Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blue Belt Defeats Black Belt in Brazil? Say It Ain't So?!

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So if you haven't seen it by now this video is floating around a lot of social  media websites in the Jiu-Jitsu world.  Many people might wonder how the heck this can happen?  Well it does both in tournament settings and in any gym.  I know when I started training as a white belt I thought that reaching black belt level was truly the pinnacle of awesome.  Of course no one is invincible but even at the age of 30, I thought that once you reach that level you were pretty much untouchable by most if not all "junior belts."  Well if you think this way seeing evidence like this should help change your opinion about the issue.  I consider myself an aging grappler now pushing 37 and can tell you that there are a lot of factors that can effect a result like the one above.

1. Age:  This is a no-brainer.  With age comes slowed athleticism.  Reflexes aren't what they once were.

2. Cardio: This can make or break you.  Running up against a more athletic opponent that is in better physical shape, that can push the pace, etc. can be very problematic for a more experienced grappler.

3. Pressure:  A blue belt versus a black belt in a public setting...this can be a psychological killer. All the pressure is on the black belt to go out there and win the match.  The blue belt had nothing to lose here and everything to gain.

4. Unknown Variables:  I'm going to go out on a limb here (not really)...sometimes you run into someone that is on another level.  The black belt could very well be an average black belt.  That is not meant as disrespect.  The blue belt on the other hand could be an elite competitor that does nothing but train & compete.  The other guy may have an incredible wrestling background prior to any BJJ experience.  You simply do not know unless you know.

5.  No one is invincible:  On any given day, we are all susceptible to being caught in a bad spot by anyone.

I can speak first-hand about being an average BJJ practitioner that loves the sport and has had plenty of friendly rolls with people on that next level.  There is nothing wrong with that but one must have realistic expectations.  I've had the opportunity to roll with guys like Horlando Monteiro (Nova Uniao), Sean Roberts (Ralph Gracie), & Caio Terra fairly recently and can tell you that these guys are on a level that I cannot compete.  Horlando for example was a blue while I was purple.  He had just come back from winning the European Championships Absolute division.  He was about two weigh classes bigger than me and even at blue belt was much better than me.  That was the first time I realized that these guys training for a living are on a much higher level.  They are professionals compared to the average BJJ competitor that is more of a hobbyist.  This isn't meant to derail any one's hopes of being the best that they can be but to better understand that no matter what:  NEVER UNDERESTIMATE your opponents.  It's up to you to keep your ego in check and maintain your skill levels and conditioning.

All of that said I was very impressed with how the black belt handled his loss in the video.  He was very gracious in defeat.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Brown Belt Promotion

So I'm a little late on this blog post but figured better late than never.  At least I'll be able to go back and appreciate the fact that I documented it in some way.  I started training in February 2008 at the age of 30 under JD Shelley (North Dallas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) which at the time was still Alliance affiliated.  We are currently Novia Uniao affiliated with Robson Moura.  JD was the second American black belt under Romer "Jacare" Cavalcanti and in our area was one of the few great instructors for quite some time.  Of course the sport has grown a lot but he still remains as one of the top BJJ instructors in my opinion.  I have stayed with him since then, received my blue belt in the early fall of 2009.  From there I became an assistant instructor helping with kids and adult beginner classes.  I feel that teaching has helped to keep me sharp and honest.  I'm constantly looking for ways to better my Jiu-Jitsu not only for myself in competition inside and outside the gym but to be a better instructor.

I have a family, a full-time job, etc.  I do my best to maintain a good level of training and teaching on a weekly basis while keeping my family life in order.  I probably average about four training days per week plus whatever teaching that comes up.  I have been very consistent with training never taking more than 30 days off the mats with injuries.  I wouldn't call myself a tournament rat but I have done my fair share.  I compete when I can but probably average 2-3 competitions per year since I received my purple belt in December 2011.  I did far more comps as a white and blue belt.  I'm not a superstar...I'm just a regular guy that never quit and does the best that I can to seek new information to take my BJJ to the next level.  I've had my fair share of victories in comps and plenty of embarrassing moments to go along with it.

Fast forward to November 2013 and the day came.  We had a very large (planned) promotion ceremony at our gym.  No one really knew who was due for what so there was some element of surprise. When I got called up to the front for my promotion I honestly didn't have any real expectations.  I had been a purple for just shy of two years and only had a couple stripes on my belt.  Well, when JD pulled out a brown belt I was pretty elated.  Very exciting moment that doesn't come without some burden of pressure.  If you make it to blue belt then you know what I'm talking about.  Junior belts are always looking for an opportunity to kick your ass and show they are ready for that next level.  They say to take ego out of the equation when rolling or training but who wants to get embarrassed by a junior belt really?  This attitude is what keeps us on our toes and constantly trying to take our skills to the next level.

