Saturday, January 30, 2010

Putting Yourself Out There

Putting yourself out there isn't always a good thing. Especially when you're dealing with leg-locks. And, seeing as I love working open guard, that's a problem for me. I was noticing that I was getting leg-locked a lot. So, I got a private lesson with Ben to learn about how to avoid putting my legs in danger in the first place.

Long story short: Anytime you don't have your legs tucked in close to your body, they're at risk. But there are some basic things you can do to avoid getting leg-locked or to escape if you do.

Rule #1: Don't Let them move for free. Always keep hold of something above the waist. The wrist/sleeve is preferable, but at the very least, grab neck/lapel. Keeping their base broken down and their center of balance forward prevents them from going back for a leg lock in the first place.

Rule #2: Know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. In other words, don't wait until someone has already gotten tight into position to start your escape. This goes back to being able to discern when you've lost a position or when someone is setting up for a submission. The time to defend a heel hook is not when someone already has your heel in the crook of their elbow and starts cranking. It's when you see them go back to take the leg.

Rule #3: Know your escape routes. There are three basic escapes that I know and that have worked relatively well for me. As per rule two, there's a certain "point of no return" in which the only way out of a leg-lock is to tap. Here are my favorite escapes (a.k.a. only escapes I know at this point): The Twisting Roll Out, The Alligator Crawl and Coming Up On Top. I'll have to do another post on the particulars of those. I will say, as much as I like these escapes, I am a quick tapper when it comes to leg locks.

Rule #4: Hold on Tight. Similar to rule number one, except more imperative once someone has your leg, always, always, ALWAYS grab one of their arms. You can't finish a heel hook with one arm. It might still hurt, but I don't care how hard someone cranks it, you just can't finish the submission with only one arm. There have been times where I had to survive the last two part of a grapple holding on to someone's sleeve for dear life while they're rabidly trying to get my leg.

Rule #5: Know when to tap. If the person is still fumbling around with the leg-lock or if they don't have it tight, then try escaping. But if someone has a tight knee bar/ankle lock, it's not the time to test your threshold for pain or be stubborn. That's how you get your ankle or knee popped or broken. The ankle and knee don't have as much "bending room" as your elbows, wrists and shoulders. And a badly broken ankle can put you out of BJJ forever. Better to eat a little humble pie and still be able to walk.

Leg-locks are still scary to me and I will probably still tap early, but at least now I feel like I have an understandingBut, if the person is still fumbling around with the leg-lock or if they don't have it tight, then try escaping. of how to protect my legs from getting compromised in the first place. Woohoo!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Like White on Rice

Tuesday night I had the sniffles but I went to class anyway. Thought it was just the cold weather. (Don't laugh at me, Northerners. 50 degrees is cold when you live in Florida!!). But by the end of class I was feeling really crappy and had a full blown cold.

I'm still glad I went, though I hope I didn't give what I have to anyone else. We worked a scissor-sweep to a gi choke that I really like. Again, it had been a while since I had seen a scissor sweep taught and I had a lot of little erros that were making my sweep ineffective, like putting my knee too far through across the belly and putting my other leg against the mat. Instead, you want to hook your ankle across the rib cage, but not put your knee all the way through to the other side. And with your other leg, you want to put it directly over their knee joint, not above it on the thigh or below it against the mat. I also wasn't arching back like I should when you go to apply the sweep.

But the real lesson I took away from that night happened during grappling. Usually, when I grapple with my instructor, Ben, he goes with my movements and stays relaxed. He's not trying to submit me. He's just reacting to what I'm doing and letting me move. Tuesday night he took a different approach: tight and controlled.

There's only one way to describe how I felt during that grapple: Son of a mother flipping biscuit eater!! Every time I moved, he wrapped me up tighter. Every time I exposed a limb, I lost it to some kind of clench. He was fluid and moving, but I just kept getting wrapped up into a smaller and smaller ball.

As frustrating as the grapple was, I learned a few things from it.

#1. Keep moving. Even when your opponent has the dominant position, don't freak out. You've already lost the points or the advantage, so it's time to relax, work to make space and to begin working to get a sweep or to get back to a neutral position.

#2. If you can't stay tight while you're doing something fast then you need to slow it down. What good is it for me to try to pass someone's guard at lightning speed if I am so sloppy while I do it that they can sweep me or catch half guard or something? I need to take my time and do things right instead of trying to do them fast.

