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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My doctor knows what the full guard is!

So I was sitting at the chiropractor's office today. I'm getting an MRI on my foot instead of das boot. Hopefully it'll be smoother sailing than clomping around in a chunk of plastic.

The visit was great though. This is the doctor I've seen about this, so I wasn't expecting too much. I explained how I'd hurt myself and he replied "Yeah...we're going to have to take you off running, but I don't want you to have to stop training completely. If you do spar, work in full guard and escapes only. Nothing from the top." Say what? Did he just give me a BJJ specific prescription? I knew going to a chiro that specialized in sports medicine meant that there would be a deeper understanding of the injury, but it turns out this guy works on a couple of big name MMA fighters when they want to treat their injuries with as much secrecy as possible. This was the exact OPPOSITE of the kiais. I guess that's the benefit of training in an area where MMA is so big.

We talked more about treatment and diagnosis options and something he said totally caught me off guard "I want to interrupt your training as little as possible. I don't like to keep athletes from their activities." Athletes? Me? An athlete? No way.

Afterward, we discussed my chronically crackly knees, which thankfully, are only due to genetically tight quads. Apparently the tight muscle offsets alignment, causing pain. The grinding comes from decreased cartilage (which I knew) and apparently, grappling helps rebuild it. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Creepiest prank EVER...

But first, I need to confess my massive jiu jitsu crushes on Saulo Ribeiro and Roy Dean. My ears perk whenever anyone even mentions their names. I sleep with a copy of Jiu Jitsu University in bed. I'm dead serious.

And now...the prank...

Tonight was cool. We worked a flowing drill (I know there's a technical term for them) that went from a standing guard pass to side control to mount to bridge mount escape, then your partner starts. I don't know why, but I love continuous flow drills.

There's a new guy in class...white belt...looks to be early 20s. He's gonna be goooood. Watching him learn is so cool. he catches everything quickly, has a really good attitude and is humble. I love cool, good people.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

BJJ and church, Intimacy and Men

So I've spent the better part of the past six weeks limping, facially bruised (I just got kneed REALLY hard in the cheek on Friday) and wearing a wrist brace. I think this is the first time I've really started to "show" that I train. I hobbled into my small group study at church a couple of weeks back and between that and a fading black eye, I knew I probably needed to do something proactive in explaining my injuries. The pastor that leads the group knows I train, has trained himself and to my surprise, was elated to find out I trained at American Top Team.

So last week we were discussing Biblical warriors (David in particular) and situations where technique, agility and training win out over larger, more powerful opponents. I knew he wanted me to mention jiu jitsu, since honestly, it's a perfect example of the concept. I hesitated, unsure how it would go over. Why?

Because church...gender wise, is probably the opposite of what goes on at the gym. Genders hold the same positions in relation to one do manlier things and women do womanlier things...but the environment is shifted toward that of the less physical...making the men not quite as manly (at least not while physically in the building) and the women not quite as manly as you'd see in class.

So yeah, being a 200lb, 6' tall, Black woman with a stoic personality and relatively non-feminine communication style, I paused a little before adding "MMA fighter" (because you know people won't differentiate) to that list of the superficial breakdown of Megan.

He kept talking, wanting to discuss, but not wanting to "out" me. "I know someone in here trains physically for something very similar to what we're talking about." He didn't stop for me to "step forward". I took it as his wanting to engage in the subject, but at the same time, being aware that not everybody wants every part of their life revealed to a group of people. He moved on through the topic. I sat and thought about why I was concerned and decided to just come out with it. As I was talking, I could feel my label shifting, growing, being reviewed and recalculated. I didn't care. If people can be open about divorce and alcoholism, abuse and abandonment, I surely should have no shame or qualms about what I do for fun and challenge.

Of course, there were changes in people's reactions to me...mostly on the male side though. The pastor's wife already knew I trained, so nothing changed with her. We discussed books and Chinese and stress as always. The other shifts that I could see. The guys though, once again, I noticed them being more open to discussing their own physical pursuits and interests...more emotionally open overall and more relaxed...and this came simply from the factual knowledge that I did something physical.

