Friday, December 30, 2011

Pole dancing is the opposite of jiu jitsu.

Besides some insight into breaking grips, that was my big realization of the night. I left the gym...somehow covered in glitter. A friend joked that I'd been to a pole dancing class that's all the rage now and it hit me that pole dancing is the opposite of jiu jitsu for the following reasons:

  • In pole dancing, clothing is jiu jitsu, you're likely wearing a huge, unflattering, rough slab of thick woven cotton covering you from your neck to your ankles. 
  • In jiu jitsu you're wearing no shoes. Pole dancing...
  • Pole dancing, it's rare to find a man in the jiu jitsu, lots of guys. 
  • Pole dancing, no contact, no touching...jiu jitsu, lots of contact, lots of touching. So much touching.
  • Jiu jitsu, 90% of the time, you're on the ground...pole dancing, you're spending a lot of time in the air. 
  • Feel free to add your own!
**Disclaimer: Apologies to pole dancing aficionados if I got any of that wrong. I've never taken a class (I don't see how you guys get over the fear of falling) so I speak purely from the tales of friends. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Branding in BJJ: Best Commercial

OK...there aren't a lot out there, but I was in the mood to watch some snippets of jiu jitsu set to uber-dramatic music, and I ended up here.

I've watched this a ton of times, but just realized that it essence...a commercial...and the best kind of commercial. The kind that gives something to its viewer while simultaneously making them aware of a product/brand/service.

I admire the branding over at BJJ Weekly in general because I have a bias toward simple, straight forward...anything really. Clean colors, subtle international appeal, well structured emails. It looks like they may be moving to a more high energy image (with an energetic blue and orange replacing the red and black), which would be a shame...but brands do need to be refreshed from time to time. I've just always appreciated the way their polished, sharp and subtly aggressive image contrasted with most of what you see across the board. 

The Year of the Triangle

I've dubbed 2012 the year of the triangle. I've heard multiple times from KickboxerInstructor that I should be fantabulous (my word, not his) with this submission and I plan to make that real in 2012. I don't want to call it a "resolution", so I'm just going to say that, having been promoted to blue belt, I'm more comfortable sitting back and planning what I want to learn and improve. I basically want to be able to threaten a triangle from anywhere.

SO...first step. Information. I bought Ryan Hall's "The Triangle" because it's the first thing that comes out of anybody's mouth when you say you want better triangles, but honestly mostly because he takes a conceptual approach to the position, teaching it as both a submission and a type of guard simultaneously. I'm particularly enamored with disc 2: Angles, Mechanics and Entries. Why? Because I only catch elementary and accidental triangles. I can't impose one on anybody save very new white belts from mount.

I'm quite happy to say that first time on the mats and I'm seeing results. Mostly in rethinking head control and  the base requirements for finishing, but the really big "a-ha" came for my mounted triangles. I've been setting them up from mount and finishing from guard after rolling over (lots of chances to lose them there) but I learned in one lesson, how to finish from mount and it really works. Before, I couldn't even pull it off when just working technique.

The other thing I've pulled from it is his hip shooting drill. Dude is CRAZY fast with his hips...something I'm definitely not...something you definitely need to be when using triangles. He's so fast his legs like bird wings flapping. I tried it once (it involves holding a regular hip shoot and switching back and forth between left and right locks) and came crashing down to the floor. My hips are HEAVY...and not just from the 10lbs I've picked up over the last two months. Anatomically, women just have more weight distributed down there and my hips are quite Black, so it's going to take a bit to be able to move them.

I'll definitely be spending some quality time with this one. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Behind the Branding: Roy Dean

Really glad to be getting back to this series after some time off for testing, grieving, holidaying and general lifeness.

If there were an award for clean branding in jiu jitsu, this guy would take it hands down. I've written about my take on his brand before, but he was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about how it grew to be what it is. The key to it all though, is what he lists as his objectives. He started out, from the beginning, with a desire to put jiu jitsu in the "best light possible". That right there is what sets people who make positive change apart.

Photography by Rick Ellis epic as always. 

1) You've mentioned that you've had professional input on your brand image. What made you decide it was something you wanted to pay purposeful attention to?

I had a few objectives when starting RDA.  I wanted to do something different, something very clean, to put BJJ in the best light possible.  I wanted to show that this art, which was so dynamic and effective, was also very sophisticated.  BJJ could be more than just a martial art.  It could be a budo, a way, a lifestyle path.  

Brands are symbols, and can be very powerful.  Therefore, every detail was critical.  Fonts, colors, logos, and slogans.  Everything matters.  Detail in the branding implies detail in the technique.  It implies mindfulness.  There's a beauty in the art that I could always see that I wanted to share with others.  All of this can be communicated in a glance.

2) Your music and videos are works of art unto themselves...especially those that are more for demonstration purposes than purely instructional. How did they come about?
I have a background in music and video, and looked to leverage those strengths in showcasing the art.  At the time, there were very few videos that focused on the movement and rhythm of BJJ.  Generally, BJJ through video was limited to instructionals and competition footage.  

I realized that sometimes words can get in the way, especially during repeated viewings, and not every moment in a competition holds your attention.  I was looking to show the best movements and techniques, and put it in a format that people would want to watch over and over again.  

Spirals of Jiu Jitsu is a good example.  There was no intention of creating anything heavy or even meaningful when we started this project.  My students Rick, TJ, and myself were just playing around with a high speed camera, and thought it would be interesting to film several techniques.  These included a flying armlock, flying triangle, spinning armlock from mount, kotegaeshi (wrist lock) off a straight punch, shihonage (four corner throw), an Aikido style shoulder throw and hane-goshi (springing loin hip toss).  

I had recently put together a track called "Can't Talk Now" and when I combined the song and video clips, it was working.  I then exercised some creative editing, added a Musashi quote, and we had a short video that displayed the beauty of jiu jitsu techniques, and taught some small lessons on direction and timing.  We had fun.  There was no expectation that anyone would like it.  It was art for art's sake.  And maybe that's why people liked it.

