Monday, October 5, 2015

On guard.

Not like in the old swashbuckler movies, but in that this is a post on "the guard position" which I hate as a term. Jiu jitsu players tend to think of guard as a box that they put their opponent in. A trap, or prison to be escaped. We would be better served to think of our jiu jitsu guard the way a boxer thinks of having one's 'guard up' to maintain distance and defend against the opponent's offense. This understanding gives a boxer flexibility in how their guard presents itself; it doesn't have to look a certain way as long as it maintains distance, and keeps the other person from punching you (conversely just because you have your hands held in a certain position doesn't mean you're going to have an effective guard the proof is in the punching). It allows for differences in style. Muhammad Ali had very low guard because he had amazing head movement and fought very upright. Mike Tyson had to use a much higher guard because he was a much shorter fighter and needed to deflect shots on the way in. Styles make fights, but styles make guards too.
Building our guard we need to understand the fundamental purpose of guard play; to control pressure and distance from your opponent. Players usually get too caught up in methodology: control points (grips), movement, and frames. Instead of thinking of our opponent "escaping our guard" and frantically trying to cram them back in the box we can understand that if we deflect their pressure, or move out from under it, create distance (if needed) we can get our guard back up. Note I did not say "recover guard" your guard was not stolen from you, it was broken.. it is generally easier to repair something than to replace it.
Controlling pressure from your opponent is key to preventing a pass. A guard passer needs to keep constant pressure on your center mass to keep the guard player from moving (movement is key for an offensive guard). They need to keep you in place or moving in a single direction to rotate around and get into a dominant position. Controlling this pressure can be as simple as using a foot on the hip or bicep to stop the pressure coming forward, or can be something that deflects the pressure of your opponent. Either to get them moving forward or keeps them moving as the guard player moves out from under the pressure (arm drag from sitting guard is a great example of this, but also the hip bump sweep is the same concept in the opposite direction).
Attacking from guard requires movement, but it also requires the passer to be within a certain distance. Too close and the guard player cannot move, too far and they cannot connect to the opponent in any meaningful way. The passer wants to move through this danger zone as quickly (read efficiently) as possible. The guard player wants the passer moving back and forth through this zone until a sweep or submission changes the position or ends the match respectively. There are three ways to control distance: move yourself, move your opponent, convince your opponent to move themselves. Moving yourself is the simplest and easiest of the three. Moving your opponent is simple but not easy. The third is easy, but not simple. This usually requires an attempted sweep or submission that forces your opponent's hand, but often undisciplined players will simply do the opposite of whatever you seem to want. Don't discount this, push and see if they push back.
By understanding the construct that is the jiu jitsu guard, and what it needs to do gives players flexibility. In the Keenan Cornelius 'de la worm guard'/Jeff Glover 'donkey guard' sense; to be able to take grips and controls that they are comfortable with to effect a viable guard but also to troubleshoot a guard that isn't viable. Either to dissect a roll and evaluate what about their guard isn't effective in retrospect, but also in the moment to be able to repair and reestablish a compromised guard before the pass. This is the difference between high level guard players and normal humans: the ability to rebuild the dam before it leaks, and the best way to get there is honest evaluation of one's performance. So train, evaluate, make changes and repeat.

Feel free to comment with any disagreements, or omissions.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The little brother allegory of whiteness..

