Sunday, February 20, 2011

Leaving for around-the-world BJJ trip tomorrow

In case you haven't noticed the banner to the right, I am leaving tomorrow for a four and a half month trip all the way around the globe to train, teach and compete in BJJ.

I probably won't be posting very much here while I am gone, but you can follow my journey on my website:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Team Sandbaggers" and the 2011 Europeans

Last summer, I gathered a group of guys from my gym and set the goal, that we should get a medal at the next European Open in Portugal. We are a relatively small gym and has never taken a medal at that tournament before, so it was a pretty big challenge for us. Several of the guys were already very close to blue belt level, so I named us "Team Sandbaggers", because there was no way I was going to promote them before the end of the project, well knowing that they would be competing against other sandbaggers from all over Europe when they got to Portugal.

It was six months of hard training, gameplanning and a lot of competitions to gather experience. For the last four months before the Portugal trip, we did physical workouts together after BJJ class, pushing each other to our limits and beyond. We traveled many weekends to competitions and there was training in the gym almost every day.

Now, the goal of a medal at the Europeans was reached as we got three of them. But that is not really what this post is about. Results and medals are nice, but the real core of a project like this, is to me the human aspect. The way BJJ has an effect to change peoples lives in a very positive way.

The experienced guys on the team have already naturally taken on a "BJJ lifestyle", but for the less experienced white belts, an intense period of focus like this had a fascinating effect. All coming from very different backgrounds, it was really exciting for me to see them evolve into the same direction of living a life with focus on staying healthy, getting in shape, backing each other up, working towards a common goal and consuming their minds with thoughts about Jiu Jitsu. All these are factors that inevitably leads to a massive increase in skill on the mat, but that again is not the important thing to me.

Obviously, these guys all got really, really good during the project, and their level could clearly match what they were up against at the Europeans. All their loses were close and on a good day, I believe they all could have taken the gold. At the Europeans, you need a VERY good day to go all the way though, and we all knew that. But putting the increase in skill aside, these guys have really changed from the day they stepped into the gym and I met them for the first time.

The 53 year old father to a boy in my junior class, who rediscovered his interest in training after many years of judo when he was younger, and ended up becoming the European Champion.

The party guys, who were smoking daily and going out almost every weekend, but decided to stop both and completely turned around the direction their bodies were going health wise.

The guy with basically no body mechanic skills, who never quit, kept competing, lost 35 kilos and eventually became really good.

The successful real estate agent who sometimes dressed up as a Jiu Jitsu athlete, but - in my eyes - became a Jiu Jitsu athlete who sometimes dresses up as a successful real estate agent.

The young guy who was one of the first on my junior team and, despite all the interesting social things happening at that stage of life, still finds time for Jiu Jitsu and is now training with the adults, where he is technically superior than and a big inspiration for his much older training partners.

The guy who lost 40 kilos, got in killer shape and can now hit a kimura on anything with a pulse.

The electrician who couldn't get a job because of the financial crisis, ended up devoting all his time to Jiu Jitsu, won a ton of matches and who I have chosen to teach all I know about coaching kids.

The foreigner who just moved here and doesn't speak the language, but through BJJ has successfully integrated himself socially in the gym and is inspiring everyone with his training and competition work ethics.

THIS is what I think is the true art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A vehicle for transforming peoples lives and creating fantastic friendships and experiences. The blue belt symbolizes the first big step of this change, and it was a no-brainer for me to promote all the white belts after the Europeans. They are no longer the beginners, but now have a new role in the gym, where they will help and inspire our next generation of athletes. I have no doubt in my mind that they will do the job fantastically.

Besides the (now former) whitebelts, a handful of experienced guys were also on the team, and it has been really cool to see them take their skills to the next level. They are a big inspiration for everyone in the gym and without their help and support as trainingpartners and coaches, we wouldn't have made it this far together.

For putting in all this hard work, and choosing to follow me on this journey, I want to thank each and every one of these guys. When I got back home from the Portugal trip, I got this strange feeling in my stomach. Like an addict, who doesn't get his drug, I knew that the last trip for Team Sandbaggers was over, and I already missed the feeling of being on the road with the guys. Now I am going on the road alone for a while, but we have many good experiences ahead of us and I can't wait to get back home and continue from where we left off.

And for anyone who wants to join in, there is always room for one more :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Icelandic Guillotine

I don't know anyone who has hit guillotines in sparring and competition as many times as my icelandic friend, Kári. I have trained with him for many years now, and I've seen (and felt!!!) him do this move with an extremely high succesrate countless times, but for some reason, I haven't thought of implementing it in my own game until recently.

A few months ago, it struck me, that I have grappled for over ten years, and guillotines are still not a part of my game. In fact, I don't recall a single time I've went for that submission for years. So looking at Kàri ripping through competitions, it was clear to me that I had to learn what he was doing and I needed such a basic and simple submission as the guillotine to be an integrate part of my game. So since that day, I have been working hard on figuring out all the details, and already it is becoming one of my favorite submissions. I think that my loop choke period has helped a lot, since the mechanics are very similar to the guillotine and also just getting into the mindset of looking for the neck all the time is an important part of this.

