Friday, November 26, 2010

I love this little blender

Hamilton Beach 51101B Single-Serve Blender with Travel Lid, Black
I think I've talked about this before, but I really do love this thing. Just having it around and knowing how easy it is to use encourages me to eat better. Instead of going for leftover turkey and dressing, I made my trusty protein shake with banana, almond milk and flax seed oil. It's also got me drinking my "moss drink" with protein as a night time snack more often.

I really want to become a "clean" eater.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lapel Chronicles

This is going slowly and I'm wondering if my approach is off. At the same time though, I've gotten much more comfortable getting deep grips, even if it means yanking my partner around, and have moved on to refining other issues in my chokes (like body angle). I'm also paying more attention to the grips my partners get, which is pretty educational. I'm deathly curious about chokes from bottom half, but I know I'm not there yet. 

Should I be pushing through obstacles, or sitting down and getting to know them?

A few years back, someone very close to me went through a long battle with depression. One of the things I remember most clearly about it, is how he said he dealt with it. He learned to find beauty in the sadness. Not comparing a slump in BJJ to depression by any means, but I think I'm going draw on that bit of wisdom for a least long enough to write this entry.

I left the mats tonight in an emotional pulp...disappointed in my lack of basic defense skills...angry at my inferior respiratory system that's a constant, nagging, shameful thorn in my side...regretful that before this point, I didn't take more time in life to develop myself physically. I felt everything simultaneously as I shook hand after hand, greeted by the same smiles, bows and thank-yous that have kept me going in the long, small, first step in the BJJ journey. They ring dull when I'm not feeling good about myself.

There really is meaning to be found in regret and shame and defeat and I'm beginning to question if they're not more than obstacles to be crossed or walls to be pushed through. I'm wondering if my plucky tenacity has caused me to speed by opportunities for deeper growth...I'm also beginning to wonder if I'm still talking about BJJ...but yeah...rough night. I'm going to cut myself some slack on the defense though, as I think I let it slip in trying to be more aggressive. Can't focus on everything at the same time and if it's not a reflex yet, it's gonna slip. Maybe it'll be a good area of focus for my next private. 

My relationship with breathing...I've been an asthmatic (no recent issues) with sinus and allergy problems and a drastically reduced lung capacity (40% of a normal adult's) for most of my life. Before jiu jitsu, it was an annoyance. When I started, it was something to be conquered. When I told my instructor where my inhaler was last week (just to be safe) it brought me shame. Now? Anger. The crazy part is I can't even be annoyed with, challenged by, embarrassed by or angry at myself. None of it is my's all genetic/environmental and the hand I was dealt. Even now I'm feeling petty for bringing it up. All that tells me though, is that BJJ isn't personal for me yet. It's still too distant and I'm still not seeing myself for what I am.

My last roll was with one of the teens  and it was...very pleasant. The kid's amazing. I expect to see his name with all kinds of awards after it one day. He asked me half way through if I were more comfortable on the bottom. 

"Yes but..." 
"But you want to work on your top game." 

Yep. I love people who can see the big picture. After the timer sounded, he let me know I "did good" his face meant it. I love the honesty of the teenagers. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

BJJ just isn't pretty...

I chose this picture I took of a guy doing tai chi in front of a cathedral near WangFuJing in BeiJing. It's a pretty martial art being done in a pretty place on a pretty day(my photography skills do justice to neither).
But yeah...I just left a meeting with an organization I'm in that tries to further non-political ties between the US and China. I brought up the idea of having a martial arts show since, besides the food, that's one of the biggest Chinese things with which Americans, and probably anyone in the world is most familiar. Well, a couple people know I do martial arts and of course, the first question is "Why don't you show us some of what you do?" This is at least the second time I've been asked to do a demonstration. I explained that BJJ is Brazilian/Japanese in origin (doesn't seem to make a difference), doesn't have forms (I don't think most people know what forms/kata really are in a martial art) and in general, just isn't pretty (blank stares). That's been enough to shut down questions, though I do think most people just think I'm being shy/difficult.
I kind of like that. I'm a pretty utilitarian girl  (INTJ and all...always asking "does it work?") and while I do have an appreciation for visual aesthetics, it kind of makes me proud that my art is so bare bones. I won't say it's ugly. I think it's beautiful...but it's definitely not pretty.
I'm also super happy that my head coach just won his most recent fight. Super sad that I couldn't go because of work. The mood in the gym the next day was this wonderful mix of happiness, pride, focus all underlined with the ever-present BJJ calmness. Yay-TT!

