first day with my Gi

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gracie Diet

After getting Helio Gracie’s book, the “Gracie Diet” has peaked Gary’s and my interest.  Since training Jiu-Jitsu until 90 years old has always been the goal, who better to be a role model than the Grand Master himself?!    He was teaching and training on the mat until 10 days before he died… at 95!   That would definitely be success in the health category to me.  Helio and his sons claim this nutritional lifestyle as part of their family’s great success, in the ring and at the playground.  Recounting increased energy and cured ailments, Rorion’s book lays out the diet, process and rationale behind the 65 years of informal research and benefit that have given his family increased strength of body and of mind. 

Beyond physical health, this diet is about discipline.  The translation from Portuguese is, “The Rational Nutritional Regimen.”  At least two of these words were not previously in my dietary vocabulary.  I have gained a greater awareness of my eating habits as being largely emotional and unstructured.  I could always rationalize my eating habits as small meals more often or necessities for avoiding low blood sugar.  I would self-identify as “living to eat, not eating to live,”  but the truth is, I would eat all day long and snack as I please.  I let my every whim and impulse take over, so this new way of eating will be a grand and majestic gesture of mind over body.  I will have to think about what I eat, and when I eat, implementing a new element of planning throughout my days… Wish me luck, as I embark on my newest challenge; all moving toward my overall Jiu-Jitsu goals of greater strength in mind and body. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just Like Kindergarten...

The goal:  "Keep your hands to yourself."  I know this, and yet, I've been getting arm barred like crazy.  Yes, sometimes upper belts catch my arm where it shouldn't be, but there are so many times when I am conscientious of keeping my arms in, and they get yanked and pulled at.  I fight like hell the whole way, but usually the end result is that they get my arm enough where I'll just tap.  Arm bars are also not usually a move that I will see or attempt.  I know training is the perfect time to try it, but I don't usually have enough control to make the move work for me.  Generally, a risky move.  I'm much more comfortable with triangles and chokes.  I will be more watchful of doing and avoiding the arm bar positioning.  Once they can even reach my arm, it's almost too late in most cases. 

It Finally Happened...

      I'm starting to like jiu-jitsu.  It took a year, and I still feel like newer people surpass me, but I find myself searching the internet and wanting to read jiu-jitsu magazines.  I even enjoyed watching UFC fights, not just the social part of it.  
     I read an article about Kyra Gracie in Jiu-Jitsu Style magazine that had me searching around for any seminars that she will be doing, and thinking about when I can be in NY and take a private lesson from her.  There was also an article about women training Jiu-Jitsu.  While, it would be neat to hear more about women in the U.S. to connect with, this article about the UK was certainly relatable. There was still the sentiment about size as more significant than gender in a training partner.  I don't like it when issues of gender inequality are completely ignored.  While the act of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is practical, and may feel comfortable for women in many cases, I don't think it can be a vacuum where societal context doesn't matter at all.  Much of my experience is as a sisterly role to the 30 and over men, which is not necessarily a bad experience. But when i'm rolling with someone that says, "good girl,"  i know it is a supportive compliment, but it does exemplify how it's a 'woman's role' to be taken care of and protected.  
     I definitely work hard on defense, no matter who I grapple, but if I am in an offensive position against someone who is big and strong like a tree trunk, it feels like trying to bend steel to break their posture in my guard, or like i am a little feather if i am on top.  Let's just stay positive and say that I get an extra good workout  :-)  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BJJ Master, once removed

Although we train at a new bjjym now, I still feel connected to the Carlson Gracie federation.  It may seem snobby, but it is neat to feel close to a history and a formative BJJ philosophy.  I guess my family history has always been important to me because my grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and my Jiu-Jitsu family may have tapped into these sentiments.  I didn't know just how spoiled I was that my coach was Carlson's student in Brazil.  I have met and heard about others who trained under Carlson (including delaRiva), and the stories that they tell really add to my experience with the sport/art/lifestyle of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  Before I had trained Jiu-Jitsu, I read on a website about the school philosophy of sharing everything with your students.  That spoke to me.  Especially, for me, studying human behavior, I know how difficult it must be to go against the ingrained nature of protecting one's family.  Even in non-profit orgs, I've seen how a certain level of fear or greediness makes people ultimately look out for 'numero uno.'  A Carlson Gracie school clear across the country shared a video that I really like of Master Carlson Gracie teaching a technique (with translation from Portuguese).