I asked Kári to make a video on how he is doing it and he agreed reveal all his secrets on my blog. I told him that he needed a catchy name for the move, otherwise it would never be a real Internet success like all the other guillotines out there, so we decided to call it The Icelandic Guillotine. I would love to be in a gym somewhere in the world one day and overhear a conversation where someone casually says something like "personally I like the Icelandic variation of the guillotine better" LOL

This was the last instructional I planned to post before I leave on my BJJ globetrotter trip on Monday. I hope to do some more during the trip if I fall over some cool moves along the way :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Loop choke instructional

The next instructional is on the loop choke. As I mention in the video, I have been heavily inspired by Oli Geddes to work on this choke. I highly recommend checking out his blog on and also searching on youtube for his instructionals on this technique.

Next video will be on the guillotine choke :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

European Open 2011 in Lisbon, Portugal

Got home from Portugal sunday evening and it was a really cool trip. The goal for our team was to get one medal, and we ended up with three, so I am very satisfied. It has been a lot of training and preparations, and it was nice to see that it paid off, and our small team could get some medals at one of the big tournaments out there. I am very proud of all the guys from my team who fought their heart out at this competition, but will write another post on that project later on, they deserve their own ;)

I competed saturday in the brown belt middleweight division. I didn't know my opponent, but a quick youtube search revealed, that I probably shouldn't try to stand up with him, as he had a highlight video with a fascinating amount of judo throws :D I would just follow my plan of pulling guard right away and try to get a sweep or submission from there.

Going into the match, I didn't feel a bit nervous. In some way, I think that I had put all my thoughts and energy into preparing and helping the guys on the team to get ready and try to win a medal, that my own part in this tournament didn't feel as important. Saturday morning when it was my turn to step on the mat, I felt like the project was already over, and I had already succeeded in reaching the goal we set. I knew my division was very tough with a lot of good opponents, but I decided to go in there and do my best.

I was a little late with timing the warmup, since they started my match right on time. The previous two days, there had been some delays, so I wasn't in a hurry with the warmup, which I should have been :) Stretched and warmed up the joints, but didn't have time to get the pulse up and break a sweat, so I would have to do that during the match.

When we started, I went for the guard right away. I have been working a lot on setting up the loop choke, guillotine and getting under my opponent to go for x-guard or deep butterfly halfguard sweeps. Right in the beginning, I actually had a pretty good attempt at the loop choke, but he got out of it despite making some choking sounds. Would have been nice to finish it already there. From there on, he was very aware of his neck, and it was too hard to set him up for the choke. My second plan of getting under him to sweep also failed, since he was constantly staying tight to my legs and keeping very solid grips on my pants. I had to spend most of my time on defending his grips and guardpass attempts, which left little options for me to work my offense.

With my a-game failing, I worked some spiderguard instead. I swept him once with a tripod sweep, but he had a good grip on my pants and scrambled back up, so only gave me an advantage. Later, I had another sweep attempt, that got him out balanced, and I was over him right away to just push him onto his back for the sweep. Lots of wrestling drills for top position helped there for sure.

When I got on top and was ahead on points, my corner shouted to me, that I had three minutes left. I thought I should just stall for a while, but the referees were really quick at giving warnings in other matches I had watched, so I decided to try to open the guard and work from there to make the time go. I have gotten very confident in standing up to open the guard lately, but when I did it this time, I made a small mistake (that I am never going to make again ;)) about my standing posture, which allowed him to drop off and go for a takedown. My balance and sprawl felt pretty good, but again, his grip on my pants was just too strong and eventually he got me down. I scrambled to get up, but couldn't get his grip off and also, we went out the mat and had to restart, which ruined my momentum and last chance to scramble up. Next time. I think I'll be a little more patient inside the closed guard if I am ahead on points.

When he was in my guard again, I could feel that my grip was getting more tired and his didn't seem to do the same. Eventually, he passed my guard to sidecontrol and held on really tight. I managed to escape back to guard and knew my only chance was to submit him, so I tried to go for the neck but it wasn't working and time ran out leaving me defeated by 2-5.

As mentioned, I had no nerves what so ever going into the match. Maybe it is not a good thing, I don't know? I was only a little worried about, how my cardio and strength would do for an eight minutes match, which is pretty long. I have never competed that long before and with the gi, there is even more pressure on the grip strength. Luckily it went pretty well, considering that he felt way stronger than me. I weighed in two kilos under the limit without cutting, so there is a good chance that he walks around a fair bit bigger than me. I was pleased to find out, that I could go for the entire eight minutes with a lasting cardio and grip strength, though. Ofcourse, I was tired in the end, but at least, now I know that I can do it. All those workouts over the last four months really paid off in this match :) You can watch the match here:

Losing didn't bother me at all. I was happy that I could hold my own in the brown belt division at such a big, high level event, and it was an honor to be allowed to compete with the top guys. I know that generating results in competition is a long process, so I am at all not worried about losing along the way. I think my technical level and understanding of the game is good enough to compete at this level, but I need some more experience and with all the weight I have lost, I should maybe consider -76 kilos instead of -82, where some guys are a lot bigger than me now.

Going to the Europeans was all in all a good experience, that I learned a lot from, and of course, we had a very good time in Lisbon both before, during and after the tournament.

I'll be back next year to try my luck again! :)

  • Guard defense worked fine
  • Executed a sweep and a half
  • Cardio and strength lasted eight minutes
  • No nervousness at any time
  • Sidecontrol escape succeeded (old problem, seems improved now?)
  • Made a posture mistake when standing up in guard
  • Cardio and strength could be even better