Monday, November 15, 2010

American politics are so...devoid of judo.

I spent a chunk of my time off yesterday watching Nick Clegg in the British house of Commons on CSPAN. It's always fun to watch parliamentary proceedings, so I figured I'd share this little clip from Japan...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger...and heavier.

That title is a recap of my rolls tonight. It was a totally bipolar night, drilling with a guy that was 100lbs, sparring with a guy that was 250, then with the Baby Brahma Bull. I don't think I've ever sparred with anyone that much heavier than me and I learned a couple lessons. Mainly, don't hesitate on submissions (getting stacked by a big guy is NOT a good thing) and fight with EVERYTHING you have not to end up on the bottom. This guy is an admitted squasher and getting off the bottom left me trembling. 

Realized my hesitation is from a lack of drilling. Four ladies in class tonight. Started drilling arm-bars with no hands. A good night.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Precious Balls!

So I was drilling half-guard passes with one of the teenagers today and I accidentally caught him with my knee...

Teen: Ah! My precious balls!!
Me: I'm so'll toughen em up though.
Teen: the hell would you know???

Gender perception's a funny thing...Just 2 minutes later we had this conversation

Teen: Don't you want to sit out the next round? I'm tired and don't want to be on the wall by myself.
Me: Naw dude...I wanna go again. But look, Stacie's sitting out.
Teen: Yeah, but she's a girl.
Me: What in the world am I??

Apparently I'm a guy with no balls. Hmm...that actually might say a lot about a lot.

I had a PHENOMENAL roll with one of my favorite blues tonight. I say phenomenal because we both got something out of it. (The thing I most hate seeing in my partner's face is boredom.) But yeah...he's one of my favorite partners for multiple reasons. He's fun. We're the same height. He's controlled. He's mad cool and crazy supportive. He knows how to gradually amp up the difficulty. He's always trying new things. He never takes it too easy on me. 

Well, he was setting up an armbar and I was able to escape as he was applying it. I didn't think much of it except that it felt clean, but he blurted out an enthusiastic and somewhat surprised, "That was good!". I could see in his face that he meant it...not just in an encouraging way, but that it was actually a good escape. (I have to start trusting my instincts more. Once I learn something and drill it a bunch, I've found that I can make some nice tweaks just feeling my way through positions. I'm starting to feel more jiu jitsu every day.) A minute later, he got a wrist-lock against the mat from the mount he said he'd just improvised. He said he was going to try it again later on. One time for mutual growth!

Working through this aggression/assertiveness stuff is showing me so much. There are so many techniques I've been having issues with where the problem was that I simply wasn't pushing hard enough. Tonight, I saw another reason it's important. I know my instructor is trying to get the younger guys to play less and an assertive partner is a sure way to shut that down and get them to focus. The sad part though is that after a "Jake. Quit playing...Megan. Choke him." I wasn't able to properly execute a choke from the mount (I NEVER get deep enough grips), so I went for a sloppy armbar instead (I still can't fake my way into one AND properly get control arm). The sloppy armbar failed after he sat up but I turned it into an omoplata. He defended and I rolled him into another armbar which I finished. Yays.

And then there's trust. While I was rolling with the aforementioned blue, I saw his face wince in pain. I thought back to a couple weeks earlier when we were talking about starting training and his telling me about his back problems and how training had helped it. I immediately wanted to ask if he were OK. But then I remembered one week earlier when, to my repeated questioning of some uncomfortable faces he was making, he responded "if I'm in trouble, I'll tap". I continued to take in the discomfort in his face as I stacked him, slowly, carefully, to defend yet another armbar. Right then I realized that my not trusting him to tap or tell me to stop is a disrespect of his ability to gauge his own safety. Generally less necessary with a higher belt, especially if I'm being a responsible, careful partner. I know I hate it when the guys back off just because my face contorts a bit. I need to apply a bit of the golden rule here.

Friday, November 5, 2010 a coward with the closed guard.

It hit me tonight. I knew I had problems with submissions but after TOTALLY punking-out on an omoplata, it sunk in that I have an actual issue. It's pretty sad. I'm pretty good at getting people into my guard, decent at breaking posture, but I just don't go for submissions from there. There's something about how it feels...I just feel loose right before the hip escape and I freeze. 

