Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It Was the One-Armed Man!!

Yesterday was one of those days where I basically paid to get my butt kicked. No one hurt me or anything. They just out-grappled me. Honestly, I think I would rather be muscled around and smashed. Then I would have something to complain about other than my lack of skills. ;)

The pinnacle of my lesson in humility was a grapple with one of the blues, Salsa John. I love rolling with him. He's technical, fast, thinks on his feet, so to speak. It's always exciting. But he hurt his wrist and yesterday he had to grapple with one arm tied in his belt.

I knew I wouldn't have much of an advantage. I mean, even minus one arm, he is still more [insert any positive description of a grappler here] than me. But I also didn't expect him to still own the garbage out of me with one less limb than I had. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. Though he didn't get any submissions (I don't know if he was even going for any) he still dominated me positionally.

After class, I was sitting around listening to conversations and was hearing all these stories from three years ago or five years ago or whatever when the guys were at the old gym, long before I even knew what BJJ was, and it really struck me how much of a BJJ baby I am.

In August, I will have been grappling for one year. Fabio has been grappling since 1992. Ben has been grappling almost 9 years, I think. Somewhere around there. I don't know what all the stats are on the rest of the people in the gym, but most of the blues have been there a lot longer than me.

Being a woman, I am naturally talented at having multiple, conflicting emotions all at the same time. And, at that moment, I felt two things very distinctly. (1) I felt crappy because of how long of a way I have to go. (2) I felt excited about the years of Jiu-jitsu I have ahead of me.

Right now, I get dominated a lot. Georgette blogged this morning about feeling frustrated with her grappling and I have to say that I have felt the same way a lot.

But at the same time, in the back of my mind,I am excited to see the level of Jiu-jitsu that is kicking my butt. To me, that is evidence that I am working toward something great. If I was able to come in a grapple for a year and be able to beat blue belts that had been there three or five years, that would almost certainly mean that the BJJ we were learning wasn't up to par.

But I see how good they are compared to me. And I see how good our instructors are compared to them. And even Fabio will tell you that he still learns new things from time to time. He is always growing and sharpening his skills.

It just makes me excited to know that I will never be done learning. That might be discouraging to some people, but for me it is comforting. It's like being in the middle of a really great book series and knowing that I am not going to have to stop reading because I ran out of books. ( nerd is showing).

Anyways, being beaten by a one-armed man sucks. But seeing that Jiu-jitsu works and knowing what I have to look forward to in the future makes the suckiness worth it. So, thanks to all of you guys who push me to my limit. You guys remind me what I'm working for.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

They Were Right

Went to class tired and cranky, not really wanting to be social. Had a crappy night at BJJ last night and I wasn't looking forward to a repeat. Liam did a great post on his blog, The Part Time Grappler, that goes over some of same issues I was dealing with. Nothing like having an outside perspective to give you a new take on a situation. I think I need to work on being less forthcoming about my aggravations with people on here and more forthcoming with the actual people I am dealing with. lol. Even so, I didn't feel like grappling today.

Turned out to be one of the best classes I've had in a while. Guess they were right about the whole "the best time to grapple is when you're tired" thing. We worked the same exact x-guard sweep as last night, but I took away a completely different set of lessons.

The first thing that really stuck out to me today was the importance of hipping in. A lot of emphasis is given in BJJ to the hip out. But the hip-IN is just as important. Without it, most sweeps cannot be done correctly. That is definitely the case with this x-guard sweep. If I expect to get my little legs up underneath some guy who has got seventy pounds on me, I have to first hip under him to get him off his base and get his weight up over my body so I can move him around. I can tell when I haven't hipped in enough when I am having to use a lot of muscle to pull his weight up on top of me.

The second thing that I took away from today was that I have to be ready to stand up sometimes during a grapple. In this case, when you are executing the sweep, you have hold of the person's leg (you swim it in the beginning). As you are trying to take them over, they may post out wide with their arms. But the sweep is not lost. If you still have hold of their leg, you can stand up and pull their hip up and in toward you, forcing them to fall back. Then you can drop into knee on belly or side control. It never occurs to me to stand up during a grapple. Need to be more aware of that option!