3) You've got crazy thorough branding...from the look of your school, gis, website, DVDs, you even mentioned that you explain the meaning of your logo in your student handbook...what ties them all together?
What ties it all together is a belief that jiu jitsu can change the world for the better.  It's my path, and the more clearly I can communicate that message, the more effective I'll be in connecting with people.  

4) Is your image something you think people notice straight out, or does it work more on a subconscious level? 

It's easy for people to recognize things that are very good or very bad.  It's intuitive.  You know it.  It's that first impression that Gladwell talks about in 'Blink'.  But defining all the elements of what makes good or bad is more difficult.  Crystallizing that into words is takes time and experience.  

My goal is to have a person, who has perhaps never heard of jiu jitsu, watch one of my videos and like it.  They don't need to know why.  The positive impression of the art is the most important thing.  Of course there are multiple elements that go into making this happen. Grooving music and artful cinematography are key.  Clean technique and the distinct lack of force registers with the viewer.  Smiles and laughter are also positive.  For me, it's not about being loud or aggressive.  It's about being quiet, moving less, and being more efficient.  It's about communication and growth more than competition.   The result is a video that has nothing to do with violence, and everything to do with empowering people.

The videos also allow my students to display heart and dedication in their rank demonstrations.  It's about telling a story that others can be inspired and entertained by.  All of this registers on a subconscious level, and the viewer consciously likes the video.  By liking the video, they get a good impression of the art.  This is my aim.

5) Your logo is very distinct and quickly recognizable. Is there any special meaning behind it?

(As described in the student handbook) The logo was modeled after traditional Japanese family crests, or kamon. The three circles in the center of the symbol represent the trinity of our consciousness: body, mind, spirit. The triangle is commonly used in Jiu-Jitsu, but here it is implied, rather than drawn. The outer white ring represents the external applications and benefits of the art, while the smaller ring parallels the inner realm. The heavy use of circles represents the circularity of movement. The balance between positive and negative space reminds us to remain open. 

Thanks Roy for all your time and insight!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shame and vulnerability...

Not sure why, but this made me think of my jiu jitsu experience...probably because the last 2 years have been home to some of the most vulnerable and beneficial moments of my life.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blue belt is such a relief.

Call it maturity, focus, laziness or whatever you will, I've gotten to a point where I prefer to concentrate on one area of improvement at a time. This whole journey from white to blue, I've totally fallen off morning workouts. Yep...for 2 years. Partially because at first, my body couldn't handle any additional work. The second year though? I just didn't want to be disciplined enough to go to bed on time so I could get up early enough to knock out 20 min or so of exercise.

Monday, December 5, 2011

...and there's the valley.

So tonight was the first night post blue belt. I felt very minor twinges of belt induced feelings of inferiority...nothing worth writing about though. What got me tonight, was that none of the higher belts asked me to roll. Could mean nothing. Could be that big blue that joked twice about guys not wanting to roll with me because I'm "so big and strong"--was right. My first thought though, was that it's because I'm really boring to roll with. I'm back to mistrusting people's compliments, so even when WrestlerInstructor, KickboxingInstructor and PrettyvoiceInstructor all gave me genuine comments of "Good job!", I doubted every single one.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

So I got my blue belt today...

I am way more excited than I expected. We had the belt ceremony this afternoon and I sat back and realized how few people get to accomplish things they genuinely never thought they could do.

The night before, at KickboxerInstructor and WrestlerInstructor's tests (brown and black respectively), I was talking with one of the blues that had just gone to purple about preserving your belts. I like to keep the ones that are presented to me and buy new ones for training. Eventually I'd like to frame them all in one display case. We talked about the idea and he insisted I needed to exclude the white since it isn't earned or presented. I explained that that belt was incredibly difficult for me and that walking in that door the second time ready to run was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done. Possibly even more difficult than earning blue.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm officially giving up on the bump up into deep half...

...which sucks because I'm just getting decent at it. I rolled with one of my favorite blues yesterday, all full of confidence in my ability to bump up heavy people. All  that happened was a lot of me grunting...and he's only 195 or so...which means I can't even handle my own body weight. Sads.

It was a reminder that I need to start work on my review of the Bigger, Stronger DVD series by Stephan Kesting and Emily Kwok. I've been trying to digest it slowly because for me, as a bigger player, it really does turn everything I've known upside down. I feel like I need to start from scratch on even the most basic techniques. I use SO much power and strength in what I do.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Burpees with Bad Knees...any advice?

I'd like to get going on these for some cardio, but coming up out of that squat kills my knees. Any alternative ideas?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

See ya later, Granny.

To the grandmother who after 96 years on this earth, many of the early ones painfully hard, still had hope, an enjoyment of life, bones harder than a middle aged man and a memory better than mine...
To the woman who knew, that if Chuck Norris got into a knife fight, the knife would lose and wore the shirt proudly...
To the woman who lived through the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, Korea, The Persian Gulf war, came out with fond memories and knew we could get through our issues now too...
To the woman who slept with a machete by her bed...
To the woman who gave me the genes to cook like I mean it...
To the grandmother who saw nothing wrong with a brownie and a Budweiser for breakfast...
To the amazing lady who showed me the meaning of real faith and prayer...
To the woman whose first response to my training BJJ was "that's my girl"...

Good bye, I love you, miss you and on this amazingly beautiful day, thank you, now and forever, for being a part of my life. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bad Escapes from Technical Mount

Since I just got to a point where I feel comfortable for my blue belt test (thanks to the help of my partner, Ladybug, and KickboxerInstructor), I can finally start working on applied techniques of my choosing again. Check out this video from the Part Time Grappler

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Getting serious about injury prevention

I've been into Scott Sonnon's stuff since I first started BJJ and somehow, I've just discovered his blog. His most recent reflections on what kind of student he's been is a beautiful look back on a person's attitude during the training process.

And on that note, I've added the IntuFlow routine (first two levels available free on YouTube) to my morning routine. I already do FlowFit and occasional stuff from the Grappler's Toolbox. I think I latched onto it because he was the only person online I've seen to really address the movement and risks of grappling on such a holistic level--and being a total noob to the world, I need(ed) some major hand holding just to get through the door.

