Saturday, July 21, 2012

Business in BJJ: A gi? Made in the US?

I'm genuinely intrigued by the premier of American Gi Company. Not just because a new company hitting the market is fun to watch, but this company in particular has set out to solve the age kinda-old American manufacturing problem. You all know it. The cost of American labor is (relatively) high and that cost gets reflected in products as prices most Americans don't want to pay. Thanks Walmart*. 

That simple relationship drives most gi manufacturers to places like Pakistan, Brazil and Hong Kong, where quality products can be made relatively inexpensively. Gone are the pre-Deming days of poorly made Japanese (and Taiwanese) products, guaranteed to fall far short of their American counterparts. Now, products can be made just about anywhere (except Western Europe and Canada) at a lower price than they can be domestically (yes, even considering transportation) with reasonable quality. This is why the American Gi Company is such a big deal. If they can pull this off at a reasonable price, they will have cracked the Riddle of the manufacturing Sphinx

Manufacturing costs can be a tricky thing, especially overseas. You're constantly playing exchange rates against local taxes against shipping costs against political unrest and myriad other fluctuating costs. One of the benefits of manufacturing in your home country is forgetting that extra level of complexity. I believe the AGC has timed this pretty well. One of the upsides of the drop in the American dollar, of any currency actually, is a decreased benefit in offshoring manufacturing and services. When the EU saw a jump in the Euro a few years back, the US saw European manufacturers moving their factories to our shores to take advantage of an educated, trained work force, stable currency and government and cheaper labor. It's ironic, but part of how the system works. 

I'm chomping at the bit to see the prices of the 1776 model (props to them for focusing their branding around American history and going deeper than just plastering flags on gis) and how it compares to non-US made gis. If they can get a quality product out for reasonable prices, I suspect they'll see some solid success and staying power. 

*I loathe Walmart on multiple levels. 

Interview with Draculino-Grapplearts

Really interesting interview with Draculino from Stephan over at Nice little mention of my instructor too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I'd rather fight a man than go on a first date.

I realized that tonight.

My best friend gets a recap of all my jiu jitsu comings and goings. Considering her educational background and our shared experience in the inexplicable world of salsa, she's one of the few people who can understand some of the things I talk about...tonight's revelation was especially true since I'm pretty sure there's no one else on this planet who could get my varied, infrequent, maddeningly subtle and downright weird dating life. After telling her about some recent dealings, I took a step back from the situation and said "ya know...I'd rather spar with a guy than go on a first date with him."

This picture has little to do with this post, but I love the guy's face. 

Training has changed a lot about my communication with men. Between a close relationship with my brother and father, lots of male cousins and friends, I've had no issues communicating with men, but still, spending time around guys predictably makes one even more comfortable talking to them, both on and off the mats. Well, I'm beginning to think that comfort doesn't translate very well to the realm of dating.

Initial interactions in the dating process are generally strange and uncomfortable for both parties. It's starts as a level playing field in most cases...but I think training has given me a "leg up" of sorts that most men don't find welcoming. Comfort is power and power imbalance (in relation to desired gender roles) is always a problem on a date. Crazy, because in situations where romance isn't implied, that comfort and familiarity results in more openness and clarity. When I meet someone who is comfortable around Blacks in general (or not uncomfortable around minorities), the interaction is smoother. When I talk to a Japanese person and they realize I have exposure to their country and language, the conversation opens up on a different level...but in those situations, the exchange is usually founded on achieving some sort of balance or equality. I'd be willing to bet that's not the case in most dating situations, from either party involved.

Well, considering my recent dealings with dating--rather disappointing after having my enthusiasm over the man in question training BJJ dashed by his not so subtle hints that I train for contact with men--I've decided that rolling with a guy is a much better way to break the ice than conversation. Not very romantic, but much more honest, I'm sure. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Business in BJJ: Effective Commercials

I raved a while back over the commercials at BJJ Weekly as part of the branding series. Today I was sent a great, concise, driving commercial that premiers Combat Corner's ECO v2.0 gi. I went back a second time just to check out the track. It really doesn't get more straightforward than that. You see the product, you get pertinent info on the product, you hear music you wouldn't mind listening to again. Quality.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My first real taste of mental fatigue...

