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Showing posts with label bjj. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bjj. Show all posts

Friday, September 12, 2014

Embrace the Grind

Talent, hard work, and success in jiujitsu. "Show up every day and keep pushing through."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bring on Jon Jones

Great interview with former Olympian (freestyle) Dan Cormier after he submitted another Olympian (greco) Dan Henderson at UFC 173 last night. I believe Cormier can beat Jon Jones. Cormier is only about 5"10 whereas Jones is 6"4 (both fighting at 205). Previous fighters have been forced by Jones to play his striking / top control game. But Cormier is smart -- he didn't get into striking exchanges with Henderson, who has a dangerous right hand. He kept the fight on the ground and dominated from the top. He can do the same to Jones. Using this strategy, he can use Jones's length against him -- we'll see Jon Jones fighting off his back for the first time. What I like about Cormier is that he is really developing his jiujitsu. Many wrestlers are unable to capitalize on top position due to lack of high level submission skills.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Go train jiujitsu!

Some beautiful jiujitsu from ADCC 2013.

Estima v. Galvao superfight:

I hadn't been on the mat in a long time, but over Thanksgiving I had a chance to show some things to my nephew. Almost ten years of training -- not all of it is gone yet :-)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tap or Snap

The dreaded heel hook in action. Palhares has been banned from the UFC after this fight, for holding the submission too long. It doesn't actually seem that egregious to me in the video -- when the stakes are high, the fighter should not release the hold until instructed by the referee. See also Snap, Crackle, Pop.
Back in the day when grappling and BJJ were still fringe activities, I often had to travel to strange clubs to find training. It was intimidating to visit a new school where I didn't know anyone, even more so to spar with people who could easily injure me. The one submission I was most afraid of was the heel hook. The two serious injuries I sustained in years of training were from a straight armbar (juji gatame) and a heel hook, which sprained the tendons around my knee. The heel hook is much more effective on the street, where the opponent is likely to be wearing shoes and pants (escaping by pulling the leg out is much harder than in MMA), although there are also reasons not to pull guard in a street fight.

Palhares reportedly cried at the weigh-in after a hard cut to 170 lbs. In the past he's fought at 185 and probably walks around at 200 or so.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

O Rio de Janeiro

A 1986 book of Bruce Weber photographs taken in Rio de Janeiro. Weber brought some of his own models, but Rickson Gracie and family appear in a number of striking photos. I remember seeing copies in the remainder pile at the Berkeley Whole Earth Access for a few bucks. Now collectors pay hundreds or even a thousand dollars for one.

More images here and here.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Dig deep

I love this video.

This one is also good :-)  Check out the guy who won't tap and is choked completely out. I've done this to other people but I'm a quick tapper so it's never happened to me.

I think in my mid to late 20's prime I could have beaten up any other theoretical physicist in the world in a fight ;-)  But those days are gone!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Training days

Great training footage here of Carlos Condit and Georges St. Pierre. It's incredible how far MMA has come in the last 15 years. I'd say training methods of the top camps are as good as or better than in any other sport. The talent pool that MMA draws from still has a way to go, however. I think we'll see a lot more Jon Jones/GSP level pure athletes if the sport continues to progress.

I especially like the brief part near the end where John Danaher (Renzo blackbelt) is coaching GSP in BJJ, and what Firas (GSP head trainer) says to the team about going hard with the visiting Muay Thai world champion: don't go hard with this guy unless you want to end up in the hospital!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gracie Breakdown: heel hook edition

Gracie Breakdown of UFC 142, leading off with the Rousimar Palhares heel hook finish.

Back in the day when grappling and BJJ were still fringe activities, I often had to travel to strange clubs to find training. It was intimidating to visit a new school where I didn't know anyone, even more so to spar with people who could easily injure me. The one submission I was most afraid of was the heel hook. The two serious injuries I sustained in years of training were from a straight armbar (juji gatame) and a heel hook, which sprained the tendons around my knee. The heel hook is much more effective on the street, where the opponent is likely to be wearing shoes and pants (escaping by pulling the leg out is much harder than in MMA), although there are also reasons not to pull guard in a street fight.

Here's a Palhares highlight video. Beautiful jiujitsu and very dangerous leglocks.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Snap Crackle Pop: UFC 140

WAR Frank Mir!

No time to tap. I love his explosive style of BJJ. In training you're taught to let the other guy tap, but a real fight is different. See here for some technical post-fight comments from Frank. (More MMA and BJJ theory at 2:45 here.)

The fundamental asymmetry of MMA

"F@ck jiujitsu -- I'm gonna break your nose."

"Maybe, but if I get my hands on you there's no tapping. I'm tearing your arm off."

In MMA, it's unfair that the striker gets to hit the other guy at full power, but the grappler has to release the hold when the other guy taps. If there was no referee the striker would think very, very hard before mixing it up. [Some guy tries to break my nose or fracture my skull, and I'm supposed to let him tap?!?]

When I was faculty advisor for the Yale jiujitsu club we considered t-shirts with "Snap, Crackle, Pop" on them, but went with something more conservative like "Yale Brazilian Jiujitsu" :-)

Video of Mir's submission. Nogueira is a top grappler and the last 50 seconds shows some very technical BJJ. Mir escapes a guillotine, gets the kimura, and prevents Nog from escaping a couple of times. Reminds me of what Sakuraba did to Renzo, or Kimura to Helio! On closer review, Nog did have plenty of time to tap, but refused to do so -- just like Helio. Another video.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My Navy SEAL story

As everyone knows, it was a SEAL team that got Bin Laden. I only have two data points, but I'm pretty confident those SEALs are tough SOBs :-)

My BJJ training partner for several years (late 1990s) was a former Navy SEAL. Dave had served in Bosnia and was finishing up his undergraduate degree at Oregon. When we started training together he was pretty green and I usually had the upper hand. Physically we were pretty even -- he's about 5"10 and 190 lbs, so a few inches shorter and a bit bulkier than I am -- but my technique was superior. By the time we stopped training together he was a purple belt under Megaton Dias and kicked my butt regularly. The thing I remember about Dave is that he would never quit. A few times I choked him out completely (eyes rolled back, drooling, even memory loss) because he wouldn't tap.

He also never got tired, so after my technical advantage went away I always knew things would go bad for me if we rolled long enough -- he'd just wear me down! In peak condition we'd sometimes go 10 or even 15 minutes before one of us could finish the other. One time we rolled so long I got flat out exhausted and actually tapped because I was so tired I couldn't go on. (To be precise I thought I had him in a submission and blew myself up trying to finalize it; when he reversed the position I was so gassed I just gave up.) Dave was outraged that he'd been denied the chance to really finish me -- he wanted me to keep fighting, but I just couldn't go on! I realized at that moment I'd done something no Navy SEAL would ever do: QUIT! We might be on equal terms as athletes but I had nowhere near his mental toughness. (Mental toughness is what always comes to mind when I watch BUDs training videos, which I love.)

My other SEAL data point was an Annapolis grad, a former wrestler who used to come by the judo room at Yale to spar a little bit. He was a good athlete but didn't know much about submission fighting (this was the mid 1990s), so was easy to tap out. I lost count of the number of times I caught him in a guillotine. Many people think SEALs or other military guys know how to fight hand to hand, but that's a myth. They spend almost all their time training with weapons, which makes sense because unarmed combat is pretty rare on the battlefield. These days there might be some MMA technique taught in the military, but I'll take a trained fighter over a Krav Maga guru any day ;-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

BJ Penn forever

Last night BJ Penn, whose natural weight class is 155 (or even 145 if he were any good at cutting weight), took the #2 ranked welterweight (John Fitch, whose natural weight is probably around 190-200) to a draw. In his career Penn has held the championship belt at 155 and 170, and faced world champions at 155, 170 and even 205 (LHW - Lyoto Machida). He was the first non-Brazilian to win a world championship in BJJ, after only a few years of training. Penn lacks a lot of things you might want from a top level fighter -- he's not that strong, his endurance is suspect, he's usually undersized, etc., etc. But in terms of raw fighting ability he is one of the all time greats. The most exceptional quality Penn has is gameness -- he'll fight anyone, anytime.

Here's the Gracie technique analysis. Flow with the go ;-)

Here is a better shot of BJ and Fitch. Does it look like they should be in the same weight class?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Silva - Fedor MMA

Gracies break down the technical aspects of the Silva - Fedor fight.

Here is the actual fight. Fedor needs to drop to 205 if he wants to continue to compete. He used his superior quickness and explosiveness to go for the knockout, but Silva was striking effectively and in the second round managed to get Fedor down. A 280 lb BJJ black belt in the top position is very hard to deal with. They call Fedor The Last Emperor, and he had a great run in MMA, but his time is nearly over now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the mat

Title IX is killing a lot of non-revenue men's college sports, like swimming, gymnastics and wrestling. Oregon, which produced a number of NCAA individual champions (and UFC fighter Chael Sonnen), eliminated its wrestling program a few years ago.

An indication of the overall weakness of collegiate wrestling programs is that Cornell is the preseason #1 ranked team this year!

NYTimes: ... every N.C.A.A. wrestling championship since 1989 has been won by teams from Iowa, Oklahoma or Minnesota — with only 4 of 80 N.C.A.A. championships won from outside those states in history — this season, Cornell is the unanimous preseason No. 1.

It is the first time a team from the Ivy League, which prohibits athletic scholarships, has had the top ranking in wrestling and is one of the rare times an Ivy team has been ranked No. 1 outside sports like lacrosse, fencing, squash, and ice or field hockey.

But Cornell is carrying a flag for more than the Ivys. Cornell, which finished second to Iowa in last season’s N.C.A.A. championships, is seeking to become just the second Eastern-based team to win the national wrestling title. Penn State won it in 1953.

I grew up in Iowa, a wrestling hotbed. Both Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson, perhaps the greatest American wrestlers of all time, competed for Iowa State University, in my hometown. I never competed in wrestling, but I remember learning the techniques in gym class and on the playground. In HS it seemed like at every keg party you had to be ready to grapple because some drunk wrestler might grab you and want to roll around on the living room floor or in the back yard! Guys in other sports would try to get out of it by calling the wrestlers gay ("get off me, you homo!"), but in reality they (even football players) wanted nothing to do with close contact with a wrestler. (Note there are no wrestlers in this picture, although wimpier Ivy sports like swimming, cross country and tennis are well represented ;-)

The last actual fight I had (a long time ago!) was with a kid who went on to wrestle for ISU! It started with me hitting a single leg on him and tossing him into a locker. Then we hit each other in the face for what seemed like a long time before a teacher broke it up. One thing I learned from the fight is that two untrained guys can trade shots to the head for a long time before anyone goes down (this is also evident from early UFC fights). I was initially reluctant to hit the other kid in the face (I had never really had to do it before), but he showed no similar reluctance :-)

I did do Judo as a kid (my parents wouldn't let me do Karate or Tae Kwon Do) and later competed in both Judo and BJJ as an adult. I noticed that my Iowa background meant I could usually wrestle better than anyone who hadn't actually competed in wrestling (i.e., at a high school level or higher). If I wanted to get any judoka or jiujitsu player to the ground I could pretty much do it. Judokas would always complain that I was using leg attacks and not nice nagewaza (upper body throws), but this is basically just a convention and wrestling takedowns are all legal in Judo. In any first randori with another judoka I could always get a takedown by faking coming to grips and instead shooting for a leg.

I sometimes worked out at the ISU weight room in Beyer Hall, where the wrestlers trained. The summer between my junior and senior year of HS my schedule (I think determined by some math class I was taking) coincided with that of 1981 World Champion Chris Campbell, an ISU assistant coach. One of my wrestler friends had an amazing poster of Campbell hitting a souffle (suplex) on a Russian en route to winning his world title. Campbell and the Russian are both flying through the air and only the tip of Campbell's toe is touching the mat. He was by far the most amazing physical specimen I had seen at that point in my life. Campbell usually ran in the sweltering heat before lifting weights. He would warm up by doing hyperextensions with a 45 pound plate behind his head. You can see his exceptional lower back musculature in this video (yes, that bulge is his erector spinae), showing him competing in the 1992 Olympics at age 37 (he won the bronze -- see picture below)! But he was much more impressive as a younger man in the early 1980s. Unlike a lot of the Iowa kids, who had wrestling rooms in their basements and competed in tournaments while still in grade school, Campbell started wrestling fairly late. But his physical powers were such that he reached the highest levels of the sport. Somehow it was obvious to me even then that no matter how hard I trained I would never have strength, stamina or quickness like his.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The fundamental asymmetry of MMA

I once almost fought a Golden Gloves boxer. Almost.

"F@ck jiujitsu -- I'm gonna break your nose."

"Maybe, but if I get my hands on you there's no tapping. I'm tearing your arm off."

In MMA, it's unfair that the striker gets to hit the other guy at full power, but the grappler has to release the hold when the other guy taps. If there was no referee the striker would think very, very hard before mixing it up.

When I was faculty advisor for the Yale jiujitsu club we considered t-shirts with "Snap, Crackle, Pop" on them, but went with something more conservative like "Yale Brazilian Jiujitsu" :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza is one of the top jiujitsu fighters of all time -- 5 time world BJJ champion! His potential in MMA is still unrealized.

If you have Showtime, you can watch Jacare fight tonight on the Strikeforce Houston card. The light heavyweight fight featuring Mo Lawal should also be interesting. Lawal is a top freestyle wrestler, also making the transition to MMA.

Here's a highlight video. Jacare is Portuguese for alligator :-) His judo skills are apparent, although getting a takedown on a BJJ guy isn't exactly hard. By the way, that little tapping motion by the opponent means the fight is over :-)

Watch Jacare dominate Olympic silver medalist (Greco) Matt Lindland in an earlier fight:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

MMA technique

Here's a technique analysis of the GSP-Hardy fight at UFC 111. If you know nothing about jiujitsu, watch this video and you'll get a sense of how technical it is.

For old school fans, here's a Kazushi Sakuraba highlight video. Sakuraba always had the best low-single takedown and kimura! About 50 percent of Japanese physicists I meet know who Sakuraba is.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Japan

Readers of this blog have probably noticed that I regularly post about China and globalization. I've devoted much less space to Japan, even though I once lived in Tokyo as a JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) Fellow. While in Tokyo I dated an All Nippon Airlines stewardess, trained in MMA with local fighters and spent too much time in Shibuya (pictures above and below). I scandalized my physicist hosts by (a) visiting Thailand on the way to Tokyo and (b) investigating all kinds of weird social phenomena in my spare time (see below).

Below are a few old pictures, the first four from Thailand (Ko Samui) and the rest from Kamakura, Japan.

While in Japan I wrote a travelogue which I posted on the internet. That may not sound very radical, but this was back in 1997, long before the appearance of blogs :-) The travelogue covers topics like girlie bars, muay thai and expats in Thailand, Judo vs BJJ in Tokyo, physics lectures in Kyoto and at KEK, Japanese youth culture, etc. Any Hollywood producers or directors interested in making this into a movie should contact me right away ;-)

For those who are interested in Japan but don't want to read my stuff, I recommend the following.

Lafcadio Hearn: the grandfather of foreigners writing in English about Japan. Hearn arrived in Japan in 1890 as a journalist, eventually becoming professor at Tokyo Imperial University. See here for a collection of his work.

The blog Neojaponisme, edited by Harvard grad W. David Marx (an expat writer and musician in Tokyo) offers excellent writing about Japan, often informed by the latest academic research. For example, The misanthropology of the late stage kogal is about the kogal (video) and enjo kosai phenomena, which very much puzzled me when I was in Tokyo. (Having access to this research at the time could have saved me a lot of field investigation ;-) Kyabaio Japan is about hostess clubs, a topic covered with much less insight recently in the Times.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mama said knock you out

Ultimate fighting has grown from obscurity to unbelievable popularity. It will soon surpass boxing as the premier combative sport. And it will soon be widely recognized that the baddest man on the planet is not a boxer, but an ultimate fighter. ESPN now covers the weigh-ins before big fights, and even the Times has a story today describing NFL players as fascinated by and in awe of professional fighters. The sport will have reached transcendence when the New Yorker runs an in-depth article covering it with more than cliches ("human cock-fighing", "blood everywhere").

I started training seriously in judo and brazilian jiujitsu back in the 90's, when no-holds barred fighting was totally unknown in the US, although already popular in Japan and Brazil. I spent a summer in Tokyo training with professional fighters like Enson Inoue, pictured below. (These pictures are hopelessly old school; young fans and fighters will smile at seeing them again, but I've had them on my web page since I was a professor at Yale and faculty advisor to the judo club.)

Here's an excerpt from an essay Learning How to Fight I wrote over a decade ago.
Unarmed single combat -- mano a mano, as they say -- has a long history, and is a subject which fascinates most men, both young and old. I can remember serious boyhood discussions with my friends concerning which style was most effective -- karate or kung fu, boxing or wrestling, ... How would Muhammed Ali fare against an Olympic wrestler or Judo player? What about Bruce Lee versus a Navy Seal? Of course, these discussions were completely theoretical, akin to asking whether Superman could beat Galactus in arm wrestling. There was scarcely any data available on which to base a conclusion.

However, thanks to the recent proliferation of "No Rules" or "No Holds Barred" (NHB) fighting tournaments, both in the U.S. and abroad, we finally have some interesting answers to this ancient question. As with many things, the truth of the matter was known long ago, and then forgotten and relearned many times. Part of the reason for this is that unarmed combat is a peculiar thing -- it is unlikely to occur in its pure form once weapons such as knives, bottles or guns are available, and when it does occur it is usually under special circumstances involving surprise or intoxication or multiple combatants. The clean schoolyard confrontation between two individuals is something which rarely occurs again in later life. Hence, single combat can only be studied in a controlled way as a form of sport. To my knowledge, the last time this was possible was during ancient times in Greece and more recently in Asia. The ancient Greek sport of Pankration (or "All Powers") was the most popular of all of the original Olympic competitions. It combined boxing and wrestling as well as submission holds such as chokes and arm- and leg-locks. In China and Japan, unarmed fighting was also developed systematically in environments where tests through actual combat were frequent, although the modern descendants of those arts are often far from realistic.

In its modern incarnation, NHB fighting is one of the most exciting new sports to hit the market. It has a small but rapidly growing pool of fans and practicioners, despite its undeserved reputation for being bloody and dangerous. In fact, any student of the history of boxing knows that the introduction of padded gloves, along with rules against grappling, have made that sport much more dangerous than real fighting. Padded gloves protect the hands of a boxer and allow repeated blows to the head of an opponent, increasing the likelihood of brain damage. The prohibition against grappling creates an unrealistic environment, where fighters are forced to stand toe to toe and pummel each other, rather than use more efficient takedown and submission techniques to bring the fight to the ground and end it. That wrestling and submission techniques would often prevail against striking was well known to both the ancient Pankrationists and at least some of the martial artists in Asia. This lesson has been re-learned in the NHB context, as fight after fight ends with a grappler applying a submission hold to his opponent, often with neither suffering more than superficial damage. This is in contrast to the flashy styles of fighting popularized in movies and television, as well as to the expectations of fans of boxing. ...

Teddy Roosevelt on judo and jiujitsu. He lined the white house recreation room with tatami mats and earned a black belt under emissaries from the Kodokan.

From a letter to son Kermit, dated 02/24/1905:

Yesterday afternoon we had Professor Yamashita up here to wrestle with Grant. It was very interesting, but of course jiu jitsu and our wrestling are so far apart that it is difficult to make any comparison between them. Wrestling is simply a sport with rules almost as conventional as those of tennis, while jiu jitsu is really meant for practice in killing or disabling our adversary. In consequence, Grant did not know what to do except to put Yamashita on his back, and Yamashita was perfectly content to be on his back. Inside of a minute Yamashita had choked Grant, and inside of two minutes more he got an elbow hold on him that would have enabled him to break his arm; so that there is no question but that he could have put Grant out. So far this made it evident that the jiu jitsu man could handle the ordinary wrestler. But Grant, in the actual wrestling and throwing was about as good as the Japanese, and he was so much stronger that he evidently hurt and wore out the Japanese. With a little practice in the art I am sure that one of our big wrestlers or boxers, simply because of his greatly superior strength, would be able to kill any of those Japanese, who though very good men for their inches and pounds are altogether too small to hold their own against big, powerful, quick men who are well trained.

From "Theodore Roosevelt's Letters to His Children" edited by Joseph Bishop.

From the Times article. NFL players know who is the baddest:

...In Detroit, where Morton spent eight seasons, he was the kind of player who did not get tired even during two-a-days. He can bench press 400 pounds. His body fat is less than 5 percent. But during a sparring session Wednesday, he could not summon the energy to get off his hands and knees. Joker and Gun had to drag him to his feet.

“Let me die in peace,” Morton moaned.

Then he remembered that he was a former professional football player, that his girlfriend was watching, and that Joker and Gun do not believe in peace.

Morton charged at his sparring partner, battering him with a combination of punches and dropping him to the mat with a sweep of his leg. Morton used one hand to grab the man’s neck and the other to pound the side of his face.

If Morton were in the N.F.L., he would have drawn a 15-yard penalty, an automatic ejection, a fine and a possible suspension. But here, he prompted Joker and Gun to do their version of a touchdown dance.

“Look at this guy,” Gun said. “He’s beautiful. He has tons of money. He has an incredibly happy lifestyle. And he’s putting his brain on the line. He’s putting his manhood on the line. It’s hard to say what would make him do it.”

...One of the broadcasters will be Jay Glazer, who has a unique perspective on the bout. Glazer is best known as an N.F.L. analyst, but he also competes in mixed martial arts. When he visits N.F.L. training camps in the summer, players ask him more about fighting than about football.

“Football players are looked at as the biggest and baddest guys on the planet,” Glazer said. “People see them as superheroes. But football players also need someone to look up to. They view mixed martial arts as something even they are unwilling or unable to do. All the guys love Johnnie. But they think he’s nuts.”

Postscript: Johnny Morton, the NFL stud, was viciously knocked out 38 seconds into the first round of his MMA debut. I link to the fight video above, but don't particularly recommend you watch it since Morton is far from a skilled fighter. Mama Said Knock You Out!

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