Jiu jitsu's getting scary again...

Today's been snuggle-tastic. I worked on the blue belt exam some and afterward, sat through watching KickboxerInstructor prep for his brown. I was surprised at how much I understood, but there were a few moments in there...a few sweeps from spider, a few attacks from half that made me feel like I did earlier this year, watching another student take his exam from brown. "No WAY you could learn that."

And that thought is progress. Before, I'd think, "No WAY you could do that." Now I worry about understanding and competent execution. I no longer think my body is incapable of things. A bit earlier in the afternoon, I noticed something else. I needed a sweep from spider and realized I had multiple to choose from off the top of my head, one of which I knew how to modify simply because I understood the mechanics. Quality. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Behind the Branding: Saulo Ribeiro

Continuing with the Branding Series:

Not gonna lie, personal branding in the business world has come to annoy me. The concept was great when it started out a few years back, but what could have been a much needed turn toward individualism and self expression in business, quickly turned into an orgy of tweets, personal webpages (can't say I didn't participate)  and shrines-to-self littered around the internet. 

That's what's special about branding in BJJ. The  sport is so raw, that brands tend to be direct and honest outgrowths of the people behind them, as opposed to something designed by an army of market researchers.

Saulo Ribeiro and his University of Jiu Jitsu is a perfect example. He imparts an academic theme and a humble, purist take on the art that's clearly reflected in everything from product design, school website and book composition (notice the sparse use of his name, and use of the view of his back used on the website and book)...and he was nice enough to tell me a little bit about how it all came about. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

I...don't think I've ever been quite so personally offended...

And when I say personally, I mean something specific to my individual person. Something more particular than race, gender, age, profession...the normal things we tend to get offended over. It was two little words. Two tiny little, non-offensive words cut straight to my core:

"Calm down."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The guy who I have no hope of beating

OK yeah...I'm not even a blue belt and there are a lot of them...people that are more technical, faster, more strategic, heavier, stronger, you name it. This guy though, he's heavier, stronger and more technical than I am, all at the same time. There's NOTHING I've learned to use that works against him. Techniques where I use weight are completely useless. Same deal with strength. If I know a technique, he knows a better one and knows the counter to it. I have a LITTLE bit of flexibility on him, but all it does is slow him down a pinch.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's official: I'm half guard stupid

We went over four variations on deep half escapes today. First one, I got a "beautiful!". Second? "Nice." Third...I don't remember, but it went well. Something happened on the fourth variation though. My brain crashed and exploded in a rush of frustration and confusion.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Branding in BJJ: Does Sex Sell?

Yes it does...but there's a catch.

This goes beautifully with the Branding Series. Meg over at Megjitsu just broke the seal on something that I think is going to cause some very interesting ripples in the world of the company's online image.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back on FlowFit!!

My toes have officially let me get back to FlowFit. The first time was Tuesday...third round and I was already starting to fade. I just finished again, and I got through the 15 minutes (with a 1 minute break for some guard situps and hip shooting) and was pretty hyped the whole way. Oddly, my breathing has gotten better. You're supposed to inhale naturally through the nose and exhale with force, and that comes without much thought or effort now. It's also been a big help in maintaining my newly developed lung capacity.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

BJJ's Best Branding: John Danaher

Getting on with the Branding Series, here's a guy that defies everything you'd expect to see.

Branding isn't always intentional. Sometimes people just do their thing and *bam*...a personal brand is born.

This black belt under Renzo Gracie is something of the King Arthur of the jiu jitsu community. The base of the legend of Danaher is the fact that he doesn't compete. It comes complete with fuzzy anecdotes, rumors of genetically deformed joints (he actually does have a misshapen patella and ended up with arthrofibrosis after a surgery gone wrong) and a healthy presence of online debates.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

BJJ’s Best Branding: Grapplearts-Stephan Kesting

Now...for the inspiration of the Branding Series:

One promotion, one little promotion from Grapplearts totally woke me up to branding in BJJ.

This promotion has an interesting back-story, with 400 DVDs originally being given away, then after a decision by Stephan , another 400 being sent out, with the chance for three people to win a complete library of his material. Because of my lax email checking, I missed the first 400, but I was ready for the second. I set a phone alarm, told a friend to help me out (in case of any computer issues) and set up an Outlook reminder for the 12PM EST kickoff. Well, at 11:55, I decided to test the link. A video started. It was of Stephan driving, transporting and unpacking the DVDs. Almost instantly I felt a kind of excitement that I hadn’t felt since I first started watching Lost (you know…before it got annoying).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Microbiologist's Take on BJJ

**For the sake of the health of all in the BJJ community, I encourage sharing of this information--so if you'd like to repost or distribute this article, include credit and link back to or A lot of time and work went into researching this post and proper credit should be given.**

So I've really been wondering about all this...information we've got floating around regarding treatment, prevention, cleanliness, the whole shebang. Thankfully, a girl I know from WAY back grew up to be a really cool microbiologist (she managed to work a reference to LeBron James into a conversation about bacteria) and she was nice enough to, after a weekend at Dragoncon, take the time to answer some questions I'd collected.

You can check her credentials below (she did her dissertation on MRSA), and if you have any questions about the critters you may be carrying to and from the gym, you can also email her at ms.oxide at gmail dot com, just tell her you read her interview with Megan. (Seriously, shoot her an email, she'd love the questions.)

If you have a few minutes, take the time to read the whole thing. She addresses the general "lifestyles" of bateria and fungi, the use of triclosan, MRSA, and general habits that we have around keeping clean in the gym, not to mention a bunch of other things (like not washing belts), that we could all benefit from. So, a huge thanks to Brea goes!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Interview over at JiuJitsuSweep

Thanks to Manny over at JiuJitsuSweep for the interview! It's cool to hear so much of my training experience summarized in one conversation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

BJJ's Best Branding: Roy Dean

Continuing with the Branding Series:

In these days of easy publishing, branding is especially important to anyone producing BJJ related media or learning material. An academy has location, a facility and learning environment to draw in or put off students, but if you're producing an e-pub, managing a Twitter feed, that logo, your color scheme, those photos...they take on a whole different meaning.

