Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Kind of Like This...

When I grapple a lot of the guys at my school, this is kind of what it's like.

I am doing everything in my power to try to get them and they are just relaxing and having fun! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kicked In The Face

Big knee to the face tonight. No, not to me. By me. To Fabio. Really bad.

And here I thought I was getting a little better about the whole unintentional MMA thing. Man, I clocked Fabio right in the forehead with my knee. It made that horrible "twunk" sound. Afterwards, I apologized. He said, "It's ok, I'm used to it. You do it all the time." Crestfallen, I asked him, "Really? Do I kick you in the face every time?" He kind of smiled and shrugged, then nodded.

Well suckity suck. :(

It is now my mission to make it through my next grapple day of grappling without ANY face kicks! lol For real. This must end. I need to get my knobby knees under control.

I do have some sunshine for you.

Some of our new girls have started training in gi! I see many choke and sweep techniques in our Women's Class' future. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BJJ Sweeps: Levers and Force

In the last few months, the techniques that have most held my attention have been ones that involve using levers for getting your opponent off balance and then using force in the right direction to take them over. I am always thinking about it when I grapple. What can I trap and how can I take them over?

Here is what I look for specifically:

1) Where is their weight distributed? If they are leaning back, that is the way I am going to try to go. If their weight is forward, then I am going to take them that way.

2) Based on there their weight is, what will they use to steady themselves if I push them that way? Whatever it is, I try to trap it. Usually, it is an arm or a leg, or the hips. I am finding that hip movement is MUCH more important to sweeping--and defending sweeps--than is arm or leg strength. In fact, if I am straining, then I can be pretty much be sure that I have the angle off and I need to hip a certain way to fix it.

3) Be prepared to go the opposite way. Every time I push, I am expecting the person to resist in the opposite direction. Because of that, I try to get ready to pull and block on that direction so they go over.

The Trickity Trap:

A lot of the higher belts I grapple are really trickity. They like to pretend to be setting up a sweep, but then when you counter it, they take you over another way.
Anytime a higher belt appears to be letting me pass their guard... Trap.
Anytime a higher belt sits still for a minute while I am coming around to one side or driving into them...Trap.
Sadly, many times I have a feeling it might be a trap...and I keep going. Something like this usually results.
Sometimes, it is not so much that they planned it that way--although sometimes they do. More often, I think, it is their understanding of levers and force and years of practice doing the kinds of experimenting I mentioned above. They know how to get you off balance and how you are likely to try to regain your balance. Since they know the possibilities of what you might do, they already have a string of options in their minds that they can go to depending on your reaction.

Yeah. It's kind of not fair. ;)

But the cool thing is to think about how that could be me in the future. All I have to do is keep dragging myself out onto the mat and keep trying new ways to trap and trip up my opponents.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Women's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Lakeland, Florida

Stephanie made an awesome website for our Women's BJJ class! Thanks so much, Steph!!

Let me know what you guys think!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Were You Thinking?

Have you ever had a bad habit that you wanted to change? Ever noticed how, the more you try to change that habit, the more control over you it seems to have? If you are trying to stop doing something, then the more you think about NOT doing it, the more you want to do that thing. It can be disheartening and make you feel like you are incapable of "getting better" in whatever area it is.

What I have been learning is that, the best way to change a bad habit is not to focus on that habit or on changing it. The best way to change is to focus on the healthy replacement that you want to adopt in it's place. For example, if you want to eat healthier, going around all day thinking, "I will not eat that chocolate. I will not eat that chocolate," will make you think about how much you want chocolate. You'll be binge eating snickers and kit-kats by 4 pm. But, if you spend your thoughts thinking about creative recipes that are healthier, you will be more likely to make healthier eating decisions.

The general idea is that the focus of your mind determines your actions.

Sounds obvious. But I think a lot of times I--and other people--sink our own ships by focusing on the negative instead of the positive.

In BJJ, it would look something like this: You are having trouble with a certain position. Say, bottom side control. So, before grappling you think, "I'm not going to get into bottom side control. I'm not going to get into bottom side control." But, where do you end up? Bottom side control.

What I have been trying to do instead is focus on what I DO want to do, instead of what I don't want to happen. Instead of thinking, "I don't want to get into bottom side control," I think, "I want to pass." Instead of my mind being focused on bottom side control--even if it is focused on avoiding bottom side control it is still focused on bottom side control--my mind instead focuses on a positive action; passing.

I know this sounds like I am just playing semantics, but it has been working for me. If I start worrying about possible negative outcomes, I tend to see those become the reality. On the other hand, if I think about what I want to accomplish, I see a much higher success rate.

For me, this does NOT mean laboring over the details of a specific pass in my mind, like, "I am going to grip here and then shift my weight there." I think of very general things like, "I want to pass" or "I want to sweep" or "I want to escape". Then, I go by instinct, trusting the hours and hours of drilling and previous grappling that I have done and trusting my muscle memory to know how to accomplish those goals.

