Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: Destroying "I Can't"

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and, following convention, I'm thinking about everything that went on in 2009. At the beginning of 2009 there were a lot of things I thought I couldn't do. I didn't think I could get down to 135lbs. I didn't think I could run a mile without stopping. I didn't think I could successfully control a ground fight with a bigger, stronger opponent.

2009 proved me wrong. :)

Goals Met in 2009

1. Body by BJJ!! I reached my goal of 135 lbs and am still steadily losing!! This morning I weighed in at 134.0. To put that in perspective...

Before BJJ:
Weight: 144
Pants size: 9

After 4 and a half months of BJJ:
Weight: 134!!!
Pants size: 4 or a 6, depending on the brand.

2. At the beginning of 2009 I couldn't even run a mile without walking a few times during the run. And by run I mean stumbling jog. This morning I ran a 9:08 mile. Not amazing by most standards but awesome by mine!!

3. I competed in my first tournaments and placed 2nd in one and 1st in the other. Also got a good sense of where my BJJ game is and where I need to improve. Working on those goals in 2010! One of the things these tournaments proved to me was that BJJ works against bigger, stronger opponents. At De la Riva, I was the smallest girl competing and yet I still placed 2nd. That's not a testament to me, but to the techniques. They work!

4. Thanks to the fear of not making weight for the aforementioned tournaments, I broke my addiction to comfort foods!! Woohoo! Food is fuel now, not just something I eat for the taste and enjoyment. This is not to say I don't splurge every now and again but it is a rarity, not a rule like it used to be.

Other Highlights from the Non-BJJ part of my life:

1. My son started preschool and is thriving. He is a strong-willed kid if there ever was one and I was really worried that he would constantly be in trouble at school. But he has thrived. The one time I had to keep him home for being sick he cried because he wanted to go to school. I don't expect that to last but it's nice for right now!! ;)

2. I got my dream job of being a Youth Pastor and I'm loving every minute of it, even the trying ones. God has taught me through this year to let go of control and stop trying to force things to happen the way I want them to. He has challenged me to go with the flow and learn through the difficult times!

3. I finished the rough draft of a fiction novel. Not anywhere near ready to be read by anyone, but it's a solid draft I can work off of. One step closer to my goal of writing--and COMPLETING--a novel. ;)

2009 showed me that I was setting my limits too low. I am capable of more--physically and mentally--than I thought I was before. In 2010 I'm raising the bar for myself.

Goals for 2010

1. I want to be able to run a mile in 8 minutes or less. I walk four miles every morning and, for the last few days, I've been jogging the first mile. I'm going to keep that up and add interval jogging, sprinting and walking for the rest of the 3 miles. I tried it out this morning and enjoyed it.

2. My BJJ training goals are pretty non-specific. I want to be better at sweeps, at taking the back, at maintaining side control once I get it, at...oh, pretty much everything needs improvement. What do you want from me? I'm a white belt! ;)

3. I want to compete in the April NAGA in Florida. And place. This is going to be difficult because I am forced to move up a division since I placed 1st last NAGA. Hard training, here I come!

4. In my personal life I'd like to stop relying so heavily on people's approval. I need to be confident without needing other people to tell me that I'm doing a good job, whether it be in Jiu-jitsu, in my work with the Youth Group or any other area of my life.

5. I want to finish that novel. ;)

Hope all of you have a safe and happy New Years!! See you in 2010!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Last night I had one of those "Aha!" moments while I was watching two of my instructors grapple against each other. Mario, my blue belt instructor, was trying to pass Fabio's guard. Mario was passing to the side and Fabio had rolled onto his side. I get into this situation a lot and what I usually end up stiff-arming, holding onto their legs and trying to get my legs up to recover half guard or full guard. The problem is, they come around a lot more quickly than I can and I can only catch up maybe half of the time. If it is a higher belt I'm rolling with, I don't catch up. They just pass. lol

But Fabio did something that never occurred to me. When Mario tried to pass to the side, Fabio rolled upside down on his shoulders, presenting Mario with an inverted guard. Mario had to then deal with Fabio's legs again. And when he tried to pass to either side, Fabio could shift his hips and turn more quickly than Mario. My jaw actually dropped when I saw it.

