Women’s Only BJJ Event

This weekend was Alpha’s first Women’s Only event!  Liz Knezevic and April Jean ran an hour long course of fundamentals followed by an open mat that allowed women with all levels of experience to get to know each other and experience jiu jitsu in a stress free, all female environment.  This was particularly well received by those who had never done BJJ before.

Let’s face it, jiu jitsu can be intimidating to everyone at first glance.  It relies on lots of close body contact, strange body manipulations that are just not common in everyday life, and a level of competitiveness that can be foreign to EVERYONE.

For women, this stress can be exacerbated by the fact that in most schools the preponderance of participants are male.

With events like this, women who might not feel comfortable taking their first steps in BJJ in a mixed class can come and try it on for size in a friendlier, less threatening environment.  For those women who routinely take part in the art, it’s a chance to talk with other women about what jiu jitsu means to them, and discuss the struggles that they have shared that are unique to being a female in the art.

At Alpha, we truly believe that jiu jitsu is for EVERYONE.  If we can make those first steps easier for any person through an event like this then it has been a success.  Speaking of success, almost every person who attended stayed to go out afterward.  Amongst them, there was nothing but excitement over the event!  We at Alpha are proud to have hosted the event, and humbled by the response and attendance.

For a look at the day, check out the link below:


The first question almost everyone had was, “when is the next one?”  We’ll keep you posted, but it’s certainly on the horizon! Thank you to everyone that came out!

Where We Begin Escapes

This week is focusing on escaping from bottom side mount.  A skill that’s important due to the ever increasing popularity of the side mount position.  Being on top of a match might be one of the strategic goals of BJJ, but it’s only half the art.  The other half is working from those pesky negative positions as well.  We have to embrace and love these positions just as much as we do the top game.

So as we look at escapes this week, we want to spend a bit of time each night looking not at just HOW we escape bottom side, but WHEN we should start our escape.  All too often when watching rolls we see individuals have their guard passed only to immediately allow their partner establish a good, solid, HEAVY side mount and only THEN begin a technical escape.  Think of it this way.  Would you rather start your escape once an opponent has achieved the perfect side mount position (a position designed to hold you in place) or when he’s in the middle of passing while his weight is up and pressure less focused?  It’s an easy answer when you look at the question in that light.  Clearly sooner is better.

Prof. Roy Harris, of the original “dirty dozen” explains the principle like this.  You have an attack action, from start to impact that your opponent will be conducting.  If you divide that into thirds (and a beginning level, even this gets deeper) you get a beginning phase, an intermediate phase of execution, and finally the end of the action where you’re receiving energy from your partner.   So if we use a punch (as the concept easily applies in JKD) as an example you’re looking at the chamber, the flight, and finally the impact of the fist.

Most arts deal with the final third of the attack.  This is where we get so much blocking, covering, and ducking from.  This is not bad, but it’s a beginning.  This is where an attack is the most dangerous.  If we develop the skills to deal with the same attack during it’s flight, we make ourselves safer and increase the likelihood of our success.   Now, at a high level of skill, let’s think about how much of an advantage we gain by dealing with that attack at the outset, before any energy builds up.  This is where true skill develops.

PTK students will recognize this concept in Paul’s goal of cutting attacks while they are still in chamber rather than meeting them in the combat space.   Again, we are keeping ourselves safe while neutralizing the attack. Sound familiar?

So how does this apply to BJJ and specifically to what we’re doing this week?

Look at the application of top side pressure as an attack (which it is- position is always the key) and let’s break it down.  At the end of the action (the final third) we see a position firmly established with lots of pressure to contend with.   If we break the side mount effort down to outset and execution phases as well we can start to apply this VERY useful principle.

While you’re partner has just cleared side mount and is moving to put weight on you we can see the intermediate phase of execution.  Here, he is dangerous.  He’s close to locking you into position, but there’s more space between you and him and more transitional motion than you’ll have in a second.  Here is an opportunity to counter that will keep you from being flattened and avoiding his maximum pressure.

