I finally made it through all the blue belt stripe one lessons at Gracie University. It took me somewhere around two months to watch the 60 videos three times each. While I don’t feel like I’ve yet mastered all of the techniques in the lessons, I feel like I can at least execute enough of the techniques well enough to be able to perform much better in sparring than before. I have just begun the stripe two lessons, and I have a feeling that this is the skill level of the average blue belt at my gym. My guess is that, once I familiarize myself with the stripe two techniques, my skill level should roughly match most of the blue belts I spar with. Judging by how long it took me to get through the stripe one course, it will probably be this summer before the last remaining major holes in my game will be closed. I even know what some of the holes are at this point. For example, I don’t have a very good answer to the knee on belly position. I know the basic elbow push escape, but all that does is put me back in side control. Hopefully, a more proactive response is covered in the stripe two lessons. One of the things I learned in the stripe two course should go a long way in helping me to defend against Ezekiel chokes. Also, one of the cool things I noticed about this technique is that it also can be used as a general defensive technique in side control bottom and half guard bottom as well. Not only that, I was able to use it as a setup for a Kimura from those positions. This allowed me to achieve reversals against two blue belts tonight. I might have even been able to submit one of them, had I been more aggressive with the move. However, I always try to err on the side of caution when applying the Kimura in training. A lot of people refuse to tap initially, either because they may not feel any pain (some people have flexible shoulders), or because they are just plain stubborn. My fear is that, just because someone doesn’t feel pain, it doesn’t mean they won’t end up with a torn rotator cuff if the Kimura is yanked too far. If it were a self defense situation, and the person were really trying to hurt me, I would obviously be much less concerned about hurting the person, and would be far more likely to apply the technique more violently. But, this is training. If someone is too stubborn to tap, I feel like it is my responsibility to save them from themselves by not ripping their arm out of its socket.