Tuesday, December 29, 2009

holidays and training

I miss going to classes.

I've been amusing myself with watching UFC, BJJ instructionals and other predictable stuff :-))

I've been trawling the forums. There seem to be a lot of bored people out there, too. Sometimes I come across some good stuff, for example the Sherdog thread on BJJ Quotes. There really were some good ones. But hell's bells, there are a lot of stupid posts. I don't know if that's because people think they can post whatever inane crap or poisonous b/s they like in the relative anonymity of those forums. Or whether that's just the way they really are. Scary either way. Still, there is the odd pearl of wisdom in these forums, and some funny stuff, so when I have time to kill (not often), I go and have a look.

To save myself the pain of going back to training after three weeks off, I've started using my mini gym. Ah, really it's not just the fear of things to come, I really do get all pent up when I've not been working enough. I gave myself a week off after the last class this month. That gave all the icky complaining body bits a chance to heal up and shut up. But it was time to get the old body used to being sweaty again. It's not as though I sit on my butt all day long, I live on a farm and I feed and work horses. But it's not very intense.

I've invested in a timer (gymboss). What a good little gadget! Quite easy to program, and a beep loud enough so I can hear it over the music I play when I do gym things. I think that I've mentioned in a previous post that I'm not the most self motivated person when it comes to working out. It's just that it's not very exciting and I'm always willing to let close enough be good enough. What's good about the timer is that I can set it to whatever intervals and then I'll decide to do so many rounds. I have enough discipline that I will start at the beep and I won't stop until I've done the rounds I set out to do. And instead of watching the clock, I can concentrate on doing what I'm doing, for example hit the heavy bag, until the beep relieves me :-). And start hitting again when the merciless beep goes off yet again!

To ease myself in, the first day I did ten one minute rounds with a minute off inbetween. Alternated between hitting and kicking the heavy bag one round, and the next round hitting and doing positional changes on the bag on the ground. That was after a good warmup of course and some other stuff (situps, pushups, leg curls, squats etc). Did about 3/4 hour all up, including stretching etc.

Then I had a day off and yesterday did another 3/4 hour in the gym. This time, 10 one minute rounds on the heavy bag with 30 second breaks. That got the heartrate up considerably more! That aside I practiced armbars from mount on the ground bag (I imagined the arms), did positional drills on the same bag, especially knee ride. I did some squats with kettlebells, working particularly on standing up one leg at a time like I would for a standing guard pass. And a couple of turkish getups (I think that's what they are called?). I also did some pretty thorough stretching.

And I felt really good afterwards. So I'm going to keep a similar schedule for the next couple of weeks until we have classes again, and even after that probably.

I'm lucky enough to have a mini gym for my own use. It's nothing fancy, just a few basic things in my shed. A suspended wooden floor with mats, a heavy hanging bag a floor bag, a simple weight bench, a small selection of dumbbells and kettlebells, gym balls, a treadmill (for winter nights), a selection of wooden practice weapsons, a bar for towel pullups and of course a cd player! The only thing missing is a training partner. But living out of town, the chances of finding a like minded person withing striking range (pun intended) is slim indeed. So I just play loud music and get on with it :-)

I get my ideas for workouts from several books I have, and from Ross Enamait's Rosstraining website (I also have his book "Never Gymless"). That guy is amazing. I don't have his drive but he is an inspiration to me all the same.

Monday, December 21, 2009

year end, open guard etc

It's that time of year. The Christmas holidays are coming up, the end of the year has nearly arrived. That also means no classes for nearly three weeks. As the typical BJJ addict, that will seem like a loooonnnngg time to me.

I had some excellent classes last week, both PFS and BJJ. So I finished the year on a high and I have a lot to look forward to next year. To be fair to my body, a week off will probably be good. But three weeks? Waaah! ... just venting ;-).

We did some pretty technical butterfly guard sweeps on Friday night and continued on with that theme on Saturday. I've only started experimenting with open guard fairly recently, and I use it mostly with the big guys so I can keep them off me. But sweeps are hard on the big guys. So that means I need to use open guard more often rather than looking for the "safety" of the closed guard. If I use it more often, I'll see more opportunities for sweeps and they will become part of my repertoire. So in the new year, I'll promise to use open guard aggressively even with the people more my weight.

