Tag Archives: training

The Dark Arts and Other Wares.

Hello again bastards. I’ve been in hiding for a while, toying with writing bits and bobs, but the bug just hasn’t been there. Training has continued as it normally does, but to the point where I’m constantly thinking about training, and the idea of also writing about training makes my heart ache. Plus, writing with mangled BJJ hands just isn’t cricket.
I’ve just finished up my latest stint, and I’ll be taking a much needed break until Saturday, so I figured I’d use this as a prime opportunity to bring you up-to speed since my Birthday.

Since my last post, I’m still training more Gi than I am NoGi. It’s how my work/life balance fits and it’s suited me this way for years. If I could train every single day like a grappling mega-beast (alternating between Gi and NoGi) I would; but I can’t, so there’s no point on dwelling on it. What I need to do is  make what training sessions I do count. All mat time is valuable, and should be treated as such. Sadly this means I act the cunt a lot less on the mats. BOO!

Being aware of the fact that I can’t just be good at one part of this fabled art, I’ve made a considered effort to train NoGi with the right people, so that my game elevates quickly. The results so far have been really positive. Or at least the feedback has been.
I’ve been working with our local NoGi coach/Norse God; Fenrir Thorvaldsen. Getting a gauge on his leg lock system, and working both defenses and attacks from various positions. We’ve crammed detail into these short sessions, and I’ve done my best to ask the right questions to extrapolate as much data from that big juicy head of his as possible.

The results whilst rolling have been tremendous. There are leglockers at my club that have gone from completely dominating me in the leglock game, to having a battle to a submission. I’m a still a realist, I’m not winning these exchanges currently but my understanding of The Dark Arts has come on far enough in a short period of time, that I’m making these exchanges difficult for my opponents. It’s no longer a whitewash, and I’m able to have fun with that aspect of grappling. Before they’d setup the heel-hook, I’d tap. Rinse. Repeat.
I’ve started to understand leg pummeling, auto-pummels, ankle control etc and how they fit into the big bastard leglock jigsaw. With more time on the mats, and a better understanding of tying these movements together I know that I’m going to be leg-locking the fuckers that are trying to leg-lock me. That’s pretty fucking brilliant, and exciting.

In addition to Fenrir’s guidance in the last month, I’ve also attended another Speedy seminar. Learning some ‘flying’ armbar attacks, and re-working some nasty lapel trap chokes. It was great to refine old techniques with new details.
After the seminar, I had two really good rolls with Speedy. One blindfolded, and one with my eyes piercing through his soul. He absolutely obliterated me with gentle ease. When I was blindfolded, it felt like I was rolling with two or three men. It was a truly horrible experience. All gaps were filled, there was little room to breathe, etc.
When I had my eyes open, it allowed me to shift my focus to his feet/legs. Speedy’s a leg-locker by trade, so I knew I wouldn’t really get anywhere with my attacks/attempts but it’s a fun new approach that I’m playing with, so I had to try and get a hold of him in a new way. All it did was open me up to armlocks that I never thought were possible.
After the rolls, he complimented me on how technically I’d rolled, but I didn’t feel like the strongest swimmer that day, because I was clearly drowning.

Last week I taught some classes at our little club in Billy’s absence.
I feel like my coaching has finally come onto where it should be. I’m actually confident in my own abilities, the techniques I’m teaching and leading a class. Normally I’d be a mess without the support of certain peers, but I finally feel comfortable in front of the class, leading them into battle. This has been helped by assisting Grant as he leads the classes at the Hut. Adding details, refining techniques for the class, and just giving him a breather when he’s getting battered from a kid or something.
I’m going to carry this mentality on at the weekend, when we have another bi-annual inter-club. I want to make a considered effort to coach from the sidelines, because I’ve neglected it before, and my training partners deserve better than that. These guys are family, and it’s only fair that I support them as best I can, like I’ve been supported in the past by others.

Before I go, I’d like to celebrate a cracking day off. I trained three times today. My first session was at 10am at Navarro’s Fitness & Fighting Gym with Danny and Grant. We rolled and dicussed/tried techniques.
My second session was acting ute for Danny’s private with Fenrir.
My third session was my regular Wednesday BJJ under the tutelage of Billy at DMMA.
I feel truly fucking knackered right now, but in the best possible way.
It was a great way to spend my day. I enjoyed each individual session for different reasons, and really wish some bastard would just pay me to do this 8 hours a day. I’ll need at least £35,000 a year please. Any takers? No?

