This past weekend I went and visited an open mat at a new school that recently opened in my area. The new school’s owner was a friend and old training partner of one of the guys I regularly train with, and we thought it would be fun to check it out and to show some support for a new local school. Since this was the first week that this school was open we didn’t expect to see too many people, but luckily some guys from other gyms also decided to show up to see the new place. This turned out to be a friendly open mat with a variety of jiu jitsu practitioners from various schools in the area.
I don’t often hit open mats at other schools, so I don’t get a lot of chances to roll with people outside of the circle of athletes that I train with. But at this open mat there were people from at least 3 different schools, and when I rolled with some of these practitioners I got to experience different styles of rolling than I’m used to. The first thing I noticed was how contrasting most of the guys I rolled with were in terms of aggression, which was a little lighter than where I normally train. Our school is a highly competition oriented school, and though we have a tight knit group, all willing to help each other grow, the rolling style tends to be aggressive, with a lot of speed and smashing. At this open mat, however, most of the guys I rolled with had a smooth and fluid style that seemed to be more centered on waiting for you to make a mistake rather than trying to force you into making a mistake. Rolling against this more fluid style was a strange transition, in that I wasn’t sure how to counter some of their moves (or even effectively pass their guard) since the level of resistance I’m used to wasn’t there. I had new puzzles to solve, and that made things challenging and a lot of fun.
Jiu Jitsu is hard. This is what our instructor told us during belt promotion last night. It’s why we train so often. As he stated, “the hardest part of my day is training, after training everything else is easy”. That’s the truth. On days that I have class I will typically try to get to bed early the night before, consume the right amount of calories, at the correct times, take the right supplements, and generally psyche myself up before class to prepare for the grueling workout. And ego makes all of this harder.
I generally think of myself as someone who doesn’t let his ego get in the way of things. But I had a revelation this past week… I was getting more stressed about class than I needed to be, simply because I was concerned about losing matches to lower belts.
Neil Melanson is a grappling coach who has trained under “Judo” Gene LeBell and has taught Chael Sonnen, Rand Couture, Frank Trigg, Vitor Belfort and many others. He specializes in catch wrestling and is known for his closed guard technique, which focuses on an MMA style guard, always protecting the head from strikes.
Luckily Neil has posted numerous videos available on YouTube, which provide insight into his unique grappling style. Spending some time studying these videos will give you a new perspective on how to use the closed guard. Particularly interesting is how he uses grapevines when he has someone in guard to control them.
Closed Guard: Getting off the Center Line
Another technique of interest is his way of controlling your opponent by locking your knee behind their shoulder for a shoulder pin. This gives excellent control and opens up numerous opportunities for attacks.
I was first introduced to Hagakure – The Book of the Samurai via the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (one of my favorite flicks). In that movie, the main character “Ghost Dog” (played by Forest Whitaker) carries around the book Hagakure, and the movie is interspersed with passages from the book read by Ghost Dog as narrator. The book is a collection of thoughts by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, compiled after the death of his master, and Tsunetomo had retired to the mountains. In this book he expresses a lifetime of thinking on the nature of what it means to be a warrior, and how to live in a truthful manner (aka, following “The Way”). As martial artists we look for truth in action, and Tsunetomo sought to also find truth in life, indicating that this is how a warrior should strive to live. Continue reading “Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai – Review”