Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sao Paulo Approach to Passing by Tony Pacenski

"Little" Tony Pacenski sent me this DVD to review about a year ago-- my own jiu jitsu limitations prevented me from appreciating or putting this into action until fairly recently and I didn't understand how to do reviews where I didn't find myself executing at least half the techniques.  Now I feel more comfortable with a pressure-based game and I don't mind sharing what I think about the DVD even though I don't execute all of the techniques or even half.  Guess that means another instructional I'm growing into, which is fine by me :)

This system is more than just a "pass" and in short, this pressure is what Fabio Gurgel and Leo Viera and Terere and the Mendes Brothers and several other big names punish people with.  I haven't yet drilled the actual Sao Paulo pass (aka Wilson Reis pass, aka Tozi pass) itself enough to be attempting it in live sparring yet, but I will get there.  The good thing is, the concepts Tony teaches apply to a spectrum of situations, not just passing one type of guard.

Tony began as a blue and purple belt under my master, Relson Gracie, training at Maxercise in Philadelphia (Steve Maxwell and Phil Migliarese). He now belongs to the same family of fighters as John Ouano, Johnny Ramirez, and Tim Credeur, the BJJ Revolution team. Tony is a 1st Degree black belt since 2006 under Carlson Gracie black belt and World Champion Rodrigo Medeiros. He has over 15 years experience, and has competed successfully throughout. At the 2009 American National Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships he took 3rd place in the Light Weight Master Division; 4th place in the black belt open division at the 2011 Gracie Nationals; and won the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials, black belt master division in March 2011.

Tony spent two years in the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructor program in Torrance, California. He has a bachelor's and a master's degree in Education. Tony now teaches at the BJJ Revolution Team-Redondo Beach Academy.

His DVD contains a very detailed, multi-leveled, multi-faceted discussion of the Sao Paulo (pronounced "sam paul-o") approach to passing the guard, captured in two settings. Footage from a seminar in Philadelphia, in July 2010 is augmented by additional video from a number of different angles to clarify the coverage. Overall, it's great content, hampered a bit by the informal recording and some organizational issues. But it's cheap at only thirty bones, so I'd say despite the minor technical issues it's well worth the price.

Other reviews can be found at The Grappler's Guide ... another thread on NHBGear's forum begins with a cross post but includes feedback from another reviewer.. and over on Sherdog there's a thread too.

The first nitpick for me was the overly broad topic divisions and lack of menus.  I like to be able to return to separate theories or topics independently, but his DVD is just 3 sections so if you don't write down your own menu with time notations, you're stuck fast-forwarding and rewinding like mad to find your spot.  The intro is quite short and not terribly helpful.  Part One, 48 minutes long, is mostly seminar footage of a basic problem-solving perspective on passing a variety of open guards. Part Two, 29 minutes, goes deeper into more advanced guards, passes, counters and recounters, and the actual SP pass.

I like to know the big picture (the forest) before I start looking at the component techniques (the trees) when I am presented with an instructional presented as a holistic framework-- especially when the introduction explicitly states that this isn't just a "pass" but a "system."  He defines the Sao Paulo Approach loosely as 'a type of pressure, redirecting the legs and controlling the hips, which forces them to either go to their knees or get their back taken, or you control them so well that you can rest in the middle and pass when you feel it's time to go.' 

But right off the bat he jumps into a grouping of subsidiary techniques to break the closed guard-- though he notes that this was covered on the previous volume (which I don't have yet).  I'm still wondering at this point what exactly the pass system is, and wondering when I really need to pay attention to details.  After two views, I realized this stuff is excellent extra detail but not essential to the pass system at all. 

Eventually in part 1, I learn how to redirect my partner's legs, control their hip, and defeat their escape from the cross-side.  He thoroughly addresses different grips, angles and weight distribution. Lots of detail on common mistakes and transitions.

A good ways into the seminar, I think I find the "heart" of the Sao Paulo approach.

