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Above Garage Door Grappling Mat Storage Rack

As someone who feels that martial arts training is an important part of their life, it is inevitable that some sort of home gym set-up occurs. I had grown tired of the climatological extremes of garage training at our old place so I had not pursued it at our new home. However with available training partners only a few blocks away, I felt that it was a good time to have a midlife training crisis and supplement with some garage rolling.  Unfortunately although my garage is advertised as a two-car garage, it really only feels like a car and a half.  There is very little room for storage, particularly something as bulky and space consuming as mats. The next house we get will have a finished basement.

I did some investigation on the internet and found this interesting article on the Family Handyman. I wanted something like a shelf but the idea of using rollers to assist with storing the mats appealed to me. A friend of mine had some solid (non-folding) mats he was interested in getting rid of, they measure 3’ 6” by 6’ 6” and weigh approximately 50 lbs, so this needed to be a sturdy arrangement. I decided on using three rollers based on six foot 5/8” threaded rods, with 5’ PVC as the roller.

Mounting Bracket, View 1Mounting Bracket, View 2

Mounting bracket (upside down) constructed from 14" 2” x 4” with two 5” corner braces bolted on with three 1/4-20 x 2 1/2” machine bolts. SAE 1/4” washers were used on both sides. The hole at the “top” is 5/8” to accommodate the six foot 5/8” threaded rod used in the roller assembly.

The mats I have are 6’ 6”, so I placed the brackets every other ceiling stud thereby spanning approximately 5’ 6”. Originally I tried placing the rollers as near the outer wall as possible, but the garage door would impact the mounting brackets as it turned from vertical to horizontal, so I moved it in one ceiling stud in and had no clearance trouble.  I measured the opposite mounting bracket position with an assembled roller and confirmed that the bracket would be mounted into the ceiling stud with a stud finder.

I used six #14 x 2 1/2” wood screws into the ceiling stud to mount each of my constructed mounting brackets.

Next I made a 5/8” hole in another 2” x 4” and mounted it on the end of the threaded rod to line the mounting bracket furthest from the garage door. Using this “straightedge” and a stud finder I positioned the mounting bracket. Once mounted I measured and trimmed the connecting 2” x 4”. I did the same thing on the opposite side but confirmed my position with a roller assembly before fastening the opposite mounting bracket. I then attached the connecting 2” x 4”s to the threaded rod.

At this point I weight tested the assembly with my own (not inconsiderable) bodyweight. Nothing moved, nothing broke, and nothing sounded like it was going to give.

Using the connecting 2” x 4” and a stud finder I fastened the middle mounting brackets. Then I bored out the 5/8” hole for the threaded rod in the connecting 2” x 4” on both sides. I assembled the inner hardware of one side and the PVC pipe of the roller, and slid it through the inside holes nearest the wall. It was slid far enough to allow the opposite end to clear the mounting bracket on the opposite side and then I slid it into the mounting bracket hole after placing washers and inside nut. I then tapped the rod into place gently with a mallet, adjusting the nuts on both sides to allow equal amounts of the threaded rod to be seen bilaterally projecting.

A roller assembly is a nut, locking washer, flat washer, connecting 2” x 4”, mounting bracket, flat washer, locking washer, nut, 5’ of PVC pipe, nut, locking washer, flat washer, mounting bracket, connecting 2” x 4”, flat washer, locking washer, nut.

All told this project took me between 6-8 hours including hardware shopping time. But I’m a pretty poor excuse for a carpenter.

Mat Rack with Garage Door Closed

Empty, finished mat rack with garage door closed

Mat Rack with Garage Door Open

Empty, finished mat rack with garage door open

Loaded mat rack

Loaded mat rack


Physics of Disdain

I hate losing more than I even wanna win.” — Billy Beane, Moneyball

I am secure in my knowledge that I’m pretty good at jiu-jitsu, but I’m also very aware that I can only get better while being one injury away from never getting on the mats again.  Ultimately my goal is to be able to blow through anyone on the planet and submit them at will. Realistic, no. Inspiring, yes. Recently I’ve been less than happy with my ability to pass the guard (not that I’m thrilled about my ability to play guard) so I’ve been watching the best and thinking about the rest. Part of my conceptual thinking was inspired (stolen) from Jeff Serafin’s Art of Uncomfortable guard passing concepts and the Mendes Brother’s Leg Drag.

