Thursday, December 20, 2012

Business in BJJ: The Mata Leon Video

Unlike some previous controversies in the world of BJJ and sex, I'm willing to post this media because, well, the sex is the icing on the cake (as opposed to the cake itself) and there's actual jiu jitsu involved.

Straight out of the box...nice to see people putting effort into production. The action's better than most of the campy sci-fi movies I blow my Saturday afternoons on, but still strikes me as a little cliche. Overall though, this one left me with mixed feelings. Yes, it's a definite step up from a greezy chick in a tank top, but unlike the Rousey/Tate promo, I wouldn't give it credit for smart, or even inoffensive use of sex to push a product.

Confused customers: I thought this was an ad for women's gis--that is until I went to Mata Leon's site and saw that they didn't have products for women. I ran this past a couple of guy friends and one put it quite succinctly..."I don't want to buy clothes that a chick I want to nail would wear." So the woman who might want the gi can't get a product, and the guy who was the target audience, doesn't think the product advertised was for him. I'm guessing they just assumed the men watching the ad think gis can only be worn by men.

Sexy Overload: I will sing this from the rafters, sex selling is not a law of physics. Overt sex has been proven to be distracting. Using anything too visceral in advertising is a risky game...humor, disgust, creep-factor...hit people too hard in these areas and they get distracted. Distracted customers don't remember brands when it's time to shop. I initially watched this video and went about my business. Five minutes later, I remember the woman's haircut, the shower sink, the apartment layout, but not the company that was trying to sell me something.

Questionable Business Practices: It takes a good bit of effort to connect with your customers in an ad, and there was one image of the brand name and more detailed looks at the woman's rear than the product, which is a shame. I love the idea of good companies making a good product, trying new things and succeeding. I want to see people finding ways to make a living doing things they love and supporting the communities they're connected with. Ads like this, I think are a genuine effort to do business better, but they likely jeopardized their own effectiveness in an effort to get attention.

So yeah...all that said, I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe this is what progress looks like. Yes, the ad fails the gender-replacement test (f there'd been a dripping wet man in that shower and a close up on a pair of boxer-briefs being pulled up, well, you get the idea.), but cultures just don't make big jumps and perhaps a well-made commercial with bits of sexualization is a step in the right direction...maybe. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Best of 2012

King of the Hill, Shark Tank...I don't know what it's called, but I like it.

We worked it last night from deep half. The class was split at the 160lb mark, so I went with the big boys. About 10 min in, my side had passed 2 people while the smaller folk were working into their third rotation...GinasticaInstructor was dominating. So after about 15 min, I assume to get things moving more evenly, Parrumpa broke us up and I went with some of the smaller folk.

After doing one round with the heavyweights the contrast of rolling with a woman 80lbs lighter than me was painfully stark, and starkly telling. I've gotten much better at flipping the strength switch (though I might need to people who actually train with me about that) and have learned to calm myself more even with the stronger guys. I'm more comfortable taking top position and not just letting smaller people get away with things I'd fight a bigger person for...without squashing.

So was a rough year for me, multiple family deaths, stressful projects at work, friends moving away...I'm still feeling the weight of a generally dark year. Seeing the Christmas decorations finally up in my house was the first time I've felt some brightness in a while. That said, some really cool BJJ stuff happened this year.

New gym-...and it's getting newer! Crossfit kicked off this Saturday and the new, ultra-big mat area is just around the corner.

KickboxerInstructor's Brown Belt Exam-Honestly, it was a thing of beauty. 150 techniques and absolutely flawless.

Launching, exhilarating and still testing me. I still get warm fuzzies playing with the search functions.

Starting ginastica natural-scary and painful and still sometimes scary, but the elemental nature of movement that it addresses is something I'm beyond glad to have supplementing my training. It's definitely something I want to keep up in the long term.

Feeling like a blue belt-It's odd...I feel more ignorant than ever, but I feel like an actual blue belt. not sure when it happened, but it happened.

Feeling like I belong in the advanced class-Kinda goes with the statement above, but what cemented it was being asked to roll more frequently by higher belts, and also not feeling overwhelmed when more than 2 techniques were presented in one class.

Ladybug getting hurt and Fiona falling off-bittersweet. They haven't been around in months. They're both planning on coming back when it works out better for them, but end of day, the two ladies I came up with are gone. Sad, but it's forced me to find the initial, internal motivation I had when I first started.

I think 2013 is going to be a pretty awesome year.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: Knee on Belly

I'm focusing on only two escapes, each oriented in opposite directions. Saulo's running escape and Stephan Kesting's belt grip to sweep.

Kesting's has worked fine for me in the long as I can get my arm all the way under the controlling leg. I've been pretty stumped as to what to do when I can't get that or don't have any options in that direction. Saulo's fills in that space since, instead of staying connect and sweeping your opponent, you're, well, running.

I tried it twice this week--first time it was slow, but worked nicely. The second time, well, I was a bit too gung-ho and instead of rolling my legs out from under the knee, over my head and into full guard, I ended up facing the complete opposite direction a couple of times. Oops. After a couple of tries though, I smoothed the movement out and got more control.

In other bright news, while rolling with one of the smaller ladies, I realized that I've learned quite well how to negotiate my four favorite arm bar escapes depending on opponent. Hitchhiker is my absolute favorite, but pulling it off happens infrequently. Stacking only works when I catch enough momentum when an opponent sits back, and getting my elbow to the mat is only useful with someone who keeps a sloppy grip. I tried the first two since pulling the elbow requires a bit of strength and she had a solid grip. They both failed without muscling, so I brought my head up over her knee and came up into guard. Gone are the days when I would stop to think and decide which would be the best option. Quality. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: Side Control Wrap-Up

This is going to be a two parter--to keep from cross-posting too much information, Julia and I are splitting posting duties--so this post will cover a wrap up of our weekly chat sessions and my personal take on the month afterward.

Once a week, we jump on Skype and go over all the wins and losses and lessons learned of the previous seven days.

  • Cleaning house: This totally originated from my end, but unlearning "starting" side control defense from the cross face was a major accomplishment. I brought my progress up almost every week.
  • Drilling: Julia focused on documenting her drilling numbers, starting with 20/20 guard recovery and 10/10 coming to all 4s. I put more focus into requesting higher levels of resistance when drilling. 
  • Submissions: The whole point of the month was to focus on escapes, but Julia was introduced to a kimura if your partner doesn't posture up and I was shown the armlock that presents itself as you escape. 
  • Risky escapes: Both of us were thwarted trying Dean's spinout on purple belts, but it's a useful option to have, even if only for the sake of expanding personal understanding of escapes. 
  • Differences: Heavy use of reverse kesa gatame in my school, not very common in Julia's. This is probably due to the fact that my instructor likes to take mount from that position. That emphasis very much influenced which escapes I gravitated to studying. 
  • Revelations: Julia-All side control escapes start with a hip bump to make space. Megan-Protecting the arm from domination from the top is key to staying safe while escaping. 

On a personal level, I've got mixed feelings coming out of this month. I lost a few days between being sick and traveling for Thanksgiving, and, well, as is true with all things related to BJJ, I've learned more and I feel less competent. So, here were my goals...