...which got me thinking back to something that hit me about men and physicality as a gateway to intimacy.

Every week I get men and the physical bonding deal even more. I think it breaks down walls and establishes trust. We've all read and heard often how important sex is for men to feel close to their partners in a relationship and I'm starting to think the physical closeness is a HUGE component in that. That it's a big deal for men in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. Which...on a side note...has me lamenting how our society sexualizes almost all forms of physical contact...but I really digress.

After open mat and a really good roll, I sat with one of the blues, talking about why we started training and he told me how little confidence and how little focus he used to have. He spoke of how much of a positive difference training has made in his life. I told him about my first day training after years of the school/work grind and how it was a release after almost a decade pushing to learn business, health care and foreign languages. The conversation shifted into Spanish...his a fluent Cuban, mine a solid, but stumbling work in progress. He continued to talk about training and the gym and I taught him some basic principles of Chinese. I know that I would have never had this conversation with this man had I not been training...and honestly, wouldn't have if I hadn't been rolling with him on a regular basis.

There are walls that exist between men and women, founded on our differences and constructed by societal norms...some I believe exist for a reason, but many of them, don't. I see now, that the cleanest way to break down walls with men is through physical activity as a trust building exercise... after all, it's hard to hide your true character in a fight. My only question now is, assuming that women have some mechanism for breaking down those same barriers of trust, what that mechanism is. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Battling the Baker

My eternal struggle to eat better persists.

In my 20s, I pretty much conquered the beasts of portion size and boredom eating. Now I have two, almost Herculean obstacles to overcome. Pastries and Greenery.

I love to bake. I bake when bored. If I want a chocolate cake with mousse filling and a hazelnut ganache, I can get one together as an after work project. Stressed? Better make a creme brulee. So, in an effort to slow down the eating, I've started freezing. It seems to be helping, since eating is more of result of seeing the effects of my cooking than an end unto itself. My freezer is now happy brimming with chocolate chip cream cheese brownies, a cupcake, leftover creme anglaise (which I FINALLY made without it curdling) and a couple slices of chocolate bourbon chess pie.

On the greenery front, I've started making Indian for work lunches. Honestly, I've always been scared of eating foods that were too heavily spiced on days that I train. I'm paranoid I'll be sweating curry from my pores. Not like I'd be able to tell, but things seem to be going ok so far. I've been trying out some pre-packaged sauces (which I learned from a cashier, are pronounced, "Shere Hahn" and are actually Pakistani in origin) and amping up the vegetable content. I think this will be a battle I'm fighting for the rest of my life. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

" actually doesn't look like sex."

That paraphrases what a friend of mine said after I sent her a video of Roy Dean demonstrating an armbar. I've found myself watching his videos just for the sake of seeing him spar. Admittedly, there aren't a lot of people with a lot of slo-mo video available, but I still think there's something insanely graceful about the way he flows.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Top 10 Fight Songs

I'm sitting here festering in injury funk so imaginary rolling has been a good friend this last month of half-sparring. Here are a few of the songs that make me feel like I NEED to fight somebody. need.

1) Xzibit-Concentrate
2) System of a Down-Chop Suey
3) Beyonce-Run the World
4) Tan Dun-In the Chess Court (the track from that awesomely insane fight between Donnie Yen and Jet Li in Hero)
5) Jay Z- On to the Next one
6) Goodie MoB-Who's that Peeking in my Window
7) Shiro Sagisu-Storm Center
8) Biggie Smalls and Bone Thugs 'n' Harmony-Notorious Thugs
9) Disturbed-Stupified
10) Clint Mansell-Requiem for a Dream

*honorable mention-Trick Daddy-Bet That

Monday, June 6, 2011

How I got over my anxiety...and a night with old dudes and a hybrid.

That shirt down there, is from my middle school physical education uniform (I can't find the dark blue daisy dukes). Our year was broken into six week segments learning the rules and techniques of different sporting events. Football, basketball, golf, baseball, soccer, bowling, tennis, raquetball, track and field...I'm sure I'm missing a couple in there. I love my little middle and elementary school, but PE was the source of some of the most embarassing moments in my life.