During grappling, I found myself trying to use spider guard a lot. I was trying to sweep people using spider guard, but was having very limited success. And by limited, I mean none. After my grapple with Ben, I asked him if he could pretty please show me how to sweep someone using spider guard. Don't know how many times I've seen this already. But I was forgetting key details.

Instead of just pushing on the person's elbow with my foot and trying to pull them over and down, what I need to do is bring my knee in and then out to the side again in a "V" motion. At the same time, I let go of the opposite arm and grab hold of their leg on the sweep-side, pulling their leg in. If I do the motions all together, it takes away their ability to stop themselves from falling on that side.

I'm going to play around with this and see if I can use the same idea to sweep from inverted guard. In that situation, my legs and arms are reversed, but I think the concept can still work. I don't know. I'll give it a go.


Lots of stress going on right now in my non-BJJ life and I don't really feel like going to class. They say that times like these are the best times to go to class. Roll when you're tired.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Welcome Back?

We're back from our trip to Winston Salem, North Carolina. Great time with all the kids, though I really missed being able to roll. I missed exercise in general. The food was really good and the only thing that kept me from completely porking out were all of the stairs we had to climb between buildings and in our dorms on the campus of Wake Forest University.

I couldn't wait to get back to BJJ. But tonight didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped. I sort of wanted to take it easy, you know. Just roll light. But that didn't end up happening.

On the upside, we worked an x-guard sweep from half-guard that I really like. Ben has shown us this move at Summerlin a few times, but I had kind of forgotten about it. The person is in half guard. You swim their leg, hip out, get one ankle over their thigh. Then you lift up their body and get your other ankle over their thigh to make the "X". Then you can take them over one whatever side they're off balance. I tried to use this move in grappling tonight. Didn't get the sweep, but it did make enough space for me to return to full guard, which is ok in my book.

Trying to find more things to do from inverted guard. I get there and then kind of flail around trying to find and attack or a sweep. I need to figure out to points of control there, how to use my feet to push and pull at the right places to get someone off balance. Also, I am working on no sitting in inverted guard. In one of my grapples, I found myself stalled there with the other person trying to pass. I was basically grabbing at things--sleeves, lapels, knees, whatever--trying to gain some points of control to sweep or get into position for a choke. But I was really feeling around blind, not exactly sure how to set the stuff up. It's coming though....hopefully.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mixed Results

Last night was a night of extremes in grappling. I grappled a couple of pretty new people and some experienced blue belts. The results of each of those grapples were soooo different.

First, I went with a girl who has been going to our gym for a while. She is kind of timid and, for a long time, didn't really attack when she grappled. Now she is starting to get a little more confidence and she is transforming her game. She's attacking more, she's starting to really understand the concepts more. In our grapple, I could see the wheels turning. She tries to set up and apply the things we have recently been learning in class. It is great to see!! She's the type of person I really root for, you know? She's such a meek, sweet person, but I want to see her kick some butt!! lol

My second grapple went very differently. I went with Yeti, a blue belt who helps me out a lot. He helped me last night, alright. Helped me to see how much I have to learn!! lol. No, he didn't do anything rough or mean. He was just moving. Moving a LOT faster than I was. He is not only faster, but loads more technical than me. He can pick me apart SO EASY!! But I enjoy rolling with him because, even while he's kicking my butt, he's telling me how to defend the submissions he's putting on me. I usually come away from rolls with him with at least one little tid-bit of information to improve my game. That's a great rolling partner. Someone who can kick your butt, but make you feel like you accomplished something anyway in the end.