Fighting is essentially trying to get ahead and if you are ahead, staying there. In combat sports that has to be done within the rules of game. For example, get grips first, if you’re not first, get a better grip than your opponent.  When I pass, for whatever reason, I am often faced with an open or spider guard.  I’m not light and I’m longed limbed so it is difficult to contain me in a closed guard, passing on the ground while certainly feasible does leave a certain amount of space for opponents to re-capitalize given my length of limb and spaces it provides. This is a long way of saying, I often finding myself standing and trying to pass the open guard.  I’ve been watching how Rodolfo Vieira passes and it has been inspiring, BJJ Scout has an excellent analysis of this:

When I first watched Professor Vieira pass, it seemed to me as if he had nothing but disdain for his opponents guard. It would have been called cocky if it didn’t work.  The key that I noticed, which is true for all top competitors, is that they do what they do not regardless of their opponent but because it prunes the decision tree of possible actions by their opponent.  The open and spider guard work by getting the legs at a 45° angle with the floor, this provides the maximal amount of force against your opponent with your feet having the greatest amount of friction. Vieira destroys this by changing the angle reducing the efficacy of his opponent’s legs and the ability to control the open guard with their feet.  He increases the angle by advancing, contemptuously appearing to walking into the guard. By driving in, dropping and then lifting the hips, your opponents feet are displace upward, they lose contact with your arms or hips.

Obviously I try to get a good grip on their pant legs to help facilitate good posture and re-positioning of their legs as I glacially displace their open guard. Either I grab first, or break their grips to get there. Sometimes simply to slow them down, I step in first and then break the grips, if I’m a step or two behind.  It is important not to hunker over your opponent but to try to lift their hips off the mat as you approach.

My first iteration was the “horse stance” I ended up moving in but with my feet parallel and both within reach of my opponent.  While this was effective it is is limited because they can bump you backward and have a choice of legs to snare.  Remember that you are trying to get them off-balance and defensive, no trying to climb on top of them, you climb on top of someone and you will be swept.  You will notice, as BJJ Scout points out, inserting a knee either inside or outside their knee is a more effective way of breaking them down.  So my second iteration was to try to control the pant leg and drive my knee on the medial side of theirs, bending and abducting their leg laterally.  Do not allow them to hook inside. A third variation is step slightly laterally and pull their leg in the contralateral direction, placing your opposite knee on the lateral side of theirs, bending it medially and adducting it, into a leg drag-esque position.

From the medial knee insertion, you can start to pass by knee slide, by “hiking” their opposite leg through your own, or switching to a leg drag. From the lateral knee insertion you can practically drop into the side mount from there, if they turn back fast enough you can drop into their half-guard and pass from there (after getting your advantage for placing their shoulders on the mat).  You will also notice that Vieira switches directions, so drive for your pass but if it’s not working try passing on the other side by switching to another pass, e.g. “hike” to one side, knee slide to the other.  One thing that I found effective, when I couldn’t hip lift in well enough was to grab both legs and toreador pass, they’re fighting your pressure so much that their legs are easily extend and get stapled to the mat.

Attention to this concept will make you do something else: when you play open guard you will not want them to do this to you, so you will get good grips and stretch them out, making sure their posture is something their mothers would bemoan.



If they catch your kick:

  • Your kicking leg foot dorsiflexes, then bend your knee pulling your opponent to you. Grab their neck with the ipsilateral hand, your contralateral hand can control their free arm biceps. Place downward pressure at 45° across their hip line. If necessary push their head toward the floor, turn through and pull your leg out (as if finishing the turn of the kick).
  • Recoil your kick leg by turning the knee laterally, this rotates the foot in front of them.  Tiip them away.

If they get double underhooks #1:

  • Place knee on there abdomen just inferior to the umbilical line, your foot should hook medially to their knee. Create space to inset the ipsilateral hand in plum clinch and use pressure with your forearm to create space. Pop your hips back to break their grip, overhook with your free hand and load your wedge knee to throw it.  If your opponent reaches for your leg while the “hook” is in, elbow him to the head.

If they get double underhooks #2:

  • Drop your weight and put your hands on your opponents hips.  Place the back of your head on the side of theirs, step laterally to this side and drive their head toward the floor.  Overhook in the side closest to them, rotate your body away to insert your other hand on the side of their face and drop step this leg, to set-up a lunging side clinch position.  Keep your weight on them but at the range of your extended arm. If they stay, knee to the head.  If they stand-up let them go. If they rise, go with them and throw the head kick. If they try to rotate away from you, step in a kibadachi (horse stance) behind them, placing your leg midway between theirs.  Now calf raise on this side, displacing their legs as your upper body turns, dumping them backwards over your leg.