Tonight’s class was only a little over two hours (compared to last Friday’s marathon two and a half hours). We probably sparred for at least an hour of that time. I went against several blue belts, two purple belts, a couple of white belts, and one brown belt. Ironically, it was one of the white belts that gave me the hardest time. He was good technically, but he was also able to use his superior strength and speed to get me into bad positions (the upper belts are usually more relaxed when I go against them, so it’s less of a strength contest with the upper belts). He caught me in an arm triangle, which I might have been able to escape, but we were too close to the edge of the mat for me to maneuver in the way I would have liked without risking injury, so I tapped and we reset. I did well against both of the purple belts. Only one of them submitted me. He used a weird variation of the guillotine choke that I was at a loss to defend (he later showed me a simple counter, which I need to practice). I count it as a moral victory if one of the upper belts has to use an exotic technique I’ve never seen before in order to beat me. It means my defense against all of the other more standard submissions is working. At some point, I will become acquainted even with the advanced submissions, at which point, winning or losing will be more a matter of me staying focused. I thought I did pretty well against the brown belt as well. He was all over me, and was on my back a good portion of the time. I weathered the storm and managed to come on top, but then he caught me in a triangle. I did all the usual defenses, but he did a good job of nullifying those. The triangle is tricky to defend. Even high level black belts can get caught in it, which is why it remains a staple of jiu jitsu. Even so, he complimented me on my triangle defense, even though it ultimately didn’t work in his case, saying that it was text book. The brown belt won the pan Americans and the Europeans this year at purple, which is why he is now a brown belt. I felt it was a great achievement for me to be able to survive most of his onslaught and even eventually escape his back attacks. Our black belt even said he thought I had the best guard of any of the white belts at the school. That’s saying something, because we have a lot of white belts. I believe it will only be a matter of months before my defense will be solid enough to shut down the offense of most of the white and blue belts, and even a lot of the attacks of the upper belts. My offense still has a much longer way to go. Offense, particularly top game, requires more speed, strength and stamina than defense. Because I don’t have strength, speed and stamina on my side, I end up spending a lot of my time playing defense in hopes of tiring out my opponent and waiting for an opening to attack. It’s the classic Helio Gracie strategy, and I do it for the same reason he did. I’m older and physically weaker than most of my opponents. I’m also lighter than most of them (I’m holding steady at 150 lbs, making me a featherweight). Unlike Helio, however, I only have a few minutes to make something happen before moving on to the next opponent. In order to make headway in terms of offense, I will eventually have to get good at creating opportunities within a narrow time frame in such a way that I don’t have to expend an excessive amount of energy. For example, I nearly caught a blue belt in an omoplata as he was standing up to break my guard. For now, though, I’m going to continue to perfect my defense, since it appears that I don’t have much of a choice in the matter.

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