“This is how people, like, take down LIVESTOCK.”


I differentiate strangles (cutting off blood to the brain) from chokes (cutting off air). Both have similar effects, but chokes take longer and are more likely to trigger a panic response. These are the only techniques that work on everyone despite insanity, drugs or rage. –Rory Miller

Thurs: 128
Fri: 130
Sat: 128
Sun: 130
Mon: 128
Tues: 130

Come on…. is this supposed to be funny? I’m not finding this very funny.

I registered for the Revolution. 1 weight class up from my ideal in no-gi. I just don’t feel like spending the next two weeks starving myself.

Weds: 130

I dreamed about competing. At least, the lead-up to competing. I had that same acid feeling in my gut that I get when I’m waiting to go on the tourney mat. Does this count as time served toward my goal of learning to cope with the adrenaline dump?

Weds lunchtime BJJ in Kirkland. Escapes from side control.

Bree was here. I barely recognized her. She looks great. She’s lost quite a bit of weight. It was very nice to work with her again.

Frame up, push, shrimp, get LOWER knee in, use feet to push opponent’s knees as necessary, replace full guard.

Then: frame up, push, keep upper elbow planted while you windshield-wiper forearm to opponent’s armpit. Jerk that elbow up- and shrug- at the same time you jerk downward elbow down. Turn belly-down and either take the back or deal with the turtle.

Next: same entry, only when you get to the side of your turtled opponent, turn 90 degrees to hir. Reach under hir and grab the knee. Pull knee while driving into opponent (use head and straight arm “punchthrough”) to take top side control.

Then: same entry, only opponent grabs whizzer as you escape side control. Now you must hook hir near shin and pull it outward as you move your body behind opponent and between hir feet. Whip the arm free with a powerful circular slinging motion. Note that you must be careful to get BOTH of your knees behind the opponent- if you straddle hir shin, s/he can roll and kneebar you.

Drills with the “punchthrough” technique… Cindy likes this drill because when you get done doing the technique, you are already in position for your partner to do the technique. Then: positional sparring from side control.

I went straight home after that without rolling, showered and immediately set to work making cat food. That took me all freakin’ day and I was late to evening class.

From under side control: Frame, push, shrimp, bring top leg over opponent’s head and set it on hir shoulder. As opponent tries to figure out WTF you’re setting up, you pop the leg back over the head and triangle. This was weird, but I liked the sneakiness of it.

“Punchthrough” technique again, and drills of same again. Switch partners and repeat.

Positional sparring from side control. God do I ever hate being under side control. I flail uselessly, I get pancaked, I waste a lot of energy, I get really frustrated. The only things that seem to meet with a small amount of success are 1)Black Crane elbow down to my own hip on the floor, turn on belly, let them back mount me. That sucks, but frankly I’d rather fight off being back mounted than fight off bottom side control. 2) wait till they try to change position or sub me, and attempt an escape while they are doing so. #2 is not going to fly on Cindy’s mat because she harries me if I just lie there.

I gave Mike my KOB lesson, and also talked him through defending a bunch of chokes and other things I was throwing at him in rapid succession. Note that he is having a lot of trouble with breating. He is either doing the huff-and-puff or holding his breath altogether- not sure which- and then having to pause the roll and gasp on hands and knees. From now on, will make a point of continually reminding him to breathe during the roll.

A roll with Cindy. We took our gi tops off. She was squashing my face with her forearm, pretending to kneedrop on my belly, she tickle-pinched me once in the side and made me shriek, then insisted that it never happened. I kept arguing that this and that thing she was doing to me was illegal, and she argued that they was not. The whole time, she giggled. “I know what you’re doing,” I gasped out. “You ‘re trying to make me hate you enough to get rougher. I’m not going to be manipulated like that.” I got smeared, but the plus side was that I was moving continually at a high rate of speed… you have no choice when someone is constantly bouncing all over you grinding on your face and doing all sorts of other painful crap to you.