Now, back up even a step further, what about his positioning AS he’s passing?  Is he fully immersed in applying a proper side mount?  Of course not.  He’s still occupied with a successful pass effort.  If you begin to prevent his side mount at this point, you’ve drastically defeated his effort.  Maybe even retained guard.  This is a far better option that bridging for inches once your partner has sunk his weight.

It’s important to note here that we’re NOT talking about instituting a scramble at this point.  The scramble almost always goes to the stronger, faster, more athletic grappler.  What we are taking about, and will be working on all week, is good technical motion that is driven by sensitivity of movement and an understanding of mechanics.

I’m looking forward to this week and can’t wait to see you on the mats.

Kimura from North/ South

This week we really spent time breaking down not only North/ South position, but also attacking from this very stable position.  One sequence that made us all not only attack, but move fliudily from side to N/S and then maintain pressure as well was this drill to the Kimura attack.  Check out not just the submissions, but also the body mechanics of the posture and weight.  Those things are what make the submission efforts successful.

Comparing and Contrasting Jiu Jitsu Technique

The theme of the week was transitioning to side mount up the positional ladder.  We moved from side to knee-in, to mount, and finally to S-Mount.  Along the way we looked at some commonalities in attack.  In our recap, we’ll look at the knee-in movement and some choking sequences from there.

My friend, Ron Bristow, stopped by during this open mat and we got to set down together and compare and contrast different tactics from this position and the fundamentals that drive them.

Welcome Xtreme Training Academy

This past week marked a great moment for Alpha as we welcomed into the fold a satellite program at Nik Farooqui’s Xtreme Training Academy in Bartlett!  Nik has been a personal student of mine for over a year and has been a blue belt since 2006. I was very happy to promote him to purple belt this past week while at a seminar there to kick off the program.

Nik Promotion

Nik is an accomplished instructor in JKD and has been using his grappling to that end for many years.  As we’ve trained this past year, Nik’s become more and more enamored with the ART of jiu jitsu in the gi, not just it’s self defense aspects.  When he approached me about overseeing an Alpha BJJ curriculum there while he instructed I was more than thrilled to help make it happen.


The seminar this week was attended by interested parties on his end, supporters from our group, and people from Chuck Masny’s school in Lake in the Hills (our other satellite) and was hugely successful!

Seminar at Xtreme Traning at Xtreme


The thread of the night was an introduction to what jiu jitsu is and how to successfully train in it. To that end, we look at some diverse tactics all related by similar fundamentals that serve vastly different purposes.  This highlighted just how big an art jiu jitsu is.  We started with Mike Budnik’s punch block sequence to set the tone of fundamental movement and distance control and moved into the more sport/ art based spider guard.


Stage 1 at Xtreme

This let participants look at how similar each was in execution and principle, but so different in application and goal.  At the end, everyone seemed to enjoy and appreciate both and have a wide appreciation as to what jiu jitsu can do.  I see bright things in the future for the BJJ program at Xtreme and we’re thrilled to be part of it.


Escaping Back Mount Recap

This week we really delved into escaping the back mount.  This can be from seated, to turtle, to somewhere in between.  In any form, the first and most import facet of this is good structure in defense and good position.  After that, we drill to comfort in these negative positions.  Once we’re there, now technique become important.


In our video recap, we use the hip scoop escape to highlight the various escapes from here.  The core of this scoop become vital in several potential escape options.

Which Technique do I Choose?

In jiu jitsu, classes are often constructed around a core concept or position.  This can lead to a couple of techniques shown that fit in roughly the same category.  This is a great training strategy in that it lets you rep the fundamentals of a position while dealing with a couple of different variants on the theme.  You’re getting deep in your knowledge of one aspect of jiu jitsu while expanding your overall technical options.

When confronted with multiple techniques that are similar, this can lead to the question: “Which technique should I choose?”

It’s a legitimate question for a newer student to ask.  White and Blue belt learning is most often associated with technical details of movements and rough strategical grouping of techniques.  It makes sense that they often (and should be) asking which is preferred.  After all, jiu jitsu is big and the new student is overwhelmed with information.  From technical aspects to concept there is just so much to remember, and then make a functional part of what one does under stress at speed that it makes sense for people to want to really get which options are best for them to try to focus on.

