Saturday, February 24, 2018

Relson Gracie Seminar Thoughts

Thursday I attended a Jiu-Jitsu seminar by Grandmaster Relson Gracie, hosted by Professor Marco Moreno of The Basics Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I want to share a few thoughts on the seminar for anyone who wants to attend one in the future.

Marco runs a great academy. It isn't huge but he has what appears to the plush green Gracie mats installed.

I trained there once before, when Marco hosted a Rener Gracie seminar. Everyone was friendly and approachable.

The cost was a bit higher than other seminars I've attended recently. It was $100 for two hours. I figured it was worth it to spend some time with a Jiu-Jitsu red belt who lives in Hawaii. I only had to drive about an hour to participate, which is cheaper and easier than a flight across the country and the Pacific!

Relson taught a kid's class before my seminar. I did not see the class but I saw him interacting with the kids afterwards. It is clear he loves teaching Jiu-Jitsu and interacting with young people.

We had about 50 attendees, including the instructors. Relson brought several other black and brown belt school owners or instructors from his association with him. They were happy to help the white belt newbies like me.

As you might expect, Relson focused on self defense. He described a twelve page "book" that contains everything he thinks you need to know about Jiu-Jitsu for self defense. I don't know if such a book exists, but it was still a useful metaphor for organizing his material.

Relson taught three stand-up techniques and three ground techniques. He called each one a "page" in his book. The teaching method was to demonstrate the technique, then give students time to drill each one.

The first technique was a passive defensive stance when facing a potential threat approaching from the side. He recommended standing with the hand closest to the threat over your face, fingers covering your nose. Keep your elbow against your ribs. With your far hand, wrap around your midsection and cover the area below your near elbow. It is deceptively simple and looks very "weak," but it is an intriguing way to be prepared to defend oneself. From that position you can use the high hand to block a punch, and then clinch.

The second technique was a defensive hand posture plus what I've heard Prof Sauer called the "pissau." It's the same kick you saw Royce Gracie use in the UFC. The hand position reminded me of a yoga eagle pose -- hands up, elbows down and crossed to shield the face and body. Relson also tucked his chin behind his lead shoulder. From the kick you can shoot for the clinch.

The third technique was blocking an opponent's attempt to shoot for the double-leg takedown. It's a standard brace against the opponent's shoulders followed by a knee and clinch.

The next three "pages" covered ground techniques.

You use the fourth technique when on the ground, in an opponent's guard. Look for an opening to control the opponent's biceps, similar to a Gracie Combatives approach. After gaining arm control, smash the opponent's face with head butts. Relson showed how he could squirm forward if his opponent tried to push him back with his legs.

You use the fifth technique when on the ground, and you have the opponent in your guard. You gain control similar to Gracie Combatives punch block position one, except you put your left foot on the opponent's hip, and reach behind your leg while trapping his right arm. You control his left arm using the Gracie Combatives punch block position two. Relson showed how he had complete control over Marco (his demo partner), slapping him every which way. Marco was a good sport!

You use the sixth technique when on the ground, and the opponent has you in side control. Relson keeps one knee up for connection. Relson worries about the top person dropping elbows on his face, so he used both arms to shoot upward, then control the opponent's northern shoulder with both of his arms. If his opponent switches hips to face Relson, he chokes him after moving one arm. If his opponent switches his hips in the other direction, Relson reaches over and immobilizes his top arm and rolls him into a side mount.

After the six techniques, Relson talked about the Roger Gracie - Buchecha match. He said Buchecha didn't know how to defend the RNC and Buchecha could have submitted Roger when Roger crossed his feet.

The seminar finished with Relson and Marco promoting students with stripes and belts as appropriate. Relson was kind enough to sign my copy of the Gracie master text. I now have Relson, Rickson, Royce, and Rener.

Overall I was glad I attended the seminar. I had no problem with the self defense focus, because we have a similar approach at Prof Sauer's academy.

Relson was very engaging and kept everyone entertained. He answered questions and was very friendly. I liked when he said "now you kick the butts" after gaining control over an opponent. He told us to not pass the guard or use a triangle in the street. The former would result in bloody knees and the latter would result in your foe slamming you to the asphalt.

Thank you GM Relson for visiting northern VA and to Prof Marco for opening his school to visitors!