This helped me a lot at my last tournament. Instead of focusing on possible negative outcomes--like being taken down or submitted--I tried to keep what I wanted to do at the forefront of my mind. It helped me to manage my nerves because I had a plan (a very lose, general plan but still a plan) and it helped me keep my confidence up because I was thinking about my strengths instead of my weaknesses.

I don't know if that makes sense or not. But it is really helping me to grow both on and off the mat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Um, that's not how it works...

This has nothing to do with Jiu-Jitsu, but it was so funny to me I have to post about it.

My son, Noah, is 6. They were having baptisms this morning at our church so he had to come sit through the adult service. While they were getting ready, the pastor was talking about how baptism is an outward symbol that you are joining the family of God.

Noah asked me, "Am I a part of the family of God?"

I said, "Well, do you love God and want to be a part of His family?"

He said, "Yes."

I said. "Then you are. Do you want to be baptized?"

He thought about it and then said, "I'm not quite ready yet."

I said, "Ok," and because of the way he'd said he wasn't ready yet, I was curious, so I asked him, "Why not?"

He said, "I don't want to get naked in front of everyone just yet."

I choked a little bit trying not to burst out laughing. It was during a really serious moment, too. I told Noah, "You don't have to get naked, buddy. You get baptized in your clothes."

He smiled and said, "Ooooooh."


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Saturday Training!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Thanks to Stephanie McClish, I am probably going to have fat-mares tonight.

She emailed me some pictures of my former self from a couple of months before we both started bjj in 2009. I am in a bathing suit. It is one of the most haunting, horrifying images that I have seen in a long time. And, before you ask, there is no chance in hell that I will be posting these pictures anywhere on the internet. It would probably be deemed an act of terrorism and I can't deal with being arrested right now.

Here is one that is still uncomfortable for me to look at, but doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out with #2 pencils:

Here's one at Noah's first Christmas. I was still carrying a lot of baby weight. And other various fatness weight. At this point, I was tippin' the scales at 175lbs. I won't show the pictures from just after I had Noah, but I will reveal the horrifying truth that I weight 204lbs at my heaviest before I gave birth.
Here is one from about a year later. I had been trying to lose weight by walking and lifting weights at home. I wanted to get into better shape, but at that point I felt like I'd hit a wall and didn't know how to get past it. 
I weighed around 155 lbs.

This is me now:

 At the last NAGA I went to. I weighed in at 129 lbs.

At the Miami Open
 For Halloween 

The one good thing about seeing how overweight I was is that I can see how much my physical health has improved since I started bjj. It's more than just the number on the scale.My body works better. I feel better. And I have learned some awesome Jiu-Jitsu on top of it

I am thankful that jiu-jitsu had become a part of my life. I'd still be a beluga whale without it. I know so many women who are unhappy with where they are as far as health and weight goes. They feel like they don't know where to start. I know Jiu-Jitsu isn't for everyone. But I can also say without a doubt that it works.If you consistently train bjj, you will lose weight, gain muscle, be stronger and healthier. It has also changed how I eat--I look at food as fuel instead of entertainment, now--and it helps me live healthier that way too. If you are thinking about making a change, try BJJ. It's not a diet. It's a lifestyle change.

It works.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Case Your Friday Isn't Random Enough

Good news! I've got your random right here!

Random Topic #1
Have you hear of Hyperbole and a Half? If you have, you get one gold Allie star. If not, you will lose a gold star unless you immediately go look at it. Georgette introduced this internet gem to me via her fantasmic blog. Today, this amazing cartoon illustrates my life. I have fallen way behind in every area except those that are absolutely essential. In case you were wondering, BJJ falls into the "absolutely essential" category along with other things like: feeding my child, taking regular showers and making sure I have enough coffee to last me the week.

But I miss blogging. Especially when so many fun things have been happening that would talk about if I weren't falling horrendously below my median productivity line. Anyway, here is one of said fun things:

If you are my friend on Facebook, then you have already been spammed with the news that Fabio won gold in his division at the No-Gi World's Championship in California a couple weekends ago. Go Fabio!

Random Topic #2:
An interesting topic came up as a result of Fabio winning at the No-Gi Worlds. He won gold at the PanAms last year, which is a gi only competition. A local MMA school in our area was talking about how Fabio was good in gi, but wouldn't be able to hang in no-gi. Now I guess that debate has been put to rest, at least for Fabio.

For me, training primarily gi has helped me develop my technique a lot. I do have to actively practice no-gi grips (neck and biceps, for example, instead of sleeve and lapel), but I would take the risk in saying it is much easier to train gi all the time and transition to no-gi than the other way around. Liam did a post about this a few weeks ago.