  • Finding the best of bad positions. No more "settling" into positions that are disadvantageous that I've gotten used to starting in from drills.
  • Quit settling on my back...stay on my side. Give them nothing. 
  • End stopping because of blanking. Pauses should be strategic.
  • Attain a comprehensive understanding of what I SHOULD know and be competent in as a Blue belt, as opposed to just a list of techniques.
Bad positions-This is probably the area I've seen the most improvement in. I've been reflexively blocking the cross face and "accidentally" stumbled across Roy Dean's spinout escape after being more active with my arms--though it did result in an immediate counter from Ginastica Instructor and me ending up right back in bottom sidee. 
Settling on my back-I still do this. I did another round of working side control Friday night and well, I still stop on my back...a lot. This is something I'm going to have to work on mentally going forward and likely research to see if anyone has methods for eliminating the habit. I do it in spider too, so it will definitely be worth some time investment for me. 
Blanking-Also still happening. I expect this to improve solely with time practicing. 
Comprehension-I'm feeling much better about this position overall. Prioritizing possession of the arm has made it much easier for me to clear a path to getting to my knees and into more advantageous positions. 

Hits-Had GinasticaInstructor (Adam) point out a nasty cycle I get myself in. I have a tendency from standard side to reach around with my leg and take an ankle. It never crossed my mind that this was a HUGE liability in a competition setting. Against lower belts, it works fine. Against higher, it's almost guaranteed they'll escape again, so I've basically been setting them up to scrore additional points for passing over and over again. Going forward, I need to focus more on getting the entire knee in. 

Also, Hector told me that rolling with me now is like rolling with a completely different person--not a result of OTB, but I'm counting it:)

Misses-Not addressing my habit of not replacing full guard. It's the optimal path after freeing yourself from side control. 

So yeah...a decent month overall, especially for learning goal setting and expectations. Next month is knee on belly and I am SO glad we did some work in ginastica yesterday rolling on the shoulders. It's an essential element in Saulo's running escape. I'll likely be focusing on that and an escape from one of Stephan Kesting's apps that I've had decent success with, along with addressing the back and guard replacing issues that showed up over the last month. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Mind-trauma of BJJ

Somehow, Brendan over at GiReviews has gotten me over my profound distaste for Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferriss (introvert bias, what can I say.) Today, in the relaxed snuggliness of the morn of the last day off of Thanksgiving vacation, I watched this:

While I think Ferriss' methods aren't as universally applicable as many would like to think, I believe he has a lot to offer. I was most interested in his take on language learning. See...I used to be great at it. I had a system when I started Spanish...listen to Spanish radio all day at work, watch the news + 1 telenovela (still love La Fea mas Bella) and study grammar/vocab no more than 15 minutes a day. That was it. I threw in a bit of time with speaking partners on the side, but in a year, I'd made more progress than I had in 5 years of formal study. I did the same thing with Mandarin, and, well, eventually I fell off. Part of that was the drain of grad school...but honestly, BJJ has REALLY disrupted my mental rhythm.

When I first started blogging after training, I noticed that I just couldn't get complex sentences out--"see spot run" was about as deep as I was going post-class, so I refrained from writing immediately afterward for almost two years. It was like I was losing massive IQ points after each session. What I suspect was going on was simply trauma.

Looking back, starting training was a traumatic experience for me...enjoyable, encouraging, inspiring, soul-stirring but still at some level traumatic. I started BJJ to rebuild myself--to break down an aspect of my being that had been severely lacking. That process is inherently traumatic.

So yeah, while I've gotten past the startup pains, I remain off my mental routine. I haven't studied properly since I started training, and that disturbs me. I had dreams of being conversationally fluent in both tongues by 35 and well, I'm getting short on time. I can still carry on a conversation in Spanish and a very basic one in Mandarin, but my flow is gone. The idea of coming home and plopping down with a grammar activity that used to be cathartic and enjoyable and seems difficult.

My hope is that Mr. Ferriss will offer some method of getting me back on track. The desire is still there...I burned with the same excitement this weekend when, at a rest stop, a Chinese man was chatting on his cell phone and I understood him...but I fear BJJ has changed me mentally into someone that I now have no idea how to teach.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: Time with the Enemy

So I think I'm cured of settling for bad side control positions. Goal met. Since I've narrowed down the escapes I want to work and have a decent handle on the theory, I decided to subject myself to some punishment. Enter GinasticaInstructor. Now...coincidentally he was a great partner to work with, because he's nasty fluid (see video).

This week I've come to realize the importance of understanding objective (as opposed to just technique) when navigating a competent opponent. We worked him switching between standard side and both variations of kesa gatame depending on how I reacted and...I reacted. Even when I would manage to get my elbow to the mat, he'd fake a choke and bait me into giving him the arm back. We worked in the importance of getting to bottom half by grabbing the leg...Saulo recommends against this since it locks you to your opponent, but for me, I think it's a good, viable option, especially since coming to my knees...somehow I'm still slow or possibly just lacking in confidence. I also got to see some immediate counters, especially to Dean's underhook to knee-tap/roll over/judo-style throw. Before I could even consider coming to my knees, Ginastica Instructor had sat out to the opposite side and was headed for mount. Drills are great, but...the best laid plans o' mice and men and all.

So overall, two weeks in, I feel much more competent navigating the position improvisationally. I also feel incentivized to stay out of it since it is such an uphill struggle to get out. That may seem like common sense, but for someone like me who doesn't compete and for whom points are just something I'm occasionally aware of, it can be easy to simply allow bad things to happen. Quality learnings.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: The Nature of Side Control

I've pretty much run through drilling all the escapes from Jiu Jitsu University and Blue Belt Requirements that I think will work for me and cut out the ones that won't...which is pretty much only Roy Dean's spinout. It feels risky and seems like it requires speed and favors smaller people who fit in little spaces and don't have limbs waiting to be yanked into submissions, so even though it may work in some situations, it would require a lot of drilling on my part.

I started working standard and reverse kesa gatame tonight. I'm very much a top-down learner, so I started class drilling the JJU escapes with a lower (green) belt and finished it out just discussing and after training was done, playing with the position with a higher (purple) belt. Kinda taking the time to feel out the impact of belt level when drilling. Tossing around the idea of adding a lower belt to the feedback team.

But yeah...I got reacquainted tonight with a hard fact of the nature of side control. It takes strength. The thing about being on the bottom...and I've been drilling with minimal resistance and requesting full's very different when rolling, and it's always an uphill battle. I believe possibly more-so with me because of my size. When guys, even big guys get me in side, I get a lot of pressure (I can make a decent amount of noise from the bottom). On top of that, it's easy to close up holes on me. Thinking of when I get top side on smaller people...they just wriggle out. I have to make large openings and spaces after getting elbows to the ground and arms safe.  So when the purple belt I was drilling reverse kesa gatame with said "Just keep distance and keep'll think you're tired, but you're not", the importance of will jumped out at me.

I tried a little twist tonight though. While working with the purple, I let him work the same escapes on me. Seeing areas I left open solidified the insight into what I need to withhold to stay safe from submissions and an advancing opponent while trying to escape. It was hard to not start wanting to work problems I have with top side...but I gotta focus.

With him I also ran into the very big and unforeseen problem of people who switch between the three side controls for the sake of establishing an opening...adds a whole new dimension to keeping your position minimally disadvantageous. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: SmART Goals for BJJ

I gagged a little using that term outside of the office, but SMART goals are exactly what I need for the project Julia and I are working on.

So the whole idea is that the goals are SMART...Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. I left the M little because my measurement is a bit subjective. I'm going to be working with a few higher belts at the gym whom I've warned informed about my goals over the next year. So...

Specific: Check. Each month we're working on competency in the respective positions.

