Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths

It is a widely known fact that my take-downs are garbage. I don't shoot in far enough. My sprawl looks like my knees buckled out from under me and I kind of just fell down dead. I don't move fast enough or smooth enough or close enough. So, in tournaments or take-down drills, my solution to this problem has always been to just jump guard.

No longer!! lol Phil and I split a couple of private lessons on take-downs and I feel like I took a few power-steps in the right direction. (Yeah, I know that was corny, but that's the kind of high quality humor you get in my blog).

Brian, who is a purple belt at our school, showed us a lot of things including how ridiculously fast he is. He can shoot in and get to you from halfway across the room!

I am pretty sure that he was annoyed with how uncoordinated I was with the sprawling, but he must have brought an endless store of patience. It was pretty pitiful. He tried all kinds of things to make me sprawl correctly. He rolled a physioball at me to try to make me sprawl onto it, but I ket stopping it out in front of me with my arms. That was a lot of my problem with my sprawl. I'm hitting the ground with my arms and legs instead of with my hips. And I'm too stiff.

One thing he said stuck out to me and amused me at the same time. H was telling us that when you take your stance you need to have your feet slightly staggered, with your elbows in tight and your head up....kind of like a T-rex. Now, I have a five year old son. So I know my dinosaurs. And after seeing the way Brian moved I felt compelled to inform him that it's not really like a T-rex. It's more like a velociraptor. Dinosaur species aside, the illustration definitely stuck with me. I couldn't help but smile like the uber nerd I am every time I took my stance after that.

I'm going to take one more private lesson from Ben about take-downs. I have a laundry list of things that I need to work on to improve that area of my game, but I want to get a rounded view on the subject before I make a huge long post about what techniques I'm going to be focusing on.

The hardest part about learning take-downs is that they are hard to practice in a drilling situation. More so than other BJJ techniques in my opinion. You really need to be in motion for a lot of them to work. You use the hip throw when someone is moving into you. You use the leg hook when someone' moving back. It's a lot about timing and learning to judge the distance and the movement of the other person. What I need is a training partner that is around my size who wouldn't mind letting me attack them over and over again. Hmmm.....Stephanie??? lol

I am determined to get better at this. Jumping guard is fine. But I don't like giving up those 2 points at the beginning of the match. More than anything else, I don't like not doing something just because I'm not picking it up right away.

On a completely unrelated topic, we're going on a field trip tomorrow with our Saturday morning class. All of us are loading up and driving down t Apollo beach to visit a fledgling sister school. The instructors are students at Fabio's. I'm excited to get to roll with some new people!

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Happy Easter weekend to all of you!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shark Pit

Saturday morning classes are always interesting. They're my favorite classes of the week because we usually end up doing something out of the ordinary.

This time, we did shark pits. Also commonly called "B**** of the Day". lol. One person goes on the mat and everyone else takes turns spending one minute of intense grappling trying to submit them.

Ben had us do this with a small variation. The first go-round, we weren't allowed to go to our knees or go to guard. All we were basically allowed to do was get in the fetal position and try not to get submitted. Then, the second go round, the people in the middle had to start out with each person in either mount or side control. There were no submissions this round. It was the job of everyone attacking the guy in the middle to maintain the dominant position. If the guy in the middle got out, then they'd reset and go again until the minute was up and the next person jumped in.

I learned several things from this exercise, which I will now share with you in a nerdy fashion:

1. Like Ben was explaining after we were done, the point of the exercise was to show us that it's easier to survive than we might think it is. We weren't allowed to go to guard. We weren't allowed to turtle. The people on top were going full boar trying to submit us. And we were still able to fend them off for the most part. This should give us confidence to know that we can survive even if we get into a bad position and that, if we do find ourselves stuck in mount or side control, we need know that we can survive and to relax and start working out.

2. People are much tighter when they are just trying to maintain a position vs. when they are going for a submission. Evey time they go for something, they make space. I need to learn to take advantage of their distraction and use it to time my escapes.

