With COVID numbers on the uptick and closures beginning again it’s a good time to revisit jiu jitsu conditioning when you can’t get on the mat.
I spent a few months of the pandemic working the StrongLifts program, which yielded some nice results. I was able to increase my strength in all of the major lifts, most noticeably on my deadlifts.
This program did equate to improvements in jiu jitsu. When I was able to train again my muscles didn’t fatigue quite as fast as they had in the past. This was a major win as I hadn’t trained jiu jitsu in many months during the initial pandemic shut down.
I still wasn’t happy with the results though. My cardio was still awful. I gassed out quickly on my first rolls, my heart rate skyrocketed, and I wanted to tap out from simply not being able to breath.
This really concerned me. If I couldn’t maintain some semblance of “fighting shape”, even when I couldn’t train jiu jitsu, then what use would jiu jitsu be if I were to get into a real self defense situation?
With the quarantine keeping us all in lock down we’ve all been looking for ways to keep in touch with our jiu jitsu practice. My instructor, John Lawrence, has been posting regular YouTube content, and even started a new podcast. You can listen here where he talks about a variety of topics including street vs sport jiu jitsu, solo drills, his own journey through jiu jitsu and updates about the school.
YouTube has turned out to be a great way for schools to keep in touch with their students. It helps to keep the camaraderie and enthusiasm up with the members and seeing new content is something that I personally really look forward to.
With the world on lockdown (crazy to think that we can legit type that sentence) it was only a matter of time before the coronavirus pandemic impacted our training. At this time scientists are still scrambling to understand what the coronavirus is, who it impacts, to what degree and what can be done about it. As a precautionary measure governments world-wide are instituting mandatory quarantine procedures. Here in the states local elementary, middle and high schools are shutting down for a minimum of two weeks (and potentially moving to remote learning when school goes back in session), companies are sending employees home to work remotely, and events of all sizes are getting cancelled.
The academy I train at is closing its doors for two weeks, and possibly longer depending on what happens with the nationwide quarantine. I know that many other academies are doing the same. FaceBook is filled with posts announcing temporary academy closings.
So this has got me (and probably you and everybody else) wondering what can be done to keep our conditioning in shape while we’re off the mats. Being furloughed from training does suck, but it actually opens up some opportunities to get stronger while away from grappling.
This video popped up on my YouTube feed today. Steven starts off the video with a great point where he is talking about what the best throw is for a transition to the ground for BJJ. His point is that it depends on what kind of a player you are. Depending on if you are more comfortable playing top position vs bottom will dictate what kind of throws you’d use to get you to that position.
He also talks about the degree of physical exertion and conditioning that is required to really throw someone. As he says, you’re trying to throw someone 180lbs (or more) who is fighting the whole time to not land on their back. This requires a ton of effort.
The setup that he uses in this vid is an Uchi Mata to a foot sweep to an ankle pick. It’s not only a nice combination, in my opinion a foot sweep is less physically exhausting than a throw, single leg or double leg take down. The combination he shows here is nice in that it leads your partner down a path where they have to give up the foot sweep if you do it right. This takedown finishes with you in a good top position.
The second takedown he shows will land you in an advantageous guard position in the event that the takedown doesn’t work. He calls it a “safe guard pull that could potentially be a takedown”.
Catch wrestling is a brutal combat style of grappling developed in England during the 1870’s. It was used by laborers and dock workers to pass the time at work, and picked up by sailors who traveled the world, collecting techniques which helped to grow the style. It has roots in various wrestling styles including Irish Collar and Elbow wrestling, and is also known as “Catch-as-Catch-Can”. Catch-as-Catch-Can refers to the way that catch wrestlers will attempt to grab any submission available. This approach to submission hunting differs from the typical jiu jitsu approach, in that a jiu jitsu practitioner typically aims to establish control prior to hunting for submissions, while a catch wrestler’s approach is to explosively grab for submissions from any position. This approach can take other wrestling styles off guard, and open up opportunities for other submission attempts based off the reaction of their opponent in these attempts.