Measurable: Cue higher belts. Little M because this part's a tad subjective. Right now I'm working with...
  • Ryan: brown belt who was my first instructor. 
  • Adam: Ginastica natural instructor and advanced Purple belt (that's him doing the spidery thing.
  • Hector: One of the first blue belts I trained with. Closest to my height and weight, though infinitely stronger than I am. 
Attainable: The plan is laid out and ready to go.

Realistic: I made it to Blue, I can make it to Blue+

Timely: I've got a year.

So the actual goals...

  • Finding the best of bad positions. No more "settling" into positions that are disadvantageous that I've gotten used to starting in from drills.
  • Quit settling on my back...stay on my side. Give them nothing. 
  • End stopping because of blanking. Pauses should be strategic.
  • Attain a comprehensive understanding of what I SHOULD know and be competent in as a Blue belt, as opposed to just a list of techniques.
For Frodo...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ginastica Natural, Tiger Blood and Faster Hips

I'm starting to wonder if I'm not some sort of masochist. I apparently can only tolerate so much peace in my life at one soon as salsa got comfortable (or dramatic...whatever), I started Chinese, as soon as Chinese got comfortable, I started BJJ...and what did I do once BJJ wasn't complete agony on my ego anymore? I started the deceptively taxing Ginastica Natural. I'm fortunate enough to have it offered three times a week at my gym since we house one of the only certified instructors in the state of Florida. It took 18 months of prodding from LadyBug and Fiona (not to mention regular prodding from GinasticaInstructor on Friday nights), but they eventually got me there. "It'll be fun!", they said.  "You can do it!", they said. Oh, they spoke the truth...but...

Movement is not my strength. I am neither fast, nor nimble nor agile. Starting Ginastica has been, in a lot of ways, like starting jiu jitsu. Every Saturday morning (I only make it once a week) I face my heavy hips, weak upper body and inability to squat with feet flat, head on. I genuinely believe that the biggest reason I waited a year to start wasn't just fear that I'd be tired or look like an idiot...I was well used to that from standing guard passes. It was that I simply could not see myself as a mobile person. What was the point? Adam (previously known as GinasticaInstructor) is great at starting new-comers at the shallow end of the pool and gradually amping up the difficulty, but I've still had to swallow a lot of pride. Though still fighting through my own sweaty struggles, six months in and I'm now comfortable with about 75% of the class. The only beast I have left is animal walking. 

I many issues. I was never a physically active child--shunning playing outside in favor of books on Greek mythology, growing crystals and rock tumbling. I've got a lot of ground to make up and I blame part of it on my long femurs and funky hip ROM, but end of the day, it's all about just doing it and reshaping myself. I'm getting better at the toe walking (walking sideways while bent over, holding your big toes with your index finger...try it...just 3 steps...seriously) and I'm light-years better at the other animal-inspired movement exercises. My one nemesis? The tiger walk. We do it forward and backward...backward is fast. Backward is evil. I'm still learning how just not to sway my hips going forward. I wore my tiger shirt this past week for inspiration, only to be told that apparently, Ginastica works better in t-shirts with adult tigers...might have to give Brendan a ring.

I love this tiger. I wish the gis came in adult sizes

Mirrors (I hate them now) and animal walking aside, I've seen marked progress. After just two classes, I started noticing that coming to my knees required very little thought and rolling my 215lbs of self+opponent backwards was no longer frightening.  When I skip stop, I feel slower and less responsive when rolling. The classes seem to attract more agile people, but I would say it's absolutely essential for larger/immobile people who have any aspirations of being better movers. 

The biggest difference though, is mental. Since I'm not accustomed to moving, my mind doesn't even consider certain options/dimensions when training. If Ginastica does nothing else, it's opened my mind to new planes of jiu jitsu possibilities.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Operation Tattered Belt: November – a month of Side Control

I love resolutions that have nothing to do with the arbitrary starting of a new year--ones that are born out of individually inspired need and motivation are awesome. They're even better when you've got an accountability partner.

So...I'm jumping on a project with Julia over at Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog for a year of more focused training. At first glance it might sound excessive since most schools (I hope) have curricula already built into their programs. Even if they do, there is a lot of unstructured jiu jitsu time when you're on the mats. Open drilling, sparring, open mat, nobody's telling you exactly what to do and our project intends to add some structure in that space over the next year.

You can read about the specifics of the curriculum of Operation Tattered Belt below or Julia's kick-off entry here, but basically, we're going to be using each month of a year to focus on a different position or submission. For guidance, we'll be using both Saulo Ribeiro's Jiu Jitsu University and Roy Dean's Blue Belt Requirements.

I'm particularly excited because the idea of pedagogy in BJJ has been a question hovering in my mind since day 1. Julia's a teacher of teachers (which is the reason she'll be focusing more on writing from an instructor's perspective) and I've been a student of...way too much (I've got a good, objective perspective of myself as a student) so I'll be writing more from that angle. We'll be making major posts at the beginning and end of the month.

So like Julia says, you're welcome to join, comment, add feedback and contribute. Hope to hear from you!

November: A month of side control
4.0 Side
8.0 Escaping Side
8.4 Escaping Scarf
Sidemount Escapes

A month of Knee on Belly
5.0 Knee on Belly
9.0 Escaping Knee on Belly

A month of full mount
3.0 Mount
7.0 Escaping Mount
Mount Escapes

A month on the back
1.0 The Back
6.0 Escaping the Back

A month about all fours
2.0 All Fours
6.4 Escaping All Fours

A month of guard passes
Guard Passes

A month of armlocks
10.0 Armbar Escape
14.0 Kimura Escape

A month of chokes
11.0 Triangle Escape
12.0 Guillotine Escape

A month of leglocks
13.0 Footlock Escape

A month of takedowns

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Chicks: Gabi vs. Marcelo

Whoever did this was a genius. The match itself is awesome, but the music makes it absolutely charming. Seeing Gabi Garcia and Marcelo Garcia? So happy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

BJJ and Black Hair: Training changes everything

Somehow, while training BJJ, the great destroyer of hair regardless of race or texture, I simultaneously found peace with my mane. My ends weren't splitting terribly and when stretched, it was hitting between arm pit and bra-strap length. Then, a few months ago while detangling my crown (a.k.a. the stubborn area) in the shower, I noticed large clumps coming out into my comb. Most people don't notice, but my previously thick, fluffy, free-form afro had turned limp, patchy and downright sad. I was in denial for a few weeks, but then I had to accept it. The head of hair that had been so resilient ..the one that had survived an accidental switch from ammonia based treatments to was damaged. Badly. Extra chemical processing, the effects of a long-term texturizer, permanent color and laziness using my balaclava (it's really a great solution for hair protection, check the link out) had resulted in the destruction of my hair.

For those of you unfamiliar with BJJ, even light practice involves a lot of friction with the hair against mats  (have a look at competition here) and hard cotton fabric (you could genuinely exfoliate with some gis). Large chunks of hair are easily pulled out (see horrifying cornrow story below), either getting caught under limbs or unfortunately caught up in an errant grip...and then there's the drying effect of frequent showers. BJJ exposes you to quite a few nasty bugs, so a spongy mass of hair that's gone unwashed just isn't a viable option.

Back when I had hair all over my head...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leticia Ribeiro: A Short Film

I've really dropped the ball writing about the Leticia Ribeiro seminar I attended a couple weeks back. It was a great experience and she's a really detailed instructor. Well, today, Hywel over at BJJHacks sent over this video on Leticia. What I love most about it is that you can really feel how important the personal aspect of BJJ resonates with her. Sit down and have a look...

