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The Shower Technique: Biomechanical Concepts of Protection Against the Guard

Today I went to a seminar by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu faixa preta (black belt) Octavio Couto focusing primarily on the biomechanics of defending protecting yourself inside the guard.

Palm-Up Concept
The core biomechnical concept was using the forearms in the palm-up rather than the palm-down position, to allow more activation of the back, e.g. the position you are in when doing pull-ups, deadlifts, or lifting a box.  The angle of flexion of the elbow should be approximately 90°, increased flexion (more acute angle) will collapse, increased extension (more obtuse angle) exposes you to submission (see below).  This is a stronger biomechanical framework than palm down, i.e. "grabbing the pajamas" (kimono), which makes it a structure for obtaining posture, negating offense, and creating space.  That does not excluding grabbing the kimono, i.e. pronating the hand once more, once you have optimized your posture or position, but the supinated position allows you to apply greater strength with less effort.  In general, avoid grabbing/pronating unless your grip is below the belt.  The palm-up concept can have the arms in any position, i.e. they can be parallel, triangular, square, or opposite.  A similar concept is used in Filipino martial arts in knife and stick passing drills.

Horizontal Visual Plane Concept
The secondary biomechanic was head position's influence on posture, by keeping the eyes on a horizontal plane while still being aware of your opponent, you establish a straight spine.  A straight spine has been demonstrated to be stronger, it's the position we (should) use to do any Olympic lift.

  1. "Obtaining closed guard versus the palm-up biomechanic": Allow your partner to obtain grips in the open guard, using the above two concepts keep them from obtaining closed guard.
  2. "Protecting from guard attack using the the palm-up biomechanic": In this drill your opponent has you in the closed guard and attempts to attack, e.g. arm bar, choke, sweep.  Use hip movement and the above biomechanics to shut down your opponent's offense and enlarge the space they have already created when attempting offense.
  3. Combine #1 and #2 above
Straight Arm Bait, Palm Up Defense
Once you have obtained an erect posture, inside their closed guard, supinate and grab the gi collar at the level of the shoulders.  Lock the arm, this allows you to not only hold your partner to the mat efficiently but also baits the arm bar.  The other arm is kept back, shielding that side, palm towards you, elbow on their leg  If they open their guard, immediately release and supinate the hand, returning to the protective palm-up position  If they attempt to triangle, use the shield arm to guide their leg over your head, and presenting the pass.
While Octavio taught a guard pass to the white, yellow, and blue belts, we worked on this.  After having us train this he had the black belts teach small groups of students while he observed and provided feedback.  I've never had to teach at seminar before, but it was an effective way of learning.

Palm-Up Guard Pass
From the hooks inside guard with your partner set-up to sweep, take one hand and grip the opposite pant leg, palm toward you, elbow parallel to slightly away from you.  Your other arm is in the opposite direction, in the palm-up position.  Now follow the elbow pointing away from you to essentially walk around their hook.  Keep a low base, place the knee nearest the direction of the pass proximal to their body near the heel of their foot.

The palm-up position allowed Buchecha to take Rodolfo's back in with 2013 World Championships (see about 5 minutes in):
Octavio points out that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is about technique, strategy, and efficiency.  One cannot explode for 10 minutes straight, no caliber of athlete can.  However, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is also about taking risk, as demonstrated by Buchecha when despite being ahead on points risked being swept to take the back.  We can simply roll staying within our safety zone, but we cannot improve without taking risk.

As for the Shower Technique, the continual movement of your hands in the palm-up position, looks like someone lathering themselves up for a shower.


Step Kick

Today's lesson was on the step kick.  Starting at jab range on the heavy bag, step laterally with the rear foot, circling the bag.  Your lead foot should step behind, becoming the rear foot.  Simultaneously a throw the kick with the (new) lead leg.  The idea is to move around your opponent, in an arc of 90° and at distance they cannot (easily) counter.