Right, fuck off then.

My Birthday Party.

For years, I’ve been telling myself that turning 30 wasn’t going to hurt. Turns out I was wrong, DAMN WRONG. Nothing’s changed mentally (helped by the fact I’ve been a cantankerous prick since I was about thirteen).
Physically however, it’s a different story altogether. I didn’t wake up and suddenly feel old, oh no – none of that capers. I just so happened to attend a leglock seminar with David ‘Speedy’ Elliot. Turning thirty has never been so fucking painful.

Speedy’s a 2nd degree black belt under Marc Walder/Mauricio Motta Gomes. He’s this incredible ball of pressure and tightness, that makes you feel like your limbs are going to literally explode from the strain he’s putting them under.
His speciality is focused on immobilising those big heavy hams that carry you around all day. He’s one of the most crushing, powerful grapplers I’ve ever experienced but more than anything else, he’s a family man and a man of humility. Any time I see him, he sings the praises of his students and how hard he’s having to work to keep them at bay. He’s responsible for some of the most savage grapplers in the North East. A team of killers, but his love is simply training, and watching people get better. Sharing whatever knowledge he can.

This seminar was arranged by a good friend of mine called Grant. Grant and Speedy are close. I think it’s probably because they’re both so goddamn old. They talk about the war a lot. The good old days, and how when they were brought up, their favourite toy was a stick or if they were lucky, a rock. They often reminiss about how the world was black and white, and then it became sepia and then finally colour. Wonderful, good times (hopefully Speedy forgets all this before I see him next).

The turnout was incredible for this seminar. Speedy hasn’t been up for a few years, because he’s got a big family and it’s a pretty hefty journey when you’ve got young kids at home. Today though, he brought the family with. It’s good to have mental bairns running about the place, whilst you’re attacking someone’s legs. It lifts the tension of all the snapping, popping and cracking that the knees, ankles and feet were doing on the regular.
Word of mouth, coupled with Grant’s contacts within the Scottish BJJ world lead to a fair crowd hitting the mats. It was actually a bit claustrophobic in our wee shed for a change. I looked out and thought to myself, this is a pretty grand thing to be doing for my thirtieth. I barely drink, don’t go to pubs, clubs, etc. so having a Birthday party would have been wasted on me. In a way, this was like my own personal Birthday party; albeit a horribly violent one. THIS IS THE BEST. Fuck conforming to the norm, there was nothing else I’d rather have been doing today.

Speedy worked a numbered of leg attacks, entanglements and variations on simplistic setups. I felt my achilles locks, kneebars and footlocks come on a great deal in the couple of hours that we trained. It was bloody smashing. I’ve taken notes, as I usually do and my focus from here is going to be putting it all into practice. Trying my best to hit these techniques more frequently, and abandoning my beloved loop choke sequence for a while. Fuck loop chokes, I’m hunting legs until I’m forty.

Cheerio bastards.

Fenrir.

Fenrir Thorvaldsen
The word Fenrir comes from Norse Mythology, you can look it up if you feel so inclined. I’ll save you the bother though, it basically means Wolfbastard.

That’s exactly what Fenrir Thorvaldsen is. He’s a total fucking Wolfbastard of grappling. I’ve been fortunate enough to know this man for around 7 years now, and for the most part I’ve completely taken that for granted. I’ve dipped in and out of his classes for years, preferring a more Gi-centric approach to my training. Fenrir doesn’t do Gi. He has in the past, but I’ve never seen him wear one in the flesh. His strengths are NoGi, in what can be best described as a hybrid grappling style. He’s been training so long (36 years) that he can easily point out what’s shit and what isn’t. He uses elements of Catch As Catch Can, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Folkstyle wrestling, Sumo (when he was fat) and well you name it he’s probably used it, played with it, added it to his game or disregarded it altogether. The fact is there is no supreme grappling art because it’s all very much attribute based, as most Martial Arts are. X will beat Y if X is a massive monsterous cunt. Y will beat Z if Y has greater technical knowledge, etc.
It’s knowledge vs braun and very much the inbetween bits too, to put it simply.