Monday, October 15, 2012

A blind man and my British pants

So I picked up a Zero G v2.0 men's last week (BJJHQ is a dangerous place). It's a light gi, but we only get like 3 days of cold in these parts anyway, so a lightweight gi is good year 'round.

One of my biggest gi peeves is pant removal after class (hence my distaste for flat drawstrings, which have left me desperately hopping around the locker room trying to get free of their death-grip). Even though I already own a Midas, these stood out as much more comfortable, mobile (roomy hips and thighs) and generally wearable. Yay:)

Tonight was hard in a good way. Four rounds and I was showing signs of waning by the second, but even that's improvement. Something struck me tonight though. I'm finally picking up moves holistically. Two demonstrations and I had tonight's techniques (well, all but the failed armbar to bow and arrow...that took a second). I want more speed, but that will come with more Ginastica...

...speaking of which, I had a roll tonight that I can only describe as intriguing. GinasticaInstructor decided to do a round with me with his eyes closed the entire time. It was another one of those moments where I had to remember to not stop and watch what he'd do after he got his grips set in and try to actually...defend. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A study on BJJ by the JISSN

I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to nutrition specifically around my training times. I did a stint of FRS energy chews and try to eat carbs with a bit of lean protein after training, but it doesn't go much deeper than that. Since I've been testing a post workout supplement for a friend though, my ears have been perked a bit.

Well today I ran across this study...a rare one since it focuses specifically on BJJ athletes. It's a small and limited sample size at only 39 adult men, but it's good to see some studies focused specifically on what we do. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Asking for a beatdown...

In my supreme excitement over Metamoris this weekend, I've been listening to mounds of podcasts. I'm going to officially claim Ryron as my favorite Gracie, since his "keep it playful" philosophy of training really resonates with me. Well, on an episode out of the UK I heard today, he made mention that your time at White and Blue belt should be spent learning to defend. My heart sank. My defense offends me.

Friday I was partnered with Wuzzup for my first roll, and I asked him a favor.

"I need a favor. If I have to tap 16 times, I have to tap 16 times."
"So go HAM?"
"...maybe HAM-light"

That last bit of reservation on my part...I think threw a wrench into my plans. He went harder than normal, and commented that I'd gotten stronger, but honestly, I wouldn't guess he was going at more than 50% intensity. ...not that I wanted 100%, but this is a man who rolls regularly with Jeff Monson, so I know he's got HAM to spare.

I feel even more lost in how to guide a few of the guys to go harder. Some (especially the new blues) go for broke. The guys I came up with seem to have a harder problem...which does make sense, but is still something I'd like to get past. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BJJ in West Palm is growing!!

My gym is getting WAY bigger...teehee:)

...and GinasticaInstructor doin' his thang...I gotta learn that sweep at :45.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Draculino and the naked cat.

I love that the animals get as much screen time as the technique

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ah, to be a big person that's agile...

Seeing Cyborg move makes the pain of Saturday morning agility and conditioning even more worth it.

Inspiration Porn

I'm going to say something that is likely a very unpopular sentiment. Those inspiration posters/videos with people missing an arm/leg/eye and doing something non-disabled people are generally too lazy to do...the ones that people seem to love in BJJ...the ones I didn't see much of until I started training...they irk me. I couldn't figure out exactly why until I read this article. The picture below is a perfect example:

Yes, it's cute. The look on Oscar Pistorius' face is possibly more endearing than the adorable little girl...but that quote...that line from Scott Hamilton does so much to reduce those with disabilities to caricatures.

Phillipa Willits put my misgivings into words that I couldn't quite pinpoint...

Using a snapshot of disabled people as a tool to convey a message to, primarily, non-disabled people, involves playing on stereotypes and assumptions. It removes a person’s humanity and individuality in order to present them in a way that will goad a non-disabled person to buck up their ideas. It does not matter who the people in these photographs are, as long as their representation is enough to guilt non-disabled people into action. Their use of prosthetics is the only thing about them that is of interest in these images, and it automatically turns them into some kind of superhero. Along with the captions, the implication is supposed to be, “Wow, they have a great attitude!”.

I think what I find most insidious, is that the image of the happy, disabled person overcoming all odds with a positive attitude can effectively erase the awareness of the viewer--basically allowing them to "forget" a lot of  the unpleasantness of life that the idea of disability so rudely reminds them of...and I'm guessing that forgetfulness doesn't stop at just affecting the disabled. I'd be willing to bet it makes it easier for all of us to reduce the people in our lives to snippets of their individual existences

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Big Chicks: Men's take on larger women

We're a bit of an enigma in BJJ. Women that outsize men. Most discussions on training with women will focus on advising men how to train with smaller, weaker bodies...but what do you do when the body is larger, possibly stronger and female?

So, rolling out of my previous post on Christy Thomas, and to make up for my stupidly missing a seminar by Gabi Garcia, I want to get this theme started. I've written on it a couple of times before, but hadn't talked to any actual men about the situation. (I'll definitely be doing more in the future, so if you've got any stories, tips or questions, hit me up.)

First up, the man himself, Slideyfoot and my favorite BrownBelt Instructor, Ryan Gallagher of American Top Team West Palm Beach. I don't have any experience with Slidey (though I hope to in the future), but Ryan was one of the first to comment on my size/strength and was instrumental in shaping my perspective. I was glad to see them both answer my curiosity about the control of larger women vs. the control of larger men.

Thanks guys!

How accustomed are you to training with women?
Can: Very used to training with women: my first training partner in 2006 was a woman, then from about 2007-2009, my main regular training partner was also a woman.

Ryan: I’m pretty well accustomed to training with women. As an instructor I like to train with my students as often as I can. That being said, I have quite a few students that are women. I often train with some women to begin my live training session for the evening. I feel this gives me the option to not have to be forced to use strength when I train.

What was your first reaction to rolling with a larger woman?
Can: I was pleased: I generally find women more mature, considerate and controlled then men. The machismo that can often rear its head with men (particularly if they are young and strong) is also rare in women. Rolling with a more powerful woman meant that I had to rely on technique, but could do so without being as concerned about injury as I would be with a larger man. That's not to say there are no good training partners who are larger men: I have had the pleasure of training with several very helpful but very large men. However, I've found that to be comparatively rare.

Ryan: Training with a larger women is no different than training with someone else for the most part. Sometimes this forces you to become even more technical because of their size and strength. When training, you always want to try to be as technical as you can, utilizing leverage and correct technique as much as possible. Sometimes training with a male that uses a lot of strength you find yourself trying to match them and at times becoming a little rougher with them to prove a point. Personally when I find myself training with a woman that is larger and that is strong I will always avoid taking the path of strength because she is a woman. This only leaves me with the option of using my technique and speed to overcome this obstacle.

What difficulties (if any) do you have now?
Can: With larger women? None, except that I don't get to do it as often these days due to the smaller number at my club. If you mean with training in general, my main problem is probably not taking enough risks, being too passive and relying too much on my defence. However, I think the benefits of training that way outweigh the negatives, with the biggest plus being a reduction in injury and therefore a longer lifetime on the mat.

Ryan: I don’t find any real difficulties that I wouldn’t normally have with anyone else.

How does it compare to rolling with men in general?
Ryan: I feel the only difference with rolling with larger men than women is that I always try to avoid using strength and I find myself not playing as tight of a game against a woman.

