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?