To summarize Roy Dean's brand, it's a juxtaposition of the traditionally stoic martial arts and modern, accessible individualism. As far as recognizability goes, this brand comes out on top. Check out that video. Listen to the music. What do you think and feel? It's clean. It's modern, maybe even futuristic, but tempered with flavors of Japanese culture and imagery. Go to the website. Tell me you don't see the same thing. Now go check out one of his DVDs. Pay attention to the production. Go to YouTube and look at some demonstration. You'll see similar color schemes reflected in the studio itself.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

BJJ's Best Branding

Earlier this week, I had what I can only describe as an amazing purchasing experience fueled by some brilliant brand execution...and I'm not one that buys into branding easily. At the most, I've sipped the Apple Kool-aid via iPhone ownership. As we all know, the recently retired Steve Jobs has built one of the most loyal brand followings in the history of mankind (all you Mac folk out there know I'm telling the truth), and it's because he sold more than a product, he sold an image, an idea, a concept...he filled a spot in peoples' lives and identities.

Accepting that BJJ has come, and will come, to me.

So I've completely broken out of my Monday-Wednesday-Friday, I-train-three-days-a-week pattern.

As structured and disciplined as I can be, it bores me after a period and I need to shake things up to keep myself from feeling stagnant. Perhaps expectantly, this has helped me genuinely internalize the fact that I will internalize this art and, while periods of increased effort do provide benefit, if they are done so out of pursuit of one intangible or out of fleeing another, well, they've become to strike me as futile. It may be the stage in life at which I walked through the doors...I started after checking the "supposed to" boxes in my life and began when I decided I had room to get back to the things that are unique to, and define me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bullying and the omoplata, revisited

I was sitting at work today and got an IM from my mom.

"I saw your wallowing people on the front page of Yahoo!...this thing is going to EXPLODE."

She then sent me a link to this article about a Colorado mother who flew her son to California to enroll in the Gracie Bullyproof program and for private lessons with Rener Gracie after some pretty severe bullying episodes at his school. It's a very nice read.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to use deal-a-day sites

I just got a gorgeous Tatami Zero-G midas from BJJ HQ and I love it...seriously. The weave on the pants is better than some of the high end slacks I have. It's made of a magic, hybrid weave that I have yet to test out...that post will be coming in the near future once I get a chance to break it in.

But yes...I don't know if it's because they're mostly guys and aren't necessarily savvy when it comes to online shopping or what, but after reading comments by some users on the site, I decided the BJJ world needs some education on using sites like Woot, Gilt and of course, BJJ HQ, the grappling-focused cousin of MMA HQ.

If you don't know what these sites are, they're amazing. The basic idea is that they have items on sale for a set amount of time and after that time ends, or quantities run out, no more item for you. I'm a person that hates shopping, but likes shiny stuff, but also refuses to pay retail, so my phone is full of apps and alerts and reminders to let me know when something good might be up for grabs. To get the good stuff, you've got to be on alert and know the rules, so here are a few pointers if you're new.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moby and BJJ

I this...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joint Manipulation-New Limitations

So I went to the morning class today...and as it always seems to go, whenever I take a day off to go to a different class, I end up in a class covering something I LOATHE. Today...standing guard passes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Food: Roasted Yellow Squash

So...making steps to get back on track with the eatings. I'm back on the eat-more-vegetables bandwagon.

I don't really like vegetables, and I'm a cheese freak--I used to spend upwards of $40 a month trying cheeses from all over the planet, but I've cut back some since I've started training, trading in my high-moisture (usually means higher fat) cheeses for harder ones--so a cheese is almost a must when I do a vegetable preparation. This time I did yellow squash with parmesan, thyme and olive oil. Simple, fast, great flavor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

THE best weight loss solution

Surprise! Yes. It's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I'm skipping the sheer loss of poundage this time and talking instead about the mental aspect. Over the last four months of skin infections and busted joints I've been inactive and have absolutely ruined my eating habits. I was in a boot for two weeks, off rolling for a month, quarantined for a week and spent 10 days stuffing my face twice a day, trying not to vomit up antibiotics...and it's not like I was loading up on broccoli and turkey breasts.

So yes, I've emerged from my hole of viruses, broken bones and bacteria noticeably fluffier. Pre-BJJ Megan would have been in a complete funk. But this morning, I looked at my fleshier middle and fuller thighs, marveling at how they now camouflage the grapply muscle I've picked up over the last two years. I chuckled and felt neither guilt nor shame. No disappointment or twinges of failure revisited. Nope. All I thought was "Look at how puffy you've gotten! You'll roll it off." The calmness was almost shocking, and I can't possibly understate the value of peace when it comes to weight management.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Defense soap and my week and a half with a MRSA diagnosis.

So yeah...about 2 weeks ago, after having a little sore spot under my nose rapidly turn into a painful, swollen face and 100 degree fever (while taking Advil), I was informed I had a MRSA infection in my face (which, since martial arts practitioners are in one of the high risk groups for community acquired MRSA infections--I was told that was probably the source), sent to the ER for IV antibiotics and put on quarantine from kids and old people. Interestingly, I found out that MRSA is treated empirically, with no tests, but, thankfully, my dermatologist did a nasal culture and it turned out to be klebsiella, the bacteria responsible for pneumonia and many lower respiratory infections. Thankfully it responded to the treatment for MRSA.*

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Props to teachers

I find it disheartening that in the U.S., the concept of teachers and students is relegated almost completely to the formal schools and universities.