Have you learned anything or do you have any advice to guys who may be new to the experience?
Ryan: I learn something with any individual that I train with. My advice to men that train with larger women is to treat them just like you would anyone else. Sometimes you will even find women that would be offended if you didn’t treat them as such. Don’t let a woman win just because she’s a woman and you’re trying to be considerate. They need to win and lose just like anyone else to better their jiu jitsu. I always try to avoid winning by solely relying on strength with anyone but most specifically when it comes to training with a woman.

Can: I would highly recommend that men train with women generally, particularly small men, as you will probably find that often women are the closest to you in size. In regards to training with larger women, this is also especially beneficial to smaller men, as you have the opportunity to focus purely on technique (because you can't fall back on strength) without an accompanying risk of injury (generally: there are exceptions, though I haven't met any large women who were uncontrolled).

Thanks to both Ryan and Can!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview with Christy Thomas: Relson's First Female Black Belt

I finally got a chance to talk with Christy Thomas, one of the newest black belts in the world of Texas BJJ. I've always kept a bit of an eye on her progress since she was one of the first "big chicks" I was referred to when I started training and looking for women of even somewhat similar build. Christy was recently promoted under Relson Gracie as his first female to earn the rank.

What's your take on gender in BJJ? 
While this is an incredibly broad topic, I feel the participation of women in BJJ has had a huge influence on what was previously identified as a MAN's sport. This recognition has influenced the sport phenomenon growing a world-wide intent to push for further recognition and Olympic sport status. I have been heavily involved for the past 12+/- years and seen so many things -- from there being no women's divisions in tournaments and no women's points counting towards team points, to acceptance, adjustment, accommodation and change.

While there is currently a great interest in camps for women, female competition teams, tournaments and growing participation in MMA; I still see obvious stalls in growth and resistance to mixed gender training. I feel that there is a great need to focus on self defense for all involved. A reality known to all who train in the sport is that there is a place for everyone in the lifestyle of Jiu-Jitsu, whether it's for self defense, hobby or sport.

What kind of non BJJ related training do you do?
When I'm off the mats, I maintain a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy hiking, riding mountain/down hill/around town bikes, anything outdoors. I sometimes do as little as possible to simply recover. I believe that there’s a such a thing as over-training and favor undoing what I have done to myself vs. continuing to overuse my body. I believe that drilling and practicing Jiu-Jitsu is the best training to get better at doing Jiu-Jitsu.

What emotions have you experienced around becoming a black belt under Relson?
Frankly, honor and responsibility to be Relson's first female black belt, followed closely by pride and sheer excitement. Relson is a close friend & mentor -- I want to make him proud. I strive to impress him when I learn, compete, and especially when he sees my students train or compete. Also, the many people in my life because of Relson have had a real impact on me. I feel the need to be the me who stands for myself, trusts my Jiu-Jitsu and pushes through the tough times to reach the next level.  Having developed skills that invite others to come into our Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle and decide they want something this special for themselves, and having dedicated this portion of my life (and potentially my future) to it, really magnifies the power and responsibility of earning my black belt.

I read your interview over at the Fightworks Podcast and you said you've been in multiple situations where you've had to use your self defense training. Would you mind going into more detail?
I find myself in so many activities, spontaneous adventures, late night shows, back trails on bikes and I've been in more than my share of random situations where I've needed self-defense skills. Anything from: perverts exposing themselves on the forest trails or swim spots, to night time bicycle chases after leaving nightclubs, being at crowded shows and getting groped,  and saving friends from their own messes -- all those situations have caused me to find myself in the position to need to use self defense. Self defense starts earlier than you may realize. It's not fighting and it's hardly glamorous or cool in any way.

Where do you see your career in the sport headed in the future?
Currently, my priorities are my students and reaching more people with self defense. I want to encourage every single person to get on the mats. My target is everyone. I want the skinny, fat, overly sure, scared .... I want them all.  I'm excited to teach! Of course, I'll be looking to get into some tournaments in the future and continue my own BJJ development.

Thanks Christy for taking the time to talk!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Joe Rogan and a Change of Heart

I love News Radio. The show was more brilliant than most people realize...totally underrated. Anyway, when I first started training, I was all excited to find out he was involved in the BJJ/MMA world...until I heard him talk. I wasn't surprised at his crassness (his character wasn't exactly an angel), but at the end of the day, words are very important to me and profanity, for my ears, is like someone giving me little shoves while they talk...basically I find it distracting and mildly aggressive.

So I just listened to one of his podcasts...this one was with Tim Ferris and I ended up there after reading a post from Slidey in a discussion about Lloyd Irvin's marketing. They much...from isolation tanks to aqueducts, hallucenogenic drugs to hogzilla. They mentioned Pimsleur and Seneca and made me realize that my high school was magical because it was a place where you had your choice of playing spades, hacky sack or Magic: The Gathering. The whole thing was like the trips down the Google rabbit hole that so often deprive me of sleep.

Getting past initial impressions is a funny thing. It's something I think I'm good at. I love my smart, objective introverts, but I have a lot of different personality types in my life, so I've gotten fairly adept and weeding through my own, personal tastes in humanity to reveal the people underneath their shells. With Rogan, the more I listened, the more I heard similar core values and perspectives on life and the world. Same with Tim Ferris...I'm not a fan of his work (I say that, but I do think 4 Hour Work Week had an impact on how I think), but I'm beginning to reconsider just the purpose he serves. Listening, I heard them have the same conversations I've had with my closest friends. I think it's just a certain type of people I'm drawn to and they come in a lot of different types of packages (which would explain my language learning...the more languages I speak, the more people I like I can find...probably why I set out to speak the 3 most common languages on the planet). At the end of the day, I think it boils down to people who are willing to reject cultural conventions they were raised with...not solely for the sake of being different or as an act of defiance, but because said conventions simply do not work for them. I guess it then makes sense how many of them cross the BJJ/MMA path.

So yeah...150 minutes later, I'd really like to talk to both Ferriss and Rogan...though likely separately. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Renzo Gracie and Sport-wide Reputation

This whole hullabaloo over Renzo Gracie and the would-be muggers that got their comeuppance...I've kinda ignored it the last couple of days...I'm just not one to jump on hype too quickly. After seeing some memes posted on Reddit, and realizing this thing wasn't going to die, I went to take a look. I found a write up about him tweeting while waiting on said muggers.

For the life of me, I don't know why someone with as much at stake as he has would put that much evidence out there that could be used against them if the muggers ever decided to press charges for assault. They could EASILY claim they were just looking for a cigarette (as they said), and he'd be in a mess. Sounds crazy, but it happens.

Then I started wondering about what this means on a larger scale. He didn't call the cops and now these two guys are still on the street. Contrary to those who applaud his potential contribution to the safety of the streets in NY, I'm quite sure that if they WERE actual criminals, that they wouldn't magically become upstanding citizens just because one guy gave them a couple black eyes.

Then there's our reputation. We're still a small enough world where outsiders (the people who will be the growth of the future of the spot) will not differentiate between people and practice. He isn't some random practitioner and the Gracie name is inseparable from the sport. All those schools out there promoting anti-bullying programs...everyone promoting jiu jitsu as a gentle art and trying to make a living off the fact that it's not just a sport for ruffians, bullies and fighters...they could all likely pay for this. People do use Google afterall. Right now it's low key, but it's exactly the kind of story that could blow up (easily with the help of people who don't want to see MMA flourish...boxing folks maybe?) and cost the entire community dearly. I've seen students commenting that they were embarrassed--that's sad. Hammurabi's code all you want, but sometimes there's more at stake than just the moment.

