Monday, March 24, 2014

Carlson Gracie Amsterdam 3/24/14 (morning class)

Surprisingly, I woke up with enough time to quickly eat and get on my way to the Carlson Gracie Academy. The ride by tram was only about 20-25 minutes, with walking, from my hostel, the Hotel Inner. I was about 45 minutes from the class start time when I left the hostel. I made my way quickly to the tram stop, and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the route number that I needed made a stop. This was very curious to me, because when I go to the tram stop, there should have been a tram stopping within 2 minutes, with the next one only about 5 minutes out. I had been waiting nearly 15-20 minutes for a tram. It was going to be close. 

When we arrived at the stop I would have about a 5-10 minute walk. I glanced down at my phone to see that I only had about 3 minutes to make it to the academy. I was going to be late. 

When I arrived at the academy I rang the bell. Professor Flexa greeted me at the door, reminding me that I was late. I apologized profusely for my tardiness and thanked him again for allowed me to train with he and his academy. The day before, Professor Flexa had offered me the use of a gi at his academy so that I didn’t have to haul one with me. I took him up on that offer this morning, letting him know that I was a large A3, being an A3 that hasn’t ben shrunk. The first gi that he provided me was a bit small. The second one seemed to fit better on the top, but I would have to try on the pants to see if they fit. I headed over to the dressing room only to find that the pants were too small. And by too small, I mean they were panted on me with little room to tie them. I didn’t want to delay being on the mats any longer, so I just made do with what I had. Unfortunately I would be fighting to keep the pants above my butt crack for the rest of class. 

There was really nothing unusual about the warmups, but I wasn’t able to catch them in their entirely. What I was present for was bridging in place, laying on my back and rolling my legs and torso over my head and then coming up into a good postured stance on one knee with the hips forward. 

Our next set of warm ups were functional, with one partner on all fours and the other partner taking the back. The top player would grab the belt with the closer hand, and the lapel directly behind the head with the hand closest to that area. The leg closest to the head of your partner was to move under the torso to get a hook, with the far leg kind of scissoring behind ukes legs. From here you want to sit, or in my case fall over without grace on the same side at the scissored leg while pulling uke with you onto the scissored leg. The leg with the hook in needs to release and come up and over ukes hips and legs. You also need to relinquish your grips and place your hands into a basing position to successfully take and keep the mount.

The next movement was also from the back. This one focuses more on pressuring and driving uke from the turtle position and onto their side with the ultimate goal of placing them on their back. While maintaining pressure on ukes back with your torso or hip, you want to take the arm closest to the hips and move in under the torso towards the upper lapel/far side of uke. So more towards the upper chest and opposite from where you’re reaching from. You should be using an inverted grip, having four fingers on the inside of the lapel, so when looking at it, you should only see your thumb on the outside. From there keep pressuring into uke. If they have poor base, you may be able to drive them over from here. If they have good base, you’re going to need to reach your free hand across their face for a “cross-face” and grab the elbow of the far arm (preferably the elbow) in order to get it to work. From there you maintain a ton of pressure on their shoulder. If the person has bad shoulders, you may be able to get a tap. I  personally wouldn’t waste time on it, just push them over to side control and keep tormenting them with pressure from side control. 

The move of the day was an interesting clock/baseball choke. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. It was a choke Roger supposedly used to win a competition from last year, but I can’t seem to find footage of it. In any case, read on the breakdown. Using the same lapel grip from the previous move, the hip side arm into far lapel with only thumb out. You’re still pressuring from the top, you want to push the lapel you’re gripping (still maintaining the hold) towards ukes face,or the front of the body, which will open up the top of the collar for you to grab with with your opposite hand. From here you want to set your hook in with the leg closest to ukes hips, maintaining a butterfly hook. Marcos corrected me on having a very loose hold with my hook. He told me that it needs to be tight against the ribs of uke to help you sweep uke if he tries to defend the choke by hoping over that leg. With your hook in tight you want to drop in front of uke and tighten your grips for the tap. Another note here is that your grip on the top lapel should be that of having the inside of your wrist and forearm pointing at you. You could also have your wrist in a straight line with the forearm. If it is pointed away you probably won’t get the tap, which is what happened to me multiple times. 

For sparring we started off with a pass/sweep/submit drill with three of us on our backs. One purple and two blues, one of which was myself, went down first. I was able to go with everyone and mainly wanted to play around from sitting on my rear with my opponents standing to see if I could be fast enough to catch them when I wanted to, or to pull guard once they closed the distance and started to pass. One of the guys, who sounded French African (and whose name I forget), was a white belt and was joking with me after the match that I didn’t really break a sweat and that I was able to slap my half guard on without much effort and keep him in place. Well, I can do that, but I don’t have a lot of options from there and usually end up stalling out. Especially with much quicker opponents. It’s more or less my position of last resort if I don’t feel like trying to work my way out of side control. 

After around 6-7 rounds we switched out. I noticed the folks in the academy played a lot of knee shield when I started to pass them. Knee shields are the bane of my existence in passing. A lot of strong hips and legs in this academy and its was very difficult for me to try to pressure the knee back down. It seems like a lot of people have no problem passing my knee shield, but when the roles are reversed I seem to struggle. One of my passing moves is to reach over ukes hips, between their legs, and grab ahold of their belt tightly. It doesn’t require much effort from me, and I can usually maintain a position and control their hips so that they don’t get away from me easily. It turns into a war of attrition, who’s going to give up first? A lot of times I can usually pass people with it pretty well due to the fact that I can move away from their hips, while keeping their hips at a distance so that they can’t reestablish guard. But I couldn’t here. I kept getting trapped by their knee shields and having to reset into different positions to attempt another pass. I did have a bit of success using the same side shoulder to smash down on their knees or legs and move around the back. I’m not sure of the effects on the shoulder over time in doing something like this. 

My last match of the morning was with the French-African guy again. He bantered with me a bit before the match telling me that I couldn’t use half guard at all against him, to which I replied for him to not put me in a position where I would have to use it. I played with him for a bit before lowering my guard and seeing how his top game was. He was nice and heavy, not a lot of room for me to move around and re-guard. I threw out a very sloppy escape attempt and moved into turtle to see if he would implement any of the moves that he learned this morning. He did, eventually bringing me back to side control with nice top pressure. From here he started a nice baseball bat choke that I defended for a bit, before attempting to break his grips which ultimately allowed him to sink in the choke. He got up and joked that I gave it to him and I told him the only thing I really gave him was the position of the back, everything else was all him and that he should be happy with the victory. All in all a very nice guy, if he keeps with the sport he should do pretty well.

                                            The morning training class

                                                       Professor Flexa and I

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