Thursday, April 15, 2010

DVD Review: Roy Dean's No Gi Essentials

Oooh, how fun.. another Roy Dean production. I really enjoyed watching this 2-disc set, which he sent me for review.

I'll start with a description of my biases/background: I already have his Blue Belt Requirements and Purple Belt Requirements. I primarily train in gi, though I do roll nogi once or twice a week. I'm a sport jiu jitsu player, with no aspirations for MMA.

I thought this instructional was very well done. It definitely meets a need and fits into a gaping hole in the BJJ instructionals world. Given the title, I expected it to be focused solely on the most basic of basics for nogi; I was pleasantly surprised to see followup techniques, counters, and recounters. Some of the moves seemed more advanced, some bluebelt/purplebelt-level techniques, and he did mention some MMA-specific applications.. so I think it could be a useful stand-alone reference for MMA fighters and intermediate level nogi players. I wish I'd had this series when I was a complete nogi beginner, but even as a 3-stripe blue, I found lots of useful stuff, including techniques that will transition to gi pretty well. MY FAVORITE PART is that he shows the move and then shows it in live rolling. I think this should be part of every instructional! Only Royler's sweeps and takedowns DVD, to my knowledge, does this too. I was very, very impressed.

You can get the set for $44.95 on Professor Dean's website. You can also find it at Budovideos for the same price, but I'm mad they didn't show a single womens' match from the Pan Ams so I'm not linking to their site. Finally, you can rent it for 72 hours, $9.99, here on Youtube.

I know Slideyfoot wrote an exhaustive and thoroughly professional review of this set, but I haven't read it yet on purpose. This is just my point of view :)

The first DVD is divided into eight sections: Welcome, Essential Movements, Essential Grips, Takedowns, Armdrag, Kimura, Guillotine and Rolling Analysis.

The welcome section is more like a movie trailer, with highlights from the live rolling sections found later on. Essential Movements covered just that-- things like bridging, shrimping, shrimping then needling through to get to your knees, transferring weight, and pivoting. He also discusses some common errors, such as failing to tuck your elbow underneath your body when you shrimp and needle through. What I really enjoyed was seeing these movements in isolation, then with a partner, either in a drilling context or in live rolling. As it turned out, this helpful tool is repeated throughout the DVDs. I noted that in discussing pivoting, he used a female student (yay!) and I even saw a different way to get an armbar from top-- she basically kneeled on Roy's ribcage from side control, while Roy was up on his side, and then pivoted, put her leg in front of his face, and armbarred him. I don't usually think of kneeling on my opponents, but I'm too nice anyway. Since seeing that, I have tried the technique a couple times and found it to be extremely effective.

Next, Essential Grips. This has been one of the hardest adaptations for me going from gi to nogi. Roy explains that without fabric to grip, commanding your opponent's joints offers the best control, and examines how you change your grips to control all the major "joints" -- wrist, elbow, shoulder, feet, knees, hips, and head.

He methodically instructs you in hand placement, the level of tension you should feel, and your goals with different grips-- then moves into a brief strategic lesson. Wrist grips, for example, are not for controlling the arm but for sensing and feeling its direction. Combine a wrist grip with elbow control, however, and you have a more powerful tool. The shoulder, "valuable real estate," is valuable for passing if you have the underhook. As an example of the benefits of wrist control from guard, Roy shows the pendulum sweep to mount to a twisterish position that I'm going to review a few more times before trying. Last, the DVD touches on the possibilities of binding two limbs together-- the Brabo choke (aka D'arce) is used as the example here. Again, combinations of close-focus camera work, slow motion, and live rolling, all from a multitude of angles, fully illustrate the instruction.

