Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Power of the Baseball Bat Choke

The Baseball Bat choke is a very power submission that can be pulled off from a variety of positions.  I personally like to use it from a dominant position such as knee on belly, setting the choke, then moving to a north-south position to finish.  Same goes for loop chokes...which really aren't all that different.  They can be set up from a dominant position or one in that would be considered inferior and be just as effective.  We are going to just focus on the Baseball Bat choke from the inferior position.  

There are also other ways to apply this choke in a very sneaky manner.  It can be used in such a way that you can trick your opponent into setting themselves deep into the choke.  The baseball bat choke grips are rather simple.  Imagine holding a baseball bat...this is the orientation that your hands would feed into the collar your opponent.  

This can be done from closed guard, open guard, half get the idea.  The choke can only be effective if you have managed to break the posture of your opponent.  Once the grips have been set deeply into the collar, you can allow your opponent to pass your guard (essentially setting the choke even deeper). Giving up the pass can give a false impression that they are safe.  It tends to work well on those that are very aggressive to pass guard and/or haven't been burned by this choke.  Of course if you cannot finish the choke because the grips were not set up properly you will have just conceded a guard pass and gave up precious position.  I like to think of this choke as a Hail Mary of chokes.  If you were down on points and needed a quick submission to win a match then this choke could come in very handy.  

As with many things in BJJ, high level competitors will have success with positions, sweeps, or submissions which tends to start popular trends in the grappling community.  The Baseball Bat choke is definitely one that has come up due to Magid Hage's success at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in San Diego (2013).

This particular match happened between Zak Maxwell and Magid Hage.  

Note that Zak's coach was yelling to watch for the choke well before he began to pass.  He does attempt the armbar counter but the choke is far too deep to hang out and finish.

Who would have ever expected Magid Hage to pull this off twice in the same tournament?!!!  Here he does it again with much more dramatic effect against Clark Gracie.

The other potential problems one can experience with applying such a choke is being armbarred. Committing your arms deep into the collar in this manner gives a huge opening for your opponent should the posture and choke not be set up properly, or maybe they are fully aware of what you are doing and counteract with good timing.  Ironically it is Magid Hage again here attempting the same choke but it backfired.  You can see at the 0:50 second mark he is already setting up his first grip from a semi-open guard position which is very unorthodox.  He seemingly allows himself to be swept from the butterfly hooks and the choke is on.  His opponent immediately rolls to his back and throws up an armbar and forces the tap after a short fight.  

The first time I ever saw this choke was via this video which has some tournament footage and the breakdown of the technique.  They simply call it a Gator Choke here.

Last but not least, Magid Hage just released a short video on the baseball bat choke set up.  By this point we should all understand the basic hand positioning in the collar.  What's worth noting here is the the manner in which he sets up the choke.

How to Avoid being choked:
1.  Do NOT allow your opponent to get the collar grips
2.  If they get the grips DO NOT pass...break the grips
3.  If you allow #1 & 2 to happen POSTURE POSTURE POSTURE.
4.  Look to counter with an armbar

No matter what you call this choke it has its place in BJJ, particularly in a tournament setting...ESPECIALLY if you are down on points and need a sub to win.  Even if you don't use them in your arsenal of submissions it's good to be familiar enough with them to recognize the trap and know how to respond to the situation.  Don't be that guy or girl that sees the "easy pass" and is waking up confused on the mat.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships 2014 Preview

The IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2014 is less than a week away.  I realized I better start working on some sort of a preview because this event gets bigger every single year it seems.  As I looked at the divisions for the heavy hitters (Adult Male Black Belts) I noticed a lot of changes this year.  There are a handful of familiar faces that usually show up and dominate either sitting out the tournament this year or simply moving around within the weight classes.  I think we may start seeing a trend of the well-established black belt champions backing off these tournaments and looking for pay-days at shows like Metamoris.  I'll do my best to summarize each division.

