Dragging myself out of bed at 5am Saturday morning, I quietly said to myself "This guy better be good." I instantly started making coffee to fill the thermos for I am no fan o
f early mornings but I can adapt pretty well to lack of sleep and early start ups. My coach Brian on the other hand thinks "morning" starts around 11am, and goes until about 2-3pm! Not what most of us consider a mo
But it is not often that a world champion BJJ star makes his way to the Pacific NW, and though I met him briefly at the Worlds, Brian and I have never had the opportunity to train with Rafael Lovato Jr. a multi time world and Pan Am BJJ champ, Abu Dhabi champ etc. etc. Basically one of the best heavyweight competitors still competing today!
Rafael has an affiliate (Seaside BJJ) in Seaside, Oregon where he visit's a couple of times a year
to offer coaching, seminars, and grading opportunities. For such a small town to have the opportunity to be affiliated with one of BJJ's best is truly a rare situation, and I have been meaning to head down and take advantage of such a great opportunity.
Due to some logistical changes Brian and I arrived a bit late, but luckily they were running a little behind too, so we quickly changed into our gi's and started the seminar.
Rafael has a very direct, detailed approach to his instruction ensuring all participants are doing the movements correctly, and stopping the class as needed to address issues that come up with what he was teaching us. It was quickly apparent this was NOT a basic BJJ seminar (something refreshing to see since many BJJ instructors simply phone it in and show a basic arm bar with little to no detail)!
Rafael started us on our feet (again, a refreshing change to see in a BJJ seminar) talking about the strategy and methodology behind grip fighting, breaking grips, and setting up the take down. Wiping the cobwebs of 3 1/2 hours of driving out o
f my hard drive, I quickly had to transition into absorption mode. It was great to see that the grip breaks were identical to what Brian teaches.
This portion of the seminar was great as we worked areas I was semi-familiar with. Working from the 2 on 1 we went into one of my favorite sweeps, I call it a elevator sweep, where I isolate one arm (usually with an arm drag) get my same side hook into my opponents opposite (of their arm) leg, and roll them over their isolated shoulder. This time Rafael showed it from a standing position which was great.
We moved on to the situation if we both get locked up in a classic Judo style grip (lapel - elbow) where we could not transition to the 2 on 1. Here we worked on Kouchi Gari (small inner reap) and variati
ons on such a theme. Those unfamiliar with Judo terms can think of this as being a bit analogous to an ankle pick. Rafael was precise with his explanations on the setup and positioning of the feet which really made a difference between the technique working and not!
Flowing into other situations one finds in competition Rafael then addressed how to properly pull guard. Yet another situation many in the BJJ world avoid, and many outside of BJJ world are critical of! Rafael emphasized being aggressive, attacking when puling guard. "It should not be a defense maneuver for you."
From here on out we
worked on the ground. Again nothing was basic here, but fundamentals were emphasized throughout. We were doing 4-6 movements flows working on a couple of hooks in guard passes, and forcing the 1/2 guard. Forcing your opponent to pull 1/2 guard was part of a flow Rafael has been working in an attempt to get to mount and finish. From the beginning to the mount if you pull this off it is a 7 point move! We also worked some guard attacks which were a little challenging for my big ass, which is no excuse since Rafael is just a bit smaller then I am!
In the beginning everything seemed a bit scattered, but as the day stretched on Rafael started to bring things together, and as of this morning I can remember most of all the details we covered.
Rafael's approach was nothing short of great! Many BJJ seminar's focus on a bunch of subs' and finishes. But Saturday was much more about strategy and positioning which is something I personally need, and my personal opinion is this is needed in the grappling community in general! I liked Rafael's attitude in that he constantly reminded us to add our own game to the mix. He was not trying to say his way was the only way, but actually encouraged us to experiment and incorporate aspects of his game into ours! Strategy was a constant theme over the seminar, working 2-3 moves into the game, anticipating (sometimes actually forcing them) your opponents next move. By eliminating options for your opponent to escape or sweep you, you can actually control the game and this allows you to have more fore thought as to where you are going in the fight. For me this was invaluable.
I cannot believe only 20 some people attended this seminar! Someone of RLJ caliper in the Pac NW is something not to be missed! I have only trained with RLJ and Saulo Ribeiro so far, but it seems that anyone and everyone from Jiu Jitsu University is nothing short of genius. If you ever get the chance to train with Rafael I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity! You will walk away with a very positive experience having added depth to your game.
I want to thank Rafael for the great lessons, thanks to Zach and Nate for hosting the event, and also thanks to all who attended from Oregon and Washington! Lets keep supporting great events like this so that the community as a whole grows.