Thursday, December 30, 2010

Knee on Belly Defense

This week I got hit with some pretty nasty cooties, so I missed out on a lot of class. But today, since I was finally feeling well enough to change out of my pj's, I decided to go in and train once more before the school closed for New Years weekend.

Today, drilling centered around escaping the knee on belly position.

I looked for videos of the escape, but couldn't find any that matched what we learned in class. Basically, when the guy has knee on belly, you swim the foot and grab onto the guy's thigh (so the foot of one leg and the thigh of his other leg).

Then, you are going to block the knee that is on your belly with your hand and hip out the way their knee is pointing. An important detail is that, as you hip out, you don't want their knee to touch the mat. You want to push the knee in between your knees and pinch your knees together, trapping their knee. As you hip out, they will fall on their butt and you can sweep them that way, coming up into side control.

Today was a day of small breakthroughs in grappling. I have been working on taking the back without hipping out, using my legs and hips against my opponents body to kind of shimmy around in a smooth motion, without making space. The movement is really hard to explain. Again, couldn't find a video to help show it.

It's difficult to get that movement right, especially when the person is leaving you very little space. But today, I was finally able to get the movement right, so that my legs and hips gave me the momentum to go up and over. Woohoo!!

Going to Disney for New Years with my family so I will be off grid for a few days. Hope you all have a safe and fun New Years! See you in 2011! :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Donkey Kick Pass

Great, great class tonight! My sister-in-law, Stephanie, got to come back to BJJ after a long hiatus. It was so great to have my training partner back!! Woohoo!

Tonight's focus was on passing butterfly guard. We worked three passes, all having to do with getting in close and locking up your opponents hips, keeping shoulder pressure and passing to one side over one leg.

This is one pass similar to one of the ones we worked tonight:

One main difference between the pass on this video and the one we drilled tonight is that, as you are coming over the leg to complete the pass, Fabio tells us to keep our hips down until we pass the leg and THEN break our hip. So basically, you kind of sprawl on the one leg and walk on your toes over that leg, keeping pressure with your shoulder and head while you pass. After your hip clears their knee, then you break your hip toward their head.

Another pass we drilled that I really liked was the donkey kick pass. This is a similar to the one Fabio taught us tonight:

One main difference between this video and the one Fabio taught is that you isolate one leg, similarly to the first pass, and donkey kick over into full side control, with one knee at the hip and one knee at the shoulder. I love this pass, but one word of caution: When I first learned this pass last year, I hurt my toes coming down one time. So not, I keep my toes pointed, landing flat on the tops of my feet!!

Grappling tonight was great because I was able to go with some younger, smaller people, which gives me a chance to experiment with some of the techniques I am struggling with, like half-guard sweeps and taking the back. Grappling smaller people always makes me have more respect for the bigger guys who grapple me because it is hard to keep tight of small people without using muscle or too much weight.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Details, details...

So, Liam had a great comment on my last blog. He basically was saying that it is good to understand the fundamental concepts and details that go into each move--why they work and how--so that you can build a solid foundation of techniques that you can rely on.

That got me thinking about something one of my instructors, Ben, said to me before I got my blue belt. I was worried that I didn't deserve my blue belt because of precisely the reasons Liam mentioned: I don't have the details right. I either forget them or never noticed them in the first place. Ben made me feel better by explaining that I am not supposed to know them at this point. That's why I'm a blue belt and not a purple belt. lol.

Still, at this stage in my BJJ journey, I am starting to want to refine a lot of the basic things I learned as a beginner. There are still a lot of techniques I haven't even seen yet. But I am wanting to make the ones I do know work better.

Over the last few months, one of the main ones that I have focused on is the triangle. This is one submission that I always was good at catching, but not so good at finishing. The same was true with the armbar from guard. Both really basic techniques, but ones that have little details that, if you don't get them right, make it much more difficult to finish the submission.

Here's where having a great team comes into play. I go to Fabio, ask him what is wrong with my stupid triangle. He tells me. Then I go and try to do what he says on a bunch of the guys. Some of them let me try to finish it. Others escape so fast that I can only dream of what finishing might have felt like. lol. Usually, I have to go back to Fabio at least a couple of times to troubleshoot problems I ran into. Then the trial and error process starts again.

The hard part for me is that sometimes my body doesn't do what I picture in my mind! I know what I need to do, but that is only half the battle. The reason why drilling and practicing the moves in a live grapple is so important is because you also have to teach your body how to move. A lot of the stuff BJJ requires your body to do takes time to master.

