And you call this fun?

I tried to make myself some space and slip my left knee past the instructor’s mounted guard, but I couldn’t–

  • I could still feel the aftereffects of a cramp in my left calf, so I was having trouble catching him with any burst of speed because I couldn’t move the leg quickly.
  • His weight was pinning me down pretty good (the instructor outweighs me, I’m told, by about 50 pounds of muscle) and about half of that weight was being applied to a cross-face press (he had his forarm across the side of my face and was pushing me down, which prevented me from looking to the left).
  • Because of his cross-face press, because of his sheer weight, I couldn’t divert my arms much to help pass the guard– I had to spend a lot of time defending my neck.

The thing about a cross-face press is that it’s mostly not used as a finisher, it’s used as an entry technique– you do that to cause pain in your opponent.  It hurts to be cross-faced.  If you can’t understand what I mean by a cross-face press (it not be the common term actually), imagine yourself pressing your face against the wall.  Naturally, you don’t want to put pressure on your nose, so if you really had to push hard against the wall, you’d turn your face to one side, taking the resistance on the side of your face.  A crossface press is just that– when your opponent is on his back on the ground, and you’re on top, you put your weight into you forearm and press it against his face.

A human skull however can support a surprising amount of pressure, so it’s not really a problem– but it does hurt, because of all those nerves under your cheekbones that don’t like being squashed and are telling your brain “this is not a skull’s intended usage!”

Usually the cross-face press is used to hinder someone’s vision in one direction so that you can attack from that side, or to post your weight so that you can reposition yourself.  Under heavier opponents, a well done cross-face feels like your neck is going to snap from lateral torsion.

Naturaly, I didn’t want to leave my neck unprotected, so both my arms were occupied trying to get the cross-face off.  The problem with this, and I was very aware of it at the time, is that defending your neck, because of anatomic position relative to your arms, makes defending it very bad for your arms.  Getting a crossface off you usually means putting your arms in a position where they can be taken and locked.

In the instructor’s case, he just wanted to have my arms out of the way so that he could apply a frontal naked choke.  He got the his arm behind my head, and then it was over– he already had mount, my arms were no in no position to leverage that out from under me because I was tired.

He tightened his hooks (his legs) around my hips, and pushed down with his legs while pulling up with his arms.

I heard “snap, crackle, pop” in my neck and I tapped out in a panic.

A second later, which was second number 25 into our round, I just lay there on the ground groaning.

To answer the common question, yes, I do call this fun.  I haven’t done any ground fighting in what… five years or so?  And this class, being taught in a rented room in a local high school, also had muay thai kickboxing.  It was all fun.

I have this gash on my left bicep in the shape of an echelon, it’s about 4 inches long and is about as raw as skin can get without actually bleeding.  I don’t know where that came from.   I’ve got a few bruises on my shins, and one long 3 inch bleeding scratch on my right shin, along with a swelling on my right ankle’s exterior bone.  All of my fingers hurt from fighting in gis (I’ve never done groundwork in a gi before, so I’ve never felt the need to hold on so much to things).  I’m having a bit of trouble walking because of my left calf muscle cramping up.  But yeah, I’d say it was all fun.

I did 4 rounds of grappling-only, and and one go at kickboxing.  Unlimited time.  The grappling, I didn’t win a single bout. However, I only submitted to the instructor’s naked-choke.  The other 3 that I lost, two were because I just called it quits because I ran out of gas, and the 3rd was because my calf muscle cramped up.  All of the non-instructor matches went on for about 3-4 minutes each.

When I really think about it, I don’t really know how to attack in groundfighting.  I mean, I’ve spent a fair share of time on the ground, but all I knew how to do was deffend when I was down there.  I would put myself in an offensive position, either with full mount, half mount, or side mount, but then I’d just hang in there and frustrate the opponent, try to tire them out, because basically the only technique I could remember how to do was a kimura and a heel hook, which both failed miserably.  The classics, like arm bar and triangle choke, seemed too risky because I couldn’t remember how to pre-position myself properly.  But I did remember how to deffend a pretty good slew of techniques– it was just me deffending attack after attack of the students, and foiling their attempts at getting superior position.