3. My side control escapes suck. lol For the last few weeks, I've been focusing on side control escapes and have seen only limited improvement. Today, I noticed that my arms got really tired during the shark pit drill, which suggests to me that I was trying to push my opponent away instead of using my arms as barricades and moving away. It's a bad habit that I've gotten into. I'm really going to be focusing on changing it.

So, I will continue on my quest to learn how to be a better escape artist. Until then, happy tapping to me! ;)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sometimes I'm Just Stupid

Alright, Dev. You can say, "I told you so." :)

I had a blast tonight with the girls who visited. There was no animosity between us and our grappling wasn't intense at all. We were just rolling and talking and having a good time. They invited us to come to their school sometime soon and I'm really looking forward to getting to train with them again.It was really nice to get to roll with some other girls. They are right at my skill level too so it was challenging and fun at the same time.

So, I admit it. I was being stupid for worrying so much about it. You may all flog me via the internet. ;)

There's also one other thing I almost forgot to mention....


I am so excited, though at the same time I don't really feel like a blue belt. I feel like a white belt who is getting away with wearing a blue belt. Congrats to Phil and Jenn, who also got their blue belts, and to Anthony who got his purple belt!! And thanks Ben and Fabio for making BJJ so much fun! You guys are amazing instructors!

Going through a belt promotion at Fabio's is definitely an experience. At our school, everyone who is at your rank or high gets to do three take-downs on you. Needless to say, I am taking some Ibuprofen tonight. lol. Actually, everyone was really nice with the take-downs.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So...We Meet Again! :)

I found out tonight that a girl I faced off against in my first-ever tournament is coming to our school tomorrow night. She, Stephanie and I have become friends over the last several months and I am really excited to see her again and to roll with her again.

Kind of.

Kind of, I say? Well, here's the thing. She kinda-sorta wiped the floor with me in my first tournament. Twice. She was a really good sport about it and I remember thinking that I didn't even mind losing to her because she was so nice.

View exhibit A:

I had only been grappling a couple of months and my game has changed a lot since then. And I'm sure hers has too! (By the way, watching this video of myself is a very excruciating form of torture. "I can't believe I did that. Oh my gosh. Are you serious, Allie?" lol).

Now she's coming to my school and I feel really nervous. It's been 6 months since we last rolled. I guess I can look at this one of two ways:

1. I can be retarded and get uber competitive and try to to beat her, and get ticked off and feel bad about myself if she beats me again.

2. I can look at this as a positive learning experience and do the best that I possibly can and see where it takes me, without putting any pressure on myself to "prove something".

I am battling with my own insecurities right now. She's a really nice girl and a heck of a good fighter. I guess I have to look at what is important to me. Would I rather grapple her like it's a tournament and try to protect my pride? Or should I look at this as an opportunity to branch out and make friends and maybe grow through shared training in the long run? I want to do the second option. But I still feel pressure--even if it's all being put on me by my own self!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm Still a Newb

Because I've been focusing on strengthening my escapes from bad positions, I went into class last night intending to ask Ben about side control escapes. Funny enough, that was the focus of the class for the night. Love it when things work out that way.

For some reason, I always forget everything except the basic side control escape. You know, the one where you get your elbow in, hip out and get your knee in and create a barrier and work out from there. I had intended to ask Ben about other side control escapes because that on wasn't getting the job done for me all the time, especially against bigger opponents. Last night, I realized why it wasn't working. I had been doing that basic escape wrong this entire time.

It's not that I haven't been taught how to do it correctly before. I have even drilled it correctly before. Many, many times. For some reason, though, the concept of WHY the move should work had eluded my memory until last night.

When you're doing this escape, you start out in side control, with their knee under your shoulder, their arm under your neck, isolating one arm. Your goal should always be to get that elbow in, if for no other reason than the fact tht your arm is vulnerable to attack while it's isolated like that. But also, you want to get your elbow in to create a block to keep the person from getting any closer. In the same way, you want your other arm across their chest, under their neck, with one thumb in their lapel to create yet another block. You're trying to make space. You want to get to your side, hipping out and bringing your knee up to your elbow to create a barrier.

