The Day Before Competing (Hypoglycemia/dehydration edition)

Back to it. I’m competing in NAGA Georgia tomorrow. I managed to cut my weight down to 175, which will keep me from competing against the monsters in the gi division (I’ll be  in the 155-174.9 lb division verses the 175-199.9 lb, like I was last time), but in no-gi I’ll still be competing against the fat kids (170-179.9 instead of 160-169.9). I’ll be going with a huge team from Team Lloyd Irvin/Champions Training Center in Savannah, GA. I’ll come back with results, pictures and video tomorrow.

I had a really long day at work the other day, then dragged myself to the gym and had an awesome time. Did BJJ classes as well as Muay Thai with the mighty Muhsin Corbbrey. It made me remember why I love this stuff so much.

Going into this competition feeling strong in my jiu jitsu, and being mostly recovered from some nagging injuries that made it tough to train hard over the last couple of months. I made the mistake of rolling with some unscrupulous assholes while I was at the Army Combatives Schoolhouse in Ft Benning. I realized afterward that I’ve taken it for granted that most everyone has a great training ethic at all the BJJ/MMA schools I’ve been to. In the Army, you’ve got to watch out, because it’s a relatively unsupervised environment. If anyone’s going to the Combatives schoolhouse anytime soon after this post was written, give me a heads up and I’ll let you know who the knuckleheads are. (This might become a full post later on).

I got to train at Matt Serra’s school in Long Island during a recent road trip. Learned a couple of great things in the gi and no-gi worlds. Wish I could have trained there longer – Matt has a bunch of monsters in his gym! And all of them very fun to roll with. Not to give away the secret sauce, but the De La Riva guard seems to be new hottness. I was glad I was already familiar with it when I rolled in there.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. Figured I’d bang something out for this long-neglected blog while I’m chilling in this hotel room. I hope to get updating more often as I also ramp up my training.

Hard work, dedication !!

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Modern Army Combatives Level 3 – Week One

Whew. I’ve been trying to get a post in but I haven’t been able to scrounge up the motivation. Even now, I’m feeling super flat, but I’m going to power something out. I have been keeping a journal of what we’re doing each day.

The Program

The new MACP logo is pretty gangster, if you ask me

The Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) is controversial for a number of reasons. The biggest issue is that it’s badly taught throughout most of the Army. It’s really still in its infancy, and there aren’t a lot of good instructors to go around. Secondly, there’s the question of whether spending valuable training time on hand-to-hand combat is worth doing in the first place.

Then, there’s a host of minor quibbles with the program itself, which are common to debates over martial arts in general: Why the emphasis on groundfighting? Why do we teach this or that in the first level of instruction? People ask why we’re teaching wrasslin’ when someone in a war zone is probably just going to shoot you? (Duh – We’re in an asymmetric war in civilian-dense war zones.  Soldiers need to be able to respond with non-lethal force in all situations)

My overall impression of the course so far: It’s a very practical crash course in self defense techniques. The schoolhouse maintains a high standard of instruction and expects a lot out of the students. If MACP was run this way Army-wide, people would understand the philosophy behind it, and it would get a lot more respect.

So here I am at the end of week 1. What have I seen so far?

The Schoolhouse

The Combatives schoolhouse is located in a nondescript brick building on the main part of Ft Benning, a stone’s throw where Airborne students practice parachuting from large cranes. The facility itself is very nice. The main area is padded with those 1×2 meter Zebra mats – enough space for four regulation competitions to be held at one time, with curtains that can divide the space into four separate spaces. There’s also a full weight room and a heavy bag room. The instructors wear ACU bottoms and black MACP Instructor t-shirts. Students wear full ACU uniforms with everything stripped off or, when we’re boxing, PT shorts and tan shirts with our names written in sharpie on the front and back.

Week One

The first week of the level three course is mostly a crash course in western boxing. We’ve learned footwork, punches and combinations. We moved very quickly from drilling single punches, to doing combinations, to high-intensity combination work on heavy bags and pads. Throughout it all, the instructors have been very good about fixing errors in our technique.

On Friday, we actually did some live sparring. Aside from having horrible technique, I did very well with this – I’ve definitely had more harrowing sessions with the gloves on.

We’ve also been reviewing all the material from levels 1 and 2. On Friday we took a test on running competitions and ran mock tournaments with students acting as referees.

The course is very physical. So far it’s been nothing outside my comfort zone, but we’re told it gets more intense in the second week, when we move into kickboxing. The third week is going to integrate takedowns, and the fourth week is going to involve “tactical” training, whatever that means. Somewhere in there we’re going to learn police-style control and detainment techniques.