I think the emotional attachment also helped me to learn and remember the technique.  It stood out in my mind.  I watched the video 4 times over the course of a couple of days, I practiced it 3-4 times, and I saw Gary teach it to others.  I was able to understand the fundamentals that the technique builds on, which also helps to fit the pieces together into my existing framework.  The move begins with setting up the scissor sweep guard from closed guard, and the ultimate goal is the triangle.  Carlson talks about the scissor sweep guard as a great guard that is very difficult to pass.  I never thought of the scissor sweep setup as a 'guard,' so that was helpful in my thinking.  It put a positive light on a move that I was told nearly impossible for me to execute with my 'bjj chronic size difference syndrome.'   I now have a more effective tool than I thought.  In terms of the triangle ('big finish,') another neat trick clicked.  Grabbing onto my own shin is not just for a quick way to lock the legs.  Holding onto the shin can keep the person in position even while moving around and battling for the submission.  So Simple.  So Awesome.  It means the game's not over, even if things don't go my way right away.  Gary has huge shoulders that give me trouble.  This made a big difference! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sound Effects

I am feeling like a more well-rounded Jiu-Jitsu player.  I still don't see all of the available submissions, but I find myself moving differently and more deliberately.  I'm thinking more; panicking less.  Breathing helps -- shocking, i know.  but especially when I'm tired or feeling stuck, integrating short and long exhale breaths helps me focus... or at least distracts me enough from the, "OMG I'm screwed."  They're audible, like shh shh shh shhhhh.  I thought it was silly, but sound effects are awesome!         


Since that sad day when I figured out that 'just pulling guard,' is not the cure-all, I have faced grappling opponents largely on the defensive.  Initiate contact, try to break grips, move to the side to avoid a steamroller (thinking that maybe one day i'll scootch all the way to the back haha), control their legs and wiggle around to avoid being swept, etc.  This became the norm because my mind goes absolutely blank as the timer beeps.  Now, still largely reactionary, I've added some guard-passing type attempts and a half-formed arm bar attempt to my artillery.  Coming soon... setting up sweeps from starting at the knees.  


The good news arrived.  I'm an aunt.  I was off to San Franciso on 5 hours notice, and I grabbed a Jiu-Jitsu book for the long journey.  I usually surprise people with my BJJ practice.  Tampa to Denver, I sat next to two kids, probably 8 and 11.  I'm shy, so of course I didn't talk to them (even though I was instructed that in the event of an emergency, I would be "securing my own oxygen mask before assisting" them).  waywardly glances told me that I was definitely the odd lady with the book called 'The Path to the Black Belt.'  Every time I look at the book, I think it's funny, too, in an eye-brow-raising, ridiculously ambitious way.  My inner voice says the title in a hushed, foreboding Darth Vader voice.  "The Paaath.  to the blaaack beeeelt. chasshhh"

If I'd seen the book on a store shelf, I would have glazed right by it, but luckily, it was presented to me as a must-study for my practice.  The book really emphasizes process; from the very first day on the mat.  I took a step back and read through the introduction.  It is 43 pages of advice.  Rodrigo Gracie basically sets up a mindset about training and progress, including warnings about injury and reasons why people quit along the way.  He talks about the beginnings of feeling discouraged when techniques fail (been there.)  He talks about learning how certain techniques will fit you better than others (figured that one out the hard way).    He runs through the learning process, which is what I have been focusing on lately for myself.  I knew that practicing was important, and hearing in black and white that repetition of each move without putting it into action is so crucial, has deflated any excuses I ever made about grappling not affording me this type of practice.  Rodrigo says that white belts should not be focusing on grappling, but on learning each move.  He also, of course, emphasizes connections.  I jotted down one overall reminder about thinking systematically, in my BJJournal, "It's extremely important that, along with understanding the techniques, counters, transitions and links, (I) understand what each position involves - (I) need to know the objectives of each major position, what (I) need to prepare for and what (I) need to be thinking about in regard to each of the major positions (PTTBB 19)."

