Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guys who date girls who train BJJ.

I've come to decide that they have to be a special breed. Honestly, since I've been training, I haven't even made it to the dating phase of a romantic relationship, but I have gotten to see the reactions of a few guys. It's really amazing how different the reactions have been...

"Your boyfriend better watch out!"
"Your husband's gonna be in trouble!"
"Your man better not make you mad!"
"Guess I better not tick you off!"

Ok...so they're not different at all. I don't find it surprising though. I understand that it would take quite a bit of a mental adjustment for a man to accept that...

...A woman he's dating does something so rough (I just had to explain 3X to a guy that we spar live)
...A woman he's dating gets that close with other guys (north-south is bound to raise some eyebrows)
...A woman he's with really DOES have a chance of inflicting harm on him.

I imagine it's an adjustment that would take some time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Confessions of violence and 36hrs of BJJ awesomeness

A few days ago, I was talking to a guy I've known for a while. We were having a very pleasant conversation and it came up that I train BJJ. Next thing I know, he's telling me how bad he felt about having recently pushed his physically abusive girlfriend and how he now felt like "one of those guys". I've never...ever had a man openly admit to any physical violence against a woman and I know 100% that the reason he felt comfortable telling me that was that in finding out that I trained jiu jitsu, he knew that I was, at some level, comfortable with aggression. It was risky on his part and I could see how uncomfortable he was unburdening himself. We then got into a discussion about female violence against men, how to deal with physically violent women and how they differ from violent men. Talking to him, I could tell that the general situation of dealing with a violent woman was, while less physically threatening for him, much more confusing and difficult to negotiate than dealing with a violent man. 

I left my private yesterday floating on a cloud of jiu-jitsuness. It was a great close to the best 36 hrs of jiu jitsu I've had since I started training.

Thursday night I had dinner at  the house of one of my pastors with his wife and daughter. It turns out that he's really into MMA and has been wanting to take some BJJ classes. Talking about it with other people, especially men, is always something that gets me paying close attention to reactions and responses. We talked more and I mentioned where I train. "You train at Top Team???" (I didn't know it was referred to as just "Top Team") I laughed and told him that when I started I had no clue about affiliations or MMA and just knew that everybody was nice and all the coaches on the website were smiling. 

Friday class...also great! I had two good rolls, one ending with a white belt telling me I'd gotten better and a blue telling me that it was a good roll. I left, totally hyped and ready for my lesson the next day.

I've gotten into a good rhythm with WrestlerInstructor for our lessons. We generally start with questions I have, move to issues I'm working on, general technique/principles, then rolling. Issue-wise I focused issues around defenses I'd learned that weren't working well for me. Both the triangle and armbar defense I know involve posturing up, which works fine for me on people under...180lbs or so. Any bigger than that and I'm not likely able to get the proper stacking angle, and even if I do, I'm WHIPPED afterward. All that arm yanking burns my arm muscles, even with my ear to the leg and elbow to the sky. So...I got a new triangle defense that capitalizes on my leg length and strength and arm bars...well...I might need to work on stronger back muscles. That, and I need to put more pressure and focus on really breaking down their hold on the arm.

Principle wise, we talked a lot about half guard and I'm starting to look at top half COMPLETELY differently. I'd been focusing so much on getting a full pummel that I'd been spending long periods of time stuck, negotiating the position. I had no idea that you could work with a simple post in the arm pit as an option. Between that and working on knee position as an agent in controlling the hips and the top is a whole new world for me. The rolling was great. I was actually doing well to start off, WestlerInstructor saying I was "moving fantastically, Fantastically". Mid way through, I lost my balance and dropped to my hip. I instantly knew it was wrong. It was so clear I could almost hear it. It sounded like a crack. Immediately after falling, I ended up in his guard. It was a great few moments though, because it was the first time I really felt the connection between my weight and an opponent's...my balance in relation to their movement. 

