Thursday, May 27, 2010


I'm packing to leave for a trip to Atlanta for a wedding, so this is going to be short. I think.

I'm on one of those rare highs where I feel like things are working. A new piece of the puzzle fell into place--or a couple of new pieces--and it's like a whole new ball game. That's one of the great things about BJJ. I start to think I'm familiar with the game, then I realize something or learn a new set of moves that makes me see BJJ in a completely new light. Suddenly I'm excited all over again like I was in the beginning.

The breakthrough this time was learning to relax more. For a while I had been trying to figure out how to deal with big guys or muscly guys and I feel like I've made a little bit of headway. Come to find out, the solution to my problem is the concept that is at the core of Jiu-jitsu. He pushes, you pull. He tries to make you go one way, you go that way, but use it to your advantage. Suddenly I get it. Not just in concept. I can feel it more now when I'm rolling.

Go figure. What my instructors have been trying to tell me this whole time was the answer to my current BJJ woes.

Before, I was tensing up out of fear. I didn't want to move because I thought I would get my guard passed and then get smashed or be in danger of having one of my limbs removed. Fabio and Ben--and more than a few of the higher belts--kept telling me to relax and trust my instincts.

So I started trying to do that. I tried to just go with them. When they pushed, I tried to roll inverted or come around the side or bring them over top of me. When they pulled, I tried to use that backwards motion to come on top, or come around the side. I tried to keep a look-out for stray limbs or an exposed neck and I tried not to squeeze or tense up. To stay relaxed, but tight.

At first, the worst happened. I got my guard passed. Got submitted. But then something clicked. Can't explain exactly what it was, but all of the sudden, I'm not as scared of big guys or musclers anymore. Now, people who throw their weight around are starting to be easier to move against in some ways. They have more force behind their movements and can't recover as quickly. In the same way, I'm learning that if someone is locking me up they are using up their energy and limiting their own movement. What I have to do is find a space and start weaseling through it. They can't hold on forever. And eventually, I worm my way out enough to where they have to move and then I can use that new space to get out of dodge.

I'm gushing right now. And I'm probably not being very coherent. So much for the short post! I can't really figure out how to explain what the change is. But I'm just going to enjoy this little mountain-top experience while it lasts. I know I'll probably get my head yanked down out of the clouds right into a triangle before I know it. Yay for good days on the mat! :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I don't really have a plan. Part Two

It was so late (for me) last night when I posted that blog that I took some short cuts. I wanted to share more about what Fabio and Ben had to say about reactionary grappling vs having a plan.

Typical to my over-analytical nature, I had come to them because I was concerned that I wasn't "planning" enough in my grappling. I was also curious about the fact that I almost never get techniques the way we set them up in drills. The only time that happens is when it's someone relatively new that I'm rolling with. More often, I'll be rolling and realize I'm at the "half-way" point or at the last few steps of a certain move and I'll jump on it and try to see it the rest of the way through. I wanted to know if that was alright. Should I be setting things up more? Should I go in with an agenda and try to execute it?

In short, their answer was no. Here are the reasons they explained to me:

1.) Plans go out the window because people are unpredictable. So much in BJJ requires using the other person's weight and momentum against them. They push, I pull. They resist, I go another way. It's very difficult to plan in a sport like this because, even if you have a general idea of how a person rolls, they can switch it up at any time. And forcing a technique to happen when you should really move on to something else is not what BJJ is all about.

2.) Your body will naturally go to the things you're good at. I am more prone to working chokes, armbars and triangles from guard. So, unless I am actively thinking about working on something else, that is where I end up. It's not that I plan it, it's just where my reactions take me during the roll.

3.) I do think that it is important to challenge yourself and to work new things into your game, but Fabio said each person's game evolves naturally over time. When you drill something over and over again, it becomes muscle memory. Then, when the situation presents itself in a grapple, you react without even thinking about it. When a new piece of the overall puzzle is becoming a part of your game, you might only get a few steps into the move and then fumble around trying to remember what to do from there. But that is a problem resolved only with more drilling, more grappling and time.

4.) One thing both Fabio and Ben were adamant about was that, if you build your game on trying to study your opponent and coming up with a game plan specifically tailored to beating them, you will end up pigeon-holing yourself. Sure, you might be able to find a hole in someone's game by watching them, and catch them in a tournament. But you will also run into people who are diverse and will switch their game up mid-grapple. Where will you be then? It's better to play your own game and to work diligently in training to be diverse and be able to handle whatever type of opponent comes your way.

So, all of this is aptly summed up by what Ben would probably in response to my worries about not planning enough: Just come in and do your thing. Stop worrying so much.

