Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Men are strong.

I can only wonder what some of my friends and family think of my training. My brother gave me a little glimpse into his perception last night.

Me: Whuddup lil bro
Bro: You don't talk like that.
Me: Must be the jiu jitsu.
Bro: So you went tonight...
Me: Nah. Tonight's pro fighter night. My belt level isn't allowed on the mats
Bro: Sounds serious...

Begin brother's enactment of an unfortunate white belt on pro night...
Little Timmy: b...but I tripped!
Random pro fighter: Rules is rules. GAME ON BRUH!

When I first started, a few other ladies in the blogosphere were just getting their blues. It was so cool. They were so happy and proud. A few weeks after that, posts started popping up about having a target on their backs and feeling like they didn't deserve the promotion. I thought to myself "glad my blue is a LONG ways off". Well, all those wonderful feelings hit me and my little green hips tonight.

It was a total roller coaster emotionally. I came in after a psycho day at work (hours trying to get the network back up, data just...doing all the horrible things data does, hospitals doing all the horrible things hospitals do) and was very much ready to get into a different environment. We worked an armbar defense. In the middle of drilling, I saw Parrumpa walk in with a white belt in the usual place of his black, smirking. I expected to be in for some scariness, but I was wrong. 

We started rolling, and I got to pick my partner for the first time. I chose a male white belt I've rolled with before and that was about the same size as me (I do get tired of having to worry about squashing the ladies), but of course stronger. He broke my posture over, and over, and over with sheer force. My face and his rib cage are really good friends now. I kept my hands locked in his stomach, but my wrists and elbows kept collapsing. A few moments of me not getting completely squashed, and he got me in an armbar. Apparently it was his first because, well, he was elated and said it. I was happy for him to be honest. He'd been having problems with submissions and especially that one, and I know getting it on a higher belt must have been a serious rush, but man did it have to be me. I decided that fighting him upper body to upper body wasn't a great idea, so after restarting, I immediately went for spider guard. Accidentally kicked him in the face, toes in mouth.

I sure hope it was accidental. 

The worst part about it is just last class, we were talking about things we'd done to other people and I told him about my shoving my foot in the face (and by face I mean mouth) of a blue in my first week. Apparently that's a bad habit I have with spider guard. It definitely slows down a fight.

Second round was with a REALLY new white belt. I hesitated, but he was the only one left. I was...concerned. I know new white belts are super dangerous. I looked him dead in the face, searching for hints of desire to destroy my elbows. Either way, I knew I just needed to try to defend. Dude was STRONG and I honestly think he was holding back, or maybe hadn't quite learned to use those muscles yet. I saw him later shirtless and, pure striations. Made me feel a bit better, but honestly, after being forced onto my back and having our instructor come over and tell him to back off on the strength, I felt eh. Not because he was stronger. I've accepted that men even close to my size will be stronger...a lot stronger. No. 

I was hurt because I still don't have enough technique to deal with strength. And I know...I'm just a green belt, but it probably would have stung less if they hadn't been white belts. It also probably would have stung less if I hadn't given up an armbar because I wasn't strong enough to grab my bicep against Mr. Striations. It probably wouldn't have been as bad if I hadn't chosen to spar right in front of our head instructor. I honestly felt like he should have come and taken the green belt right off my waist. There were some silver linings though...

I've always given up a lot of arm submissions and told myself that tonight, I would focus on not giving so many up. I got armbarred, but they had to pry my arms out of position to get to them. 
I'm getting to my knees more quickly.
I've discovered that kesa gatame stalls me. (new area of improvement
I'm not going to be out muscling guys, but I'm strong enough to buy myself a few moments. I just don't know what to do with those moments yet. 
I've gotten better and not getting forced flat onto my back. 

...and the beat goes on...


fenix said...

Ha, I know how you feel. I know EXACTLY how you feel.

I feel the same and in a way dread the time when someone will bestow a coloured belt upon me. It's bad enough getting muscled around being a senior white belt. I still get bitter and twisted about it, but I've learned to grow a thicker skin while I perfect my defenses.

And look at it this way. WHEN these bigger, stronger dudes come up against another big strong dude, their lack of technique means they get done. But if you come up against someone your size and strength, your better technique means they get done.

So just view them as testbeds and skill develeopment tools for :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm still a n00b white belt, so I can't speak to exactly what you're talking about. BUT, when you wrote that he was elated about getting the armbar and told you, it made me laugh. I remember the first time I made it into full mount I raised up my hands Rocky style and was SO THRILLED. lol

Anonymous said...

I never mean to disrespect, but I think your fears are silly. I don't care how big or strong you are for a woman, men are stronger. Instructors know this too. I'm a white belt female and this is just a fact that I am reminded of all of the time.