#3. For Pete's sake, don't expose your limbs!! I don't know how many times Ben trapped one of my arms or legs. I was just putting them out there way to much. Again, this goes back to staying tight while I'm moving.

Another thing I noticed was that, even though Ben was going harder on me than normal and staying tighter than he ever has on me before, he never hurt me. I never felt pain. Just a ridiculous amount of frustration at my own inability to do anything. To me, that's an example of real BJJ. He completely dominated me without ever having to submit me or even cause me pain in any way.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rigidity vs. Flexibility

Georgette just posted a blog ( that I thought was really insightful. At one point, she was talking about how white belts and he said:

"Most new whitebelts are like babies grunting, making sounds, only barely able to communicate with their partners by shoving or grabbing them and they’re fixated on what they want to “say,” often refusing to “listen” to their opponent (which manifests itself in that charming, rigid deathgrip and spastic movement we all know and don’t love.)"

Unfortunately, I know exactly what he means and can see some of it in myself, especially in the "deathgrip" department and trying to force what I want to happen. In the last month or so, I've really been working to change that aspect of my grappling; to learn to "go with the flow" more and use the momentum of my opponent in order to move from one position to another.

Last night, I started saw some positive steps in that direction. I was rolling with another white belt girl who is smaller than me and has had less experience than I have, so I was really relaxed. I wasn't looking for submissions, I was just moving and trying to get into dominant positions and then defend them, making her work to get out of them. I noticed I moved A LOT smoother.

Most of this probably has to do with the fact that I wasn't meeting with as much resistance as I normally do. But I also think the fact that I was relaxed and deliberately trying to react to her movements and work them to my advantage. If she pushed, I went with the motion and came around to one side or the other. If I was in side control and she tried to hip out, I sat out or moved to north south. Once she started going one way to get our of north south, I took advantage of the space and moved into side control on the other side. Then it was to mount, then it was taking the back.

I didn't have an agenda. I was focused on reacting to what she was doing and trying to come out into the best position I could from what I was presented with. Shockingly (to me), when I let go of control like that, I ended up in better positions than when I have tried to force my way into those positions.

I know, I know. It's shocking that my instructors were right. Again. As backwards as it seems to my mind, you fight better when you're relaxed and willing to go with the flow of the other person.

And, as with so many things in BJJ, this concept reminds me of life off the mat: Learning to let go of control and stop trying to force things to happen, instead trusting, doing your best and being flexible enough to make the most of whatever life throws your way.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Fail Flail

The title of this blog is honor of a roll I had with one of the blue belts today. I hadn't grappled this guy in long time and, for some reason, I went completely blank. I felt like a retard.

I think part of the problem is that, sometimes when I roll with a higher belt, they don't move very much and I get intimidated. They're being still, or going slower, to let me try stuff. But them just sitting there intimidates me more, somehow. When they're moving and I'm defending, my mind gets absorbed in the game. Conversely, when I'm presented with an unmoving--seemingly immovable--object, I seem to forget everything I've learned.

Apart from that roll, though, I did alright. My roll with Ben was fun, but at one point he literally had me hoisted up in the air with his hands and ankle-hooks, my back to him. He probably could have just dropped me directly into an rnc, but he allowed me to flail out of it.

On a positive note, in my roll with Mario, I noticed myself moving into north/south and following his move into turtle by attacking from the front or one side without putting my arms all the way in and getting rolled. He was going no gi and, since the only thing I know to do when someone is in turtle is gi chokes or an rnc, I just tried to move him out of it somehow. I ended up getting pretzled for most of the grapple, but at least I was getting into some new-to-me positions. I just don't know what to do from there.

If I get to the positions, one day the submissions will come. At least, that is what I hope!! :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Slow Week

I was sick this week with an upper respiratory infection and...dun, dun, eye. Which means I had to be quarantined from the outside world. Sometimes, it really feels like God has a sense of humor because my elbow had been giving me trouble and I knew it needed rest but was unwilling to take time off to let it heal. Well, God made the time for me, apparently!! ;) Now, coming off almost a full week of rest, I feel much better both sickness wise and with my elbow.

Last night I went to class and drilled technique only and sat out during grappling. We learned a take down that I absolutely love. This is the first time that I've learned a take-down and have actually been excited to use it in a real grappling situation. Not surprisingly, it is a take-down where you almost go to half-guard and sweep. It's really difficult to explain. Or maybe the problem is I fail at explaining moves. But the basic idea is you kind of slide between the persons' legs--trying to get deep--and got to an almost half-guard sweep position. You arc your arm in a cartwheel motion to buckle one leg and use your other legs to buckle the other leg and then you roll them over.

