I'm going to say something that is likely a very unpopular sentiment. Those inspiration posters/videos with people missing an arm/leg/eye and doing something non-disabled people are generally too lazy to do...the ones that people seem to love in BJJ...the ones I didn't see much of until I started training...they irk me. I couldn't figure out exactly why until I read this article. The picture below is a perfect example:
Yes, it's cute. The look on Oscar Pistorius' face is possibly more endearing than the adorable little girl...but that quote...that line from Scott Hamilton does so much to reduce those with disabilities to caricatures.
Phillipa Willits put my misgivings into words that I couldn't quite pinpoint...
Using a snapshot of disabled people as a tool to convey a message to, primarily, non-disabled people, involves playing on stereotypes and assumptions. It removes a person’s humanity and individuality in order to present them in a way that will goad a non-disabled person to buck up their ideas. It does not matter who the people in these photographs are, as long as their representation is enough to guilt non-disabled people into action. Their use of prosthetics is the only thing about them that is of interest in these images, and it automatically turns them into some kind of superhero. Along with the captions, the implication is supposed to be, “Wow, they have a great attitude!”.
I think what I find most insidious, is that the image of the happy, disabled person overcoming all odds with a positive attitude can effectively erase the awareness of the viewer--basically allowing them to "forget" a lot of the unpleasantness of life that the idea of disability so rudely reminds them of...and I'm guessing that forgetfulness doesn't stop at just affecting the disabled. I'd be willing to bet it makes it easier for all of us to reduce the people in our lives to snippets of their individual existences.
We're a bit of an enigma in BJJ. Women that outsize men. Most discussions on training with women will focus on advising men how to train with smaller, weaker bodies...but what do you do when the body is larger, possibly stronger and female?
So, rolling out of my previous post on Christy Thomas, and to make up for my stupidly missing a seminar by Gabi Garcia, I want to get this theme started. I've writtenon it a couple of times before, but hadn't talked to any actual men about the situation. (I'll definitely be doing more in the future, so if you've got any stories, tips or questions, hit me up.)
First up, the man himself, Slideyfoot and my favorite BrownBelt Instructor, Ryan Gallagher of American Top Team West Palm Beach. I don't have any experience with Slidey (though I hope to in the future), but Ryan was one of the first to comment on my size/strength and was instrumental in shaping my perspective. I was glad to see them both answer my curiosity about the control of larger women vs. the control of larger men.
How accustomed are you to training with women? Can: Very used to training with women: my first training partner in 2006 was a woman, then from about 2007-2009, my main regular training partner was also a woman.
Ryan: I’m pretty well accustomed to training with women. As an instructor I like to train with my students as often as I can. That being said, I have quite a few students that are women. I often train with some women to begin my live training session for the evening. I feel this gives me the option to not have to be forced to use strength when I train.
What was your first reaction to rolling with a larger woman? Can: I was pleased: I generally find women more mature, considerate and controlled then men. The machismo that can often rear its head with men (particularly if they are young and strong) is also rare in women. Rolling with a more powerful woman meant that I had to rely on technique, but could do so without being as concerned about injury as I would be with a larger man. That's not to say there are no good training partners who are larger men: I have had the pleasure of training with several very helpful but very large men. However, I've found that to be comparatively rare.
Ryan: Training with a larger women is no different than training with someone else for the most part. Sometimes this forces you to become even more technical because of their size and strength. When training, you always want to try to be as technical as you can, utilizing leverage and correct technique as much as possible. Sometimes training with a male that uses a lot of strength you find yourself trying to match them and at times becoming a little rougher with them to prove a point. Personally when I find myself training with a woman that is larger and that is strong I will always avoid taking the path of strength because she is a woman. This only leaves me with the option of using my technique and speed to overcome this obstacle.
What difficulties (if any) do you have now? Can: With larger women? None, except that I don't get to do it as often these days due to the smaller number at my club. If you mean with training in general, my main problem is probably not taking enough risks, being too passive and relying too much on my defence. However, I think the benefits of training that way outweigh the negatives, with the biggest plus being a reduction in injury and therefore a longer lifetime on the mat.