The third segment is focused on takedowns. Roy starts from a common tieup.. lets say the headtie. He fractalizes into an ever-widening spread of potential outcomes. Headtie to single leg to running the pipe to kicking out the leg into an armbar, or an ankle lock, or a hip toss. Or, the overhook, to uchimata, to harai goshi (I think!) to armbar. Armdrags go every which way, with responses to common counters, what-ifs, and instructions on recovering failed techniques. It's obvious that Roy has judo and wrestling skills to draw on, if you didn't know his bio already. On the plus side, he doesn't limit his demonstration to just "that" technique, but usually follows through to an ultimate submission. My only criticism is that some of the closeups are just too close up to be useful, but that's just being picky.

Sections on kimuras and guillotines follow. I found this to be really useful for a gi player transitioning to nogi, since a lot of what I do on offense tends to be gi-dependent, and it was really nice to see the "translation" of standard offenses with the different grips. I liked that the submissions were shown as elements of chained attacks, combined with sweeps and other submission attempts, as well as lots of what-ifs again... if they base out with an arm, go to the triangle, the omoplata, the armbar. Likewise, the standard trinity of hipbump sweep, kimura, guillotine is shown.

The last section on the first DVD was uberuseful-- rolling analysis. Roy rolls with three players of different ability levels and physical attributes, and does a voiceover critique of himself and of them. I was a little sad that his first roll, with a woman, is explicitly labeled a "warm up roll," but it may simply have been due to the paucity of upper belt women in his school. It was heartening to see him let her into the game (she taps him several times, legitimately though he was obviously not going at full intensity.) Regardless, his commentary is very insightful and there are many slow-motion replays to illustrate his points, both corrective and complimentary.

The other rolls analyzed thus are with higher level players- a senior blue and TJ, a purple who appears as uke in many Roy Dean instructionals. It's refreshing to see TJ resisting and playing his own game. It's great sparring footage and I'm sure because of my own noobie level of perception, I'm missing half of the fun. I believe I will get more and more out of watching this as I progress in my own training. I can't emphasize enough how good it is to have this "insider voice" commentary while watching the rolls. Probably it is my second favorite element of the DVDs.

Disc two ranges from more basics to more advanced material, divided into sections: Guard Options, Mount Options, Side Escape, Opening the Guard, Leglock Techniques, Leg Combinations, the highlight/trailer section again, and more Demonstrations.

In Guard Options, again Roy starts with a basic whitebelt attack (an armbar from guard) and branches out through a variety of counters to recounters... what if you're stacked? can openered? There's a very appealing-looking double armbar from high lock that I can't imagine will work against more seasoned training partners, but I'm still going to give it a go. Another basic position-- the overhook from guard-- is covered in similar detail, looking at triangles, armbars, and omoplatas in transition, as well as recounters to standard defenses like the limparm.

Mount Options seemed a bit off at the start, since it begins with Roy in side control demonstrating the transition to mount. The series goes from "Shoulder of Justice" to mount, S mount, armlock, while still holding the neck, and then a transition to pillow choke. Numerous details here about improving your pillow choke, and a followup from a slipped pillow to the back and RNC. I really liked the camera movement especially here because it was very revealing. He also shows the transition from pillow to americana and a standard armbar from the benchpress, with useful emphasis on pivoting and weight transfer. I found the armbar counter to an upa mount escape very helpful, but again, some of the ultra-ultra closeup footage was more hindrance than help. Still that's only a few seconds of the DVD so not too big a deal.

The next section, Sidemount Escapes, was interesting, as it went beyond what I recall on Dean's Blue Belt Requirements. The bridge and shrimp and escape to the knees are very similar, but he added some extra fun-- escaping to butterfly then sweeping to mount and a mounted triangle, armbar, bellydown armbar series. Further, if your opponent sprawls when you go to your knees, Dean demonstrates a variety of ways to counter different styles of sprawl, culminating in a kneebar. The camera work again is excellent, offering a birds-eye perspective that really helps you see the kneebar entry. Dean emphasizes arm position in escaping side mount and I think he covers basics that someone who doesn't have a jits background might not know very well. Again, a worthwhile stand-alone instructional.