His tweets? really rough to read. Of course it's possible those dudes got EXACTLY what they deserved for their intent or previous deeds.  Still...reading through someone relishing and wallowing in revenge like that...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Business in BJJ: Branching Out

I heard on the radio today a stat that said 50 Cent made 3x in his deal with Vitamin Water than he has making music. Selling out or not, diversification can reap some pretty big rewards...not just financial, but in brand awareness, networking connections and business experience.

That's why when I saw that Combat Corner has been running tournaments, my first thought was that it was a great idea. Considering the fact that tournaments can easily devolve into fiery balls of confusion with frustrated, food-deprived athletes clawing at your coat tails, I give them props for keeping it up. If it works out though, I think it'll be a great deal for them. They'll have participants being exposed to your brand at the actual tournament, huge opportunities to create interactions with their products and winners listing their tournament name on their grappling resumes from here to eternity.

They've got some good marketing heads over there.

Losing Training Partners

Having my wisdom teeth out forced me to sit. No work, no running to train, no hours spent each night promoting GiFreak. In the quiet of excruciating pain, I tuned into a pervasive sense of loss in my life that I think I'd been ignoring. I realized that so much of what I've viewed as stable has been crumbling over the last year.

My grandmother's absence from this world has become quite real and very loud in my life. My job has been shaken up repeatedly. A cousin died of a long-term illness and another was taken violently. The head pastor of my church left somewhat abruptly after 8 years...And then there's BJJ.

We broke from the boxing gym we were at, which worked out beautifully, but that resulted in the loss of one of the higher belts. Another was injured to the point of no training just when I was told I should focus on learning under him. I didn't realize how much their presence created a sense of protection until their were gone. Ladybug got injured quite badly, leaving her unable to train at all and leaving me without my regular partner. Then another pastor (codename: Pastor Grappler) who'd been training at the gym with his daughter (who'd just discovered the beauty of triangles) had to move out of town .

Times like this always catch me with a bit of surprise. Partly because I'm decently objective and aware of my emotions, partly because I'm not experienced in the breaking of bonds simply because I so infrequently make them. Partly because stability has (thankfully) been a recurring theme in my life since birth and I'm...well...used to it. ...and then there's the fact that I looked forward to developing and growing with people and that the sense of loss is very much tied to accepting that those things simply won't happen the way I thought.

I remember reading the blog of a brown belt when I first started training where he spoke of how many of the people he'd trained with for so long were now gone...lost to family obligations, finances, injury and drama. He didn't sound lonely, but he was quite clearly alone. I'm in nowhere near the same position...I'm just a new blue and many of the people I started with are still around...many aren't really do have to be dedicated to the practice itself to keep going.

It's not all bad. Lady bug will be back, new people come and relationships emerge. Facebook is. The hump simply has to be gotten over.

...and now, Bane.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Business in BJJ: Put the Pop Biz books DOWN.

You know what was great about my time in business school? Not one...not a sole pop business book. Nothing telling us to think like a millionaire or meditate our way to wealth. I'm thankful for that not because I enjoyed reading 10-Ks all weekend (I just gagged a little), but instead because now, I know crap when I see it.

I can tell when I'm being being presented with motivation to succeed vs. being given the tools to do so. I know...clearly...when a book sells association with the concepts as wealth disguised as a path to riches. Honestly though...seeing that doesn't take a degree.

Don't get me wrong. Some pop biz books that are good. I file Gladwell, Nicholas and Godin under that category and none of them promise a thing. They give insight, interpretation, opinion and perspective. No methods to shape the mind, no enticements of a new life...just a different look at a system you might want to navigate.

...So today I read this...list...of principles rich people apparently use when they do their very expensive thinking. I read, I was offended. I questioned if anyone could believe this. Then I realized that some people want so desperately to be rich that they would fund another's trip to the mountaintop just for the sake of being spit on by a silver spooned tongue. I gagged again.

The article ends with this quote:

"The masses have been brainwashed to believe it's an either/or equation," he writes. "The rich know you can have anything you want if you approach the challenge with a mindset rooted in love and abundance." 
From Steve Siebold, author of "How Rich People Think."

Dude, seriously? Since when is magical thinking a plan? Can I get some stats on how often that works out for people?

OK this isn't just a business rant. It actually does pertain to BJJ because I'm seeing more and more of this exact same concept creeping its way through our world. More trite little sayings, doled out in SunTzu-esque style, whispering tales of gain just inches beyond our reach...if only...if only we'd believe. It's subtle still, but a fire rises*. Every niche sees it, because niches are built on people doing things they love...and it's a common trope that making a living doing what you love is the secret to everlasting happiness and X-ray vision. Every niche has people that will sell this product...every niche has people that will buy this product.

...and that's all I've got to say about that.

*apologies, but I LOVED The Dark Knight Rises. Expect future references...and images of Bane. 

Screw it... 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Anti-porn Tactics.

I don't even know what to say anymore. I've written before on how sex selling isn't the 5th law of thermodynamics.  I've seen that post plastered around the internet. I will NEVER understand how something (naked pics of greezy chix) that is readily available for FREE, all across the internet, is so universally accepted to be a good advertising strategy. I will not understand why companies don't (apparently) understand how that can tarnish your brand EVEN in male dominated niches.

But that's not for me to understand. Understanding alone seldom changes much. All I know is that I'm tired and insulted and instead of even mentioning the company (an feeding controversy that DOES make them more $) that's up to stupid tricks again, I'll just be offering its competitors free advertising on my blog. Done. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Business in BJJ: How much for jiu jitsu?

Can over an brought a great discussion to my attention today. Check it out here at They're discussing whether it's reasonably possible to make a good living--like six figures good--as a BJJ instructor. We all know Lloyd, Marcelo and Renzo, but how many non-household names are pulling it off? The OP asked a great question.

While I can only guess how many are really "living the dream", this response gets at the heart of what I think is key...

A lot of people have this romantic idea of BJJ being taught by a carefree brazillian that shows up late teaches a wonderful class and then rolls around all while dispensing yoda like pearls of wisdom...From what I've seen those guys can't pay rent and usually don't end up having their own spot...Most of the places I've seen that are successful are run by people who are the actual main teacher and treat it like an honest to goodness day job...there are contracts, they sell overpriced merchandise all the usual stuff that people on message boards laugh and point fingers at.

Did you hear that? The money's not coming just from teaching. All the big names out there...they all know that if you want to succeed as a business, you're at an advantage if you have money coming in from multiple directions. Forget just BJJ/MMA, this is great advice for life. I don't know why this song isn't sung as much lately, but these days, with the concept of a reliable job lying snugly six feet under, it's something everyone should think about.

So will you be a Lloyd or a Yoda? Live for the jitsu or the checkbook? I am not a fan of the hard sell. I'm very "soft" as far as MBAs go, so I know that's a rough line to walk. I love the idea of a currency-less society (there's a reason I'm a Trekkie), but the pragmatist in me fights eternal. Most people who train actually love and have a deep respect for jiu jitsu, so there will always be that internal conflict.

Why? Because money being what people have made it, sullies anything whose worth it measures. That said, setting a price communicates value. It's why Rolex* tripled their price in the early 20th century to set itself apart (it worked beautifully and they saw sales soar in response to perceived value). There are simply some things for which value is not obvious (rolling around on the ground with sweaty men?). Sometimes people need the cue of cost to part with their cash. Free is nice, Free is friendly,but free also sends a message of expendability. Moral of the story? Know what your market will tolerate, but do not undercharge for your services. (If you're running or starting a business, click that link. Explore that site. Use their services.)

