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!
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