He said, "What they never count on, however, when they venture into the world of gi jiu jitsu is that grapplers with a comparable experience in the gi have their own tools to make the no-gi levers obsolete or at least less effective. Suddenly, their trusted cross face is just a little weaker. They smile giddy as they suddenly have gi pants to grab to pass the guard with their heads driving low only to get caught in a loop choke or swept with a leg lasso spider guard sweep. Every single session you learn in the gi you learn grips and grip breaking (or at least you should) and they afford you an offensive and defensive advantage that cannot be ignored. "

Here are my observations: When I grapple in no-gi, it seems that speed and strength play more of an active roll than they do when a gi is involved. Sure, there are some things that don't translate from gi to no-gi if the person you are grappling is shirtless--like collar chokes--but I think that training with a gi makes you think more about things like your base--since you have so many handles on your body thanks to the gi that make sweeping easier--and like breaking guard--because again, the handles mean the person has a tighter hold on you. You have to be more aware of sneaky submissions, like the loop choke Liam mentioned, as well as the more traditional submissions you will across the board.

Of course, I might be biased (just a little) since I go to a school where people primarily train in gi. What do you think?

Random Topic #3:

Apparently, I give people death glares pretty regularly when I am driving. A friend of mine, Lucky, who trains with me said that  he saw me driving and honked at me and that I looked at him like I wanted to kill him and kept driving. I apologize for the stankness. My face shows everything that I am thinking. And at that moment, I was thinking unpleasant things about the unknown person honking in my general direction.

Here is an example of my rage face. I'm dressed up for Halloween--80's costume--and though I'm not really sure what is going on here, but I was unhappy:
You may notice a resemblance to this:

I do it in the grocery store too. Or when I am walking quickly somewhere. Or when I am grappling. Basically, if I am on a mission, I will probably not see you in my peripheral vision. And, if you call out to me, I might not hear you. If you then try to touch me to get my attention, or honk at me, I will likely turn and glare at you for a few seconds until I realize that I know you and that you have not been sent to stop me from accomplishing my mission.
The worst is when I am on a mission and I am in the zone--we're talking deep in the zone, I have been starving for hours and I am about to get my grilled-stuffed chicken burrito from Taco Bell type of in the zone--and someone walks by me and smiles like they know me. I don't realize that they smiled at me like they know me until just enough time has passed for them to think that I shunned them, or worse, that I hate them with the heat of a thousand suns. It is too late for me to recover, mostly because I am not sure if I actually know this person or not. And, since they are already offended by my previous stankness, I cannot add insult to injury with an exploratory conversation aimed at discovering if I actually know this person or not.

The ironic thing is that when I actually need my rage face--like, say, at a tournament--I cannot muster it to save my life. When I try, I end up looking either terrified or very, very ill.

Epic fail.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hey, Sometimes Social Networking Is Actually Useful!

We had a visitor at our Women's Class tonight, Monica Holley, all the way from Okinawa, Japan. She has been reading my blog for a while and, when she knew she would be in Florida, emailed me about coming to class. We are so glad she did! Yay for my blog finally being useful for something! LOL

Monica is competing in her first tournament coming up in December and she wanted to have the chance to grapple some other girls.It was great to get the perspective of someone who trains BJJ in another country. And, after meeting so many people this past weekend at the Open and then getting to train with Monica tonight, I am feeling so lucky to be a part of a community of women who are untied by a love for the sport and for fellowship with friends. I am kicking myself that I forgot to take pictures tonight!

We worked on half guard--both top and bottom--during the class because that is the position that gave me the most headaches in my first two tournaments. We also played Team A, Team B...again. LOL The younger girls beg to play this game every class. Poor Stephanie has her broken nose and had to fend off a bunch of people going bananas all around her. I was dealing with a few injuries too, so I had to get creative to keep from getting overwhelmed by all the crazy girls! They did great, though, and it was fun.

Monica, I hope you had fun visiting us tonight and we wish you good luck at your upcoming tournament and hope that you have safe travels back home!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Miami Open

Team Fabio Novaes went to the Miami Open this past weekend. We had a blast! Here's a shot of four of Fabio's "Bear Traps" getting ready to head out.

 This was my first IBJJF tournament, and it was definitely a different experience than any other tournament I have been to. First of all, I was impressed by how organized everything was. I was able to see my bracket before I even got to the tournament. They ran a pretty tight ship, too, with ring coordinators keeping things moving for the different divisions. It was a little nerve-wracking to have to weigh in right before I fought, but I like that you actually have to be at the weight that you are supposedly fighting at.

I had only five girls in my division, including me, so I only had 2 fights. But the girls in my division were awesome and I made some new friends! One of them spoke only Portuguese, so I got to try to talk to her with my broken Portuguese. It didn't go well. LOL! But we were at least able to communicate on a basic level...with the aid of a lot of hand gesturing. Some shots from my matches:

I ended up being able to take gold in my division! Woohoo! 
But the thing I am most happy about, personally, is that I was able to keep from defeating myself mentally this time. I worked hard to keep my head in the right place leading up to the tournament. I reminded myself about my strengths and forced myself not to think about all the possible bad things that could happen to me. Instead, I told myself: you do this every day. You have worked hard. You are ready. 

It made a huge difference. I didn't have the horrible adrenaline rush and dump that I have at every other tournament. In fact, I somehow managed to convince myself that I couldn't wait to fight. I got myself excited for my matches and focused on staying calm during both fights. 

