Friday, February 26, 2010

If at first you don't succeed, get triangled again.

In my never-ending quest to work my "top-game", I have been trying to make a certain guard pass a part of my (tiny) arsenal. This pass is done by pinning one leg down at the knee with the palm of your hand, on the inside of their thigh, while at the same time keeping their other leg over your shoulder, with your weight on their thigh/butt to keep their hips down.

Here's the thing. If you don't do this pass correctly, you are essentially setting yourself up to get triangled. I am, apparently, an expert at doing it incorrectly and getting triangled. The last few classes, I have been getting triangled left and right.

But I think I've figured out what I'm doing wrong. Instead of keeping my weight on their thigh/butt and on the arm pinning the knee, I am sitting back on my own base and just trying to use my arm strength to keep their legs under control. If you have seen my arms, you will know this is an unwise strategy.

You really have to sprawl to put your weight on them correctly and I am not doing that. I know why. I am not committing fully. I am trying to do the pass and "stay safe" by sitting back on my base at the same time. But, by trying to stay safe, I am actually putting myself in more danger because I am setting the move up incorrectly.

Moral of the story: Either commit or don't try that pass!!

Tomorrow morning, I am going to try it again in my grapples if the situation presents itself. And I am going to commit. I'll let you know how it goes!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Getting off my Guard

As a white belt, there aren't many things I can do well. Even the things I feel I do with some level of skill still have room for miles of improvement. But, for where I'm at, I feel that my guard is one of the strongest parts of my game.

That's exactly why I've been trying to avoid it.

I've been working at moving out of my guard and into other scarier places like side control and north/south and knee on belly. To that end, I had a few private lessons over the last few months and have been attempting to incorporate these elements into my game.

I'll be honest. My progress has been slow. For one thing, in order to get to these other positions, I have to do one of two things:

1. Pass the other person's guard at the beginning of the grapple.
2. Get them into my guard and sweep.

My sweeps are generally known to be garbage. But they are getting a little better. The thing that is helping is learning how to feel where the person's weight is and using their momentum against them. As I said yesterday, I am still having trouble sweeping people who are significantly bigger than me. Or who have any other color belt besides white. This-especially the size thing--is a testament to problems somewhere in my technique, but I am not sweating it too much. I've come to accept that I can't do everything perfectly, instantly. I'll have to improve my sweeps little detail by little detail, over time.

Or maybe I'll get another private. ;)

Anyway, I've been opting to by-pass my guard all together and try to be the aggressor in the beginning and pass the other person's guard. This is not my comfort zone. It is especially not my comfort zone when I am going against someone who is bigger or higher ranked than me. But I've been forcing myself to be the aggressor even when I know I am out-matched. If I fail, so what? These are my teammates and this is where I learn.

Since I started trying to force myself into being aggressive, I have started to see small improvements in my guard passes and, once I am in side control, in my ability to STAY there if I want or to move somewhere else. Again, my success in this area goes down as the size of my opponent/color of their belt goes up.

I can also see an improvement in my general movement on top as well. I still look like a floppy, flaily white belt when I move from side control to north/south or mount or whatever. I'm OK with that. Being smooth will come later. When I'm awesome. Which, as Stephanie so aptly put it, will happen on the 2nd of Never. ;)

Here are a few things that aren't going so well:

1. Staying in mount once I get there. If I am focused on staying in mount, I can usually stay there (again, depending on the size/skill level of my opponent). But if I start to focus on a submission, I guess I make space and ruin my base because I find myself getting swept and having to work from guard again or else having my opponent start to move out of the position and me having to establish it again.

2. Side control. Same story. I'm alright until I start trying to work submissions.

3. Sweeps from guard. Oh how I loathe you.

So, my goals for now are pretty general. Keep working on passing the guard/sweeping from guard and establishing a dominant position. I will keep looking for submissions from these positions, but I won't worry about that too much. Right now, my focus is on movement and control. If I can control my opponent, then submissions will come. That's the idea, anyway.

Great Blog

Just read a really funny/insightful blog this morning by the Jiu-Jitsu Fighter. Go check it out!

Also, I posted about jealousy on my
"other" BJJ blog, in case any of you are interested.

Headed out to BJJ class this morning. Following an idea from Meerkatsu's most recent blog, my goal this morning is going to be to get on top and stay on top. I'll let you know how it goes!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm Not Going to Sulk

My husband has a way of pointing things out that are true, but very annoying. For example: Last night when I came home all weepy about not getting to be instructed by Ben and Mario at Summerlin, he pointed out that God has turned around several things that I thought were going to be horrible and made them into something great. He very kindly listed them off.

When I moved from Tampa (the city where I grew up and knew a lot of people and had access to a lot of places) to Bartow (a city where I knew only my brother and sister-in-law and that had a Walmart, a Publix and not much else) I was pretty depressed. I'd left my family and friends and had come to a place where I didn't want to be.

