first day with my Gi

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.