Next- because there’s never enough pain to be had- we did some standup involving one meathook and one head- get to the side of the person and drive your head into the opponent (just above the eyebrow into opponent’s jaw hinge or into the flat spot distal from the eye) and push hir around like that or use it to set up a takedown. Then, both hands behind our own backs and fighting just with the pushy heads. Depending on position, one head is totally in control of the whole scene. Note that I need to pay attention to my neck position, posure, shoulder position, etc or else I am not well set-up to try this. But it is very effective, and holy Christ does it ever hurt. Both Dave and I were tapping like crazy almost as soon as she got position and started pushing- never mind any takedowns. Very quickly I was reduced to geniuine PLEADING: “Oh Jesus, no, please don’t demo that on me again, please….”

Then we did a supremely evil takedown. I mean, this is just sadistic. As a defense-oriented martial artist, I would love to have this in my toolbox…. but I don’t think I am going to be able to bring myself to do it on some poor girl in a comp, much less one of my buddies. This is the kind of thing you’d do to someone evil who deserves pain. Like…hmm….yeah….. maybe someone who would screw a semiconscious teammate and then leave her lying alone on the concrete in a parking lot in the middle of a winter night. Yeah, that’s the type of person I’d be able to practice this on. Repeatedly. Gleefully. With full commitment.

“Meathook” behind the neck with the left hand. I tend to want to try to hang weight off that hook, but Cindy notes that the elbow is supposed to be planted against the chest so that you’re pulling with the hook and pushing with the elbow at the same time. Right hand behind-the-bicep grip.

Now: choke up on that meathook side abruptly, pulling your armpit right to the neck. Clamp.

The first time Cindy did this to me, she simultaneously pulled her bicep grip so that my arm was clasped across her belly with my palm TOWARD her- yes, this twisted my spine and put my shoulder blade toward the ground and made it impossible to defend wherever she chose to put me. I really liked that aspect- but when it was my turn, she said that I was getting too fixated on that arm and that I didn’t actually even NEED the arm at all- she had me let go of the arm and gable grip my hands together.

Now, take the foot on the SAME SIDE as your armpit clamp, kick it through hard and let yourself drop to the mat on your ass. Yeah.

You know, there is really no way to describe this so that you can appreciate the true level of terror and torment. I mean, you could twist someone’s head off and watch it shoot across the room. That certainly is what it feels like when it is done to you. At the same time that your head is being twisted and popped off like a grape off the stem, your attention wars between that and the fact that your spine is contorting as you are being borne inexorably toward the floor. Backwards. Hitting the floor (backwards, with your opponent’s full weight on you) is the LEAST of your worries at this juncture. It becomes immediately apparent that if you fail to spin your own body and throw YOURSELF onto your back with lightning speed, your spine is going to crack. Oh, and while you’re doing that, try to get your neck aligned because your head is about to pop off. Hurry. You have about two seconds to parse this and then figure out how to physically make it happen. If you survive the takedown and find that you are not a quadriplegic, congratulations- now enjoy trying to get your breath back and get out of bottom scarf… unless you just want to tap right now and give your opponent the win before she kills you, since she’s obviously a fucking homicidal maniac. (I love you, Cindy!)

Kaungren (watching in horrified fascination): “This is how people, like, take down LIVESTOCK.”

Cindy then did it to me again, and Mike dashed in to mime branding me on the ass.

Faster, faster, faster!!!!


When the senses wake up, people talk about altered states, but actually nothing about them is altered. The only real alteration is the sleep into which we often let them fall. Bringing them back to life is the only natural thing we can do. It is as if we defined the starting of an engine as an “altered state” only because we consider normal leaving it turned off. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Weds: 127

I’m not losing any more weight, yet my jeans won’t stay up. The SMALLEST on my spectrum of jeans, mind you- not the “fat day” jeans.

Forearms still very weak and sore. Grips are poor enough that I decided it wasn’t worth going to class. Frustrating. The rest of my body- and brain- wants to be on the mat.

Thurs: 130 (Geez)

Grips feel recovered enough to try class today.

Carlos: “I donno why you always go with the two hunnert feefty pound guy…” He took that guy away from me and gave me Daniel instead.