Here's what I was doing wrong: I was using my arms to try to push the person back and off of me. I weigh 133 lbs. Most of the people I grapple weigh significantly more than that. I'm not going to be able to push them off of me.

What I was supposed to be doing was simply using my arms as a barrier while I hip out and move MY OWN BODY away from them, getting my knee in to create more space. The space comes from me moving my body, and using my arms as a barricade to keep them from following.

As I experienced last night, this works much better. lol.

We worked several side control escapes last night, all of which I've seen before but have not really incorporated into my game. I came away from class feeling a little stupid. I've been doing this for seven months and I still wasn't doing a basic side control escape correctly? I knew that stuff. Why wasn't I remembering it? I guess it just goes to show that I am still a newb and that I have a LOOOOOOOOONG way to go.

I'm ok with that. I'm glad that I am seeing errors so that I can work toward fixing them. I need to pack up my pride and put it back on the shelf, to be used at a later date when I can actually back it up with correct technique!! ;)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Legs a Locking

Leg Locks. I hates them. But they loves me.

I like to work a lot of open and inverted guard. This usually means my legs are exposed. And lately, people have been happily taking advantage of my sloppiness. I know the traditional escape. You grab one of their arms/sleeves and do the twisty roll. But lately, I've been attempting to learn how to defend by coming up on top.

Only problem is, when I grab a sleeve and come up, getting my imperiled foot flat on the ground, I have barrier between me and mount: the other guy's knee. I asked Fabio and Ben about it, and they gave me four strategies for getting around that knee.

1. Slide your attacked leg down their side and get into top half guard. This is the easiest one for me to do. But the problem is, when I go to slide my leg down their side, if I'm not careful, they can get my ankle again when I lift my heel off the mat.

2. Keep your foot still flat on the mat. Flare you knee out a little bit to help keep it flat. Reach around the knee that is blocking you and grab the opposite lapel. Keep pressure on their leg and break your hip around their knee. This one, I've had problems with. Mostly because it requires coordination. :) I'll have to practice it more.

3. This one's hard to explain. If your opponent is blocking you from breaking around the side, turn your knee out and put it flat to the mat in front of their knee. Your heel will be in towards their body, but you will be leaning over them. Bring your hips forward and slide over his other knee. I've tried this one and ended up successfully passing this way only once. The other (few) times, I've been rolled over the person's head. But at least I wasn't being leg locked again and I was able to get my knees in as I rolled, so I ended up in a butterfly guard.

4. If someone is pushing against you with their knee, keep pressure against their knee, then pop up and over their knee when they are pushing against you. It seems too simple. But it actually works, especially if you've normally try the other escapes.

What are your strategies for escaping leg locks by coming up on top?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Girls Go Hard

My sister-in-law Steph got hurt last night during practice. Rib injury. She thought it might be broken, so we went to the ER. Thankfully, it is just badly bruised and not fractured.

This whole thing brings back up the issue of girls grappling in BJJ. I know injuries happen to everyone, but being smaller and not as sturdily composed, I think we women tend to be more easily damaged. It has nothing to do with how tough we are. Steph was not really angry that we was hurt. She was angry that it would put her out of grappling for a little while.

The guy she was rolling with felt really bad about it. Clearly, he wasn't trying to hurt her. But could it have been avoided? And if it could have, should it have been? I mean, this is a self-defense sport after all. A random guy on the street isn't going to be worrying about not crushing us. But still...I don't know. I go back and forth about wondering where the balance lies between watering down training intensity because we are smaller and training stupid because we don't want to be treated "like girls". I don't know if I'm making any sense.

I don't like the idea of a guy going easy on me solely because I am a girl. If they want to take my size into consideration, the same way they would for a male comparable to my size, that's fine. I appreciate that, actually. But even so, if I'm honest, a guy my roughly my same height and weight is likely to be more dense and stronger than me. So what does that mean as far as training goes? How can the guys--and the girls that roll with them--figure out where the balance is in order to keep training as safe as possible without sacrificing the actual sport? I'm still trying to figure it all out.