Another nitpick-- the seminar footage isn't bad; Tony's voice is always very clear and understandable.  But the camera work was not ideal for later instructional use.  I didn't mind the amateur bobbles much, and again it's only $30.  However, the background music during the added-later footage is god-awful. Whatever, I should perhaps grow up a bit.  But a voiceover of Tony describing his actions and rationales would have been infinitely better. 

Part 2 suffers without a menu or section divisions that I could use for replay purposes.  This part is more like a traditional instructional, filmed in the academy with a partner as opposed to seminar footage. 

If you want a list of techniques, I didn't make one.  Tony's site, helpfully details the contents:
  • Analysis and troubleshooting of the de la riva guard. 
  • Two methods of smashing the outside de la riva hook.
  • Refinement strategies to passing the de la riva guard moving to the Sao Paulo Pressure Game standing and on the ground; bonus material and instruction.
  • Understand how to easily stop the opponent from moving from the de la riva guard to sitting up guard/single leg guard.
  • 2 ways to stop and pass the sitting up guard/single leg guard you need to apply without thinking.
  • The $100 detail to focus your opponent to miss the de la riva guard and the sitting up guard to play your game.
  • Modified Bull Pass to Sao Paulo Pressure Game Leg Control.
  • Learn how to make the opponent change his body position so you can get the angles you want for the modified bull pass!
  • Analysis of the basic Inverted De la Riva Guard/Inside hook.
  • Learn how to kill the inverted de la riva guard with all the fine points: knee control, the stance, hip control and confidence.
  • Analysis of inverted de la riva guard and the knee cut/shin pass: 2 variations explored. Sao Paulo Pressure Game leg redirection added.
  • How and when to use the collar grip fighting game to pass the inverted de la riva guard. Sao Paulo Pressure Game leg redirection added.
  • How to counter redirect the inverted de la riva guard legwork with opponent controlling the collar with the left or right hand. 3 variations explored and Sao Paulo Pressure Game added.
  • How to counter the inverted de la riva guard when the opponent controls the collar and sleeve control well; 2 variations explored.
  • How to pass the inverted de la riva guard if the opponent controls the ankle
  • How to pass the half inverted de la riva guard and sleeve control/loop guard
  • A quick look at passing the half inverted de la riva and half spider guard.
  • The Sao Paulo Pass aka: The Wilson Reis Pass or The Tozi Pass. 
As an example of his instructional style, which I found very concise, but detailed, and easy to follow, I'll share his explanation of the theory behind the SP pass, found in part two. 

What made this pressure/passing system click for me was connecting it to little blips and blurbs I've been treated to by other instructors.  Donald Park (RGDA) in particular worked on the seated guard and the knee-forward pass with our competition class; Hillary Williams taught me a Z halfguard pass she'd gotten from one of the Mendes brothers.  Once I started recognizing the bits and pieces I had scattered all over my brain, the real benefit of this DVD became apparent.  It really IS a system.  At first I was irritated by the "rabbit trail chasing";  more organization and a big-picture-first type of presentation would have been great.  I did love getting all the what-if's and recounters, though.

Content-wise this gets a B, because the organizational issues impaired my ability to mentally grasp the system and techniques.  But the content, once you digest it, is so good, I still recommend it.

Technical execution-wise, this gets a C when compared with the rest of the market out there (like Kesting's and Roy Dean's offerings).  Better production quality, menus and so forth would really boost this score.  But again-- what a value.

Only $30 on Soulfight and you can also get the first volume of his seminar series, High Percentage Guard Passing, Attacks and Escapes there for only $25.  Or you can get a download package of all eleven of his DVDs and 4 additional gifts for $87.

1 comment:

slideyfoot said...

I picked this up after hearing Pacenski's interview on The Flow, which intrigued me. My passing sucks, and I like staying close and using pressure (hence why I pretty much stick with mount and side control on top), so this sounded ideal.

As my passing sucks, it is going to take a long time for me to fully absorb this: once I start to get a handle on it, I'll look to review too.

I agree with you on the organisation, but I don't generally have that problem with DVDs. That's because I rarely actually watch the DVD: I immediately rip the DVD to mp4 with Format Factory, then chop up the bits I want to work on. I can then watch them on either my phone or my laptop, grouped into categories.