Sunday, October 31, 2010

Managing Aggression

I'm still super-hyped over the couple privates I've taken with BrownBelt Wrestler. 

The techniques and principles have been great, but a big chunk of what's got me all amped is the side talk. I don't know if most people experience really could just be me being me...but I don't spend time with my training partners outside of the gym. I still love them to death, but we're just not on that "chilling after class" level. Privates have given me a good chance to talk through a lot of stuff that can't get addressed in a class. 

Sometimes I envy smaller women starting out in the sport. The constant relative size. Not worrying as much about accidentally crushing someone with your 200+lb frame. While I was making notes on some De la Riva tips, I confessed that I worry a lot about accidentally hurting a teammate. BrownBelt looked me squarely in the face and responded that my size is a blessing. I stopped breathing. I think I teared up a little...which surprised me. As much pride and comfort I take in my height and build, I think I have a few sensitive spots deep down. I know I have a few sensitive spots deep down. He continued to explain that everyone that steps onto the mats is taking on risk. I've accepted that for myself, but I have a hard time with the idea that I might be the risk in question. He then told me I didn't have to worry about hurting him...which got my mind whirling around my issues rolling with smaller men.

I don't have an issue digging up aggression. It's right there whenever I need it. I just worry what it might do. It's just SO hard for me to judge how hard to go with them and how much weight to use. I know people say "pound for pound men are stronger than women" and I know it's true, but there's such a wide range of strength levels. With women, I know...don't toss them around, don't squash and focus on technique. Guys though...I've rolled with men smaller and weaker and some that were smaller and who could toss me across a room. Add on smaller white belts who I worry about "agitating" and having them freak out and snap my wrist, and there's just this...ball of confusion and hesitation in my head when it comes to them. 

I think I can learn push it with BrownBelt though. Not just because I know I won't likely throw out anything that would hurt him, but also because I trust him not to freak out about my size. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lapel Chronicles

Inspired by a post on Georgette's blog, I'm contemplating taking a chunk of my BJJ education and switching up the methodology a bit. I'm a top down-learner, and while I CAN pick up quite a bit by learning moves in steps, it's really not my optimal approach. But, I believe most people do learn bottom up, so it makes sense to structure group classes this way. 

So yeah...lapels. They seem like a huge mystery to me. Sure, I know bow-and-arrow and baseball chokes and a few others, but the steps, man...the steps. I have the memory of a cotton-ball and anything that has more than four components to set up uses up a lot of my mental following the principles of jiu jitsu, I'm going to start playing with these moves from a purely experimental perspective, trying to internalize exactly what they're being used for. 

I had some success last week rolling with a blue that had just gotten back on the mats after surgery. I managed to tie up an arm after he anticipated my set-up for a choke and he complimented me on it. I admitted I didn't know what to do. He replied "Still, you now have one more limb to use than I do". Later that same class, I learned a mount reversal that revolves around using the lapel to limit body movement. Gonna see where I can go from there. So far I see four primary uses of lapel work...

  • To control/limit the use of an individual body part
  • To gain control an individual body part that can be extended to larger segments of the body
  • To control balance/position of an entire segment of the body
  • As a direct pressure element of a choke

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why don't I mind going to the gym?

It has been a long...week. The kind where you come home after a day of work and training sessions and dinner with coworkers, crash down into bed and get up and do it again. We've had visitors in the office, and while it can be enjoyable, it can also tire me out. I'm used to my quiet job in my quiet office with my quiet door that I can close for more quiet. I've finished my week in textbook introvert form...drained and in need of solace. 

This week left me wondering how 2 hrs of intense interaction with people on the mats leaves me feeling invigorated and not feeling the least bit that I need to run and hide. I think it's a combination of feeling that there's a purpose (it's hard for me to accept that after-work socializing serves a purpose) and that that purpose is shared...I've got some great coworkers, but the solidarity of "we're here to learn jiu jitsu" is wonderful in its simplicity.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mini-piphany: Running out of aggression

I'm more reluctant to try submissions if I've had a day at work where I've had to "take charge" more than normal.

Also, a quote I ran across on a blog that I really like:
Hard to be happy when your happiness depends on other people losing. 