Steph, hope you heal up quick and get back on the mat soon!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Training Experiment

I had an interesting conversation the other day with one of my instructors about being willing to try things while you're rolling. He was saying that one thing I might try is to deliberately allow myself to get in bad positions or submissions in order to practice my escapes. How does this pertain to creativity? If you are confident in your ability to escape bad situations or submissions, you'll be more willing to get creative and try new things.

I'm trying a new (new-to-me, anyway) training philosophy lately. What I have been doing for a while is, with people who are better than me, I go hard and try crazy things. Invariably, I tap. A lot. But I learn little things here and there. The new thing I'm trying is, with people who are a little lower than my skill level, to let them pass my guard and get mount or side control or whatever and start working from there.

Last night, I tried this out with a white belt girl who has trouble being aggressive. I told her I only wanted to work escapes and that I wanted her to attack me. It worked out really well for both of us. She enjoyed working her attack game and it was great for me to work escapes and sweeps. Woohoo!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Need To Work On My Displays of Gratitude

I went and visited Fabio’s other school last night; the one that I had never been to before. Going over there was nerve wracking for me. I was worried that I wouldn’t do well and people wouldn’t think I deserved my stripes. Fabio is always talking about how you don’t need to prove yourself to people. If he or Ben gives you a stripe or a belt, you’ve earned it. They don’t give them out just because they like people or because people come to class a lot. You don’t need to keep proving that you earned it.

Nevertheless, I fought with myself the whole way not to think like that. Too add to my lack of confidence, I am STILL sick. In the back of my mind, I was using that as an excuse before I even got there. I’m not feeling well, so if I suck, that’s the reason why. Right?

So we get there and everyone was really welcoming and nice. It’s a smaller school, more like Summerlin, the other school I train at with Ben. (Did I mention that Summerlin didn’t close after all?!?! Woohoo for Ben being willing to keep teaching our little group of miscreants!) I started to relax a little bit, but my nerves were still getting to me.

Then we got to the technique.

Usually, I am ok with picking up techniques. I mean, I’m a white belt so I don’t do them awesome. But I can at least mimic what Fabio or Ben do. Apparently I left my brain in Lakeland because I could not for the life of me do the technique tonight. It as a half guard sweep where you swim both legs, trapping one of their legs with both of your legs, then kicking out with one leg and rolling and come up in side control. Yeah...I can’t even explain it properly. I got it by the end, but MAN I felt like a retard through drilling.

Grappling didn’t start much better. I went with a blue belt named Nick, who is a really nice guy, as this story is about to prove. He was rolling really light, being really friendly and letting me work. And how do I repay him you might ask? Oh, I dunno…I only kneed him in the face! We’re not talking about a little graze either. It was a clunker. In fact, I hit him so hard I actually have a welt on my knee.

Spastic white belt for the lose!

He took it in stride and kept grappling. But I’m pretty sure he hates my guts now. It wasn’t just the knee to the face. I also had this problem where my mouth would not stop moving. Sometimes, when I get nervous, I get really quiet. Other times, I talk a lot. This was one of those times that I talked a lot. I talked the whole grapple. I was annoying myself but my mouth kept moving. After all that, Nick was still nice enough not to submit the tar out of me.
The rest of my grapples went a little better. I settled down and did the best that I could. I stopped worrying so much about what people were thinking and just tried to roll. By the end of the night I was starting to feel comfortable. Just in time for me to leave!

I wish I had some deep, thought provoking moral of the story. But all I’ve got is this: Don’t be an overly anxious moron like I was. Relax and do what you do. If people like you, great! If not, submit them...or pay a higher belt to do it for you!! ;)

Also, check out this link about Fabio in another local paper. Well deserved, Fabio!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Boxer vs. Grappler

We did something out of the ordinary on Saturday: a boxer vs. grappler scenario.