Whew…. Day Of the Dreaded Drills. Spinning armbars; bullfight pass setups; Step into sitting opponent’s half guard and push hir down with a hook hand over the opposite shoulder while “sliding into home” with the near knee, then all the way around to N/S.

We started out with a nice mellow U2 soundtrack which Carlos threw out and replaced with pounding, driving electronica. He ran around getting in our faces and yelling at us to go faster, faster, faster!!!!

Next time I think I’m dying in jiu jitsu, I’m going to picture Daniel’s face doing those bullfight passes…. I **KNOW** how tired and hurting he was- because I was too- and he was just a machine. We both kept up a cheerleading patter which I hope helped him half as much as it helped me.

I would have tossed my cookies when we were done, but that would have required a core muscle effort that I just could not manage.

Slide into home


A melodic tinkling sound suddenly drew her attention downstream. If she’d been in fox shape, her ears would have pricked up. –The Hole In the Clouds

Evening advanced class in Bellevue. I almost didn’t go in… my forearms felt very achey and weak. Achey I can ignore, but the functional grip impairment was more problematic. Then it occurred to me that this was the same thing I had been dealing with in the no-gi portion of the last comp, and I could do worse than to just run with it and try to cope.

I was also pretty drugged up on allergy meds.

So of course we began with RUNNING and SPRAWLS and BURPEES, and within three minutes I was heartily regretting my folly.

Standup: single-leg setups (using judo grips, pull down on collar and yank up on elbow, grab leg on the elbow side).

Then, break lapel grip and shoulder throw.

Next: you are standing, opponent lying on hir back before you. Underhook one thigh and hike it onto your shoulder while pushing other knee to mat. “Slide into home” with NEAR knee cutting across opponent’s thigh. Move to side control. Make sure you do not leave your trailing arm between hir legs (I did this once, and Ross helpfully slammed me into a backward triangle to show me my mistake).

Rotating spars. I know there are plenty of subs you can do without hand grips, but I just was not in the game tonight. The only positive thing I can really say about tonight’s spars is that they burned calories.

Hopefully arms will be better in the morning, or I may need to give the bod a break.

Right before class, I watched Carlos devour an enormous submarine sandwich and make a huge shake disappear. Then- to my envious horror- he produced a stuffed pita sandwich every bit as large and wolfed that as well. I don’t know how he can eat like that five minutes before getting on the mat. We razzed him. I said, “You’re not going to puke on us, right?” We concluded that the food is being transformed directly into muscle even before it reaches the stomach.

“What martial art you are doing?”


The usual winner in a ground fight is NOT the best grappler, but whoever has friends who show up first and start kicking. –Rory Miller

Tues: 127.5

Tuesday lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue. We had a visiting black belt today- which always means a lot more work! I’m not sure if the prof is trying to show us UP or show us OFF in those cases.

Same standing thrust kick defense that we did yesterday.

Carlos: What martial art you are doing?
Kitsune: (hands over face in shame)
Carlos: I don’t know what you doing, but ees not zchoo-zchitsu.

Okay, so it’s NOT functionally identical to Black Crane. We are supposed to stand with one foot well forward. I honestly want to know how we can plan to have the correct foot forward when we are not dealing with a compliant uke who can be relied upon to kick with the “correct” foot. But I can’t think of a way to ask the question without having it sound like the dreaded “my MA is better than your MA” challenge, which place I DO NOT want to go with Carlos. It’s an honest question. I wonder who else I might be able to approach to straighten out that bit of confusion for me.

In addition, the copious errors of my ways included elbow striking with the “wrong” elbow. It appears to me that the technique will work with either elbow, but it seems to be better supported by the full weight of my body (as well as utilizing more of the torque from the turn) to use the “wrong” elbow. Oh well.

Despite my show of contrition and lack of argument, I wonder if he thinks I’m copping attitude when I inadvertantly bleed Kung Fu into my Zchoo-zchitsu; as it then turned into Pick On Kitsune Day- even though the room was packed, he was all up in my grill the whole hour pointing out errors in all of my techniques. Of course, many instances of POKD have no discernable trigger at all…. so who knows.