Catch wrestling found it’s way to America where it was used in carnivals as a type of entertainment combat sport, and today professional wrestling tips it hat to catch wrestling. In Brazil during the heyday of Vale Tudo Catch Wrestling was used effectively by Luta Livre fighters against jiu jitsu fighters. Catch wrestling emphasizes inflicting pain and pressure on a fighter’s opponent to cause them to move in a way that the catch wrestler can take advantage of. Kazushi Sakuraba famously used his catch style to defeat Royce, Royler and Renzo Gracie.
Neil Melanson is a huge proponent of Catch wrestling, and I’ve written about his instructional material here before. His approach to grappling is novel if you come from a pure jiu jitsu background, and well worth checking out.
Today one of my team mates sent me the video below from the Snake Pit. Here we see how to counter the De La Riva with leg locks. There is a nice heel hook and toe hold available when you’re stuck in a De La Riva guard. After seeing the techniques in this video I was struck by the simplicity of the submissions, and was surprised at how obvious they were as options, and also how I had failed to see them in spite of the many times I’ve been caught in De La Riva.
Ramsey Dewey shows variations of the rear naked choke in this video. He talks about why it’s a bad idea to tuck your chin to defend a rear naked choke, and shows how a well connected choke can dislocate a jaw and still choke someone in the process.
I especially like the one armed choke variations he shows in this video. I’ve been giving up on the RNC lately because I can’t seem to get it. My partners will tuck their chins or fight for wrist control and I haven’t been able to get past that. Looking forward to trying some of this next class.
The other day I got caught in a bicep slicer as I was attempting to pass my partner’s guard. He was playing open guard, and I reached in to attempt a leg weave pass, which ended up with me in lasso guard. Not realizing the danger I was in I attempted to simply continue passing. I was caught totally by surprise when my partner hit this submission. It wasn’t something I’d ever seen before. I must admit, these are my favorite moments in jiu jitsu, when you are hit with something completely foreign and it expands your awareness of what is possible in this martial art.
My partner showed me how to perform the move after he caught me in it. But I couldn’t keep the details straight the rest of the class, though I attempted the submission many times that evening. So at home I dug into YouTube and studied several videos that showed the details of the bicep slicer. This video is really straightforward in it’s explanation. Hope you enjoy it.
I spend an irrational amount of time watching jiu jitsu videos on YouTube. Certain channels I come back to over and over again. Here’s a list of my favorite YouTube channels of 2019, hope you enjoy them too.
It’s that time of the year again. Time to round up the list of my favorite jiu jitsu blogs from the year. These are blogs that I’ve found myself visiting often. A lot of these are repeated from the previous year, but good things bear repeating.
In the struggle for increasing mat performance I am always tinkering with my workout routines. It seems that a constant struggle is balancing jiu jitsu training with complementary workouts. I know that the common adage is that if you only have enough time to do one workout, then it should always be jiu jitsu. But I find that I really do better in training if I do some additional workouts off the mats.
The big struggle for me has been learning how much and what type of ancillary training to do, so that the additional workouts don’t burn me out too much. I used to lift heavy weights using the stronglifts program but I found that it left me overly tired when hitting the mats. I also found that the strength I was gaining from lifting heavy didn’t exactly transfer to the mats.
It seems to me that once you reach a certain level of “strong” that being much stronger is not generally going to help jiu jitsu. That’s not to say that if you’re sparring with someone much stronger than you that it won’t be more of a struggle to deal with their attacks, but I think if you have a baseline of strength then that will take you far in jiu jitsu.
I find that having muscular endurance is much more important than having an over-abundance of strength when rolling. I feel like I can more easily leg press someone if I’m attempting something like an airplane sweep than I can keeping my legs under me when attempting to pass the guard of a strong guard player. My legs simply get tired out trying to scramble around their guard for too long of a time.
It’s the loss of muscular endurance that signals the beginning of the end for me in rolling. My goal is to be able to roll round after round without having my muscles give out from exhaustion (easier said than done for sure). So I’ve been tweaking my workouts to get there, and I’ve found the following routine to be the most helpful so far.