Not on Brazilian Time

The atmosphere between students, and between the students and instructors is very laid back. There are lower enlisted, like me, along with Drill Sergeants, Special Forces platoon Sergeants, Captains, and even one Major in the class, but we refer to each other by last name only in class. It’s pretty surreal for me to be here, where I went to Basic Training, wrestling and boxing with Drill Sergeants. And one of my favorite guys here is Captain Murph, a Judo brown belt who calls me “dude.”

It’s definitely a military school, though. When I showed up a couple of minutes late the second day of school, I was bawled out by the cadre’s platoon sergeant and sharply reminded that, in the Army, on time is 15 minutes early. We’re not on Brazilian time here. The brisk pace of instruction is typical of Army instruction, as is the way we’re expected to do everything with a lot of hooah enthusiasm. We’re all expected to help clean up before and after class as well.

In Future

There are a lot of  characters in the class, and stories and subplots I’ll have to get to later. I promised myself I’d write something this weekend, and now it’s past my bedtime on Sunday.

Grow or die

We're just friends!

Honestly, I don’t know why people think Hoot and I are “an item.”

Let me take a step back: I got laid off last year while I was training for my first MMA fight. I decided to join the Army in September and graduated from Basic Training in December. I’m training for my job now. I still get homesick, mostly for my home Academy, which I consider more of a home than my old apartment. If you made a chart, I’m sure I spent way more of my waking hours training than at home.

When I got here I found a gym with huge wrestling mats rolled up at one end of the basketball courts, gathering dust. I started teaching basic jiu jitsu to a couple of my pals. We didn’t have access to anyone more experienced than me, and I was itching to get on the mat. It’s an awful, helpless feeling wanting only to train, and feeling your jiu jitsu drain away, as if through the soles of your feet.

During a PT session one morning, one of our sergeants told us: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” I totally agree, and I’ve been doing everything I can to keep my jiu jitsu from rotting on the vine.

I feel presumptuous being the only conduit for this precious thing.  Who would grant this responsibility on a twitching retard like me? As a purple belt, though, it’s technically my right to train new students. I’ve watched Hooton go from zero to having a basic understanding of a couple of positions. She’s a handful for inexperienced males who, a month ago, would have smothered her with raw strength. Seeing this, I’m filled with shame and pride. If hooton’s jiu jitsu sucks, it’s my fault.

Hooton evades the breakdance armbar

Friends from home will recognize a familiar scenario: My best friend in Maine was a girl who trained BJJ as well.I don’t know why my best friend once again a female grappler, but there is this: Out of at least ten people I’ve trained with here, only Hoot has stuck with it (Her real name is Hooton. I call her “Hoot,” partly because my phone’s T9 recognizes “hoot” as a word in text messages). She has all the makings of a great student. She never wants to go home from the gym, she rolls until she can’t breathe,  and she doesn’t whine when she suffers bumps and scrapes. She’s at the point now where she doesn’t feel completely lost when she rolls, and now all she wants to do after class is train. I’ve got a training buddy!

Leave it to me to get chummy with one of the few females here – because we both dig jiu jitsu.

Sprawl Choke!

Here’s a picture of me choking the shit out of her!

The Army constantly works against us, though: They have us on a pretty intense schedule: Wake up is at 4:30am and we aren’t released until 5pm. It’s hard to use even the little time we have: At this phase of Initial Entry Training (IET), I have to have a “battle buddy” everywhere I go. Since Hoot and I are opposite sexes, we have to find a third person to bring along to the gym whenever we train. Hoot is the only one who’s stuck with it. So, we’re always dragging some schmo along who isn’t really all that into it. It’s a stupid situation, the kind I was warned I’d find myself in when I joined the Army. The latest dude we’ve been training with seems to be more interested than the rest, though, and when we “phase up” to having the most privileges allowed here – hopefully this will happen within the next couple of weeks – we won’t need battle buddies anymore.

Last weekend, we went off-post and trained at the local BJJ school. Their instructor isn’t there on the weekend, but a couple of guys there are solid grapplers. It felt really good to train with experienced opponents again.

Looking for knee-to-belly against Joe

I’m getting more comfortable with teaching. Today I taught Hoot and our friend Frazier a bunch of cool stuff: A variation of the Sumi Gaeshi where you hold a Kimura grip and finish with that submission on the ground; how to establish and hold a basic knee-to-belly pin; and from there, a move my instructor calls the Nate (If any readers know a more universal name for this, please let me know). I’ve been sticking to basic techniques, but I was feeling saucy today. My buddies seem to have picked this stuff up pretty well.

I miss my gym back home. A lot. I don’t regret my decision to leave – I felt like I needed to bust a geographical move when I got laid off , and I’d always felt a calling to serve my country, at least for one term of enlistment – but I’m really not happy here. Everyone says that once you’re done with training it’s much less confining. I hope I can keep growing my jiu jitsu while I’m doing this gig.

By the way, we start Army Combatives this week. I’ll update with my opinions on this BJJ-derived program.

(Photos courtesy of Angel)