Friday, September 24, 2010

Tournament Preparation: Should You Change Your Game?

Anyone who competes in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournaments knows how nerve-wracking getting ready for competition is. Most people amp up the intensity of their grappling. A lot of people cut weight. They drill positions and escapes until they're dreaming about rolling out of arm bars and escaping mount, passing guard and choking people out. In all the self analysis that takes place in the months/weeks leading up to a tournament, it is inevitable that you will notice holes in your game. Feeling like you have to fix those things before you go into competition, you might want to change your game.

Say, hypothetically, there is a girl named Allie who plays too much guard. In this purely theoretical situation, Allie might be tempted to force herself to become a top player and change her game before the tournament. Instead of grappling like she normally does, she forces herself to pass guard and not go to her guard...

Ok, pause. Talking in the third person about myself is annoying.

This whole forcing myself to be a top player is working. But it is going too slowly. I don't think I will be able to make all of the stuff I am working on muscle memory before the tournament in October gets here.

It's not that I'm seeing no progress. It's just that, learning this new skill set is making me move slower. I have to pause and think. When I would normally go to guard, I hesitate and have to decide what to do instead. And those hesitations cost me big time when I am going against someone at my level or higher.

I am not giving up on being a top player. Talking to Fabio today, he reiterated the fact that, once I am on top, I need to stay there and not go back to guard purposefully. I'll cost myself points that way. But I don't have to change my grappling style completely.

Once again, I think I went overboard in trying to prepare and ended up making things worse. It's like Fabio was telling me: change in your grappling game happens naturally. When you try to force it, you usually hit a wall.

But for some reason, I keep trying to force that change. The patterns of growth I am going through are normal, according to my instructors. But I keep thinking I have stuff I need to "fix" right away.

The truth is, unfortunately Jiu-jitsu doesn't happen right away. I can become a top player. But I can't rush it.

Today, I played my type of game. And it felt great. I was relaxed. I felt confident. And low and behold, I did end up on top. Just not the way I thought I had to. Sweeps and reversals are more my thing, I think.

I guess everyone was right when they told me that I should just "Go in there and do my thing." But you all know me. I am hard headed. Seems I enjoy frustrating myself by being stubborn. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Kind of Training Partner Are You?

Today, Fabio was talking during warm-ups about a guy who used to grapple really hard on everyone he went with. This guy was extremely technical and didn't need to go hard on most people he went with. But he destroyed everyone equally, no matter if they were white belts or seasoned purple belts.

Fabio told us that he explained to that guy that he was putting a target on his own back. He said that, when people train with Fabio or some of his other higher belts, they want to be like them or better than them. But not with this guy. People didn't want to just be better than this other guy. They wanted to catch him, to hurt him, because of the way he grappled. Maybe they couldn't catch him yet, but one day someone would. And they wouldn't be nice when they did.

The guy has changed his grappling style a lot since that time and now he grapples at a level higher than those he is going with, but not just utterly pounding them into the mat. He is grappling not just for himself now, but to benefit the people he grapples with as well.

Fabio told us that everyone inspires one of three reactions in the people they grapple against:

1. The person wants to be like you.

2. The person wants to be better than you.

3. The person wants to catch you/hurt you.

It really made me think about how I grapple with people and wonder what I inspire. Hopefully it is not number three!! :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gameness: Are You Born With It?

Is gameness something you're born with? Or can it be learned? I recently read a post by Liam in which he interviewed a few head coaches heavily entrenched in the Manchester MMA scene. I loved both interviews, but the conversations he had with them about the mental toughness of the athletes they train really caught my attention.

Liam asked the three coaches what the most important attributes are in fighters and Gavin Boardman answered, "The most important is what many people refer to as gameness. The ability to step up no matter how tough the situation seems. To a large degree this can't be trained, you either have it or you don't. You can toughen up training with hard sparring, but once you get in the cage it might not be there for you."

That got me thinking. Do I have gameness? Honestly, I don't know. Tournaments intimidate me. I am willing to do them. But I am usually terrified when I step on the mat. I know of all the things that need improvement, my mental toughness is one of my weakest areas. I doubt myself.

Even more troubling for me is that Gavin said this sort of thing can't really be trained. You either have it or you don't. If that's true, what does it mean for people like me? Am I a hopeless case? Or can I toughen up and learn to be a lean, mean, grappling machine?

Obviously, I am not planning to go into MMA professionally. But I want to learn how to approach tournaments and challenges with a better mind frame so that I can do well at competitions and maybe even--MAYBE--enjoy them. This is on my mind quite a bit since I am hoping to compete in October, if my neck is well enough.

Georgette recently did a great blog post about calming nerves before a tournament. What about the rest of you guys? Do any of you have similar qualms about tournaments? And how do you deal with the mental aspect of competing?