Happy rolling! :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I don't really have a plan.

Had a talk with Faibo and Ben about rolling with a plan/agenda vs rolling in a reactionary way. I would describe my grappling style as reactionary. I don't really plan things. I see things and go for them, or I try to move someone into a position that would be more advantageous for me. I take what comes to me and try to use it to gain dominance or even catch a submission.

Guard is a big part of my game for that reason. I can attack, control and defend from my guard, all the while preventing them from really getting a dominant position. But I don't plan out how I will work my guard and say, "First , I'll get them in closed guard, then I'll fall back to spider guard and then half guard."
I don't really think while I grapple, but it I did, it would be something like, "Ok, he's going to break my guard, I'm going to set up for spider guard defense and be looking sweeps and possible triangles, armbars or omaplatas."

What actually happens when I'm in one of those good rolls is that I don't think. They come at me, I react, try to secure a position. They move, I try to use the space they make. Oh, there's a choke there. Go for it. Can't finish it so try to turn it into a bluff for a sweep. That's what usually happens. I have no plan.
I try something, it doesn't work, I try something else, look for space, look for a way to isolate a limb, to go for a choke. There's no structure there.

Should there be? I'm wondering...

A lot of people I've talked to in the blogosphere like to have game plans. They know what they want to accomplish in a grapple. One I commonly here is takedown, pass, mount and choke. That is the game plan. Or get the take down, establish side control, isolate a limb and armbar.

I don't play that way, but some people do with some success, I would guess. To be honest, I don't really know. Do any of you out there grapple by a game plan? Do you go into it with a plan of attack? How often do those plans play out in grapples the way you planned them?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ok. You were right.

On Tuesday afternoon we worked a sweep that is set up when someone is passing your spider guard. You have one arm hooked with your foot and, as they pass, you triangle that arm with your other leg. Then, with the same leg you originally used to hook, you point your knee out, grip the fabric at one of their knees or ankles and lift, bringing them over. Sweepity sweep.

Nopity nope.

I had been drilling this sweep with a friend of mine, Erica, and we were doing ok with it. But then we decided to try it with "Salsa John", a solid, technical blue belt who is also Erica's boyfriend, to see if we were doing it right. I wasn't. I couldn't sweep him.

I thought I knew what the problem was. I was grabbing the wrong leg when it came time to lift the body weight and go over. I could do it with one leg, not the other. But even with the "correct leg" it was hard for me to bring him over and that was with him giving only minimal resistance. Had we been in a live grapple with him really trying, he wouldn't have gone anywhere.

"I think you could use either leg," he told me.

"No, I don't think so," I said, "Because I can't get you to go over at all when I use the other leg."

"I don't think it's that. I think you're timing is off. You have to do it when I go to pass your guard," he told me.

"Ok, I'll try it," I told him. I kind of expected the "other leg theory" not to work. I was thinking to myself, "It might work for you because you are stronger than me."

So I set it up and waited for him to pass my guard. As he went, the planets aligned and I went for it just at the right time. Sweepity sweep!! With the "wrong" leg.
Ok. So he was right. It could be done with either leg. And not because he was stronger than me. My timing was off.

Here's what I'm taking away from my recent experiences. I know very well that, since I'm small, my technique has to be "more correct" for something to work than it would for a larger, stronger guy. Clearly, everyone wants to have good technique. But I have to have it, or else nothing happens and I get smashed.

But ALSO, I have to have correct timing. One thing that prevents a lot of my sweeps from working is hesitation. I know the sweep, but I hesitate, trying to think about exactly the right way to do the technique. By the time I'm trying to execute, the guy has his base back already and we're in a no-fly zone.

I'm trying to learn to "feel" the other person's weight more. And to be a little more instinctual. I have to get out of my own head, a little bit. I'm not saying I'm going to let technique fly out the window. But I need to be less wrapped up in doing things perfectly right and just keep moving. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Working It Out

Had a private lesson with Ben today and asked him about a few specific things that are road blocks for me right now.

Firstly, I am STILL trying to move my opponent instead of moving myself. I do this especially with my arms and more so when I am panicked or locked up. What I need to do is relax and use my legs and arms as blocks or points of leverage. Because I've been having so much trouble when people lock me up, Ben's wife, Cindy, would lock me up either in side control or top half-guard and I had to work out. Ben pointed out that I'm putting my knee too far across the belly in bottom half-guard and that I'm pushing with my leg too much instead of using it as a block and a way to move my torso back. Also, I am pulling up in the back of the gi too much when I'm trying to get out of side control or half-guard. Again, trying to move the person instead of moving myself.

