Monday, January 31, 2011

Devil's in the Details

The gi choke from guard was one of the first submissions I learned when I started BJJ, but it amazes me that there are still small details that I have missed up to this point. And, probably, in a another year's time I will notice even more.

I find that I really enjoy when Fabio goes over basic techniques sometimes because I always pick something up that gives me a better chance of actually finishing the technique in a live grapple.

Tonight, some of the details Fabio hit on were:

- using my top arm--the arm that grabs for the lapel first--to get in deep in their gi and break down their posture, turning their face to the side before I even get in my second arm.

- using my legs to bring the guy in, further breaking down his posture.

- getting my second arm in deeper by angling my torso to the opposite side a little bit, so I can reach my hand in deeper.

- Turning my wrists out so they press into the carotid arteries more.

- Bringing in my elbows as I go to finish AND bringing my head in close to their shoulder, closing all the space.

I think one reason why I sometimes don't finish gi chokes is because I rush to do them instead of working to get my hands in deep enough. If I am too shallow in my lapel grabs, then it becomes a matter of strength--me trying to pull the gi to block the arteries. When I do it right, there is no strength involved. My wrists are blocking he arteries even before I turn them out. And as soon as I turn them out, the person is tapping.

Because the gi choke is so common, I don't usually go directly for it. I get one hand in, then try to do something else and go for the choke if the opening comes. But I think that that quick switch is what ends up getting me. I am rushing to try to sneak my other hand in and am not getting it in deep enough. It's something to work on. :)

I am noticing that I am having problems finishing triangles again, both from guard and from mount. Ugh. I think I know what I am doing wrong. I keep forgetting to lift my hips up. I'm squeezing my knees, pulling their head down, their arm is in the right place. But I forget to hip up into them. Going to work on that too.

Details, details, details...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Witch Hunt

I noticed something about myself yesterday during rolling that bothered me.

For a long time now, I have had a love/hate relationship with new, big, white belt guys. I hate that they muscle me and smash me and scare me with their spasmatic explosions. But I love that they challenge me and force me to learn new ways to deal with their insanity.

At first, they intimidated me and I stayed in guard. Then, over the last six months or so, I forced myself to move more. What has happened is not I am a white belts destroying machine.

I am not saying that I always end up "destroying" all white belts guys I go with. There are two white belt guys in particular that I can think of right off the top of my head that frustrate me to no end because I can't seem to adapt to their particular brand of smash.

But, in general, I am able to out-move most of the newer white belt guys. And I HAVE to, because they are all coming after me with everything they've got. It's kind of a kill or be killed situation.

At this point, I don't have the technical skill to be able to be like Fabio and a lot of the higher belts and roll all relaxed. I can get into dominant positions and get submissions, but I have to really fight for it most of the time, especially if the guy is a lot bigger.

Here's where my problem comes in: not all white belt guys are the devil. Not all of them are trying to smash me. Some of them just haven't learned how to calm down and not use muscle. They aren't trying to be jerks. They are just new. Unfortunately for them, I look at them and my brain says, "Must submit hard and fast!" And that is what I try to do.

Yesterday, I was grappling one particular guy who is pretty new; somewhere less than six months. He also is smaller than a lot of the other guys. Still considerably heavier and stronger than me, but not average beast man. He was coming after me and was quite spastic. He even picked me up like he might slam me at one point--I mean up to where he was standing up completely--and I said, "If you slam me, I am going to be pissed." That's the second time I have had to say that in the past few classes. And this was a different guy. Anyway, he put me down gently and Fabio pointed out to me that next time I need to just hook his legs and take him down. He'll learn if I do that. Anyway, other than that, this guy wasn't anywhere near hurting me. But instead of relaxing a little bit, though, I went after him with everything I had.

He was rubbing his arm after that grapple.

I apologized for hurting his arm. But the whole experience left me feeling confused. He was coming after me. And he was spastic. When I feel spasticness, my brain automatically shifts into "go mode" out of self preservation. What I did felt reasonable during the grapple. But afterwards, I felt like I had done something mean.