I think this stems from the grappling I did back at MAC.  The people who I really learned from, Terminator, Louis and Richard mostly, they all outweighed me significantly.  Naturally, I spent a lot more time trying to get away from the groundfight or just deffending against their power based initiative, so I never got to really work on my offensive game.  I’m quite happy that when first trying that stuff with a group of strangers, the deffenses kicked in!

I should also mention that after each round of grappling though that I was so exhausted I really, really thought I was going to throw up.  I was always acutely aware of the garbage can’s position in the room.  (Oh, Cardio, wherefore have you gone? Can’t you, Cheesecake and Videogames just get along?)

Kickboxing went a lot better for me, and I’d say that I actually won that round.  I wasn’t able to use much taekwondo but I just in general felt lighter on my feet than I was in the past, and I felt a lot more comfortable with my footwork.   I just in general “knew” my legs better than I had in the past.  I liked also that I could finally use my hands seriously (no hands in taekwondo) and that made me feel a lot of confidence.  Sparring in taekwondo has always been sorta iffy for me because I have a lot of issues with the ranges of fighting, due to the illegality of face punching and punching in general except under certain circumstances.  Kickboxing rules were much more natural to me, so I went to town and had a lot of fun  experimenting with what I could do with my current physiology.

I had enough physical speed, perception speed, reaction speed and flexibility in my upper body to evade face shots (never been able to do that before!) so for a while I tried an outfighter’s game, poking with the jab and the thrusting kicks, occasionally countering if he was coming in deep and hard.  This involved a lot of active footwork to maintain a range just a little  beyond kicking range, but to give the illusion of being closer by tilting my upper body forward and keeping a tight guard.

I tried “hamedo style” (if you know what this refers to, you need to get out more) where I stopped my feet completely and waited with a more open guard, ready to break the opponent’s rhythm on inward dives with hard counters.  This is mostly to conserve energy, and usually only works on people with weak mental toughness.  You can exacerbate their hesitations by alternating between big hits and feints.  Of course, when successfully feinting, you needent always use the opening to immediately punish them– you can also just let them dwell on the fact that they were had.  Let the doubt settle in.  This style of fighting for me is more about very stiff jabs, the kind of thing that Bruce Lee called a ‘straight lead punch,’ differentiated from the conventional jab in that it’s a full body punch instead of a less involved poker/feeler punch.

The final experiment was “pick a fight” style, which is like “hamedo style” except that I’m actively using my feet to constantly stay after my opponent.  I constantly violate the no-mans-land, staying always within kicking range and bobbing my upper body within his jab range.  I’m kind of a mechanical fighter in this range because I don’t have the reaction speed to infight, but I have a couple of general rules:

  •  keep both my hands up at all times protecting my chin and cheekbones, weave a bit.  I REALLY don’t like getting taged in the head. If my opponent throws a right arm out, I throw a stright left straight for his face while backing up to straight range.   If he throws a left arm out, I throw out a straight right. 
  • If I see a right leg coming up, I throw a straight left kick, and vice versa.  The point is that if we’re both throwing straights at the same time, they’ll clash and tangle.  If, however, he’s throwing curved attacks, straight wins as long as the range is right. 
  • I might also block the roundhouse kicks and counter with a deep roundhouse while they’re recovering– in general, I’m quite confident of my ability to deal with roundhouses, and I think that one for one I’m willing to endure taking a roundhouse to my hips or body if I can land a simultaneous roundhouse or immediate counter (before the pain sets in) on my opponent– I feel that in an exchange of pure kicks, I can dish out a pretty good amount of damage for my weight class.
  • “Pick a fight” style is as much about mental pressure as it is physical pressure.  It’s more effective against people who are reluctant to infight, or who have a tendancy to turn their heads away when hands start flying around.  Namely, I’m attempting to apply on someone who is uncomfortable with infighting.  It’s not true infighting, because I’m not going really deep, but the footwork is simlar.  Keeping them backing up makes it more difficult for them to kick effectively– I find that if the opponent is on the run and tries to throw a kick out there just to warn you off, a confident body check or trading hits by giving them a solid, well torqued kick versus their retreat kick can really really jam things up and damage his confidence.

It’s nice to be back at a place like this.  It feels like the MAC, to  be honest– a lot of freedom to go at your own pace, the level’s good, weightclasses vary…

Although I am constantly aware that I quit MMA training in the past because the injuries were stocking up, so I’ll have to take it safe.