I think I first met Fenrir back in January 2010. I’d briefly dabbled with training elsewhere at another local club that now specialises in K1/Kickboxing. They did MMA previously, but their strengths have always been kickboxing. From training there for a while, I had this notion that I could grapple. It was the bit of MMA that I wanted to understand, so that I can properly enjoy the sport as a spectator. I had no illusions of ever doing MMA myself, because the idea of getting my head caved in, properly seriously frightens me. I just wanted to get to a point where the boring bit of MMA made sense (the grappling).
So when the long rumoured DMMA opened, I went over with a curious eye, and as I’m sure you can imagine the rest is history. Needless to say, I don’t find grappling boring anymore. It’s my go to therapy.

I remember the first time I met Fenrir distinctly. Billy (one of the other coaches) was taking a packed NoGi class, and Fenrir was just there looking laid back and all dreadlocky. There were plenty of familiar faces, and I felt right at home quickly. That was probably a big part of my immediate downfall.
At the end of the class, the ritualistic rolling started. I’m not sure who asked who, but I ended up getting to roll with Fenrir. The clock started, and he immediately started working an X-Guard. I had no clue what an X-Guard was at this point, so in my usual serpeant laced tongue I may have thrown some shit his way about how it wasn’t doing anything. I think my  words were along the lines of, “Is this meant to be a stretch or something? Because I’ve already done that before class.” His head shifted to look at someone else nearby, they locked eyes in a knowing way. They both knew I’d fucked up, but I didn’t. Fenrir then swept me through the centre of the earth. I could feel the Earth’s core burning my arse hair to a cinder. From there, he moved to side control and swiftly into North/South with such ferocity that my contact lens found its way onto the side of my eyeball (a horrible fucking feeling that I don’t recommend you try). That was the first time I felt the Monson choke. After the roll, I was told by someone else that he’s one of the other coaches there. So he probably thought I was a massive fucking cunt from day one, but hey that’s life – I wonder if I ever apologised to him for being a prick? If I didn’t he’s had plenty of time to learn that it’s just my way. SORRY FEN.
Apology or not, I was hooked. I hadn’t been so quickly dismantled whilst grappling before. It was a fresh feeling. I was still very much a novice, but it wasn’t a pressure I’d ever felt before. I knew that DMMA was going to be my new home away from home.

Fenrir over the years regrettably has had an injury or two (he was basically Mr. Glass from Unbreakable). He still took the NoGi or the affectionately dubbed Submission Wrestling classes as he called them, and showed a ton of techniques but we weren’t really getting to see what he was capable of. The back of your mind knows what he’s capable of, but you quickly forget/neglect those thoughts when you don’t see a coach sparring alongside you.
It’s what happens when your life revolves around grappling, fighting and extreme sports. He’s basically one of those adrenaline wankers that are all over YouTube now.
In the last year though, he completely changed his approach to his own rehabilition and started doing Hot Yoga; with that, he lost quite a bit of weight and has strengthened ligaments, tendons, muscles in areas where he was probably weakest/or most vulnerable. He’s able to roll again.  Being honest, I think I preferred rolling with him when he was 90KG or thereabouts, because I could blame my size and his strength for his absolute domination. Now at 74KG, I know he’s just techniquing the fuck out of me. He’s a complete Wolfbastard to roll with. A relentless, technical, snarling beast of a shit, but they’re definitely the best rolls I’m currently getting. I’m getting pressured in ways I didn’t know were possible, and I’m learning on the fly through threat recognition. My leglock game is basic, but through Fenrir’s insistent attacks, I’m starting to learn how to defend subconsciously. That’s the sort of coach that he is. Complimentary, brilliant and he’ll help you along the way with your roll. Also helping you after the roll, etc. Why have I been taking this man for granted for so long? Injuries aside, I could have been taking a more concerned effort to learn from him over the years, in addition to my focus on the Gi with Billy, Speedy, etc.