I also need to be more patient. When I've got someone locking me up, I need to relax and try different things to get out, sure. But if they are bent on sitting there and gripping the crap out of me, I can always wait for them to move and let them waste all that energy sitting there squeezing me. Of course, this would not be a good strategy if I'm down by points in the last 30 seconds of a tournament grapple, but in class, what's it going to hurt? Eventually, they'll get bored and move and then I can take advantage of whatever space they make.

Another thing that has been pointed out to me is that I am still approaching a lot of techniques in "steps". I hesitate before doing things and then, when I do them, it's step one, step two, step three instead of doing the move fluidly and all together. I'm still having to think about what I do before I do it. Unfortunately, this is something that I can only fix over time. Some of it is that I need to just trust my instincts and what I've learned already. But I also have to let the new stuff I learn every week become muscle memory before I can just do it without thinking. And that takes time. Working on it.

More than anything, today, I just enjoyed being on the mat. Since Summerlin closed, I've been feeling like my week is incomplete. But that just makes the classes I do get to go to that much more enjoyable to me. I'm hungry for it and I can't get enough.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Things I Learned Last Night at Jits

1. Facebook will eventually become self-aware and take over the world. Seriously. It already knows all our secrets. It's only a matter of time.

2. Purple belts and brown belts can make whatever jokes they want because no one can do anything to stop them (lol!).

3. Women are not allowed to talk in conversations unless they are called upon. And it is our fault that the Adam ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

Ok, none of those were serious. Well, maybe the Facebook thing. But I DID actually learn some things at last night's class.

We worked a roll-out from butterfly guard that I really like. You're holding your opponent's sleeves and then you pull one sleeve down, tucking it under your knee. You cross that same leg under your other leg, hooking your opponent's opposite knee with your foot. Then, you roll inverted toward your opponent's trapped arm, using your feet hooks to help you come around. You end up either hugging their side or back, with both of their arms captured. The important thing when doing the inverted roll is to move your head out of the way. Otherwise, you won't be able to go all the way around. I have no idea if that was a coherent explanation. Not very good at explaining moves.

I have been having a dry spell lately with rolling. I'm either unable or unwilling to finish submissions. Part of that is because I roll with one of two extremes: Very new girls who I don't want to submit or experienced blues, purples and browns who mock my feeble attempts at submission. ;) That's not entirely true. There are some people "at my level" who I roll with, but I haven't been catching them either. I go for things, but rarely finish.

Also, I have noticed that there are some major bad habits with a few of my submissions that I need to fix. I keep forgetting to squeeze my knees in armbars and triangles. I know. BJJ 101. Don't kill me, Ben. I don't know why I've gotten into that bad habit, but I'm working toward correcting that.

Another thing I need to work on is something one of the purple belts, Brian Morgan (a.k.a. "PP" :) ) said to me last night after our roll. I go for moves 100% when I'm on defense, but then when I move to offense, I hesitate for a second before moving between positions. He said I need to trust my instincts more and just go for it. I've noticed the same thing. Part of it is me being unsure of what to do. I'm thinking to much. As Brian said, I need to let my offense be a little more reactionary. Trust what I've learned and go for it.

Will do, Mr. Morgan. Will do.

Lastly, I am debating about whether or not to compete in the Florida State BJJ Championship coming up on the 22nd. I have to decide by the 19th because that's the last day to register. Here's my conundrum. I am a baby blue. I will get creamed. This is pretty much a given. BUT I always learn a lot in competitions and I haven't competed since last summer. I know a lot of you die-hard competitors will say, "Just go for fun." But I fail at the "go for fun" mentality. I get all freaked out and go nuts trying to "prepare". Then I stress about making weight and about take-downs and about losing in my first match. I usually don't relax until the tournament is over. This time I haven't done any of my normal obsessive-compulsive preparations. And I really don't have the time left to be as anal retentive as I normally would be.

And that might be all the more reason why I should compete. Just go in. See where I'm at. No pressure. (Riiiiight.)

I dunno. Mulling it all over. That's all for now. I'm going to go scare myself to death by watching Sci-Trek episode about killer contagions. OMG MRSA!!!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Grappling Angry

Fabio said something in passing while he was explaining the technique Friday night and it has made me think a lot since. You've probably heard it said before that grappling angry leads to poor technique. Why? Because you're so focused on getting the tap that you get impatient and focus less on position. I was thinking, couldn't the same thing be said of grappling with insecurity? In the same way, you're focused on getting the tap, because you want to prove yourself. But meanwhile, your mind is so full of trying to be good that you can't focus on what you need to do to actually be good.