One of my other grapples of the night was with a younger guy who is relatively new to BJJ. He has a lot of heart and it's easy to see that he's motivated to learn. But he is still in that go-crazy, I'm-never-going-to-tap, have-to-smash mode. That was fine for most of the grapple. I favor chokes with newer people and I'm not as afraid of finishing chokes on people who don't tap. But then I caught a heel hook on him. I was applying it really slowly, but I had it. He just refused to tap. I said tap. Another blue belt sitting on the wall said tap. But he refused. I would have had to pop his ankle to get the tap. So I let go, got him in my guard and got a gi choke instead.

Afterwards, I told him he should be more careful with leg locks. Not everyone will let them go. He said, "Well, maybe I don't want them to." Sigh... I hope he doesn't end up with a popped ankle. I won't do it. But at a tournament, guys will pop ankles without hesitating. For his sake, I hope he learns to tap.

I'm leaving tomorrow to take our youth group to a Student Life camp in North Carolina. I'm REALLY excited, since this will not only be a great experience for myself and the kids, but also a mini-vacation for me and JJ! I won't get to grapple for the week. That is, unless some unruly kids refuse to go to sleep after we tell them to. I get kinda grumpy when I don't get my sleep. After about two in the morning "lights out" takes on a whole different meaning!! ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No Loitering!

Prepare for a late-night ramble. ;)

On my first day of class, people I grappled with all told me the same thing: "Just move!" Unfortunately for me, I had no idea where to move or how to move. But since I was told to keep moving, I flopped around, landed in bad places and eventually learned to at least imitate the movements they were all looking for.

Now, I am still having to work on keeping moving. Being that I like to react to what other people are doing in a grapple, sometimes I stall out and sort of sit back, waiting to see what the other person will do. This is fine sometimes....when I'm in a good position! But when I'm not, or when we're in the middle of a scramble, that is not the time to let the other guy take the lead. No. That's when I need to keep moving and regain control. It's definitely not the time to stop and ponder the concepts and various techniques that I may or may not employ!! lol

That's how pretty much all of my grapples went today. I rolled with almost all senior belts who were very patient. They all told me I need to keep moving and not to stall out in inverted guard. Also, since Fabio put out a hit on my legs to make me learn how to defend leg locks better, I was thinking way too much about legs and not enough about the rest of what was going on. Everyone I rolled with went for my legs, but they let me work out of them, so good practice there.

Perhaps one day my grappling will be less schizophrenic! ;)

One thing I'm really enjoying about BJJ right now is finding little puzzle pieces to fit into my overall game. "Oh, I can use that here. If I turn it that way, it fits here too. Um...that one doesn't seem to fit anywhere right now, but I'm going to hold onto it just in case."

Also, I've been enjoying trying weird crap out during grappling. "What will happen if I swim this and push that and try to get my leg in there? Oh. A tap. Note to self. Don't do that again. Ok, well what about if I grab this and flip under here and close that space. Oooh. Mount. I think I like that one."

I feel fortunate that I can roll with a group of guys that I trust enough to experient with. They could destroy me on any given day, if they so chose, but instead, they let me fumble around and try weird things (that usually end up working toward their advantage anyway) and it's really fun. I hope they get some fun out of it too.

In the next few weeks my focus will be two-fold: 1) Protecting my legs. They are exposed all the time, so I can't leave them unattended for even a moment! lol 2) I need to work on using my inverted guard to sweep or submit. Right now, I'm using it mainly to keep my opponent at bay. But I need to be more offensive with it. But that's going to require a lot of the experimentation I was talking about. It's a weird position to work from.

As warned, I am rambling. Going to spare you anymore fatigue-induced nonsense. Hope you guys are rolling safe and happy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Snap 'Em Like Twigs

I have a problem with my legs. They're in the high risk category for potential locking.

My last grapple tonight was with one of the purple belts at my school, Brian Morgan. Fabio asked Brian to go for my legs whenever they were exposed. Let me tell you, it pointed out a big weak point in my grappling! I don't even know how many times he went back for a leg lock. He didn't actually apply any of the submissions. He was letting me try to work out of them which showed me that, not only do I expose my legs a lot for submissions, but my escapes are shaky at best.