For me, getting my hips to move the right way was the key detail I was lacking in finishing the armbar and the triangle. Why has been your Achilles heel, lately?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Half-Guard Escapes

In tournaments, half-guard has always been my nemesis. I have gotten stuck there numerous times. Even when I am grappling at Fabio's, I get stuck when someone pins me tightly. So lately I have been focusing on half guard escapes and have met with some success. We happened to work one escape today, which I really liked.

When you're in bottom half guard, you block the knee that is on the outside with your elbow. You don't have top pull the knee to you (I tried to do that and it doesn't work if the person is bigger than you). You can scoot closer to that knee if you feel like you need to have it tighter to your body. Once that outside knee is blocked, you hook the other leg with your legs, pinch your knees together and bridge over your shoulder towards the other leg (the one that is blocked by your knee). It's kind of like the upa escape from mount, except you have to pinch your knees around their leg as you go over, or else they will just pull it out as you bridge and get to side control.

I don't really have a favorite escape from half guard. Why? Because usually, in a live grapple, the actual escape comes from a combination of escape attempts. Most of the people I grapple with know the same escapes that I know. So, I have to go for one and have another one in mind to jump to if the first one is defended. Very rarely do I actually get a full on sweep. Most of the time, I start to sweep, they post, then I can either return to my guard or come out one side and try to take their back. Fabio mentioned that today. Sometimes the sweep is a distraction. But it only works if you actually go for the sweep and make them react.

The problem for me right now is that I forget so many of the options that I have. I have learned a ton of half guard escapes. But putting them together in a chain during a live grapple--especially one that is intense--is the challenge. For me, experimenting with the different options is key. I find out what I have a better chance of pulling off and what falls flat. Hopefully it will pay off in the next tournament I enter.

This is one I saw randomly. Haven't ever tried it, but I will soon! ;)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Loop Choke

New post on my other blog. Good things, for me. :)

Yesterday in class we worked a choke that you can apply from a whole bunch of different positions. It's really hard to describe, but I'll try. From guard, you grab your opponent's opposite lapel at the collar bone. As they try to pass your guard, you use your other arm with your elbow against the back of their neck and head, feeding that hand underneath your other elbow. As you lift that elbow up, you fall towards the side of the arm that is on the back of the neck. At the same time, you turn the wrist of the hand holding the lapel out. Choking ensues!

[After I posted this, Georgette pointed out that this is called a Loop Choke. Fabio doesn't give names to things. He just calls it another choke.] Here's a video of this choke:

I really like this choke because:
1. It chokes fast. If you put it on right, your opponent should start to go fuzzy almost right away.

2. It is unexpected. They think they are passing and then suddenly they are choking.

3. Even if they roll, you can roll with them. Half of the time, when they rolled, I was still able to finish the choke. But even on the times when I couldn't, I ended up in side control. So, worst case scenario, you go from almost getting your guard passed to being in a dominant position.

Rolling yesterday was good. I tried to do other things besides going inverted, and had mild success. There are two submissions I am really working on right now: triangles from weird positions (like jumping into them from north south or getting reverse triangles) and knee bars. Both are really fumbly right now and I rarely finish either. I've also been hunting omaplatas, which I usually pass up because I have a hard time flattening the other person out. I can't seem to hip out the right way to make them flatten. Grrrr.

Grappled one big blue belt who feels like he is made of bricks. He doesn't muscle me a lot, but when he gets in his base, I seriously feel like I am trying to break down a stone statue. I can't get anything!!

The biggest change in grappling, though, is that I am trying to make myself move the whole time instead of stopping to think. I'm forcing myself to just go on instinct and not worry too much about making mistakes. Trust me, many mistakes are made. But I am learning a lot in the process. And getting a much better work out!

Finishing up some Christmas stuff tonight so I won't be able to go to class and the school will be closed Friday for Christmas Eve. So, I'm going to get in as much good rolling tomorrow afternoon as I can! Merry Christmas to all of you and have safe travels if you will be on the road!

Here's a little something to give you all nightmares for years to come:

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's About Dang Time!

For the first time in a while, I had a great night tonight. Things just...worked. And man, did I need it! A couple of things that I was just having a mental block on finally clicked.

One thing that I did for the first time was the knee on belly spinny thing. It was the same one I injured my finger practicing the other day. Well, my injury paid off! Because I was finally able to do it in a live grapple against a bigger, stronger guy! Woohoo!

The key thing for me with learning how to use knee on belly was making myself posture up. I am so used to being low on my opponent. But with knee on belly, you have to posture up and drive your knee into them. I thought of knee on belly as an unstable position, but I am finally starting to learn how to balance and use it a little bit. Still have a long way to go, obviously.

