30 Jun 2009

Darn it! Last night's training was sooooo hot and humid. It was like training in the tropics. I barely stepped onto the mat and already I was sweating buckets. Nick went through side escape basics. I never tire of basics - or fundamentals as BJJ folk prefer to call it. I think that of all the positions that beginner to intermediate BJJers request the most help with, it is escape from side control. My mind is scarred by the memories of years and years of being squished in side control. But this aspect, a bit like my sweeps, is slowly but surely clicking into place.
Now I am no way even remotely saying I can escape side control easily. But I am at the stage where it is no longer such a MASSIVE problem as it used to be (this statement only applies to rolling with whites and blues). There are a lot of reasons why this is the case, but not getting there in the first place certainly helps. Technique-wise, the connection between my hip movement, arm placement, timing and angle of escape seem to be collaborating nicely. My favourite escape is the one where your uke is facing you in side control with his legs spread wide(kesa gatame). The technique to reverse your opponent is so simple and beautiful I would say it is the epitome of jujitsu - pure technique to convert bad situation to good position using no strength.

BJJ Writing
In other news, I am working on a series of very interesting interviews and articles. The good thing about writing more thoughtful pieces (as opposed to the self-indulgent junk that fills my blog) is that I meet really cool people and learn a lot from what they say. I can also ask them questions that I WANT to ask, not rely on some other interview that missed the point, or skirted around a sensitive issue.

BJJ Photography
I seemed to have received a lot of positive comments on my BJJ photographs from the British Open. If you'll allow to me get all amateur-photography geeky on you, I tried to set up my gear a little differently to normal. I brought in a fixed focal length lens (35mm) that could open up a very wide aperture (F2.0) combined with a bounce flash. Without a zoom, I had to squat quite close to the action matside, but this meant my shots overcame the hideous sports hall lighting which was really dark and gave non-flash photos a horrible colour cast (see the before and after below). The downside to my lack of zoom showed when the participants moved away from me and the flash did not reach them. Hence, for my impending 40th birthday, I will buy myself a fast 24-70mm F2.8 zoom lens which really should do the job when matside. I might also be able to get hold of a wicked 70-200mm F2.8 lens for action that is further away.
I intend in the near future to interview a few professional photographers about their approach to BJJ photography so watch this space.

Competitors at the BJJ British Open 2009. Left without flash, right with flash (and levels adjustment in Photoshop)

Hot, hot, hot!

Darn it! Last night's training was sooooo hot and humid. It was like training in the tropics. I barely stepped onto the mat and already ...

26 Jun 2009

This week has been a bit of a judo-fest. First, at the BJJ British Open, I saw a number of awesome judo throws from stand-up. One chap who entered had only done a handful of previous BJJ lessons, but was an international calibre judoka apparently. Anyway, he lost in the final of his weight division and was so incensed, when his victor went to shake his hand, the judoka hip threw him with a tremendous thump to the ground. It caused a bit of a debate online and perhaps was a bit petulant..but man, what a throw! See the video of the incident here in the background from around 3mins:

As I take part in more and more of the judo classes at Mill Hill, I'm developing a growing fascination with the sport. After ten years of traditional ju-jitsu behind me, I thought I knew a lot about throwing people. Ha! Not now. Not after randori where I get to be swept, thrown, pinned and generally beaten up by big strong judo black belts. It is a humbling experience to say the least.

At the same time, I am reading 'The Pyjama Game' by Mark Law. It's a brilliant read. I'm fascinated with learning about the heroes of the sport and the rigours they had to go through to become the best. The book also covers a little bit about BJJ. The author trains at the Budokwai in London so is lucky to train with world and Olympic judo champions, as well as Roger and Mauricio. Books like this inspire me to keep up with my own amateurish writings. I thoroughly recommend it.


This week has been a bit of a judo-fest. First, at the BJJ British Open, I saw a number of awesome judo throws from stand-up. One chap who e...

22 Jun 2009

The Fightworks Podcast published my full British BJJ Open tournament report here.

The cancellation of the annual Gracie Invitational in the UK this year led many to call for a big replacement event. Up stepped world champion Braulio Estima and his Gracie Barra team in Birmingham to stage the British BJJ Open . With over 620 competitors spread out over 8 mats, this event did not disappoint in terms of size and scale.
[The Fightworks Podcast]

The Social Whirl of BJJ
It was really cool to hook up with fellow BJJers who I only ever meet online.
Here's a shout out to:
Rachael McMillan, who writes this blog, and who won her white belt womens division.
Sarah Merriner, who is also a fellow alumni from our trad JJ style, and who posts regularly on the EFN forum.
My fellow galo and pluma fighters - Isaac Perez, Vishal Patel, Enrique Vallesenor.

