Monday, August 01, 2016

Instructional review: Flow Jitsu by Mike Bidwell

I was really tickled to get an advance peek at an instructional by Mike Bidwell called Flow Jitsu. I'm enjoying BJJ in my forties but I am really working on being less rigid and smashy, more fluid and crafty what with all these young twenty-something monsters on the mat. This sounded just up my alley.

The video is available in digital download format only at Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood Gear for $49.95 and is about an hour long.

Who is Mike Bidwell?  He is a blackbelt under Phil Migliarese and Ken Kronenberg, founder of blog BJJ After Forty, creator of Flow Jitsu, and he persevered through a very long brown belt phase from 2001 to 2014.  So, I think he knows how BJJ can become a grind. In his introduction with Nic Gregoriades, Roger Gracie blackbelt, Mike emphasized that he believes in the ideas of flow, movement, adaptability, and the importance of acknowledging and working with any limitations on your physicality by seeking easily-replicatable techniques for all skill levels. Does he deliver? Let's see!

First, let's talk about technique content: As the name suggests, all his techniques connect one to the next to create a flow. Here's the first few "modules" as he terms them--

  1. Outside Kimura Sweep from Closed Guard
  2. Inside Kimura Sweep
  3. Kimura Sweep Counters
  4. Chaining Sweeps and Setups
  5. Americana Setups from Mount
  6. Americana to Peek a boo [I didn't know this term]
  7. Seatbelt Counters [chockablock with submissions!]

... and the list goes on. A consistent theme is his desire to avoid meeting resistance with resistance, strength with strength... instead, he teaches an approach of setting up chains of stimuli that take advantage of their natural defense instincts and go with their momentum to get what you really want. If that doesn't work, well hell, go with that too because all paths lead to a submission.  That's a lot of fun to think about and plan for.

Here's an example from Module 3, Kimura sweep counters:

Mike is careful to regularly show adjustments to use these techniques in a nogi context, demonstrating alternatives to gi grips and alternative submissions. In addition, he shows you alternatives you can use if you are stiff or sore, or lacking flexibility in some element of the movement.

As far as non-BJJ-technique issues: what a nice instructional, overall.  The download comes as an MP4 on a player with intuitive controls and handy buttons for rewind 10 seconds or fast forward 30 seconds. However, I found the lack of a menu with chapter headings (or "module" bookmarks) a little weird.

The lighting and audio are excellent.  Most techniques are demonstrated from a side-on view, with the camera adjusting almost seamlessly to capture a closeup where needed.  Sometimes, you get a nearly bird's-eye view. The background/mats are blue, and while he wears a white gi, his partner wears black, so everything is very clean and easy to see. It's nitpicky to say I found his phrase at the start of every module-- "All right, ninjas!"-- to be a little annoying. It really doesn't get in the way of his instruction since he only says it once each chapter.

I distinctly found this instructional to be more upper-level. There are excellent basic techniques taught in every chapter-- kimuras, back mount, americana, omoplata etc.-- but he gives fewer details and moves right along with a quicker pace to his speech and the amount of repetition. It is refreshing to have basically a "dense" and efficient dose of technique. You could watch this on your phone and feel like just a few minutes were fully packed with things to play with. There are few to no drilling sequences and while he reviews techniques as he goes, it never gets excessive.

One thing I liked about his relatively minimal level of detail compared to some instructionals is that I'm getting set in my ways, and I find that when someone teaches a detail which directly contradicts something that works really well for me, I mentally debate it. I challenge it or counter it in my mind and get distracted. This did not happen often in the video, which was refreshing. I found it to be like the end of open mat, where some brown or blackbelt is showing someone else something, and while it goes by quickly, it contains all the information you need to plug it in to your already-working technique library and expand it in new ways.  It does tend to assume you are familiar with the language and positions so if you are a rank newbie this may go a little bit quickly for some.

Another thing I liked was the constant stream of sub attempts. It's a facet I would like to include more in my style-- attack attack attack. However, I did think that some of his techniques assume some equality of size and strength between partners. He did such a great job talking about compensating for other limitations of physicality, I wished he could have included some adjustments us smaller-folk could make to tweak the techniques. If I had my druthers, he would have stepped back and had a smaller person demo against a larger one to illustrate such possibilities, a la Emily Kwok and Stephen Kesting.

Mike did a great job on this instructional. It's a very solid efficient hour, worth your time and money.

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