Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Training notes - Pt 4

Back in the UK after an action packed weekend in Stockholm; travelled across with my sponsors Lee Jones and Gareth Dummer from and encountered breathtaking rudeness and over zealous Hitlers at Stansted airport, who refused to let me take on board a suspsicious looking and highly dangerous bottle of Polcadine cough medicine. After a tough final week's training for the competition, I picked up a very irritating throat infection, a dry tickly cough that kept me company throughout the trip and was at its worst first thing in the morning and last thing at night and made me sound like I was a 60 a day smoker throughout the day.

Infections aside, I didn't let this minor irritation get me down or lose focus on the competition; over the whole trip I didn't drink any alcohol and had early nights every night (yes early nights) which saw me lying in my bed 2130GMT on a Friday and Saturday thinking, this isn't right, not on a weekend!

Hydration was the name of the game throughout the trip, having suffered air con at the airport and on the plane, plus I was infected and coughing and spluttering every five minutes, the last thing I needed to be was dehyadrated before the competition.

We arrived Thursday dinner time after an 0615H flight from Stansted and a 230 mile drive down to Port Talbot to meet the Tatami guys and another 200 mile drive to Stansted airport and an hour's drive from Skavsta airport to the hotel, so by the time we got to the hotel, we all would have happily slept where we stood as we checked into the hotel.

With Thursday written off, we spent Friday chilling out and went sightseeing in the centre of Stockholm and it was nice to be back in the city again after being there back in 2003. An afternoon of culture and intellectual conversation in a number of bars and cafes was just what the doctor ordered, as I sat with the lads drinking water and soft drinks, leaving the hard stuff for the rest of the guys.

Saturday came round far too quick and it was the first day of the comp and I was due to fight in the -94K Senior 1 division at purple belt; we arrived at the event at dinner time as my bracket wasn't due to start until 1630H so plenty of time to chill and watch the action. I went over to where all the brackets were on display and to my horror I saw that I was the only one in my weight group and thus would not be fighting that day. Gold by default. I was really gutted that this had happened but wasn't alone, there were quite a number of guys in the Senior divisions that had no one to fight and I am sure I wasn't the only person in Europe or Scandinavia at this weight and belt colour. At an event as large as this, I was sure I was going to fight some one, but it wasn't to be so rather than get angry, I watched the fights, took pictures, met old friends and took comfort in the fact that I could register for the Open weight on the Sunday.

Another early night and much coughing and cursing brought me round to the second day of the event and I was not to be disappointed in the open weight, there were three of us, so I would fight today! This was it, the time to test myself on the mats and try and put into practice all I had been training over the last 10 weeks.

My first fight was against Peter Granqvist and I took the inititative and went to grip up so I could pull off my open guard sweep, but he spoiled my plans by gripping me on the opposite side to what I was expecting, which put me off for a second and then out of the blue I sat down, pulled open guard and swept the guy on the opposite side! I'd been drilling this technique from the left side, putting my left foot in the hip and doing the sweep and here I am pulling it from the other side, I couldn't believe it!

I got the sweep and takedown and we came off the mats and started again and he jumped guard and I was there for a while trying to break his grip and then went to pass guard again and we were both going for it, when I made a slight mistake and he had my back. I didn't panic and started to defend and move out of position and almost made it, but he managed to keep a tight grip with his last hook and managed to pull me back round. Still defending and not feeling in immediate danger, he began to attack my neck and got his hand inside my lapel and attacked with Katahajime and with my throat already goosed, I tapped out.

I had 10 minute's rest and was on the mats again, facing Danish player Rune Brinckmeyer; again I took the fight to Rune and attacked again with the open guard, where he defended and I carried on with a De La Riva hook and tried for the sweep, getting an advantage. This guy was very tight and strong and gave away no space and we had a good old battle on the ground where he had me in side control and I managed a reversal and passed his guard. Nothing was coming from the pass so I stood up and we engaged once again.

I used the open guard again and give him some problems and once again we hit the mats and he tried to pass guard and I defended and retrieved guard and he tried again to pass, this time successfully and the next thing he was in mount! Trying not to panic I went to retrieve guard and he managed to stay on top and rested up on my lungs and then all my energy left me in a flash. Sensing my loss, Rune started to attack my neck and and managed to get an Ezekiel choke on and his arm went right across my windpipe and once again I tapped out before any serious damage happened.

And so my time on the mats came to an end and I collected the bronze medal for the Open weight; after that I took some more photos and enjoyed the rest of the competition and watched the finals of the black belts, taking in some great jiu jitsu.

