Weekly Video – Technique Analysis: Sickle Sweep

Lately I’ve been finding myself trying the sickle sweep but was finding it very awkward. When I reviewed Emily Kwok’s video, however, it became clear that the biggest problems were understanding which leg I was attacking and adjusting my hips to that leg.

(Note that she goes into a variation and drills after 1:43 but I won’t be talking about those in this post)

The part that I wanted to point out is 1:35 because it gives a good angle of how you have to focus on one leg.  It’s very clear at 1:35 that Emily is attacking her partner’s right leg (left from the viewer’s point of view) – most of her body is on that side, and actually, she’s almost outside of her partner’s leg.

In addition, she’s almost completely on her right side, so that her hips are facing the leg that she’s attacking.

Why is the direction of her hips so important?

Because that’s where her power comes from. Particularly for this sweep (and perhaps the argument can be extended to all sweeps), Emily needs to have both mobility, since she’s moving each of her legs in opposite directions, and power, which comes from driving up with her hips – which is what allows her to come up so smoothly as well.

It’s a very subtle thing, but I’m finding it to be a concept that keeps popping up. So again main takeaway: focus on one leg, then aim your hips in that direction.

Hope that helps!  Try it out the next time you train :)

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Fenom Kimonos Gi Review: When it’s time to upgrade your gi game to a womens gi that fits (and isn’t pink)

One of my training partners graciously gifted me her old Fenom Crystal Weave and I have been wearing it nearly every practice.  Though I still love my Fuji All Around gi, I’ve become a big fan of Fenom.  

I had always been a bit wary of gis that were marketed for women as they seemed to be the same as the mens gi, only pink.  But when I put on the Fenom Crystal Weave, I felt a marked difference in fit and comfort.  Plus, it helps that it’s in black, so I get to feel a little badass :)

Fenom Crystal Weave Gi Review

According to Fenom’s blog, the Crystal Weave is their most popular gi.  And for good reason – it’s a lightweight gi that’s strong yet soft, keeping you comfortable and fast.  

Durable and lightweight

I’ve rolled in gis made of a variety of weaves, but the Crystal Weave definitely has a unique softness that doesn’t compromise its durability.  It’s gentle on the skin, which means you’ll never have to worry about gi burns but also infinitely durable, so you also don’t have to worry about it falling apart after just two training sessions.  Case in point – I was given this gi after it had been used for 2 years; I’m now 3 months into using it twice a week and it has no hint of damage. 

Phenomenal fit

The slim tailoring of the shoulders and torso provides a wonderful fit without being bulky.  The pants were definitely cut with the female form in mind, giving room for certain assets without adding length, allowing you full range of movement without worrying about tripping over your own pants (which I may or may not have done while wearing other gis…)

Mix and match

And probably the most unique about Fenom Kimonos is that you can shop gi tops and pants separately, so you can have the combination that’s right for you.

Here’s their size chart from the Crystal Weave:

  • A0 4’10” – 5’1” 85-115 lbs
  • A1 5’2” – 5’5” 115-130 lbs
  • A1 Curvy 5’3” – 5’5” up to 155 lbs
  • A1 Tall 5’6”- 5’9” 115-130 lbs
  • A2 5’6” – 5’9” 130-165 lbs
  • A2 Tall 5’9” – 5’11” 140-160 lbs
  • A2 Curvy 5’6” – 5’9” up to 180 lbs
  • A3 5’10” – 6’1” 165-190 lbs
  • A4 5’6″ – 5’9″ 190-220 lbs

 

More details:

  • Single Piece 550 grams Crystal Weave Top
  • 100% Cotton Rip Stop Pants with Flat Drawstring
  • Embroidered logos

 

So there you have it!  I’ll try to do more product reviews like this in the future – if you have a certain product you’d like me to take a look at, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

Weekly roundup 1/21/17 – 1/27/17

Here are some videos and articles that I thought were interesting this week:

Articles

Which New Techniques Can You Learn the Fastest? @ Grapplearts.com

Stephan always has a practical mindset when it comes to training and this article was exactly what I needed as I’ve been flitting around from technique to technique.  Focusing on one certain style and going for depth is a much better way to go when you’ve been training for a bit.

(If you don’t have a style, just pick one!  If after a couple months it doesn’t feel right, you can branch off into something else.)

Tim Ferriss Podcast ep. 2 Transcript – Tim Ferriss & Josh Waitzkin @ JoelAlain.com

I’ve been having some technical trouble listening to podcasts lately, but I knew I couldn’t let that stop me from finding out about this episode since I’d heard that it was super helpful for BJJ.  I’m now really glad for the transcript because it’s saved me from writing all of my notes!