It is so easy to stick to what I know and feel comfy with. It is much harder to go outside my comfort zone (=closed guard). Because there, I will probably get passed and then I'll end up on the bottom. Having spent most of my first year primarily on the bottom and in bad positions, I don't want to be there any more than absolutely necessary. But hey, I will never improve my open guard and utilize the many sweeps and attacks from there if I don't try. And what's the worst that can happen? I get passed and if I can't escape, I tap.

Also I find that there is an even greater reliance on timing, balance and utilizing momentum in an open guard scenario. I can really do with an upgrade in all those areas, and I see open guard as a way to get there. As I still get swept very easily, I also hope that that better understanding will help me become more sweep-resistant.

Our last BJJ class ended with a couple of scored rounds from standing. I like those, but still I get that tingly feeling. It's probably not fear, but excitement. In any case, I think my adrenal glands are getting a workout ;-).

So close to the holidays, our classes have been pretty small, and the Saturday class was just myself and two blue belts. So no points for guessing whose pelt was nailed to the wall when we had our rounds :-))). With three of us, it was two rounds each. First fight, I hesitated and was taken down. I always have trouble remembering what happens, but what I do remember is that I didn't spend the entire time on my back. At some stage I was turtled and trying to take him down which partially succeeded but then there was a sudden and unexpected choke a short time later (from mount??).

The round with the other guy was so brief (takedown... armbar) that we had to go again. Somewhat pissed off with my own (lack of) performance by this stage, I shot for a double and got it easily (yeah!) and managed to get to side control. I couldn't get an arm and whilst trying to attack, he rolled me (have I mentioned before that my top game is a joke??). From there it was downhill for me, even though I regained guard at one stage. I also managed to get back to half guard from under mount, but couldn't sweep or do anything and in the end it was an armbar that I couldn't get out of which led to my demise ;-)

Not the most glorious performance. However. I scored a takedown and it wasn't all just a case of spending the whole time being mounted without being able to escape. I had the chance to try some attacks in both rounds and that is progress for me. If I can make them work harder and harder to get a submission, that is progress.

I can't wait to come back next year.

We've been told we can eat as much as we like during the holidays, because we'll have our butts worked off after we come back. A certain BJJ teacher has plans for turning us into lean and mean fighting machines. Oooh, I can see how that translates into sweat, bruises and sore bodies. And as we are heading into the hot time of the year, I suspect that means yet more sweat...

Anyway, in late January we are expecting John Campbell to hold an MMA seminar at our dojo. That should be good. He's been a BJJ guest instructor a couple of times and I like his teaching style.

To everyone who drops in and reads here, I wish you happy holidays and a fantastic new year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

need to rewire that brain

When I was a couple of months into BJJ training, I heard that one has to pay one's dues on the bottom. That those who spend much time on the bottom in the beginning end up with solid defenses and escapes which firstly ensure survival and secondly bring about good positions which lead to attacks.

Well, I think I spent pretty much my entire first year on the bottom. There were times when I thought that's all I'm destined to ever do in BJJ and I will admit that at times it was very frustrating.

But from being owned and submitted fast I went to being owned and not submitted quite so fast. Then I managed to escape sometimes and it evidently became more and more difficult to submit me. Ah yes, we all know how it is, one day you fly high because you fluked a sweep and then a submission, or you just had a good start and the right body part moved in the right direction by accident and you ended up on top. Then, the next day, every Joe and his dog sqash and dominate you, rip your arms out and choke the living daylights out of you and you limp home wondering why you come for these beatings.

So time went on and on the balance of things, my sweeps happened more often. My escapes happened more often, I saw openings I never used to see, I managed to pass guards. I managed to stay out from under the heavy guys more often and found that the big new guys didn't always succeed in muscling me around. I started being a bit more aggressive at the start of rolls which set me up for better positions. My already reasonably closed guard got even better.