I always cringe when I see folks on social media denying what people of color say they experience. It always reminds me of my brother..
He's my half-brother, but close enough. I don't love people by halves.
He is 6 very important years younger than I. When I relay stories about doing without, or how things were a little lean when I was a kid, he always scoffs and reminds me of the suburban house we lived in when I was in high school, and the very cool car my folks bought me when I turned 16.
What he doesn't remember, and I don't bother to tell him, was that before our mother married his father, we lived in a tiny apartment a stone's throw away from where Michael Brown was killed. How even after his parents married we lived in that small apartment for a good while. How after a bit their combined income allowed them to buy a modest home in one of the exurbs in St. Charles county, but things were tight, and when the CWA went on strike in 1980 and a 21 day strike in '84 things were more than tight. Mom picked up shifts at my uncle's bar on top of working 40 hours at a local rent-a-car. My step-dad took odd jobs when he could, even hustled pool. We had a house, and cars, but we were broke.. and my brother who was 3 in '84 remembers none of it. He remembers a couple years after that when my step-dad took a supervisor position, and later manager and director level jobs. Things got more comfortable.. and more comfortable. He remembers a less modest new house my parents had built. New cars, and new furniture, cable and Nintendo.
It's not his fault. He's done nothing wrong, but he just didn't see the lean times. When you're three you don't notice that you ate hot dogs for dinner 3 nights a week (mac-n-cheez with hotdogs, pigs in a blanket, and beany weenies to be precise). That you were wearing hand-me-downs, or clothes our relatives gave us. It's not something you notice.. it's not part of your experience. So it's very easy to scoff at your older brother who lived in that same house where you grew up who was old enough to comprehend what was going on. Easy to disregard his anecdotes as being overly dramatic, because you don't want to believe that your family could have had such unpleasant experiences, and also to assuage your guilt for having missed some of the hardest times. In truth I don't expect him to wring his hands over the unpleasant stuff that he missed, but I wish he wouldn't deny that it happened.
(caviat, this is not to say woe is me, we never starved, or lived on the streets. We had family who could prop us up until we got on our feet.. that's not the point of the story)
For us folks in the majority.
If a person of color tells you they are terrified when they are stopped by the police. Don't scoff and say "Just don't do anything wrong and nothing will happen to you." That's not their experience, listen to them.
When they say that SNAP programs do not create a culture of dependence, but actually help keep kids healthy.. listen.
When they say they want to work, but that they are less likely to get called back simply because of the name on the resume.. listen.
When people of color.. or any marginalized group for that matter, tries to educate you on their experience in this country.. listen.
I know it's not your experience. That is the exact point, but wouldn't it be great if no one had that experience?


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The drilling dead.

I follow a few jiu jitsu folks on social media, and am connected to some of the younger jiu jitsu folks in the area. I see them constantly posting videos like this:
That looks cool, and it's a decent way to work up a sweat and clean up your footwork.. you know what else is good for that?
Ok. So don't be the goddamned Karate kid.
So how do we get practice in? We zombiefy those dead drills.
Zombies are dead, they come back to life (hopefully briefly) and we kill those suckers dead again.. and so should your drills.
This requires two things: a partner (you're probably drilling with a partner) and a coach..child.. girlfriend.. a reasonably well trained monkey.. some agent of randomness.
Drill way for a set period of time say 5 minutes.
In that window of time your coach/kid/monkey will at random intervals say "GO!" on go you and your partner are sparring.. for 30 seconds. Long enough if you're being slack and leaving space in your drills (or worse yet you're drilling stupid stuff) you will lose position. If you're truly drilling like a BOSS (do people still say this? I'm old.. you know what I mean) you should end up with the same outcome. Once that 30 seconds is over:
if you're still in position keep going,
if you've done better for yourself good for you hustle back and get after it.
if you've lost position FOR SHAME. You stay put and think about what you're doing with your life.
Rinse, repeat..

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage for all.

SCOTUS rulez Congress droolz!

I wrote about this in 2007..
If a Missouri redneck living in the big city could see the writing on the wall 8 years ago,  I'm not sure what took us so long.

Some folks aren't happy.
But they can get bent.

Good day America.. good week.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The second amendment, open carry and the politics of a snarling dog.

