first day with my Gi

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.