I've developed a serious appreciation for a couple of the teenagers in the class. I can end up very emotionally raw on the mats at times, and after a week that almost had me in tears and a day where my eyes were going cross from 8hrs of staring into a dark abyss of spreadsheets, I was rubbed down to the nerves. We ended up doing intense work on just the standing part of standing guard passes (my least favorite move in all of jiu jitsu). After two passes, I felt my strength give out. I just couldn't stand with a whole person around my waist anymore. I felt a flash of tears and was surprised. I felt silly, sitting there with a 14 and a 15 year old, way too close to the edge of crying. Then, from the wall I heard a calm "don't get frustrated, just don't be afraid to put your weight on him". It's humbling to be encouraged by someone to whom you could have given birth. 

I got it a couple times and fell right back into my bad habits. By that time, an instructor was standing nearby, looking down at me, smiling. "You don't like this one, do you?". I looked up and thought "You taught me this ago and I've gotten worse." I shook my head slowly and he explained what I needed to change. The solution was simple. Let go of the lapel. Don't fear using your weight. Unfortunately I've developed some massive walls (fear of losing balance and fear of knee pain...there isn't any anymore) and bad habits (feet staying turned out) with this one and need an erase and rewrite. It's going to take a lot of drilling. A whole lot of drilling.

Being more aggressive is working! For some crazy reason, I wasn't even more tired after a 7 min round of pushing harder. One thing I did notice, is that in trying to be more aggressive, I focused more on breathing properly and moving myself, as opposed to trying to move my opponent...which might be why I was less tired. One of my favorite blues, JazzHands, told me I was moving better and that every couple of months, you generally notice a difference.

Ohoh! Three new ladies tonight! I didn't get to work with them, but I hope they stick around. For some reason not many ladies show up for the all levels class on Fridays, and it was nice not to be the only chick on the mats.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All Phlebotomists Should Grapple

It's pretty sad, but after a year, I wasn't 100% sure what to call my instructor. I caught him today and told him. He laughed and said "Parrumpha".

So yeah...went to my endocrinologist today and it was a very grapple-tastic visit. I was talking with the phlebotomist and he mentioned he was a wrestler. That's all it took. The rest of the visit consisted of talk about armbars and limb length and muscle vs. fat weight. It was great. This man blood draw EVER. Five vials and I felt nothing. With the doctor though, I got to ask something I've been a bit worried about for a while. I was wondering about damage to the thyroid from repeated chokes. (mine's enlarged). She said no problems...yays. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Aggression Model

I've loved and identified with this song/video since it first came out. It gets my blood pumping. It's direct, purposeful, beautiful, blatantly aggressive and strategically rounded out with softness. This is what I'd like my game to look like one day. With the guitar riffs in the background. And I want the shoes. Not on the mats though.


Can't squat with your heels flat? There's help.

My mind's all over the different inputs goings-on and byproducts of BJJ today...

My body: My squat work is helping! I started the Grappler's Toolbox a month ago and ran into a big roadblock. I can't squat with my heels flat on the floor. It happens generally to those of us that have proportionately long femurs (a lot of tall folk), inflexible ankles, tight calves or tight hips. I'm a combination of all those. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but think about trying to maintain your balance through a standing guard pass while on your's murder on your knees and you're just waiting to get swept. So I emailed Scott Sonnon (guy in the video), who sent me this link. Well, last night we did my least favorite standing/smashing guard pass...and it went well! I was doing it with a guy that was just under 200 lbs and I stood up with minimal issues! At the time, it didn't even hit me that I could do it because I could keep my heels flat AND at my opponents hips (as opposed to his waist) now.

My gender: I've gone through waves of awareness of being female and training BJJ. I'm back to paying quite a bit of attention. I've been checking out aggressiveness since I'm working on managing mine better and I've got a theory that, in general, in regard to aggression and the maturation of a female grappler vs. the maturation of a male grappler, we run in opposite directions. Women, learning not to fear it, men, learning how to prevent it from being a liability.

My comfort zone: That is, stepping out of it...yet again. I learned an open guard pass that I really like, and finally fully pulled off (though the blue belt did let me slide some) while rolling. Well, though I know quite a few passes that involve applying pressure with the upper body, I noticed I'm only willing to do it really during drills. It's taking me so...long to work through this, that I'm almost annoying myself...but I'll be patient with Megan, she's done a lot in this past year. The other issue is speed. I know it's not a strength of mine, so I never even take it into account. I'm starting to see that there are certain techniques in which speed is a necessity. 

My life: and how it's changed. It's so contrasted now. I work in an office of all women. Have for a few years now. Not being very "girly" or having any sisters, I've learned a LOT about female interactions at work. Well, now, after leaving my office of emergency chocolate supplies and coordinated menstrual cycles, three times a week, I walk into a haven of manliness. I'm learning a lot about men. It's a fascinating balance.