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rabid squirrel jiu-jitsu

April 29, 2008

Cleaning out my apartment on Sunday I came across a few training notes from summer of last year. Some of them were of my old workout routines. Others on what techniques I wanted to work on.

One note in particular was this: “Esteban joked about a rabid squirrel today, maybe that’s the key to it all. Keep on moving, like a rabid squirrel, cause they hard to hold on to.”

Insightful huh?

Anyway, I like to think my game has moved beyond the animal metaphors, but I suppose it made sense at the time. It’s hard to put someone in side control if they keep moving around and around.

Sure some things in BJJ are absolute (like submissions) but the game for a smaller practitioner is very much different and perhaps more difficult than it is for others. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying us little guys and gals have it worse. Everyone has their particular problems and obstacles, and we’re all learning and striving to better ourselves. I don’t know how it is for other small practitioners but I’m really critical of myself and my ability to correctly perform a technique.

So I thought I’d share some tips and observations, things I found useful as a small tiny fish in the big world of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Damn, used an animal metaphor again…

By the way, I’m 169 cm (5 ft 6 in) tall and 63 kg (138 lbs) heavy.

Ready, GO!
I used to preach a lot about being relaxed while sparring. It still is useful. The most important aspect about being “relaxed” is conversing your energy, not spending needless amounts of it.

But the danger of this is that it can lead to laziness. While being relaxed and being lazy are two completely different things, being lazy happened to me. I’d give up positions too easily and be content to remain in a bad one. All because I took the notion of relaxing too far.

I now prefer to be “ready” than relaxed. The difference is quite obvious. When the opportunity to take action (to escape, to sweep, to submit) presents itself, I’ll be ready.

Beware the Americana from Side Control
If you’re a small guy or gal, and you find yourself in bottom side control and the top player is larger than you chances are they’ll try to slap on an Americana/key lock. The chances are pretty good.

This is my BJJ pet peeve because this has (and always will) happened to me. I have two tips.

If you’re the bottom player: learn how to defend the Americana/key lock.

If you’re the top player: learn how to finish the Americana/key lock or work for another submission if you can’t.

Have a Money Escape
When I first started BJJ a friend of mine asked if I had a “money escape” (he really liked “Swingers”). Basically, take an escape and make it yours. Learn all the details of how it works, what the fundamentals of the technique are, what makes it effective, know the in’s and out’s of it.

My money escape is a basic technique. First one I learned actually. The elbow/knee escape. How I use it and perform it maybe a bit different than how others do it, but it works for me. And that’s what counts.

Learn as many escapes as possible
Mix it up. Just because I know one escape very well doesn’t mean I neglect learning anymore. In fact, I believe you can never learn enough escapes.

I have three other escapes I can pull off pretty well, and I use them (sometimes) in connection with the elbow/knee escape. I’ll try to use the other escapes first, and if they fail I go straight to my money escape. And even if I can’t get full guard, I’ll always try for half guard.

But there are seven other escapes I’m learning and I usually try those, which goes nowhere except for me getting an Americana.

Make the guard you new best friend – later
This is more for those of you beginning your Jiu-jitsu training. I’d suggest learning the basics first, then spend a healthy dose of time learning escapes next. Once you’ve got pretty good escapes then, and only then, would I start concentrating on attacks from the guard.

Why? Take me for example. I improved my closed guard first. So, my closed guard was pretty tight and dangerous. Whenever people passed my guard and got me in side control, I was clueless and got submitted very quickly. I was strong in one position, but I couldn’t get back to it because when I was out of that position I was weak.

There already is an emphasis to move from a weak position to a stronger one (passing guard) in grappling. Why not for escapes? It’s the same objective; moving from a position of weakness (bottom side control) to one of strength (guard).

I believe that side control escapes should be even more emphasized. Well, for me anyways, cause I always get caught in side control with bigger heavier guys.

Do not neglect your Top Game
And last of all, just because I can’t hold top side control for very long doesn’t mean I don’t bother with it.

I see so many set ups and submissions when others get top side control and I’m watching on the sidelines. So many that I decided to try them out for myself. And my top game still sucks. I still get pushed off. I still fail at most of the submissions I attempt. However, my set ups are getting better. Like getting to the back or faking a submission to set up another one.

I just had to try and make the most of my time in top position.

Keep on rolling out there.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2008 7:56 pm

    Yo… will you definitely be coming to the Copa Pararestra? If so, let me know… you can email me at my email address and give me your mobile number or keitai mail or something… Only a few days to go now!

  2. May 1, 2008 7:59 pm

    This is a great post, by the way. Lots of good advice.
    I’ve been trying to improve all aspects of my game lately, from my top game to my general strength to my judo, and it has helped me no end. I used to have nothing but the guard. Now I have at least a couple more tools in the toolbox.

  3. May 2, 2008 9:36 am

    good game for instance

  4. May 2, 2008 9:40 am

    That is great advice. I can use it as I work my corner.

  5. asad123 permalink
    May 2, 2008 12:09 pm

    I have trouble with the rabid squirrel metaphor because I’ve never actually encountered a squirrel with rabies.

  6. May 3, 2008 1:07 am

    Thanks for the support! Glad you liked this post. I feel the same way about my game. I’m always looking to improve.

    @parapriza & Archie

    I think of rabid squirrels might be much like rabid dogs… except cuter and less vicious.

  7. subtropic permalink
    May 3, 2008 3:31 pm

    This is definitely good advice for those starting out.

    I know from my own experience, what I had going early on was trying to jump into subs way too quick and not letting them go. The moment I thought I could get on a triangle or kimura, i’d rush right into it even I lost my leverage, and would then hold on for dear life and exhaust myself trying to force that one sub. I guess that would be ‘Submission Tunnel Vision’.

  8. Luca permalink
    May 9, 2008 10:39 am

    Good post. I’ve got the same body type as you (even lighter…58kg) and I’m struggling with the same issues. Lately I’ve been working a lot on butterfly guard, still get passed but I found there’s light as I can hold off the bigger guys longer.

    Watching the more experienced small guys in the gym, I see that they never settle for a bad position, i.e. if caught in side control, they will try hard to escape from the first second.

    I sometimes settle for it and think I would rest for a couple of seconds before planning my escape..this way I usually get subbed 😉
    I’m trying to condition myself to never settle for a bad position


  1. A good blog… « Martial Farts

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