Friday, October 22, 2010


I realized tonight that I actually worry a bit about the guys when they fight. A couple fight pro or amateur MMA/boxing and when they do, the first thing I think is "Oh no! He's cool! What if he gets hurt!". 

Great class tonight. We had question and answer circle, which was beyond helpful. Even when I knew the answer, it was good to see techniques explained and demonstrated again. I got some GOOD choke education. Which I needed desperately. My grip is disproportionately angry kitten weak. I don't need help opening jars like I did pre-BJJ, but my wrists are still pretty lame. We went over a baseball and a modified choke from closed guard that should help me out some. 

In injury news, My right glute is still messed up. I thought resting up since Monday and laying off the squat work would leave me ok today, but I was drilling an escape from spider guard with one of the teenagers, and getting my legs thrown to the ground HURT...nasty shooting pain. I only made it two rounds before having to sit out...which was super annoying, since after two, 7 min rounds, I wasn't terribly tired, and that was a first. I have a private on Monday and hopefully I'll be ok by then. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

These white belts have lost...their minds...

This is going to be my last post on the recent up-cropping of whitebelt-ego that I've been experiencing. My time at the gym is still 150% positive and the new lady visiting today was a reminder that my reaction to situations likely impresses on visitors...especially female visitors. That said. I'm really sad that I strained my right glut running today, because I needed it DESPERATELY to triangle the snot out of a white belt (#1) I was rolling with. 

Today was one of those days where work had me burnt and my gluts were sore from some squat work I'd been doing (making good progress on squatting with heels flat on the ground). I came in just hoping to make it through class. So after warm up and drilling (during which a separate white belt told me the way I was taught to choke was wrong...and proceeded to critique the technique of a blue belt), I was pretty spent, but I always push through "spent". The instructor paired me with white belt #1 who proceeded to yell across the gym, with a chuckle "she looks tired!". I motioned for him to come over. After I took his back a little while into the round and was working on an RNC in, a guy yelled from the side "does she look tired now?". I could have hugged him, but I was too busy working on a body lock. It wasn't worth injuring myself to prove a point, so the rest of the round, I just made sure to keep breaking him down and not letting him get anywhere near passing my guard.

The whole situation made me think of something I said to the lady that was having issues with a fellow green belt criticising her. I don't think I could have handled this properly a few years back. There's this delicate balance to walk of maintaining the proper behavior expected of your belt, not letting lower belt egos run rampant (you're not doing them any good if you do), not having guys go too easy on you, and not becoming a firey ball of vengeance every time you get tested...and goodness knows that's happening more and more now. I'm noticing it happens more with lower belts and when I'm the only woman in class...the higher belts already have a certain level of respect for me. But yeah...a colored belt really does translate to a target on your back. I think I'm going to get a patch that says "No, you don't get my belt if you tap me. Calm. Down."

It's got me thinking that maybe, just maybe certain newbies do need to be roughed up a little when they start...just enough to get some cracks in the egos.

I guess it's all just part of the evolution of a gym though. New people come and bring their personalities and faults and contributions and all those meld within the enforced rules of behavior in the environment. I just...look at this crop compared with the ones I came in with and the contrast is SO stark. My "class" was cooperative and helpful and generally respectful, with each other and with higher belts. I'm curious to see which of these new guys last and how long. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What do men think of single women that train BJJ?

There's something about cracking 30...not just turning 30, but being officially "in your 30s" (a phrase I heard used in reference to me for the first time at my first private lesson last week) that cements some things in your life. While I feel much more open to change and possibilities in some areas, in the world of relationships, I'm starting to settle down...into singleness. Not just, "not dating now", but I can genuinely and solidly identify myself as being single. It's been...over seven years since a serious long term relationship and, while I don't object to it, I have no pressing ambitions to carry the title of "girlfriend" again. 

I'm reading this paper that's got me thinking about my social positioning in the gym. Out of nine women, ranging in age from 14 to 42, I really think I might be the only un-coupled one there. In any other situation, that might not be that odd, but jiu jitsu would assume...the type of women that are more likely to be single. (Despite the couple "stats" at my gym, though, I do still believe that to be true.) 

As much as I think that fact could be superficial in the face of training, a few classes alternating between being the only woman and being one of multiple women on the mats, and I know the impact of training with women changes the undertone of a training session. I know that women having husbands/boyfriends who also train changes how they are responded to. Not sure if there's any difference between training alone and actually being single, but I'm definitely curious.

