Tonight, I made it a point during sparring to only follow a single game plan. If on top, tight passing. If on bottom, do my best Rafa Mendes impersonation. I followed this same strategy consistently against a purple belt, two blue belts and a white belt. Against the white belt, it was almost overkill. I ended up submitting him with a foot lock, a bow and arrow choke, an arm bar and a kimura. Needless to say, the blue belts were more challenging. I was close to a submission on one of them, but he escaped and almost bow and arrow choked me in the process. The other blue belt caught me in a triangle. Triangle defense has always been a challenge for me. However, I did catch him in a sweep that I borrowed from the 2009 match between Rafa Mendes and Cobrinha. Incidentally, I chose to emulate Rafa Mendes because he has the type of guard game that most closely matches what I want my guard to be like. He is similar in weight to me, and doesn’t rely on gumby like flexibility, but can granby when he needs to. Also, his bottom game works well in both gi and no-gi with few major modifications, another bonus. Finally, his guard does not rely on strength and works well for smaller people going against bigger people. Not surprisingly, the purple belt was the most challenging. He caught me in two submissions. The first submission was a foot lock, and the second was a north south choke. The north south choke was less of a concern. I have a defense for it, but it didn’t work in this case. His north south was better than my north south defense in this case. The more pressing concern was the foot lock. That’s because he caught the submission from a sweep that I intend to make the center piece of my bottom game. After I swept him, he immediately locked up my foot. I can’t have people foot locking me after I sweep them! That kind of defeats the purpose. Most people try to lock up the other foot from that position, which is partly why it threw me. I have to think some more about how to avoid that foot getting caught. I think it involves controlling his arm better, which was the next step in my sequence, but I didn’t get to it fast enough. All in all, I thought it was a successful evening in terms of my game plan. My goal is to keep working on it until I am completely comfortable with all the ins and outs of this particular approach. One thing I want to do is watch more Rafa Mendes matches and really analyze what he is doing on bottom.

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