I still want to use technique and jiu-jitsu to get things done; I just want to get more things done. I’m trying to dictate the direction of the roll now, instead of just going where they want to go; I’m trying to influence how things happen (even though the direction things go isn’t always advantageous yet, lol. First step is to know I can control things.) I’m working on not transitioning until I know where I’m going and I know that I can improve my position that way.

I haven’t been at this long, and there are still many rolls — especially with higher-ranked guys — where I fall back in to my old habits. (And if you put an open guard in front of me, I still flail around fairly uselessly.) There’s still a lot where I can’t yet dictate where things go, but I do at least know where we’re heading and I’m trying to be ready before we get there. I do still feel like I’m being selfish, though, and am trying to talk myself around this.

Well, that was a long-winded introduction, wasn’t it? But let’s see where we are compared to where we were:

  1. On my knees
    1. Get one underhook, one overhook, head pressure, and drive them back/sideways and pass to side control
      1. Knee-on-belly to spin-around armbar or baseball bat choke
      2. Mount to double-lapel choke or armbar (mounted triangle when they fish one arm through)
  2. Their guard
    1. Break guard with knee up break, then slide over one leg to half guard; work to pass
    2. (Stand up and come in to their open guard — but that’s “playing around” again because I suck quite terribly at passing open guard.)
  3. Their butterfly
    1. Pinch pass/smash pass (but always ends with me half-guarded)
  4. My butterfly
    1. Trap an arm, then scissor+elevator sweep (rarely actually happens)
    2. Elevator sweep (again, rarely happens. Hmm, this isn’t such a great position for me)
    3. Switch back to full guard
  5. My guard
    1. Scissor sweep
    2. Double-lapel choke
    3. Bump sweep
  6. In mount
    1. Double-lapel choke
    2. Armbar
    3. Make them uncomfortable enough to give up their back
    4. Against guys who can bridge and throw me off, back to Knee on Belly (prefer this, actually, over mount most of the time)
  7. Mounted
    1. “scrape” mount escape to half guard
    2. give up the armbar setup (so they’ll quit crushing my ribs) and escape when they sit back too soon or drop their knees to the side
  8. Half guard bottom
    1. Out the back door (side door?) to take the back
    2. Get back to butterfly or full-guard
    3. Transition to X-guard (except I can only rarely do anything from X-guard, so I probably shouldn’t go there)
  9. Half guard top
    1. Pass (usually can manage to put together a combination of pass techniques)
    2. D’Arce (usually just faking because my arms are too short to hit this well in real life) or choke, both of which are really just attempts to distract them so I can finish passing
  10. Side control top
    1. to Knee-on-Belly
  11. Side control bottom
    1. flail helplessly
    2. Or roll away enough that they get greedy for that armbar; again, when they sit back sloppy, escape
  12. Back mount
    1. RNC
    2. bow-and-arrow
  13. Back mounted
    1. Escaping, often again by way of giving up my arm and counting on them to screw it up (which, I know, is not the best strategy, but when all guys want to do is figure-4 and squeeze from the back, I gotta do something)
    2. Hope they cross their ankles and aren’t strong enough to rip them back out

Now, none of that is actually planned out, but it’s the closest I can remember of what actually happens in these recent rolls where I’m actually trying to be more active. So yeah, some gigantic holes. I seem to favor triangles when they’re dangling out there, and I suck at setting in guillotines. But that’s where we are.


9 thoughts on “Two Blue

  1. – X-guard! There would be a day where I would get a beautiful X-guard sweep followed by weeks of getting crushed trying. Then I would get another beautiful X-guard sweep followed by weeks of getting crushed. Finally I asked one of the instructors to help me with it. I can remember him saying that I had to push his legs further apart. Then he looked down… My tiny body was stretched out as far as it could stretch and I was no where near a sweep. We concluded that it was not an appropriate technique for me to use on the big guys. So we worked out some other stuff that worked on the big guys and I save that particular sweep for the smaller people.
    – It sounds like you know where most of your problem areas are, which is half the battle! Now time to put those OCD tendencies to work and formulate a new plan! Or, lots of little plans that you tackle one at a time. 😉 Hugz

    • Lol, that’s it exactly with X-Guard! I’m mechanically disadvantaged against most opponents. I think I just have it in my head that I ought to go there, and so I do. (Usually I just get kimura’d from there. Meh. Or transition back to butterfly.)