The sinews of war, the love of which is the root of all evil, the shakles of labor--call it what you will, but money reflects and magnifies what we human beings are like. I'm willing to guess that the reason many of us don't want to charge what our services are worth is because then...then we will get real, concrete feedback about where we stand in the world where we sell. If we constantly undercharge, people will always marvel about how wonderful a product they get for so little. We will never tire of hearing the inflation of our value magnified by the deflation of cost...but if we charge what we're worth, a friend might not find our instruction to merit his $125 a month and instead choose a bar tab over becoming a blue belt. We will, in short, have to attach a real, unflinching number to what we may dream is invaluable. We may have to say no to that student we cut a deal for who's SUPER dedicated for all of 5 months, but who never internalized the true worth of our time and attention because he was never forced to. We may have to accept that what we find priceless, others find overpriced. That's hard and that's real.

*it's been a while since I took a marketing course and Rolex might be the wrong watch maker

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Awesome promotion photos

Great belt ceremony today! Lots of laughs, throws, bright new belts and some cheesecake. There were lots of great shots, but these two stood out. This guy right here knows how to rep our school. Props to you, sir. Props indeed.

The upper belts. Pure pictorial awesomeness.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bigger-er and Stronger-er!

Just got an announcement today for Stephan Kesting's next installment of the Bigger Stronger series. This one features Brandon Mullins and you can pre-order here.

I do enjoy a series and love the fact that he's addressing this concept across multiple DVDs with different guest instructors. Quite cool.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What head holes and a busted wrist have taught me.

So last night was my first night back in about...3 weeks. I've been down from a tweaked wrist and 2 weeks recovering from wisdom tooth surgery (impacted molars are evil).

Number 1 lesson? My defenses are WAY too late. I found myself tapping to moderate pressure to my jaw after a triangle set up and unable to use my usual arm bar defenses because apparently, I put a lot of pressure on my wrist when trying to reestablish posture.  But that made me realize that I'm not fighting hard enough to keep my arms from getting isolated. It's worse from open guard...I still freeze. I was glad to get to test out the open guard of a newer blue...I've gotten used to JazzHands', and while I still can't pass it regularly, I've gotten used to his build and managing his movements and the use of his longer body. This guy was shorter, more compact, lighter, faster and more explosive.

I was INSANELY tired afterward. I got up thinking that MAYBE I'd make it to ginastica this morning but I was sick and lightheaded for hours after I woke up. My body still seems a bit beaten after 2 weeks of antibiotics and Vicodin. Training made me dizzy and light headed, but I'm back on squats, pushups (modified) and situps.

I HAVE to stop stopping after I pin a leg and start going straight for an underhook on the opposite side. It'll be something to drill when LadyBug comes back in a couple of weeks. Woo!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Old School Wisdom on Sugar

I've done a week with basically no activity thanks to the removal of my wisdom teeth. I've been eating around 5-800 calories a mantra has been "Eating enough to stay alive and sleeping enough to stay sane." Nothing more. If I didn't have to take food with drugs I'd have stopped eating altogether. Chewing just wasn't worth it.

So yesterday I was able to chew a bit more, so I was able to eat a bit more, so I decided I could do a bit more. Crunches. I wanted crunches. I did 50. Around 25 I started thinking about the first time I decided to try, on my own, to improve my physical self. I was 16 and decided that I should be able to do more crunches. I remember making it to 5 before my back started to burn terribly. I figured I was broken. I made it to 50 and my 16 year old self smiled somewhere inside me. My 32 year old self needed a nap.

I was able to squash a doughnut and get that down today, which means..if I'm able to chew that, it's time to start getting back on Paleo. I ran across this today. Jack Lalanne teaching the evils of sugar...over 50 years ago. Pretty sad that his message didn't stick.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting my wisdom teeth out rocked!! (and Paleo stuff)

That's a bare-faced lie btw.

I went this morning and overall it was weird, uncomfortable and now I'm just swimming in this weird haze of almost-pain (despite drugs) warning myself not to fall into the modern day way of thinking that every minor discomfort needs to be medicated away. I somewhat blame myself for waiting until 32 to get it done...but honestly, any younger and I likely would have come to with a deep RNC sunk on the surgeon as the nurse looked on in horror.

So yeah...I knew about the soft foods and no straws. Everyone I've mentioned it to has hailed wisdom tooth extraction as an opportunity to eat ice cream and mashed potatoes for a week plus, and for a split second, I rejoiced...but then I thought of the strides I've been making on easing into paleo and realized I had neither an excuse nor the desire to wipe that all away with a week's work. instead, I'm living off mock chive mashed potatoes, pureed broccoli/spinach, cilantro soup with crab, mashed yams, scrambled eggs, protein shakes, sweet potato curry soup, and water. Not saying some chocolate pudding won't sneak its way in there, but it will be the exception, not the rule.

Still...sitting here, trying to get down a plate of scrambled eggs (It's been an hour. I tire of trying to simultaneously get enough nourishment to heal well and prevent dry socket in 4 different wounds), I'm coming to think this will make it easier to take my next step in taking on up processed sweetness. My issue with food isn't so much one of emotion, I simply find taste fascinating. Taking on paleo has as much been an exercise in tempering my taste buds to appreciate a different spectrum of flavors as one in self control.

So yes, conquering my greatest dental fear may well prove to be instrumental in tackling my most glaring dietary weakness. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Business in BJJ: A gi? Made in the US?

I'm genuinely intrigued by the premier of American Gi Company. Not just because a new company hitting the market is fun to watch, but this company in particular has set out to solve the age kinda-old American manufacturing problem. You all know it. The cost of American labor is (relatively) high and that cost gets reflected in products as prices most Americans don't want to pay. Thanks Walmart*. 

That simple relationship drives most gi manufacturers to places like Pakistan, Brazil and Hong Kong, where quality products can be made relatively inexpensively. Gone are the pre-Deming days of poorly made Japanese (and Taiwanese) products, guaranteed to fall far short of their American counterparts. Now, products can be made just about anywhere (except Western Europe and Canada) at a lower price than they can be domestically (yes, even considering transportation) with reasonable quality. This is why the American Gi Company is such a big deal. If they can pull this off at a reasonable price, they will have cracked the Riddle of the manufacturing Sphinx

Manufacturing costs can be a tricky thing, especially overseas. You're constantly playing exchange rates against local taxes against shipping costs against political unrest and myriad other fluctuating costs. One of the benefits of manufacturing in your home country is forgetting that extra level of complexity. I believe the AGC has timed this pretty well. One of the upsides of the drop in the American dollar, of any currency actually, is a decreased benefit in offshoring manufacturing and services. When the EU saw a jump in the Euro a few years back, the US saw European manufacturers moving their factories to our shores to take advantage of an educated, trained work force, stable currency and government and cheaper labor. It's ironic, but part of how the system works. 

I'm chomping at the bit to see the prices of the 1776 model (props to them for focusing their branding around American history and going deeper than just plastering flags on gis) and how it compares to non-US made gis. If they can get a quality product out for reasonable prices, I suspect they'll see some solid success and staying power. 

*I loathe Walmart on multiple levels. 

Interview with Draculino-Grapplearts

Really interesting interview with Draculino from Stephan over at Nice little mention of my instructor too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I'd rather fight a man than go on a first date.