The funny thing is, I have seen Fabio do this a million times. He has done it TO ME in several grapples. But for some reason, it clicked for me tonight.

So, the next grapple I had after I saw that, I tried it. Fortunately, I was going with another white belt girl, so I had a fair chance. It worked!! She started to pass and I flipped upside down to an inverted guard. She just looked at me like, "Crap...what do I do now." Which is exactly what I do when other people do that to me. ;)

Small victory for the win!!

Now if only I can learn how to pass the inverted guard...grrrr. :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Popped Elbow

I popped a capsule in my elbow on Saturday morning. It was probably my own fault. I was rolling with a much bigger guy and he got me in an armbar. I rolled out of it, but he transitioned to an umaplata. I rolled out of that too and was just getting to my knees. But he still had my arm and, when he sat up to follow me, my elbow bent the wrong way.


Moral of the story. Tap text time? I honestly don't know what I should have done. I mean, I was out of the submission. I think it was just a freak accident.

I know it happens all the time. Honestly, it hasn't hurt that bad. Been icing it a lot. It's still sore today, still tight. I can straighten it all the way and bend it all the way, but it hurts at both extremes.

I probably already know the answer to this question, but should I train tonight? I really want to, but I don't want to be an idiot. Have you guys ever popped an elbow? How long did you wait before you trained again, if at all? How long did it take for you to feel 100% again?

In happier news, I had another small victory this week. When I started BJJ, I couldn't even run a solid mile without feeling like I was going to die. I ran with some of the teenagers in the youth group that my husband and I run (Big mistake. Why would I choose to do my first mile run since high school with a bunch of military school cadets???) and my mile lasted for over 12 minutes!!

Yesterday I ran with my friend Amy. She's insane. She runs five miles on her "short days". Anyway, I wanted to see if my mile had improved, so we ran. I finished in just under 10 minutes!! That's still not a great mile, but it is an improvement. We were running at a slow pace too because I have a gimp elbow and she had a groin injury. I might try again today and really push myself and see if I can finish in 8 minutes.

Lastly (sorry for the long post) had an awesome Christmas and can't wait for New Years! Hope you and your families had a great holiday! Here are a few holiday pictures from the McClish family!

This last one was at an ice sculpture display that attracts huge crowds down here. Only in Florida would people pay $25 to go into a room filled with ice!! ;) It was really pretty, though.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hitting the Plateu

Merry Christmas to all of you out in the blogosphere!

In an effort to fight off all the cookie-weight from the Christmas season, I've been to class every day except Sunday this week. In my rolls with everyone at Fabio's, I was noticing something. I'm not catching the same submissions I used to. And, while I am catching some new submissions--weird arm bars and omaplatas and a few sloppy leg locks--I am not getting very many submissions. In fact, I was going some classes without getting any at all. I have noticed a few improvements in my movement, like more sweeps and passes. But I was feeling frustrated because I felt like I wasn't improving with my submissions. It almost felt like I was regressing.

I talked to a few of my instructors, Ben and Mario, about it and he told me that this kind of thing is common. He said that likely my game is changing. People know my normal submissions and are defending them. That's probably why I'm not catching the same submissions I did before. Also, the higher belts are forcing me to work different things, which is good. They know I can do a traditional arm bar or triangle (not that I do them well. I still forget to squeeze my knees half the time.). So they're not going to just let me work them anymore. I am forced to try different things now if I don't want to get demolished.

So, even though it feel like I'm not improving, this is a necessary step if I want to see progress. Ben and Mario said this will happen over and over again and that it happens to everyone. The important thing, they told me, is that you keep working and don't get frustrated. Eventually, you'll start to feel like you're improving again.