The gi wars
I was tucked in some corner of the hall busy photographing away when Carslon Gracie black belt simon Hayes comes up to me to say hi and thanked me for setting up the Faixa Rua Facebook group. A little while later, I am having my fight and brown belt Andy Roberts who is sponsored by arch rival Black Eagle hears my name being called and says to Clint - is that Seymour? Hmmm, well here's a clock choke from me and black eagle. Er, I'm not sure if he was joking or if I really have upset him. I might lay off the online cheeky gi war antics for now, just in case!

Video & photos

Above is the video of my fight with Enrique Villasenor

Below, two Flickr albums of fave photos from the tournament:

As Isaac says in the previous post comments page, one of the strongest memories from coming away from tournaments are the people you meet and the friends you make. Here here.

British BJJ Open - part 2

The Fightworks Podcast published my full British BJJ Open tournament report here . Excerpt: The cancellation of the annual Gracie Invitation...
Funny things go through your head when you are fighting. Weird things, random things and dark things. It is like time has stood still and you enter a battle - not only a battle with your opponent - but with your own subconscious. Take my fight at yesterday's British Open in Birmingham. I enter the mat, shake hands and begin. All is going swimmingly. I get to play all my favourite positions - bottom game, de le riva guard, spider guard, etc and I'm thinking Yeah baby! I'm flying here...just need a sweep, come on, where's that sweep...but then it all goes wrong

The Fight

My opponent, a nice chap called Enrique BTW, passes my guard. Now my thoughts turn dark and I start loathing myself. Hating my very stupid essence, how I could have let him pass? I hear voices in a foggy distance - my team mates yelling at me to turn and scoot my hips away. I yell back (in my mind) I'm bloody trying mate, grrrrr. But magic, I re-guard, but oh no, he passes again and gets the mount...disaster. I'm really hating myself now. The black cloud has descended and does not lift. I'm desperate for the killing to stop.

cheer up Seymour!

So yeah, anyway, my fight was a game of two halves. First half good, nice defence work, sweep attempts, second half, a points thrashing. Enrique was gracious with his win and I wished him luck for the final. As there were only four in our category, I shared the Bronze with my pal Vishal. For me, some lessons learned:
1. conditioning, boy I need to get me some of that cardio.
2. open guard sweeps - drill drill drill, especially from de la riva guard.
3. stop talking to myself midfight and get on with it ;)

Old Friends
Apart from the sting of losing, the whole tournament was awesome. I saw some amazing fights, with genuine world class talent on display. Eddie Kone, my old instructor, entered his first fight as a black belt. Sadly he only had opponents who were much heavier so despite a brave effort, he was simply outmuscled. But I'm happy Eddie is back on the mats and he told me he is hungry for more comps in the future (hopefully against guys his own size next time!)

Womens division
The womens brackets were hugely enjoyable. Because the British Open is such a big event (over 620 competitors) that meant a lot of women turned up, so the weight brackets were more fairly spread out. My training partner Dominique came up against the Pan Am gold medal champion Christine McDonagh. This was a great fight, so close all the way with neither party giving anything. Dominique lost eventually on points but considering her opponent's world class abilities, Dominique can be proud of her fight. Later on, in the women blue absolute, Dom did secure a satisfying win against another opponent, so she at least can draw comfort for getting a win on the day.

I took lots of photos, this is one of my favourites: women blue belts.

Other notable women fighters I watched were purple belt Caoimhe McGill - I interviewed Caoimhe for my Jiu-jitsu Sisterhood article. Caoimhe won her division and wanted to fight absolute, but all her fellow purple belt girls disappeared by the time the draw was announced. So she asked if she could fight in the blue absolute. This was a very unusual request but it was allowed and none of the blue belt women seemed to object - so my hat off to their sportswomanship!
Mill Hill visitor Pippa Granger was back on the mat after a few months absence and, despite her nerves, won a very good silver and fought with fire in the blue absolute. As one of the lightest girls in the comp, her technique and experience showed through with class. Unfortunately I didn't stay long enough to see who won the blue absolute - I'll post an update when the full results come out. Oh also one of the best womens fights I saw was Chun-Yee Cheng in the white belt absolutes. Chun-Yee is only 46 or so kilos but her first fight won through sheer speed and will-power. Everyone gave her a standing ovation, it was amazing to see the true spirit of jiu-jitsu for a smaller fighter to defeat a much bigger one.