I'm rambling. Was up too late last night. Time to go to sleep. Happy Mother's Day, all!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Talking During Grappling

I think it's funny to see how vastly different one grappling experience can be from the next. You might go with one guy who is laid back, just "moving" as we say, and then the very next grapple you go with someone who is going all out, pushing you to the limit of your ability. Sometimes you kind of mess around in a grapple, or experiment with weird moves you've never tried before, but then other times the intensity goes up and the grapple gets serious.

Things get even more interesting when you add talking into the mix. Now, I don't have a problem when you're rolling with someone and goofing around and talking smack back and forth mutually. But there are some breeches of etiquette that I've noticed and I thought I'd talk about them here and get your opinions on what you think about these talky grapplers. Let me just say, I've been guilty of some of these "offenses" from time to time. Anyway, here they are:

1. The Staller -- This is the guy or gal who likes to talk during the whole grapple. They tell you stories, ask you questions, tell you about a technique they saw...whatever happens to come to their mind. Meanwhile, they aren't really grappling, they're moving a little bit, but are acting like they're not really going hard. They might do that for the entire grapple. If you are also a talker or just want to take it easy for one round, this might not be a problem for you. But if you really want to work on stuff, this person can be frustrating.

2. The Sneak Attacker -- This guy or girl is similar to The Staller, with one big difference. They'll be talking up a storm and laughing and seemingly messing around and not going serious. Then, they get into a good position and all of the sudden the conversation stops and you're getting choked out. This is one of my biggest pet-peeves. I don't know if it bothers anyone else, but I don't like it when someone asks you a question and waits for you to respond and then tries to pull a move on you. The Sneak Attacker is also sometimes develops "phantom injuries" that come at the start of the grapple but magically disappear when the person gets in a good position.

3. The Smack Talker -- Everyone likes to joke around and talk a little crap from time to time, but the smack talker isn't joking. They're throwing out jibes during the grapple aimed at either announcing a good position/submission on their part or belittling a good position/submission attempt on your part. In my opinion, this ruins a training experience because the focus gets taken off of learning and it turns into a competition between two people who are supposed to be on the same team, helping each other out.

4. The Advice Giver -- This one is similar to The Staller as well. Here's how they operate. You're grappling and you're moving into a good position or setting up a submission and all of the sudden your partner stops you and tells you that you're doing something wrong. They then very kindly tell you what you need to do in order to get the technique right. Meanwhile, you're thrown off your timing and they're getting out of danger. Now, sometimes higher belts will stop a grapple to explain something or give advice to a lower belt. But that's a different scenario. What I'm talking about is when someone decides to share their pearls of wisdom at the precise (convenient) moment when he or she is about to get owned.

5. The Passive-Aggressive Commenter -- This person has beef with you. Maybe you caught them in an unexpected position or submission and they're still mad about it. Maybe you said something that rubbed them the wrong way last class. Or maybe they just don't like you. But they're not going to come out and say it. Instead, they're going to make comments like, "Oh, I noticed you couldn't finish that triangle. Are you not feeling well?" Or, "Usually I have more of a hard time grappling you. Is everything ok?" You can tell how concerned they are by that gleeful glint in their eye as they stick it to you!

6. The Braggart/Accuser -- This offender takes his or her crimes off the mat, usually behind your back. They'll tell everyone they can how many times they submitted you and the mistakes you made. Or, if you happened to beat them, they'll smear you up and down saying you cross-faced them or made a cheap move in order to get your submission. Of course, you're not there to give your version of the story. But you certainly hear about it later when the gossip finally comes back around to you.

It's kind of a given that people are going to say stupid things to you at some point, whether it is on the mat or off the mat. I've done it before to other people, though not intentionally, and have had to apologize for opening my big mouth when I should have just kept it shut and grappled. And other people have done it to me.

In my opinion, it's best to error on the side of caution. If you think a joke is borderline and might be taken offensively, just don't say it. And, unless a person asks you for advice, I am starting to think it's best to just keep your opinions to yourself. That is, unless you have a good relationship with the person and you trade experiences and advice, or unless you're an instructor. Then it's kind of your job. ;) If you keep your mouth shut, you'll save yourself a lot of drama and have a more pleasant grappling experience.

So here is my question for you guys in the blogosphere: How do you handle talky grapplers? Do you ignore them and put it on with the fierceness? Do you endure the rambling and the comments with the patience of Mother Theresa? Or do you talk right back to them, meanwhile setting them up for that secret ninja position they missed in the last class and have no defense for? ;) I'm interested to see how your reactions line up with mine.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Summerlin is closing...Again.

Sadness tonight. Ben has had to take a job that will require him to be out of town a lot for the next eight months so he is having to close down Summerlin BJJ. There is a chance that it will reopen after he's done with the job, but for now it is closing.