Black Adult Rooster (11 competitors)
The biggest thing that stood out to me for this division is the lack of big names.  Both Caio Terra (1st place 2013) and Bruno Malfacine (2nd place 2013) are not present.  The three competitors that stand to be a threat in this division are Koji Shibamoto (Tri-Force), Fabbio Passos de Alencar (Alliance), and Milton Bastos (Brasa CTA).  That said if the brackets are set up like I expect them we will probably see Fabbio Passos & Koji Shibamoto in the finals.

My pick:  Fabbio Passos de Alencar (Alliance)  Currently IBJJF ranked #8 in the Rooster division

Black Adult Light Feather (7 competitors)
The biggest notable for this division is that there are no returning medal winners from 2013.  Gui Mendes is not participating this year and rumor has it that he has retired from most regular BJJ competitions outside of big (paying) events like Metamoris.  Rafael Freitas (Gracie Barra) has moved up from Rooster and should be a contender in this division.  The real exciting thing about this division is that it will be the first Pan Championships with the Miyao brothers competing at black belt.  Both Paulo & Joao Miyao will be my picks in the finals if the brackets are set up in that manner.

My pick: Paulo Miayo (PSLPB Cicero Costha)  Not currently IBJJF ranked in Light Feather division

Black Adult Feather (23 competitors)
Not only did Gui Mendes choose to not participate in this years Pan but Rafael Mendes (1st place 2013) chose to sit it out as well.  No Cobrinha (2nd place 2013) or Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes (3rd place)!  So that being said the division will look a bit different by Sunday.  There is still plenty to look forward to in the division this year.  Justin Rader (Ribeiro JJ / Lovato), Gianni Grippo (Alliance) making his black belt debut, Osvaldo "Queixinho" Moizinho (Brasa CTA), Samir Chantre (Brasa CTA), and Mario Sergio Reis (Alliance) will be my favorites to have an impact this year.  Both Reis and "Queixinho" had a very ugly battle at last year's 2013 Worlds in the quarterfinal if my memory serves me correctly.  I'm personally pulling for "Queixinho" to win the division this year but think that if he runs into Rader he will have a difficult time.

My pick: Mario Sergio Reis (Alliance) Currently IBJJF ranked #8 in Feather division.  He has come up with 3rd place finishes at both Pan 2013 & Worlds 2013.  I think with the absence of the big three mentioned above it will pave the way for gold.  

Black Adult Light (23 competitors)
Unlike the previous divisions we will be treated to some "regulars" that tend to dominate every year.  All three returning medal owners from Pan 2013 will be present for Pan 2014.  Lucas Lepri (Alliance / 2nd place 2013), teammate Michael Langhi (Alliance / 1st place 2013), and Jonathan Torres (Atos / 3rd place 2013) will be looking to contend for the top spot.  Throw AJ Agazarm (Gracie Barra) into the division and we will have a somewhat predictable division I think but certainly some great matches.

My pick: I know the popular pick is always Langhi & Lepri to close out the division but I'm going out on a limb this year.  I think Jonathan Torres (Atos) finally gets his gold.  Currently IBJJF ranked #9 in the Light division.  I believe that his move to Atos has only made him better and will get him over the hump this year.  

Black Adult Middle (23 competitors)
This in my opinion is probably the most stacked division talent-wise.  There are so many potentials so it is very difficult to predict who is going to win this division.  The layout of the brackets will be pretty critical for some of these guys.  I'm just going to list the following competitors as ones to watch out for.  (Note the rankings are based on division rather than overall.  Some are ranked lower than you might expect due to weight class changes.)

Carlos Diego Ferreira (Atos) Currently IBJJF ranked #18
Clark Gracie (Gracie Elite) Currently IBJJF ranked #4 & 1st place 2013
Leandro Lo (PSLPB Cicero Costha) Currently IBJJF ranked #26
Otavio Sousa (Gracie Barra) Currently IBJJF ranked #2
Victor Estima (Gracie Barra) Currently IBJJF ranked #6
Victor Henrique Silva Oliveira (GF Team) Currently IBJJF ranked #3 & 3rd place 2013
Marcelo Mafra (CheckMat) Currently IBJJF ranked #13 & 2nd place 2013
Jordon Schultz (Atos) Not currently IBJJF ranked at black belt & making his debut

My pick: Vitor Henrique Silva Oliveira (GF Team)...the guy is simply a beast.