My Gi game and my NoGi game are worlds apart as a result. I wouldn’t class myself as a great grappler by any means, but I have a far greater success in the Gi than I do NoGi. Recently, I’ve been trying to balance that out with extra NoGi rolling sessions. That’s where Fenrir’s top students come out to play, and fuck me up with stuff I should know but just don’t. Getting a tap off of one of them feels very much earned. It’s also allowed me to re-focus my training and make sure that Fenrir is very much aware of his part in making me the grappler I am today (he’ll probably want to abandon ship now).

This week I’ve had some time off work to chill. So I wanted to grab a couple of private lessons with Fenrir to make some adjustments in my game. I’ve worked a ton of stuff this week in addition to my usual training regime; and whilst it’s a lot to take in, for some miraculous reason it’s gelling with me. Good coaching I guess. I’m pretty sore as a result though, but it’s been a fucking blast being able to train during the day with a grappler of his calibre. Even the rolls before and after, whilst absolute drubbings are an incredible learning experience in which I’m able to try new shit, old shit and just see what works and what doesn’t with someone of his  grappling acumen. I’ll play my game, whilst he plays away at his own game, colliding somewhere in the middle with a yelp or two along the way. On Monday after working some super top secret stuff, we rolled for about an hour, filmed it and it helped serve as a great stepping stone of things to work today. We’ve already put in place adjustments to strengthen my game where it was weakest, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work those aspects so that the next time we roll, I might be able to give him a little hell back for a change. That’s how this works isn’t it? We learn from the best, so that we can crush the best.

If you’re ever in Dundee, or the surrounding areas (Tayside, Fife etc) and you’re looking for a brilliant grappler with a ton of knowledge, it’s a disservice to yourself if you do not seek this man out. You can find him on Facebook and Youtube.

I’ve rambled enough now. I’ve got another class to go to. Toodles y’all.

Continuing to Fail.

Next week, I’ve got some time off of the demon devil work that I so often succumb to. The intent is to use that time off to clean up some of the glaring holes in my game. Luckily there are many to choose from.
I’m having one of those moments, a lull if you will, whereby you stop for a second and look at the grand scheme. The horrible thing about that is it can hamper your confidence as a grappler. Your brain is a horrible shit sometimes, and when you’re doing something as complicated as BJJ it’s pretty quick to shout, “Hey Barry, why the fuck you no good?” For some reason my brain is an overbearing Korean mother, disappointed because I didn’t go to medical school.
This train of thought kicked off because quite a few of my team mates completed yesterday, and I wasn’t there to support them/compete alongside them.
As a competitor, I’ve been a total shit. I go to the inter-club competitions and that’s it. I do what I do against the people in my club, but it’s not a fair representation of where I am as a grappler. I know this person’s game, or that person’s game. Whether I can stop it or not is a different story, but I have no idea how I’d fare again Tom, Dick or Harry from XYZ Gym. That needs to change, but it can only change if I kick myself up the arse and get myself out of this big bastard lull.

I’ve been training semi-regularly for years now. Bouts of illness, injuries etc have of course stunted that but my biggest enemy is laziness. There have been times when I’ve straight up missed training because I’m being a lazy fuck and playing the Xbox. I am but a human man. I woke up to where I was at last year, and have been taking things a lot more seriously as a result. That’s something at least. If I haven’t been at the gym, it’s been a cold or a flu or something. Not because I can’t be arsed moving from the couch.

When I’m not being a lazy useless shit of a person, it’s apparent that I’m not Eddie Gordon, Gordon Ryan or Garry Tonon. I am not a grappling savant. I am not a sponsored athlete competing for big cash prizes. With that in mind, I am not afforded the luxury of training 10 hours a day. As a result, I know that my progress is going to be slim pickings over a very long period of time.
I’m cool with that, because well, I have to be. When the effort is there I train 3-4 times a week. I probably get in less training in one week than Tonon gets in a single bloody day. I will never be a world beater, again I’m cool with that – but things have to change. I’m going to have to start using free time more sensibly, so that I can get the most out of this grappling thing with the limited time I have (this isn’t a reference to morality, it’s simply being the best I can be).