There’s a lot of great nuggets of wisdom that can be applied to training, especially being more in tune with your internal self and practicing quality.  There’s really a ton in there so highly recommend reading (and re-reading!) or listening at the fourhourworkweek.com/podcast

Videos

The Proper Way to Knee Cut @ Great Grappling

Absolutely mindblowing concept of driving the hips instead of the knee down to the floor.

 

Mount escape – Bridge and roll when your opponent has a deep collar grip @ DraculinoTeam

Basic, yes, but Draculino’s way of explaining is amazing here!

Promotion

Been a while!  I’m thinking of changing the format for this into shorter “thought posts,” hopefully to be published every week or so.  Feel free to give feedback in the comments!

Promotion is a curious word.  I wonder if it was a conscious choice to use the word in regards to going up in the ranks.

A quick Google search gives two definitions.  The second definition is the raising to a higher position, but it’s the first definition that makes me curious.

Google definitions

Google definitions “promotion”

BJJ is a community, and I’ve always been of the mindset that you can’t roll alone. So if we take this first definition of “promotion,” it’s not just for the sake of the person being promoted – it’s also for the sake of others not getting promoted (giving them encouragement and goals), for the community within the school (to bring people together in recognizing each other’s efforts), and the community outside the school as well (giving others a glimpse into life within the school and even encourage others to join).  

Regardless of whether or not “promotion” was a conscious or unconscious choice of words, I think its continued use speaks volumes about the intricacies of the art…

Google image search, "BJJ Gi"

The Best Starter BJJ Gi

Buying Your First BJJ Gi

So you want to start BJJ.  Or maybe you’ve already been training no-gi grappling and you want to start practicing in the gi.

You do a simple Google search and suddenly realize, holy crap, there are a ton of gis to choose from.  Single weave, pearl weave, honey-comb — Are we buying bedsheets? Cereal?!  — not to mention the prices.

With some gis clocking it at an insane $500, all sorts of doubts start to crop up.  “Is it really worth it to buy a gi? What if I decide I only want to practice gi once a week?  What if I decide BJJ isn’t for me altogether?”  After all, you don’t want to invest a couple hundred bucks on a pile of useless fabric.

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3 Best Youtube Channels for Small BJJ Practitioners

There are a ton of instructional videos you can find online, but I wanted to share the 3 channels that I regularly turn to when I have a problem. As a small BJJ player, there are some things that simply don’t work when you’re up against a larger opponent. So here are 3 channels that can help you change that:

How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent

Stephen Kesting at Grapplearts has an amazing amount of videos that are not only amusing (Zombies + BJJ?!) but also extremely informative (what-aplata?). But it was his series with Emily Kwok, “How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent,” that really started to change how I approached BJJ.  They also offer free excerpts from the DVD series on Youtube such as the one below.

ConnectionRio

I have to admit, at first I thought ConnectionRio was gonna be full of promo vids for training in Brazil, but after I started looking through their instructional videos, I started watching those promo vids too. What I really like about their instructionals is that they’re short and to the point, and repeat the technique many times at the beginning from several different angles, which is perfect for when you’ve already watched the video and just want to refresh your memory. The triangle tweak below is one of my favorites:

BJJ Scout

So technically neither BJJ Scout nor ConnectionRio above are centered around small BJJ practitioners, but you simply cannot ignore BJJ Scout’s breakdowns — even Sara McMann acknowledged BJJ Scout’s analyses (part 1, part 2) prior to her fight with Ronda Rousey in this article. Watching BJJ Scout’s videos has been a complete game changer for me.  I challenge you to watch their videos and not learn something new.  Their latest video on “funk rolling” below.

Runner’s up

BJJ Hacks produces beautiful videos that go into the minds of some of the most renowned BJJ practitioners — BJJ videos made by BJJ lovers, for BJJ lovers.

Jiu Jitsu Priest houses a ton of videos from competitions around the world, focusing mostly on Japan and Asia. There are also highlights videos that provide commentary on some of the best fights from that particular competition cycle though you have to know Japanese to fully appreciate them.

Post your favorite channels/videos in the comments!

 

The best escapes in BJJ

Yin-yang
Photo Credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca via Compfight cc

Aggression and BJJ

Been a bit busy lately as I’m currently in between competitions and been thinking about what direction I’d like to take this blog. As I’ve spoken with more people about BJJ, I’ve noticed that those most dedicated to learning BJJ, not simply for winning competitions or promoting, talk less about particular techniques and more about the inner workings of BJJ. These people also tend to have the chillest personalities, a stark contrast to how aggressive BJJ seems to be, especially noticeable in newcomers and white belts.

In general, aggression is taken as an inseparable part of BJJ. I think part of what causes this aggression is how we’re taught BJJ. We learn the positions – mount, guard, side control, etc. – and the escapes and attacks from those positions. We drill each technique with a partner then learn how to bait and fine tune our timing during sparring sessions. The thing is, we roll how we drill. So if we drill just the positions, we roll focus only on the positions.