Even if it doesn't register at all with the guys at the gym, it's been in the back of my mind since day one. I've heard stories of women that show up for a few classes of man-shopping.  I consulted with my best friend before taking my first private, concerned that people would think I was making advances toward an instructor. Despite being a year in, and while it doesn't change my choice to train, I still wonder, what do people think of a straight, single woman that trains BJJ?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why do you get out of bed?

I was all set to come home after training tonight and write about the crazy man that followed me out of a Mexican restaurant and how I SWORE I was going to have to test my jiu jitsu skills just that instant, but something bigger popped up.

Class was good tonight. More sweeps and I got to work them on a guy that was 240+, so I HAD to get them right. We went over the...and someone please correct me on this if I'm spelling it wrong...Balalonga and scissor sweeps. I'm just not getting my hook right against the side of the torso on the scissor. I think it's because I've been seeing the move demonstrated, and stopping my knee where I see the instructor stopping his, but my shin is longer, so I'm a good 3" off where I need to be, and that makes all the difference. It really is a game of inches, isn't it?

Anyway, I was talking with one of the other ladies in class tonight and she was telling me that one of the guys had her feeling really, REALLY bad about her skills and had been making negative remarks about her being female. We talked for a while about how hard it is being female...not so much about the physical issues, but the toll it can take on you mentally. Just sitting in a room with that many men can make you feel like an outsider. You wonder if the guys dislike rolling with you because of your gender, or because you're too weak or too small or too slow. You wonder if, even if you've told them five times not to go too easy on you, if they still feel annoyed at not being able to go full gorilla with you. You push all that wonder and doubt down every class and go and train anyway.

We got to talking about some of the guys there and how great the higher belts were and how a couple of lower belts were getting a little...cocky...and it made me think about intent. That's been coming up a lot in my life lately...message at church, office stuff, family-ness. Everywhere. I had a huge fire at work today (well..."have", because it's still nowhere near out) but it was one of those issues where you really start to wonder if everybody's playing on the same team. No matter what I do or where I go, it all seems to come back to that.  

Why do you show up to work. Why do you show up at the gym. Why are you at church. What brings you to those community and HOA meetings. Is it to fill a desire you have? Is it to make yourself a better person? Is it to help others with their lives? I don't think any of those are mutually exclusive at all, but I look at the first question, and too often, that's the only one of any concern and the second two aren't even after thoughts. I don't expect people to be Mother Teresa, but the blatant disregard for the ripples they cause or even directly predatory behavior for the sake of soothing one's self...well...getting a break from that is part of the reason I show up to train my little 3x a week...and hearing that that's causing problems in a makes me sad. To be honest though, I also find it motivating to do my part in maintaining the great atmosphere at my school. 

My private was so timely. Getting to talk with one of the instructors just and age and the school's background, it really gave me insight into what's really going on around me and where I am in the big picture. The higher belts do such an amazing job of maintaining a physically AND emotionally safe training environment that I'm still being caught off guard. I'm also even more thankful now for the white belts that I started with who, despite my being slow and tired and and an anti-athlete and frustrated, still didn't show one twinkle of annoyance at working with me. Amazing. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

My 4th 1st private

Yeah...just finished my 4th shower today. Morning private and evening class. I'm sure my bathroom is tired of seeing me.

I've been thinking about private lessons since day 1. I initially considered starting with privates instead of group classes, but I had so many general physical barriers to overcome, it would have been a waste of my money. Well, it's been about a year, and I had a day off so I decided to give it a shot.

It was friggin' AWESOME!! 

My lesson was with the same brown belt who did my very first intro lesson. Seeing people every day you kinda forget about the stuff they've done, and honestly, when I first started, I didn't get that taking third in Mundials and his list of NAGA champion titles was pretty impressive. More importantly though, he's a great teacher. I've seen him adjust very quickly to different learning styles and perspectives on jiu jitsu.  At the advice of Slidey and a few others, I went in with a game plan and took notes...which my instructor was surprisingly excited about.I got an energetic "Cole Miller does the same thing!" He told at least three people in class tonight. The lesson started with stretching and he told me about a seminar he'd gone to yesterday. I finally admitted to someone NOT reading this blog how scared I was when I first started and he seemed genuinely surprised...which surprised me, since I thought it was mad obvious. He then started telling me about the first gym and how man-tastic the training was. Glad I came around when I did, because I honestly don't think I would have made it. I think a lot of cultural shifts have gone on at the school in the last few years. Funny how things change.