I think I'm coming off one of those improvement periods where, after months of things just feeling completely and utterly wonrg, things comes together and you see overall improvement. JazzHands once told me they come around every six months or so. Whatever the schedule, I'm savoring this moment, because I know another valley is likely around the corner and I'm going to need some fuel to get me through it. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Salsa lessons for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

I sat last night, watching PrettyVoicedInstructor rolling with a very talented blue. I'd seen him spar many times, but it was different this time. The match moved fluidly and didn't stop to rest or think. It was fast, but neither hurried, panicked nor forceful. It was the first match I'd seen in person that looked like an actual dance. It was pretty. I don't think everyone's jiu jitsu is, or even can be pretty, but his is and often are. The most amazing part is that rolling with him, you can feel the fluidity and even a masculine grace.

I just finished reading Clinzy's post on winning. Only recently, have I started to feel glimpses of the flow and freedom that I used to experience when dancing salsa. The first time I experienced it then was about three years in and one year before my dance zenith in China with the guy in the video below. It was a trip to South Carolina to visit my cousin and I dropped in to a local salsa club to check out the scene. I was feeling bold being the "mystery salsera" and decided to ask the resident instructor for a dance. He was more than willing, even offering to learn the style that I was most comfortable in. It was an amazing, inspirational, playful, seductive dance to Marc Anthony's Tu Amor Me Hace Bien (a sweet, light hearted, yet powerful song). It went down as the best dance I'd ever had. Thanks Joel.

Dancing salsa...I danced socially for four years, which isn't very long in the grand scheme of things, but it was long enough to learn that it's a dance of flirtation, communication, playfulness, seduction, spontaneity, skill and interpretation. I've made comparisons since the beginning, and the longer I do BJJ, the less similar they seem, but the more I see them both drawing on similar parts of me as a practitioner. There are a few things that I learned in salsa that I believe tie into staying away from the trap of "need-to-win-based" stagnation that, from what I hear, is a big problem for quite a few people that practice.

1) It's about communication. Sure, you can impress people around you and even your partner, but at the end of the day, you have a living, breathing, responding human being with traits and ideas to explore and share that will, in the end, help you grow, but only if you listen.

2) Who you are as a dancer (player) morphs with your changes in partners. There are some people in the gym who bring out really good things in me...both in technique and experience. Others...not so much. Part of that is just meshing of skill and preferences, the rest is personal.

3) Trying new things won't kill you. You may elbow somebody in the face (or catch an elbow), but you'll likely either discover something that doesn't work, or something that does. Both are great.

4) Pay attention to your partner. The moves you choose will change based on their physical traits and choices of response. Doing this makes you more versatile and trying things out with different types of people gives you better insight into techniques themselves.

5) You should be having fun. You won't all the time, but overall, experiences should be enjoyable.

I seriously doubt I'll ever devote the same time and energy to dance that I did before and honestly, my drive to improve there is pretty much done. BJJ is a much better fit for me, I enjoy the people more and it has left its own unique signature, earning its own, distinct place in my life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I shouldn't go out in public after I train.

Double fun tonight at the gym! Tonight was Parrumpa's birthday AND he gave out his first black belt...and it was to his wife! So...adorable. I'm not into romantic gestures, but a kiss before getting thrown after getting your black belt. That's like my version of the Notebook.

The girl who's scared to roll with me...we kind of joke about it now. We were sitting on the wall watching a couple of rounds and she lamented the fact that there weren't many kids there that night.

Me: What about that orange belt over there?
Teen: I don't know him. What's his name?
Me: No idea. Try "Orange".
Teen: Ha...I can't just ask him though
Me: Sure you can...why not?
Teen: I don't know...it's just weird
Me: What the...it's like we're at a dance!
Teen: A really dangerous dance.

But yeah...I had two events going on tonight, so I had to split myself between them. (Surprisingly, me and my introverted self wasn't annoyed to go to either one.) I missed dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (macaroni and cheese balls, we'll meet again soon) and went to a party at my cousin's house instead. I think this is the first time I've trained and gone straight to a public event...I only did a couple of techniques and one round because of my neck, but...like...I've noticed that after class, my abilities to process words and numbers are severely diminished. Almost to the point that I don't like writing blog entries immediately afterward because I can't form a compound or complex sentence to save my life.

