If you have been following my blog, one thing you might notice that during the past 1,5 years or so I've really started to focus on my stand-up as I want it to be on par with the rest of my abilities before I reach brown belt. A long while ago I was told that I have blue belt level takedowns, purple belt level guard, an brown belt level passing. So I started thinking...what if I improve my takedowns and get on top to use my best assets which is passing so I wouldn't have to improve my guard so drastically?
To be honest, despite being a guard puller myself, I am also somewhat worried about the dominance of the current guard pulling/double guards in competitions because of reduced realism etc.
Yesterday I had a great chance to work my gi takedowns and more specifially judo with some up and coming judoka from Finland and their trainer. The agenda was to go through a vast array of throws and then dig deeper into certain ones in seminars to be organised later.
What I like about training with top judoka is the focus on grip fighting, footwork and off-balancing which I feel most BJJ teachers do not understand/are not able to teach. BJJers teaching judo too often resembles teaching boxing but only focusing on throwing punches (without faints, parries, blocks and foot work).
Some things I took with me:
- Grip fighting games and how to use your knucles in a four-finger grip
- Hopping Osoto gari against a stiff arming opponent who keeps his hips away. There is a video on this in an earlier article but it is basically putting the sole of your foot on the back of your opponent's (cross) knee and then jumping closer as you push with the collar hand
- Emilia throw (I can't remember the name of the throw). This was a personal favourite of one of Finland's judo prospects Emilia Kanerva. It resembles a "reverse" Ippon Seio or Ippon Seio to the collar grip side but the grips give a huge pulling ability.
After focusing on stand up for a while now, I can finally say I have a stand up game instead of isolated wrestling takedowns, throws and trips. I have my preferred grips and reactions to my opponent's different stances. This makes stand up randori much more enjoyable.
Of course, what helped me create a game is refusing to try and learn everything. Learning new stuff all the time might be fun but it will not make you win. This seemed to be the approach that the young judo competitors had taken as well as they didn't know how to perform all the moves their comrades did. Specializing is key I guess..
As I missed Rome Open this year due to work issues, I talked with my friend Sebi that I would join him for the Zurich Open instead. It wasn't the biggest event so I decided to do the adult division despite the uncomfortable 7 minute match length.
I stayed at Sebi's house in the quiet neighbourhood of Meilen with nice views to lake Zurich. Sebi had decorated the flat completely in "Bachelor's pad" style, with only the bare necessities. Despite being low in furniture, it had a room completely covered with grappling mats with a grappling dummy lying on the floor.
There were 8 guys in my division an the first guy was from Icon which is the team I trained with while living in Portugal. I had planned to go for wrist locks from guard but since the Icon guys are usually wrist lock specialists, I ditched that plan. Instead I wanted to get a take down.
Unfortunately, after a few faints he quickly pulled half guard on me and went for a lapel baseball choke which allowed me to pass and get 3 points. As he went belly down, I released some pressure by going to mount/back mount on him. I was thinking of wiggling my hand in between or stepping all the way over as he suddenly let go. I though the ref had stopped the match but apparently my opponent thought I was out. We reset in half guard for some reason and I got a few more passes for the win. He was going for the choke and underhook all the time so I controlled the sleeve and hid my head from the choke.
The semifinals was against a strong looking guy from Ruckus Bjj who I figured I wouldn't be able to take down. So instead I pulled closed guard. I wanted to go for the wrist lock but he stayed upright and I couldn't break him down. After a few moments in open guard, I went for the Leandro Lo control and as I was just about to go for a sweep he pulled his leg and I went for 50/50 guard.
From 50/50 I managed to get a back take position which my opponent felt and sat down for the sweep and 2 points. I untangled the 50/50 and tried to pass off an oma plata attempt. Didn't quite get it but managed to get a pressure position. After a half guard battle, I passed with a knee slide for an additional 3 points and the win.
In the final, I was against a guy from Caio Terra jiu jitsu. He looked lanky so I wanted to pull guard. He did it first and after some exchanges, he went for oma plata and I wanted to jump over for the pass as in the semifinal. I kinda slipped and ended up in reverse mount type position. I did a mistake and did not lock my ankles and he got out the back door for top position.
What was worse I ended up in a really bad guard and had to recover half guard by almost giving my back to him. After I got to half he was giving good pressure and I was off my game. He went for ezekiel a couple of times but I blocked them with me hand on his bicep.
I got him in Y-guard for my best sweep but slipped again from this as in the semi as well. He got a passing position and I started to turn out to regard. Unfortunately he got 3 points of this despite not really having stabilised side mount in my opinion. Now I was down 5 and had to do something…I tried to take a risk and grab his pants from guard and hunt for a leg lock. It didn't pay of and he finally got the ezekiel.
Semifinal and final:
So, I got silver which was great. I wasn't too happy with the final and first match. In the second, I felt really relaxed and I played my game, more so than ever at purple belt tournaments. Have to still drop a weight class...
After the matches we went to a local burger place which lived up to Sebi's hype with some solid burgers. They also had a nice exclusive beer. After that it was time to hit the bierhalle for some old fashioned leather pant music. Have to say, it was quite ridiculous and fortunately I managed to take a photo from their official poster.
On Sunday, I was naturally feeling exhausted but we did some technique drilling on the mats at Sebi's place. We focused on reverse de la riva guard. Sebi had lost his first match in the tournament due to losing control in the de la riva and I think reverse DLR is a great way to re-establish it.