I realized that tonight.

My best friend gets a recap of all my jiu jitsu comings and goings. Considering her educational background and our shared experience in the inexplicable world of salsa, she's one of the few people who can understand some of the things I talk about...tonight's revelation was especially true since I'm pretty sure there's no one else on this planet who could get my varied, infrequent, maddeningly subtle and downright weird dating life. After telling her about some recent dealings, I took a step back from the situation and said "ya know...I'd rather spar with a guy than go on a first date with him."

This picture has little to do with this post, but I love the guy's face. 

Training has changed a lot about my communication with men. Between a close relationship with my brother and father, lots of male cousins and friends, I've had no issues communicating with men, but still, spending time around guys predictably makes one even more comfortable talking to them, both on and off the mats. Well, I'm beginning to think that comfort doesn't translate very well to the realm of dating.

Initial interactions in the dating process are generally strange and uncomfortable for both parties. It's starts as a level playing field in most cases...but I think training has given me a "leg up" of sorts that most men don't find welcoming. Comfort is power and power imbalance (in relation to desired gender roles) is always a problem on a date. Crazy, because in situations where romance isn't implied, that comfort and familiarity results in more openness and clarity. When I meet someone who is comfortable around Blacks in general (or not uncomfortable around minorities), the interaction is smoother. When I talk to a Japanese person and they realize I have exposure to their country and language, the conversation opens up on a different level...but in those situations, the exchange is usually founded on achieving some sort of balance or equality. I'd be willing to bet that's not the case in most dating situations, from either party involved.

Well, considering my recent dealings with dating--rather disappointing after having my enthusiasm over the man in question training BJJ dashed by his not so subtle hints that I train for contact with men--I've decided that rolling with a guy is a much better way to break the ice than conversation. Not very romantic, but much more honest, I'm sure. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Business in BJJ: Effective Commercials

I raved a while back over the commercials at BJJ Weekly as part of the branding series. Today I was sent a great, concise, driving commercial that premiers Combat Corner's ECO v2.0 gi. I went back a second time just to check out the track. It really doesn't get more straightforward than that. You see the product, you get pertinent info on the product, you hear music you wouldn't mind listening to again. Quality.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My first real taste of mental fatigue...

I've felt it before after long days at work, but tonight, trying in vain to break down the wall that is open guard, was the first time I felt sharp decline in my mental performance.

I'd rolled lightly once with one of the kids, then spent 6 minutes getting mercilessly handled by GinasticaInstructor. Third roll of the night was with JazzHands. Physically I felt fine and mentally...well I'd taken today off work in an effort to fake a long weekend after the weird, Wednesday 4th of July. My mind was fresh and free and ready.

So I see JazzHands' open guard as this...wall where chokes and armbars shoot out from nowhere. First round, I did ok, even got close to passing. He caught me in...something that involved me not breathing and we reset. And I crashed. And he noticed. And I tapped. Rinse and repeat. And repeat.

"What happened? You really had it for a while there but then you lost your concentration" ...and here I thought only I noticed that.

I could feel my mind crash after that first go 'round and knew exactly what he was talking about. I don't even have a it fatigue of the intensity of rolling with GinasticaInstructor or me mentally tensing and exhausting myself over frustrations with open guard...doesn't matter. The only real issue is that if this keeps happening, I think it's going to become a bigger blow to my ego than any amount of gassing out ever could be. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not sure I'll ever visit Brazil...

Training has changed so much of my life...from shopping less to improved diet and physical conditioning, the pursuit of jiu jitsu, any one will tell you, is truly a transformational life decision.

One of the biggest eye openers though, has been exposure to Brazilian culture. I've known for quite a while that Brazil is not an Hispanic country and that there are many linguistic and cultural differences that separate it from the Spanish influence of the rest of the continent. I want to learn Samba now. I've known about the large Black population (Brazil brought in 10x the number of slaves that the US did). From a classmate in grad school I learned about the weight of education (apparently it can trump race as a vehicle between classes) and the importance of being sexually attractive as a woman, even in business. Still, training has exposed me to even more.

Most recently, it's come from a blog that I've come to enjoy: Black Women of Brazil--whose most recent post really got my mind whirling about the concept of race and how it differs across the Americas. I know the experience of the Black American decently well and have talked with Black Latinos and PhDs about the experiences of those of African ancestry in Hispanic countries...but until I read this post from the blog on the Brazilian Mulata and the differences of the use of the term (as well as the term "Black) in the country, I was rolling with a lot of assumptions.

Apparently in Brazil, these women are considered "mulata". Quite different than the mulatto in the US. 

It's a great read on race, culture and sexuality, so I encourage anyone to check it out, but I'm not gonna lie...after reading, I'm less psyched about visiting Brazil (I know... sacrilege coming from a blue belt). I'm not going to blame that on Brazil or that post, and honestly, if I were going with people who I knew lived there, and they were people I trusted, I'd be up for a trip...however, almost every account of visits to the country (and this includes the stories of guys that train as well as businessmen) include exclamations of how "hot" "sexy" and "wild" the women are. As a person who gets confused for being Brazilian here in the US, the last thing I want to do is fork over cash to end up in an environment where some businessman is going to see in me another potential stop on his sex-cation. Any woman that travels without a male companion knows the importance of understanding the behavior and customs of the destination she's visiting.

As I said though, I'm not going to blame all of Brazil or Brazilians for the actions of a few foreigners and natives any more than I blamed Hong Kong for the Arab man who seemed to mistake me for a prostitute. I know that, despite the images we see on TV and online, Carnaval isn't going on year round and that there is much more to the country than sweaty chests and gyrating hips. That's something I've also learned from Black Women of Brazil...Brazilian music, politics, social activists, artists, cuisine...I just wish we saw more of that across the board.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

So all the GiFreak work has me paying even more attention to brands and marketing. There’s an up and coming brand—Inverted Gear—whose logo smacked me in the face as soon as I saw it on a gi sleeve. It’s a cuddly, achromatic, deliberate, Chinese break from the aggressive, industrial, Nippo-Brazilian logos that most companies and schools present to the public. The logo? An upside down panda.

The logo

 Brand recognition is a big deal and an aspect of marketing that companies spend large amounts of money to measure and properly implement, but BJJ is a small niche where that kind of time, capital and effort probably isn’t going to be invested, so me saying that Inverted Gear’s panda is possibly the most easily recognizable logo in the world of BJJ gis is based off my own gut reaction and that of people when the panda first premiered. Because of that reaction (a cross between “Awww!” and “Awesome!”), I had to contact the head of the company (Nelson Puentes) and find out what was up with the upside down panda.

Apparently, he was working on a lagartixa (gecko) sweep, which he was originally introduced to by a friend as being done from “panda guard”. After working it a few successful times in competition, his students started calling him “Panda”. Later, at purple belt level, when his students started asking him to make a patch that incorporated the panda, he decided to veer off the angry-animal path. The logo was used on a few shirts and after seeing the shirts at tournaments, people started asking if they could buy them (that’s the power of a good logo right there).

The Patch

Nelson tells me that the panda even acts as some sort of furry, inverted Rorschach, with some people seeing an animal interpretation of the Taijitu, some seeing the panda as the simultaneous beginner and expert and others seeing pandas embodying the constant and endless evolution of BJJ. The truth? The panda survived into Nelson’s entrepreneurial endeavors because they invert themselves and are gentle, sometimes technical creatures despite their weight and strength.

Thanks to Nelson at Inverted Gear for taking the time to talk.