Opening the Guard starts with baiting some attacks, like the triangle or the armbar, and also covers standing to pass the guard as well as a dump pass. If you use the "Gracie Gift" pass, the one baiting the triangle, your safety depends on using your elbow to stop their leg from coming up and over, a detail that is sometimes overlooked. Counters to regaining guard are covered as well as a half-butterfly pass going into a kneebar.

Leglock Techniques begins with a straight ankle lock. Rather unconventionally, Dean finishes this by using his "elbow pit" to secure the foot instead of the forearm near the wrist, then rolling his shoulder back to use his lat muscles- then he switches arms, angles his wrist to be thumb-up, and leans back for the finish.

I was surprised and disconcerted that the next technique covered was a heelhook. I'm almost paranoiac about my knees, and the idea of a beginner grappler learning heelhooks put my head in a tizzy. Dean mentioned casually that it is a powerful technique with the potential for injury but I really wish he had put heelhooks last, if at all, and strongly emphasized the risks. I have read that the heelhook is dangerous because injury occurs almost simultaneous with pain, and I would think this information would be especially important in a DVD-instructional setting. In any case, he demonstrates a heelhook entry from standing, then switches sides to an inverted inside heelhook with a recounter to a kneebar. 'Nuff said.

Leg Combinations, the following segment, begins with an armlock counter to the ankle lock that I liked a lot. What to do in an ankle lock war, plus a heelhook as a counter, comes next. Ick, that's my paranoia again. This segues into heelhook as a counter to the scissor sweep, an MMA setup for an inside heelhook, and a kani basami (leg scissor) takedown. It all looks very controlled and reasonable when Dean does it, but it still gives me the willies. Finally, we finish up with a series- armbar from guard, to stack defense, to a kneebar- which I enjoyed and would like to try.

That's it for the technique instruction. The DVD concludes with footage from demonstrations, some flow rolls, and "Subleague" (footage of the Roy Dean competition team in action.) The demonstrations are beautiful examples of technique from brown and purple belts.

Production values: I give this an A because the camera work, angles, and audio quality were excellent. I was only occasionally annoyed by the super-close ups or it would have been an A+.
Breadth: B. Maybe this is just my own bias, but I wish there would have been more about guard passing, halfguard, sweeps, beating the turtle, taking the back, and kneebars-- and I would have been fine without a single heelhook.
Depth: A. Moves in chained series, counters, recounters. Really excellent.

I think this is best suited for experienced whitebelts with some mat time under their belts on up through advanced bluebelts. If you're a brand-new whitebelt, get Dean's Blue Belt Requirements first and play with that a while.


slideyfoot said...

I got the impression that when he referred to his roll with Karen as a 'warm-up', it was more about her level than her gender.

But yeah, unfortunate, given that even if it wasn't meant to adversely comment on female BJJ, people who are looking to confirm their prejudices will make that assumption.

As to the mount option start (which I also found confusing), I'm guessing he ran out of time to put a title on it or something. Still, it would have been handy for clarification purposes.

The heel hook thing is a problem, but it is in keeping with his previous instructionals (he mentions them on Blue Belt Requirements too. The Roy Harris lineage is big on lower body submissions). It would definitely benefit from a more explicit warning: personally, I'd like there to be red flashing text saying 'DON'T FUCKING TRY THIS IN SPARRING, WHITE BELTS, IT'S REALLY REALLY DANGEROUS!', but then like you, I'm paranoid about leg locks. ;p

I suppose heel hooks are more common in no gi competition than gi, so maybe that's why he didn't emphasise the safety issue as much.

Tony said...

regarding: "MY FAVORITE PART is that he shows the move and then shows it in live rolling."

Georgette!! THANK YOU! that's what i've been telling everyone what i think should be in bjj instructionals. such a great idea to show (i) that the techniques really are applicable and (ii) a realistic scenario regarding how an opponent reacts

great stuff


Jin- LatestSportsNews said...

Very thorough review.

Roy Dean's a great instructor (I have his purple belt DVD - good stuff). Might now consider picking up his nogi set based on your review.