Horrible explanation. I apologize. But, when in motion, it was really fun and I think it will be relatively easy once I practice it. Most importantly, I don't feel like my knees are in jeopardy doing this position and I feel confident doing it. Also, there's another one that I have been trying where you pull the person down and roll them over your head and land in mount. Again, abysmal description. It's riskier than the other one but unexpected. And I like it as well because, as with the other one, my knees are out of harms way.

I'm still practicing other take-downs as well because I want to be able to do to the ones that I am not comfortable with. You never know what situation you will encounter when you step on the mat. But I'm happy that I at least have two take-downs that I feel relatively confident with. Woohoo!! No more jumping guard! I suck a little bit less! ;)

On a gloomier note, one of my teammates popped his ankle last night during a grapple. This is why I am so scared of leg submissions. I know I am too cautious, but I rarely try to escape leg locks. Once someone has my ankle, I tap. With my knees being bad, I don't mess around. My friend said he didn't even feel pain until the last second and the POP! He said this morning that he thinks its a minor pop and that he'll be back in training by Saturday. Hope he heals up quickly!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Gentle Art?

When I watch Fabio or some of the brown or purple belts at my school grapple, I am constantly amazed by the ease with which they move. Less advanced grapplers will be drenched in sweat, giving it all they've got against Fabio and meanwhile, he looks completely unconcerned, right up until the moment when they chokes the person out a smile on his face.

That's what I'm striving for. An effortless, technical game. I know it will be years before I start getting close to what I see from Fabio. But it's still the dream. One step in that direction is learning how to grapple without using strength.

There's been a lot of discussion lately between me and several of my other friends who have been training roughly the same amount of time as me about this topic. What the difference is between being tight and keeping pressure and using sheer muscle to do what you want to do in grappling?

Bigger, stronger guys usually get called out for "muscling", but I know that I have used muscle instead of technique before and have seen other small grapplers try to use sheer muscle to accomplish something.

From what I understand, most beginners struggle to find out where muscling ends and using proper technique begins. Lately, I've been trying to eliminate a lot of what I feel is muscling from my game. But this is one of those things that is kind of difficult to define.

I've asked around and here are the few guidelines people have shared with me:

- If what you're doing works only because your opponent is smaller or weaker, and wouldn't work on someone your size or larger, or on someone with better technique, you are probably using too much muscle.

- If you leave every grapple winded and shaky, you are probably using too much muscle during your grapple.

- If you are locking people up a lot or if you are generally stiff--i.e. you're locking your joints, or gripping and holding someone to the point that your muscles feel tight and to the point that you get gassed--you are probably using too much muscle.

- If you find yourself having to force submissions and sweeps, you probably have some detail about the technique wrong and are trying to finish it with muscle.

- If you are relaxed while you grapple and are able to talk to a person while grappling, you are probably NOT muscling (Thanks, Dev).

- Holding your breath because you are straining is probably a sign that you are using more muscle than technique (Thanks, Leslie).

- Leslie said, "Staying tight is more about angles and weight placement than gripping and squeezing."

Also, I found this quote somewhere and thought it was really good:

“If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. And if you tire, you die!” Saulo Ribeiro.

That's what I've gathered so far. Feel free to add to the list!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Right Tool for the Right Job

Today, we worked on escaping side control. Very convenient since I just had a private on keeping side control!

The important thing Ben tried to get across was that each escape needs to be performed at the proper time. If someone has high side control, don't try to pull an escape designed for getting out of low side control. Know which tools are the right ones for the job. Don't try to use a hammer when what you really need is a screwdriver. Here's a bare bones breakdown of the techniques he went over.

Standard Side Control Escape

Here, your opponent is not able to fully control either your hips or your arms. The goal should be to get your elbow and knee in and create a barrier. Make space. From there, you can either go to butterfly guard or try to get back to full guard or you can swim the outside underarm, bring your legs out so you're on your stomach and pop up to both knees. Drive forward, keeping pressure on the legs and bringing your hips over their knees. Establish side control.