One of my favorite lectures during my business studies was given by a small, bearded man named Michael Kami.. He told us of his life as an immigrant and path through the business world. Students marveled as his $10K/hr consulting fee. What struck me though, was his background. Was his degree in organizational management? An MBA from Wharton? Maybe the Saïd  Business school at Oxford? Nope. His degrees were in education (from state schools no-less). He said his job as a consultant was the same as teaching. You go in, you find out what's needed, and you show people the best way to change themselves to achieve desired results. I don't think I'll ever forget that lecture.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kano Jigoro's last living student receives the highest rank in judo at 98

A compassionate soul is inner beauty. I believe this is true beauty. ~Fukuda Keiko

I love this lady. Sensei Fukuda Keiko, at 98, recently became the first woman to reach 10th dan in judo. Only three people in the world have attained the rank. The video below is a great documentary on her life and training.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jiujitsu and the Boardroom

I would honestly recommend that any woman who works in a male-dominated environment take BJJ.

Before I start, I think what I'm about to talk about is a direct outgrowth of the "sizing up" that I started doing a few months after I started training. In line behind guys in the grocery store..."I could lock a triangle on him in 30 seconds." "Tapout way he trains with that body." "No way I could take that dude. He'd murder me." Once you start thinking you can physically handle yourself against certain men, it leaks into other areas.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I never know what to do with my mouthguard.

After reading a post on rolling after oral surgery, this really has me thinking.

Since day 1, I've been fascinated by how people treat their mouthguards. I don't think there's any other element of potential contamination on the mat that is so directly and consistently internal. I'm a bit...let's call it hyper-aware...of what goes on with the mouth--I've cracked my share of teeth and have had my share of issues in the oral area.

When I'm sitting out and want to have an actual conversation, I never know where to put my mouthguard. I don't even want my hands on it. All I can think of is some nasty bit of fungus taking up residence in my mouth (thankfully you can't get ringworm in there). Do you put it on the mats? On the floor? On your shoes? There aren't a lot of options. There's one of my favorite blues that I've seen put it inside his shirt under his gi, to which my first thought was "eewwww" but honestly, it's probably the cleanest spot available if you need to take a break. I'd rather have my sweat in my mouth than everybody else's everything.

And that doesn't even touch on how you clean it after use...if it's being cleaned. I rinse mine and bathe it in Listerine after each's likely only harboring my germs (it's probably the only piece of BJJ equipment that can make that claim) but I still don't want them back in me after they've had time to marinate.

I haven't seen this discussed much, so I'd like to hear what everybody does with theirs.  

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can you donate $10 for Orphans?

A friend of mine is riding all the way around one of our local lakes (Lake Okeechobee) to raise money for International Orphan Support. Any donation you can make is appreciated...but all we're asking is $10. So check it out, donate, pass it on!

Here's the Crowdrise site:


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating tips don't work for foodies.

Know what that is? It's a picture I took on vacation. I photograph a lot of food...memorable meals, recipes gone right and wrong. I plan trips around restaurant offerings. Right now, I'm thinking of hitting up Vancouver for days of seafood and evenings of training. Food is a big deal to me. I am genuinely, at my core, what you call a foodie (gourmand if you want to sound fancier.) Starting BJJ has me thinking more deeply about eating right. Now, healthful eating is real. Almost a necessity. And I feel conflicted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Somebody pinch me, I think I'm enjoying group activities.

And not just on an individual level. As an introvert, I'm almost hesitant to admit this, but between BJJ and church, I'm beginning to genuinely appreciate community*. One big qualifier though...there has to be a point. That point has to be easily identifiable and that "point" has to be shared. Any members that don't get the point, need to be corrected or gotten rid of ASAP.

Great organizational book. Great.

I've been a member of a lot of communities in my, race, church, dance, college, Chinese learners, and probably a few I didn't even realize. The ones that were true communities, truly supportive, truly focused and truly mindful of people are and have been amazing.

I can honestly say that after having experienced organizations that can work and function productively, I have more of a belief in what they can accomplish than ever. I've developed a genuine enjoyment of the existence of positive organizations.

*Not to say that we introverts don't need or can't thrive in communities, we just form  and join them differently (read: smaller/slower)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thought patterns tripping me up

So that basic butterfly sweep I was having issues with. I was just cleaning out my email and found a GrappleArts Newsletter devoted to that very topic. Yays:) Turns out I was getting stalled (and frustrated) during the hip switch because it just felt insanely difficult. I drilled it a few times in class and decided I wasn't strong enough and needed to go home and work on some shoulder bridging to get stronger.

It just hit me though, that considering how long I've been doing this, my build and the principles behind the art, "not strong enough" is seldom going to be the issue. (The actual issue was, as it turns out, that I was trying to brace all my weight on my head/shoulder and not putting any on my inside leg).

There are still all these weird little bits of insecurities I have left over from when I first started. These are the big ones I've noticed (and why I logically know they're not true).

  • I'm not strong enough-I've always been strong enough for pretty much anything. I used to have big issues handling my bodyweight, but FlowFit has helped with that a lot. 
  • I'm not coordinated enough-straight up not true. I've always had above-average coordination. If I'm doign something wrong, it's because I don't understand the theory behind the move.
  • I'm not smart enough-again...just not true. I used to theorize that the kind of "smart" I am wasn't the kind of "smart" I needed to be for BJJ and that I was just doomed to suffer or quit. I'm not exactly a kinetic genius, but I've got enough body awareness to learn and execute what I need to. 
  • I'm not flexible enough-Even with my tight groin and hamstrings, I'm still more flexible than most guys that train. 
What I've noticed is usually going on is that...
  • I don't understand the theory-big deal for me. Huge deal for me. 
  • I'm not being aggressive enough-I underestimate how much momentum plays a part is certain technical elements. 
  • I'm trying not to hurt a smaller partner. I'm much less concerned and more open to learning with a larger partner. 
I can't really hold them against myself. I'm working against a couple of decades of ignorance of physical activity. What I can do though, is be aware of them when they crop up and learn how to work past them. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First night back...charlie horse.

Sad spider is sad again, sadly.

Last night was one of the hardest I've had in a while. Point blank I left feeling incompetent, questioning whether or not I can do this with any reasonable expectation of success. That was almost certainly fueled by my expectation that my time off would have amounted to some amazing cementing process, allowing my body and mind to become one, awesome jiu jitsu machine.