The key, however, is not just to master the positions, but to master the transitions as well…

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BJJ-J: Learning Japanese Through BJJ — 胸を借りる

柔術

Learning Japanese Through BJJ

胸を借りる

While preparing for a competition, one of my coworkers said the above phrase to me in Japanese (むねをかりる, mune o kariru).  The literal translation is “to borrow one’s chest” – which had me confused to say the least.

The phrase apparently originates from sumo and is said to a superior for having “the honor of training with them.” Further research revealed that it’s only said by a person of lower ranking to one of higher ranking, (後輩) kouhai to (先輩) sempai, and never the other way around.  It’s also used in baseball (野球, yakyuu) and other sports.

To me, I think this phrase is quite appropriate in BJJ.  After all, every BJJ practitioner knows that you can’t learn BJJ by yourself.  We must always “borrow someone’s chest” in order to train.

Let’s look closer at the words in this phrase.  Usually  (むね, mune) is translated as “chest,” a physical source of power and pressure. But 胸 can also refer to one’s “heart” and “feelings.”

In this way, 胸 refers to both the physical and spiritual aspects of a person — those things that makes a person a person and not some piece of driftwood or any old inflatable training dummy.  Your partner, whether they be kouhai or sempai, are physical beings and emotional beings, capable of great strength but also with the capability of becoming injured; full of passion and feelings just like you.

The most important part of this phrase, however, is the verb 借りる. It is usually translated as “to borrow,” which is a very different way of looking at sparring.

Despite what we may say to others, there’s always a part of us that is comparing ourselves to our partners. Often times, we fall into the trap of using our partners for our own ends, as goal posts for our own journey.

This phrase suggests a drastic alternative from this way of thinking. Instead of trying to pit your will, or your “chest” against your partner, this phrase instead recommends borrowing – using that other person’s “chest” with the intention of returning it.

Think of your gym as a library and each person you roll with a book in that library.  In a good library, books are taken care of when they are checked out for a roll and rotate around to as many people as possible.

Because what’s unique about this BJJ library is that each book changes every time they are checked out and read, or rolled with. Ever reread a favorite book from childhood and discovered even more things to love about it since growing up?  That’s the same thing that happens with each book, each person, as they learn more about BJJ.

This brings us back to how you learn BJJ.  We’re on the mats to beat our chests to try and scare off our partners, nor are we trying to beat and crush our partners’ chests as we train. We are borrowing from each other, learning from each other, expanding the library that is BJJ.

Meditation and visualization in BJJ

Meditating in nature

Photo Credit: ShotHotspot.com via Compfight cc

Berimbolo for your brain

My father used to quote Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to me when I was young and I find myself going back to that text whenever I’m facing difficulty.  Though BJJ is called “the gentle art,” more often than not BJJ feels like a war and I can’t think of a more apt text than “The Art of War.”

In particular, I turn towards the section where Sun Tzu summarizes with the saying, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” I’ve found meditation and visualization to be the best tools to apply this concept to BJJ.

Know yourself: Meditate

Meditation has a ton of benefits for BJJ players and non-BJJ players alike. One of the biggest benefits is being able to understand your self, your body, and your game.  It’s a time where you can critically assess yourself, from your body’s capabilities, to how you’ve been employing techniques. A great place to start is by asking yourself these 10 questions from Inner BJJ.

During this assessment, it’s a great time to review techniques. While meditating, you can go over techniques with as much detail as you can, paying particular attention to how you can adapt the technique to your body.  By focusing on details, it will also help you create goals based on improving technique, not just being able to submit someone.

Lastly, review previous rolls you have had with teammates or in competition and try to understand why there was success or failure. For me, I’ve become aware that there have been many times where it wasn’t my partner’s larger size that caused me to fail, but my own lack of technique and initiative.

Know your enemy: Visualize

Here’s where things get interesting.  Though you can’t necessarily know your “enemy” completely, visualization can help you to understand patterns in people’s reactions and outcomes of certain movements.

It’s easiest to begin by first visualizing sparring against yourself.  Start small: Visualize grabbing your mirror’s lapel.  How do you usually react?  In your mind, explore different actions and reactions (if you grab the lapel and pull, what happens?), then explore the possibilities of each new situation, like submissions or sweeps. It’s a great mental exercise to combine with technique review as well.

Then if you really want a mental workout, start with a successful submission and work backwards. We’re all told to master one technique, so starting from that technique, try to figure out how to get there, keeping in mind the psychology involved. For instance, if you want to go for an armbar, you have to bait something else first.

Add meditation and visualization to your toolbox and you’ll start to recognize patterns and moments of opportunity much quicker and make your BJJ game even more interesting!