I met some new friends at the tournament, including Susanne Strobak all the way from Sweden! She came to Florida for vacation and decided to compete while she was here! She was so nice, the girls from my team wanted to adopt her. We cheered her on while she won the blue belt absolute division. This is her in the blue belt, below. Congrats, Susanne!

Stephanie fought both in her division and  in absolute. She fought well and took third in her division. Congrats, Steph! But in absolute, the girl she was fighting gi choked her face and cracked her nose. It made me really upset because the girl knew she had Stephanie's face, not her neck. To me, that's not Jiu-jitsu. But I know some people disagree. Some people have no problem using pain compliance to win tournaments.In my opinion, using pain compliance is a sign of lack of technique. Just my opinion, though. Stephanie is one tough girl, though! She kept fighting and finished the match even with a broken nose!

The person I am the most proud of, though, is Joyce Shrack. 
 When Joyce started BJJ two years ago, she had a few more personal hurdles to overcome than most people do. For years, she has struggled with social phobia, dealing with panic attacks and severe anxiety in group settings. When she began BJJ, just being under mount was a struggle. No one at the gym expected her to stay.

But she showed us!

Two years later, she faced one of her biggest fears and stepped out on the mat in front of everyone to compete. I couldn't be more proud of her tenacity and bravery. GO JOYCE!!

Another of my friends on the team, Amy, came to compete at her first tournament, but unfortunately, she had no one in her division so she didn't get to fight. She will be back to try again in December at NAGA, though! Congrats to Brian "Beast Mode" Moore, Anthony, Jimmy, Orlando, Alan, Mark, Stephen, "Pinkbelt" Brian, Alberto, Joe, Ray, James, Brian, Mario, Mike and Jeremy!  It is cool to see how everyone moved from ring to ring, cheering and coaching each other. It makes me really proud to be a part of Team Fabio Novaes!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Going BLUE!!

Almost all the girls at Fabio Novaes BJJ have a Fenom Kimono. The prices are hard to beat, the gis are of great quality and the customer service is top notch. A few weeks ago, Triin, who runs Fenom Kimonos, contacted me about doing a blog on the Women's Class. I was more than happy to oblige! The blog also features stories about other women's classes in the country. Check it out!!

I also have some exciting news!! Stepahnie, over at was promoted to blue belt on Monday night, along with seven other students at our school. Congratulations Stephanie!! Well deserved, my friend!

Erica, another close friend of mine at Fabio's, was also promoted to blue belt! Here's a pic of the three of us goobers grinning after the promotion. 
Also, a big congrats to Scott, Jason, Alan, Chris, Joel and Enrique for being promoted to blue belt!!
At Fabio's, the tradition is that when you are promoted, you are thrown 3 times by everyone who out ranks you. With eight people being promoted last night, there were lots of flashy throws happening! 

Here are some of the Fabio girls after class that night. You know you're afraid!! LOL

The Boomerang

Fabio's logo has a boomerang on it. It's that red thing under "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu":

When I first started at his school, I didn't realize that little red swoosh on the logo meant anything. I thought it was just there for design. Then, one night, Fabio gave a talk about what the boomerang means to him and how it applies to training bjj. 

The principle is pretty simple: What goes around, comes around. What you do and how you treat people will come back to you eventually.

This applies directly to how people treat their training partners at a bjj gyn. The reason why you can have a school full of men practicing  bone-breaking techniques is because they have a mutual respect and concern for each others safety. They understand that they aren't there to beat the crap out of each other, but instead to help each other learn and get better. 

Fabio brought up an interesting point regarding this that should appeal to even the most selfish grapplers. If you don't care about hurting your teammates--a.k.a. if you have the mentality that "this is a fighting sport and don't whine about getting injured my bullies. If you're too much of a sissy you should quit"--then think about the fact that, if you injure all your teammates, then you will have no one left to train with. More likely, no one will want to grapple you and you won't get better at bjj.

But the other part of this is that, at most gyms, the higher belts have already learned this idea of "what goes around comes around" and understand the importance of respecting their teammates. When they see someone bullying someone weaker or smaller, they remember it. And not in a good way. The next time they roll with that person, they will likely give them what they dished out and then some. 
There's nothing wrong with going for submissions and finishing them. That is an important part of bjj (though not the only part, like some people seem to think). But give your teammates time to tap. And don't be a jerk and do unnecessarily mean things to people who are smaller/weaker/less experienced than you just to make yourself feel more awesome. It doesn't impress your instructor or the other people at the gym. It just makes you look like a jerk and puts a big target on your back. 

From a technical point of view, I think that if you have to be a douche to finish a submission then you aren't doing it right. Figure out what is wrong with your technique instead of trying to crank someone's head or limbs off. 
It is to your benefit to treat your teammates with respect--especially the ones who you think aren't "as good as you".  You never know how "good" they will become in the future. They will remember how you treated them, be it good or bad, and will likely want to return the favor. Plus, if you are gracious toward people who you could "beat up" at will then people who could do the same thing to you right now will be more likely to be gracious to you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Team A, Team B...again. :)

This is a shot from last night's Women's Class. We played Team A, Team B again. :)
It was me and Stephanie vs. Hooter, Joyce, Amy, Rowan and Shelby. In the picture you can see Stephanie arm-barring Rowan whilst being attacked by Amy. Behind them is me being attacked by Hooter and Joyce. LOL! 