In teaching student success, I would always emphasize how important it is to actually say "I," rather than the safer way of deflecting by making general statements with "one" or "you."  Here was my chance to practice taking ownership over my own training and learning.  If I want to change, I commit to action.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Move of the Week

      I haven't been keeping my 'BJJournal' like I said I would, oops.  (but not that surprising).  And haven't been studying books (also not that shocking).. although, We are awaiting the arrival of a special book, any day now.  Gary spent $89 on a copy of Helio Gracie's master book, because it only had one printing. There's so much to learn, so much to study, so much to practice... it's difficult to focus on one thing at a time.  At the school we're at now, they teach anywhere from 4-8 different moves every night; it makes my head spin, and after a while, it's quite challenging to pay attention.  Going to Jiu-Jitsu feels like going to school.  It's hard to pay attention for so long, and Everything is a test; an opportunity to succeed or fail.  A learning opportunity, of course... I tell my students that a quiz is just a learning opportunity... but they certainly don't feel the same way.  I understand.  It stings just a little to get beat up no matter what. 

     This week, I have had a few more moments when I've felt things coming together, and where I've been remembering some long-lost moves.  Really, I guess it's the process of my brain recognizing a position I'm in, and searching the filing cabinet for what to do.  (and by filing cabinet.. i mean that my brain is probably more like a box that just gets papers shoved into it at random)  A friend posted this video on facebook because it's hilarious, but it is also very good basic Jiu-Jitsu.  I subscribed to Kurt Osiander's 'Move of the Week,' so I am committing to a way to focus.  My commitment to myself and my jiu-jitsu practice is to keep watching each week's video 2-3 days throughout the week. 

Here's the video:
Kurt Osiander move of the week - escape from side control

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Upper Belts

      Our school hosted a seminar; a guy who trained with our instructors and got his black belt from Royce Gracie.  This was my second seminar.  My first was with De la Riva and I had no idea how special it was... since it was maybe my second month of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  At the De la Riva seminar, I trained with Gary and a couple of other purple belts.  I wasn't really seeing the connections, so mostly I just did what the person I was training with explained to me. 
      At this seminar, I trained with a black belt (mostly because we were the two partner-less people after everyone else paired up).  I still have the 'awe factor,' but as I meet more black belts, the interaction feels more comfortable.  I switched partners for one move that was harder with a height difference, and didn't know until the car ride home that I was with the master instructor of our school  (we're at a satellite).  I don't think i did/said anything embarrassing  :-)  
      From the very beginning, I've been so spoiled, getting to train with upper belts.  I try not to impose too much on their training time, but I think this is one of the reasons that I have stuck with it.  They have a general heir of calmness and sincerity that I truly appreciate and aspire toward.   Especially at this bjjym, I am noticing that many of the white belts don't have that same spirit of respect and artfulness.  Everything seems like a threat and a reason to prove themselves... instead of self-betterment and an outlook on life.  One theory -  the people who stick with it are the ones who have that attitude of a long personal journey.  I don't know if it's something that you can grow into, or if some folks who just come to "fight" and to "win" against others quit after a while.  In general, I am fascinated by what may motivate different people to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu... and to stay with it.
      I asked my instructor this question one day.  He said that, when he was a kid, he was smaller, and play fighting with friends, others' size and strength brought great advantage.  Someone showed him a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu move or two, and he liked that he could find an angle to lessen their advantage.  He stuck with it because he is generally a pretty hyper personality, and the days he trains Jiu-Jitsu, he notices a greater sense of calm and self-control.       
      What brought you to the mat?  and what keeps you here?  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Thousand Words?

It’s bound to happen… the pressure cooker explodes.  “I am SO sick of getting beat up!,” but the real question is, what am I going to do about it?  My only solution - I really need to write things down. 
When I am rolling, I still regress to the few moves and few elements of a technique that I am most comfortable with.   My memory fails me, and my progress moves like the continental drift.  Every 100 years professionals can see some evidence of it’s existence.  I still find many situations where I can’t really tell what’s happening around me, on top of me (in front of me and behind me I usually get), and Gary makes sure to let me know that until I stop panicking, I am always going to be just a couple of seconds too late.  I am my own roadblock.  A big part of my BJJ journey, though, is learning to be in control of myself; my body, my mind and my emotions.  In relationships, even, how easy is it to get frustrated, mad, feel like giving the silent treatment?  The more difficult route is to stay calm and use “I-Statements.”  Ha.  I have degrees in communication and psychology… but knowing and doing are two very different things.  The easy route is to give in, but that is usually not the correct  or beneficial path. 
So here I am, at a point where there is no other way but to put in the hard work.  I sat down one day and thought that I was just going to write down everything I know so far.  Not a Chance!  It took an hour to write down one escape that takes one minute and thirty seconds to explain in a youtube video.   If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many for a video? 