High Side Control Escape

The person who has high side control has a firm grasp on the arms and upper torso, but he's weak in two places. One, the legs and hips are free to move. And, two, his weight is committed over the center line of the person's body and they are easier to sweep. We focused on learning one sweep you can use to take advantage of that. Basically, you do a thumbs down escape. To make it easier, shrink down a little first to clear your head from their elbow. When you're going around, bring the arm you roll over around to block the legs so they can't follow you and take your back. After you roll, drive forward the same way you did for the escape from standard side control.

Low Side Control Escape

From low side control, again, they have half of the body locked up while the other is free to move. Also, they have their weight committed to one area. To escape, trap the inside leg with your leg, trap the arm at the elbow, bridge over your shoulder and roll them. Make sure you keep your inside leg tight during the roll so they can't get their legs around.

The basic ideas I took away from both this class and my private lesson are: All escapes depend on what the other person is doing. They can’t defend all positions at all times. Keep an eye out for where you can move and where they are off balance. Don’t muscle. Be calm and focus on finding a hole and making space or catching a sweep. Conversely, if you are the one applying side control, anticipate where they will try to escape and move accordingly. Don't be stagnant in any position for a long time.

Slowly but surely, I'm starting to see a little evidence of all this focus on side control in grappling. What I really need to do is be able to move between positions better. Not just between different types of side control, but from side control to north south and back to side control, etc. In time, right? :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Points of Control

I recently had a private lesson with Ben. I have a laundry list of positions that I feel are either extremely weak or non-existent in my game. This private lesson, I asked Ben to help me understand some of the basic concepts behind controlling an opponent from side-control, north-south and knee on belly. There are probably a lot of details I forgot, but here are some of the main points I absorbed out of the lesson. I know it's pretty basic stuff, but that's all you're going to get from me! ;)

One of the most important things Ben taught me about side control is the need to keep pressure in the right place depending on what kind of side control you're doing: standard, high or low side control. He also made sure I understood that, as with any position in BJJ, you don't want to get somewhere and just sit there. You want to be able to move in that position.

The reason for this is that, no matter what position you're in, you can't control all parts of the body at once. For example, if you have a high side control, then you've effectively cut off the top part of their body from movement. However, their hips and legs are still free. You need to be able to move from high side control to low side control and vice versa.

So, back to pressure. One thing I had been neglecting was keeping pressure on the person's chin with my shoulder. Even when I was putting my shoulder there, I wasn't really putting pressure with it. The other thing was to make sure that, when I'm moving between high side control and low side control that I always keep pressure/weight on the person.

When you're in standard side control and someone starts giving you trouble with the upper half of their body--i.e. they get an elbow in or something--what he told me to do is keep pressure, post out with the leg closest to their head and slide my knee up their body, catching their elbow and sitting out. It is important when I'm doing that to sit out high. Don't just do it half way. Also, I have to keep my weight over their chest, not leaning back where they can sweep me or get hold of me with their legs.

When you establish high side control, your knee should come up in front of the elbow that you have beneath their neck. Again, keep pressure with your shoulder on their chin. You can use your other arm to either control their hips, block their leg or start working a submission.

For low side control, when they're giving you trouble with their hips and knees, sit out the other way, keeping your butt back. Use your arm to block them from getting half guard, but don't lock your arm around their leg. It's more of a barrier. Keep your weight over their chest and abdomen.

When establishing low side control, your knees will be one below their butt and one at their hips. You can roll the person to their side, controlling their lower half at the top knee and keeping your weight on them.

We didn't really focus too much on submissions from any of the positions we went over because there are just so many and--at least at my level--it really depends on what the person does when you get to that position. He was more focused on getting me to cement in the concepts.

From North South, the basic things he showed me and made me practice were transitioning between side control and north south, keeping one under-hook and one over-hook, keeping pressure in their abdomen and torso. Most of what we practiced here was moving from side control to north/south to side control on the other side and then knee on belly and then mount, etc, etc. A lot of moving.

For Knee on Belly, he pointed out that I need to "pop up" in one fluid motion and sit up straight and posting out my leg, keeping my balance. Whichever way they try to move, I should be able to follow without losing my balance or decreasing the pressure of my leg across their chest/abdomen. Ben warned me to keep the triceps, but not to commit by hooking the arm with my elbow--a bad habit I'd gotten into.

A lot of the time was spent on drilling, with me moving between the positions and him tweaking things that I needed to make tighter or little bad habits that I need to correct. Now to work on making all of these details into new habits!!

I want to have several more private lessons, but I plan to space them out over the next few months so I can try to implement what I learn in the weeks in between. Here's what I want to focus on in the next few private lessons:

Attacking someone who is turtling.

