Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

So all the GiFreak work has me paying even more attention to brands and marketing. There’s an up and coming brand—Inverted Gear—whose logo smacked me in the face as soon as I saw it on a gi sleeve. It’s a cuddly, achromatic, deliberate, Chinese break from the aggressive, industrial, Nippo-Brazilian logos that most companies and schools present to the public. The logo? An upside down panda.

The logo

 Brand recognition is a big deal and an aspect of marketing that companies spend large amounts of money to measure and properly implement, but BJJ is a small niche where that kind of time, capital and effort probably isn’t going to be invested, so me saying that Inverted Gear’s panda is possibly the most easily recognizable logo in the world of BJJ gis is based off my own gut reaction and that of people when the panda first premiered. Because of that reaction (a cross between “Awww!” and “Awesome!”), I had to contact the head of the company (Nelson Puentes) and find out what was up with the upside down panda.

Apparently, he was working on a lagartixa (gecko) sweep, which he was originally introduced to by a friend as being done from “panda guard”. After working it a few successful times in competition, his students started calling him “Panda”. Later, at purple belt level, when his students started asking him to make a patch that incorporated the panda, he decided to veer off the angry-animal path. The logo was used on a few shirts and after seeing the shirts at tournaments, people started asking if they could buy them (that’s the power of a good logo right there).

The Patch

Nelson tells me that the panda even acts as some sort of furry, inverted Rorschach, with some people seeing an animal interpretation of the Taijitu, some seeing the panda as the simultaneous beginner and expert and others seeing pandas embodying the constant and endless evolution of BJJ. The truth? The panda survived into Nelson’s entrepreneurial endeavors because they invert themselves and are gentle, sometimes technical creatures despite their weight and strength.

Thanks to Nelson at Inverted Gear for taking the time to talk. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

"I could not do what you do"

That's what my (very patient) cousin who gets all my jiu jitu updates told me tonight.

Was it because of the pain? The sweat? The feet? The crotchly proximity? Nope. It's the emotional vulnerability and constant threat of public failure. It's the reason I was two seconds from breaking down in tears on the mats tonight. She gets my frustrations because she can be just as hard-driving with herself as I am. When I told her that as I was getting frustrated, people noticed and started helping in various ways, she knew exactly what I meant when I said that that's hard for me...appreciated, but hard. She knew why a word of encouragement in a moment like that could draw tears.

We were doing takedowns. I have...serious issues with them. I was beyond thankful I was with Mr. Rebarforligaments because I require patience and a gentle hand when it comes to anything that involves transitioning between standing and...not standing. Part of it is because I don't compete...which means even though we do drill them in class, I'd be doing a lot more if I were out there vying for medals. The other part is just that this is one of those things I have physical issues with...kinda like standing guard passes used to be. Actually, I think the last time I almost broke down was a standing guard pass years back.

I think the core of it though, is that they leave me feeling incompetent...they leave me with the reminder that, no matter how much I improve my physical state, my sense of self is pretty solidly set in stone at this point (as I believe it should be)...basically, I don't think I'll ever see myself as competent in the world of athletics. That is a lot for me to accept. I think most people prefer to stick to worlds where they feel generally competent.

That really hit me at the Ginastica Natural seminar yesterday (that's a vid of our head instructor). Alvaro Romano came in to lead it and it's really turned the way I'm looking at training on its head. While I used to dread (DREAD) 10 min warmups, I now go once a week for an hour long class of something very similar (thanks to a year of prodding from Fiona and LadyBug). I'm still nervous before I go...I still get sick at the thought just as I did with PE a kid, but that's fading. I'd done 3 or so classes with GinasticaInstructor before the seminar, so I wasn't completely lost. I didn't do well, but I didn't injure anyone else either. I could see progress in that short a time and I left...dare I say...even a little proud of my progress. Still though, seeing how different I am now than I was when I started AND still feeling like the physically awkward slow kid, I realized that there is only so much of your identity you can shake. That was finally nailed home when I was talking to one of the brown belts after class, and he made a comment about training healthy people like me and him. The fact that he'd my name, his and "health" in the same sentence took me aback just a bit...I almost didn't understand what he was trying to say.

...I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's one of those things that just is...because feeling athletic isn't what drives me to learn jiu jitsu...neither is feeling unathletic. I just want to learn the art...unfortunately for me, takedowns are part of the deal. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Red Belt Documentary

So the guys over at BJJHacks are producing a video chronicling the story of red belts in jiu jitsu (they're currently raising funds). I was doing a little light research on the project and ran across Hywel's collection of work on YouTube. The video of Kyra is awesome and it was great to hear someone from the Carlson-Liborio lineage (Teta).

The music though...props to Hywel on the choice (Feather Drug) because it's awesomely beautiful. Simple, flowing piano is a perfect compliment to the art.

Friday, June 1, 2012

"You've got your whole life to learn this stuff."

I started the day all jiu jitsu happy, having found another Christian-grapply person and watching clips of Gabi Garcia in the 2011 pan ams. Funny how fragile a high can be. 

Tonight was one of those nights. I went to open mat after reviewing the 3rd chapter in The Guard thinking that I'd be able to tackle my closed guard issues head on and emerge with an amazing, impassible full guard that no longer defaulted to spider the second my feet were popped open.

I had to.

I was...so wrong.

I picked a white belt to start working on my maintaining the guard. 5 minutes later and I was massively frustrated. Full guard...is a demon for me. I over-think it (I feel like I have 509348534958 options) AND feel like I should be good at it, so when it doesn't come quickly, I drop into one of those jiu jitsu funks I haven't experienced in so long. A few minutes in and I felt light-headed, nauseated and almost tapped out of exhaustion mid-roll (I didn't out of sheer pride). Usagi was on the sidelines, giving me tips. I...think I learned how to react better in top half when bottom-dude is trying something advantageous (triangle the leg and sprawl), but for the most part, I felt too crappy to hear or apply what he was saying. I'd completely shut down, mind, body and will.

I finished the round and crawled, shamed and exhausted, over to a space next to GinasticaInstructor who told me I frustrated myself so badly with full guard that I'd psyched myself out...and then he said something teh echoed in my head..."You've got your whole life to learn this stuff."

Yeah. That's why I started training. To spend time doing something without a timeline, self-imposed or otherwise. Even studying languages on my own, I put time-lines on myself for levels of comprehension and conversation. Jiu jitsu...I just can't do that to myself again. I need to learn something organically for once.

Well, I did another roll with Ryan and a compliment on difficulty sweeping me took the edge of the full guard shame.