I’ve approached one of my coaches, and asked for some one on one time to work some shit out. The hope is that he’ll catch (as catch can) the mistakes I’m making and put me on the right path to correcting them. I’m a completely different person in the Gi than I am NoGi. Sure, I’m shit at both but there’s a skew in favour in one over the other. That’s simply because I’ve trained a lot more Gi, because it fits my schedule better. I don’t actually have a preference, I just love getting down and grabbing a hold of men (steady!).
Having said that, for all the confidence I have in the Gi, it just isn’t there NoGi. So who better to fix that, than our resident NoGi whizz, Fenrir Thorvaldsen? He’s a grapplist of 36 years, which is pretty damned impressive considering he’s early forties. He’s going to be the man that takes me from a defensive, flowy easy going grappler, into a destroyer of worlds. I WILL CRUSH. I WILL MUSH. Or at least, he’s going to give me some tools, and I’ll get out exactly what I put in. That’s how this shit works. So that’s next week’s plan, but for now I will focus on this week.

Tonight’s agenda as per usual is BJJ from under the tutelage of Willheim von Beckerschmidt. The greying Yoda himself. I’ll be doing the same on Wednesday, and then I’ll hopefully take a battering from Fenrir and his crew on Friday in free sparring class, wrapping up the week on Sunday with another small class. Let’s get this mind right.

Right, I’ve splurged enough for one day. Thanks for reading, you fucks. x

Cyclical Drills.

S’up y’all, I haven’t penned anything in a while because my quill has been out of ink. It’s only now that I’ve stored up enough blood of my fallen brethren to scrawl together this literary masterpiece*.

*littered catastrophe. Shit drivel. A fresh fart in an otherwise empty room.

On Sunday we worked basic armbars & collar chokes. BORING. On Monday we worked basic butterfly guard. BORING. These drills are often monotonous and require a partner that you can either have a bit of a laugh with, or someone that you can bang out the reps with. If you strike it lucky, you’ll get both and when it comes to sparring you’re already bloody knackered.
Now I’m not a complete idiot, I’m well aware that these drills are important. Blacksmiths don’t just magic a sword out of nowhere; they repeat the same basic techniques over and over until they’ve completely transformed a block of metal into a sharp nasty bastard of a blade.
As a result of these boring old drills, I’ve turned into quite a fan of the butterfly guard. That’s what reps do. You transcend into a dark place. It’s getting close to the point of muscle memory for me. I’m also partial to an armbar, but when people know  that part of your game; you have to abandon that shit, and start tying stuff together. Ugh.

That’s where cyclical drills come into play. It’s something I’ve dabbled with in the past, but something I don’t do enough of. Sure when I roll, I know that I’m not going to get an armbar by just throwing it up unless my opponent is basically brand new. I know that I’ll have to setup a move X to lead into move Y so that I can finish on move Z.
Last night Billy showed off a beautiful cyclical flow that I have not done justice to, but will continue to work until it’s on point. Whilst we were in the gi, we worked the NoGi variation of the flow so it’s adaptable. Plus it means you don’t have to rely on collar grips, etc.

There’s a lot of details, so I’m going to completely gloss over them and do an absolute disservice to Billy by explaining them really fucking poorly.

Back control seatbelt – opponent escapes to your underhook side – walk around the clock to North/South whilst maintaining seatbelt – haul them up and crawl/walk towards – take the back by placing the underhook side leg flat along the floor by their hips – take hook on overhook side and pull to the ground on overhook side – maintain grip and turn out into head and arm choke – opponent defends – take mount – pull into necktie – switch to armbar – opponent defends – pull opponent passed you and into back control seatbelt – rinse and repeat.

I paired up with Ronnie for this, and we really battered through the reps. It was one of those sequences that immediately made sense. Most importantly, it was fun. Not monotonous. What follows is a wee video of me poorly attempting it.

Toodle-oo motherfuckos.

Haunted.

Hello again, you bunch of shits.

I’m still training away 3-4 times a week. My aim hasn’t changed. I still want to be better at Jiu-Jitsu than I was yesterday. That goal will never change. I haven’t been able to go to NoGi in a while, and my heart hurts as a result.

Since the Speedy visit a few weeks ago, I’ve been going harmbar mental. Drilling as much as possible, and trying to hit them in active rolling as frequently as possible. My success is varied because people know what I’m working or trying to work. I’m not very secretive in my intent. Probably doesn’t help that I’m screaming, “I’M GOING TO SNAP YOUR FUCKING ARM YOU DICK.”