Mill Hill medals
Mill Hill BJJ did come away with other medals. Toby Norways, one of our resident judo black belts won Gold in his division. A university lecturer by day, he told me he had been divising a way to use his favourite throw (tomo-nagae) in his fights, and true to his word, he executed a peach of a throw on his poor unsuspecting opponent. My fellow pluma, Paul 'Sugarmouth' won silver in his white belt division.
Dan Jones, a regular medal collector at comps sadlylos this first fight. He too went through what he describes as his dark phase during the fight and he wanted it to finish as soon as possible. Gavin, another of my regular sparring pals, fell asleep somewhere in the stadium. He missed his name being called and was DQ'ed. He was very upset, but a few words with Roger Gracie and he was allowed back in. Sometimes, it helps when your club head is the Absolute World Champion!!!
Oh man, I have so much more to write about, but I'll save any more post comp thoughts for part 2. I'll add a video of my fight and select bunch of fave photos. I've also posted an official report with the Fightworks Podcast, which should publish Tuesday tomorrow sometime. I write about some of the outstanding fighters of the day that I witnessed and how well the comp was organised overall.

Crew from the Mill Hill BJJ Club (left to right) Gavin, Clint, Dale, Toby (front), Dan, moi, Paul, Dominique.

British BJJ Open - Part 1

Funny things go through your head when you are fighting. Weird things, random things and dark things. It is like time has stood still and yo...

20 Jun 2009

Just a quickie few words before the British Open.
Managed to pimp my gi with a hand painted 'Galo & Pluma' patch. I think the possibilities for bespoke custom-designed gi patches are endless. I might paint different designs for my other gis. This would never be allowed in my trad JJ days of course! The lettering was done using inkjet printed heat transfer sheets and I painted the galo onto cotton canvas using fabric paint, tippex and lots of swearing.

Had some awesome training sessions this past week. On Monday I finally managed to spar with Jude Samuel. He had a sprained thumb so kept tapping me out using just his legs (mainly leg triangles around my body). It was like sparring with a mean python. An amazing experience none-the-less.
On Wednesday Nick made us do specific sparring and then general sparring for 1.5 hours. That was the hardest session I've done in BJJ for quite a long time. My uniform weighed double with the amount of sweat I produced. Let's hope it pays off this Sunday.

Yo Birmingham, here comes the Meerkat, let's bring it on!!!!!

Just a quickie before the Brits...

Just a quickie few words before the British Open. Managed to pimp my gi with a hand painted 'Galo & Pluma' patch. I think the po...

14 Jun 2009

Master Reyson Gracie (top) demonstrating transition from side to north south

Something a bit weird happened to me today. I felt a bit dizzy and a bit out of it at the Reyson Gracie seminar today. It could have been the blistering heat in the Roger Gracie dojo (glass roof + sun = greenhouse effect), or it could have been the mind blowingly awesome fact that stood before me, are three generations of BJJ history makers right before my very eyes - Reyson Gracie, Mauricio Gomez and Roger Gracie.

Reyson is the 3rd son of BJJ founder Carlos Gracie. A 9th degree black belt. He is one of the very few in the world who wears a red belt owing to his very senior status. And, at 67 years young, is as sprightly and lively as a man a third his age.
The seminar was a mixture of BJJ self defence street techniques and side control sport technques. To be fair, there was nothing I had not seen before from previous seminars or lessons. But what I really enjoyed about the session was listening to a BJJ legend talk about his swashbuckling early days on the streets of Rio, getting into street fights and honing his jiu jitsu skills. What I also found interesting was that whilst us gringos dream of (and many actually end up doing) paying homage to their art by visiting and training in Brazil, Master Gracie was paying homage to his lineage by visiting and discovering his Scottish ancestors in Scotland (Dumfries I believe was where the family grave is).

After the seminar we all got a chance to roll. Which I was desperate to do after a poor week of missed training sessions. I rolled fairly well against a 90 Kg blue belt and a recently promoted purple belt. But got completely screwed by a newbie white belt. Pah! That's the 'joy' of BJJ, you're only as good as your last roll. Still, apart from cardio issues, I'm happy with my technical level, with a week to go before the British Open.
Oh, it was also real nice to bump into the writer of this blog. Matthew's been living and training BJJ in Japan for the past 4 years and has many interesting stories to tell.

Kimono news
I think I may have finally found the perfect gi for me. Having retired a couple of my old warhorses that became too small, I was in the market for a new gi and took my chance on the Vulkan Pro Light. My first order of A1 was just too small, but the A2 fits perrrrrrfect. And it is sooooo light. A real joy.

It's funny but when I had an A2 Koral (supposedly an almost exact same make as a Vulkan), the Koral was just too big and baggy so I sold it. But the Vulkan A2 is much slimmer and shorter. Such is the mystical world of BJJ uniform sizing. Every brand is different and even within brands, sizing can vary quite a bit. The race is now on to patch it up in time for the Open.

Reyson Gracie seminar, RGA, London

Master Reyson Gracie (top) demonstrating transition from side to north south Something a bit weird happened to me today. I felt a bit dizzy...

