Monday, November 26, 2012

The Mind-trauma of BJJ

Somehow, Brendan over at GiReviews has gotten me over my profound distaste for Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferriss (introvert bias, what can I say.) Today, in the relaxed snuggliness of the morn of the last day off of Thanksgiving vacation, I watched this:

While I think Ferriss' methods aren't as universally applicable as many would like to think, I believe he has a lot to offer. I was most interested in his take on language learning. See...I used to be great at it. I had a system when I started Spanish...listen to Spanish radio all day at work, watch the news + 1 telenovela (still love La Fea mas Bella) and study grammar/vocab no more than 15 minutes a day. That was it. I threw in a bit of time with speaking partners on the side, but in a year, I'd made more progress than I had in 5 years of formal study. I did the same thing with Mandarin, and, well, eventually I fell off. Part of that was the drain of grad school...but honestly, BJJ has REALLY disrupted my mental rhythm.

When I first started blogging after training, I noticed that I just couldn't get complex sentences out--"see spot run" was about as deep as I was going post-class, so I refrained from writing immediately afterward for almost two years. It was like I was losing massive IQ points after each session. What I suspect was going on was simply trauma.

Looking back, starting training was a traumatic experience for me...enjoyable, encouraging, inspiring, soul-stirring but still at some level traumatic. I started BJJ to rebuild myself--to break down an aspect of my being that had been severely lacking. That process is inherently traumatic.

So yeah, while I've gotten past the startup pains, I remain off my mental routine. I haven't studied properly since I started training, and that disturbs me. I had dreams of being conversationally fluent in both tongues by 35 and well, I'm getting short on time. I can still carry on a conversation in Spanish and a very basic one in Mandarin, but my flow is gone. The idea of coming home and plopping down with a grammar activity that used to be cathartic and enjoyable and seems difficult.

My hope is that Mr. Ferriss will offer some method of getting me back on track. The desire is still there...I burned with the same excitement this weekend when, at a rest stop, a Chinese man was chatting on his cell phone and I understood him...but I fear BJJ has changed me mentally into someone that I now have no idea how to teach.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: Time with the Enemy

So I think I'm cured of settling for bad side control positions. Goal met. Since I've narrowed down the escapes I want to work and have a decent handle on the theory, I decided to subject myself to some punishment. Enter GinasticaInstructor. Now...coincidentally he was a great partner to work with, because he's nasty fluid (see video).

This week I've come to realize the importance of understanding objective (as opposed to just technique) when navigating a competent opponent. We worked him switching between standard side and both variations of kesa gatame depending on how I reacted and...I reacted. Even when I would manage to get my elbow to the mat, he'd fake a choke and bait me into giving him the arm back. We worked in the importance of getting to bottom half by grabbing the leg...Saulo recommends against this since it locks you to your opponent, but for me, I think it's a good, viable option, especially since coming to my knees...somehow I'm still slow or possibly just lacking in confidence. I also got to see some immediate counters, especially to Dean's underhook to knee-tap/roll over/judo-style throw. Before I could even consider coming to my knees, Ginastica Instructor had sat out to the opposite side and was headed for mount. Drills are great, but...the best laid plans o' mice and men and all.

So overall, two weeks in, I feel much more competent navigating the position improvisationally. I also feel incentivized to stay out of it since it is such an uphill struggle to get out. That may seem like common sense, but for someone like me who doesn't compete and for whom points are just something I'm occasionally aware of, it can be easy to simply allow bad things to happen. Quality learnings.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: The Nature of Side Control

I've pretty much run through drilling all the escapes from Jiu Jitsu University and Blue Belt Requirements that I think will work for me and cut out the ones that won't...which is pretty much only Roy Dean's spinout. It feels risky and seems like it requires speed and favors smaller people who fit in little spaces and don't have limbs waiting to be yanked into submissions, so even though it may work in some situations, it would require a lot of drilling on my part.

I started working standard and reverse kesa gatame tonight. I'm very much a top-down learner, so I started class drilling the JJU escapes with a lower (green) belt and finished it out just discussing and after training was done, playing with the position with a higher (purple) belt. Kinda taking the time to feel out the impact of belt level when drilling. Tossing around the idea of adding a lower belt to the feedback team.

But yeah...I got reacquainted tonight with a hard fact of the nature of side control. It takes strength. The thing about being on the bottom...and I've been drilling with minimal resistance and requesting full's very different when rolling, and it's always an uphill battle. I believe possibly more-so with me because of my size. When guys, even big guys get me in side, I get a lot of pressure (I can make a decent amount of noise from the bottom). On top of that, it's easy to close up holes on me. Thinking of when I get top side on smaller people...they just wriggle out. I have to make large openings and spaces after getting elbows to the ground and arms safe.  So when the purple belt I was drilling reverse kesa gatame with said "Just keep distance and keep'll think you're tired, but you're not", the importance of will jumped out at me.

I tried a little twist tonight though. While working with the purple, I let him work the same escapes on me. Seeing areas I left open solidified the insight into what I need to withhold to stay safe from submissions and an advancing opponent while trying to escape. It was hard to not start wanting to work problems I have with top side...but I gotta focus.

With him I also ran into the very big and unforeseen problem of people who switch between the three side controls for the sake of establishing an opening...adds a whole new dimension to keeping your position minimally disadvantageous. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: SmART Goals for BJJ

I gagged a little using that term outside of the office, but SMART goals are exactly what I need for the project Julia and I are working on.

So the whole idea is that the goals are SMART...Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. I left the M little because my measurement is a bit subjective. I'm going to be working with a few higher belts at the gym whom I've warned informed about my goals over the next year. So...

Specific: Check. Each month we're working on competency in the respective positions.