After a competition comes the self analysis, time to reflect on my performance; although I didn't win my matches I managed to pull off just about everything I had been training over the last 10 weeks, especially the opening attack and sweep and even managed to pull it off from the opposite side. I was calm and focussed when I stepped onto the mats and when in bad positions I was able to defend myself without panicking. I passed guard and defended guard passes made against me and retrieved guard position and managed a few reversals, so overall I had plenty to be happy about.

Cardio was a key factor in my second match, I just clean ran out of gas when the guy mounted me, soon as he landed on my lungs that was it, game over, so I will be addressing this issue and go back to the drawing board and into the laboratory and crank up my cardio in my training. Technically, I felt there were no major issues, just keep on drilling the open guard and guard passes and the transitions from one position to the next, but most of all, start building up the gas tanks.

When you compete in jiu jitsu and step onto the mats, you are on your own out there; however to get you into shape and ready to fight takes a team effort and there were many people who helped me prepare for the competition, both technically and motivationally and I would like to thank the following people for all their help, in no particular order:-

Chris Arrigonie
Lee Jones
Gareth Dummer
Steve Campbell
Simon Hayes
Dicke Martin
Eddie Kone
My students at Caged Steel

Training for the competition has given me a deeper understanding of jiu jitsu and of course with more training comes improved technique; competitions can give you so many benefits and insights into the art and more importantly into yourself and this is one of the reasons I love jiu jitsu. It has given me something to aim for these last few months and helped me to give my ego a good bashing in the process, always a good thing!

To quote my good friend Roy Dean, training jiu jitsu in its many guises gives you a real chance to 'Discover who you are'. Not bad for men in pyjamas!!

I now have picked up the competition bug once again and hope to be competing again in the not too distant future and will of course keep you all posted; I hope that these posts have been of interest to seasoned players and beginners alike and an insight into jiu jitsu for the non practising people out there.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Training notes - Pt 3

All the hard work, sweat, tears and blood have been shed. The endless rounds of drilling takedowns, guard passing, positional transitions, submissions galore, it's all over. The 10 week training programme has come to an end, there's no going back now, I've trained and prepared myself as best I can in the time available and am ready for the weekend.

No competitor can ever be 100% ready for action, there can always be more to do to improve, but I'm as ready as I'll ever be; I've been training jiu jitsu now for many years almost every day week in week out and many others like me do the same so we're in effect, always ready.

If you train the arts and find yourself in what's likely to be a live situation on the street, you can't speak to your potential attacker and say 'hang on a sec, I'm not really ready for this, I've had a few weeks off traing you see.' When it kicks off it kicks off and you better pray you're ready!

A jiu jitsu competition isn't a live street situation but you'll feel the same mental and physical effects as if you were in one; you'll have sweaty palms, dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach and many other alarm bells ringing and you have to deal with them all as you step on the mat and before you step on the mat, even weeks before the event.

In a live situation, it's normally escalated very quickly and you don't have much time to think or react before getting on your heels (the smart thing to do) or getting stuck in. Regards jiu jitsu competitions (or MMA or any other event for that matter) you have weeks to prepare for a fight and you'll have the dry mouth and dodgy belly for weeks on end, every day in fact if you're going to be honest and this can be enough to amke you start doubting yourself and giving in way before you step onto the mats.

The day I registered for the Scandinavian Open, my stomach started to churn and the tingles and dry mouth came back and it's been like that more or less every day and now the training's over, they're worse than ever. It's a natural physiological repsonse that many people feel and misinterpret for FEAR - that's all fear is, the manifestation of the jitters in your body, survival instinct kicking in telling you in your head to RUN!

It's the battle within yourself to hold this imposter back that is far far harder than any training or competing will ever be, the struggle with your Ego. Mr Ego is the daddy, the main man inside your head who rules the roost. Mr Ego tells you you've had a hard day, why not have a few beers instead of going training? Why not stay in and watch television with your girlfriend, instead of going to the gym. Mr Ego suggests you miss out on the sparring session at the end of class because you have work to do at home? Mr Ego has an encyclopedia of excuses unparallelled to throw at you to make you miss class and take the easier path in training and also in life.


And that is the battle that's going to be the hardest to win and we all succumb to this little sprite from time to time, some more than others. When training for a competition it's a daily struggle trust me I've been there a million times; many a time I'd have sold my family to have a day off training, days when every muscle is screaming out for rest. To go home and put my feet up and forget training and forget teaching for one day. Almost every week I could find a myriad of excuses not to train and not to teach, but that would be the easy way out, the way out that so many people chose and why classes fluctuate from busy to non existent. Mostly when people get their ass handed to them when they start rolling in class; their ego takes a severe beatdown and suddenly, jiu jitsu isn't all it's cracked up to be and the sofa and television becomes a more welcoming companion.