One guy had on boxing gloves and had the sole goal of punching or kicking their opponent. The other person, the grappler, was supposed to take the boxer to the ground and submit them if possible. The boxer could grapple a little as well, but they were mainly supposed to hit, even after they were taken down. Keep in mind we were only supposed to hit/kick at 30%, but with the exception of one fifteen year old boy, I was the smallest one in the class. And I was the only girl. Woohoo.

Needless to say, I was intimidated. Ok, let's be honest. I was terrified. For you guys that also train in Muy Thai or Kick Boxing, you may think I'm a wimp. But I don't do MMA. I've never had to grapple someone who was going to try to punch me in the face. Doing this exercise was optional and I considered sitting out. But I HATE backing down from things when I know the only reason why I am backing down is fear. So I talked myself into doing it.

Fortunately, my instructor sensed my terror and asked if I wanted to do the exercise with him. I quickly agreed. It's funny that I was less terrified of a brown belt than a white belt. It certainly has nothing to do with skill level. It's that I knew he would be able to control his punches and not accidently knock me out!

This is what I kept telling myself. "Ben isn't going to hurt me. He's just going to punch me a little bit. He's just going to tap me with the gloves. Not a big deal." (I actually thought of your slogan, Dev. Fueld By Fear, baby!!)

Meanwhile, I knew that I was going to have to try to take him down. As I have mentioned before, I SUCK at takedowns. So as I watched the other guys go, I devised a plan. I knew Ben would likely start out with jabs. Most people do. I planned to counter the jabs and then wait for a rear hand punch. As soon as the rear hand punch came, I would block it and shoot in for the take down.

And that's exactly what I did.

Usually take downs are terrifying to me. But, I was so worried about countering the punches (and they were really not punches. Ben was going really easy on me) that the takedown actually happened without me having to think about it. I went in and grabbed around his waist, trying to barrel him over. Unfortunately, I got stuck. It was like I hit a brick wall wearing a brown belt. But I wrapped one leg around his and tried to trip him backwards. He obligingly went down.

Then I grappled like normal. He was still punching me. That was distracting, even if the punches weren't hard. But I was surprised at how I was able to still work even with the distraction. I have a sneaky feeling that things would have been a lot different if I was getting hit with real punches. lol. But hey, everyone starts somewhere, right?

I loved this exercise. The point was to prove that the techniques we learn in class can be applied in a real street fight situation. Like I said, I think I would have had less success against someone who was trying to hit me with full force. But I think it actually broke me through a barrier with my takedowns. I was so worried about the punching, I didn't have room in my tiny brain to worry about the takedown. And low and behold, I still did it. It was sloppy and clumsy, but I'm still proud of it! ;) Guess I HAVE retained some minimal takedown knowledge after all.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Grappling Smart

I had a private lesson with Ben on Thursday and talked with him about how to grapple people who have a significant weight advantage. It was pointed out to me that, when I am intimidated, I tend to try to keep distance between me and my opponent. What I really need to be doing is just the opposite.

He was saying that you may have to grapple differently depending on your opponent. With smaller people you may be able to play at a distance and work a quicker, trickier sort of game. Of course, smaller grapplers may be more squirrely and you might have to work a tight, methodical game just to control them.

But with someone who has a significant size advantage, he gave me these pointers:

1. Get in close and play a tight game. This goes against every instinct I had!! You want me to get CLOSE to that man-beast? Are you insane? ;) But Ben explained that when I give them so much room they can build up a lot of momentum and just throw me around. Don't give them space to build up momentum and explode. Take away some of their power by getting in tight and not letting them move. It makes sense now that I understand it a little more.

Ben made sure to point out to me that being tight does not mean gripping and holding someone with all your strength. It means not making space.

2. Be methodical. There's nothing wrong with being quick. But if being quick means you make space then that's a bad thing, especially when you are dealing with an opponent who can shuck you off without much effort.

