All right, now we're starting for real. Tho, if you saw yesterday's post, you know that there is a small part of my game that has years of watching professional wrestling to thank for understanding at least a couple important grappling concepts.
Although, for the life of me, I'll never quite understand why it's considered cheating to use foreign objects in matches.
Nonetheless, that brings us to our first day of utilizing Justin Rader's wresting/jiu-jitsu DVD, Hybrid Success Formula. The very first item on the DVD is the importance of a proper wrestling stance. The first couple years of my jiu-jitsu journey did not feature a ton of wrestling. We would drill the techniques and incorporate them into live rounds, but, admittedly, a bulk of my sparring rounds have started on the knees (much to Josh Barnett's chagrin) . Also, our old training mat situation never left you feeling too great after a few rounds of stand up.
Now, with a few more years under my belt and access to a set of mats that are much more forgiving than before, there has been a stronger emphasis on working our wrestling game.
For the better part of a year and some change, we have been actively working takedowns and starting a majority of our rounds standing up. While I've seen a number of my teammates make some strong improvements, my own progress has been very slow.
There are a number of factors of this, but I have always perceived my over-arching problem to be is this: I have a shitty back. I've never done anything truly damaging to it, but years of sports, lethargy, and my 34 years of being on this earth have done a number on it. Moreover, there is a history of sciatica in my family.
My own jiu-jitsu journey was accelerated four and a half years ago when I saw my father struggling with his sciatica. At the time, I had been training jiu-jitsu off and on due to work and family. I always knew that I would go back to the art and actively pursue it, I just struggled to find the time.
Then, one day, seemingly out of the blue, I remember getting a call from my dad that his back was going out. In typical old man fashion, he told me not to worry about it and that the doctors said he would be just fine with some rest and good physical therapy. They also informed him that he had been living with sciatica for years (pretty much just enduring the pain with little-to-no complaining) and that it was mostly just life catching up to him.
I could never shake the first sight of seeing my father struggle to walk with a cane. I am cool 25 years younger than my old man, but the visual shook me. I know most people think to themselves, "I need to take better care of myself" when they see a loved one like that. I thought that as well, but I also realized time is a generous gift we have no control over. If I really wanted to make a run at jiu-jitsu, I had to do it now while I still felt healthy and strong enough to do so.
I know they say jiu-jitsu is for all, and that you can do it at any age (there are tons of photos and memes that make their way around the internet with posts that read, "what's your excuse?"). But nobody tells you how much of a run you have in this life. Or what obstacles might come up. Or what unexpected things may happen in the future.
And with that in mind, I immediately went back to training regularly.
Fixing My Stance
So I had my good friend Joey Hauss from The Los Angeles Jiu-Jitsu Club help me out with an exercise yesterday. Joey's wrestling and jiu-jitsu are very solid. Not only has he competed at a couple EBIs, but he's managed to combine his natural athleticism with a very technical rolling style under the tutelage of Jean Jacques Machado.
In short, training with him is the worst.
For the implementation of Rader's first lesson on stance, I merely told Joey that I wanted to work a round of wrestling to see what my natural instincts might look like on video. He was allowed to attack, defend, basically do whatever he wanted. My main goal was to try and watch my own posture and monitor what I normally like to do.
One fun thing I found: I thought my lead leg was my right leg (what an idiot?!). Turns out, when I'm not actively thinking about my posture, I put my left leg out instinctively.
In fact, here's a fun GIF of me making that discovery at about a minute in of our wrestling-based flo-roll.
Although you cannot see my face, you can definitely tell the exact "OH SHIT" moment in my face as I literally stand all the way up and say, "well, ain't that something" as Joey goes in for a perfectly-timed double leg.
I spent the next minute or so really trying to get my bearings, given this new information. I tend to switch stances and adjust to that of my training partner's attacks, so after the initial confusion, it became an exercise in try to have good posture with it. I can successfully tell you, at one point, I looked like this.
So I take that as a minor victory.
After working on my stance for a few minutes, I decided to give a couple attacks a try.
Emphasis on the word try. Because I thought you guys might enjoy it, here are a few more GIFs of me doing some nonsense.
I'm a big fan of using a Russian grip. Although I drill it well, I always have a moment of "what the fuck am I supposed to do with this again?" Here I have to bail on it when I don't quite make the right grips for the sweep or the angle to make the diagonal run.
My one moment of trying to do something decent came at about the four minute mark when I went in for a single (granted, a little too late and not quite enough angle on it). Afterwards, I felt my back flair up a little bit, signaling that my posture could have been a little better.
Don't worry, Joey did me a solid about twenty seconds later, showing me another option for what I could have done in that situation.
I don't have much to say about this one. I mostly just included it because I loved the idiotic look on my face as I try to jump around and over, only to get artfully dumped back moments later.
You're welcome for that GIF, Joey.
In his DVD, Rader outlines about 20 small details in his section about posture, several of which I would like to work on after having watching a video of myself.
- Look to make my neck more rigid
- Make sure the elbows are pinned inside more.
- Shrug shoulders when lowered into wrestling stance
- In future videos, watch levels and ensure that I am at least matching my training partner.
All and all, my shitty back was fair. I don't voice this a ton to my training partners, but on the days where I have good stance and I might not be attacking a lot, I take great pride in knowing that I made the incremental progress to maintain good posture. Much like the people who tell you that low, duck walk kind of movement will help you pass (another kind of training burn that's difficult for me sometimes), I know it just takes time for the body to acclimate. So I am fine with putting in my reps.
Again, I'm glad Rader starts off with posture for his first lesson. It might come as basic knowledge for a number of individuals who have wrestled before, but the detailed notes in his first six-minute segment are the important foundation for what I know comes next (and ultimately what I am preparing my back to be ready for over the next 29 days).
And I know it's possible.
Because if I can watch my old man make a recovery from walking with the assistance of a cane to walking on his own two feet again, I know all you need is some perseverance.