After throwing the kick, you can place the foot down in a new and opposite lead or retract the foot to your original lead.  Alternatively you can float the kicking foot laterally, toes pointed away from the target to throw a lead kick with the opposite leg.  Drive the knee high, then turn it over to throw the kick as your upper body rotates to throw the kick.  If you want to close for the elbow, drop the kicking foot close to the bag, in an extended stance.  Throw the rear elbow like a cross rotating your shoulder and elbow into the same line.

90 minutes of discovery on a kick that I've already "learned".  Obsession does not always equal madness.


The Formula

I figured it out:

Speed(Relax, Posture, Footwork, Balance) ~ Power

Now I just have to solve it.

Shadowboxing: Don't jab then step, step then jab.  Transitions are from left lead to right lead stances, and I must be able to move anywhere and throw anything from each one.

Knee Laps: From the balls of the feet, take a half-step with the lead foot and rise off the ball of the foot to throw the knee.  The knee goes straight ahead, knee angled toward center (causing the foot to angle laterally), thrust the hips but keep the head over the base foot.  Arms turn like a steering wheel, the knee side forearm shielding the face.  Chest opens up (i.e. uncurl)

Tiip: Bring the rear foot to the lead foot. It should be flatfooted and the leg straight.  Bring the knee up, leg bent and as the leg extends thrust with the hip.  Keep chin tucked and the head remains over the base foot.  Recover forward one step with the same lead, or step back into the opposite lead.  If the bag is swing start the step at its apex away from me.  You can extend the arm on this side to push away an opponent after a missed tiip.

Tiip-Side Tiip: As above but recover to a straight legged nekoashi-dachi (cat stance) as the bag reaches its far apex, bring the knee high, and rotate on the base leg to throw the side tiip.  Arm extended on this side for defense.  You can train the speed of this technique by starting closer to the bag.

Tiip-Fake Tiip-Jab:  Throw the tiip.  Again at the far apex step rear foot to front and lift the front knee as if to kick, instead of extending, throw the jab-cross/cross hook.

Jab-Fake Jab-Tiip: Step and throw the jab.  Step back and again step forward faking the jab, now roll your weight onto your rear leg as it straightens.  Lift your lead knee, leg bent and thrust forward at the hips.  Recover backward or forward.

Tiip-Rear High Tiip:  Throw a tiip as above and recover to the step forward. Roll onto the lead leg, drive your rear knee high and thrust from the hips as the leg extends, open the chest.


Whip it. Whip it good.

My warm-up was shadow boxing, for some reason my jab hand and foot are not synchronous.  I blame my absolute lack of rhythm.

We then reviewed the short and medium rear kick on the bag.  It is key to relax, to allow the best, relaxed technique to whip the leg to the bag and back.  Relaxation = speed = power.  I also need to shoot the jab straight out, twist it over, and then back to my head.  No pawing or rolling the hands.  The kicking side arm whips downward to create greater kick speed, like a runner, and then back up to protect the head.

Next Ian introduced short and medium range lead kick on the bag.  Short range is done with a cross hitting the bag, one needs to cross without over twisting.  Then the rear foot springs laterally with the toes perpendicular to their previous position, allowing the body to twist, rotating the hips to deliver the rear kick.  The medium range has a small step to deliver the cross to the air, followed by a 45° step and foot rotation to deliver the kick to the bag.  Recovery is to the opposite lead.

On both kicks I need to recover by rolling the base leg foot from ball to heel.

The next technique we covered was the defensive tiip: bring the base foot to your lead heel, drive your knee up to umbilicus height, while opening the chest (i.e. unrolling from the the based hunched posture), then jab with the foot by thrusting with the hips.  One can either place the lead leg in a new stance having advanced a step (if they were thrust backward) or step back, switching to the opposite lead.  It is important to remember to straighten/lock the base leg.

Side kick tiip, is a technique I've never seen before.  Thrown at a hip span further away, the kick starts like a regular tiip, with the knee rising straight in front, but rotate your hips sideways to throw the kick like a ball of the foot side kick toward the end.

I still don't relax.  I speculate that I'm either bracing in a vain attempt to stabilize and prevent injury or I like to posture like a silverback gorilla in heat.  I also pose despite ample evidence of my poor photogenicity. I stop like someone would want to take my picture, despite the fact that no photographer is present.