They have both, frankly, beaten the shit out of me.
January 21, 2019 12:29 PM   Subscribe

38-year-old comedian, podcaster, and erstwhile variety show host Chris Gethard on why he competes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
posted by cichlid ceilidh (9 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great read. Thanks!
posted by Phreesh at 1:09 PM on January 21


Nice article. I admit I was surprised by his coach's assertion that (paraphrased) "half-guard is shit, half butterfly is so much better" .

One of the guys I trained under was a competitor (and runner-up I think once, maybe even a winner, i forget, in his weight class) at ADCC. ADCC is/was the premier international submission grappling INVITATIONAL tournament.

Anyways, he was a monster from half-guard. Even though I outweighed him by like 80lbs, he was just unstoppable from half-guard.. Mind you, that was easily ten years ago now, so maybe the game has moved on since then. But back then, if you were in Fab's half-guard: look out!
posted by some loser at 1:34 PM on January 21


The preference for half-butterfly is just that particular coach’s preference. There are plenty of great jiu-jiteiros who specialize in half-guard. (4x world champion) Bernardo Faria has a game which primarily consists of pulling half-guard, sweeping, and passing with the over-under pass.
posted by tdismukes at 4:45 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


My dad is near-60 and has been practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for nearly two years. I can't speak for him of course, but i think Gethard does a really good job of capturing what my dad loves about the sport - first that it occupies his brain and his body in tandem, and second that he stepped into an incredible community that support and encourage each other while they beat each other up.
posted by muddgirl at 5:11 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Half-guard is OK, but it is no substitute for a good blaster at your side.
posted by thelonius at 6:05 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]


This was a nice read, as someone who just started doing BJJ (little less than a year now). I've explained something similar about the good feelings that get mixed in with the pain and exhaustion. I was just at the gym tonight and it hurts to type!

I'm sure there are similar feelings in a lot of martial arts, I just happened to have BJJ recommended to me and the place is so close I can walk in five minutes. After a year I'm still basically a helpless rag doll, though I got my first stripe... in my opinion not earned! But it's a very friendly community, great exercise, and I've learned a lot about how the body works (and breaks). I'd recommend it to anyone!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:40 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


It is silly. A random Saturday. We are all low-level practitioners, blue belts in the old man division. But we have now experienced something together. Something that allows these two men to know me in a way other people don’t.
Quit cutting onions in here, I'm trying to read.

Reminds me of a passage from Sam Sheridan's book A Fighter's Heart, about fighting in MMA:
We have an innate hatred of fear, and we climb into the cage and prove to ourselves that it is nothing to be afraid of. Even this extreme situation, this death match in a cage in front of screaming fans, is nothing to be afraid of.
Which as always brings me back to the most factual and honest descriptions of the feeling of competition, by Isao Okano:
When I reach the hall where the tournament is to be held, I always experience a vague sense of bleakness.... I begin to have doubts abut myself: perhaps I am a coward.
Note that this is one of the most successful judo competitors of all time...suspecting he is a coward regarding tournaments. That there, I'm sure, is the same truth as Chris is writing about here:
These two men know something about me that most people don’t know, and that I needed to make sure was still true.
Anyway, for those who don't train: know that being stuck in a D'Arce choke (even one that is not 100% dialed in) is distinctly like having your face ground under someone's boot. Three minutes is quite something. I bet he could only turn his head to one side for the week after.
I admit I was surprised by his coach's assertion that (paraphrased) "half-guard is shit, half butterfly is so much better" .
I bet that his coach plays and teaches plenty of half-guard, but that he was (rightly) trying to warn his student not to use it the way it's often used by lower belts: as a last-resort attempt to stall the opponent's forward progress. That's because half guard is essentially two different positions, depending on how you enter it. If you enter it of your own accord, setting up your posture and grips and so forth, it's a monster of an attacking position, offering back-takes, sweeps, leglocks, and Kimuras while being very defensively stable. But if you are forced to enter half guard as a frantic defense, like against a strong knee cut pass as described in the article, you can expect to get flattened out and smashed, and its only benefit is delaying or maybe-preventing points being scored against you.

I'm relatively sure his coach is telling him to avoid the second kind of half guard. Inserting the butterfly hook from outside is much better both tactically (because it counters the knee-cut pass) and pedagogically (by instilling useful hip movement and preventing slow, un-educational stalling).
posted by daveliepmann at 4:42 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I always used to get nervous before competitions too, and thought that there was something wrong with me. But then I read Yamashita's book, where he says that before competitions he always had the urge to pee a lot. I think there is some debate on half guard depending on your coach and how flexible you are, but this is true for a lot of things (see Eduardo Telles and 'turtle guard'.)

Dave Camarillo, for example, has told me that he regards half guard as an 'inherently passable position.' (He distinguishes this from knee shield). I'm aware that some people train a lot from half guard and get really good at it, but it's not something I would advise beginners to decide to specialize in, since I think they'd get more out of developing different guards. But if you've seen Paul Schreiner's recent pressure passing stuff, it's basically "Put them in half guard, then pass the half guard." My personal experience is that you should have a half guard because sometimes you end up there, but it's not a place I go to first.

I was thinking about this in context of the latest Fyre festival documentaries that just came out, and I think that is the appeal of Judo/BJJ to me. Modern life sometimes has a lot of 'fake it 'till you make it' and a focus on the image rather than the substance. It's something much harder to do in Judo or BJJ. Everybody finds out who everybody else is pretty quickly. (But then again, I'm old enough I see absolutely no appeal in Shoyoroll ...)
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:31 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Distinguishing half guard from the knee shield variations (and, I assume, deep half and other established positions like lockdown-and-solid-underhook) is a new taxonomy to me, but I think I like it. (In alternate BJJ-position taxonomy news, I've also read that one of the big MMA teams, either AKA or Couture's, call the smashed half guard the "beatdown" position.)
"Put them in half guard, then pass the half guard."
It's such a crazy strong position, right? Triple threat with the creep to mount (which I hear is now evolving to a whole "bodylock" nogi-passing game of its own now), knee cut, and back-step. Still my most reliable passing method.
posted by daveliepmann at 6:11 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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