Below the waist defense and submissions.

On another topic, the elbow that I popped a few weeks ago is still giving me a lot of trouble. It seems to be getting more sore instead of less. Any of you have that happen when you popped an elbow? I haven't gotten arm-barred on that side or anything else in the last week or so. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flea on the Dog

I couldn't train last night because I'm sick, but I did turn up at the gym to watch a few more promotions to blue belt. One guy who we call Salsa John was promoted to blue belt and he definitely deserved it. I know tournaments alone don't warrant a belt promotion, but he won his division at NAGA almost effortlessly. During one of the matches I watched, he ran the score up 21 to 0. Congrats Salsa John!!

Since I couldn't train last night, I had the chance to watch how some other people roll. Someone that I love watching is one of our purple belts, Brian Morgan. He's not a big guy, only a little bit taller than me and maybe 15 pounds heavier. But he moves like his opponents weigh nothing, even when--like last night--the guy he's rolling with weighs almost 100 lbs more.

There were several times last night when I though his opponent was about to take the dominant position. They were basically moving on top and were almost all the way over. And then, out of nowhere, Brian would somehow slide out from under and end up back on top.

One of the keys, I think, is that Brian never stops moving. He's a good example of the metaphor Fabio likes to use called "Flea on the Dog." The dog is much bigger than the flea, but the flea keeps biting the dog and winning. Why? Because no matter how much the dog tries to bite the flea, the flea keeps moving out of the way. That definitely describes Brian. He's always moving out of the way. At least he is until he gets where he wants to be and then he's the one putting on the pain.

Here's an old video highlight reel of Brian's. I think it was made a few years ago when he was still a white belt, but I'm not sure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm Doing it Again

Why is it that every time I do well at something in BJJ I start to doubt myself? I didn't have a great night last night. Nothing really horrible, I just didn't feel like I rolled well.

We worked take-downs and had 1 minute sessions practice take-downs against a teammate. I suck at take-downs. Plain and simple. Here's a break down of my problems with take-downs:

- I'm scared of hurting my knees. I had ACL surgery on the left one in 9th grade and it's always been weak and I pulled the right one about two months ago doing take-downs in class.
- I'm too cautious. Not aggressive enough.
- When I do go, I don't commit enough.
- I don't have the timing down.
- My technique is shaky at best since I've not practiced take-downs.

Steph is getting ready for February NAGA and she wants to practice take-downs, so I'm going to practice with her. It will be good for both of us. I need to get over this take-down fear I have.

Rolling went a little better, but I went with another white belt, teenage boy and I felt like I was scrambling to keep him from passing my guard. He would just explode into crazy motion and try to literally throw my legs out of the way. I think he did end up getting past once, but I was able to get back to guard. In the end, I didn't feel like I put forth a solid grapple.

And herein lies my issue. My instructor gave me two stripes last Saturday, so now I have three. Three stripes on a white belt isn't that impressive, but even so, I feel like I have to prove that I really deserved those two stripes. Not just to my other teammates, but to my instructor as well. If I suck in class, maybe he'll think he shouldn't have given me the stripes, you know?

Here's why I know I'm retarded: First, I shouldn't be so worried about how good or bad other people think I am. I should just come in and train and leave the drama at home. Second, Ben wouldn't have given me stripes if he wasn't sure I deserved them. And he's not going to change his mind based on one bad day I had. Third, even if someone thinks I don't deserve my stripes, who cares? I don't do BJJ for them. I do it for me.

I have got to get over this self-doubt thing. I mean, yes it's good to be humble. But I ruin my game by worrying so much about sucking. I'm going to make this an exercise in self-confidence. I'm going to refuse to allow myself to even think about whether or not I'm rolling well. I'm just going to roll and focus on what I'm doing.

At least, that's the plan. ;)

Before I sign off, here's something you don't see every day. Icicles on an orange tress. It just ain't right!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hitting The Wall

Great class tonight. Worked a basic Triangle, which was good because I picked up several details that I'd missed before, especially about the set-up.

During grappling, I didn't focus on submissions, but on not letting people pass my guard. I played around with some spider guard and butterfly guard, both of which are still weak for me at this point. Inverted is coming along, though I only go to it if all my other defenses fail because I am worried about getting stacked and hurting my neck while I'm moving into the position.