This is not news to me. I've always had trouble with leg lock escapes. I expose my legs a lot because I like to play open guard and I can't really blame guys for going for them when I lay them out on a silver platter.

There's not really a lot I can do about my legs being exposed. But what I DO need to work on is learning how to react quickly to get my legs out of danger. I need to read people better to know when they're going back for leg locks. And I need to work on my escapes. As Brian pointed out, I need to be careful who I work leg lock escapes with. If I am not sure if someone is going to be controlled enough not to crank my ankle, I'm just going to tap. But if I'm going with a higher rank who is letting me work and who isn't going to try to rip my foot off the end of my leg, then I need to start going for the escapes.

I have been taught several escapes, but I hesitate way too much in executing them. You can't hesitate with a leg lock. You have to be escaping as soon as you even see a hint of someone going for one. And even when I do actually do the escapes, they're sloppy and fumbly. But I am going to focus on trying to read my opponent and get my legs out of danger before they can fall all the way back into the submission.

Also, tonight, we learned a weird omaplata that you get from rolling someone out of turtle. Your opponent is turtled and he over-hooks your near leg. You sit back on his wrist and roll forward, triangling your legs around his arm and then catching his leg as you sit up. Then you apply the omaplata. Or, I guess it's an americana from there. I don't really know. It was one of those moves that didn't feel natural to me, so I kind of stumbled through drilling.

Also, to my chagrin, I noticed my pride creeping back up into me during a few of my first rolls of the night. It showed in my game. Tense. Less movement. More pushing and exploding, less flowing and reacting. Overall, it got in the way of me moving like I should have been able to. I was able to calm down after that, Had to talk myself into getting my focus back where it needed to be. It's not about what people think. It's about learning. Stop worrying about if someone passes your guard!! Ah well. Tomorrow afternoon hopefully I'll be able to just come in and not argue with myself like an insane person.

Despite that, it was a great class. Learned a lot. Had fun. Can't ask for more than that.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fear of Failing

I read a great post by Megan at Tangled Triangle this morning that got me thinking. I said a couple of posts ago that I hit a breakthrough in my game but couldn't put my finger on it.

I think I figured out what it is. I knew that relaxing and being able to move more fluidly while I was rolling was a big key, but the even bigger key was why I was ABLE to relax in the first place.

If you follow my blog, you will know that in the past months I struggle with the debilitating Bluebeltitis disease. I didn't want to tap to white belts. Heck, I didn't even want them passing my guard. I didn't want to "let down" my instructors by not performing at some level I had set up in my own mind. Basically, I was walking into every class with a huge, self-imposed weight on my shoulders.

Then, I realized a few things that--when I am able to keep them at the forefront of my mind going into class--liberate me from all the pressure I was putting on myself.

1. No one is really all that concerned with how good or bad I do on any given day. The gym doesn't revolve around me (big shock!) and it's not like everyone is sitting around waiting for me to mess up. I mean, my instructors and teammates care about me. If I have a good day, they'll say, "Hey, you're moving well." If I have a bad day, they'll say, "Don't worry about it. You'll do better next time." But I got it in my head that I had to KEEP doing well to keep everyones' "good opinion" of me. That is just stupid because I am not coming to BJJ to keep them happy. I am coming because I love the sport. Of course I want people to like me. But they're going to like me for me, not because I roll well.

2. I don't need to rush through my BJJ experiences. I don't need to constantly be worried about all of the areas where I am not doing well. I will improve over time and I can't really do all that much to speed it up. It's kind of like expectant mothers in the last few weeks of their pregnancy. They want that baby out. But guess what? The baby will come when it's good and ready and not a minute before. In the same way, I can't expect myself to be perfect at my techniques at this level. I am still a beginner. And now I am ok with that. In fact, I am enjoying it. I don't want to rush through my training anymore. It's all fun. I just want to enjoy it. Which brings me to my last point...