      That reminds me, though: I forgot my favorite and most high-percentage sweep — the hook sweep when someone is standing. Often find it after transitioning out of X-guard. I can and do hit it on most everyone. I just need to work on actually following up and passing afterwards (but I have been doing better about that lately).

  2. OK, I’m going to do a point by point commentary relating to your game, but first I’ll address some of the stuff in your intro.
    It’s REALLY REALLY GOOD that you are taking ownership of your rolls and realizing there has to be a balance between letting your partner work, and getting your own work in. I also want to say, you’re a ~120 lbs. GO HARD. No one is going to fault you for rolling at the highest possible intensity, even brand new white belts can take the intensity level so long as you don’t crank the subs or drop elbows on them. You’re going to need that intensity at first to help you break down those mental barriers. So train like you’re going to ADCC in 2 months and REALLY need to work on your intensity. And DO NOT warn the noobs/lower belts that you’re doing it. The higher ranking people you can give a heads up. But the noobs you want to steamroll as much as possible. It’s good for their soul.

    Second point on that is, don’t worry about who people have rolled with AT ALL. Everyone will manage their own training. I LOVE rolling with a s many people as possible during a class. If I want a specific roll with a specific person I’ll mention it. If someone else asks me to roll while I’m trying to set something up with a different person I’ll manage it. I might ask that person to hit me up in a minute because I really want to get a roll in with this other person. I’ll manage my training, I don’t need anyone else managing it for me. Same goes for you. You manage your training, let everyone else manage theirs. It’s all good.

    Final point, NONE of that was wasted time. You may not think it, but you improved every minute you were on the mats. You are BETTER now than you were a year a go. The you from today would SLAUGHTER the you from 12 months ago.

    Now, Game Breakdown:

    Knees – Stop starting on your KNEES. Start from combat base, or pull guard. Knee wrestling is counter productive and should be avoided. Combat base or sit down/butterfly guard.
    Opponents Guard – I swear, I’m going to show up at your gym and flog you the next time you go “in to their open-guard”. You broke their guard open and stood up. WHY ON EARTH are you advancing in to their guard again? Grab their pants near the ankle and back out, or move to a double underhook pass. Never go IN TO someones guard unless you have a specific reason for working inside there. Also, the knee through pass to halfguard you are using has a second component to it called the Teleport Pass, It’s perfect for you and will land you in side control against EVERYONE all the time. It’s a super basic thing that for someone reason hardly anyone does but I use it to pass guard on everyone, including occasionally black belts. I’ll post a writeup about it over on my blog a little bit later.

    Opponents Butterfly – If they don’t have hooks in then grab their pants at the knees and stand up. Don’t screw around inside a guard when you can potentially stand up with control of the pants.

    Your Butterfly – Techniques are solid. I like the gameplan. Just practice it with authority.

    Your Guard – You need to expand your options here. You’re almost certainly FAR too predictable. Work some arm drags or some other sweeps in or something. You need at least 2 solid submissions here and 3 sweeps that all chain together decently to have an effective guard as a blue.

    In Mount – Add in baseball bat chokes. Super awesome. Add in technical mount against the bench pressers, but I also prefer to bounce around between KoB, Mount, and Side Control.

    Mounted – I’m pretty sure the “Scrape” escape is the one I refer to as Knee-to-Elbow escape. STOP GIVING UP ARMBARS AS AN ESCAPE METHOD. Just practice the absolute SHIT out of your mount escape. That should work on everyone. It’s 100% for me to at least get back to halfguard.