Have you attended a Relson Gracie seminar? Let me know here or on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Friday, February 16, 2018

New Fundamentals Videos on

This post is mainly for those with access to

If you're a student at a school that is an affiliate of Professor Pedro Sauer's association, you may also have access. I don't know how it works with affiliate schools, so I apologize if this post is for a very narrow audience!

By chance I heard Prof Mike Horihan mention that he had loaded new fundamentals videos into the site. I remembered seeing Professor Sauer and Prof Jeff Curran posting to Instagram about recording these videos. Professor Sauer said one night in class that about 20 years had passed since he and Jeff had recorded the original fundamentals instructionals!

I wanted to offer a few comments on what I found in the new videos.

First, the easiest way to access the new videos is to select the "Fundamentals" check box in the "Programs" part of the web site, as shown in the first screen capture. Uncheck "Video Pool," "White to Blue," and "Blue to Purple."

You will find 73 new videos. They are easy to recognize thanks to the bright yellow floor and black walls. Mike Horihan recorded these videos at the HQ in Herndon, VA, during the day, using professional lighting and camera equipment.

For comparison, at the left is a screen capture of the original T-position to Hip Throw video. On the right is a screen capture of the new corresponding video.

The new videos play in 720 x 1280 HD format on my laptop. The sound is great as well.

The videos are in the same basic format as the originals. They are only a few minutes long at most. They address a specific element of the curriculum.

One concern I have with the new videos is that it is not straightforward, in some cases, to match them with the 88 techniques of the white to blue curriculum. For example, there are 87 original videos. (Forward and backward rolling are combined into one video.) Each video is named to match the item on the curriculum and has a number to match.

The new videos do not share this convention. While I plan to watch all of the videos, it would be easier for newbies like me to have an index like a technique number or exactly matching language. In some cases this is true for both video sets -- "Mata Leao," "Squeeze the Bread," and so on are exactly the same in the new and the old. In other cases, there are differences.

(I might create a mapping of video name to old technique name and number as I watch each video.)

The content is as excellent as ever. You can tell Professor is much more comfortable speaking English compared to the original recordings. He mentioned having trouble expressing himself back when he recorded the original videos.

The old videos are more direct, explaining the technique with little deviation. The new videos feature more variety. Professor offers more context, more details, and more energy. He tells you why you might need to apply a certain technique and how to adjust if necessary.

If you are new to Professor's curriculum, I recommend starting with the original videos, and add the new ones to your practice.

I'm very happy to find these on the web site, and I hope all of you can access them as part of your membership in Professor's association.

What do you think of the videos? Let me know here or on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rigan Machado Seminar Thoughts

Saturday I attended a Jiu-Jitsu seminar by Rigan Machado, hosted by Patrick Tray of Trident Martial Arts. I want to share a few thoughts on the seminar for anyone who wants to attend one in the future.

The location was top notch. Trident is in Woodbridge, VA, and features two huge training areas. They are meticulous about mat hygiene.

I've trained at Mr. Tray's school before, about 1 1/2 years ago for a great series on ground, striking, and weapons scenarios.

The cost was very reasonable -- $79 for early registration and three hours. Saturday was a gi session and Sunday was a no-gi session. I could only attend Saturday.

If I had paid at the door, it would have cost me $99. If I had registered early for both sessions, the cost would have been $149.

In addition to Master Rigan, Master Marcos Santos from Texas was present and helped teach material.

Mr Tray and several of his black belts (like Mikey Custodio) participated and helped teach. Ben Gilbert, who is a full instructor for all of Mr. Tray's programs, also helped. All of the instructors and students I worked with were friendly.

We had about 50 attendees, including the professors.

Rigan began the seminar with a short discussion on his strategy. He emphasized tightness and pressure. He wants to make his opponent feel uncomfortable and make him tap using pressure. He really likes operating from side control, so we spent most of the seminar working from that position.

He divided the seminar into three parts. The first two parts involved teaching 3-4 techniques each. I do not remember the exact numbering but I will share what I can.

The first technique was a transition from side control into controlling both of the opponent's arms and his head. The second involved lifting him off the mat, tightening control, and then flattening him out. The third involved a leg entanglement that resulted in twisting the opponent into a submission.

After drilling each of these techniques for a while, we had a few minutes for a water break. The opening discussion and first part last about 90 minutes.