3. BJJ is fun. That's why I started it in the first place, isn't it? If I make it about all this pressure, it loses the magic that lured me in and becomes a chore. I come to the gym and pay to learn BJJ not because I have to, but because it is something I enjoy. Or at least, it is supposed to be! I can tell when my head is in the wrong place if I start dreading going to class. If I am dreading going to class, it is usually because I am worried that I am not going to do well. Then I have to have a little chat with myself about points one and two, and remind myself that THIS IS MY HOBBY! lol No lives are at stake. Nothing hangs in the balance waiting to see whether or not I can finish a submission today or defend my guard. It's all a game. And if I am not enjoying it, then why am I playing?

I knew all of these things in my head, but convincing myself to believe them in my heart (as corny as that sounds) was the key for me. A lot of that is due to a lot of great teammates and some people on here-- Dev, Liam, Georgette, Leslie and Can to name a few--who convinced me that I was being retarded and needed to chill out about my perfectionism. Thanks guys! ;) Now I can come to the gym and be relaxed because I don't have all this unnecessary pressure on myself. If I have a good day, I'm going to enjoy it. If I'm off, I'm going to learn from it. But above all, I am going to enjoy the experience and the people.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Straight Leg Lock

Today was a small class in the afternoon, which is always fun. We worked a straight leg lock. When Fabio had shown the basic technique, he showed us a variation that was really cool. You place your wrist bone on the achilles, kind of like the blade of a knife, and as you go back to do the lock, you turn your wrist into the ankle.

It hurts. Lots.

I still haven't used leg locks very much in grappling. Not only do I just not think of them during rolling, but I am still a little apprehensive about using them because I don't want to accidentally hurt someone. Also, when I start using leg locks, the other person generally starts using them back. And that's bad news for me. I guess I should look at that as an opportunity to get better at escapes! ;)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Anaconda to be exact. That's what we worked on last night: The Anaconda Choke. Fabio joked that, back in Brazil, no one called it the Anaconda Choke. They just called it a choke. Here, everyone has to have a name for everything. ;)

In the last several weeks, I've seen some improvement in my ability to finish chokes, whether it be triangles, gi-chokes or head and arm chokes. I was catching them before, but not really able to get the tap. It was a triangle drill that Fabio made us work one night that made the concept click for me and made me realize where the major problems were in my techniques.

Before, I was squeezing and pulling a lot to finish my chokes. I remember thinking that there must be something wrong with my technique because, not only was I not finishing chokes, but I was wearing my muscles out while trying to do them. I was trying to use strength because my technique was defunct.

Then Fabio taught us how to quickly finish a triangle. You start with having the person in your closed triangle. You lift your hips, tightening your knees together and cinching up the triangle, then you come down keeping your knees tightened. You go up again, your knees coming even tighter. You do this rapidly, as many times as you need to, cinching up the triangle until the person taps. It's not about squeezing hard, it's about closing space. It looks funny, but most people ended up tapping within a few seconds or passing out.

And it requires no strength!

The key thing that stuck with me was the idea of shrinking everything in on the person. It wasn't so much about pulling or squeezing. It was about closing all the space. To do that, you have to relax and kind of form yourself around the person's body, tightening everything as you do, kind of like a constrictor snake does. As usual, I had been shown all of this before. But during that drill I finally understood what it felt like in application.

I realized that chokes are not just about my arms or my legs. They're about using my whole body and about relaxing and shrinking the space around the arteries. So, here are a couple of rules of thumb that I am trying to keep in mind with chokes:

1. Relax. I can't close the space adequately if I'm tense.

2. If I can see the choke, chances are I'm not in close enough. Shrink in with my whole body, tightening all the space with my knees or my elbows, depending on which choke it is.

3. Don't give up on a choke too soon. The goal is to be tight from the start, but don't despair if I don't get in tight enough at first. Keep cinching it up, staying relaxed and moving with the person wherever they roll.