My views on gun ownership are complicated. Please read the whole thing because I'm gonna tread on both sides of this topic.
On one hand I don't believe that the framers of the Bill of Rights intended for individual ownership of military firepower. I think the "any one, any gun" interpretation is dead wrong. The phrasing of the amendment clearly intends for military arms to be per view of  "well regulated Militia" to whit regulated is an important modifier of Militia. Military arms should be regulated. Small arms, shot guns and sporting arms those are a different story. The current interpretation that citizens can all own firearms, with some restrictions on capacity, caliber, and rate of fire is quite reasonable (and where to draw those lines is to get into minutiae far beyond the scope of this post)
I think the vast majority of Americans should own a fire arm and be well practiced in its use. Public schools and police departments should offer free firearm safety training much like driver's education is offered. A lot of the issues we have with folks carrying and carrying unsafely comes from guns being unfamiliar. Having grown up in Missouri surrounded by guns I fully understood and understand the devastating power they have, but I also had no interest in fooling around with one. I enjoyed hunting and shooting, but I had no desire to "show off" guns to my peers, and they'd have likely had no interest in fooling with arms that they saw around their own homes. The vast divide surrounding arms in this country comes from too few people being well versed in the safe and intended use of a firearm. This unfamiliarity leads some people to fear their very existence, and some to fetishise their power. This would be resolved by giving the former folks some information, and the latter needs to have a bit of red tape and monotony to wade through to take some of the shine off of guns and gun ownership.
To accomplish this we need training publicly available and free of charge, but also in order to operate a gun you must be licensed. No one is going to take down the serial numbers, makes or models of your gun, but if you purchase a weapon, ammo, enter a firing range, or are observed by police with a firearm you must have a license. Same as operating a motor vehicle, same as buying a hunting license.
To go bow hunting this fall, I had to take a 12 hour hunter and firearm safety course. Why not push that information to all gun owners? It doesn't seem to me to high a bar to leap, if the vast majority of people are licensed then there is no "big brother gonna take my guns" paranoia, and if people are safely trained then at least we'll be down to intentional shooters with the social skills to sit through the class and pass a test. This would be at least better than the current non-system.
If you live in a rural area, and think this a ridiculous requirement, please bare with me. Having lived in major cities the past 15 years you would not believe the number of gun owners I have seen who do not have a basic understanding of firearm safety, discipline, let alone basic efficacy behind the trigger. If you're former Military, or can pass the basic test, you're good.
Which brings me to open carry. If you open carry, you are (pardon my language) an asshole. Do you have the legal right to be an asshole? You certainly do. I will assert that you are doing much more harm than good. By way of explanation I'll tell you a story:
A few years ago we had a big snow and ice storm here in Seattle. The roads were icy as all hell and this city is really hilly. I needed to get a couple things from the store and there was a small grocery a maybe half a mile from my house. On my walk to the store I meet up with what I think was a Belgian Tervuren his owners were not quite a block away. The dog, I'll call him fluffy, because he was. Fluffy loped up to me, while I was standing on the icy sidewalk. I generally like dogs so I say "Hey pooch" in a friendly voice. The dog gets within a couple feet of me, it's hackles raise and it bares it's teeth and it growls. Uh oh. "Hello," I say to the owners "can you come and get your dog?"  "Oh he's super friendly!" they tell me. As Fluffy barks twice and then growls some more. I am not feeling like fluffy is friendly. I am feeling threatened, and like I am in danger. It's too slippery for me to move well. This dog is snarling at me. He is big and has lots of teeth. I have no idea of it's just bluster, or if it's really going to try and hurt me. I end up sliding away without getting bit, but that encounter did not leave me with a favorable opinion of those dogs or their owners. Fluffy's owner assured me; that I was safe, that fluffy was friendly, but the outward appearance was threatening.
Which brings me back to open carry. You may be a law abiding citizen. You may be just doing some grocery shopping, but all the rest of us see is a snarling dog, and no one wants to get bit. If you want to concealed carry, then by all means get a CCW and do so. However, the open carry folks, you can couch it in whatever rhetoric you like but you're threatening your neighbors, and that makes you an asshole. The way to convince people that the second amendment should allow private gun ownership is to be a reasonable person, AND a gun owner. Take precautions to keep your guns out of dangerous hands, To take people to the range, take people hunting, teach your kids about guns, and most of all don't be an asshole! The more interactions people have with reasonable, non-threatening gun owners the more support there will be for gun ownership Conversely every time there is an "open carry event" more people on the fence see gun ownership as a fringe activity. It leaves a bad taste in their mouths and keeps them from being open to more reasonable interactions. It closes doors.