Measurable: Cue higher belts. Little M because this part's a tad subjective. Right now I'm working with...
  • Ryan: brown belt who was my first instructor. 
  • Adam: Ginastica natural instructor and advanced Purple belt (that's him doing the spidery thing.
  • Hector: One of the first blue belts I trained with. Closest to my height and weight, though infinitely stronger than I am. 
Attainable: The plan is laid out and ready to go.

Realistic: I made it to Blue, I can make it to Blue+

Timely: I've got a year.

So the actual goals...

  • Finding the best of bad positions. No more "settling" into positions that are disadvantageous that I've gotten used to starting in from drills.
  • Quit settling on my back...stay on my side. Give them nothing. 
  • End stopping because of blanking. Pauses should be strategic.
  • Attain a comprehensive understanding of what I SHOULD know and be competent in as a Blue belt, as opposed to just a list of techniques.
For Frodo...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ginastica Natural, Tiger Blood and Faster Hips

I'm starting to wonder if I'm not some sort of masochist. I apparently can only tolerate so much peace in my life at one soon as salsa got comfortable (or dramatic...whatever), I started Chinese, as soon as Chinese got comfortable, I started BJJ...and what did I do once BJJ wasn't complete agony on my ego anymore? I started the deceptively taxing Ginastica Natural. I'm fortunate enough to have it offered three times a week at my gym since we house one of the only certified instructors in the state of Florida. It took 18 months of prodding from LadyBug and Fiona (not to mention regular prodding from GinasticaInstructor on Friday nights), but they eventually got me there. "It'll be fun!", they said.  "You can do it!", they said. Oh, they spoke the truth...but...

Movement is not my strength. I am neither fast, nor nimble nor agile. Starting Ginastica has been, in a lot of ways, like starting jiu jitsu. Every Saturday morning (I only make it once a week) I face my heavy hips, weak upper body and inability to squat with feet flat, head on. I genuinely believe that the biggest reason I waited a year to start wasn't just fear that I'd be tired or look like an idiot...I was well used to that from standing guard passes. It was that I simply could not see myself as a mobile person. What was the point? Adam (previously known as GinasticaInstructor) is great at starting new-comers at the shallow end of the pool and gradually amping up the difficulty, but I've still had to swallow a lot of pride. Though still fighting through my own sweaty struggles, six months in and I'm now comfortable with about 75% of the class. The only beast I have left is animal walking. 

I many issues. I was never a physically active child--shunning playing outside in favor of books on Greek mythology, growing crystals and rock tumbling. I've got a lot of ground to make up and I blame part of it on my long femurs and funky hip ROM, but end of the day, it's all about just doing it and reshaping myself. I'm getting better at the toe walking (walking sideways while bent over, holding your big toes with your index finger...try it...just 3 steps...seriously) and I'm light-years better at the other animal-inspired movement exercises. My one nemesis? The tiger walk. We do it forward and backward...backward is fast. Backward is evil. I'm still learning how just not to sway my hips going forward. I wore my tiger shirt this past week for inspiration, only to be told that apparently, Ginastica works better in t-shirts with adult tigers...might have to give Brendan a ring.

I love this tiger. I wish the gis came in adult sizes

Mirrors (I hate them now) and animal walking aside, I've seen marked progress. After just two classes, I started noticing that coming to my knees required very little thought and rolling my 215lbs of self+opponent backwards was no longer frightening.  When I skip stop, I feel slower and less responsive when rolling. The classes seem to attract more agile people, but I would say it's absolutely essential for larger/immobile people who have any aspirations of being better movers. 

The biggest difference though, is mental. Since I'm not accustomed to moving, my mind doesn't even consider certain options/dimensions when training. If Ginastica does nothing else, it's opened my mind to new planes of jiu jitsu possibilities.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: November – a month of Side Control

I love resolutions that have nothing to do with the arbitrary starting of a new year--ones that are born out of individually inspired need and motivation are awesome. They're even better when you've got an accountability partner.

So...I'm jumping on a project with Julia over at Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog for a year of more focused training. At first glance it might sound excessive since most schools (I hope) have curricula already built into their programs. Even if they do, there is a lot of unstructured jiu jitsu time when you're on the mats. Open drilling, sparring, open mat, nobody's telling you exactly what to do and our project intends to add some structure in that space over the next year.

You can read about the specifics of the curriculum of Operation Tattered Belt below or Julia's kick-off entry here, but basically, we're going to be using each month of a year to focus on a different position or submission. For guidance, we'll be using both Saulo Ribeiro's Jiu Jitsu University and Roy Dean's Blue Belt Requirements.

I'm particularly excited because the idea of pedagogy in BJJ has been a question hovering in my mind since day 1. Julia's a teacher of teachers (which is the reason she'll be focusing more on writing from an instructor's perspective) and I've been a student of...way too much (I've got a good, objective perspective of myself as a student) so I'll be writing more from that angle. We'll be making major posts at the beginning and end of the month.

So like Julia says, you're welcome to join, comment, add feedback and contribute. Hope to hear from you!

November: A month of side control
4.0 Side
8.0 Escaping Side
8.4 Escaping Scarf
Sidemount Escapes

A month of Knee on Belly
5.0 Knee on Belly
9.0 Escaping Knee on Belly

A month of full mount
3.0 Mount
7.0 Escaping Mount
Mount Escapes

A month on the back
1.0 The Back
6.0 Escaping the Back

A month about all fours
2.0 All Fours
6.4 Escaping All Fours

A month of guard passes
Guard Passes

A month of armlocks
10.0 Armbar Escape
14.0 Kimura Escape

A month of chokes
11.0 Triangle Escape
12.0 Guillotine Escape

A month of leglocks
13.0 Footlock Escape

A month of takedowns