But, when I got here, I met a lot of people I now love and now feel like this place is my home. Since I moved here, I got to take on my dream job of being a youth minister, plus I get to be nerdy and write fiction on the side. Also, if I hadn't moved here, I never would have even known what BJJ was.JJ also pointed out that one of the things I always preach to my youth kids is to be flexible and to trust that God has a plan.

As much as I didn't want to hear these positive things at that moment, I slept on it and woke up realizing that he is right(Dangit!!). Things do have a way of working out, and a lot of times they work out better than I could have hoped.

You know, this whole reacting and adapting idea is so much like what I want to be able to do when I'm rolling. It's funny, I have been so focused on relaxing and going with the flow during grappling, but when something didn't go my way in my life off the mat, I forgot all about adapting. Guess I'm still a white belt in life as well!!

Anyways, onto a different topic. Last night, during grappling, I went with a blue belt we call Yeti who I roll with fairly often. He's a great sparring partner and he challenges me while, at the same time, always being careful not to put submissions on too quickly or too hard. He asked if he could go a little harder on me last night, and I welcomed the challenge. I knew he was going to pass my guard and that I would find myself in bad situations. But my goal was to not freak out when that happened and to not get intimidated.

As I expected, he passed my guard multiple times. But every time I tried to stay calm and be focused on what I needed to do to return to a neutral position or to sweep him. He was still moving at a slower pace against me than he would people at his skill level, but I at least felt like I was able move alright. Yay!

On the other hand, I rolled with a white belt guy who is a lot bigger than me (almost 100 lbs more so) and I could not pull of a sweep from guard or half guard to save my life. There must be a few (hundred) flaws in my sweep techniques because that boy was not going over. Something to work on.

So, here's to adapting and growing! Happy rolling, everyone!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Really Sad

Tonight we found out that one of our BJJ schools is closing. It's not completely final. One of our instructors, Ben, might be able to stay on and continue teaching the class. But, as it is right now, it looks like the school is going to close.

I'm really sad. I cried like an emotional mess at class.

I will still get to go to Fabio's, but I am REALLY going to miss Ben and Mario's class for a number of reasons. Ben and Mario are both great teachers and I'm really going to miss learning under them. I don't even really want to go into it all the reasons why I'm so sad right now because I'm tired. This week has been sort of bad for me already, so this was kind of the crappy icing on the already crappy cake. lol Sorry for the overly emotional post.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


A big congratulations to my teammates Stephanie, Phil and Thomas for competing and doing well at NAGA yesterday!! I am so happy for you guys. Go Fabio Novaes BJJ!!

Hearing about how well the team did is motivating me to kick my preparation for June NAGA into high gear. One way that is happening is thanks to one of the girls in my youth group. She came up to me this morning and asked if I would be willing to drink only water for forty days with her for Lent.


That is going to be a huge challenge for me. I love me some coffee and soda. Mostly, I love me some caffeine. But this is going to be good for me. I need to cut all that sugar and extra calories out of my diet.

For this competition, I am not going to try to drop weight. My focus in training is going to be mostly mental. I mean, obviously I'll work on areas of technique that think are my weakest. But the thing that stands in my way the most is the fear of someone dominating me.

At Fabio's, I roll a lot with people who are farther along than me and more talented. I am going to use those rolls as preparation. I'm not going to worry when they pass my guard or take mount or go for a submission. I am going to work on staying cool and calm and reacting to what happens.

Also, I am going to focus on trying to get into a dominant position even when I know I am out-matched as far as skill goes. Sometimes, when I am intimidated by a person, I don't try to get into the dominant position. I mostly focus on defending from guard or half-guard.

Training at class is the best time for me to work through this fear of getting overwhelmed by someone better than me. I will get thoroughly owned, but they won't be trying to hurt me. Here's to my future butt-kickings!! Happy training to all of you! And congrats again to Steph, Phil and Thomas!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Leave Me Alone, Injuries

I have lots of nagging little injuries right now. I hurt my knee several months ago and popped my elbow about a month ago and both are nearly better but still twitchy, if you know what I mean. My right shoulder started giving me trouble two weeks ago. By the end of class, it's usually burning. I've been doing strengthening and stretching exercises for the rotater cuff and am starting to see some improvements. Then, today, when I left class and got in the car, I noticed that the lower, left side of my back is really sore. Just in one, weird, broad spot on the right near my side. I'm icing it as I type.

What is with my body lately?! I know injuries are a part of BJJ, but it seems like I'm getting lots of small injuries. I would think it might be over training, but I've actually cut back recently. I was out for a week for being sick and, even though I'm back in class now, I haven't started jogging again and I've cut my at home work outs way down.