In the second part we worked four more techniques. The first was an arm-in choke that required switching side control from one side of the opponent to the other. The second was a transition from north-south into side control. The third was a transition from side control into an arm bar or triangle choke. I do not remember the fourth!

That second part lasted about 60 minutes, after which we had another water break. Rigan then had us perform "quick drills." In this part all students ran around the mats in a circle. Rigan called out a technique number. We grabbed the nearest partner, dropped to the mat, and took turns drilling the techniques. Then we stood up and resumed running.

These were more tiring than I expected. We dropped every 20 seconds or so. The session last about 20 minutes, so we probably did about 60 techniques during that time.

The last 10 minutes of the session included positional rolling. I happened to be odd man out when it started because I asked Rigan about his work on the John Wick movies. We ended up talking about his movie work during the rolling time, which was fine by me. He showed me pictures from attending the premier of Clint Eastwood's new movie, and we discussed Jiu-jitsu training for Air Force basic trainees.

After the seminar, Rigan and everyone took the time to get pictures with anyone who wanted one. He also talked about starting a black belt club for RCJ black belts.

Overall the seminar was great. We did a lot of technique drilling and my partners and I were able to get help when we needed it. Thank you to Mr. Tray for hosting Masters Rigan and Marcos and to my training partners for an awesome experience.

Have you attended a Rigan Machado or Machado brothers seminar? Let me know here or on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Update: Thanks AW for the typo fix!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gracie Punch Block Series In Action

I had a chance to apply Jiu-Jitsu in a striking class recently, and I wanted to share the results with you!

One year ago this week I started practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Prof Pedro Sauer's school in Herndon, VA. Right away I started with the Gracie Combatives program, and mid-year I began regularly attending the Pedro Sauer fundamentals curriculum classes.

Two years ago this month I began practicing Krav Maga at Nick Masi's school in Herndon, VA. Last week ground combat was the focus of the classes. I participated in the Thursday night "fight" class, which is several notches above the intensity of the Wednesday sparring class.

Once in a while we go to the ground in a Krav session, but we tend to avoid extended ground contact or pressure. I had only done this sort of dedicated ground striking session once before, and that was in 2016 before I started Jiu-Jitsu. I did not perform very well. I'm 46, 5'9, and less than 145 lbs. If I have to depend on speed, power, aggression, or conditioning, I'm in trouble.

Incidentally, these traits appear fundamental to Krav Maga. A Krav Maga Twitter account that I follower recently posted this:

I replied "technique"!

Back to the ground fighting. In the pre-Jiu-Jitsu ground striking session in 2016, I remember pulling guard and being pounded from above. One opponent even stood up to get a better platform to rain punches down. I didn't know how to handle that problem, and I didn't have the kinesthetic conditioning to properly protect myself.

How did I fare last week, when we put on MMA gloves and did ground sparring with strikes? I am happy to report I did much better. I used my guard properly and broke down my opponent's posture, but the key was the Gracie Combatives punch block series

I remember one engagement very clearly. My training partner was younger, taller (almost a foot), heavier, and stronger. I pulled guard and put him in punch block series phase 1. He was surprised and struggled, but I was able to maintain control without expending much energy. 

He pulled an arm free and tried to punch. I put him in stage 1.5. When he ripped his other arm out, I put him in stage 2. I thought to myself "I'm actually doing this!" 

Next he tried to get on his knees, so I put him in stage 3. Throughout the engagement I stayed calm and managed my breathing and energy expenditure. 

Before he could stand up, I accepted his forward pressure and put him back in stage 1. It could have been a scene in the Gracie Combatives video!

He eventually switched to driving his elbow into my jaw. I started to set up for a sweep, but we both heard something pop in my jaw. My partner relieved the pressure, took off his gloves, and checked my jaw for damage! I didn't know at the time that he was a dentist, so it was weird holding him in my guard while he was showing concern for a possibly injured jaw. I was ok, and then time expired.

The bottom line is that the Gracie Combatives punch block series worked for me in an aggressive striking training scenario. My performance in 2018 was far better than 2016, and I credit the Gracie Combatives technique and the Pedro Sauer rolling experience. My very limited experience as a white belt with one year of Jiu-Jitsu was enough to help me engage with training partners who have better physical attributes but less ground experience. 

Thank you to both my Jiu-Jitsu and Krav Maga schools and training partners for making this story possible!

What do you think of the punch block series? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.