I've felt it before after long days at work, but tonight, trying in vain to break down the wall that is open guard, was the first time I felt sharp decline in my mental performance.

I'd rolled lightly once with one of the kids, then spent 6 minutes getting mercilessly handled by GinasticaInstructor. Third roll of the night was with JazzHands. Physically I felt fine and mentally...well I'd taken today off work in an effort to fake a long weekend after the weird, Wednesday 4th of July. My mind was fresh and free and ready.

So I see JazzHands' open guard as this...wall where chokes and armbars shoot out from nowhere. First round, I did ok, even got close to passing. He caught me in...something that involved me not breathing and we reset. And I crashed. And he noticed. And I tapped. Rinse and repeat. And repeat.

"What happened? You really had it for a while there but then you lost your concentration" ...and here I thought only I noticed that.

I could feel my mind crash after that first go 'round and knew exactly what he was talking about. I don't even have a it fatigue of the intensity of rolling with GinasticaInstructor or me mentally tensing and exhausting myself over frustrations with open guard...doesn't matter. The only real issue is that if this keeps happening, I think it's going to become a bigger blow to my ego than any amount of gassing out ever could be. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not sure I'll ever visit Brazil...

Training has changed so much of my life...from shopping less to improved diet and physical conditioning, the pursuit of jiu jitsu, any one will tell you, is truly a transformational life decision.

One of the biggest eye openers though, has been exposure to Brazilian culture. I've known for quite a while that Brazil is not an Hispanic country and that there are many linguistic and cultural differences that separate it from the Spanish influence of the rest of the continent. I want to learn Samba now. I've known about the large Black population (Brazil brought in 10x the number of slaves that the US did). From a classmate in grad school I learned about the weight of education (apparently it can trump race as a vehicle between classes) and the importance of being sexually attractive as a woman, even in business. Still, training has exposed me to even more.

Most recently, it's come from a blog that I've come to enjoy: Black Women of Brazil--whose most recent post really got my mind whirling about the concept of race and how it differs across the Americas. I know the experience of the Black American decently well and have talked with Black Latinos and PhDs about the experiences of those of African ancestry in Hispanic countries...but until I read this post from the blog on the Brazilian Mulata and the differences of the use of the term (as well as the term "Black) in the country, I was rolling with a lot of assumptions.

Apparently in Brazil, these women are considered "mulata". Quite different than the mulatto in the US. 

It's a great read on race, culture and sexuality, so I encourage anyone to check it out, but I'm not gonna lie...after reading, I'm less psyched about visiting Brazil (I know... sacrilege coming from a blue belt). I'm not going to blame that on Brazil or that post, and honestly, if I were going with people who I knew lived there, and they were people I trusted, I'd be up for a trip...however, almost every account of visits to the country (and this includes the stories of guys that train as well as businessmen) include exclamations of how "hot" "sexy" and "wild" the women are. As a person who gets confused for being Brazilian here in the US, the last thing I want to do is fork over cash to end up in an environment where some businessman is going to see in me another potential stop on his sex-cation. Any woman that travels without a male companion knows the importance of understanding the behavior and customs of the destination she's visiting.

As I said though, I'm not going to blame all of Brazil or Brazilians for the actions of a few foreigners and natives any more than I blamed Hong Kong for the Arab man who seemed to mistake me for a prostitute. I know that, despite the images we see on TV and online, Carnaval isn't going on year round and that there is much more to the country than sweaty chests and gyrating hips. That's something I've also learned from Black Women of Brazil...Brazilian music, politics, social activists, artists, cuisine...I just wish we saw more of that across the board.