Ryan: I don’t find any real difficulties that I wouldn’t normally have with anyone else.
How does it compare to rolling with men in general? Ryan: I feel the only difference with rolling with larger men than women is that I always try to avoid using strength and I find myself not playing as tight of a game against a woman.
Have you learned anything or do you have any advice to guys who may be new to the experience? Ryan: I learn something with any individual that I train with. My advice to men that train with larger women is to treat them just like you would anyone else. Sometimes you will even find women that would be offended if you didn’t treat them as such. Don’t let a woman win just because she’s a woman and you’re trying to be considerate. They need to win and lose just like anyone else to better their jiu jitsu. I always try to avoid winning by solely relying on strength with anyone but most specifically when it comes to training with a woman.
Can: I would highly recommend that men train with women generally, particularly small men, as you will probably find that often women are the closest to you in size. In regards to training with larger women, this is also especially beneficial to smaller men, as you have the opportunity to focus purely on technique (because you can't fall back on strength) without an accompanying risk of injury (generally: there are exceptions, though I haven't met any large women who were uncontrolled).
I finally got a chance to talk with Christy Thomas, one of the newest black belts in the world of Texas BJJ. I've always kept a bit of an eye on her progress since she was one of the first "big chicks" I was referred to when I started training and looking for women of even somewhat similar build. Christy was recently promoted under Relson Gracie as his first female to earn the rank. What's your take on gender in BJJ?
While this is an incredibly broad topic, I feel the participation of women in BJJ has had a huge influence on what was previously identified as a MAN's sport. This recognition has influenced the sport phenomenon growing a world-wide intent to push for further recognition and Olympic sport status. I have been heavily involved for the past 12+/- years and seen so many things -- from there being no women's divisions in tournaments and no women's points counting towards team points, to acceptance, adjustment, accommodation and change.
While there is currently a great interest in camps for women, female competition teams, tournaments and growing participation in MMA; I still see obvious stalls in growth and resistance to mixed gender training. I feel that there is a great need to focus on self defense for all involved. A reality known to all who train in the sport is that there is a place for everyone in the lifestyle of Jiu-Jitsu, whether it's for self defense, hobby or sport.
What kind of non BJJ related training do you do?
When I'm off the mats, I maintain a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy hiking, riding mountain/down hill/around town bikes, anything outdoors. I sometimes do as little as possible to simply recover. I believe that there’s a such a thing as over-training and favor undoing what I have done to myself vs. continuing to overuse my body. I believe that drilling and practicing Jiu-Jitsu is the best training to get better at doing Jiu-Jitsu.
What emotions have you experienced around becoming a black belt under Relson?
Frankly, honor and responsibility to be Relson's first female black belt, followed closely by pride and sheer excitement. Relson is a close friend & mentor -- I want to make him proud. I strive to impress him when I learn, compete, and especially when he sees my students train or compete. Also, the many people in my life because of Relson have had a real impact on me. I feel the need to be the me who stands for myself, trusts my Jiu-Jitsu and pushes through the tough times to reach the next level. Having developed skills that invite others to come into our Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle and decide they want something this special for themselves, and having dedicated this portion of my life (and potentially my future) to it, really magnifies the power and responsibility of earning my black belt. I read your interview over at the Fightworks Podcast and you said you've been in multiple situations where you've had to use your self defense training. Would you mind going into more detail?
I find myself in so many activities, spontaneous adventures, late night shows, back trails on bikes and I've been in more than my share of random situations where I've needed self-defense skills. Anything from: perverts exposing themselves on the forest trails or swim spots, to night time bicycle chases after leaving nightclubs, being at crowded shows and getting groped, and saving friends from their own messes -- all those situations have caused me to find myself in the position to need to use self defense. Self defense starts earlier than you may realize. It's not fighting and it's hardly glamorous or cool in any way.
Where do you see your career in the sport headed in the future?
Currently, my priorities are my students and reaching more people with self defense. I want to encourage every single person to get on the mats. My target is everyone. I want the skinny, fat, overly sure, scared .... I want them all. I'm excited to teach! Of course, I'll be looking to get into some tournaments in the future and continue my own BJJ development.