Yeah...that totally didn't happen. What DID happen, was that I got stomped by a white belt. I know, I know...the three months I spent trying to not get worse, he was spending getting better. I know he weighs 220+. I know he's a he. I know my full guard is all messy because I'm just coming off an injury. Funny how little emotions listen to reason.

So we started from the knees and I took KickboxerInstructor's advice of someone taking the top and someone taking the bottom (as to not waste time with unrealistic grip fighting). I went for the bottom since this guy was stripping my grips like crazy and pretty aggressively. He pinned a thigh to the ground, passed my guard and ended up in half. I'm honestly floored by how bad I am about making decisions on how to get out of side control/bottom half. Well, he started passing with some nasty shoulder pressure and I tapped to that alone. I don't think I've ever done that with ANYONE, but I felt pressure on my neck/jaw that felt like, had he decided to apply a bit more, would have cracked my face open or injured my neck.

We reset.

I was feeling a lot of strength and quick, hard movements from him, so I fell to guard again. He started to pass and normally, I take the few extra moments my long legs give me to set up grips for foot tweakiness has almost completely eliminated that time, so as soon as he started to pass, he was able to get a knee up and smash my left thigh down again. Pass again. Lapel grip. Mount. Choke. Futile defense. Tap.

We reset.

I decided it was time for me to try to start from the top. After grip fighting he fell back with me in his full guard. I started passing and he set up a sweep which failed. I fell to the side and got him in my guard. CHARLIE HORSE. I winced as he smashed my left leg once again. Some other stuff happened and choke. This time though, it wasn't set up properly and I decided not to tap. Then he started doing something that completely caught me off guard. He started pulling my upper body up off the mat and pushing it back down while holding the choke. Did it about 3 times. I can't say it did anything to make the choke tighter or correct, but I tapped just to avoid being someone's choking experiment.

Next roll was with BlondeBlueBelt who I absolutely adore. After a musclee roll like the previous one though, I read his usual helpfulness as patronization, which I think was totally in my head. He defended my beloved triangle from mount properly, which no one has ever done before, so I learned of a new hole. He then submitted me in two triangles because of arm placement mistakes I was making when passing open guard, which he later pointed out and explained.

I felt light-headed and dizzy, so after we lined up, I spent a few more seconds with Blue, going over what got me caught in those triangles. I left immediately...the earliest I've ever left on a Friday. Said goodnight to no one. No waves through the glass while walking to my car. I noticed that the sun was still up, which I knew meant I was leaving crazy early.

This though, is what I love about blogging. Up until I sat down to write, I'd totally forgotten about drilling with NewBlondeWhitebelt and his gas issues and me telling him about my...incident in a very quiet gym when I first started. I'd forgotten about BlondeBlueBelt mistaking my commentary on his beard for me offering him a beer (gotta love mouthguard-ese). Writing it out also got me thinking that I may need to talk to dude about wrenching chokes. On top of that, I'd forgotten that I need to work on staying tight in butterfly sweeps and the spider guard sweep I'd learned from a purple just before the boot. I covered a lot of specific things that will be good for me, but I forgot them all last night because of a very uncomfortable round.

So I guess things will even out as I, out of necessity, learn to branch out beyond full guard and deal with stronger, heavier, musclier opponents.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do you shower too hard?

I was going to ask if you shower too much, but considering I shower both too frequently and too aggressively, I decided to change the title.

Two weeks of not training is enough time to feel like your life has reset to pre-training status. Long story short, I feel fat and clean. Amazing, since I've only been showering twice a day recently. So no gym contact along with a case of some very uncool mat-nasty has me reexamining my showering practices.

A Dornbracht shower. Ain't it purdy?

So I'm going to roll with The Part Time Grappler's theme of skin care. I ran across this article on showering frequency and, not surprisingly, those of us on the North American continent spend WAY too much time getting clean. What DID surprise me though, is the recommendation that medical personnel not shower immediately before a procedure since washing with non-antibacterial soap just disturbs colonies of skin-critters as opposed to getting rid of them. It also recommended against the "Japanese" exfoliating rag I've been using for...years now. I love the thing. I even got my brother one because where he lives in Japan (strangely, where nobody had heard of said rag), towels and washcloths go funky overnight and this thing holds almost no water. Apparently, I'm doing my skin more harm than good by shredding off the upper layer twice a day. Dah well. Back to the washing board.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Of Recipes and Recovery

Onward and upward in the quest to eat more vegetables. Today, I'm filling out my work lunch rotation with an improv dish...fresh tuna and mushroom casserole spiked with sweet peas and spinach.

It's pretty simple and you cut back on the salt by making the "soup" from scratch and using fresh tuna (gives it less of a fishy taste) instead of canned. I shaved a lot of the time off by not pre-boiling the noodles (works with lasagna too). You just water down the sauce some after you pour it into the casserole dish.

In other news...I'm clear to train again! I went to Dr. Fox today to get cleared to wean myself off the boot and start training again. I made my way back and he introduced me to a visiting doctor. He then explained that I hurt my toe training "for UFC". Doctor #2 laughed it off as a joke.

"Ha...I'm serious...I don't joke about that stuff."
"Oh wow..."

It was my third appointment since I started seeing him and I figured this visit would be similar to the others. Testing the bones to see if there was pain. Some nice banter about training. Oh-ho was I wrong. Little did Megan know that today it was time to clear out some of the scar tissue and adjust the clicking in my toes. He explained to me in his usual, calming tone (he has total yoga-voice) that he was going to manipulate my toes in order to remedy some of the clicking issue. Cool. He demonstrated how he was going to grip my toes and bend them away from the rest of my foot. Cool. He then stood up and I thought to myself  "hmm...I wonder why he's standing up. He probably did that for better leverage. Wait. Why does he need better lever...AHHHHH!!!!" I didn't actually scream...well, I did, but I swallowed it. After that though, my toes move more smoothly and the articulation is better than in the non-injured foot. Woo!

And now...dancing cats.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Toe shoes, Sombo or tape?