Sea of Purple!! Fabio Novaes Belt Promotion!

Belt graduation at Fabio's last night = Awesomeness.

Both Yeti and Barf, two of my favorite training partners, both were promoted to purple belt. They both have been dedicated and have worked hard and are great examples of both technique and sportsmanship on the mat.

Since I first started training at Fabio's, they have both played a big role in helping me grow. And I know it's not just me. They take a time to help the people they roll with and aren't selfish about their grappling. What I mean by that is that they don't just go for the tap. They could. But they grapple differently with each person, going just above their level to push them.

The only bad thing is that Fabio's is becoming a very dangerous place for lowly blue belts! After last night's we had Fabio, two brown belts, eight purple belts (plus a few more who weren't able to come) and a whole bunch of blues striped up like tigers. Not to mention all the excellent white belts who are coming up like crazy. Yeah... the mat is a tricky place now!

Fortunately, though, the atmosphere hasn't changed. If anything, Fabio's BJJ family has gotten closer. I'm just glad I can be a part of it.

Some pictures from last night:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pain in the Neck

I came back to class on Tuesday and did some grappling. It's funny to me that every time I take a little time off I worry that my body won't remember what to do when I come back. I know that makes no logical sense. I was only out for a week. But it was nice to get back in class and realize that I hadn't forgotten everything. :)

My neck felt alright during rolling. The first two grapples it didn't bother me at all. But my third grapple it started to bother me a little. Fortunately, that ended up being the last grapple of the class, so I didn't face the temptation of grappling when I knew I should stop. Haha.

One problem is that I do a lot of inverted guard. Which means pressure on my neck at times. I think this will force me to try new things and not rely on inverted guard so much. During my last grapple, I found myself trying different things to avoid going on my neck and some of them worked. Some of them...not so much.

A couple of the blue belts I roll with on a regular basis told me I need to work on varying my game. I have some things that I do pretty well (for my level) but I need to expand and try new things. This is the perfect time for me to do that, I think. I want to work on being a top player. That's exactly where I need to be in order to keep from putting unnecessary pressure on my neck. So that will be my goal.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good News and Bad News

We'll start with the good news. Got some X-rays from a chiropractor named Joe who goes to Fabio's. There are no breaks or herniated discs or anything! Woohoo!

Now the bad news. Joe found out that I did strain my neck and the muscles my be affecting the nerve. That's what's causing the pain in my neck. He thinks I also might have something else going on in my arm on top of that, like carpel tunnel. I am out of class for at least a week, maybe more. Boooo! But I am really relieved that it is nothing too serious!

I'm still going to go to class tomorrow and watch. And since Joe goes to our school, I can't cheat and grapple without him finding out. Prevents me from continuing in my stupidity. ;)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yeah, I Shouldn't Have Done That.

I went to class Monday night and this afternoon and grappled. Said I wasn't going to. Did anyway. Paying for it now. Tweaked whatever is happening in my neck a little more and now the I'm having pain. I wasn't before. Way to be stubborn, Allie.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to see someone about my neck and arm. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out what the deal is. I just really don't want to have to miss out on a lot of training. I want to compete in October. Yes, my spine/nerves are more important than a tournament. But...come on! I want to go! ;)

Hopefully this turns out to be a minor thing...

The 12 Commandments of Jiu-jitsu by Carlos Gracie Sr.

I stole this from Stephanie's Blog. Inspired me when I read it. :)

1. Be so strong that nothing can disturb the peace of your mind.
2. Talk to all people about happiness, health, and prosperity.
3. Give to all your friends the feeling of being valued.
4. Look at things by the enlightened point of view and update your optimism on reality.
5. Think only about the best, work only for the best, and always expect the best.
6. Be as just and enthusiastic about others victories as you are with yours.
7. Forget about past mistakes and focus your energy on the victories of tomorrow.
8. Always make those around you happy and keep a smile to all people who talk to you.
9. Apply the largest amount of your time on self-improvement and no time in criticizing others.
10. Be big enough so you can feel unsatisfied, be noble enough so you can feel anger, be strong enough so you can feel fear, and be happy enough so you can feel frustrations.
11. Hold a good opinion about your self and communicate that to the world, but not through dissonant words but through good works.
12. Believe strongly that the world is in your side, as long as you stay loyal to the best of yourself.

Thanks, Steph!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


We worked an armbar escape on both Thursday and Friday that involves stacking your opponent, keeping pressure on their hips, turning their legs to the side and freeing your arm.

On Friday night, after I got home, I noticed that my right arm from my shoulder to my fingers felt a little weird. While I was going to sleep it felt tingly. It's been a little tingly ever since. I had no pain Friday night and have had none since, but it's still worrisome.