Last night, whilst drilling butterfly with Paul I realised that as my armbar game has started to come on again, my kimura game has plummeted. A sacrifice if you will. I just don’t use them anymore. It’s common for me to neglect one technique for another but to have a truly rounded game I need to play with shit on the fly.
I can sequence well, so I’m not sure why I’ve suddenly just decided to spaz out on kimuras – but it’s clear I’ll need to start playing with them again.

I had a great fun roll with Ahmed last night, full of back and forth exchanges and scrambles. He’s brilliant to roll with. He almost caught me in a lapel choke, but I scrambled out like a kitten bagged up and launched into the river. On one of the scrambles I had a Matrix like moment where time stood still, I was off to his left hand side extending his arm back and the kimura was there to be taken. I grabbed hold, hit the gas and completely forgot to lock his hips in place so he scrambled out like a horrible tiny shit. Even with Matrix powers I missed the pissing kimura. It haunted me immediately afterwards, and I’ve been thinking about it since. So much so that I’m waiting on someone at work saying the wrong word. Fuck that guy, he’s getting his arm twisted off like a bottle-top.

Cheerio y’all.

Pressure.

Welcome back y’all. I’m here to ring in the New Year the only way I know how, by flinging shite at you until you go away.

In the lead up to Christmas, I normally get antsy because impending break knocks my chakra to fuck. Legitimately though, I turn into an even more pissy cunt than usual. Jiu-Jitsu balances me. It kills the ills, as it were.
Luckily this year, I was fortunate enough to catch training sessions here and there to tide me over until classes officially started back up again on Monday.

Today, some two days after that first official class back – myself, Danny, Grant & Sean flung ourselves into a car and hurtled down to Newcastle for a session with our good pal Dave ‘Speedy’ Elliot. It’s 180 miles each way, to get beaten up for a few hours before grabbing some food, and heading back. It’s a LONG fucking day, but it’s worth it for the wealth of knowledge that Speedy will impart whilst you’re there.

Regrettably Speedy invited along my arch-nemesis. His son Tyrone is a four stripe brown belt that has been bullying me on the mats since he was 15 years old. He does the whole nice guy thing well, but I know his game. He’s out to get me. Bastard.

Today we focused on side control and a plethora of armbar attacks from there. It was something I’d wanted to play with, and it was also a great way to better understand this mystical pressure that Speedy keeps talking about.

I cannot appropriately describe the horrendous amount of pressure demonstrated in each armbar. My arms felt like they were about to explode when having the techniques applied on me, and I felt like a destroyer of worlds when applying them. As I switched from side control into kesa gatame for the step over arm bar, I could feel my finger playful pointing towards the big button that said, “DO NOT PRESS: NUCLEAR WARHEADS.”
It was a fucking great addition to the arsenal, and the chain of attacks that came off of it allowed you to better picture how all of this shit fits together.

After learning how to prevent someone from carrying their shopping home, we rolled. I rolled with Danny, Speedy, Grant & Tyrone in that order. I’ll focus on my rolls with Speedy & Tyrone, because Danny & Grant are shitebags that I can roll with anytime.

Rolling with Speedy is very much like rolling with an avalanch. If you’re ever given the liberty of space, it’s not going to be for long, because that gap will just be filled with an unrelenting amount of weight and pressure. I fared better against him this time than I did last time, but I was still tapped plenty – as and when he chose to do so. I didn’t realise until after the roll that I wasn’t able to amount a single attack. I was working for sweeps, and trying to get into an advantageous position but it just didn’t happen. Six minutes of hell.

Rolling with Tyrone was a lot more playful. I think our styles compliment one another well. I tried a lot more sweeps and attacks with Tyrone, but the bulk of our roll was focused on a kimura lock that he was working for, that I refused to give up. I’ve got flexible arms, and as close as it was several times, I managed to somehow wriggle out of it. At one point I managed to create space and reel him right back into a heel hook. We both looked at one another knowing what was there, so I let go like the gentleman I am. It was a great roll.

All in all, the day was fantastic. I look forward to the next time I see Speedy, which’ll likely be in March on my fucking Birthday. The best day.

Toodles motherfuckos.