I love News Radio. The show was more brilliant than most people realize...totally underrated. Anyway, when I first started training, I was all excited to find out he was involved in the BJJ/MMA world...until I heard him talk. I wasn't surprised at his crassness (his character wasn't exactly an angel), but at the end of the day, words are very important to me and profanity, for my ears, is like someone giving me little shoves while they talk...basically I find it distracting and mildly aggressive.
So I just listened to one of his podcasts...this one was with Tim Ferris and I ended up there after reading a post from Slidey in a discussion about Lloyd Irvin's marketing. They covered...so much...from isolation tanks to aqueducts, hallucenogenic drugs to hogzilla. They mentioned Pimsleur and Seneca and made me realize that my high school was magical because it was a place where you had your choice of playing spades, hacky sack or Magic: The Gathering. The whole thing was like the trips down the Google rabbit hole that so often deprive me of sleep.
Getting past initial impressions is a funny thing. It's something I think I'm good at. I love my smart, objective introverts, but I have a lot of different personality types in my life, so I've gotten fairly adept and weeding through my own, personal tastes in humanity to reveal the people underneath their shells. With Rogan, the more I listened, the more I heard similar core values and perspectives on life and the world. Same with Tim Ferris...I'm not a fan of his work (I say that, but I do think 4 Hour Work Week had an impact on how I think), but I'm beginning to reconsider just the purpose he serves. Listening, I heard them have the same conversations I've had with my closest friends. I think it's just a certain type of people I'm drawn to and they come in a lot of different types of packages (which would explain my language learning...the more languages I speak, the more people I like I can find...probably why I set out to speak the 3 most common languages on the planet). At the end of the day, I think it boils down to people who are willing to reject cultural conventions they were raised with...not solely for the sake of being different or as an act of defiance, but because said conventions simply do not work for them. I guess it then makes sense how many of them cross the BJJ/MMA path.
So yeah...150 minutes later, I'd really like to talk to both Ferriss and Rogan...though likely separately.
This whole hullabaloo over Renzo Gracie and the would-be muggers that got their comeuppance...I've kinda ignored it the last couple of days...I'm just not one to jump on hype too quickly. After seeing some memes posted on Reddit, and realizing this thing wasn't going to die, I went to take a look. I found a write up about him tweeting while waiting on said muggers.
For the life of me, I don't know why someone with as much at stake as he has would put that much evidence out there that could be used against them if the muggers ever decided to press charges for assault. They could EASILY claim they were just looking for a cigarette (as they said), and he'd be in a mess. Sounds crazy, but it happens.
Then I started wondering about what this means on a larger scale. He didn't call the cops and now these two guys are still on the street. Contrary to those who applaud his potential contribution to the safety of the streets in NY, I'm quite sure that if they WERE actual criminals, that they wouldn't magically become upstanding citizens just because one guy gave them a couple black eyes.
Then there's our reputation. We're still a small enough world where outsiders (the people who will be the growth of the future of the spot) will not differentiate between people and practice. He isn't some random practitioner and the Gracie name is inseparable from the sport. All those schools out there promoting anti-bullying programs...everyone promoting jiu jitsu as a gentle art and trying to make a living off the fact that it's not just a sport for ruffians, bullies and fighters...they could all likely pay for this. People do use Google afterall. Right now it's low key, but it's exactly the kind of story that could blow up (easily with the help of people who don't want to see MMA flourish...boxing folks maybe?) and cost the entire community dearly. I've seen students commenting that they were embarrassed--that's sad. Hammurabi's code all you want, but sometimes there's more at stake than just the moment.
His tweets? really rough to read. Of course it's possible those dudes got EXACTLY what they deserved for their intent or previous deeds. Still...reading through someone relishing and wallowing in revenge like that...
I heard on the radio today a stat that said 50 Cent made 3x in his deal with Vitamin Water than he has making music. Selling out or not, diversification can reap some pretty big rewards...not just financial, but in brand awareness, networking connections and business experience.