I was around family...these people know me. I was clumsy (knocked over a flower arrangement), quiet, awkward when talking. I ended up mostly sitting in the kitchen picking on a piece of fish. It was SO weird. Really starting to wonder if this is just me...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


See the real Happy Spider

Last night I was waiting to go into the rest room along side one of our brown belts..."You were looking good out there today". Huge mental teehee. I've been feeling more competent lately. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

House shopping and inspiration

Gabrielle Garcia...started watching her stuff when I first started because I wanted to see how "big girls" do BJJ. None in the video, but watching her is crazy. Makes me wanna start CrossFit or something.

So yeah, I'm back in the home shopping process. It's been a LONG road with all the craziness going on in real estate in my state (Florida), but prices have dropped to reasonable levels and I've come to terms with the fact that my first house can't reasonably be my dream home, even if it does mean I'm in it for a long time.

I'm gonna be perfectly honest...every house I look at I ask the question "can I install mats here?" It might be a bit presumptuous, but 18 months in and I feel like I NEED to be able to train at home. Need.

A requirement has been a 2 car garage or an extra bedroom or den on the first floor. Ideally I want something permanent, but push come to shove, those little puzzle things could work.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SWOT Analysis: Arm Triangle Defense

I had a great private yesterday. I always end up elated after them. Wrestler Instructor and I are getting a good teacher-student groove going. I went in wanting to mostly work on counters to arm triangles. JazzHands caught me in them 3 times in 5 minutes and I NEEDED to know what to do. He explained, at the time, how to keep him from getting them, but still, I've never learned the move and wanted to learn a formal defense.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sending a prayer up for all the people in Japan...

My brother, our head instructor and one of the pro-fighters from the gym are over there now...she's actually the first person I ever rolled with. Parrumpha and Jessica are on their way back now and little brother's ok.

All I can say is I'm glad I got an email from David before I saw the images on TV or I would have been freaking...out. My poor grandmother called in a panic before I even got the TV on. What's on TV is terrible, but thankfully he lives in an area where the destruction wasn't too bad.

I've heard some stories of people that still haven't heard from loved ones, so if you're looking for someone or know the whereabouts of someone affected by the earthquake, please share here at Google's person finder, dedicated to the 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Stay safe, Roachbait...and boil some water!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stupid neck strain.

There are so many elemental things you simply aren't aware of if you're not an athlete. Naturally inactive people...we just have a different relationship with our bodies. No...not different. Inferior. Even those of us that aren't terrible eaters, we just don't explore what our bodies are capable of. I sometimes feel like I'm playing catch up with the other ladies in class that were natural tomboys or played sports. I'm far from girly, but I'm much more nerd than jock.

I've been saying it since day 1, but moving your body is a big deal, period. It takes strength, power, awareness and coordination. For a person my size, it's an even bigger deal. Getting myself down the ground and back up is no small feat. When I danced salsa, I used to wonder why I couldn't do lunges and drops as quickly as other dancers. BJJ has made me realize how much strength and power it takes to move 200lbs through space.

I've gotten MUCH much better at a lot of different movements (thank you shrimping), especially when it comes to hip movement and I've just gotten comfortable getting off my back and to all fours with any measure of speed. Now, I want to work on the power of getting my hips up. So, I'm adding this exercise to my morning and evening routines.

Should give me a nice, powerful kimura sweep.

My neck...is killing me. I injured it after spinning a few too many times after a 15hr flight and no stretching, got acupuncture, life was grand. Well, Monday, a purple belt was trying out some x-guard stuff on me and swept me. I'm not sure if it went right or wrong, but I planted on my face. It was funny at the time, but 48hrs later, I was brushing my teeth, came up from the bowl and felt a weird tightness on the side of my neck. a minute later it was stiff exactly where I'd hurt it dancing. Two minutes later and I couldn't turn my head to the left at all.