Me and Bootsie at work. I've been wearing crackle nail polish to coordinate and make a statement about the state of my toe bones

***Update...I got the toe shoes and you can read about them here***

So I SHOULD be getting the all clear tomorrow to be rid of the boot () and go back to training. I'm getting a little (and by that I mean a lot) tired of taping my'm considering footwear.
I've heard good things about wrestling/sombo shoes, but then just had someone suggest those toe shoes that people have such a love/hate relationship with.

I'm really curious to see how my training has changed after some time off. Sure, I've been itchy, but I've always found breaks in the learning process to be a great way to take a step back, let your mind cement what it already has and to clarify direction. We'll see.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Healthy Foods I actually like

So I've been checking out some of the nutritional guidance at Precision Nutrition. I'm on part 4 for the free tutorials for women and fat loss and I'm proud to say that I seem to have discovered most of their tips on my own...I uh...just haven't been following them.

Five hours a week of exercise? Check. Better fats and more protein? Check. Not starving yourself? Done. They even suggested my exact protein shake recipe. My big problem has just been that I've been slipping on portion size and have stopped replacing carbs with vegetables. So...I need a little reminder on healthy foods I really like...

You win this round.

Broccoli...eating a broccoli omelet right now. I love the taste of it when it's overcooked
Spinach...even in its non-creamed state, it's good stuff
Asparagus...LOVE it baked (over baked) with lemon and olive oil
Nuts...pecans, cashews and pistachios only need apply
Herbs of all kinds...extra flavor with greenery points!
Fennel...cooked only. Cooked. Only.
Anything out of the sea...seriously...anything.

So yeah...making a small change back to where I used to be. Dinners that are based more on greens than potatoes again. Hopefully I won't miss the red creamers too much.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Freemind Upgrade!

To keep this blog as readable as possible, I keep my techniques in a separate database using Freemind's mind mapping software.

Well They just upgraded and fixed a lot of the bugs that used to irk me. Notes no longer automatically pop up if you hover over a cell. The interface is cleaner overall and you can edit them using HTML. The preview pop up is pretty nice too. As far as keeping a technique journal is concerned, it's definitely the best solution I've run across.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I haven't hit my learning groove.

Seriously...less than a minute ago, it hit me that I haven't yet hit my BJJ learning groove. It all still feels somewhat awkward and bumpy.

I miss training. I know what I want to improve...what I want to specialize in...what I'm ignoring because I know it's just going to be an uphill battle (taking the back).

Not sure what that means, if it's a problem, or if injury fatigue is starting to set in. My best guess is that I've hit a point in my training where the newness has totally worn off and I want focus and a game plan and direction.

On a side note, I'm really starting to worry about my foot. I've been in the boot for a week and I still have shocking pain if anything bumps into my big toe. (Thankfully the two baby-fractured ones seem to be healing ok.) It's terribly ironic that I hurt it the same day two purples and a brown belt gingerly walked me through the mystery and intimidation of stapling passes. All I want to do is drill them and I think it's going to be a while before I can do that properly.

If BJJ teaches you nothing else, it teaches you deep, internal patience.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Confessions of a Feminist Nutritionist

Seven years in and protein shakes are starting to get to me once again.

I'm posting this partially to remind myself to come back and read this when my eyes are a little less fatigued. It's a timely article for me, since, years before starting BJJ, I decided to start eating better overall to lose weight. Well...I ate less and lost weight, but I was eating only about 1200 calories a day of not-so-good food. So the weight came off, and I was working out, but I don't think I qualified as healthy. So I'm kicking around a new challenge in my harder than under eating or working out too much or learning Mandarin or stepping on the mats for the second time (it was way harder than the first). I want to find the place in me that has a balanced relationship toward food. The place that understands that food is both nutrition and pleasure and abuses neither.

Here's the speech I'm reading through. It's long, and good. It's a pretty academic read, but it makes an effort to bridge the gap between movements centered around body image and actual programs to create change. Here's an excerpt...

Social justice advocates from all fields have made important critiques of:
  • media representations
  • publicly disseminated scientific knowledge claims
  • and body-related practices and domains of knowledge such as medical science
This is important, because we are avid consumers of health- and body-related information. There are industries – such as the pharmaceutical industry or what I call the fitness-industrial complex – that profit from our bodies and from particular discourses.
And it’s especially important because it’s often the people who are most marginalized who have certain regimes enacted upon their bodies.
In other words, it is essential to have a critical social justice framework that takes up questions of ability, aging, racialization, access to care, etc.

I'm not announcing starting a diet or a goal or reaching a point of dissatisfaction. It's more that I've reached a point of decision to pick up a journey I started ten years ago. Funny, at the time, when I made a lot of permanent changes in my attitude toward food and eating, I thought I'd "finished". It's crazy how few things in life are ever, really "finished".

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Adjusting to a BJJ body

Your body changes a lot when you train regularly, especially if you weren't previously active. Rougher skin, more muscle, less fat, more flexibility...and that's not to mention all the changes that can come from injury.

Several weeks back, I went out with my best friend to test out her newest photography gear. This is a sample of what resulted.

Trudy's photographed me many times before, but usually under more prepared circumstances...either I'd done my makeup and hair or my appearance was softened by the happiness of travel or peace of restedness. I'd never before been photographed wearing regular clothes, the emotional weight of a day's work and no makeup. On the way downtown, I had brief apprehensions, but I thought to myself that there was no reason I shouldn't be able to handle being photographed in my "natural" state, even knowing the pictures would be up for public viewing. For the first time, I didn't try to undo the strain of a day staring at spreadsheets, highlight my eyes or wear a top that camouflaged my short leg to torso ratio.

Once I saw this photo (my current Facebook profile pic) the very first thing that struck me was how much of jiu jitsu I could see on myself. I've always been self-conscious about my mid-section, and I saw a trunk that had been thickened through months of hip escapes. I saw short nails and thighs that are the thickest they've been in a long time.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm not 100% happy with where my fat content stands right now, but jiu jitsu has allowed me to accept my body in ways I haven't before.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Would you choose BJJ over your toe?