Other things that finally worked: triangle transition to arm bar when I am being stacked and smashed (I realized I was waiting too long to make the transition and that I wasn't shifting my hips right before), defending my open guard by attacking with a straight arm lock as someone comes around to pass and a reverse triangle/kimura thingy (I don't know if these things actually have names). These things may not sound that complicated, but for some reason it has taken me months to get them to work right.

But I also cheated tonight.

For a while now, I haven't been going inverted at all while I grapple. I have an issue with my neck and going inverted was just making it worse. Well, tonight I did it. I will tell you, it felt great to be able to just react on instinct and not have to stop myself from doing stuff. I was able to just flow again.

I wonder if the reason why a lot of that other stuff worked tonight was because I felt more confident. I wasn't hesitant, like I have been, having to stop and think every few seconds.

The bad news is that my neck is a little stiff. It doesn't hurt. But I am not going to do anymore inverted the rest of the week. I'm restricting myself not only because of my neck, but because I need to develop other ways of doing things.

Fabio was telling me about another black belt friend of his who relies too heavily on inverted guard and how he is getting caught a lot now and is having trouble adjusting. He said inverted guard is great, but just like with everything else, it isn't the a perfect game and it has it's draw backs, which is why I need to make myself learn other things as well.

So, I will be back to trying to integrate all the new strategies Fabio has been teaching me. Tomorrow I will probably be back to feeling like I am not getting anywhere, but tonight proved that those feelings aren't true. There is progress being made, albeit slow. It was just great to feel like things were working for once!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Exercise Balls are Self Aware...and Very Unfriendly!

Since I have missed a lot of class this week due to putting on youth group events, I went out to do some solo barn-jitsu this morning. Captain Fail decided to join me.

I put on some music and was using my exercise ball as a "body" and just moving around on it. I decided to work on some knee on belly transitions. Apparently, my exercise ball was offended by this. I was trying to do that spinny-aroundy thing. You know, the one where they swim the leg that you are posting out with and you turn toward their head. What I am talking about is in this video around the 2:05 mark.

Yeah...I haven't exactly perfected that spinny move yet. And my exercise ball took advantage of that. I spun. It rolled. Balance was lost. Hand was posted. Finger was JAMMED!


This is more what I was going for:

Or this:

But instead, what happened was more like this:

Ok. I didn't get owned as bad as these people did. But my finger still hurts!
Beware the exercise ball! It will fight back when least expect it! ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Importance of Instinct

I've been working on trying to make a certain move to escape side control work for a while. It's the running man escape. This is the basic idea. But Fabio teaches a few details differently.

First of all, the main difference between this video and what I am talking about is that I am on my side, kind of in a fetal position, with someone behind me. The other main differences are that, where Saulo leads off the escape with his top leg, Fabio tells us to lead off with the bottom leg, driving your hip far forward and keeping it on the mat. At the same time, you bring your bottom arm up under yourself like, using your elbow and your hip on the mat to prevent your opponent from getting his hook in as you do the escape. With your other arm, you reach around and to block them coming the other way.

I can attest that this escape works. But I have one problem. After I do this escape, I ALWAYS pause. I just stop in a sort of turtle position and the person I am fighting sprawls on top of me or tries to attack my turtle.

Which brings me to my point. I am learning that I can't pause to think about what is next. Sometimes I get so worried that I'll make a wrong move, that I will pause and end up giving my opponent the advantage.

I know most of you have heard this quote, "If you think, you are late; if you are late, you use strength; if you use strength, you tire; if you tire, you die..."

For me, being "late" means I am always on the defense. I need to let go ! Use my instincts more! I tell myself that before I grapple, but then somehow, I go back into the careful mode once I start grappling. Grrr....

Cross Facing

What is your opinion on cross-facing?

Is it a legitimate technique or just a douche move? Is it something that you use in any grapple? Or Is it something you reserve only for tournaments? Or do you swear off cross-facing completely?

Just wondering? :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yeah, I know...

Went to watch the fights tonight. Enjoyed seeing G.S.P. pick Koscheck apart, though I did feel a little bit bad for Koschock with his eye so messed up like it was. I was there with a few BJJ buddies of mine and we were talking about tournaments and one of them asked me why I hadn't been competing lately. I told him that one reason is my neck. It still bothers me and I am having to learn how to grapple differently so that I don't put so much of a strain on it all the time and the learning has been slow. But also, I said I still don't feel like I am ready to fight at blue belt level yet. I wasn't being negative. I was just being honest about how I think I would measure up against other seasoned blue belt girls.