I need to find a balance. With some guys, I really do need to submit them hard and fast if I am able. But that's not every white belt guy I come into contact with. Even with guys who use muscle and who move unpredictably with a lot of force, I need to learn to use restraint. They might be out of control, but I SHOULD be in control of how hard I put on submissions.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Slow It Down

Tonight was an awesome night. Just...awesome. Steph blogged about most of the reasons why it was awesome, but I will reiterate.

We had three new girls and some new guys as well, which is great in and of itself. But the coolest thing to see Joyce, was one of the girls who is a regular at Fabio's, have a break through tonight. Joyce is the smallest adult in the school. By a lot. I outweigh her by at least 25 pounds. She has always been a timid person and BJJ did not come naturally to her because of her shy nature. But she stuck with it and tonight she saw the fruits of her persistence.

One of the new girls she grappled was bigger than me and quite a bit stronger too. But Joyce was able to use technique and dictate the grapple. I didn't see the whole thing, but every time I looked up she was in a dominant position.

I am so proud of her. I know that it has been a struggle for me being "smallish" and a girl, but it has been doubly so for Joyce. Lately, she has come into class with a fiery, go-get-em attitude and she is really making head way. To me, it is yet more solid proof that BJJ really works and can not only give you solid self defense but also confidence as well.


Fabio showed an omaplata tonight and, after he let us drill it for a while, he called us back in and gave us all some drilling advice. I guess a lot of people were trying to do the technique fast. But Fabio said that we need to drill the technique slowly. It's not only for safety reasons, but to also because we need to take time to make sure we're getting the details right. Speed comes later, after a technique is already committed to your memory, after you've done it over and over and over again. But, most of the time, speed should be unnecessary. If a technique works, it will work when you put it on slowly.

I tried to put that into practice in some of my grapples. Instead of rushing through submissions, I tried to relax and go through them smoothly, without hurrying. What I found was that, while I wasn't able to finish every submission, I was able to make transitions a lot easier and smoother. My mind wasn't so hell-bent on one thing, I guess. It was cool.

Overall, great night. Now to sleep and do it all again tomorrow. Loving life. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting Stripes

Recently, a few of my white belt friends at the school have been asking me about stripes. When should they be getting stripes? What do I think they need to work on to get stripes? How long did it take me to get stripes?

Before I go what I think about this, let me explain how things are at Fabio's school.
Fabio does stripes a little differently than I have heard it done at other schools. For one thing, he only gives out three stripes in between belts instead of four. So, if you are a white belt and you have three stripes, your next promotion will be to blue belt.

If you do get a fourth stripe, it means there is a problem, whether it be pride or some kind of technical block or something. Only three people at my school have gotten a fourth stripe that I know of.

Another difference is that Fabio gives stripes--and belts for that matter--randomly. There is no set curriculum to achieve a belt that I know of--though I am sure Fabio has the criteria in his head--nor are there belt tests. Sometimes, at the end of class, he will call someone up and give them a stripe. Sometimes he'll call a few people up and give them stripes. You never know.

When someone is going to get a new belt, there is no test, as I said. Fabio only tells that person to order their belt and that sometime in the near future--could be a week, could be six months--they will be promoted to that belt. He also sometimes tells them there are a few things they need to work on before they get the belt. Then, whenever Fabio decides they are ready, Fabio holds a belt promotion and they get their belt.

The reason why Fabio does it this way, as far as my understanding goes, is because he doesn't want his students focused on the belt. He wants us to focus on learning.

But it is inevitable that people will wonder when they should be getting a stripe. I have worried about it every now and then.

Here is why I have decided it doesn't matter and why I am glad that Fabio does things the way he does them.

1. The obvious reason: It's not about the belt-- "In Okinawa, no need belt! Use rope, hold up pants!" -Mr. Miyagi. Gotta' love the Karate Kid. The sentiment is true, despite the 80's hair. The belt is a sign of progress, yes, but it should not be the goal. The goal should be to learn BJJ and to be able to use the techniques and move correctly in a live grapple. If you focus only on trying to learn techniques so you can earn a stripe or a belt, you are missing the point. And you will probably slow your progress as well.

2. Less Showing Off. Because Fabio gives stripes randomly and does not tell people exactly what he is looking for, people don't have as much incentive to do things for show. They focus on learning and trying to get better in general instead of trying to prove that they know a certain sweep or submission.