Ok, and now comes the next big thing. Due to my lack of "top time", I have little experience in applying all those lovely submissions. I've learned loads of armbars, figure fours and chokes from various top positions. But I have only ever practiced most of them on a compliant partner. So when it comes to rolling, I find myself in mount or side control, I have a great deal of trouble setting up and finishing subs. About the only place I'm reasonably ok with is back control. I guess it's because it's so dominant. So one part of the problem is lack of practice. But that will come.

The other problem is the mindset. Since I started, I've primarily been concerned with defending and escaping. But what I need to do is think of attacking. Even when I'm defending or escaping, I need to look at ways to turn the table and make the game mine. If I wait until I have a good position before I look for a sub, then likely I'll give my partner the time to consolidate, defend and even start escaping before I have time to even set up, let alone finish a sub. So I need a plan of attack. From every position, I need to know my best submission and one or two backup ones which flow on from there. But really, I need to rewire my brain so that I no longer think defensively, but offensively. That includes looking out for loose arms and exposed necks all the time and then find a pathway to attack that target. I need to arrive at the attacking (dominant) position already set for the attack, and ready with the next one if he defends.

That's a pretty fundamental shift in thinking. Actually, I like taking the initiative and the thought of having a string of attacks up my sleeve makes me smile. So it's not like I'm a timid soul. But it's so easy to get into a mindset. Same as I ended up in the "I can't do it" mindset regarding takedowns (which I have successfully discarded), I'm in a defensive mindset out of habit and experience. Now that my skill level has improved, it needs to be matched up with an aggressive attitude. I know that aggressive sounds a bit over the top, I'm not aggressive with my training partners. What I means is the opposite to defensive, taking the initiative and dictating the pace of the match. I hope I've expressed that well enough.

So for next year, my goal is to be active rather than passive and to develop a small arsenal of effective techniques which are part of a small and simple game plan.

I think BJJ will be even more fun next year :-) And of course that will translate into my no-gi grappling and standup stuff as well.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

takedowns - there may be hope yet!

Just like so many other people, I've not been mad keen on takedowns. Not very good at any of them, not very successful and not confident. Not sure if the lack of confidence led to lack of success or the lack of success (from lack of skill) led to a lack of confidence. Probably it's a bit of a vicious circle. Particularly shooting for a takedown wasn't working. I had the grace and the success rate grace of a drunken gorilla....

So I will admit I was secretly very glad that we usually start from knees or in some sort of open guard at BJJ. I know that a lot of people poo-hoo that, but I suits me just fine :-)

Both in BJJ and PFS, we have been working on takedowns for some time. So I know a variety of takedowns for both gi and nogi situations. I know how to do various versions of singles and doubles, how to do entries by shooting or from clinch. I also learned a hip toss, some foot sweeps and a sacrifice throw. And of course I've been taught how to fall so I don't break my head or my limbs.

All the same, usually when I hear the word takedown, I cringe, and if I had half a viable excuse, I'd do something else. On the other hand, I don't like guard pulling in BJJ, to have half a chance against the bigger guys, I can't start off on the bottom.

I notice now that here and there something positive is happening. Sometimes when we drill takedowns, I pull one off nice and sweet. That must have given me a bit of heart which means now I'm that little bit more committed which in turn means I have more success.

Last Wednesday, we did some free wrestling from standup, it was a small class and everyone had a turn with everyone else, so that was four fights for each of us. We had set out a little competition sized area and someone scored the fights. I'll admit right upfront that I cringed when I was told the plan for the day. The smallest of the four guys is probably 10kg heavier than I and he is a much quicker and more flexible at less than half my age (sigh...). The biggest of the guys would easily be twice my weight. Wrestling with these from a ground start is tough enough, but from standing??

I had the first fight with the young guy and he took me down. Don't recall how. It went for a while but I was mostly on the bottom defending until he isolated one of my arms. One of the fights I barely recall (goldfish brain ;-) ). I think I was looking for a takedown when he pulled guard, and then I was swept and then it went downhill from there to a submission I really can't remember.