Monday, June 20, 2011


My MBTI tells the truth in identifying that I prefer to come up with novel solutions to any problem.  I don't read instruction manuals.  I don’t generally watch youtube videos about the way to tie a bow on a gift to look flawless.  I find fun in ‘winging it’ and figuring things out along the way.  I guess it feels like more of an accomplishment.  It also, however, comes with a warning label that says, "may cause increased levels of needless frustration and possibility of chronic lateness."  You can gather that ‘efficiency’ is not my first thought (nor the compulsion for perfection, at any cost). 

HOWEVER… Jiu-Jitsu is teaching me that looking at how others have figured things out before IS quite useful.  The creative process isn't terribly helpful or ‘fun’ when stuck in someone’s side control struggling to breath right at that moment.  Yep, I think I'll look in the book and be glad to have Rodrigo show me just how to hook the person’s arm so I'm less likely to get flattened and choked out  :-) 


I was good with Lincoln Logs and Tangrams and Brain Teasers, so I guess BJJ is just another puzzle with 10,000 tiny adjustable pieces.  I'm starting to see the connecting links. 

When I first started working out with Gary, I was finding muscles I never thought of as significant (ummm.. because my body now hurt.. everywhere!  clean and presses made my body say, ‘yep, that’s different’), but seeing the body as a hamstring here, bicep there, I learned was a simplification that overlooks how the power comes from the connector muscles.  In Jiu-Jitsu practice, the fundamental escapes and submissions don't do much good, if one can't figure out the ways of getting to these points.  Grip breaks, weight shifts, body positioning are becoming very important in my Jiu-Jitsu arena.  Lately, I've been working on not getting pushed over.  (yes, it is embarrassing even to say out loud) In the moment I was thinking, wait, what just happened??  And then it would happen again the next time I rolled with that person.  And again.  I felt ridiculous, that it seemed so simple and put me in such a pathetic position for the majority of the next 240 seconds or so.  Until I went and just asked her what she was doing.  (yes, a she.  These two women have become a part of my thrice-weekly ass-beating sessions.  Me on the receiving end, of course.)

A lot of folks at this school start one knee up, one knee down, so it is forcing me to not just think about holding my base, but how to shift my weight, strategically move my body toward, away, to the side..even to actually sit down (turns out that little pinwheel sit isn’t just for stretching haha).    There is no fundamental move that says step 1, step 2, step 3.  Now squeeze, choke, game over.  If it were that easy, I wouldn’t still feel like a beginner after a year. 

Ideally, we find the flow:  they push, you pull.  They pull close, you create space.  Our old coach used to say, “they play rock, you play water.  They play water.  You play rock.”  The philosophy sounds great, but it’s going to take a lot longer until one day the pieces fall into place for me.  Believing in that moment is keeping me going.  I see the picture on the puzzle box, but my game still looks like odd splashes of color. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Why have a women-only seminar?"

This is a post from another blog that I wanted to pass along.  My comments below.


I grew up with older brothers, so this is the type of BJJ interaction that I have found most comfortable. It is actually the women; stronger, aggressive, white belt women, who I fear most. But if there was an upper belt female who was supportive and wanted to help me... I think that would be awesome! I have never been to a women-only seminar, or been taught by a woman, so I can't say for sure, but I really feel that the female empowerment aspect is important. Generally speaking, it is women who know what it is like to feel vulnerable, ignored, pushed aside, belittled, trivialized, condescended toward, taken advantage of and/or disrespected on a regular basis. These are aspects of gender that may not directly occur on the mat, but that may be coming onto the mat with someone. I tried out a gym that had a huge locker room with showers for men... and literally a closet for women. There are lots of ways to say women don't belong, this isn't really for you. I shopped around for a bicycle for over a year, and nothing felt quite right. It wasn't until I found a line of Giant bikes that are made for women, by women, that riding a bike was actually comfortable. For BJJ, I bought one of the very few Gi's designed for women and it made a HUGE difference. I have a BreakPoint and it's great. Next, I want to buy a Fenom Gi because I like their organizational mission. This is also something that I only learned about through the female blogging community. Thanks, Ladies. I guess, overall, my hunch is that the women who come to the mat and stick around are the ones who have already had enough positive experiences with men in their lives to work through any uncomfortable or frightening feelings.  I think that the mat is an excellent experience for younger girls (and boys) to learn about respect and to internalize the confidence for life.  