3. Less Direction. I felt like this one was not a good thing at first. How am I supposed to know if I am improving if I don't know what I am working for? How do I know I am doing well? It has only been in the last few months that I have realized why this is a good thing.

For starters, it makes me think about BJJ as a whole instead of as a set of techniques. I am learning a lot of techniques and movements, but there is no set order. So, I am developing a style natural to my body and my set of strengths (and weaknesses), not just developing things that I think I need to know in order to advance.

Also--and this is the biggest one for me--it has helped me to get over my intense need for constant approval from Fabio. Of course I still want him to approve of me. That's not want I mean. But when I started, I was consumed with worry about whether or not I was "doing well" or "sucking".

As I said, it has only been in the last several months that I have started to get past that frame of mind and realize that I am not there to try to prove anything to anyone. I am not there to sky-rocket to the top of the class as fast as I can. I am there to learn BJJ. And I will learn more and more over the next years and hopefully I will never stop learning.

All of the sudden, I'm not paranoid about it anymore. I know I am doing the best that I can and I am confident in what I have learned so far. Amazingly, that is enough for me now. Considering what a perfectionist I am, I am surprised that I feel this way now.

I think a good part of the reason for that is that I have been forced to let go of all the markers of "progress". Now I can't focus on progress. I just have to focus on BJJ.

But for my friends who are wondering, what I tell them is what Fabio has told me. Don't worry about stripes or belts. You're doing fine. Just keep grappling.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Wait, Act Now!!

Tonight kind of reminded me of one of those commercials that tells you that unless you call in the next 30 minutes this amazing offer will expire and you will miss out FOREVER on their awesome product.

Except, in my case, waiting doesn't mean missing out on a buy one get one free topsy-turvy tomato grower. Waiting means the difference between escaping a submission and tapping.

There are two times when I am tempted not to go into an escape from a submission, and to try to fight for the position. One is when someone goes for a heel hook on me. I have been told numerous times to got for the escape right off the bat. But instead, what I usually do is hold onto one of the person's sleeves for dear life and try to somehow come up on top. And, what usually follows is them getting their arm free and me tapping to a finished heel hook.

There are escaped where I can come up on top, but those depend on me acting very fast and a lot of times the person may already be past the point when that escape will work. I need to know when that "point of no return" is and be smart enough to go to the roll out escape when that time comes instead of trying to force the other escapes.

The other time I am tempted to do this is when I am escaping a triangle and the person switches to an armbar. If I escape a triangle correctly, I will usually end up in a low side control. If I roll out of an armbar, the chances are less that I will come out in a dominant position. Usually, people will take advantage of the time that I am rolling out to prepare for when I come up. So, I try to do the stacking option to escape the armbar instead of the roll out, which I have a better chance of using successfully.

Tonight, I went for the roll-out escapes right away. And it worked. Shocking, I know. I had to give up "better" positions, but at least I didn't have to tap.

I am learning that I don't need to force good positions to happen. I need to be fluid and move between different positions, not just try to hold one forever. This is true when dealing with submission escapes. I just have to learn to better recognize when I have reached that point.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


FINALLY! I was able to grapple today for the first time in a week and a half. It felt great!

One thing did happen that bothered me, though. There is one guy who has slammed me a couple of times before in grapples. A couple times it was when I was going for a triangle and he picked me up and slammed me. Today, I am not even sure how he got me up in the air--it was in the middle of a scramble--but he slammed me again.

Slamming always makes me angry. I mean, I understand that I need to know how to deal with slamming in case I get into a street fight. And, in tournaments, slamming is illegal, but sometimes happens anyways and it is good to know how to defend. I am not talking about take-downs here. I am talking about when the person on top picks up the person on bottom and slams them. In my opinion, there is no need for slamming when you are sparring with your teammates.

On top of that, my neck got hurt in the process today. I have been doing pretty well avoiding putting pressure on it, but when that guy slammed me, I came down right on my neck. Ouch.

But, even so, I can't excuse how I reacted. I got really mad and told him that it really ticked me off when he slammed me. As soon as we started grappling again, I turned up the intensity big time. When I caught a submission--it was an arnbar--I finished it hard and fast, which is something that I don't normally do.