I've been very blessed to have some consistent training partners (my level through black belt) that started around the same time as me and are still here to this day constantly striving to be better.  I also am very fortunate to have a loving wife that is super supportive.  She's always been willing to travel with me to tournaments and let me train late at night to make sure I get a good level of training on a regular basis. Without her this would have been much more difficult.  
Cole, Lindsey, & Me
Me & Martin (my best training partner was promoted to purple)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sean Roberts Seminar Review

Our gym was fortunate enough to bring in Sean Roberts for a seminar Saturday, January 25th of this year. Unless you've been living under a rock Sean has become a very familiar name within the Jiu-Jitsu community after his participation in the brown belt kumite not that long ago.  At least for me, I didn't know of Sean until that tournament but he certainly caught my eye as an excellent competitor.

The Ralph Gracie black belt has been traveling all over the U.S. with his fiancee (also an excellent grappler) for seminars at a very reasonable rate...far less (a fraction) than average especially when you consider the fact that he's a high level competitor with a great deal of knowledge.  I have been to many seminars with world renowned grapplers and have always come away with the hope that if I can gain a little bit of knowledge, a concept or two then I'm doing pretty well.  One can't expect to implement every single detailed shown at most seminars into their game.

Sean showed up and was very pleasant to talk to.  He asked everyone to grab a partner and roll at about 50-60% intensity, play your game if you will.  He walked around and observed everyone periodically stopping and chatting with each person and asking what aspects of our game we want to improve, what difficulties we run across, etc.  Rather than focus on one particular area for the duration of the seminar Sean showed us many different parts of his own game that he felt would answer some of the questions people were asking him during the early, rolling portion.

Sean was up front and said we were more than welcome to take pictures and video of the techniques but did reserve the right on a couple to be shown towards the end.  As soon as he said that almost everyone grabbed their phones and were promptly recording.  It's not often that guest instructors allow this so it was definitely a bonus.

He started by showing an interesting sleeve grip break from the standing position that I had not seen before and was very effective.  He moved on to show a couple ways to pass the spider guard that were familiar with some new wrinkles added. They were simple and very effective.  Sean at one point stopped to say that he feels like his game isn't overly fancy but simple.  At about the mid-point of the seminar we switched from focusing on guard passing (top side) to the guard game.  Sean showed us one of his preferred methods for setting up the omoplata from open guard.  From here he showed a sneaky sweep when the opponent tries to hop over into side mount on top to escape the omoplata.  Sean also showed a couple ways to better maintain control from the shoulder lock position and finish with a couple different submissions (shoulder lock/armbar).

During the last two techniques Sean did ask that no one record them as he preferred to keep them a bit secretive.  I won't go into detail but will say that one was an excellent half guard sweep and the other was an escape from a nearly back mounted position.  Both were very good and I can understand wanting to keep some things off the web.

At the end of the seminar Sean opened up for a Q&A on pretty much anything.  He has a great sense of humor and was fun to talk to.  Sean then rolled with every single person that was interested in a 5-6 minute rounds. He methodically picked his way through all of us upper belts until he finished up with the last willing participant.  I think Sean took one, 5 minute break for a drink of water during this. It's no wonder his cardio was so good for those ridiculously long matches at the brown belt kumite.  Sean was able to repeatedly hit some of the techniques (particularly the secret sweep) over and over again on everyone. People were literally laughing because this sweep was seemingly unstoppable.  You could tell that he had perfected the timing and just hit it at will.  I can personally say that Sean doesn't dilly-dally with what he wants to do.  I know there were times where he gave up a little space for me to recover but when he wanted to pass he didn't waste anytime passing the guard if that is what he wanted to do.  His size definitely put me at a disadvantage combined with his skill set was fairly overwhelming.  It was a great roll and a good reminder that he is on a whole different level than most people.  I did have the pleasure of rolling with his fiancee, Elizabeth, who is about a 115lb purple belt.  She was super technical and had a great open guard game.  It's not often I get to roll with smaller, technical people as I'm usually one of the smallest guys at my own gym.

Overall this was probably the best seminar I have attended in terms of value.  The techniques Sean covered were not overly difficult for an experienced white belt all the way to black belt.  I spoke with almost everyone after the seminar and got the impression that everyone left with some knowledge and nothing but good things to say about Sean.

Metamoris 3 is right around the corner and will be featuring Sean Roberts vs Zak Maxwell on the PPV card.