When I was 8 years old at camp, I won 'sportsman of the year' and didn't really know what it meant. I later realized that I seem 'sportsman-like' because I didn't care enough to win or lose, and I am a generally supportive and caring person.

BJJ technique has always been stressed to me, of course, because I will not be forcing anything in a fight. But I am now being coached a bit on aggression. If I use my 100 pounds just right in one spot, and find my timing and power... I may get somewhere dominant. Sounds like the stars aligning, ay.

Being easy going is great, but in BJJ and in pursuing life's goals, a little 'go getter' is necessary. The fight is within.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


In preparing to go to class, I had my two new bjj friends mad and anxious weighing on my chest from the day before. I got to the school and was greeted by the hug which was lovely. And then the class was about chokes and triangles... finally, I felt like I had a base and was building on it. I was able to focus on new adjustments, and learning a couple of new things. In the white belt session (30 min before class, 2x per week), from the guard, we practiced 3 X Choke variations, a loop choke and the Ezekiel. Then 4 collar chokes from the back. The loop choke was new for me. It was grabbing the collar and starting with the forearm across the throat, then the other arm loops around the head to lock it, and shrimping out to tighten. Similar concept to Ezekiel, but I didn't realize that at the time.

Guard and having someone's back are two positions where I feel most stable, so I can envision myself in a position to work these. From mount, I try a thing or two, but usually just end up getting flipped right back to guard.

For the triangle (I like the triangle), I learned another detail for when everything is locked in tight, but no choking is occurring. To grab the other arm and shrimp out to the side a little. Gary said I'd been shown that before, but i guess there's only so many details I can absorb at a time. grab shin NOT foot. raise hips. arm across. head down. knees in. toes up. ... now move body sideways. got it. We also learned two defenses which were great and new for me. I'd only been told to 'posture up'... like it's so easy. and then wonder why i don't triumph successfully :-) i guess that's why this is a lifetime's pursuit.

I like Hugs

Well, there are good days and bad days. When the bad days come around, I usually don't feel like writing, but then an upswing comes along and puts things into perspective to keep me going.

BJJ is not actually 'fun' for me, so there is no general level of excitement or pleasant anticipation for training days, but I do think about it. I think about it in terms of self improvement and emotional strength building. I also will admit that I like thinking about how cute our little BJJ family will be :-) That was what added to the warm feeling at our old 'bjjym.' Everyone brought their kids and the coach's baby was there most every day and his wife trained with us. The coach also set the tone for making fun of each other, but it was always about love and support. He is tough and energetic like a real team coach, and is quick to greet you like a friend with hugs and kisses. I like hugs. I think it was my first hug at the new school that set my mind to have a better day than the last. Walking in, it was the owner of the Tai Kwon Do school where we have class that showed me and Gary the warm kindness that I was unknowingly craving.

Everyone at the bjjym is nice and willing to help, and I know I really shouldn't compare myself to others because this is my journey, but 1. everyone seems better than me. and 2. there is a new girl that is kicking my butt a little bit. She is picking everything up so quickly. I may not have won many competitions in my life, but dead last is not a spot i'm used to. There was one other time when I felt like the slow kid in class. As a graduate student in Intercultural Communication, I took a color theory class in the design school for fun. I ended up really enjoying it, but each day, we would bring our work in, and mine was so basic. I worked hard to end up with the bare minimum when the undergrad art majors would bring in these complicated art pieces that were applications of the color theories. I had a square and a circle, and next to me was a fish tessellation. It seemed amazing and unrealistic to me, but I plugged away, one project after the next.

I know. I need to study. Gary hates it when I say anything that is even a distant cousin to self-pitty.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

38 bruises

Being out for a couple of months, combined with a new teacher/training partners who emphasize different movements is making my body say, "holly crap. what are you doing?." I have 38 bruises, couple scrapes, a purple toe and crazy tight shoulders. OY ... but I had a great day training.

