I opted not to train last night. I needed to catch up on my writing and I wanted to give my body some needed rest. It was no-gi night, and the Universe knows I could have used the practice. But I said screw it. If I’m not ready for the European No-Gi Championships now, I wouldn’t be ready for it with one more class. Besides, I had my trusty lockdown and electric chair to carry me through, right?
Samir has an early morning class on Wednesdays that starts at 7am. I woke up around 6, and got my stuff together for the day. After class he was going to drop me off at the nearest tram station so that I could get to my companies office. I’ve only been taking the tram to the main Zurich station and then walking the rest of the way (around 4-5km or so I think). The walking will help me make weight this weekend for no-gi. I weighed in this morning at around 91.3kg, a little too close for comfort.
We arrived at the training location to find that we were the first ones there. Not a big deal, I’ve noticed that Samir and I have been the first ones there other than on the first day that I arrived. We dressed out and headed up to the mats. Before too long the purple belt who’s flat we went to the first night I was in town showed up. It was just going to be the three of us. I had received some advice from Samir the night before (I’ll go into that at the end) about passing the spider guard and wanted to try it out on him. Now, I’m fully aware that the technique wouldn’t be close to even 10% to working on him, but I wanted the experience anyways.
The setup for the morning was going to be 6 minute rounds, with one person in the full six minutes, and the other two people switching out at the 3 minute mark. At the end of the round, the last person in would stay in, and so on. Makes sense, right? Well, that just meant a lot of pain and suffering for me at the hands of Samir. The purple belt I wasn’t sure about, but I figured that the worst case scenario would be us fighting to a submission on me here and there.
And that’s pretty much how it went. With the purple belt more suited towards my skill level, and me being lucky enough to pull a submission off on him randomly. It was a pretty decent matchup in my opinion, and it kept my motivation in place. Get beat up by Samir for three minutes, have a good three minutes with the purple belt. I tried my damnedest to work my spider guard passing on Samir, but I just couldn’t get even remotely close to a somewhat decent position on him. It was a great workout, and I was really only in it to help me make weight for the weekend.
Samir drive me out to the tram stop and gave me directions on how to get to the main station, since I wasn’t familiar with this stop. I made it to the main station and then started my walk out to my companies office. When I arrived, I noticed they were still serving breakfast. I hurried up and showered, threw my dirty clothes in the wash (they even had a laundry mat on site!), and headed for some quick light breakfast. After I was done, I headed up a couple of floors to a relaxing lounge area to chill out and plan some of the rest of my trip and do some writing. We had training again at 1900, so I needed to make sure I hit the trains early before the rush.
I made it out to the training area a bit too early, I was there by around 1800. But that was OK. I took the opportunity to get some more notes and writing in. Not any great writing, but some writing none the less. Before I knew it Samir had arrived and we headed in to change out. Again we were the first ones there, but I knew people would be showing up because it was a night class. Before too long there were more than a handful of guys, all blue belt and above, on the mats.
It was a pretty painful night for me. My head just wasn’t in the sparring at all. I had been reading some grappling book while on the trains, and the advice I had gleaned from what I read was pretty much “instill your game on your opponent, and this will allow you to control the match. Do not be a reactive player, because eventually you will miss something and get caught.” I was trying to be offensive and control the flow of the match. However, my brain wasn’t cooperating with my body. It was a mess. My motivation just kept going lower and lower with every tap, and there was a lot of tapping. I remarked to Samir after class that it was a rough night, he just kind of laughed and shrugged. He didn’t mean anything bad with his actions, it was just more of a “well, that’s jiu jitsu”.
Afterwards we talked philosophy for a bit. He echoed what I had read earlier about controlling the matches. I needed to be less reactionary, and more offensive. Play my game, not my opponents game. If you spend all day worrying about “what-if” scenarios, you’re just going to psych yourself out and mess your game up. That made a lot of sense to me, one of the brown belts back home that I take private lessons from had essentially said the same thing. Go in with a game plan, don’t deviate from that plan. When I took the gold at IBJFF Dallas early last year, I did exactly that. Wait for them to pull guard and just smash through for the kill. The gold match lasted roughly 20-30 seconds due to that advice. I need to get back in that frame of mind and stop doubting myself and my abilities. I think I also need to stop messing around and experimenting so much, it may be creating some bad habits on my end.
Samir and I also discussed my back escape, which seems to work a lot, just not on him. If you’ve read Saulo Ribeiro’s “Jiu Jitsu University” book, then you might bee familiar with the escape in question. You have your back taken, and the opponent has their hooks in. You “load” a leg and fire it with a kicking motion (while having the same side elbow wedged somewhat in or on their thigh. One you break the hook, said elbow shoots down between their thigh and your hip to block the hook from coming back in. From here you want to take the arm that isn’t blocking the hook and press it into the same side knee to help you either posture up and through into their guard or to do a single leg attack from the escape. I was using the former, trying to come up in Samir’s guard. It didn’t seem to be working. Samir suggested that I angle myself a bit more away from my opponents bodies, before attempting to come up. Otherwise, the opponent is going to get the mount.
We chatted about some other things, some BJJ related, some life related. We are headed out to Rome early in the morning for the competition. I believe he has about 5-6 guys going out to Rome to compete, and thankfully none of them are in my division. That would really suck to have trained with them all week to only face one of them in competition. I think it would be even worse to beat them. Either way, it wouldn’t be a fun situation.
Samir and I
Ivan on the bottom