But the thing that stood out to me tonight in class was not the actual drilling, but what Fabio told the class before we grappled. He switched topics a few times, but the over all message was this: Be humble.

Here's a break down of what he said:

- Don't focus on stripes and belts. When Fabio is deciding who gets stripes or who gets promoted, he's not just looking for people who can submit other people. That's only part of jiu-jitsu, not the whole. He's looking for movement, for transitions, for the relaxation. If you come off the mat after every grapple completely winded, something is wrong. Also, sometimes technique isn't enough to earn a stripe or a belt. It's about the attitude as well. Fabio may give you one stripe and then not give you another one until he decides you're ready for your next belt, just to make sure you're not stripe-hunting. Or, if he thinks you're prideful, he'll give you four stripes or more instead of promoting you after the third stripe. Bottom line: don't worry about stripes. Worry about learning the techniques and developing an attitude of confidence tempered with humility.

- He also talked about how, if you let your pride get in the way, you won't last in BJJ. Eventually, everyone "hits the wall". You were feeling good about training, and then all of the sudden you feel like you've taken two steps backwards, or that you aren't growing anymore. Maybe you went to a tournament and you got tapped out or didn't grapple as well as you could have. If you let stuff like that mess with your head, you will stagnate and not move forward. When you hit the wall like this, you find out if you really love BJJ or not. If you do, you press on. If not, you quit.

Good talk.

On a completely unrelated topic, I have a question for all of my fellow BJJer's out there. I've been trying to focus on being relaxed while I grapple. But where do you draw the line between being tight in the correct way--i.e. not making space--and wasting unnecessary energy by gripping too tightly and being over-all too tight while you grapple? I don't know if I worded that question well, but I guess what I'm wondering is how to you be tight while you're grappling without wasting energy?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cloud Nine

Man, so much is going on in my little world right now I don't even know where to start. I guess, given that this is a BJJ blog, I'll contain my gleeful spoutings to only the things happening with my school and training.

Firstly, we had a belt graduation at Fabio's on Friday night and several people were promoted, including both of my Summerlin instructors, Ben and Mario. Ben got another stripe on his brown belt and Mario was promoted to Purple Belt. Go Mario!! Steph and I were humming the Super Mario theme song while he was getting his belt tied on. Then, after the end of class, we decided to congratulate him by doing a sneak attack and ambushing him at the same time. He ended up using Stephanie as a human shield against me and pinning us both to the wall. But I gave him a wet-willy in the process, so that has to count for something!! lol

Several others in the school got stripes or belts. Congrats to the Fabio Novaes BJJ team! Love you guys!!

I have a video of the "ceremony" we do at Fabio's whenever a person is promoted to the next belt. All of the belts at their level or higher get to do three take downs of their choosing on the newly initiated. It was pretty awesome, though I will say I have no desire to become a blue belt any time soon after seeing the enormous line of excited blues, purples and browns waiting to toss the guys who got promoted! I'll put the video up soon.

Then, Saturday morning during class, I felt like the drills we did were almost tailor made for what I needed to learn. It was just one of those mornings where everything we learned instantly clicked. I think that's because we focused mainly on concepts, not on detailed, multi-step moves (though we did have a few of those). I am the type of person who learns the big picture, more than the small details. That's good in some cases. I can imitate positions and see variations during grapples when I learn something new. But it's bad because I usually forget some key detail that makes a position hard to keep or a submission difficult to finish. Oh well. Details will come with time, I hope.

I had a private lesson scheduled for after class, to work on some basic positions. I was noticing in my grappling that I could pass guard and get to side control, but I couldn't keep side control to save my life. Also, I was feeling like I needed to understand some of the basic concepts behind the North/South and Knee-on-Belly positions as well. I wrote everything down that I learned both in regular class and in the private, but I'm still absorbing it all. I'll do a post in the next few days about everything I learned. But, man! It was a great training session.

The icing on the cake was that I got a few stripes at Saturday morning's class. I was shocked. For the last month or so, I didn't feel like I was improving at all. It just goes to show how little I know about BJJ! And it inspires me to train even harder.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fabio's school has been getting a lot of press recently and he told the class last week that we should look into getting sponsors. I'm sure he wasn't talking about crappy white belts when he said this, but how do you go about getting a sponsor? Do you just cold call people and say, "Hey, want to sponsor me?" Do you have to be uber to get one? Because if that's the case, I need not apply. ;)

Rolling today went well today. I actually finished a gi choke from half-guard for the first time ever. And, also for the first time, I went for leg locks during a couple of my grapples with some higher belts. I did catch a few legs, but they escaped before I could finish. I'm just happy that I was able to think, "I can do a leg lock here," during the grapple.