My toes! We did a lot of focus on techniques that involved "live feet", keeping weight low and maintaining pressure. I heard someone once say that the things you learn in private lessons...some hit immediately, others over time. Pressure is going to be one of those "over time" points for me. I just have a tendency to back off and keep distance with my upper body.

I talk to my cousin (piano pedagogy person) about the instructional methods and environment a LOT, so I tend to have to turn a lot of what I learn into music-speak. Well, I sparred with the teenage blue belt that was also in my first lesson and he gave me some tips on improvisation...hyper extending elbows in positions that don't get taught as formal submissions. It's such a small concept, but makes such a huge difference.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My breathing is so...bad

And my brother rocks!! I had to come back and edit this since I opened a couple of boxes from Amazon right after I posted. Well, they had Grappler's Toolbox and FlowFit Ground Engagement. Giving gifts to adult siblings can be hard, but even half a world away in Japan, he got it dead on:)

There are two warm-up exercises that can "taint" the rest of my class performance. Those are sprinting and bear walks. Today was sprinting. Moving Megan fast is hard and after a couple of laps I was just off the rest of the night. I got caught on the bottom...a lot...but I took the opportunity to study what it feels like to be there instead of immediately fighting out of being mounted/turtled. Had some success really feeling the balance of the top player.

A year in and my breathing is still bad. A blue belt pointed out that it's shallow and quick. From day 1, I've tried to be conscious of it since I knew I had some hurdles to cross (asthma, sinus issues and allergies.) Four years into dancing and I was still having issues with not breathing when things sped up. Guess it's back to FlowFit. Speaking of body stuff, I looked at myself today and I look quite a bit smaller...and musclee-er.

Tonight was...different. I think a memo must have gone out to tell all the ladies to stay home and all the big guys to come. I was the only female...felt a bit weird since it had been a while. Couple that with the appearance of a viewing crew comprised solely of several, random young women who were a bit overdressed for being at a gym and the mood was just a little different.

My last roll tonight was with another green belt I really enjoy training with. Somehow, we always end up starting off in a clinch. Last time, I was able to take his back and I got the feeling he wanted to rectify that. Both times he got me on my back, which was fine by me, since I generally just jump guys into full or spider guard. I'm starting to see how I get caught in Americanas so much. I haven't yet learned when to let go of grips once they turn disadvantageous and that leaves my arms open for the taking. 

One of my favorite blues told me tonight that I'm getting a lot better. This is the same guy that told me about the breathing. I love well rounded feedback. Yay again.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Relearned a life lesson tonight...

Decent men know sorry ones when they see them. They just do.

GREAT results from reading the flow section of The Guard II. I tried just flowing through submissions and linked up to four. Mostly flowing between triangles and armbars. Still haven't worked the omoplata in, but I'll do that next class. I wasn't killing myself to apply them, but I did run into a strength issue. I had a good night of rolling with a bunch of the bigger, higher belts (I'm still exhausted) so my armbars kept getting stuffed by the guy grabbing his other arm. I've had some success forcing the defending arm off (only with my legs), but after a couple of 7 min rounds, I didn't have much "brute force" left in me, so any time a guy tried to just force his arm free, the tap was pretty much lost. No matter though, I was glad to actually link some submissions.

I've also found a new stalling "safety point" that I tend to fall into. I used to freeze once I got someone in my guard, questioning whether I should try to submit or sweep. Now, it's at submission setups. I had a triangle locked and, as I quite frequently do, started wondering if I'd gotten my hips close (I'd rolled him into the lock while he was escaping my side control),  wondering whether I REALLY needed his arm to finish the choke...all kinds of things. I tried to just force it from my original position, but chokes on higher belts have to be clean, or they're not tapping. Adjusting still makes me wary, and once I get a triangle locked, I get terrified of losing it...makes no sense, I know, but I get scared to take the chance of losing my one bird in the hand for the two in the bush.