We played another game that the girls really liked last night too. The technique was a guard pass that requires you to get double underhooks and to use your hips to break the other person's hips to the side. A common mistake, though, that people make is to try to use their arms to push the person's legs to the side instead of using their hips to get the person's hips to turn to the side. The legs follow the hips and go to the side as well, so you can pass. 

To get them thinking about using their hips instead of their hands, we had them do a drill that I learned from Fabio's class. We split up into pairs and try to pass the other person's guard without the use of their hands. The person on the bottom was also not allowed to use their hands. They could only use their hips and legs to keep the other person from passing. It was pretty hilarious, but they really seemed to get a better understanding of how important it is to use your knees and hips while passing guard, instead of relying only on your upper body strength.

I am training hard for a tournament coming up and, of course, I am working with injuries. Right now it is my neck again and a pulled muscle in my thigh. The thigh one is really bothering me because it hurts to lift my leg. I can't do much with guard because I have to use that muscle so much. So, instead I have been trying to do other things: a lot of passing, a lot of moving to try keep the top position. As much as I am really annoyed to be injured, this has been good for me. It is opening up my mind to different options of moving that I wouldn't have thought of as readily without this injury. 

Still, I am icing and heating the heck out of my leg and resting it as much as possible outside of class. I need it to be in good shape by the time I compete. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Team A, Team B

Last night at the Women's Class, we worked side control escapes. To me, side control is probably the hardest bottom position to escape from because the person can be so mobile. We drilled 3 basic escapes. Because we had a small class with 6 girls, we had time to do 2 games. :) I love jiu-jitsu games, even though I am an adult. lol

We did a side control escape circuit where two girls would be on the bottom, while the rest of the class cycled through being in top side control for a minute, then jumping on the next girl. Once each girl had been on bottom side control with each person, they'd hop up and get in the circuit line to be on top and one of the others would lay down to do the escapes. It was pretty fun.

But after that was when the real fun started. Back at Summerlin, Ben used to do this game he learned from Fabio called Team A, Team B. You split the class up into two sides, line up on opposite walls and when the instructor says "go" it is a free-for-all. The main rules are that you start from your knees and that other jits rules apply (no striking, gouging, etc.). But you can double up on people. At one point I had three of the girls on me trying to submit me at once. lol. The teams were me and Jen (another blue belt female under Fabio) against the rest of the girls--Stephanie, Joyce, Shelby and Rowan. We put three minutes on the timer and went at it. As you might suspect, it was chaos. There was much laughing. Much screaming. Much hilarity.

The girls asked if we could do Team A, Team B again next class. lol. They really seem to like the games. What are your favorite Jiu-Jitsu games?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Experimental Grappling

BJJ has been so fun for me over the last few months. I am realizing how lucky I am to be able to train in a place where I can safely go out on the mat and try crazy crap, knowing that if/when I make mistakes, the guy I'm rolling with isn't going to crank my arm or ankle off. 

Because I have that freedom, every grapple lately has been an experiment. I don't worry so much anymore about whether or not the guy will try to muscle me or whether or not he will get on top and I won't be able to get out. Even being on bottom is a chance to try new ways of escaping. I end up trying a lot of stuff that just flat out doesn't work. 

The other day, I was grappling this guy named Jimmy. Here are some adjectives that describe him: humongous, fast, made-of-bricks, athletic, technical, scary, friendly, awesome. Anyway, he could bend me into a pretzel if he wished. But he doesn't. Instead, he lets me climb around and try to do crap. At one point in our grapple, he lifted me up by the hips kind of like a dad lifts up their kid so they can pretend to be superman. I knew I was going to be swept (I didn't have any base of any kind. lol) so I just decided to try to hook my legs around the front of his to see if that would do anything. It didn't. I landed with a thump. Jimmy laughed at me. I laughed at me. It  didn't work, but it did give me an idea that I can try for next time. 

Being willing to make mistakes and do possibly stupid things has really opened up my mind to different options I have as far as movement goes. Even with people who aren't as willing to roll for fun as Jimmy is, I still have been trying to have a mind-set of trial and error. They might be keeping score, but I am trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. 

This has been SO helpful with learning how to move underneath bigger, stronger guys once they get me in turtle or side control. I still have problems with both positions, but my confidence about being able to not get submitted while I am there and about being able to get out is slowly growing. 

The biggest factor for me that makes these experimental grapples happen is letting go of my fear and forcing myself to relax. Sometimes I sit down and the guy across from me looks like he's getting ready to fight a tournament match. I have to tell myself to stay calm. Keep relaxed. Don't be afraid. Move. 

If I am able to keep that mindset, then the grapple is usually enjoyable. If I lose sight of that and start to let myself worry about how good or bad I am doing, then things go down hill.