I realized something while I was rolling today. I mentioned a couple posts ago about how I haven't been catching the same submissions as I used to, that I'm either catching new ones or none at all. This afternoon, I rolled with someone who I haven't rolled with in a long time and realized my game has changed. I'm ending up in completely new positions, working leg locks and ankle locks, chokes from turtle and half guard, sweeps and attacks from inverted guard. I'm also tapping to completely new things as well-- weird leg locks, chokes that seemingly come out of nowhere. I think the reason why I'm not catching submissions right now is because I simply don't have it down from those positions yet. I fumble around with a leg lock the same way I used to fumble around with an armbar from guard. And I'm tapping a lot more because I don't know what to defend from those positions yet, nor have I figured out how to defend even if I did know what was coming.

That encourages me, though. Because it means I am not a retard, like I originally thought. ;) It's just another few pieces of the puzzle falling into place. I feel relieved.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fabio is the bestest!

Today, Fabio made fun of me in the afternoon class. He said, "You know how I can always tell when Allison has been training?" Sensing that a joke was about to be made at my expense, I rolled my eyes. He said, "There!" and he pointed to a big blond hair ball on the mat.

I love me some Fabio. And apparently I'm not alone. Check out this article about Fabio and his school that was in our local paper.

This afternoon when I was sitting on the wall between grapples, I got to hear the story about how he started BJJ. Fabio got his black belt in Muy Thai back in Brazil, but his cousin was taking BJJ. His cousin--who was only a blue belt at that time--told him he could beat him in a fight, so they fought. Right before they fought, his cousin told him, "I'm going to get your arm." Fabio said, "F*** you. Try it." Within a few minutes, his cousin arm-barred him. Then he told Fabio he was going to choke him out. Again, he did it in under a minute.

So Fabio went to the school where his cousin had been training. A teenage kid tapped Fabio out half a dozen times within the first grapple. Fabio sat on the wall, pissed off, for the rest of the class. But after that, he quit Muy Thai and started training Jiu-jitsu. He told us Muy Thai was the best martial art for a stand-up game. But for a ground game, nothing can top Jiu-jitsu.

Apart from all the story telling, we had a great afternoon class. We didn't work submissions. Instead, we focused only on circling on top of a partner. I discovered that I have dismal balance and need to practice this a lot! ;)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Now I remember...

...why I was avoiding rolling with brand new white belts.

I re-injured my right elbow yesterday. I popped it about a week ago during a grapple and yesterday I was rolling with a beginner who goes hard--which is normally great--but they went back to fast and too hard on an arm bar. Luckily, I was already rolling when they went back. I got out of it, so it didn't pop again. But it definitely hurt. Oh well. I can't expect someone who is new to know how to work around an injury. Should have been more careful.

Aside from that, though, Saturday went AWESOME. I felt relaxed in all of my rolls, which is a big thing for me. Usually Saturday morning classes have mostly white belts and mostly high schoolers at that. But this morning, Fabio and a bunch of the higher belts came to Saturday morning class. It was a nice surprise to see them all there. And it made for a lot more fun/challenging grappling as well.

Big check mark for the day...I used inverted guard in two of my grapples!! It was great. I am surprised at how mobile you can actually be when you're upside down on your shoulders. Of course, the two guys I went against passed it without much trouble. But I was happy about that too because it gave me ideas on how to pass it on other people.

Unfortunately, the first guy's technique won't help me much. He's a giant and he basically just grabbed my ankle and threw my legs--and body--the side. lol. The other guy--who happened to be Ben, my instructor--was slow and methodical as usual. He passed much more smoothly by just sliding around and in between. I don't even know exactly what he did because it was so smooth. But I will try to figure it out.

Other bonuses of the day:

- We worked more striking, which I always enjoy. I know it's a BJJ class, but I want to know at least some stand-up stuff. I won't ever try to stand up against a guy attacking me on the street. I'll run and then, if I have to fight him off, I'll go to the ground. But it's still nice to know.

- I was able to go out the back a few different times in grapples when people were trying to take my back or work from half guard.

- We drilled a basic gi choke and I realized a few errors I was making--not keeping my elbows in and not turning my wrist--that were making my choke ineffective.

All in all, great class. Good way to start off 2010!