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GJ RIP Carlson Gracie Sr. 1934-2006

Today Carlson Gracie Sr. passed away from liver failure. Carlson was an icon and a pioneer in both the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed-martial arts worlds, creating one of the world's premiere MMA teams (Brazilian Top Team) as well as putting Chicago on the map in the realm of competitive sport jiu-jitsu. His legacy to the fighters and martial artists within both combat sport and self-defense is immeasurable. Even those who never trained with him owe him a debt of gratitude as an ambassador of BJJ to North America and the rest of the world.
My own story with Carlson is trivial: shortly after his book ("Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: For Experts Only: Classic Jiu-Jitsu Techniques from the Master (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu series)" (Carlson Gracie, Julio Fernandez)) was published I was watching one of my friends wrestle at the Arnold's and a short, robust man with silver hair leaned into my field of view. So I pushed him gently on the shoulder to reestablish my view and all of a sudden I'm looking into Carlson's eyes. I retracted my offending hand and said, "Sorry, sir, haven't read your book yet, sir!" He grinned, got out of my way, and returned to watch the match. From then on he would smile and nod whenever I saw him at a tournament. Unfortunately, I regret never having him sign a copy of his book and now I never will.
Following our warm-up we worked on some knee combinations, reviewing the deep-head knee and curve-deep knee combinations. The in rather than up motion of the deep knee is hard for people to grasp, mostly because we say knee and it is in actual fact a pelvic/hip thrust with the distal end of the femur. The senior students put together a kick to knee combination, finishing with upper cut-overhand-upper cut, while the junior students were introduced to the Thai kick.
Next the seniors did 1-2-3-4-5-1 kicks alternating on the thai pads while the junior worked alternating kicks on one side. We then followed it with the kick catching drill, working on opening the our partner's hips and getting them rotating on the ball's of their feet, while simultaneously teaching the basic mechanics of catching the kick. After the catch the kicker rebounds off the lats (with a little help from the catcher).
The rebound nature of Thai kicking seems contradictory since it makes the kick deposit less energy as it is an elastic rather than inelastic collision. An elastic collision has the following conservation of energy equation:
1/2mv2e pre = 1/2mv2e post + Ee deposited
And for an inelastic collision
1/2mv2i = Ei deposited
By simple inspection this would mean that an inelastic strike would be more energetic than an elastic one, since the post-strike kinetic energy is not lost from the deposition of energy into the target. However, two factors must be considered. First, the addition of a physiological negative (return of the strike) will increase ve pre, such that ve pre > vi. This means, that the deposited energy from an elastic kick is less than an inelastic one, but not as much as intimated from a cursory examination of the conservation of energy equations. Second if we do not return our strike to its starting point, unless we kill or disable our opponent with our more powerful inelastic strike, we leave ourselves wide open for retaliation. Karate believes in a one punch one kill hypothesis, while muay thai does not. Perhaps this is why karate leaves its punches extended and desires maximal energy deposition via inelastic striking. Another caveat should also be mentioned, muay thai does use an inelastic kick when a recovery is not required, for example when kicking out a leg. If we make the bet that an inelastic kick will topple or unbalance our opponent, we commit to the kick with the gamble that it will disrupt our opponent enough that they cannot react. We finished with some more throws, first reviewing the reverse uki-waza:
From a punch or grab, defend or break the grip and get to a side clinch position. Sit down and extend one leg behind both of your partner's feet. Use the body lock and head pressure to pull them backward over your leg, not onto your body. The objective is to trip them, not blow out their knees with your ponderous derrière.

Yoko-wakare (side separation "Kodokan Judo" (Jigoro Kano) pg. 94)

Control over one elbow and at the head. Sit to the neck control side, extending the leg closest to our partner across both their legs, and pulling them forward into a kesa gatame (side headlock). This can almost be thought of the contrapositive to the uki-waza.
We then followed up with a discussion of what happens when bad sacrifice throws happen to good people. That is, we tried our throw but our partner did not fall down:
Koala position
Your legs are anterior-posterior to their legs, hug with posterior arm and grab wrist with anterior arm, block far knee with anterior foot. Trip forward. If they come on top of you twist to rear.
Scythe sweep
You've butt flopped directly in front of your partner, insert one inside hook at the knee, other foot in hip, control same side ankle. Use equal pull (on ankle), push (at hip), and kick (hook) to sweep. Either escape or engage in grappling.
Double shin bump
Again a failed throws puts us directly in front of our partner. Both hooks inside, place shins on partner's thighs, control both ankles. Pull ankles and push up and back with shins to trip. Again escape or engage as necessary.
Two 1 min hook coordination drills:
  • Place one hook inside of your standing partner's knees. They will disengage as you try to keep it with just your foot.
  • Place high inside hook at proximal thigh. Partner does a high knee and steps back, disengaging hook. Reestablish similar hook on opposite side. Chase across room.
We finished with timing and still some of the senior students do not understand that this is jogo (Portuguese for play) and not sparring. It sure the fuck isn't fighting. Timing is like flow grappling, the combat sports version of technical tag, an interactive drilling activity promoting development of combinations. If you want to spar, spar. If you want to fight, fight. But in all cases act like a fighter by training like one and remembering that victories in practice don't count. I would rather lose every time in practice if I won every tournament and fight I entered. Unfortunately this cannot realistically be achieved or promote a strong competitor, but it bears witness to those who are the big fish of their own small ponds, the "champions" within the school who never go to the big water and face the real big fish. Training for the sake of one's own ego is a self defeating and sorry pursuit.

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