Some specific things I have learned through experimenting are that, when I am on the bottom under turtle, I make much better progress if I focus on moving myself instead of trying to push the other person off of me.  I've noticed that most people make space when they decide to go for a submission and that is the best time to get out. They usually lose focus on their base at that time too and are more easily swept. A lot of times, a person is so bent on getting a submission, you can use their weight being on top of you to sweep them, especially  from turtle. I also noticed that people who are attacking from side control tend to use their arms and make space with their hips when they're going for submissions, which lets me get a knee in or wiggle out the side somehow.  

A lot of what I am learning isn't about specific techniques, but about timing and paying attention to weight distribution. 

The other really cool thing about experimental grappling is that I am not the only one who experiments. One of my favorite things is when I grapple with someone better than me who is also in the mood to do out-of-the-norm things.It usually means that I tap a lot. But I get to see cool stuff I had not thought of before. 

I am planning to compete next month and, as usual, my nerves are starting to do their little song and dance. We will see how it goes! :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I am so happy today!

This is me today.

I'm giddy. Even more obnoxious than usual. 

Why am I so happy?

Because of the real jiu-jitsu that happened with the two youngest girls at the Women's Class this morning! 

Both Shelby and Rowan are 6th graders. They have been coming to class for about 6 weeks now and have been working hard. Sometimes, they like to joke around during class and I wonder if they are learning the things I am showing them. Today, they proved that they HAVE been paying attention. I saw butterfly guard sweeps, guard passes, a scissor sweep, bridge and roll mount escapes, hip out mount escapes and even a half guard escape. 

They ARE paying attention! And not only that, they are remembering what they're learning!

I know I am being a gushy tard. But I am just so excited to see these girls growing and beginning to really love jiu-jitsu. It is so exciting! I am so thankful to be able to be a part of it! :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kyra Gracie Interview

This has been circulating around the internet, but in case you haven't seen it, here is an interview with Kyra Gracie about what her experience as a woman doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been like. So inspiring!

If you are a woman who does BJJ, have you encountered any of the same struggles? What has been the hardest part for you practicing Jiu-Jitsu? What advantages have you noticed, as a woman training in this sport?

For me, one of the hardest parts about being a woman training bjj is dealing with my desire to "prove myself" to the guys. When you really boil it down, it is my pride. I want to show them that I can do this just as good and legitimately as they can.

The funny thing is, there have been only a couple of times when any guy has said anything negative to me about training as a female. In fact, the guys I train with are by a great majority very encouraging. They want me to improve and help me to do so.

So why do I still feel like I have something to prove? I guess it comes down to my own insecurity.

A few weeks ago, the result of that insecurity was embarrassingly apparent. I was grappling some guys I hadn't grappled in a long time--maybe 6 months or so--and I had wanted to make sure I didn't fall into some of the same pitfalls I had encountered the last time I grappled them. Unfortunately, I was so determined NOT to get on the bottom, that I started using a lot of strength and going bananas. In one grapple, Fabio actually stopped me and told me I was using too much strength. He told me to calm down and move more. After class, I talked to him about it and said I didn't know why I had reacted that way.

He said something along the lines of, "I do. It's because you were grappling a man. You grapple big, strong girls all the time and you move with them. You don't try to match strength for strength. But when you grapple a man, you use strength. You wanted to prove something. But why? You don't have to prove anything. You already have the proof around your waist."

I realized he was right. My pride was getting in my way.

I know some women really ARE put down at their gyms. They have to deal with people who don't take them seriously because of their gender. It makes me angry to hear some of the stories.

Fortunately, that hasn't been my experience. But if I am not careful, I will victimize myself by creating a stigma in my mind that no one has branded me with in reality. If I don't watch myself, I can use my gender as an buffer to protect my pride, or to muddle friendships because I am too sensitive about the subject. I don't want to do that. It would almost be like crying wolf when there aren't any real wolves around.

For those of you who have to deal with real criticisms and ignorance, take a page out of Kyra's book and don't let them get you down. Keep training hard. Keep learning. The proof will be shown on the mat in time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I have come to the conclusion...

...that I do worse when I try to "go in tournament mode" than when I just relax and go with the flow of what the other person is doing. When I try to amp myself up and be uber-aggressive and fast, several things happen that aren't good for jiu-jitsu:

1. I tense up.

2. I waste a lot of energy because I am all tensed up.

3. I try to force things to go the way I am trying to make them go. (And I end up using muscle, which makes me even more tired).

4. I miss opportunities to use leverage because I am so he!! bent on making things go my way.

5. I am exhausted at the end of that grapple.

I have noticed that the exact opposite is try when I decide to be relaxed and not worry about "going hard". At the end of most of those grapples, I notice the following:

1. I got more sweeps

2. Moved into more dominant positions (or if I was going with someone better than me, escaped more).

3. Saw more opportunities to try submissions

4. Was not as tired at the end of the grapple


So, the next time I compete, I am going NOT going to go into tournament mode. I am going to relax and go with the flow. That doesn't mean I will let the other person be in dominant positions. But I will try to use their aggression against them.