He told me the same thing everyone tells me. I have the wrong attitude. I am putting too much pressure on myself. I need to go out there and have fun.

His comments really bothered me. Not because he was being a jerk--my friend didn't mean anything negative by his comments and he probably had no idea how much they bothered me--but because this is something I have been mulling over for a while.

A lot of people tell me I shouldn't take competitions so seriously. But that is not my personality. To be honest, I wish it was. I envy people who can just go to competitions and have fun. Whether it is BJJ, my job, some random task at home, I have some kind of drive inside of me to want to excel. I don't want to just kind of do good. I want to do the best that I possibly can. And, yes, sometimes that means I put undue pressure on myself, but it also means that I usually accomplish my goals.

In my job, I deal with the same type of thing. I am acutely aware of where I need to improve. I probably focus too much on it. I could do with some mellowing out. But at least that means I am always striving to do better. Could I learn to direct my drive in a more positive way? Absolutely.

But I don't think the solution is for me to force myself to care less.

My husband is my exact opposite. He rarely stresses over things like I do. He's an easy-ghoing guy who laughs off a lot of the things that keep me up at night. But he is also not as easily motivated to go out and achieve his dreams. He envies my drive. I envy his ability to relax. It's why we make a good couple, I think. We balance each other out.

My point is, not caring about whether I win or lose a tournament or not caring about the fact that I am struggling to pick up a certain set of skills is not in my nature anymore that not caring about whether or not I am actually reaching any of the kids in my youth group.

I told my friend that, if I really like something, I usually become very passionate about it. He then said that I take BJJ too seriously, that it's just a hobby. He could be right. Maybe I do take BJJ too seriously. I am not a professional fighter nor do I intend to become one. I don't make any money off of BJJ and I probably never will.

My friend was just trying to encourage me. You know, give me a boost. But it still bothers me when people say I take BJJ too seriously. It makes me feel like I am doing something wrong because I care as much as I do.

If I am honest, it is more than just a hobby. It's not a job, so I can't really justify all the time that I spend on it to anyone. Maybe I let it be too much a part of my life. Maybe when I'm three or four or five years in, I won't be as obsessed as I am now. I doubt it, but we'll see.Truth be told, I think it would be wise for me to cut out one class a week. With the added "classes" in my barn, I am training every day except Wednesday and Saturday.

Either way, I am getting to the point where I want to just tell people that this is how I am and that they can take it or leave it. When I set my sights on something, I am intense. I am driven. I will keep pushing myself because I DO care. Sometimes I will be on cloud 9 and sometimes I will swear to you that I have discovered a new level of fail. Should I be this way? I don't know. But that is how I am.

I dunno. I'm committing the blogging sin of late-night-grumpy-rambling. I promise I am not as much of a jerk as I sound like, right now. I will probably read this in the morning and decide it is too melodramatic and end up taking it down. But I had to get this off my chest. Good night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm Lucky

I'm lucky to go train BJJ at a gym with an understanding instructor. Most of the time, I am pretty easy to deal with (I think). But there are certain times when I'm not. Very specific certain times.

Boys, you may want to stop reading now. I'm just sayin'...

Anyway, I cried in class on Tuesday. I was crying because I was frustrated with my inability to do anything remotely correctly. I was just getting flat-out owned. After three grapples, I was almost in tears. By the time I got to the wall, the almost disappeared and the guys had a full fledged crying mess on their hands. I tried to keep it quiet, putting my head down on my arms. But everyone knew I was crying.


What is funny is that I also got owned the night before and it didn't bother me at all. In fact, I was laughing while one of my grappling partners knee-barred me for the umpteenth time in a row. So why couldn't I keep it together on Tuesday?

Come on, do I really have to say it? Aunt Flow came to visit. Or, her visit was pending, I should say. Whatever. I was an emotional basket case.

The hard part is that, I knew rationally that I was crying for no reason. I knew that I was only crying because of Aunt Flow. But even knowing that, I still couldn't stop.

Fabio came over and sat down and asked me what was wrong. I told him I was just being stupid and that I was frustrated. He encouraged me. I went home. The whole thing was really embarrassing. I mean, come on. Crying?!?! There's no crying in Jiu-jitsu!

I hate it when my emotions get away from me like that. I feel like I'm "that girl", you know? The wimpy girl who cries when she gets frustrated. I don't want to be annoying or make everyone feel uncomfortable because I can't handle a couple of crappy grapples. I was even considering not coming to class on those days when I know I am an unstable time bomb waiting to burst into a weepy puddle of fail.