Foe is in your closed guard. Use right hand to pin hir left hand to hir belt. Secure left hand cross grip on hir left lapel OVER TOP of that trapped forearm. Knee up on the trapped side. Shin turn out on the OTHER side, toe posted. Stand. Switch sleeve cuff grip to opposite hand and grab pants. Break guard and squat, quickly moving to double inside-the-knee grips as you make sure your legs are out of DLR guard range.

Now: Step left foot out to the left as you yank opponent’s near leg straight and far knee to the mat on the other side. Sprawl and lay your face on hir belt, shoulder on the side of hir ribs. Dance to the side on toetips to pass.

If s/he pushes your face toward hir legs, go with the spin and do a breakdancing 3/4 turn on top of hir using your shoulder as the pivot. Now you are in side control, ideally with opponent’s arms trapped as well.

Today’s “Fun with English as a second language” moment: “Poo foot”…. Gordon was just as confused as I was by this instruction, and it was no clearer to either of us on the second or third repetition. Turns out “Poo foot” = “Pull foot”

Monday evening


The first step to unlock the doors of perception and sniff the scent of the secret is to awaken the five senses from the numbness that normally surrounds them. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Monday evening BJJ in Kirkland.

Standup: foe presents you with a thrust kick. The defense was functionally identical to the Black Crane one- turn and deflect with the NEAR arm, and comtinue the swing back and up and around to an elbow/forearm strike. I continue to have the same problem I have always had with this one, of course: it’s difficult for me to remember under pressure which arm to deflect with.

You are in closed guard. Basic guard break, then underhook one thigh with a forceful throw of the shoulder and pass on the side. Press opponent’s knee to hir nose and grab the back of the pants to stack hir while you pressure down in an evil fashion. (Cindy urges me to get up on my toes to be even more evil.) Don’t forget that forearm in the throat. Pass to side control. I like this pass, if only I can adequately accomplish the shoulder shrug.

From here we applied a keylock. It made a dramatic difference to do what Cindy calls the “reverse motorcyle” and crank the opponent’s wrist toward the outside before pulling the elbow down. I did, however, finally identify at least one of the reasons I find that detail so tricky: although I had a female partner tonight, I still found myself dealing with the familiar problem of not being able to grip all the way around her wrist.

Positional sparring from closed guard: pass vs sweep or submit. After the white belt girl (who is pretty good already), I got to work with Will, whom I haven’t seen in a while. He handed my ass to me. It didn’t even bother me as much to get my ass handed to me by a teenage orange belt as it did to get pounded by the newbie whites this morning- because Will is damn good, and I adore him. The only thing I feel bad about is that it’s gotten to the point that I can’t really give him a challenge.

I was tired and a little headachey, so I pleaded off sparring. Cindy convinced me to do a few minutes of light standup gripfighting with the gi tops off, so that I could prove that I remembered the things she showed me yesterday.

Ego games


Most people are not beaten. They give up. –Rory Miller

Mon: 128.5

I know I *could* get down to 124 before the Revolution, but I’m starting to think I just don’t currently feel like dealing with the level of deprivation it’s going to take.

Casey, on Facebook: Ben, you think life is only 1/2 guard!!!!!
Kitsune: When you roll with Ben, your life is 1/2 guard whether you like it or not.
Aussie Dave: At least it can be deep.

Today I got my ass kicked by some brand new white belts…. and I am currently feeling fairly mentally/emotionally healthy about it.

As a blue belt, this occurance tended to invoke one of two reactions: steam-shooting-out-of-ears frustration or black-hole despair; both accompanied by a running mental commentary about how epically I suck and how that will never change no matter what I do. I didn’t feel worthy to step on the mat or breathe the air in the school.

Today- at one-stripe purple when I might be expected to feel *more* pressure to avoid getting ass-kicked by new white belts- I am feeling “Okay, so I got ass-kicked by white belts. It happens sometimes. We all cool.”