Very mysterious. And annoying.

Other than that, I've really been enjoying the direction of class, lately. In honor of some of the team who are competing at NAGA this weekend (GO STEPH, PHIL AND THOMAS) we've been practicing lots or take-downs. Thankfully, they're take downs I feel like I can actually do. We've also been working a lot of chokes, which are always fun.

There's two that I really want to incorporate into my game. Neither of them have names that I know of. The first one is a choke you do from side control, or directly from North/South. I call it the four fingers, one thumb choke. lol! You get four fingers in under their gi, at their tag. Then, with the arm that's under their neck, you get your thumb in their lapel. Using the arm that was under the neck, you bring your elbow around, over the neck. To finish, you bring your elbow to the mat and pull back with your other arm, keeping your elbow in tight.

I've tried that one a few times, but am too slow and fumbly.

The other is a choke you do from someone's back. I call it the double-pass choke. If you're trying to get a choke from the bck and they're defending, this is a sneaky one. Slide one hand down the same side lapel, then pass it to the opposite hand. Bring it up to the person's shoulder, around the neck. With the original hand, reach around behind the neck and take the lapel back in the original hand. With the hand that is now free, grab the gi at the shoulder, four fingers down. Gi choke like normal from there.

This one, I ALMOST got today, but the person was escaping my hooks by the time I got it and they got out. Dern it! It's sneaky though. They didn't know what I was doing until I almost had it.

I don't have class again until Monday, due to Valentine's Day and NAGA. Hopefully my injuries will heal up a bit between now and then.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Uhhh...You're Doing it Wrong, Allie.

I realized tonight that I had forgotten how to do a certain, close guard pass correctly. It doesn't have a name. So many BJJ moves don't have names or I don't know them if they do. But here's what it looks like: You break the person's guard, then go through their legs/over one leg with your opposite knee and shin and establish side control.

I used to use that guard pass all the time. Then I learned new guard passes and forgot how to do the old ones. That's why Ben told me I needed to brush up my guard passes from when I am close into my opponent, because I am relying on guard passes that primarily work when you are keeping space. As soon as he told me that, I started trying to re-incorporate them into my grappling, only to find that I couldn't remember how to do them correctly!! I remembered what they looked like and how to mimic the basic proponents. But apparently all the little details that make them effective leaked out of a hole in my brain and are now gone. :)

This was a point painfully made to me tonight by one of my favorite sparring partners, a blue belt the school has nicknamed Yeti. He's one of those guys who will roll with you just above your level. He doesn't make you feel like he's going easy, even though he is. And he takes the time to help point out major flaws in your game.

Anyway, I was grappling him and I kept trying to do that guard pass. And I kept getting swept. Over and over and over again. No matter how hard I tried to keep my base, I wasn't able to finish that pass and I kept getting stuck in half-guard. After class, I asked Yeti to show me what I was doing wrong.

I was embarrassed when showed me the little details that I should have known--and did know at one point--but that I had forgotten. I wasn't posting out with my other leg, I wasn't blocking his hip with my elbow, I wasn't keeping my head on his chest as I came through, I was sitting out through instead of sliding my shin and knee through. I could go on. But you get the point.

Hot garbage.

It makes me wonder how many other things I have forgotten. The good news in all of this is that, once Yeti reminded me of all those things, they now seem cemented in my feeble memory. Mostly because the feeling of getting swept repeatedly is also very fresh. ;) I know that forgetting is part of the process of learning. I see so many moves each week that it's pretty near impossible to retain them all, even though I am a nerd and write them all down in detail after class. But, unless I actually use them in grappling, they don't really "stick", if you know what I mean. The other half of the problem is that my game changes and then all the old stuff I used a lot gets rusty because I'm trying new stuff.

I'm sure you all understand and have been through things like this...right? ;)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Overcoming Freindliness

I think I'm having an aggression problem. A selective aggression problem. I don't have any issue attacking the guys with all I've got and trying my best to submit them. I usually fail, but the spirit of I'm-going-to-choke-you-out is at least there. ;) But I've been having trouble rolling normally with the girls at Fabio's.

This isn't because they are super scary or jerks. It certainly isn't because I think I'm so awesome that I don't need to roll seriously against them. It has more to do with the intensity level, I think. They don't go hard when they grapple against me, so I respond by going at the same level. Also, I'm friends with these girls and , if they re just relaxing when they roll, I would feel like a complete jerk going hard on them. What is usually produced is a relaxed, laid back roll in which I don't really go for submissions and just work positions, moving at a slower pace than I normally do.