    Half Guard bottom – I generally just pop back to guard because no one postures up against me in half guard so I don’t really do much else. I like your strategy here. Just practice the shit out of it. I also like X-guard and don’t do so great at it.

    Half guard top – I can’t D’Arce choke effectively either, but baseball bat choke feeds into the body position you need to use to pass and is a very effective distraction. Add it.

    Side Control Top – Add Baseball bat chokes in here too. Gives you an option to attack with to set up your KoB and can be done from KoB as well.

    Back Mount – Work armbars from here as well. Otherwise, I like it.

    Back Mounted – STOP GIVING UP YOUR ARM. If some jackass body triangles you from the back because they have long legs and you’re tiny, then just tap. I generally don’t screw around with body triangles from the back.
    PROPER escape = Get both of their arms on the same side of your head, rotate into them to get back into their guard. OR get your shoulders flat on the mat to at least end up mounted. Try to bring a knee up under them when they try to move to mount.

    I realize that this is more a list of how things go down when you’re rolling than it is a breakdown of how you WANT things to go down. So don’t take any of the above as a scathing criticism. They are all points that, IMO, your instructor or one of the upper belts should be making to you while you are rolling.

    So, now your next homework is to write down how you WANT your rolls to go down.

    • Thank you so very much. I’m digesting…

      Well, right now, I intend to swing the balance completely the other way — no work for the partner. At least, none that I’m actively participating in like I have been doing. (Oh, you want to work spider guard. Here, have my arms. Seriously, it was like that. Now it will be: Oh, you want spider guard? You’d better dig my elbows away from my body, then. In the end, it will be better for them, too. Or so I’ll tell myself.)

      Actually, yes, you’re right: I would slaughter the me from a year ago. (Or from 9 months, at least, from the Sub Only tournament.) I did think that, too, when I was watching the videos earlier. That girl made mistakes I would be all over right now. 😀

      Knees — I misspoke. Should have said Combat Base.

      Their guard — Aye, aye, skipper! I think I have this notion that I ought to somehow work against/in the open guard (because I know I suck at doing so) and that this somehow involves letting them set things up. All that goes back to the playing-too-much stuff. I caught myself doing it again tonight and had to haul myself out of there. [Part of it, too, is that I don’t want to be one of these people who refuses to engage at all unless they’re given a free pass to a good position. We have a few like that, and they annoy the crap out of me b/c the roll is just me chasing them around the mat. But I’m probably careening too far in the opposite direction.]

      Armbars — yeah, I know that’s bad. My options are usually a) get submitted by pressure on my ribs or b) give them an arm. I still have enough ego to not want to tap to rib pressure, even when he does weigh 50-100 lbs more than I do. And I figure I have a better chance with the escape. (At least, I’m getting pretty good at timing them and even forcing the mistakes I want.)

      Back mounted — I do try all the correct escapes (should have added them; I definitely don’t just try to hunker down and wait out someone attacking from my back), I just have a very low percentage; guys usually just pull me back where they want. Should I start to get an angle, they also often dive straight on that armbar. (And though it’s not part of my gameplan, part of everyone else’s seems to be getting back mount on me. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong, but nearly anyone can seemingly teleport straight to my back. Ugh.)

      Thanks again. I’ll get to work on my homework here shortly 🙂

  3. Dang.

    I agree with so much of what you wrote (i.e. I have felt similarly) that I don’t know where to start. Plus I love Kintanon’s analysis of your game. And I love the amount of thought you musta gone through to write out your game the way you did.

    I totally want to copycat you and beg him to come “grade” me but I am just slammed at work. GAH!


    • Heh, I don’t know how much work it really was — I’ve been thinking for months that all my rolls have been feeling the same. So I’ve been down these paths many, many times this year.

      Now the work will be in figuring out how I really want things to go, because I’m not happy with most of that up there. It’s what happens, rather than what I do.

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