That's not to say that speed is an enemy. When you're small, you can probably move more quickly than larger opponents. That can be an advantage but only if you don't sacrifice position and technique for speed.

3. There are going to be times when you get stuck in a bad position. Just keep working. When you go for one escape, they may defend it, but it will probably make space somewhere else. You have to be a step ahead, knowing where you're going to go if they block your first escape, so you can take advantage of that space.

4. Leverage! Use their momentum and weight distribution against them. For example, if you go for a sweep and they pull back the other way, don't try to force the sweep. Realize where they have their weight committed and go the other way and get a different sweep instead. Again, it's a good idea to think ahead. Know what the defenses are to the sweep you're trying and then, depending on what the guy does, you'll have a plan for how to react.

5. Make them work and use up their energy. Take advantage of times when you can rest. In a tournament, if you have a buffer of points, be smart and rest when you're in a good position. You don't have to be up by 20 points at the end of the grapple. In the same way, in class, when you have a big guy in your guard, you want to keep their base broken down, but don't try to force a submission if they're defending. Make them work to get out of your guard. While they're working, they might expose something and THEN you can go for a submission. It requires a little more patience, but it helps you to conserve energy.

6. Learn to love fighting from your back. As a small grappler, I am going to be on my back sometimes. That is just a fact. But I can still keep them in tight to me while they are in my guard or half guard. And I can attack and be dangerous from the bottom as well as from the top. I should still try to get on top. Absolutely. But don't hate on the guard game!

This morning when I walked into class I was glad we'd had that lesson. There was only one person smaller than me and the rest were significantly larger and stronger. When I went with one of the biggest guys, I tried to put the stuff I'd learned into action. It made a HUGE difference. I still spent most of the grapple on my back. But I stayed in tight, looked for sweeps, tried to keep his base broken down, defended as many submissions as I could (except for some ankle locks because I always tap early with those). I felt a lot more confident and a lot safer, even though the idea of getting in close to someone that much bigger than me seems so scary.

Woohoo! I feel like I had a breakthrough. I was getting so intimidated by the bigger guys. I know I won't be suddenly able to dominate guys twice my size. But now I at least feel like I have a plan that involves more than quick tapping. :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's Normal?

Haven't been feeling the greatest over the last few days. Despite that, class had been going well. The guard pass I was struggling with is going better. Not great. But I didn't get triangled in the last few classes, so that's a step in the right direction. One thing I noticed is that I had to wait for the right time to use that specific guard pass, not just try to do it randomly when I wanted to make it work. Also, I ended up using a variation of the pass in which I use my shin to hold down the leg instead of my arm. I have better luck when I do it that way.

Also, my quest for a top game is going better than it has been. I tried knee-on-belly, tried to remember that I could stand up if I needed to. If they got a knee in or an arm in, I tried to keep my weight on top, circling on their body and trying to find an opening. A lot of times I got caught or lost the top position. Majority of the time, actually. But I am learning that some of those positions that I was worried about doing are actually more stable than I expected. Knee on belly, for example, is much more stable than I thought it was.

Here's the thing, though. My success is relative. My game goes to garbage when I am grappling the big guys. Part of it is intimidation. Part of it is the problems with my technique. I'm sure part of it is simple laws of physics. Whatever it is, I am not seeing much progress in my game against people who have a significant weight advantage on me.

To all of you other small people, how long did it take for you to be able to consistently get into--and stay in--dominant positions on opponents who had a big weight advantage?

I struggle sometimes with knowing what I should expect out of myself. It's not just wondering if I should be able to grapple better against bigger guys. There's the whole issue of me being a girl in a full contact sport dominated by men. When am I being wimpy and when are they being too rough?

My instructor was telling us the other day in class that smaller people need to grapple in such a away that their small size becomes an advantage. Get in tight and keep moving. I may not have strength, but I can move faster and get into smaller spaces. I guess I need to start developing my strategy. What works for a 200lb guy may not work well for me. But it works the other way too. I may be able to do things that bigger guys can't. I have to figure out what my advantages are and learn how to learn to play MY game.