I was fine with that. But now, my instructor pointed out something that is making me rethink how I've been rolling. He was saying that, if I don't catch those girls in things and they don't catch me, we will develop bad habits that go uncorrected or leave ourselves open or miss submissions, etc, etc. Then, when we go to tournaments, we'll get caught. If we want to grow, we have to get over this whole "friendship" thing and up the intensity of our roll. He is challenging us to go harder. He's not saying we should try to rip each others' arms off or try to hurt each other. But he is saying we are too nice to each other while we grapple.

Have you guys/gals had any similar problems?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Out of Range

I'm sorry. Your kick cannot be completed as dialed. You are currently out of roundhouse range.

I love it when Ben and Mario work a little MMA into our BJJ class. BJJ is definitely my first love, but I think stand-up is interesting. Maybe something I'll look at getting into down the road.

Last night, we worked defense against punching and kicking. Ben taught us some basic principles to keep in mind whenever you're in a fight--whether it's a planned, cage fight or a when someone attacks you on the street. He pointed out that, for every strike, there is a certain range a person needs to be in for it to be effective. For example, if your standing in close to someone, a roundhouse kick is probably not the best strike to utilize. An elbow, an uppercut or knee would be better there. Same thing is true of standing farther away. You don't want to be off balance with your center of gravity too far forward while you're throwing a punch.

A part of defending against strikes is knowing how to change the range--to keep moving--in order to make yourself a harder target to hit AND to take advantage of throwing them off their timing or balance and be able to land a strike or a take-down yourself.

The idea of moving INTO someone who is trying to kick me would have seemed ludicrous six months ago. But that is one of the things we practiced tonight: catching a roundhouse kick, fitting in and taking the person down.

Another big point for kick defense that Ben brought up is that it's better to learn how to spread the strike over as much of your leg surface as possible.
The concept is the same as a break-fall. The blow is spread out over a greater area, lessening the force of the impact. When someone comes to do a roundhouse kick, you want to bring your knee up and out to an angle (being sure to touch your elbow to your knee and protect your face with your hand). The point is for the kick to land across a much of your shin as possible.

I can tell you, this move did not come naturally to me. Catching the leg and taking the person down had a lot more steps, but I felt like I could do that without looking like a retard. For some reason, simply bringing up my knee in an arc and meeting my knee with my elbow was a physical impossibility. I even managed to injure my partner a few times by bringing my knee up too late and kneeing her in the shin. That would be awesome if I was doing it on purpose and landing that kind of shot. But alas, I was not. ;)I was too slow and awkward. I'll cut myself some slack since I have never tried to move my leg and balance that way.

We also worked defense against punching from guard. And--my favorite thing of the night--Ben taught us how to throw an elbow from guard. The way we were setting it up, you pushed against the person's head behind their ear with the palm of your hand. The natural inclination of the person will be to push back. When they do, you slide your hand off and whipe your elbow and shoulder around, right into their temple.

The people who were being elebowed were holding their hand against their head soften the impact of the elbow, but this is one of those moves you can't really practice without using some force. Steph and I were too scared t practice this on each other because we knew we lacked the coordination to ensure that we wouldn't really knock the crap out of each other. Ben had to be our punching bag. Sorry/thanks, Ben! Lucky for him, we couldn't really do it with any great amount of force. Hahaha. Maybe in time our elbow will be feared.

Instead of practicing on each other, Steph and I practiced the snapping movement of our elbows on the mat. Last night was the first time I've ever thrown an elbow. I'm surprised at how hard I can hit with it. Even for a small person like me, that technique--once correctly learned--could be bad news for people.

Rolling went a little less swimmingly. As I have mentioned in my last few posts, I'm trying to learn how to relax while I grapple. But I am thinking about it too much while I roll now and am not focusing on moving like I need to be. Ben told me that there's a fine line between being relaxed and too passive. I think I crossed over to the dark-side of too passive.

Yeti, a blue belt who trains with me, was telling me I might want to just stop worrying so much about relaxing and just roll. He said learning to relax while you grapple is something that comes with time and experience. Right now I am still learning to move; I'm still committing the basic techniques to memory. Later, I will learn to move tightly, accurately and relaxed.

Ah well. Guess I have to be patient after all. Booo!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jiu-jitsu is a lot like....

I'm a youth pastor. At my church, I teach on Wednesday nights and, ever since I started BJJ, my illustrations have changed. I am notorious for Jiu-jitsu analogies. In fact, the kids groan whenever I start to say, "You know, when I was in class on Tuesday, I realized that..."

My friends and family don't always see the genius in my analogies. (Note sarcasm, please) And, I am sure all of you here do not want to be accosted with my nerdy philosophical musings. But, still, I feel compelled to talk about them, even if it is to myself! ;)

So I started another blog. I will try to limit my analogies to that one and leave this one just for stuff that is directly linked to my BJJ training and experiences. If, however, you are a glutton for corny analogies, feel free to check out my other blog.

Happy rolling!!