The week didn't start out quite so peachy, though. We've been on a Monday/Wednesday schedule. I was sick for a week, and then Monday was memorial day, so no class. Back at class on Wednesday, already feeling a bit anxious about not feeling comfortable at the new school and not feeling comfortable with my two stripes. I had never learned a Kimura, somehow, and now in the white belt basics session, I learned to go for it from when someone defends the hip bump sweep. learned to defend it from that position by grabbing your own leg and passing. Kimura reversal from bottom by pushing the persons arm to their stomach and fliping them over. (that last part Gary helped me to remember because I never really understood the situation). I felt like it was my first week and I wasn't even able to visualize the position where I would be to do this... never mind remembering how to do it if I ever got the opportunity. This led into the regular class where the instructor showed 3 other variations, and I couldn't even focus to pay attention. 'practicing' it was a disaster. The people were nice, but I was always turning the wrong direction and having zero idea of what to do at any given moment. All the while being judged on how little I seem to know for the degrees I've acquired.

At this point, already feeling flustered and distant, the instructor was about to set up drills. I must have looked confused and unsure, because he said something about cross-body escapes, and I had never heard that before, so I was translating it into what must mean the same as escaping from side control. At that moment, the instructor looked at me and said, "well, i'm just judging by the stripes you walked in with. do you know two cross-body escapes?." I said yes, but the thing is, at this point, I've "learned" a great deal more than I "know." I can in no way recall, and actually use everything I've been taught, which was beginning to feel quite awkward having so many of these moments. There are also a lot of names that are unfamiliar, which adds to my unsure facial expressions.

Somehow, during this drill, my toe got hurt and something around my finger didn't feel quite right. I kept going, but now I was starting to get mad and upset. My shoulders have been a bit messed up because of all this new Kimura business, and this was just piling on top. I was mad at myself for getting hurt. Mad at Jiu-Jitsu, the instructor, the school environment. I gave into pressures to push myself too hard to try to 'prove' my rank... which was clearly not going so well, anyway. The expectations of me turned out to be higher than I had anticipated. I thought that with my little white belt, it would be no big deal going to a new school.

At the end of class, I rolled with Gary, and I was on the brink of tears. He kept pushing me to persevere and find my fighting spirit. This was all too much to handle at the moment. There I was after class, not so successfully holding back the tears, Someone I didn't know asking me if I was okay... It was all quite embarrassing and leaving me feeling defeated physically and emotionally.

... The next day, I woke up still mad. That was a first for me. Later in the day, I felt okay, but right then I decided that I had to go back today, and not wait. This could be my defining moment in moving forward. To say to myself and everyone else, that, Yes, I had a rough day... but I'm not here to be a quitter. I went by myself. Me, my purple little toe and strained shoulders showed up and had a good class. No excuses.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Whole New World

New school, new moves... back to survival. I was almost embarrassed by my two little stripes on my white belt. I realize that it's just a new style that I'm not familiar with, and that it means I have a whole new area for growth... but on my first day at our new 'BJJym,' I felt like I hardly knew anything. There was a new big, strong girl for me to contend with. I survived this time, but I know I can do better. Once I figure out how they start grappling from butterfly guard and get my back, I'll be in better shape. It's a game-changer, but I'm up for the challenge.

We did a lot of new drills, which, once I learn the moves, will be great for agility and movement. As a little person, I definitely could use the added speed to my advantage. I also liked that the instructor stressed gaining muscle memory for the movements. I felt like it was a good learning environment.

And now.. On to a new chapter of my BJJ adventure...

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Good Body Awareness"

At the new school, I happened to be the only white belt in the class. I've been training for a year now, so, 1. I knew that there wasn't much pressure to perform, and 2. that I know at least enough to follow along and get by in rolling with their blue belts. It turned out to be a good experience. I usually like training with higher belts. Yes, they can beat me up, but they are likely to be more relaxed and in control, and have nothing to prove with me.

In terms of style, I noticed a difference, but Gary was able to tell more. With one blue belt that was pretty easy going, I was able to make adjustments to my game based on his reactions, which I was quite proud of myself for :-) When I went to pass his guard, he caught me in half guard. After a couple of times, I was able to be proactive and control the one leg with the knee-threw pass, but I also paid attention to controlling the other leg with my arm to get by. I did learn that detail of grabbing the pant as a step, but now I will remember it because I experienced the reason behind it.

