1 Sep 2012
Roberto 'Cyborg' Abreu summons us altogether at his London 'Champ Camp' seminar and explains that he expects us to yell YESSIR! and NO SIR! when he asks if we understand a technique. He also commands us to raise our hands and clap loudly to signal the beginning of each practice drill. It's a unique method that ensures we all pay attention...Cyborg has SO much to teach us and boy! did we need the practice! This was a tornado guard masterclass like no other - simply because here was the man who invented the technique...
The neck is the bridge and the arms are the roads
Cyborg fights using a guard system that he invented called the Tornado Guard. If you are familiar with inverted guard (which I have sort of dabbled with) then what Cyborg shows, is a complete game based on this guard. But before we could take a spin in his souped up Ferrari, Cyborg made sure we understood how to open the door.
Rolling over the shoulders seems simple enough an exercise, but it's easy to do wrong. Cyborg explained that no part of our backs should touch the floor. He demonstrated how to roll over the shoulders and then how to apply that basic roll and inverted position via the half guard. He was careful to explain the do's and don'ts on how to perform the inverted guard using the shoulder roll. The smallest mistake would give your opponent the chance to squish you.
We all spent a lot of time on getting into the inverted position. For many of us, it's a brand new or rarely executed system in our usual games, so we needed a lot of practice. But I found Cyborg's fluent, precise and detailed explanations very helpful. It didn't take long for most of us to get used to the idea of putting out bodies into an upside down position and feeling okay about it!
Windy with a chance of tornadoes
"You ever see that film Twister? Where the wind lifts the cow high into the air?" Cyborg stops the demonstration to pose the question. A few of us nod.
"Well with this man, your opponent, he's gonna fly just like that cow. I sweep many many people this way."
Cyborg tells it like it is. He's a huge character, both funny and articulate and he interspersed his technical explanations with anecdotes and stories from his competing days and about his personal life. He doesn't hold anything back. When he explained how to perform the basic sweep from his tornado guard, he used the biggest person in the room - bigger even than Cyborg himself. He did this to demonstrate that done right, the sweep required very little effort. It still needed momentum and a bit of a kick with the 'pendulum' leg, but he was at pains to show us how to do it correctly - and how to do it badly!
And that's the thing with any proprietary BJJ system. It's easy to look at YouTube videos or read a book about it, but when it's in your face, taught by the man who has used the system at the very very highest levels and used it to beat the best of the best in the world...that's when that system really comes to life. That's the Wow! factor I saw today when Cyborg taught us his tornado guard. And yet.
And yet it was just the tip of the iceberg. He explained that the more we played tornado, the more we did not have to use it, because the opponent will be trying so hard to squish you, or passing your upside downy guard, that he will more than likely, give you something else, like an armbar, omoplata triangle, kimura or any other from a myriad of submissions that he showed us.
So midway, Cyborg stopped the seminar and embarked on a 10-15 minutes unprompted, unscripted monologue. He talked about how he wanted us not to be limited by our own self doubts, to believe that we could achieve something, even if we were told it could not be done. The perfect example being Cyborg himself. He told us of tremendous injuries he sustained in his life, but still managed to carry on competing and training, how he had no BJJ instructor in his early days and he pretty much had to work things out for himself, how he arrived in America with no money and managed to carve out a career as an instructor. And many, many other tales and anecdotes that could easily be made into a barnstorming biography. At the end, there was loud applause, his words managed to touch us and inspire us. And then we tried more upside downy inverted stuff, and we realised how our creeking, inflexible, stubborn bodies could never be as awesome at tornado guard stuff as Cyborg himself, but that after THAT speech, we were all gonna really really try to use it for ourselves. I know I will.
Massive thanks to Ed Brown, Leo Marcantonio, Felipe de Souza for hosting the Cyborg seminar at Champ Camp London. It was also nice to see Cal from Jiu Jitsu Style, Matt from Scramble, Gareth from Tatami Fightwear, Greg Creel and his gang from Pedro Bessa Wales, Arlans Siqueira, Hannah Gorman and everyone else who attended. I think we all can say we shared a very special seminar togather.