After fighting my ego all day I drag myslef to class and you know what invariably happens? I have the best training session and the best teaching class! I end up on top of my game and when teaching, I usually find something I hadn't seen before on a technique or a guard pass for example. Now just think if I'd have stayed at home, I'd have missed all that and that is what motivates me when I get tired and want to stay at home and take it easy and that's how it's been preparing for this competition.

So now, after all the hard work I can now say to my Ego - FUCK YOU, I WIN!!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Eddie Kone BJJ Seminar

After my training session at Carlsons last week, I rounded off the week and the weekend with a trip to Rotherham MMA on Saturday 10th October, where my good friend and BJJ black belt Eddie Kone delivered an afternoon of jiu jitsu. I last had the pleasure of training with Eddie at my old club in Bolton (RIP) at the start of 2008 where the action was no gi; this seminar, all the action was with the gi, just how I like it.

Rotherham MMA club is run by head coach Mark Bottom, Charlie Farley and Jonathon Keeley and is the Northern arm of Eddie Kone BJJ network; it has recently moved into new premises and boasts a large matted area, plenty of bright freshly painted walls and a cage currently under construction.

The seminar was well attended with no less than six purple belts on the mats, with blue and white belts making up the numbers; I have always been a big fan of Eddie’s approach to teaching and the way he likes to get students to think outside the box when using techniques. The three hour class was split into three one hour segments; the first hour started from standing and covered a neat little entry into the Uchimata throw and from there, a number of alternatives were shown when your opponent defends the initial throw. These included a single leg and double leg attack, a triangle and reverse hip toss that allows you to take the back, all impressive stuff. The techniques shown took a little over twenty minutes to demonstrate, leaving the remaining time to practice all the combos, without feeling rushed.

After a quick water break it was onto the second hour of the seminar, which followed on from the first hour; when most people took their partner to the ground with the throw, they ended up in half guard. Eddie went on to demonstrate a number of slick sweeps from this position, one I’d already seen and a very very sneaky counter I hadn’t seen before, where you give the guy on top the illusion that he has passed your guard and you come back with a nice reversal. The third technique was from the open half guard and my favourite technique of the day, a superb sweep where you take the guy right over your body, rolling over your shoulder to complete the sweep. It took me a few goes to get it right, but when you do, it’s a beautiful sweep, it feels effortless and if done in competition, would guarantee you be a hit with the ladies at the after party.

Another quick water break followed and the last hour was all specific training, putting the first two hours into practice; my favourite part of the last hour was rolling with your opponent with your best hand tucked into your belt. Overcoming the urge to try and tap your opponent, this kind of rolling allows you to get into and hold positions you would generally miss when rolling with both hands in use. Guard passing became more technical and allowed you to really ‘feel’ the pass and how your body weight contributes more than you’d think to the pass. Great fun indeed.

Starting from half guard, the guy on top had to pass whilst the guy underneath could only use the three techniques shown in the seminar, nothing else, which really made you tighten up your game; round after round of specifics, including guard passing and defending chokes from the rear hooks took us through to the end of the seminar and by now the club was filled with a heat haze and very wet gi’s.

Throughout the seminar, Eddie was close at hand to answer any questions and help everyone on the mats get the most out of the training; attention to detail was the name of the game, as well as Eddie’s constant encouragement and patience when teaching a technique. With Eddie being a light weight player, his technique has to be spot on and cannot rely on brute force alone and he brings this across in his teaching, getting people to realise the benefits of practising proper technique over brawn and muscle.
All too soon another afternoon of jiu jitsu had drawn to an end, another three hours of quality mat time in the bank, all good in the grand scheme of things; it’s been great to get back on the road and train with old friends, as well as making new friends, so a big shout out to Rotherham MMA, hope to see you all again soon guys!

Eddie Kone can be contacted at

Monday, 12 October 2009

A day at Carlsons London!

As many of you know over the years, I have adopted the philosophy of ‘have gi, will travel’, which has seen me hit the mats in BJJ and MMA academies all over the world. Over the last couple of years, I haven’t been on the road as much as I would like, but now I am back in a position to do what I do best – pack up my gi and haul ass!