However, the answer is bigger and more conceptual that they might expect.  It’s really not a question of “If his hand is here you do this.”  It’s a much bigger response.  It can be summed up by, “It depends.”

This isn’t a great, or informative answer by itself, but its a starting point.   Which technique you select really does depend.  But on what?

This is where things start to get big on the concept learning.  There’s really three things that drive this question of which technique to use:

1) The Situation

2) The Energy

3) Your Preference and Comfort Level

It’s the intersection of these three items that drive your decision making.

First, let’s talk about the Situation element.  Jiu Jitsu is big, I mean huge.  People are in it to defend themselves, fight MMA, to compete in pure BJJ, for the love of the art, and probably a whole host of other reasons.  Each of these is a different situation, with different concerns and appropriate goals and therefore tactics selection.  A cop looking to apprehend a fleeing felon will have a different goal than someone trying to get an opponent to the ground in the last two minutes of a match.  Because of that, there are elements of jiu jitsu that are better or worse choices for either situation simply because they fill the goals of each individual better.  This requires some awareness and an understanding of what elements of jiu jitsu work for what settings better.

So before selecting a technique to use at a given juncture, one has to understand the situation they are in AND what tactics and goals are and are not appropriate.

Next we’ll deal with energy.  This isn’t as esoteric as it sounds.  It’s simply a question of what an opponent is trying to give me. Jiu jitsu works best when the other guy is doing the work for me. If he (or she) is fighting so hard to prevent one technique then chances are they are handing me another to complete.  I will only burn myself out trying to fight attribute to attribute for a technique they are actively fighting.  Conversely, when I find the path of least resistance I can more efficiently win the fight.  This requires some sensitivity to body mechanics and the ability to read the flow of the fight at pace.

So, prior to selecting at technique, we have to be able to feel the energy that the other person is putting against us AND how to capitalize on it.

Lastly, we look at our preference.  This is what we like to do, what we’re confident in, and what our “game” looks like.  This is really about self understanding more than external understanding.  When placed in any position, a BJJ player will have his or her “game” that set of techniques they like, those movements that work for them, the things they seen play out favorably in open mat over an over again.  This breeds a high level of confidence in certain things and it’s one of the strengths of BJJ (but that’s another article.) Because of that confidence, the practitioner is more likely to make choices that put him or her in those positions.

This requires that the practitioner has logged some serious mat hours and developed their own brand of jiu jitsu.  This comes down to experience on the mats.  Thanks to the learning format of  jiu jitsu, this happens quickly and should be well on the way to development by blue belt.

Well, that doesn’t sound to bad does it?  Good theory, makes sense.  Now consider that each decision must be made under stress in a moment that’s fleeting against a person whose goal it is to NOT let you do what you want.  Things just got a bit harder.  However, it’s the intersection of these three elements that guide us to, “Which technique should I choose?”

By understanding these three elements, you start to get ahead of the game and how to get your head around each of them is an area of study into itself.  But that’s the framework for the answer.  Usually not what the questioner had hoped for in terms of a simple answer, but a much more informative one.  Will this immediatly change a white belts thinking and decision making pattern?  Of course not, but it will give them a frame work within which to really start to dissect what they are doing and start to work on the “Why” of jiu jitsu, and that’s the mark of an advancing practitioner.


Passing Half Guard Recap

Alpha’s weekly recap video is up!  This week, we really broke down the half guard position particularly in regard to passing.  In our video, we talk about position, drilling, and finally a technique chain that utilized a lot of useful concepts across ALL the techniques we worked all week.  Check it out on YouTube below and get subscribed!


X Guard Recap

Our weekly recap is up over at YouTube.  Head over and check it out.  The key, as always, is position.  We talk about it in some detail here and remind everyone of the drilling progression we used to work on it.  From there, we take the Wed material of Butterfly to X Guard and pair it with Monday’s sweep.  It’s a good overview of the week.  Enjoy!


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