As with the last time, I'm really sad. Ben has been an amazing instructor and coach and I know my BJJ game wouldn't be where it is today without all the time and help he has given me over the last half a year. I am really thankful to have had a chance to learn under him and I plan to continue to do so at Fabio's! :)

Tonight was the last class at Summerlin and we went out with a bang. It was probably one of the most fun classes we've ever had! We did Team A, Team B. We did Shark pit. And at the end of class, Ben gave Phil a special demonstration of his choking abilities. ;)

I also asked Ben a special request in my grapple with him. I asked him to grapple me using a lot of muscle and locking me up. I've been having a lot of trouble with guys who use a lot of muscle and I wanted Ben to grapple me that way and see what I was doing wrong. Let me just say that grapple was unpleasant. LOL But afterward, Ben told me some things I can do to move out from under someone when they're locking me up in side control or half guard.

The main thing he was telling me was that if someone is locking up the top half of your body, then the lower half of your body is free. I have been told this so many times, but I am hoping tonight it will click for me. When someone locks me up there are things I can do to make small spaces and work my knees in and elbows in or work my way out or back to my guard. One big mistake I have been making is using too much arm strength and trying to push the person off of me. Considering how weak I am, this is a bad strategy. ;)

Good luck, Ben, with this job you'll be working on! I feel privileged to have had the chance to learn under you and I hope to be able to continue to do so. Thanks for everything!!

Marcelo Saporito!!!

I thought I missed it! Marcelo Saporito , a black belt under Carlson Gracie who is also Fabio's instructor, came over from Brazil and gave a seminar, but I couldn't make it because we had a golf tournament fundraiser for the Youth Program my husband and I run. I was really disappointed because I wanted to see the man who trained Fabio...and can still submit him! (That boggles my mind, by the way.)

Low and behold, I walked into class last night and he and another black belt from Brazil, Ozzie, were there! I was so excited. He instructed the class last night, which was interesting considering that he speaks only a few words in English. Fabio had to translate for him.

We worked a kimura from guard and an armbar transition from there. Sounds simple, but nooooope. Lots of details. Learned a lot. I also learned some about Brazilian etiquette. In Brazil, when you come to a new school, you always go up and greet the higher belts first, according to rank. It's sort of acknowledging their rank. Fabio has such a laid back personality, he doesn't make a big deal out of it. But in other schools, he warned us, we should do that. Good to know!

One thing that left an impression on me about Marcelo was that he was at once intimidating and personable. He's a strict disciplinarian. He wants to see your gi looking straight, your belt tied correctly. He wants to see the technique done correctly without mistakes. But at the same time, he takes the effort to not only work with you patiently until you get it, but to encourage you after all is said and done. At the end of class, when we were all lined up, he called out several people to say that he admired something about their style of grappling.

He also made a point to drive home to us that BJJ is about leverage. He wants to see technique, not muscle. It's obvious too that he knows the difference because both he and Ozzie were small in stature, but awesome on the ground.

He's going to be there again in the afternoon class. So excited!! I feel lucky that I got to meet him and that I get to train under him for a few classes!!

Monday, May 3, 2010


This post has nothing to do with BJJ, but too bad! ;)

It's been too long since we went on a family vacation! My Dad, Step mom, sister, brother-in-law and our little family went on a cruise to the Bahamas. We took the Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Sea. Anyone been on it? We stopped in at Cococay and Nassau and spent the rest of the short trip at sea.

The Bahamas were everything I expected. Beautiful water, white sand (pink sand in parts of Nassau!) and a laid back atmosphere. The cruise boat too was awesome. My favorite thing about the boat was surprisingly not the food (though it was delicious!). My favorite thing was the windowless cabin! lol I haven't slept so good in years!! The first day, I woke up completely disoriented. I thought it was 7:30 in the morning and it was 10 am!

Above all, the greatest thing about the whole vacation was being able to leave all the stress of home life behind and just relax with my family. Noah was amazing. He was so good the whole trip. And it's been a long time since I really got to just play with him without having to interrupt our games to run here or there. I just wanted to hold him and kiss him the whole time. But Dad and Mirjam and Unlce Matt and Auntie Erin were all competing for his time! lol I wish I lived closer to my sister and Matt. My sister and I are so much alike in some ways. But we are opposite enough to balance each other out as well.

I did manage to make it to the gym every day on the trip except the last day. But that's not work for me. It's therapy! It was awesome going on the elliptical while looking out a window at the ocean!

Anyway, it was a great trip. I actually got a little color on my blinding-white legs. Here are a few pictures from the adventure!