Hope you guys have a happy and safe Christmas!! See you in the New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Intimidation Factor

Why is it that I am more intimidated to grapple a fellow white belt who is about to go blue than to grapple the purple and brown belts in our school?

I noticed this yesterday in class. Every time I grapple unfamiliar guys who are also white belts or who are blue belts that I don't normally grapple, I get really nervous. I know these guys from class, but I rarely roll with them. When I do, I usually end up not rolling as well as I should.

I think I realized what the probelm is. I'm worried about them thinking that I suck. I'm worried about them submitting me. I'm worried about catching submissions on them. When I'm rolling with purples and browns, the pressure is off. I EXPECT to be constantly defeated, so I just relax and try stuff. It's the same way with all the blue belts I normally grapple. I know they're better than me. So I just focus on moving and trying to use what little technique I know.

When I roll with a fellow white belt or a blue belt that I don't know very well, I feel a stupid amount of pressure to perform. Why? Who cares if another white belt taps me? And especially, who cares if another blue belt taps me. That's why I have the white belt--because I'm a beginner.

It seems like I keep coming back to this issue of trying to prove myself. And every time it happens, I suck for a few classes because I'm psyching myself out. Then I realize I need to relax. Then I do and finally I can roll normally again.

I'm a head case.

Anyway, we did a guard pass yesterday that was pretty cool. It's one of those leaping, cartwheel-y type ones that I probably won't use for a very long time. But it was fun to practice. Rolling was fun too, except for that one grapple where I let my head gt in the way. I grappled one of our purple belts, Joe Boxer, who is really fun to roll with. He rolled lighter than normal with me, giving me resistance and forcing me to move correctly, but basically letting me get into positions and try things.

I had "taken" his back and I had this rear naked choke. It was taking a long time. Nothing was happening. I was squeezing, I was filling my lungs with air. No tap. Since it is SUPPOSED to be a blood choke, I was 90% sure that I wasn' doing it right. So I turned my head to ask Fabio what I was doing wrong and I hear, "No Allison! Put your head back!" But it was too late. He got his head to the side and escaped. lol. Oh well. It wasn't like I legitimately got that choke anyway.

Impatience for the lose!!! ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How did I miss that?

Today in class, I got caught in the same choke twice. I was in half guard and went to take the guy's back. When I swam his arm, he hooked it and went for some choke. Still don't know the name of the choke.

I asked Fabio about it after class and he showed me the counter. It's a sweep, basically taking advantage of the fact that his arm is committed to the choke. It was so simple, I felt stupid that I didn't see the solution myself.

I've been shown so many things like this lately. It makes me realize that I need to be more aware of where my opponents body weight is and what limbs I can take out to make the person unbalanced. For some reason, I can see arm bars and omaplatas that aren't the "text book" set ups. But I am not seeing--or feeling--the sweeps.

That's going to be my focus in the next few weeks.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Grappling With No Hands

Tonight was another first for me. We practiced some take downs for the first part of class and then we grappled for the remainder with a twist. First, we grappled with one arm tied into our belts. Then we switched partners and the other person had to grapple one-armed. After that, we had to grapple with not hands, putting both wrists into our belt.

It was actually really fun. Difficult, but fun. It forced me to use my head and my body weight. And it forced me to move with my hips instead of pushing myself around with my arms. I was surprised that I could still control someone in my guard without using my hands, although I could not submit them. I did try to go for a triangle and I closed it, but I couldn't finish it. Really fun, really helpful class!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jim Carey is a Black Belt

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Small Victories

We worked some basic scissor sweeps this morning, which was great. I haven't been shown a scissor sweep since my second or third class and I saw a lot of things today that I had been doing wrong.

It's funny because Ben (our Saturday morning instructor) was telling us that Fabio's style is to show us one or two moves with a bunch of variations each class. For example, we worked the scissor sweep all class long, but we did scissor sweep to an arm-bar, scissor sweep to taking the back, scissor sweep to inverted arm-bar, scissor sweep to arm bar to omaplata or triangle. Lots of information.