I suspect part of my newfound maturity has to do with the fact that the white belts in question were polite and respectful, and didn’t act like dicks either during or after the ass-kickings.

Interestingly, what bothered me more was when Casey performed demos with- not me as the senior student in the room- but some of the more junior guys. I’m fairly sanguine about that when Carlos does it, because he’s about eight times as tall as I am and it’s just clownish for him to do demos with me. When other teachers pass me over for less senior students, it still presses restimulating buttons- although I am able to clearly recognize the reaction as such.

Standup: foes throws haymaker. You step in and use both open hands to block bicep. Overwrap same-side arm over foe’s attacking shoulder. Shuffle quickly to stand against hir ribs on OPPOSITE side as you hug that arm around hir waist. Step near foot in front of hir, squat, load, hip throw. Keep the arm. KOB. Figure 4 armbar.

Cross-collar chokes from closed guard.

Gi choke from guard: right cross-collar deep grip, open guard, foot on foe’s hip on the same side that you have the grip. Turn body. Get handful of gi on back of opponent’s shoulder. Square up and choke. This is one of my favorite subs, and very successful on white belts, although anyone I’ve ever rolled with more than once knows better than to stick their head up for it. I don’t do the body turn, though. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It seems like opening my guard gives the opponent more chance to escape- although doing it this way might make hir less likely to recognize what I’m doing so readily.

Ezekiel from closed guard: Hug opponent to your chest, right arm right around hir neck. Use right hand to grab inside left sleeve cuff, FINGERS IN. Slip left blade hand under foe’s chin with little finger side against throat. Pull choke and straighten legs to help it along. This choke is one that I haven’t quite solidified enough to include in my game yet, but I love it, so I hope it will gel this time. I think it might be good for my small hands.

A little positional sparring from closed guard- sweep vs keep from being swept- and a couple of short spars. This is where I got my ass kicked by white belts. Still doing relatively okay with it.

I wanted to ask Casey to roll a little no-gi with me after class, buthe was busy answering questions from one of the new guys and it looked like he would be a while, so I took my leave.

No-gi intimidation factors… the head as a weapon


Our bodies are the kingdoms of lost continents and unknown lands. Columbus, Livingstone, Stanley, Marco Polo, and Neil Armstrong are just Boy Scouts compared to the explorers of the inner space. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Sat: 128
Sun: 128

Lunchtime BJJ in Seattle.

Started with a no-gi roll with Peter- we were the only ones on time- then Kelly and Cindy and a white belt guy trickled in, so we moved on to KOTH (in gi). Pass vs sweep; butterfly guard, half guard, closed guard.

I was mindful to defend that seatbelt pass of Kelly’s today- she still got it on me once, but I headed it off several other times. Her excellent passing game has an element that I need to continue to work on myself- she switches abruptly from trying to pass on one side to trying to pass on the other. This often catches me, as I get too fixated and too committed to defending one motion.

Ended with Cindy (no-gi). Just the other day, I was talking about sticking that right arm in there on the left side of her neck and getting armbarred- today she did it to me in standup. Will I ever learn?

We worked on gripping the back of the head, two-handed, squeezing forearms together. It sucks for many reasons, not the least of which is that the forearms in your sightline prevent you from seeing what the feet are doing if you are in standup (this can also happen on the knees). Do not try to duck out of this to the side. Do not crowd up side-by-side with her (this is my default move; I guess I’m looking for a hip throw, but that is not going to happen on Cindy. She wants me to square up and shuck off the grip by wedging my shoulder in there.) For a single “meathook” behind the neck, slough it off with a forceful shoulder and turn the body to the side.

I find the squaring up very intimidating, as I am expecting a rough wrestling-style yankdown, and I suck at defending those and suck even worse at trying to do them myself. There’s a big mental/emotional componant to tackle here.

Forehead/temple in the neck. Pressing, shoving. It is amazing how much she uses her head as an extra limb.

