We had a lot of white belts in class tonight. I have now gotten to the point where I look forward to sparring with white belts, since I know that in most cases, it means I won’t have to expend as much energy. Only one of the white belts had me in any trouble. I think it’s because I was able to pass his guard so easily, I didn’t expect him to have the technical ability to threaten me. However, to my surprise, he was very good at catching the high-low guard arm bar from the bottom of side control. It’s a legitimate escape that can turn the tables really fast. He actually caught it several times, each time with me defending the arm bar, and working my way back to side control. One of the times, he cranked my shoulder a bit, but then let go of the arm bar. I tapped anyway out of precaution, but then later caught him with an arm bar of my own, which he escaped. These are the matches that usually stick out in your mind. If you expect to have an easy match, but end up getting caught off guard, it is usually because you underestimated your opponent and were not at defcon-5. I also went against two blue belts, both of whom are much stronger than me. I have held my own on occasion in the past against one of them, but usually he is able to power me down into side control right away. I usually am able to neutralize all his attacks from side control. But, tonight, he added a new attack to his routine. The brabo choke. If you’re going to catch me in a submission when I’m on the bottom of side control, this is probably what you will catch me with. The defense requires me to roll away, which I don’t like doing, because it gives him an opportunity to take my back. The trick is to do a full roll, recovering guard, before he takes my back, or sinks in the choke. It’s a timing thing, and if I wait too long, he may sink in the choke anyway. The other blue belt is so much stronger physically and technically than me, that I rarely get through five minutes without being submitted at least once. He probably has the highest submission success against me of any of the blue belts. This is partly due to the fact that he is so good at passing my guard, and preventing my escape. I tried the 50/50 sweep against him in hopes that it would even the playing field, but his base was too good. I couldn’t budge him at all. It made me wonder if I should come up with a plan to disengage from that position when it becomes apparent that the sweep is just not happening. After class, some of the coaches offered feedback on why they thought the sweep wasn’t working against the blue belt. One of them cautioned me that 50/50 is a tricky guard, because the other guy can do everything to you that you are trying to do to him, so unless you’re way more knowledgeable about the position than him, you could end up in a stalemate or worse. I can see that he does have a point. However, I still think there is an advantage in me focusing on the 50/50. First, if all I have to do is know the guard way better than the next guy, then all that means is that I must master the intricacies of the position. That’s a knowledge thing, not a strength, speed or flexibility thing. I can do intellectual, if that is what’s required. Given my age and size, I need to avoid guards that require me to expend a lot of strength or energy, and 50/50 certainly fits the bill on that front. Also, even if the 50/50 ends up not being the best guard for me, I still benefit from my efforts to learn about it, since it’s one of the common modern guards that you have to deal with, even if you’re not a 50/50 person per se.

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