On a completely different note, I have been training a lot lately. Around 6 times a week for the last few months. My body is feeling the effects. I went through a couple of weeks there where I felt like I could keel over and go into a coma at any time of the day. But, thanks to some tweaks in my diet, vitamins and sleeping patterns, my body is finally adjusting...mostly. What do you do--besides cutting back on classes--to keep your body energized when you are training hard?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Well, That Depends...

We worked on sweeps from guard last night at the Women's Class, specifically on what do do when someone who is in your guard raises a knee. Depending on where their weight is positioned, you go for a different sweep. If their weight is centered over your body--if they are leaning into you trying to stack you--swim the knee, block the opposite arm, and take them over on the blocked arm side. If their weight is back--they are sitting in their base--you pull the ankle toward you and hip into them.

While we were drilling, a lot of "what if" questions came up. What if the person is a lot bigger than you? What if they post here? What if they do this when you do that?

Steph and I fielded most of the questions individually, but eventually I brought them back in and told them that with sweeps 1) The person will generally not know exactly what sweep you plan to use 2) If they do know, and are resisting it in some way that stops you from doing it, you should not force the sweep, you should use that opportunity to do something else that takes advantage of their position/weight distribution/vulnerabilities, etc. I told them that if one thing doesn't work, you switch to another thing. I told them that I know that they haven't learned all those "other things" yet. Neither have I. But that every time they come to class, they will learn more things they can do and they will learn to switch between techniques.

One of the girls asked, "How long will it be before we can do that." (she was referring to being able to switch between techniques).

I told her, "Well, that depends on how willing you are to experiment during grappling. Most people come into bjj wanting to 'win' every grapple. Because of that, they only try things that they know will work. But if you can let go of that pride, you can start experimenting with leverage. Jump. Try to sweep. Move in a way you haven't tried before. If you end up in a bad position or get submitted, its no big deal. Learn from it and try again."

I also told them not to take "failures" personally, like I did when I started. If something didn't work, I got frustrated and felt crappy about myself. But down the road I realized that bjj is a matter of trial and error. If something doesn't work the first time, that doesn't mean I am incapable. It means my technique needs tweaking. So, you should keep experimenting and asking questions until you learn to make it work.

The best part is I think they got it. We did regular grappling, flow rolling and the game where you untie the bow from the person's back (since we've been working guard) and I noticed there was a whole lot more laughter and experimenting happening. It was really fun!

My own experimenting with leverage has been really fun. I definitely haven't had a "breakthrough" or made some huge leap of progress. But I am enjoying every class and learning little things here and little things there. The best thing is, the vast majority of the people I train with have the same mind set of moving and trying things, and they help me learn and (in many cases) let me move more than I would normally be able to so that I CAN try things.

One minor victory (well, it's probably a major victory if you are one of my training partners) is that I have been accidentally hitting/kicking people much less in the last few weeks. I don't claim that I haven't done it at all (baby steps, people!) but there are a lot fewer bruises with my name on them at this point.

Now watch, I'll go into class tomorrow and accidentally give someone a black eye. ;)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unconventional Methods

I tried to get creative at the Women's class on Thursday night. I knew that the older girls who normally come weren't going to be able to make it. I had a class of two 6th grade girls. Both girls show a lot of promise and really enjoy bjj. I wanted to cater that night's class to them: what I thought they needed to work on the most. But bjj is hard work and I also wanted to try to make the class fun for them, so we tried a couple of games.

First, for technique, I taught 3 mount escapes. One they had already seen and two new ones. The hip out, the upa roll and the upa roll/hip out combination. The girls are small--we're talking maybe 90lbs soaking wet--and, as you can imagine, being able to escape mount is crucial for them.

But when I split them up and told them we were going to do timed mount escape drills, they were looking pretty long in the face about it. So, I decided to try to make it a game. I told them they had 2 minutes to escape the mount five times. If they could both do it, I told them I would take them to this place in town called Rita's Italian Ice and buy them each a small gelato.

It is amazing how quickly their motivation returned.

I wouldn't normally do this, but I have a soft spot for kids (I used to be the youth pastor at the church where one of them goes).

Anyway, they each had to escape 5 times in 2 minutes. Man did they work hard! I was impressed to see them putting their hands in the right spot and using their legs. They did great. Needless to say, they accomplished their goal!

The other thing I wanted them to work on was learning how to get a resisting opponent into their guard so that they could use some of the positions we had taught them in previous weeks. Usually, when newer people grapple, they are thinking more about submissions--either how to use them or escape them--than they are about positions.

So to make them think about how to get the other person in their guard, Stephanie and I tied our belts on backwards and told them that their goal for the next 5 minutes was to untie our belts. I told them they needed to think about what position they needed to get Stephanie and I in so that they could untie the belts. They also went once with each other, with both of them having to untie the other person's belt behind their backs.

I can tell you there was a lot of laughter and creative grappling that happened. It was really fun and I think it made the girls think a little more about what they needed to do to get a person into their guard.