Even though our instructors know we only retain about 10% of the stuff they shows us, they keep on going, knowing that we'll see those moves again later down the road. The longer we go to class and the more times we see those moves (at different points in our BJJ development) the more we will pick up. As it is, what little we do retain gives us a bigger arsenal than would a class that focused only on teaching the basics until they we had them down.

What do you guys think about that strategy? Do your schools do it differently?

Grappling today went really well. I'm going through one of those spurts where I'm finally able to incorporate some things that I've been working on for a while. Today, my victory was something small. I was finally able to sweep a guy who outweighs me by 80 lbs. For me, that was huge. I've been trying really hard to work on not staying in guard or half-guard the whole time and I'm finally starting to see some improvement in that area. Instead of falling into guard when I'm in trouble, I get to my knees and stay neutral. Instead of sitting in half-guard, I'm aggressively looking to sweep or take the back. And when I do find myself in guard--which I still feel the most confident in--I look for sweeps and sometimes get them.

When I grapple with guys who are bigger than me (which is about 80% of the time) I still end up on my back a lot of the time. But I'm still happy to see some small sign that I'm moving forward.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leg Over Thingy

Didn't want to go to class this afternoon. I was up until 4 a.m. last night. Couldn't sleep. But I went anyway and I'm really glad. It ended up being one of the best days of rolling that I've had in a long time. I think it's because I was so tired that it relaxed me. I was expecting to get tapped (I'm usually one of only a few white belts on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons), so I was just rolling.

The other thing is that I think I finally was able to shrug off all the pressure I was putting on myself to perform. After NAGA, my grappling turned to crap and I couldn't figure out why. I think it was because I was wanting to keep the good opinion of my fellow teammates. So I was putting all this pressure on myself. Instead of doing well, I was ruining my game by being to concerned about how good or bad I was rolling.

Finally, I realized that I just needed to relax. I'm still a crappy white belt. I will be for a while. And who cares about what other people think. I am not doing this for them. I'm doing it because I love BJJ.

Anyway, we worked a weird, leg-over choke that you get when you're sitting out in side control. Really love this choke. The cool thing about it is that if you set it up right, you also have both arms trapped. So if you lose the choke with your leg, you can still apply an armbar to either arm right from where you are. I wish I could explain what it looks like, but I fail at explaining moves. Even if the person rolls, you can still get the choke or the whichever arm bars. I am going to make this a part of my game if it kills me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Passing the Guard

Worked some butterfly guard passes today, which was fun since I haven't worked with butterfly guard hardly at all. I experiment with it in grappling sometimes with limited success. ;) We did two passes. The first one involved basically doing a cartwheel over the person, using your shoulder against their abs. The other one involved passing one of the legs on the outside, sitting out and moving into side control.

Enjoyed it, but didn't get to practice it a lot. There was a new girl that came to class today and I ended up being her crash test dummy for most of the drilling time. Really liked her. I think she will be someone who will stick with it, because she is really motivated and isn't gun shy about trying anything. Hope she keeps coming back.

When we started rolling, I went with one of the blue belts. My friend Phil was watching me and made the accurate comment that I rely to heavily on my guard game. Shocking, I know. He challenged me to not pull guard at all during my next grapple.
I went with a fellow white belt. It was really hard! I didn't realize how much of a habit I had made out of falling back into guard. I took side control a couple of times, but got caught in half guard when I tried to go to mount.

I got out of half guard a couple of times, but the third time ended up on the bottom in half guard. My instinct was to free my leg and return to guard. That is what I normally do in that situation. Or, if I can't free my leg, I try to sweep or take the person's back. Unfortunately, the person I was grappling with had a solid base and my only two options were to take her back or pull guard. The side that I could have taken her back on was right next to the wall. Literally. I couldn't go that way. So my only option was to try to pull guard, but I didn't want to do that. Oh well. Pulling guard isn't horrible. I just need to work on doing other things as well.