Another blue belt had great use of technique. I am sensitive to the difference between technique and strength, because I have been muscled around many a time. (not surprising, of course, since 99% of my training partners have been much stronger than I am). While we were rolling, his foot got stuck in a sweep. Even though he was in control, I saw that he might be in a bad position. I asked, "is your foot okay?" He laughed and said, "thanks for noticing. you have good body awareness." That was a nice thing to hear. We stopped and started again. It felt like the truest sense of the word, 'training.' nothing was a big deal. no ego. it didn't matter who had advantage. it was clear, though, that not getting hurt for silly reasons is very important. I like to think that if I tap out today, I'll survive to train another day.

After class, I talked to this same guy, and mentioned that I noticed his consistent use of technique. Turns out, he had some training experience at a gym with really big guys. I know that concept well.. combat strength with technique, or give up right then. I told him about when I first started and had to just figure out basic survival. Nothing else happens if I can't survive. I would think to myself, "Don't get crushed. Turn to the side! turn to the side!" I told him that "Pancakes are only for breakfast!" He liked that one.

School Shopping

I had my first experience at a different bjj school than the one I started at. Of course my first school has a special place in my heart, but I really do think it was a special place. Gary has trained at a lot of school's, and he really loved this one. The teacher and community are incredible. When we moved to that part of Florida, it gave us a place to feel connected. Now that we've moved again, it's been tough finding a new place to train. Gary is an advanced Purple Belt, so he needs higher belts to train with. I am new, so my wish list includes a good teacher and supportive environment. We tried one place that is 45 minutes away. The instructor is a great practitioner and competitor. He is a nice guy, but it was just far, expensive and has a contract. He wasn't a good enough teacher to combat all of that. We are trying another closer place with no contract and a decent price tomorrow. Hopefully it will be a pretty good option, and we will start training regularly again. We've been in transition between two cities for a couple of months now, so we'll be glad to settle in and get back on track with our health and jiu-jitsu practice.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Don't Quit

Rolling with Gary, it feels like a cruel trick with a little kid -- when you hold your arm out with your palm up against their forehead, and they run at you as hard as they can, flailing and squirming... and you just laugh! yep.. feels like a cruel trick. I felt like giving up quite a few times the other night during our roll, but I didn't. and I didn't cry. I rolled with a new friend next, and I told him that if I cry, it's not him and I'm not upset... he said, "yeah, me too." hehe. we were all pretty tired at that point.

Soft Pretzel

This might be my new fight name of the hour. No one name has stuck yet. I'm flexible, but I tap out a lot. Does tapping out too much make me soft? I wonder if giving in too much is my way of normalizing or rationalizing the failure part of learning.

I tap out pretty easily, because in my mind, it's practical. Training is practice, and I'd really like to stay calm and not get so frustrated that I get mad... or get hurt. I'm not sure if this dampens my 'fighting spirit,' but I'd say I'm still the tiny and tough one at the gym, but i'm not violent. Some of these new white belts are so wild and forceful, it's a little scary. One is testing my un-pancakeness, but i'm doing okay. Pancakes Are Still Only For Breakfast. haha. sounds like my movie sequel.

Oy. The Face Choke

There are still many ways that I find myself tapping out to positions that are not really jiu-jitsu technique, but provide a significant enough level of discomfort. The Barbarian Noggin Crush shows up every now and again, where someone hooks your head in their elbow and just starts squeezing. The occasional suffocation is unpleasant, but really... It's just hard to avoid The Face Choke. I don't enjoy it, and it makes me think, "it's training. you don't have the choke. why are you squeezing my face so intently?!" Volume 2 of 'The Guard' by Joe Moreira and Ed Beneville says that, "That sort of "choke" is not very sporting... Obviously it is rude to do that sort of thing to your training partners." And I agree.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

who you calling Shrimp!

Gary taught a kids class this week, which was pretty funny. He kept 35 wild kids engaged and on task. They're so little, it's so cute. I showed the technique with him, and I helped in training... since i'm the size of some of these 12-year old girls, anyway.

Since I started training BJJ, I liked the idea of mentoring young women to feel more confident and less vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. I truly believe that they go together. In a world that is still made for men, but says superficially that women are equal, I think it is even more important for women to know that being trivialized, pushed aside or taken advantage of is not okay.

We showed the shrimp escape (mount to guard), and one kid asked if it works if the person is heavier than you, so I had Gary get on mount, and I did the technique. They thought it was neat. What I didn't say, but some figured out during rolling, is just how difficult it is when the heavier person on top isn't giving you space for the escape. haha. just like any technique, there are 600 ways for it not to work. I suppose that this is how I incorporate failure into my life.