Black Adult Medium Heavy (21 competitors)
The big notables missing from this years tournament are Andre Galvao (1st place 2013) and Romulo Barral (3rd place 2013).  We do, however, have the 2nd place medalist in Gustavo Campos (Atos) returning to make a run for gold.  The other big competitors I see at the end of the brackets are DJ Jackson (TLI) and Keenan Cornelius (Atos).

My pick: Keenan Cornelius (Atos)...why?  The guy is just awesome.  He destroyed almost everyone at brown belt in major competitions and has not disappointed thus far against high level black belts.  In the absence of Galvao and Barral this one is just a no-brainer.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Keenan and Gustavo Campos in a close-out final.  

Black Adult Heavy (14 competitors)
Rodolfo Vieira historically has not competed at Pan's in case anyone is wondering; heck I even had to check and was disappointed to see that.  That said we are left with a few household names likely to be favorites. Roberto "Tussa" Alencar (Gracie Barra / 1st place 2013), Rafael Lovato (Ribeiro JJ / Lovato), and Lucas Leite (CheckMat / 3rd place 2013) are going to be the immediate favorites.  A new addition to the division is Yuri Simoes (Brasa CTA) who appears to have changed camps from CheckMat and also dropped down in weight.

My pick: Yuri Simoes (Brasa CTA).  

Black Adult Super Heavy (12 competitors)
The division this year is devoid of it's champion from 2013, Leo Nogueira (Alliance).  There aren't a lot of names that jump out at me as I tend to snooze a bit as the divisions get heavier.  Most notable contenders to win the division are Bernardo Faria (Alliance), James Puopolo (Ribeiro JJ / Lovato), and Andre Alberto Campos (Gracie Barra / 3rd place 2013).

My pick: Bernardo Faria (Alliance)...why? Because he usually wins with his dominant half-guard game.

Black Adult Ultra Heavy (10 competitors)
This has got to be the strangest division this year.  First of all, Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida (1st place 2013) and Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu (3rd place 2013) are not competing.  I'm sure all the viewers will be disappointed but the competitors will feel a bit of relief since "Buchecha" has been so dominant.  Here are my notables competing at Ultra Heavy this year.  Andre Galvao (Atos) has jumped up in weight considerably, Alexander Trans (CheckMat / 2nd place 2013)...and...Caio Terra (Brasa CTA) has decided to make the jump from Rooster.  This should be fairly interesting especially if we get to see Caio matched up with someone like Galvao.  Anyone who has followed Caio knows he has competed in the Open divisions and has had some success but not usually at this level.  I will definitely be glued to my computer screen when he competes this year.

Update:  I have on good word that Caio is not going to be competing due to health and will be pulling from the tournament.  This has not been formally announced as of yet.

My pick: Andre Galvao (Atos).  I think he will be too fast and technical for anyone in the division this year.  Of course I'd love to see Caio in the final but wouldn't be shocked if he got knocked out by the semi-finals if he makes it that far.  

The following are competitors to watch below black belt.

Black Adult Female Light Feather (3 competitors)
Very small divisions this year.

My pick: Nyjah Michea Easton (TLI)

Black Adult Female Feather (4 competitors)

My pick: Mackenzie Dern (Gracie Humaita)...I realize she is coming off a major knee surgery but hard to bet against her.  

Black Adult Female Light (4 competitors)

My pick: Beatriz Mesquita (Gracie Humaita)

Black Adult Female Middle (3 competitors)

My pick: Luiza Monteiro (PSLPB Cicero Costha)

Black Adult Female Medium Heavy (5 competitors)

My pick: Talita Nogueira (Gracie Elite)

Black Adult Female Heavy (2 competitors)
With a lack of a certain force named Gabbi Garcia I think we will see a new champion this year.