On the really big guy I shot in on for a single leg. He put his weight on me, so I dropped down for a low single but still got flattened. Then I was systematically squashed until he had high mount and made me tap from a wristlock. Anyway, at least I attempted the takedown. The last fight was with another fairly large guy (probably 30kg heavier than I). I attempted a takedown again, not sure how he defended but I ended up with him in my guard from where we had a lively wrestle. It ended in another submission, after I fought off his choke attempts for a long time. Just can't remember the details.

But the relevant issue of the whole session was that for a change, I (yes, I!) went for most of the takedowns. Sensei noted that it was commendable that I took the initiative and that it would always be very difficult for me to take down big guys with more experience. I allowed myself to be very pleased with my little self ;-)

Last week we also had a PFS class where we worked on takedowns among other stuff. We learned a new version of a double, where you drop, step in deep, hug his knees with your arms, clasp your hands and bring them towards you while driving forward with your shoulder on his belly. As he goes down, your shoulder pins him to the floor, and you hold his legs together while your legs walk around to side control. The guy I worked with is usually very good at takedowns, but this one didn't work well for him. I think he had an off day (I know the feeling all too well). First, the takedown didn't work for me either, but we had the chance to get in a few reps and in the end it worked quite sweetly. So although we only drilled, it was another success for me.

In tonight's PFS class, we worked various combinations. Step and pivot to avoid a punch, and from there to either a kick, a combination of punches or a shoot. We drilled shoots from various positions, avoiding punches. At the end of the class, we briefly did some free sparring from standup, all allowed. In the past, I used to dread those because for the life of me I couldn't get a good entry for a takedown, so it would either just stay up or I'd get taken down to an inferior position. Groundfighting with punches thrown in.... I don't like to be on the bottom! The difference tonight was that I was the one who initiated the takedowns. Never mind the fact that I was idiotic enough to attempt a single with my head on the outside. I deserved the guillotine choke I had to tap to. Never mind I did the same damn thing again. At least the second time I defended the choke.

What I was pleased about was the fact that I initiated the takedowns. In the first spar I shot for a single when I saw an opening. In the second one, the guy really didn't want to be taken down, and tried to keep me away with kicks. But I snared his leg and got the single that way.

There is so much to be learned and so much of my technique to be tidied up and mistakes to be eliminated. But something in my mindset has changed, and that seems to be making all the difference. Believing I can do something is such an important step in succussfully doing something. The mind is a powerful thing, it needs training and developing, just like the body ;-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

how things change

I have been reflecting on my training for some time. I was questioning my commitment to training in a martial art which emphasizes forms and patterns rather than live training.

The thought of learning more katas and other patterns didn't make me enthusiastic. Also, for me, there will never be proficiency, let alone efficiency or elegance in high kicks, spinning kicks and some other pretty stuff. I am tall and have long legs and my balance sucks, so to speak. I was really struggling with those kicks. And that illustrates a point. If something isn't working for me due to body type or lack of ability, then I'd rather just learn it on a basic level and concentrate on other techniques which I can do efficiently. Just talking from a self defence point of view here.

That aside, I've been doing between 7 and 9 individual classes most weeks, some days 2 or even 3 classes. That's pretty heavy so by the last class in one evening, the brain is full and the body empty!

Ok, so to cut a long story short, I told Kyoshi last night that I will not continue with my Karate training. I told him why. It upset me a bit because I hate endings of any sort. A friend later commented it was fair to be upset because I put emotion into the training so it's an emotional thing to end it, and that's OK. In any case, Kyoshi did laugh and say that I'm a bit unusual, liking all the "gung-ho" stuff (ie: PFS and BJJ), where a lot of people who come for Karate lessons, especially the women, prefer the orderly, no/low contact nature of this Karate school. And yes, that's right, I do like the live training with plenty of sparring, and close contact is fine (otherwise I wouldn't like grappling!).

As I said, I'd been mulling that over for a while. I'm not a believer in doing something for the sake of it, if my heart isn't in it. I'd rather not do it than do it half-heartedly and waste the instructor's time and my time. I'm glad for what I did learn in the time I trained, and what I learned about myself. I'm glad for the solid background in dojo etiquette and mutual respect. I'm glad for the other doors it opened for me, too. I have no regrets about my training. Only I came to a point where I wished to draw a line under it and move onto other things.