I have a couple of experiences that might be of use here. The first is when I was doing a light and more technical roll with a blue belt and I got a sweep that I hadn't seen since I first learned and drilled it. He was surprised and said, "nice." Afterwards, I told him I was really happy that I got that sweep because I've always wanted to do it. He said, "Yeah that makes me feel great for walking straight into that!" At first, I felt bad for being happy over it, but it never crossed my mind to think any less of him or his technique that I caught a cool sweep. I actually thought it silly of him to think that. I'm thinking that the same is true for you - that it is no reflection on you or your technique.

Another experience...much less happy for me...was when we were doing a drill where a handful of people are in the center of the room and the rest of the class is in line to roll with those in the center. If you win the positional battle, you take the center spot and the person who lost goes in line. Someone who respected my technique noticed that I lost every single time (being the only female in the room) and made a comment - why doesn't she just choke them (reference to my favorite submission)? The instructor said that she has to use a lot more technique to find success in situations like this, and even then, she doesn't get to have a say in the positions we are using today. It's an assigned drill. I wasn't a part of the conversation, but it made me feel better that I heard it. Instructors know that we need to use more technique because men are stronger. No offense, but I don't think a green belt means that you have enough to combat that. A blue belt might not even be enough.

For that matter, screw belts. Just do the best that you can and focus on the best technique that you can use at any given moment. The result doesn't matter - the only thing that matters is the learning.

A.D. McClish said...

I've got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that I know exactly how you feel. The bad news is I know exactly how you feel because I STILL feel that way right now.

Even as a blue belt (albeit a relatively new one), big strong, muscly grapplers are a big challenge. And not just for me. I was talking with a blue belt male who has been a blue belt for upwards of two years and he said they still give him trouble too.

Guys that use a lot of strength and rely on explosions or movement are difficult to grapple. But in time, you will learn how to use their strength and momentum against them. Don't feel bad about being smashed and passed and submitted by them. You described them having to force your arms out for an armbar. There's no technique there. They won't progress in their own training if they keep doing that. And when they grapple people their same strength or more, they won't be able to do anything. So don't worry about that.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but with people who use muscle, moving is key. I used to (until very recently) try to hold them in my guard and keep them from passing. My instructor explained that by doing that I was defeating myself. As a smaller, weaker opponent, I have to abandon strength and go for moves that hinge on leverage and momentum. Hip movement, staying mobile, being relaxed are all keys. But these things will only come with time spent on the mat.

On an aside note, my instructor warned me today about people putting too much pressure on themselves. When you think that you should be doing better than you are, then that is in the back of your mind while you are grappling and prevents you from being able to relax. Your instructor gave you that belt for a reason, so trust him. And don't worry about who submits you or gets a good position on you. Think of them as a challenge and make it your goal to learn how to defend against them. Eventually, you will be able to!! :)

A.D. McClish said...
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A.D. McClish said...
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Megan said...

@cy...definitely. I definitely got a good look at some of the bad habits I've deveoped rolling with smaller people, which is a very good thing. Got my head crushed, but still a good thing:) I remember smiling so hard when I got my first mount. It was on a new whitebelt, but I didn't care.

@DrSeuss...I have to say, I disagree on quite a few of your points. First, it's simply not true that men are stronger no matter what. I know (and have had at least two higher belts and my instructor tell me) that I'm stronger than some of the guys...nowhere near all, but definitely some, and at 6', 215, I'm most definitely larger. This is what's most tricky for me. I face people much stronger and much weaker than me...much larger and much smaller, which means my experiences ride both sides of the crush/be crushed fence. It's definitely something I learning (slowly) to work with).

Second, no one's feelings are silly. Actions yes...if I'd gone and turned my belt back in, that would have been But feelings are valid regardless and should be acknowledged and accepted if we want to grow (which is half my reason for keeping this blog). Those same feelings you think are silly are the reason a lot of people quit BJJ and I believe if they were faced head on, instead of being dismissed as trivial, more people would stick it out.

Lastly, regarding your situation with the blue belt, I think it was definitely a reflection on his technique...if walking into a sweep isn't, then what is? The problem isn't saying that "this lower belt found a hole in my technique", it's ignoring that hole altogether.

I do agree though, that's its all about the journey, not the colors. The trick there though, is that those colors do change how other jiujitsukas react to you, which changes your learning environment. Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

@A.D. That advice on moving is huge. I kept trying to "hold out" in positions with both the guys in my post, even though they weren't advantageous. I can see now where I should have moved. Hopefully I'll be able to catch one of them for a rematch tonight:)

Anonymous said...

When/where are you competing next? Whenever I get into these sorts of reflections, I go compete to see how everything works against my peers (gender, size and experience.)

Megan said...

I don't/haven't competed. I may or may not, but that all depends on where the BJJ road takes me.

The funny thing is, while the most frequent comparisons I tend to notice are against my peers, they're probably the most superficial. That's the great thing about blogging's a great record of where I am as a person throughout the process.