I have known Simon Hayes and Dickie Martin from Carlsons for many years, seeing each other at BJJ tournaments and chatting away on the forums and every time I see them, they always tell me to come down and train at their gym. This is an offer that one simply cannot refuse and one I have been meaning to honour since the very first invite was offered, yet circumstances never appeared to be in my favour for a visit due either to my work commitments or with Simon’s, whose trade as a sound recordist takes him all over the world.

Thankfully, the invite was honoured last week, as I made the long journey down to Hammersmith to the academy to join in no less than three training sessions with the Carlson guys – it’s been a long time coming so time to take full advantage of the offer.

The day started by meeting Simon at the club and as I entered the Boiler Room (MkII) at the bottom of the stairs, Simon proudly showed me the many photos adorning the walls, photos of Simon and other academy members stood with some of the world’s best BJJ instructors and feared competitors. Pride of place, of course, was a large photograph of Carlson Gracie himself, keeping a watchful eye over the club as people trained, sweated and at times bled, as they pursued their individual goals and dreams.

Dickie Martin was also present and after a quick change into our gi’s, Simon started the dinner time beginners class; after a long drive down, this was great place to start to get the blood flowing through my veins and the class started with breakfalls, shrimping and guard replacement drills, before moving onto a small slice of self defence, which was mainly to help improve balance and co ordination. From a bear hug, the defence was to push the hips out and perform an O Goshi throw, landing the partner on the mats, following up with knee on belly and finishing off with an arm bar, all good fun.

The main part of the class dealt with a standing guard pass and covered a number of variations and the last technique covered the far arm bar from side control; although a beginners class, there were a number of coloured belts on the mats and my good self, together with white belts sharing the mat space. I am a firm believer in training the basics in every class and Simon went into great detail on every technique and on every drill and I picked up a number of tips and finer details over the duration of the class. The class finished with specifics and rolling and so far so good.

After an energising meal of chicken and rice, I managed to cram in an interview as the tea time MMA class was underway, taken by Ryan Robinson and before I knew it was time for class two – Dickie Martin’s beginner’s class.

After a thorough warm up and stretching, Dickie started the class with the O Goshi throw, splitting the class into four groups and having us all do a line up of throws on each other onto crash mats, with Dickie and Simon at hand with tips and encouragement. The main bulk of the class covered taking the back and Dickie went on to show three gi chokes from the back position, before drilling specifics for a good half hour and of course ending the class with rolling.

Now it was time for my last session, the advanced class with Dickie, which followed as the beginners classed finished; over forty people where on the mats by now and the gym was filled with a haze of sweat and body heat. This is what BJJ’s all about I said to myself, as we started another quick warm up, everyone packed into the gym, mat space occupied by like minded individuals all keen to push and to test themselves to the limits. Warm up over, the high guard was covered by Dickie, together with three arm bar submissions on offer, as well as a triangle and a sneaky way of taking the back. Once again specific training followed, training the high guard and rolling rounded off the session and the evening’s training.

As you can see, each class followed the same formula of warm up, drills, techniques, specifics and rolling; as many people know, Carlson Gracie clubs have a reputation of hard training, hard sparring and vocal and passionate support when ever they compete and it takes a brave man to climb the stairs of the academy and step onto the mats, especially when one is from another club and association and for me, I was that man.

What was I going to get when I rolled with the guys? Was I going to leave with the same number of limbs as when I started at dinner? Would I be able to make the drive home in one piece and live to tell the tale of training at Carlsons?

In each class, my first roll was with the black belts Simon and Dickie, before being paired up with other team members; first up was six minutes with Simon and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but hey, I was there to train and improve and so it began. A complete and utter tearing apart. Simon only knows one way to roll – HARD! That isn’t to say he’s there to deliberately harm you and put you in hospital, Simon’s goal was to control and then smash you into mats, in the nicest possible way of course. His intensity when rolling is second to none and he embodies the essence of Carlson Gracie’s fighting spirit to the max. Every time I submitted, we shook hands and went on for some more, every time was new experience of pain from positional dominance and inevitably the tap out. And I loved it. I gave it my best shot and fought as hard as possible, all to the same conclusion, the tap out, but I wasn’t frustrated or angry, I was on the mats with a warrior, a man hell bent on defending his belt rank at all costs and before I knew it the six minutes was over and Simon was back in the room, smiles and hugs aplenty and then it was some one else’s turn to roll with Simon.