8 Jun 2009

This year is the first year I've taken an active interest in the Mundials. Although a massive event, it is not televised or on radio so the only way to follow it live, is through following live twitter updates and online reports. The Fightworks Podcast arguably came out as the very best way to follow the action. Every few seconds or so, a couple of lines would feed through to whet the appetites of us eager followers.
In the black belt divisions, all the interest was on UK based instructors Braulio Estima, Vitor Estima, and of course Roger Gracie (sorry if I missed out on any others).

In a tremendous show of superiority, Roger defeated all his opponents by the same three stage technique - pass guard, mount, choke - to take both the Super Heavy gold and the Absolute gold (the first ever to defeat all opponents by submission in all matches I believe). Unbelievable! Braulio wins the heavyweight division (fighting his Gracie Barra team mate Alex de Souza) and his brother Vitor comes third in the medium heavy division.
It does seem unbelievably true, but the UK boasts some of the most successful and talented BJJ black belts in the world.
So how did my team mates do this year? Well they're not yet back from the US yet, but Daniel Strauss did post a note on his Facebook profile explaining how disappointed he was and how he simply did not fight very well and lost in round 3. Maybe being tipped heavily as a favourite worked against him, maybe just a bad day in the office. But there is no shame in defeat at the most elite tournament of them all. I salute him and all the others who entered and fought. What they maybe don't realise is that the whole build up, all those intense hours of conditioning, drilling, rolling, sparring again and again until their muscles burned in pain, yeah, all those hours - that's the true contest. And by that token, they've all walked away with something bigger than a medal. Their efforts also serve to inspire ordinary BJJ Joes like me.

Anyway, MY mundials is coming up very soon. The British BJJ Open in Birmingham. The estimates so far reckon about 600 fighters, covering every divisions and with competitors coming over from all over Europe. This looks to be the biggest tournament in the UK this year. A win here would really mean something. As a fighter, I hope to get a few good matches in. And as a spectator, I'm looking forward to seeing brown and black belt fights as well as the juniors and women divisions.

Some keyboard warrior news - I decided to set up a Faxia Rua appreciation society group on Facebook, in fact I was surprised it hadn't been done before. To recap, Faixa rua is a recently established brand of BJJ uniform and the person who makes them, calls himself Faixa Rua (Portuguese for 'street belt'). Faixa often posts side splittingly witty comments on various forums and it was in honour of his humour that I started collecting classic statements to put up on the Facebook wall. In 24 hours, 83 people joined my group, which is pretty astonishing.
Hopefully our members will be rewarded with more of Faxia's scathing wit and sharp humour.

Mundials 2009

This year is the first year I've taken an active interest in the Mundials. Although a massive event, it is not televised or on radi...

5 Jun 2009

I've been working my sweeps in sparring recently. I don't know what it is but somethig has recently clicked and I've managed to get a higher percentage rate of sweeps than before. My current favourites are ones where I get right underneath my opponent, like in half guard or x-guard, and play with the leverage and balance opportunities. I just love doing them - but so much so that I've been caught admiring my own work and, before I know it, my opponent has returned fire with a hefty attack of his own. So of course my next stage is to follow up the sweep with a steady mount and then a good submission attempt. Which is easier said than done!
I've worked out that Wednesday class seems to be the best one to attend at Mill Hill. From 7:30pm there is a judo stand-up session, then at 8:30 is a normal class. There seems to be a great vibe on Wednesdays plus, we don't have to put the mats away!

Yesterday's class we went over some cool attacks you can while you are trapping your opponents arm under your armpit. It stops him posturing up and defending on one side of his body. Nick showed us a variety of chokes, omoplatas, kimuras and armbars from this one position. I love cheeky BJJ moves like that. After that, sparred with some real big guys. We're talking 30-40 kilos heavier and you know what? I loved it. Big Nigel, just let me attack him from all angles. I tried from mount but my little knees could not touch the ground when in this position, pah, tried a sort of S-mount, which was a little better. It was good to see Oliver Bruh back on the mats. Not seen him around for a while, but he was there with his new purple belt. Man, Oli always schools me and takes no prisoners! However, back on the sweeps theme, I did manage one sweep. can't remember the details, but it rocked Oli and even he looked surprised...until he continued his brutal breakdown of my guard.

Some RGA news, it was sad to hear that Jude Samuels, a long standing instructor from the RGA team has decided to leave the association. It was rather an abrupt departure and left a lot of guys a bit shocked. But I'm sure it's not the last we'll be seeing of Jude as Nick said he might be popping down to Mill Hill every now and then.

I'm currently hearing on the grapevine how our boys are doing at the Mundials. It's possibly not great news for Daniel Strauss, although still not clear how he did. I think the purples fight today, so more on that later...

Rollin' rollin' rollin'

I've been working my sweeps in sparring recently. I don't know what it is but somethig has recently clicked and I've managed to ...


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