When I came into class today, I decided I was going to try to explain myself to Fabio. But before I could even really begin to explain, he stopped me. He told me he already knew. He has a wife and a mother. It's no secret to him how women get when Aunt Flow comes around. He said it was good for me to be in class and learn to keep going, keep fighting through my emotions and frustrations. It would make me stronger. He said it didn't bother him because he understands that it's just one of those things that happens.

I breathed a sigh of relief and had a great day of class. Just knowing that my instructor understands and doesn't hate me and my teary face makes me feel free to learn to deal with those emotions without the added pressure of worrying that I'm a burden.

I DO want to be able to handle my emotions without crying. Maybe I can just count to ten. Or maybe I can turn my tears into rage juice and own anything that touches me. Ok, that last one is unlikely. But, hey, I'll give it my best go.

I know you don't read my blog, Fabio. But thanks anyway for being awesome.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boxers vs. Lone Grappler

Due to the insanely cold weather (30 degrees! When you live in Florida, that's pretty much the equivalent of -30 degrees) our younger barnjitsukas did not attend class. Those of us who are really hard core (a.k.a. stupid) put on sweatshirts under our gis and headed out to the barn. Since it was old people's night, we decided to do something a little out of the ordinary...

Boxer(s) vs. Grappler!!!

This was one of my favorite things that we used to do at Summerlin. I know very little when it comes to striking, but it's still fun. My friend Phil wanted to practice defending strikes and so he had us gals take turns trying to punch him. We did some stand up and some with us punching him on the ground. No takedowns because our mats suck and we are sissies.

We were really just messing around most of the time, but it got intense for short spurts. Here are some pictures from the night!

The Weigh In: (Ok. There wasn't an actual scale there. And we didn't really have weight classes. We just wanted to do the whole staring each other down thing).

Phil and Steph
Kara and Steph
Me and Steph

Some Fighting: (My phone camera really sucks. Sorry.)

Us Being...Us:
This is me freezing.
These are my friends riding the short bus.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fun For Everyone?

One of the purple belts at my school, Yeti, likes to use me as a test dummy. I am small(ish) and a baby blue belt, which means that if he is really trying, there's not much I can do to resist. When I say that he uses me as a test dummy, I don't want you to get the wrong impression. He never hurts me. But I have to laugh at myself when he pulls off some sort of crazy sweep to a triangle and then says, "Wasn't that cool? I just saw that on Youtube and wanted to try it."

LOL! Glad to be of service!

And really, I am glad. Because it is a cool sweep to triangle. And while I have no idea how to do it myself, I have no doubt Yeti would help me learn it if I asked. I didn't ask because at the moment I have smaller fish to fry.

One benefit, though, is that now I at least know that sweep to submission exists. Now I can start learning how to defend it. Plus, it was kind of a fun, flippy sweep. Kinda' like when your dad used to flip you up in the air and catch you. Except when you get caught, you get choked. lol

As humbling as it may be to know that Yeti can watch something on youtube and come in and pull it off on me, it's useful for my him to try things on me because he is learning and I am learning at the same time. Fun for everyone.

But what if it's not so fun for everyone?

This past week, I had a private lesson with Fabio. It was fantastic, as always. The major focus was learning how to replace inverted guard with other attacks, sweeps or taking the back. Learned a LOT. More on that in another post. I was eager to try out some of these things.

Fabio had the same idea in mind, so he put me with one of the girls in class twice. The first time was a normal roll. I did what I normally do; grappled enough to keep her moving, catching submissions but letting her work out of them. Then the second time Fabio put me with her, he told her she was only allowed to pass my guard. If she passed, she had to go back and start again. He told us my assignment was to do all the things I had learned.

I did. And it was great practice. But the only thing was that my partner looked really frustrated about mid way through. I was tempted to stop the drill and let her pass and work like before. But I didn't. I kept on trying out my shiny, new techniques. I never hurt her or even finished any submissions. But I think she was frustrated because she spent the entire five minutes getting pulled and pushed and squashed and swept. Hey, I'm not a purple belt. I can't pull these things off as smoothly as Yeti! lol At the end, I felt a little selfish. But at the same time I learned a lot from my clumsy trials and errors in the roll.

Here's the thing. There are only a few people who are A) small enough and B) new enough for me to try out new techniques on with any success. All of them are either girls or teenage boys. Most frequently, I roll with the girls. With some of them, I don't have that same experimental rolling relationship that me and my purple belt friend have. They don't enjoy being test dummies.

So my question is, should I still test? I want to be a good friend and training partner. But I also want to be able to try things out.

I can always try them out of people who are at my level. But to test these things out, I need to be able to practice it without a ton of resistance. Kind of like drilling, you know? And, well, people at my level or higher resist!