I talked to a friend of mine who is a physical therapist and he said it sound like I have a pinched nerve either in my neck or shoulder, probably from inflamed tendons. Only way to be sure is to get an MRI, but he said I should probably just take off a few classes, do some stretches and see if it gets better in a few days. If not, I need to go in and have it looked at.

Either way, I am bummed. I don't want to miss any classes, but this kind of freaked me out so I think I will. Have any of you guys ever had anything like this happen?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Is Going On Here?!?!

Man, this afternoon's class was so awesome! Learned a lot. We drilled an escape from when someone is doing an armbar from guard. I will definitely use it. But the things that I was really excited about came during grappling and after class.

I was going with Barf (his real name is Brian). He is one of those guys that, after I've finished grappling him, I always walk away having learned something. Today, he very kindly caught a few foot locks to show me that I was making my feet vulnerable when I'm doing inverted guard. He didn't finish them. Just caught them so I would be aware. Fabio has been catching a lot of them on me to so I would notice.

Just when I thought I was making some progress in the area of leg defense! haha. Before, heel hooks were my nemesis. Now it's foot locks. Grrr!

I was kind of confused about the best way to escape since I usually got caught by them when I was using inverted guard to defend my guard or something. Being upside down, I wasn't sure how to move to escape! lol So, after class I asked Fabio the best way to escape them.

He showed me. Basically, I have to reverse the way I'm going before they can sink it in, or roll out the same way I would from an ankle lock when I'm right side up. It was a little weird escaping upside down at first. But I am sure I will have lots or practice in the upcoming grapples!

But after he showed me how to escape, he explained that I need to change the way I use my feet when I'm using inverted guard so that I make them less vulnerable to attack.

First of all, I have to use my feet like I would normally use my hands, and my legs like I would use my arms. In the same way that I wouldn't fully extend my arm out to an opponent, I shouldn't extend my legs out. Also, in the same way that I use grips with my hands to break my opponent down, I need to use my ankles and heels to hook/grip my opponent and break them down.

When I asked where I should generally be hooking, Fabio told me to look for the light. Any place where I can see light, I should hook: under the arms, at the neck, at the elbows, in the knee pits. I shouldn't be trying to push someone away with my legs. I should be using my legs to break down their posture so I can sweep them, go for a submission or take their back.

He also reminded me that inverted guard is a great position for defense and transition, but I shouldn't be hanging out there too long. He said that I a m getting there and waiting for the other person to react. What I need to do is get there and attack their posture, go for a sweep or a submission the same way I would in regular guard.

Big eye opener. I can not WAIT to get back on the mat and start experimenting with all of this.

Another minor revelation I had this week came with all my focus on trying to pass guard instead of playing guard: I actually LIKE being a top player!!! What the heck is going on here?!?!

I realized why I was hanging around so much guard. I thought is was safer against big, strong guys. I know a lot of you seasoned veterans are probably tisking and shaking your heads, but I really thought I would be safer in guard. This week, I have realized that I have so much more control when I pass guard from the beginning and try to work from the top.

Don't get me wrong, I am still a guard-lover. I still feel more comfortable there.
But, even though it takes a little more energy and aggression to pass guard at the beginning, it pays off, in my opinion, with not being on defense right away. Yes, guard can be an offensive position. But for me, I was having a lot of trouble keeping the big guys in my guard. As opposite as it seems to me, I have a better chance against them when I get on top from the start.

Phew. I'm exhausted. But happy. And looking forward to more of this crazy journey.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Need to be a Parasite

Weird title? Yeah, well I'm a weird girl. But that is an actual thought that went through my head while I was grappling someone yesterday afternoon.

I was grappling a guy who weighs a somewhere close to twice my body weight. Literally. I cannot close guard or a triangle around him. Even though he's a big guy, he moves a lot. He makes a noticeable effort to use technique and not muscle, but he is still a heck of a lot stronger than me. I was feeling tired yesterday and had just gotten out of the grapple where I rolled the wrong way and tweaked my knee. I wasn't really looking forward to grappling this guy.

When we sat down to start, I thought, "I need to be a parasite and move around him. Or else I am about to be pancaked."

The whole grapple, I tried to think like that. I didn't worry about trying to control his whole body. I couldn't do that. Instead, I used my whole body to attack either his upper half or his lower half.

I would have thought it would be harder to sweep him doing things this way, but I actually found it to be a little easier. If one half of his body is going a certain way, the other half really has no choice but to follow. It was also a lot less intimidating for me. I know it doesn't make much logical sense, but dividing him up that way in my mind made him seem less scary. lol

One thing I noticed that I need to improve on is being tight while at the same time not being tense. I need to leave less space, but not grab and hold. It's such a hard balance to find.