I sometimes forget about the wide range of non-physical issues people are dealing with while training. I saw a post on a forum today of a guy who, 2 years into training, is still getting really bad anxiety going into class. He got quite a few questions from people who suffer from social anxiety issues and people who were just straight up scared. It got me thinking of how I got past that horrible, gut-wrenching fear that used to have me hiding in my car and the bathroom before class.

I started noticing I was much less anxious on open mat nights, which had a few differences from the regular class, so I started mentally removing every small component of the class I could think of...watching the "big kids's class", lining up, running, drills, watching a technique, repeating a technique, being corrected on a technique, getting water, picking a partner for rolling, rolling, shaking hands, changing...everything I could think of, and imaging how I would feel stepping into that class.

Turns out it was the warmup and ending up "the sweaty one". It had me going back to days as "the slow kid" in middle school. I started paying more attention to higher belts and realized I wasn't the only one having problems. Seeing that I wasn't alone combined with time helped me get past the anxiety. Now I just dislike it. Not running is the only perk of otherwise suck-tastic turf toe.

Tonight's class was a weird mix. Lots of 30+ guys and some converts from the no-gi class. After class, one of the higher belts whispered to me " hear all the old guys?" They were all in the corner, comparing ages. "I'm 45." "I'm 42." "Oh yeah, I'm 48." We chuckled and he asked how old I was (I think that's a big hallmark of of acceptance...the guys asking your weight or age without stuttering.) I then, once again, revealed my nerd status.

I've rolled with most of them before and normally they're chill...but let me tell you, tonight? I was glad to be with Mr. ThisismysecondgiclassandeventhoughIagreedtogolightI'mgoingtotrytocrackyourjawlikearipepecan. The old dudes were going for BLOOD tonight. There were four of them and the previously chill guys turned to flaming balls of aggression. But yeah...Mr. NoGi. Rolling with someone lost in a gi, but who knows non-gi related moves makes for a weird flow. At one point he let out a little yelp, looked at me and said "everytime you grab for something, I get worried at what you're about to do"...and then exploded into a clean guard pass.

It was a funny, great night, despite being toe-limited. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Teacher punching student: What would you do?

Just saw this on the news...

Watching, I wondered what I would have done in a similar situation...pre-BJJ, throwing a punch probably would have been my first reaction when threatened with larger male backing me into a corner. After training though (especially since I don't train striking), I honestly think I may have gone for a takedown. The thought of seeing that on video though...a teacher taking down and choking out a student...the visual...I feel like the court decision would have turned out differently. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I suck at new levels.

I've felt like I suck before, but tonight, I was able to feel inferior while doing NOTHING. I have half a mind to pat myself on the back for accomplishing such a feat of self-deprecation.

I went to the no-gi class despite my distaste for the slippery-art and my turfed-toe. I told myself "Self, we're gonna go to class, not run, do drills from the bottom, pushups from the knees and we will NOT train. We will not." So what'd I do? I trained. I was pleased to find that I made it through with no problems at all, save getting stuck in guard because of my limited passing options. Afterward, I was playing with one of the babies as competition class was starting when the head instructor looked at me and asked "what are you waiting for?" I went and put on my snazzy new Vulkan (which I and entered the mats just as the drills were ending. Then I heard it..."Against the wall!". Crap. Judo. Judo makes me feel like a fumbling basket of uncoordination.

I know it's useful. I know it's important. I just canNOT get into it. So I made it through a few runs up and down the mats, fumbling and stumbling, pleased that I was at least able to get grips right. We started taking the throws all the way to the floor, so I sat out the rest of class. I was cool for a bit, but I felt so silly. I was sitting next to the instructors wife  and told her how it was bothering me how I couldn't train. She replied that it was good that I came and got something in instead of just sitting at home. Still felt crappy. Talked to the lady pro fighter who was also nursing wounds. Still felt crappy.

Tomorrow's non-competition class should help me get back to a normal state of ego. Oh...and I'm starting to understand Portuguese.