My pick: Tammy Griego (Gracie Barra)

Brown Adult Light Feather (18 competitors)
Michael Woolf Barnato (Gracie Elite) - My pick to win division.  2013 Worlds Purple Gold

Brown Adult Feather (27 competitors)
Jacob Sandoval (Alliance)
Marcio Andre (Nova Uniao) - My pick to win the division.  He won gold at both Pan & Worlds 2013 (Purple belt).

Brown Adult Light (29 competitors)
Michael Liera Jr. (Atos) - My pick to win the division.  He won gold at both Pan & Worlds 2013.
Luan de Carvalho Alves (Nova Uniao)

Brown Adult Middle (28 competitors)
Wellingon Luis Sebastiao (PSLPB Cicero Costha) - My pick to win division

Brown Adult Medium Heavy (23 competitors)
Manuel Diaz (Brasa CTA) - My pick to win division
Shiloh Roberts (Ribeiro JJ  / Lovato)

Brown Adult Heavy (9 competitors)
Timothy Spriggs (TLI) - My pick to win division

Purple Adult Feather (59 competitors)
Edwin Najmi (Gracie Barra) - My pick to win division.  The only issue I can see is he has to avoid the DQ. He has historically had terrible luck in past major comps getting DQ'd attacking ankle locks.
Matthew Fox (GF Team)

Purple Adult Light (64 competitors)
This is probably the most talented division at purple belt and loaded with a lot of guys.
Richard Slomba (Atos) - 2013 Worlds Purple Bronze
Rolando Samson (Atos) - If you don't know this kid you need to.  2013 Worlds Gi/Nogi Blue Belt Gold.
Brandon Russell (Lovato)
Dante Leon (Ribeiro JJ) - 2013 Pan Blue Belt Gold...defeated Rolando Samson to secure it last year.

I could see Dante Leon & Roland Samson in the final if the brackets play out.  For me it's pretty much a toss-up but I'll go with Rolando Samson only because I've seen more of him.  Both guys are pretty elite.

That's it for the 2013 preview.  I'll likely have a follow-up right after the event with plenty of matches for your viewing pleasure in case you miss the action.

Brackets have JUST been posted!

The schedule is subject to change but can be viewed here:

The event can be streamed live via the IBJJF website rather than Budovideos this year.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Some Days you're the Nail & Some Days you're the Hammer

If you've been training for more than 6 months then you've probably heard this quote.  My coach is infamous for using it.  This posting is for the newbie white belt on up through the seasoned upper belt.  I think we have all been there.  One day we walk out of the gym feeling like a champ and the next day we walk out feeling like a chump.  What gives?  This is a common dilemma that most combat athletes will be faced with on a somewhat regular basis.  This happens at ALL levels.  Let's face it, no one likes to feel the latter but if you always walk out of the gym feeling like a champ you might need to re-evaluate your goals and where you are training.

The Champ
The champ as we will call it is the grappler that is probably the best guy in the gym.  He or she comes in and regularly dominates most if not all of their rolling sessions.  They have reached a level that their teammates cannot keep up with.  This person may be super talented, a harder worker, more experienced, or a combination of the above.  One might look at the champ as a level they want to attain and there's nothing wrong with goal setting but there can be some pitfalls with this situation.  The champ may have hit a plateau and not realize it.  If the champ walks out of the gym every day not having faced the adversity of defeat or struggles throughout their training sessions one must ask:  How much is this person progressing?

I have found that the largest amount of growth I have made throughout my time training Jiu-Jitsu to be most positively affected by not always being the best guy in the gym.  My personal hope is that I will have training partners that also want to improve and constantly push me.  I feel that this is essential to making progress in the sport.  The constant pressure of quality training partners pushes myself to evolve and find new ways to work through difficult situations.  Nobody likes to lose so having training partners that are also trying to evolve and outwork you is what you hope in order to keep you sharp.  A personal tip that I will share.  When I find that I am having a lot of success with a particular move against some of my training partners...I will show them what I'm doing.  Some might ask "why in the world would you do this?"  It's simple.  If I share that information then my training partners will understand what I'm doing and start formulating ideas on how to prevent or defeat that technique.  For me it's not about winning and counting taps.  I want to refine my game and for all I know this particular technique (while it may be working at the time) could definitely be better.