That was the dinner time session and I had a few hours to contemplate what Dickie would be like to roll with; Simon is one of the most enthusiastic and hyper motivated instructors you’ll ever meet, whereas Dickie comes across as more reserved and outwardly calmer than his team mate. However, when it came to my turn to roll with Dickie my questions were soon answered; Dickie started off very cool and collected and thought, Good Cop Bad Cop routine here. Big mistake. That didn’t mean I was more relaxed when I rolled with Dickie, I was still as wary as I was with Simon and then Dickie opened up and hit me a triangle out of nowhere and I just about had time to tap before I was out cold, all performed as cool as James Bond ordering a vodka Martini. His strength and pressure had me in serious trouble and then it started, submission after submission, arm bars, chokes and kimuras, from a guy as cold looking as a Great White in the ocean hunting its prey. I didn’t know who was the more scary, the pit-bull like Simon or the cold calculating Dickie, so I gave them joint first place, so as not to upset them when they read this.

In Simon and Dickie, these two gentlemen embody the true spirit of Carlson Gracie every time they teach and when they roll, especially when they roll; even at club level and certainly in competitions, when you face them, they are there with one thing in mind – to smash and crush you totally, leaving you in no doubt who the boss is. The academy is no Fitness First five star facility, it is a serious 100% no holds barred place of hard training. Pain. Sweat. Blood. Tears. For many people, this is too much for them and their egos get the better of them and they seek easier avenues of training, a crying shame as they are missing out on life changing training and a brotherhood second to none.

When you join the club or any of the other affiliate clubs in the UK and beyond, you are joining a band of brothers who will support you every step of the way, be it training or competing. Hard training is the order of the day, but none of it is done in malice or with serious intent to damage the other person; by training this way you overcome many fears and doubts about yourselves and in this environment you can only improve and become a better fighter and individual. I survived three hardcore action packed classes and rolls with Dickie and Simon and coloured belts and white belts and managed the drive back home all in one piece.

Three sessions in one day – pretty hardcore stuff if I say so myself. Anyone passing through London should do themselves a favour and train with Simon and Dickie, as they extend an open invitation to do so. The welcome and hospitality is second to none, but be warned – soon as the gi’s come on, it’s a different ball game, so make sure you bring your A game!


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Training notes - Pt 2

Well, the competition draws ever closer and I've been training as hard as possible and am thankful to say still remain injury free (as in new injuries, plenty of old ones lurking around the corner) and in pretty good shape.

I originally entered the -88 bracket and have been in the gym hitting the weights mainly doing deadlifts, squats and the old faithful Coutures (explain in a future post) and have piled on the pounds and last week I weighed in at 92K (all muscle, honest). The next bracket up from -88 is the -94K so I've decided to fight in the upper weight bracket, as opposed to flogging my guts out in the last two weeks trying to cut weight and leave myself exhausted in the process.

When undergoing a periodised training programme, the weight loss is best done in the first few weeks, leaving you strong and in good shape come the time of competition; so instead of starving to death and being a miserable sod (am I ever??) I've laid off the heavy squats and deadlifts and kept to lighter weights, at the same time doing more drilling and specifics on the mats.

Had a great session in London yesterday at Carlsons in Hammersmith (report and pix later) plenty of good training and tips and fine points to add to the arsenal and will be rounding off training Tuesday, mainly doing drills, drills and more drills and specifics and plenty of stretching.

Wednesday sees me travelling down to Wales to meet my sponsors and travelling then on to London for an early night before jumping on the Stupid O Clock from Stansted Thursday morning. Chilling out will be the name of the day Thursday and Friday and by then most of the UK competitors will be at the Welcome Hotel, where I've arranged for us all to meet in the lobby Saturday morning for photos and to get us all fired up and ready to fight!

I'll be reporting on the whole trip, plus the event and after show parties, with plenty of photos to share with you all on the Blog and the forums, so keep 'em peeled.

The photos are from the Scandinavian Open in 2004, where I had the honour of having my match refereed by black belt legend Rob Drysdale.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Life in the fast lane!

Have a really busy month lined up ahead, training, reporting and competing all in one month; this Wednesday sees me down in the Big Smoke, undertaking three training sessions at the legendary Carlson Gracie BJJ Revolution Team at the invitation of Simon Hayes. Expect full report and pix!

The coming weekend sees me on seminar duties and on the Sunday afternoon, I will be reporting on the MMA show in my home town of Bolton, as Darren Sherlock hosts the first Fight Ikon MMA event.

The following Wednesday, I start my travels to Stockholm to compete, report and drink beer (after the event of course)in the Scandinavian Open 2009 - expect a MEGA report!

To round the month off, I'm back up at the Battlefield MMA gym in Glasgow, taking another BJJ session.

Looking forward to everything this month, plenty for me to be reporting on!