That's why when I saw that Combat Corner has been running tournaments, my first thought was that it was a great idea. Considering the fact that tournaments can easily devolve into fiery balls of confusion with frustrated, food-deprived athletes clawing at your coat tails, I give them props for keeping it up. If it works out though, I think it'll be a great deal for them. They'll have participants being exposed to your brand at the actual tournament, huge opportunities to create interactions with their products and winners listing their tournament name on their grappling resumes from here to eternity.
Having my wisdom teeth out forced me to sit. No work, no running to train, no hours spent each night promoting GiFreak. In the quiet of excruciating pain, I tuned into a pervasive sense of loss in my life that I think I'd been ignoring. I realized that so much of what I've viewed as stable has been crumbling over the last year.
My grandmother's absence from this world has become quite real and very loud in my life. My job has been shaken up repeatedly. A cousin died of a long-term illness and another was taken violently. The head pastor of my church left somewhat abruptly after 8 years...And then there's BJJ.
We broke from the boxing gym we were at, which worked out beautifully, but that resulted in the loss of one of the higher belts. Another was injured to the point of no training just when I was told I should focus on learning under him. I didn't realize how much their presence created a sense of protection until their were gone. Ladybug got injured quite badly, leaving her unable to train at all and leaving me without my regular partner. Then another pastor (codename: Pastor Grappler) who'd been training at the gym with his daughter (who'd just discovered the beauty of triangles) had to move out of town .
Times like this always catch me with a bit of surprise. Partly because I'm decently objective and aware of my emotions, partly because I'm not experienced in the breaking of bonds simply because I so infrequently make them. Partly because stability has (thankfully) been a recurring theme in my life since birth and I'm...well...used to it. ...and then there's the fact that I looked forward to developing and growing with people and that the sense of loss is very much tied to accepting that those things simply won't happen the way I thought.
I remember reading the blog of a brown belt when I first started training where he spoke of how many of the people he'd trained with for so long were now gone...lost to family obligations, finances, injury and drama. He didn't sound lonely, but he was quite clearly alone. I'm in nowhere near the same position...I'm just a new blue and many of the people I started with are still around...many aren't though...you really do have to be dedicated to the practice itself to keep going.
It's not all bad. Lady bug will be back, new people come and relationships emerge. Facebook is. The hump simply has to be gotten over.
You know what was great about my time in business school? Not one...not a sole pop business book. Nothing telling us to think like a millionaire or meditate our way to wealth. I'm thankful for that not because I enjoyed reading 10-Ks all weekend (I just gagged a little), but instead because now, I know crap when I see it.
I can tell when I'm being being presented with motivation to succeed vs. being given the tools to do so. I know...clearly...when a book sells association with the concepts as wealth disguised as a path to riches. Honestly though...seeing that doesn't take a degree.
Don't get me wrong. Some pop biz books that are good. I file Gladwell, Nicholas and Godin under that category and none of them promise a thing. They give insight, interpretation, opinion and perspective. No methods to shape the mind, no enticements of a new life...just a different look at a system you might want to navigate.
...So today I read this...list...of principles rich people apparently use when they do their very expensive thinking. I read, I was offended. I questioned if anyone could believe this. Then I realized that some people want so desperately to be rich that they would fund another's trip to the mountaintop just for the sake of being spit on by a silver spooned tongue. I gagged again.
The article ends with this quote:
"The masses have been brainwashed to believe it's an either/or equation," he writes. "The rich know you can have anything you want if you approach the challenge with a mindset rooted in love and abundance." From Steve Siebold, author of "How Rich People Think." Dude, seriously? Since when is magical thinking a plan? Can I get some stats on how often that works out for people?
OK OK...so this isn't just a business rant. It actually does pertain to BJJ because I'm seeing more and more of this exact same concept creeping its way through our world. More trite little sayings, doled out in SunTzu-esque style, whispering tales of gain just inches beyond our reach...if only...if only we'd believe. It's subtle still, but a fire rises*. Every niche sees it, because niches are built on people doing things they love...and it's a common trope that making a living doing what you love is the secret to everlasting happiness and X-ray vision. Every niche has people that will sell this product...every niche has people that will buy this product.
...and that's all I've got to say about that.
*apologies, but I LOVED The Dark Knight Rises. Expect future references...and images of Bane. Screw it...