Last thing I will say about "the champ."  If you feel like this is you.  Ask yourself the following:

1. What can I do to change that?
2. Do I try different classes to vary my training partners?
3. Do I need to compete more?
4. Should I consider dropping in to train at some different academies?

The Chump
NOBODY likes this feeling.  I personally loathe it.  Now that being said leaving the gym feeling defeated should serve as a strong motivator for self-evaluation.

1. What went wrong?
2. What should I have done differently?
3. How do I address it?
4. How can I implement these changes into my game?

These are the types of questions that you should ask yourself after the feeling of defeat or bad training session.  This should not be limited to training but of course competition.  This serves as an excellent learning experience when you can find a solution to your problem.

Utilize your resources: talk to your coach, training partners, upper belts, online resources, etc. There is absolutely no reason to not attempt to address something that has exposed holes in your game.  If you goal is to get better then what better way to improve?  We spend a great deal of time training techniques in the gym on a daily basis to submit, sweep, take down our opponents...but how much time do you address the holes in your game?  That is how you truly get better...learning from your mistakes.  Also, don't get caught in the dilemma of only working with upper belts.  If you find yourself working with someone below your rank that is a fantastic opportunity to let go of the ego.  Put yourself in bad spots and work out of them.  This gives your partner a chance to work offense while you work your defensive game.

So next time you have a bad rolling session and leave the gym with your head down.  That's fine. Go home, lick your wounds, and get over it.  The next day start working on fixing those problems. Take them to open mat and work with reliable training partners.  Explain your goals and have a plan. Drill with low resistance.  Once you think you have it then ask your partner to start increasing the level of resistance.  Explore what kind of additional situations can arise with the new solutions.

Monday, March 3, 2014

New Ink for I Fight in Pajamas

So this is a bit of a personal article but wanted to share since it's somewhat Jiu-Jitsu related.  My wife whom I met back in 2008 shares a lot of interests with me.  We both trained Jiu-Jitsu, kept saltwater reef tanks, and like tattoos.  She actually had apprenticed at a shop for some time and done a good deal of work but wasn't doing it as a full-time gig.  She really just wanted to learn how to do it and being artistic it just made sense at the time.  About the time I got my blue belt in 2009 I decided to get some new ink done and wanted it to be related to BJJ (something I'm passionate about). I have always had a thing for kanji and chose the Bushido code.
  • Rectitude
  • Courage
  • Benevolence
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Honor
  • Loyalty
I was fortunate enough to have my own girlfriend (Lindsey) at the time do this tattoo for me.

Fast forward to 2014 (now married to Lindsey) and we decided to get some work done together.  I was recently promoted to brown belt in November 2013.  I had been thinking about an octopus tattoo for years but just wasn't sure where to have it put or by whom.  She looked up one of her previous artists that had done a portrait on her ribs back around 2006.  I knew from this portrait alone the guy was super talented plus he had apprenticed under Boog...someone that's very well known all over the world in the tattoo world and considered one of the best script artists.  She looked up Lil Chris who was now working in Lancaster, TX at the Tattoo Shack.  

Stepping foot in the shop we could feel the influence of Boog as his airbrushed murals were all over the shop. 

We set up a time to meet him on Saturday afternoon and showed him the concept.  I wanted something a little more old school looking in black and gray.  Lil Chris was actually really excited to do this piece as it's not his typical type of work.  Rather than working from some flash he free-handed this octopus right on my arm. He got going around 6:30pm and we finished up around 11pm or so give or take some breaks.  

When all was said and done it was a great experience.  Lil Chris is pretty light-handed so it could have been much more painful at the hands of someone else.  I'm really happy with his work and can't recommend him enough to anyone in the area or visiting that is looking to get some work done.

Granted my wife didn't get a BJJ related tattoo I thought I would post some pictures of the work.

If you are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area you can find Lil Chris at the Tattoo Shack: