Olympus Fitness & Martial Arts, (BJJ), Virginia Beach, VA, USA - 18/04/2014
I have had a brilliant time in Virginia so far, thanks to both the awesome hospitality of my host Adrienne from The Green Gi and the fantastic group of people who have all come together this weekend. I knew two of them online before - Chrissy Linzy from US Grappling and Leslie from BJJ Grrl - but the others I hadn't interacted with much before. That changed as soon as I headed into Norfolk Airport, where they met me down by baggage claim, then we went out for a meal as a group. This would be the pattern over the next few days, along with fun bits of socialising like a game of Cards Against Humanity on Friday night.
I'd certainly heard of at least one of them before: Val Worthington. She's a black belt who has been active in BJJ for many years, both online and offline. I first encountered her through the BJJ Vision Quest blog she used to write, which I think she is now using as source material for a book (might be on something else entirely: either way, I'll definitely be buying it!). More recently she's known for her insightful articles on the Breaking Muscle website.
Val has also succeeded at the highest levels of competition, so I was very much looking forward to rolling with her. It entirely lived up to my expectations, as Val is a superb training partner. Although she could easily have spent the roll tapping me over and over again, she instead stayed light (but tight: any space I made instantly disappeared), waiting to see what I would do. There are very few people capable of perfectly adjusting to their training partner's level like that: the only ones that immediately spring to mind that I've rolled with are my instructor Kev Capel, Jeff Rockwell, my fellow Artemis BJJ co-founder Dónal and John 'jnp' Palmer. A rare and valuable skill.
In terms of rolling in general (over the hour, I was able to spar with most of the group), I'm still playing more spider guard than I would like, relying on those arthritis-tastic grips. I need to attempt simple feet on hips more, along with that Xande open guard I used to do. Then again, it's not a bad thing to occasionally play with it. I couldn't get the sweep Kev showed me when they're on their knees, though I did manage that simple one Dónal gave me some pointers about recently, where you're just steering them over to the side.
With the addition of turning my head to look over my shoulder and tucking my elbow, that gets a lot more leverage. I wasn't following up all that smoothly though: when I've knocked someone over with that, I need to close the distance more efficiently. I ended up yanking on the arm and using that to crawl to mount or side control.
My passing is also too repetitive: I always push through to half guard then try and knee cut. I need to vary that up more, adding in Dónal's leg squash pass, as well as moving from side to side. It does work, but then if I am against anybody good at blocking me from half guard and/or scuppering the knee cut, I'm stuck.
Under side contol, I'm tending to either over rely on the running escape or move into weird stuff, rather than solidifying the basic guard recovery and turn to knees. For example, I frequently go for the triangle under side control, which really shouldn't be a go to technique. Having said that, if I can get my legs in position, it does often lead to an escape. The problem is most people with experience won't let you push their head and get your legs in place.
The shin in elbow trick (from Beneville's Strategic Guard) is less low percentage: it's something I am getting more regularly now that I've been working on stiff arming their sleeve away from me in the running escape, like Kev showed me. I got an interesting taste of my own medicine on that front, because Adrienne made very effective use of the same principle when we rolled.
Just like her gi company, Adrienne's game is innovative. She uses a lot of gi grips, combined with good flexibility and agility. I managed to pass her guard and was looking to set up the gi tail choke, when Adrienne got a grip on my gi and stuck a leg inside. I didn't think too much of it, as I assumed I could eventually wriggle my hand around and use gradual leverage to free the sleeve.
Instead, I somehow found myself in a tight triangle: very cool attack on Adrienne's part, as I didn't see it coming and was pretty much caught. I was getting close to tapping, then Adrienne eased off slightly, as I think she thought it wasn't on. I walked over towards he head, then popped free after a slow wriggle.
Immediately after the roll, I realised my neck was sore. It's hard to know if I'm getting the balance between testing out my defence to see if there is a way out, or just being stubborn to the point of hurting myself. Seeing as my neck was sore, I would strongly suspect I was closer to the 'stubborn and stupid' end of the spectrum this time round. ;)
After one last roll with Leslie, I decided to stop at that point, in case I aggravated my neck. It wasn't too bad, but seeing as I've got lots more training to do on this trip, resting it made sense. I rolled with almost everybody, including Brian, who is much, much bigger than me. Despite that size difference, like Val he is good at adjusting his pace. I never felt like he was using strength or size: with some big guys, I don't feel safe and avoid engaging. With Brian, I felt totally comfortable: we rolled again right after the first time.
Tomorrow there is a Dave 'Rock' Jacobs seminar. That's perfect, as it means not only do I get to train with a top black belt, I can also continue to rest my neck as seminars are normally all technique with optional rolling at the end. I'm also looking forward to trying out a suggestion Leslie made: she uses the gi tail grip from guard for a choke, grabbing next to the initial hand with her other hand, then bringing her arm around their head to set up the choke. Sounds cool! :)