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The Wandering Monk Returns to KC!!
As ever, the trails of my nomadic lifestyle crisscross this great nation once again! Rarely do they bring back to someplace as special to me as my most recent sojourn!
Recently, my travels brought me back to a sacred place in my martial arts journey: the Kansas City metro. There are few things closer to my heart than the sight of houses all painted the same shade of beige, or the smell of this planetís best barbecue. One of those things is the simply awesome amateur MMA scene in KC. The monk remembers fondly those halcyon days of pain and sweat. Driven by the endless ridicule of the pro fighters and the hellish fear that everything the bullies in the fourth grade said about me was true; this is where your humble servant tested his mettle (and his nose) against other warriors in the old tradition.
I stopped in KC on my way to California; and as such I was required to pay my respects at the local temple: Crawfordís Mixed Martial Arts, the home of American Jujitsu. I attended Friday morning services there, and the congregation was led by Rob Kimmons. Rob is a pro fighter who is trying to break through the barrier to the big shows. In his 15-3 pro fight record; his only losses are to Ryan Jenson, Marvin Eastman, and Joe Riggs. Rob is a monster in the cage, and an all-around good human being otherwise; however he really shines as a coach and instructor. He has a gift for relaying complex techniques with very simple concepts.
Class started with a brisk warm up and some stretching, and then we moved right to guard work. At this point, the Wandering Monk must point out that American Jujitsu is not analogous to Brazilian Jujitsu. AJJ is not a distinct style of any real pedigree, but more of an evolved amalgamation of whatever its participants bring to the table. Founded by Steve Crawford, a Judo/Jujitsu/Kempo/To shin do/boxing guy, this style has evolved into its current form over the last ten years through endless competitive refinements. One of the biggest distinctions between American jujitsu and Brazilian jujitsu is how the guard game is typically played. AJJ as a style places as much emphasis on punishment from any position as it does on passing to a better one. Fighters are taught to pound and punish from nearly every angle, and how to use striking to facilitate sweeps, passes, and scrambles. Basically, they like to hit people while they grapple. Throws and takedowns are also a large part of the curriculum, and of course, striking is huge in AJJ.
To give an example, the wandering monk is no great submission grappler. Yet he takes great pride in stuffing all sweep and submission attempts of a BJJ brown belt (Megaton Dias lineage) simply by punching said opponent upon every attempt. The Wandering Monk has no illusions about how his positional skills compare to a BJJ brown beltís. It is not even a comparable category, but AJJ training allowed me to at least prevent complete ownage at the hands of a more skilled opponent.
So when we began to work guard skills, it was as much about striking as it was about sweeping or subs. Kimmons showed a fantastic little half-sweep from guard that most people will not defend too hard (because it resembles a failed omoplata attempt, or just ineffectual wiggling), but allows you to get on your side while breaking him down. You secure his far-side arm by placing your knee in the crook of his elbow and maintaining wrist control. From here, you can either attempt to complete your omoplata, or in true AJJ fashion, deliver heinous carnage via elbows and punches.
I liked it because I struggle with my guard game, and this gives me an option that does not require a lot of complicated movement, or perfect timing. It is not even a true sweep. Break them down, secure the arm, get sideways, and punish! It is a technique the Monk heartily approves of!
After that it was roll time. I took a roll with Kimmons first, just to get it out of the way. What can I say? At best I could stall him, or surprise him with a burst of explosive strength, but it did little more than entertain him. He worked on his more esoteric subs and had his way with me. It was fun, and a roll with Rob is always educational.
After that, I did 2 rounds with Jimmy Standaert. He and I started at Crawfordís around the same time. The main difference is, he is a grappling prodigy. He is simply an insane sub grappler. Iíve never really been able to beat him on the ground, or even get very close (Once I caught him. Once). He is always fun because he perennially has a new gimmick, or move. He toyed with me, but I gave him all the hell I could.
I did a few rounds with some other guys there. The Wandering Monk is rusty, but did well against most of the other participants. Managed to make the omoplata happen, and enjoyed the usual success with juji gatame, and various ankle locks. Like all AJJ workouts, it was cardio and live-roll intense! I was wasted and destroyed after the class, and really starting to miss living so close to such great training.
The place is big, with a cage and a boxing ring (It was the location of the KC Mega-throwdown!). There is ample mat space and plenty of classes to accommodate busy schedules. Instruction is top-notch, and prices are super-reasonable. This gym produces amateur fighters and competitors at a prodigious rate, and has single-handedly dominated the KC MMA scene for the last five years. This is THE place to train in KC, and it has hosted Matt Hughes, Brad Imes, Karo Parysian, Gokor Chivichyan and many others. Larry Landless and Herb Dean are both AJJ black belts under Steve Crawford as well.
The Wandering May be biased, but this school is a 9.5. If Karo was actually there for my visit, it would have been a 10.
Check them out: www.crawfordsmma.com