We had normal grappling to wrap up class. There was a torrential downpour going on outside, but the four of us drowned rats made it to Rita's and basked in gelato paradise. All in all, it was a pretty fun night. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Move Them, Move Yourself

I couldn't train this week, so I sat out and watched a lot on Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. Even last night, at the Women's Class, I didn't grapple, but watched the girls. It is amazing how much I learn whenever I get opportunities to watch other people experimenting during rolling.

I had been watching Fabio a lot and, as usual, the people he grappled were breathless and sweaty at the end of every grapple, while he seemed untaxed. During the rolling, they would be going nuts trying to pass or get hooks or go for some submission. Sometimes, it would look like they might get something, but then Fabio would shift underneath them and next thing you know, he's slipped out of their grasp or swept them over.

I didn't even realize that something had clicked while watching Fabio these past few days until last night, when we were doing more flow rolling drills in the women's class. The goal of the drill was to not stop moving for two minutes. If you get on the bottom, you don't stop. You keep hipping/moving until you get out. And if you're on the top, you avoid holding , but try to keep the flow moving.

At one point, a couple of the girls had stalled with one sprawled in side control and the other struggling to get out. She was pushing up on the other girl. Because of the way that the top girl was sprawled, she had the upper-hand, so to speak, with leverage. There was no way the bottom girl would be able to get out just trying to heave the top girl off.

I kept yelling out things like , "Hip! Hip! Keep moving!". But I think I had yelled those things so many times that both girls were ignoring it. lol So I yelled out, "Don't try to move her! Move yourself!" Instantly, the girl stopped pushing and started hipping. This created a scramble and got the flow roll moving again.

After I had said it, I realized that that is one of the big reasons why Fabio is so efficient during his grapples. He doesn't try to move the other person, really. He moves underneath them and either slips out to one side or gets their center of gravity off balance so they go over.

Learning HOW to move this way is what I think is going to be my obsession in the years to come. So much of learning how to move can only come from the experience of being underneath and trying different ways of moving to get them off their base or slip out from underneath them.

I'm really excited about experimenting with this concept. It's been kind of ruminating around in my slow brain these past few months, but I feel like I see what my goal is, now. I am looking forward to putting more pieces of the puzzle together over the next years.

Yeah, I know. I am such a nerd. :)

Also, right after I posted this blog, I went and read Liam's blog. He took the idea of learning by watching other grapplers to the next level. Check it out.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Move It or Lose It

The Women's Class was really fun last night. We did something we used to do at Summerlin a lot, and that Fabio has taught us several times in Lakeland, that I have missed: boxer vs. grappler. Ok, we didn't actually do any punching. But we started working on techniques to deal with a boxer vs grappler situation.

Last night's technique was dealing with what you can do when someone postures up or stands up in your guard to punch you. If you are in a fight and someone is in your guard, you want to break them down and keep them in close to you, working to set something up. But if they are able to posture up or stand up in your guard, then you need to react to keep from being punched in the face.

First, what we worked on was getting wrist control and creating a barrier with the knees. To create the barrier, you brace your knees against their sternum--knees pointing in, using your feet to brace on the outside of the ribs.

You want to fully rise up on your hips, keeping control of the wrists. That takes away their reach--they won't be able to reach your face because their arms will not be long enough to span your thighs and torso.

Next, if the person breaks wrist control and postures back to punch you, be prepared to open your knees as they come down, using your leg on the same side as their punching arm to bring them into you and push them off center. As they come down, you use your arm that is opposite of their punching arm to grab around their neck, trapping their head and arm between your head and arm. You hip out a little bit to the side (not creating space, but moving around their body) and finish the head and arm choke.

We also worked on transitioning to the back in the event that you are unable to finish the head and arm choke for whatever reason. The key idea I focused on when moving to the back is not dropping your feet to the floor when moving around someones body. Use the body and your leg muscles to move from the side to the back, making sure that you go hips and butt first, with your head and shoulder to the mat.

When you come up to the back, you should still have the head and arm choke.

We also worked the head and arm choke from mount.
A video of the head and arm triangle from mount.

When we finally got to grappling, we had a few rounds of normal rolling and then we did something a little different. We introduced them to flow-rolling, but with a little twist. Each girl would pair up with someone and have a two minute grapple. During that two minutes, the object was to never stop moving. Each girl started out with 10 points. If at any point during the match they stopped moving, they would lose a point. The person with the most points at the end of the grapple won the round.

The idea was to get them used to moving when they find themselves in a bad position, instead of freezing or giving up. Granted, when you get into a position and you're not sure what to do, you sometimes stop and think. Spazzing blindly is not the best option. But I wanted them to get used to using the tools they have. For example, the second they got under mount I was yelling "Hip, hip!" or "Sweep! Sweep!". Right now they only know two mount escapes and two sweeps. But they were able to go to those techniques by memory in the heat of the moment.

They did awesome! We have come to the end of our first month of the Women's Class and I am so pleased with how all the girls are doing! Hopefully in the next month will be even better. :)