He stopped after that and said he was sorry and that he hadn't meant to slam me. I said it was okay, just not to do it again. I also apologized for how hard I had gone for the armbar.

I don't know. The whole thing makes me wonder if I am oversensitive about slamming. It has annoyed the crap out of me since day one. What do you guys think?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bundle of Joy

I have been M.I.A. for the last several days, but with good reason. My sister, Erin, gave birth to my new nephew, Eli.

He's beautiful and perfect. And Erin is doing wonderfully (as is her fantastic husband, Matt). They live about 2 and a half hours away, so I was only able to be with them for a few days. I wish I could have stayed with them longer, but I had to come back to my neck of the woods.

Hoping to get to train tomorrow. It all depends on if I get the green light with the ringworm. It has healed up pretty well. We shall see!

I'm exhausted from this weekend. Time to hit the hay. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Training For When You Can't Train

I have come to the conclusion that jogging is a very poor substitute for Jiu-jitsu. I HATE jogging. See, it's near the top of the list of things I hate right now:

1. Ringworm
2. Running
3. Ringworm
4. Ringworm
5. Persons who infected me with ringworm.

I have never been good at running. But yesterday, I was so annoyed that I couldn't go to BJJ that I jogged two miles and ended up getting my fastest time yet for the first mile. My first mile was at 8:09 (told you I suck at running), the second a wee bit longer.

...Still hated it, though. ;)

Also, I am really thankful for my barn right now. We didn't do class Tuesday night in the barn and we won't have it again until Sunday, so I decided to use it as my quarantine gym. Don't worry, I will disinfect it before people come back.

I have come up with a weird workout that I do when I can't train (which has been way too frequently, the last few weeks). Unfortunately, jogging is a part of it. Or the slightly less evil elliptical. Then, I do a whole bunch of stuff for my abs:

1. Crunches (around 150)
2. Side planks (I hates them too. Mentally adding them to my list)
3. Hanging Leg raises (80)

After that, I do some squats and lunges. Then I go to my resistance bands and work on my arms, targeting the different muscle groups. I don't just go for short, high reps. Sometimes I like to pull back and hold, to really fatigue my muscles before going on, to simulate how sometimes you get tired muscles in mid grapple and have to keep going.

Lastly, I go to my nemesis: The exercise ball. Despite how it tried to kill me the other day, I actually like exercising on it. I practice balancing on my knees on it. I practice knee on belly on it. But what I really like doing is just flow moving on it for five minute intervals. Just keep moving the whole time, to simulate the cardio you need in a grapple. I try to mimic bjj movements while I am doing it, but you can only go so far since a ball isn't exactly the same shape as a human being.

Anyway, that is my workout when I can't train. What do you guys do when you are stuck at home?

Monday, January 3, 2011

There's a Fungus Among Us

Had a great Christmas and New Year. Hope all of you guys had safe travels and good times with your friends and family! We have some weird New Year's Traditions in our family. Everyone flies in from around the country, goes to Disney, dresses up in crazy hats and literally rings in the New Year with bells.

Then the next day we drag our exhausted buts out to the parks.

I was so ready to get back on the mat today. But, alas. It was not meant to be. I may have the dreaded ring worm. On my freaking face. It has been going around our school. This really annoys me because if you have ringworm, you really shouldn't come and grapple. Though, I suppose you could be like me and have it and not know it.

The spot on my face is right on my jawline, near my ear, and I didn't know it was ringworm. Still am not sure. A few people at the school say it might be. It doesn't itch. It's very small. I thought it was gi burn that scabbed over. But, to be safe I didn't grapple tonight and won't tomorrow or Wednesday. I'm treating it with over the counter meds. We will see.

The whole thing is really frustrating because I have only gotten to grapple one a week for the last two weeks. And now I am out again until Thursday.

We were drilling a knee on belly move tonight. The same one I injured myself doing on an exercise ball a few weeks ago. I guess it is alright that I have to take a few more days off because my finger is still really swollen and hurts badly when it is moved forcefully in any direction. I still would have liked to have had the chance to work on that knee on belly stuff tonight, though! Grrr!

I am still going to go to class tomorrow, but I am not going to drill or grapple. I am going to sit on the side in my quarantine zone and watch and mope. Booo!