I downed a couple of advil, carefully arranged my pillows and called it a night. I woke up the next morning to a sharp pain after trying to roll over and check how much time I had left to flounder in bed. I immediately picked up my phone and started googling neck injuries. Apparently, my little muscle strain just required some massaging and heat...which HAS been helping, but I skipped class last night and may miss tomorrow (kinda paranoid about neck stuff since I don't have a full ROM yet). Definitely have to make it to my private Saturday though.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

BJJ Food Exchange!! ...and coming out of the (BJJ) closet.

Marketta, this was the best idea EVER. For some background, Marketta trains in Louisiana at Lake Area Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I don't know how it came up, but we're both foodies (it seems like a lot of jiujitsukas are) and decided to trade our regional specialties. I sent over key lime pie (it was supposed to be conch fritters, but apparently you can't mail conch fritter batter without buying $100K worth of lobster and stone crab) and in return I got a Zulu king cake...right on Mardi Gras!! What makes it Zulu? Well, that would be the chocolate fudge and coconut on top. It's also filled with cream cheese...crazy rich. Amazingly good. Here are some pics. Notice the beads and the baby Jesus...which they apparently no longer hide inside the cake because people were choking. 

It got a little bruised during shipping. Good ain'it always pretty!

An attempt at plating. Still difficult.
Beads and baby.

Ohoh...my volumetric exerciser...I'm up to 2500mL inspired volume...that's up to 78% from 42% in one month!! And yes, I've noticed a difference training. I can totally feel that I breathe more deeply and get tired less easily. Oddly though, I got lightheaded a lot last class and was sweating like CRAZY. We'll see if it continues.

I came out of the BJJ closet at Bible study tonight...everyone now knows I train. I can't say I was even keeping it hidden, it's just something I never shared. Some people were quiet about it, but my pastor, his wife and another lady were totally excited. I've learned a LOT of spiritual lessons from training and it was good to get to share a couple.

Friday, March 4, 2011

False Confidence

I'm a big believer in the applicability of the Myers-Briggs personality typing system. Here's the intro to my type...

To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of "definiteness", of self-confidence. This self-confidence, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature; its source lies in the specialized knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age.

Totally me. And maybe this entry title is a little misleading. It's not really a false confidence I'm talking about, more like insecurity masked by someone who knows what confidence should look like.

Perception is a funny thing. I got surprised with a last minute, 1 hr presentation for work this week. One of our executives popped up and did some pretty intense drilling (30 min on one...slide). Between the surprise and the general stress of travel, I gotta admit, I was a bit nervous (which I LOATHE being). I finished and a coworker told me I did a great job. I confessed that I was nervous. "Really?" she responded, "I couldn't tell at all."

The week before, I was sharing with one of the new white belt ladies how terrified I was the first six+ months of training. "Really? You seem like such a confident person." "I am, just not with the physical side of things." Which...honestly isn't entirely true. I'm coordinated and have decent reflexes, natural strength and assertiveness and solid body awareness. I just carry with me a very pure and pervasive intimidation.

And then, there's my jiu jitsu. I feel...absolutely...horrible right now. Stomach-turningly so. Not in an "I'm gonna quit" kinda way. Nope. More in a "You need to have less hope of what you can do with this" kinda way. Even if this is untrue (I acknowledge that my perception may be skewed) I'm 150% convinced I'm doing something wrong in the way I'm approaching things...I know part of it is that everyone's getting ready for the belt ceremony and it's hitting at a time I feel like I'm accomplishing so little and at a time I have much less to give to jiu jitsu. Technique as a whole feels light years beyond my grasp until I have a better hold on the conceptual. After two weeks off because of work and gym schedule issues, I feel like the last year+ of training never occurred.

This, I think, is the burden of someone who's used to being above average. Periodically and altogether too frequently, you revisit the thick confusion of stagnated improvement. It's more than just mired frustration. It's a living, breathing, burning insult to your perception of self. Funny, I thought the experience would be lighter this time. I thought that I'd have whittled down this undesirable lump in my character more.

...and I just re-read what I wrote. It left me wondering if I need more of what I consider positive feedback. I realized that I was talking about more than just jiu jitsu...that a couple areas of my life happen to be running parallel right now...and I got my question answered. I have positive feedback elsewhere. Praise and reputation...and it does precious little to change my perception of performance.