I guess the question is, which one? Maybe? No? Honestly, probably not, but I just heard about this story of Randy Couture's trainer, Neil Melanson, who, instead of facing a year off training, had his problem toe amputated.

Hard core. Redefined. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Most grabby position...

Inspired by a post I read on Sherdog about reasons not to train with women...freaks aside, what position do you find yourself getting genuinely accidentally grabbed in?

I've heard a lot of complaints about full guard (a guy bracing on your chest to posture up), but I've had more issues when a guy takes my back and goes for a lapel. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Men who won't roll with women...

So a couple weeks back at open mat, I noticed that my partner, who I've rolled with for...months now, had mysteriously disappeared mid drill. I figured he needed to tape a joint or something, so I stretched and watched some of the other guys drilling. A few minutes later he came back...

"Hey Megan. I have to tell you...when my wife's not here, I can't roll with you. We've been married for 20 years and..."

I explained that I had no problem. I'd rather a guy be up front with me about any issues they have rolling with women (don't know how to hold back, don't know how to control themselves, psycho significant other, girlfriend that trains, whatever) than to go through with it and risk injury, drama, or uncomfortable situations.

It got me thinking about what reason for not rolling with women WOULD actually get to me. The only one is the idea that they couldn't learn from a woman. Even men who don't spar for religious reasons don't bother me as much. While I don't like it, I'd rather someone manifest their abstention in their personal behavior than trying to restrict mine.

I'm curious as to whether lesbians have the same issue. I know of a few that train and have sparred with a couple and imagine it works the same way. Partners just assume gyms will be full of big sweaty guys.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I gotta figure out how to shower with no water...

So West Palm Beach is down to 8 or so days of water. We just got a good rain, but I'm still a bit...concerned. I've tried to cut back, but my showering frequency is a matter of health, not just hygiene.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My MMA Secret...again

The guys seemed extra friendly tonight. I came in to a gauntlet of "Hi Megan!"s

Something odd has happened. I guess I should have seen it coming. I couldn't be the newbie-whitebelt forever. There's a whole new crop of guys that have no idea that I went deaf after training or saw me fumbling around with forward rolls. Now I think I'm just the big chick that rolls with the big guys.

But MMA secret. Assuming no one from the gym reads this blog (really not sure about that one), nobody knows how little exposure I have to grappling/BJJ/MMA.


Before training I'd never watched a match. Even now, I'll stop just to check out some ground work every now and again. Normally I know when Parrhumpa's out of town cornering somebody, but this time, I knew one of the ladies (Congrats Jessica!) had a fight pretty close to home, so I figured he was here. Well, I was channel surfing and saw Cole Miller's face, so I stopped. Then I heard Parrhumpa's voice. I've seen him before and it's always cool to see him working on TV.

Next up, Gleison Tibau was fighting. I'd seen him in the gym before, and heard some of the new guys gushing "Oh my gosh! There's Tibau! There's Tibau!", so I stopped to watch. It was an interesting fight with a lot of takedown attempts that I'm glad I got to see. I was leaving the mats today and saw him coming on to train. It still amuses me how mild mannered and chill the pro-fighters are. Totally unassuming, totally dangerous. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

You have no idea what your body can't do.

I say this to other couch potatoes. I say this as a natural couch potato. No, not those of you who were football players in high school and college and got lazy after your daughter was born, or even those that were karate champions at age 10, but gave up after the priorities of friends and fun took over. 

I'm talking to those of you who hate moving and have always hated moving. Those who only moved during P.E. or on Wednesdays when your parents forced you into a ballet class. I'm talking to those of you who were more interested in D&D, WoW, Magic or Pokemon than...tag. Yes. I'm speaking mostly to my nerdish and bookish brethren. 

We have many reasons for disliking movement. Maybe you're like me and were set against outside play from birth because a grass allergy discouraged you from playing in the lawn with other kids. Maybe your parents were overprotective and wouldn't let you leave the house. me, maybe your knees hurt and your chest burned like fire when you exerted yourself. Maybe you were just clumsy and embarrassed by movement. 

When, at age 12, I took the Presidential Physical Fitness Test and couldn't get my hands past my knees because of tight hamstrings, no one told me that could be changed. No one told me that the fact that I got winded within minutes of running could be remedied. Not even a hint. Teachers focused on the athletically gifted, tolerated the mediocre and the rest of us were expected to survive. One crucial thing they didn't teach me in PE that, for whatever reason, was hammered into students in every other field through homework and writing and repetition...

You can do better.

I had no clue what my body was capable of and no one, from what I could tell, seemed to think it was capable of more. I just assumed that the genes that had my athletic father, uncle, cousins and grandparents on both sides playing college and pro basketball, running track and playing baseball had skipped me. 

Actually...I take that back. I think there can be a draw back in focusing on what a body is capable of. First off, a person has to believe you when you tell them what they "could" do. After the pre-teens, self-perception is pretty much set and everybody involved ends up fighting a losing battle. Even now, let's say my body "could" run a five minute mile. Even if I believe you, so what? Do I need that skill in my daily life? If I don't have a desire and there's no use, why should I even try to reach my full potential?

I don't care what I'm capable of if I don't need or appreciate those capabilities. 

What Brazilian jiu jitsu HAS taught me to care about though, is what I'm NOT capable of. It's a small twist on perspective, but it's made a huge difference for me. I know that I'm not capable of squatting with my feet flat on the floor. I've learned to notice times in my life when I couldn't go about my daily business without an increase in heart rate. I've learned that I couldn't handle my own body weight aside from basic walking and jogging and stair climbing. That last one...really disturbed me. Even if a person never becomes an elite athlete, I believe they should be able to handle diverse spectra of movement of their own physical being. I would have known none of these things had I not started practicing. 

Learning the not and conquering the not, has made me aware of the could and want the could. 

I believe we are a special and uncommon student. I believe that we have a chasm to cross that most other people in gyms don't. I can't name one other person at my gym that isn't an athlete or former athlete or at least a former tomboy. Breaking the negative association with or dismissal of physical movement is a task unto itself, and one I think BJJ is especially well equipped to complete.