I completely forgot to focus on the “He can still hit you” mentality… yet as sometimes happens, it seems I may have still had it running through my subconscious. Cindy said that I was “moving well” today. I didn’t see it myself, but she is particularly annoyed with my “possum jitsu”, so if she made a point of remarking that I was moving better, that’s gold.

Sucking sweeps


Martial arts training tends to be a very visually interesting way to lose. –Rory Miller

Friday: 127.5

Friday lunchtime BJJ in Seattle.

I got to drill with Vanessa today. More guard pull drills, with some passing and some sweeping. God, my sweeps suck. I wonder if I will ever get to a place of my sweeps not sucking.

I am happy with how much training I got done this week!

Lessons from no-gi


Most people live at a comfortable distance from their bodies. As humans, we spend so much time inside our heads that we often forget the way out. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

It was gratifying to learn that Ben and even Carlos are sore today as well. I had to tape all eight fingers tonight. I am so sore, and so tired… but I can’t blow off lunchtime class tomorrow, because I’ve been cyberstalking Angela all week bugging her to come in. I need to not only show up, but make it worth her while. Ahhh- I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!!

Lessons learned in no-gi tonight:

1)If you think you might have to fight everyone in the room, DON’T leave all the biggest, scariest guys for last.

1b)Don’t leave the professor for DEAD last, when you’re wrung out and can’t make a decent account of yourself.

2)My standard spar opening of pouncing on the opponent, applying top half guard, and then passing works great on most people, but NOT on black belts. I have learned to not stick my right arm between Cindy’s neck and left shoulder, because she promptly armbars it every single time. Tonight Carlos did the exact same thing. I usually stick that arm in there and then work for position. I wonder if it would work if only I operated faster and more forcefully. IE, give them something more immediately pressing to deal with before they can slap the armbar on, and/or get my shoulder socketed in there posthaste. A “meathook” behind the neck instead of placing my forearm there might be a better option as well.

3)Kelly passes my guard repeatedly with that same “seatbelt” pass that JB likes. I need to stop letting her set that up, because once she has it set up, I can’t seem to stop her from completing it.

4)I tend to be hesitant about putting hooks in while perched on the backs of huge turtling guys. They simply use an elbow to pin one of my feet to their ribs and then capsize sideways, trapping me underneath. If I do choose to commit to hooks, I need to commit to a fast, hard, technically perfect chokehold at the same time. No applying hooks and then working for position.

5)I think I am spending too much time working for position- full stop. I should try less futzing around and more FINISHING. Even when I think I’m getting a head start by pouncing and applying a position, I am *still* kinda waiting around to see how they respond, and then I’m on the reactive end of the equation yet again.

6)You can’t grit your teeth and wait out one of Carlos’ subs. He won’t give up, because he *KNOWS* he has it on right.

My belt was sopping by the end of class tonight. People who don’t launder their belts….. eeeeww.

He can punch you


In most cases, aggression beats skill. –Rory Miller

Thurs: 127

I’ve been undisciplined lately with the Dr Pepper, and I have also been having some pasta (I’ve stayed away from pasta and rice for months). I am doing well with portion control and snacking (lack thereof, or substituting healthier items).

So…. sore……..

Lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue. Silken Needle, Five Animals, and Leopard Fist to warm up. I haven’t done any Kung Fu forms in a long time.

Guard pull drills. All…. hour……

More work than sparring, more work than pretty much anything except constant takedown work.

My performance started to flag in the final 1/3, as I was weary unto death.

I have been reading a lot of Rory Miller lately. One of the things I sometimes worry about now that I’m not actively training Kung Fu is that I don’t want to become a “sport” martial artist. I still feel that the training I do at Gracie Barra is largely usable for defense… but it occurs to me more strongly lately that when I get trapped on the bottom, and/or when I’m doing “Clench-N-Cling”, those would be times for an assailant to 1)punch me, or 2)try to pull out a knife or other weapon. It would probably be good if I made an effort to focus- at least part of the time- on imagining that my grapping opponent can punch me or pull a weapon. This might spur me to be more actively mobile, and also not get stuck in a “sport” mentality where I forget that theoretically, people can punch me.