Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finding Space

Sometimes when you are grappling someone bigger and stronger, it can feel like your face and the mat are having an inappropriate relationship.

You know by watching how your instructor moves out of bad positions from underneath behemoths that it is possible to escape superior strength and size. You hear talk about leverage and hip movement, about using people's momentum against them. But when you get into an actual grapple and someone locks you down, it may feel like there is no possible way to move. The person is too tight. Or they have too much weight on you. Maybe they are just enormous and you feel like you are trying to grapple the moon. 

Fabio told me something one time that changed the way I thought about getting out from underneath heavier, stronger people or people who are locking me down. He said that a person cannot be tight everywhere at once. For example, if someone is locking down your head and shoulders, your hips will have room to move. Conversely, if someone locking down your hips, you will be able to make space with your upper body. Unless you are grappling an octopus or some kind of freakish alien, people simply don't have enough limbs to effectively lock down your whole body at once. 

These are some steps I have have been working on when I am under lock down:

 1. Instead of focusing on where I am trapped, I try to think about which parts of my body I can move and use.

2. If something is being pushed down, instead of pushing back, I try to either slide out to one side or the other, going towards the space from the areas that aren't locked down. Usually, this requires getting an under hook and a lot of hipping. 

3. I try to remember that I don't always have to come out to a side. Sometimes I can come out from behind a person, or invert and sneak over their head to their back. Taking risks and possibly landing in a worse position is part of learning how to escape.  

4. If I am trying to hip out to one side and a person is driving into me, changing directions quickly--like hipping back into them suddenly--will usually throw a person off balance and either give me room to escape or enable me to sweep. Unless, of course, they already expect my little tricks and then they just laugh while they squash my feeble attempts at freedom. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Always Keep Moving

I have been trying to break a bad habit in the past few months. When I am grappling and get into a scramble and end up in a bad position, I have had the bad habit of stopping in the bad position for a little bit. For example, I am defending guard and someone passes and gets to side control. I would pause in side control for a few seconds. Part of it was being tired. Part of it was thinking about what to do next. Part of it was just feeling a little defeated, I guess.

But Fabio pointed out that, in a tournament, the person has to establish the position for 3 seconds before they get the points for it. If I keep moving, I might be able to escape before they get points for establishing the position.

So, lately, when I am grappling, it is my goal to never stop moving. If I don't know what to do, oh well. I try to just go with my instincts and see what happens. Doing that has been helpful because I am learning new ways I can move.

I try to ignore being tired. Last night a guy was passing my guard and we were scrambling. He was moving around on top of me with a lot of pressure and I was folding and hipping and folding, trying to return to guard. My muscles got so tired that, at one point, my whole chest felt like it was constricting and I felt a little panicked because I could not breathe. But I pushed through that panic kept moving until I got to my guard where I could rest for a second. It is amazing how my mind wants to give up before my body actually needs to.

If I am in a bad position and I am tired, thinking about escaping can be overwhelming. The thing that helps me the most when I am that tired is to focus on basic principles and small steps like, "I need the underhook here. Work for that underhook. Good. Now I need to hip out. Inch, inch, inch. Good." When I only work on a few steps at a time, it makes it seem like less of an impossibility. It also takes my mind off a negative fact--that I am in a bad position--and keeps it focused on a positive action--what I can do to escape.

There are a lot of times where I still run out of gas and have to pause in a bad position. If I absolutely have to stop, I defend my limbs and neck, breathe for a few seconds, then start inching and moving again.

The main things I am looking for with all of this constant movement are:

1. To move my limbs out of danger.

2. To create space for an escape.

3. To get my opponent off balance for a sweep.

4. To look for the chance to go on the offense (to attack something when someone is moving between positions, usually).

A teammate of mine who is a higher rank than me grappled me recently and, after a scramble, put me in a choke. Usually he lets me work out of submissions, but this time, he went for the tap. When I tapped and said it was a nice choke, he responded with, "Yeah, you were wriggling out of things so much and being such a pain in the ass I had to choke you." LOL. I take that as a compliment, sir. Hopefully I will get better at it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Women's Self-Defense Seminar

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of being a part of a Women's Self-Defense Seminar to benefit Relay for Life. Fabio hosted the seminar at his school, and I got the chance to try my hand at leading a seminar.

In case you don't know much about Relay for Life, is is a fundraising event led by volunteers in local communities where teams gather to celebrate loved ones who have battled cancer and won, to remember loved ones who have been lost to the disease and to raise money to fight back and work towards finding a cure.

I was excited to be a part of this because not only is this a great charity to support, but this past year I have experienced the fear that comes from hearing the word "cancer" after a loved one goes to the doctor. My grandmother battled breast cancer this year and is one of the lucky ones. It was a scary time for our family when we found out, because at first the prognosis wasn't good. But thank God she was able to fight back.

Since the seminar was for women and was attended by mostly women who had never done Jiu-Jitsu before, we focused mainly on techniques that can be used in self-defense if a man tries to attack and rape you. We worked several different armbars and kimuras from guard and mount escapes. After that, we had a "what if" session where they asked me questions like, "What if someone grabs you from behind." I told them that I was by no means an expert, but that I would show them what I would do in those situations. During the seminar I was so busy I completely forgot to take pictures. I know, I know. Go ahead and verbally flog me. ;)

I want to thank Relay for Life for coming out to our school and for letting us take part in the fight to cure cancer. We had an awesome time. Also, thanks to Stephanie, Jen, Joyce, Rowan, Shelby, Frances and Cheraine for coming out to help with the seminar. You ladies rock! :)