So while it was sad, now I'm relieved and I can put all my energy into what I like best - the gung-ho stuff :-)

The rest of last night was fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed a PFS class which was all (no-gi) grappling. Aside from learning a couple of new moves, we did a fair bit of rolling. One of the sweeps I learned in BJJ last week worked sweetly for me. Also, I caught myself using a hook on someone's leg to try and move him off me, which turned into another sweep. I didn't think, it just happened. I remember thinking WOW, how did that happen. As if the foot was self controlled, it hooked and propelled the guy's leg skywards. I've not been using hooks enough, so that was reason for happiness ;-) Right at the end, I wrapped up the last roll with a neat and tight triangle, after lots of positional changes. Something else to feel good about.

In the BJJ class, we worked on a transition from armbar from guard to sweep or from armbar to omoplata. Then another sweep where we attempt an armbar but they lean across.

The rest of the class was rolling. I ended up going non-stop for about 15 minutes. As usual, I was smashed by one of the big guys. I try my best to stay out from under him, but he still gets me every time.

I rolled with one of the newer guys and helped him a bit with escapes and sweeps until I choked him from guard. During a second roll with him later on, I again helped him a little. He did a lovely bridge and roll at one stage and I told him so. The I swept him and ended up in mount. I threated to wrap up one of his arms and while he defended, I took his other arm in a figure four.

I then had an excellent roll with one of our purple belts. He pointed out when I made on major mistake and gave me a chance to go back one step. I had turtled up and was going for a single but had my head outside. Put myself in a beautiful position for a rollover crucifix.... Duh. We went on for a bit and there were lots of positional changes. I made a slick changeover from something to a triangle once ("nice!"), but then he defended in a way that still makes me scratch my head. He somehow extended one of my arms with his foot??? During the roll, he didn't attack mostly, just defended, which gave me a chance to work my attack game. I (think) I ended up armbarring him.

Then my turn was with a big blue belt. I continued working on my new strategy of sprawl, head control, try to get the back. He turtled which I still have trouble with, but I succeeded in turning him over and getting his back. Couldn't sink the choke but maintained back control for a while. Then various things happened (which I can't recall) until I saw an opportunity for another triangle. I didn't have it in really tight, but he said he wanted to try some new defence so I waited. We had a laugh as he couldn't remember all of it. I don't know where it went from there but time was up soon after.

I know I managed several sweeps during the evening's assorted rolls, I escaped several bad positions and I saw and capitalized on several opportunities to attack. And recently I noticed that I can go from one attack to another, because I can see the opening and because I have the other attack in my head. I must be on the right track, and it feels great. It makes up for the frequent DUH moments when I go blank and don't know what to do or something I try results in a heroic failure that lands me in a really crappy position. I know that in the beginning sometimes I was hesitant to try things, because I was worried about failing and landing on the bottom. The difference is that now, if I end up on the bottom, I see that as an opportunity to work my escapes. And undoubtedly, I will have endless opportunities to practice escapes :-))

So that was my Monday evening.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ripping arms off...

Summer has arrived. I think we must have skipped the spring again, as it seems like we only had cold weather so far. Yesterdays' lunchtime class was rather a bit on the hot side. The Monday evening classes hat been quite warm, too, but yesterday's BJJ class really made the sweat run...

I have not been happy with my armbars from mount. Never quite got the hang of those, and therefore never used them while rolling. I know I used to leave too much space, do it too slow. Just felt terrible. And then yesterday, Sensei observed one of my crappy armbars from mount. That was it, armbar practice coming your way, girl. Oh-oh....

Part of me cringed, like I do when I need to do something I'm not good at and know it. The other part said GOODY! Here is my chance to say goodbye to crappy armbars and hallo to decent ones. In any case, I knew I was in for some work.

There were only four of us in the class, a big blue belt, a huge 4-stripe white belt, and a the guy who is often my training partner and fellow 3-striper. Sensei announced that I would be doing armbars on everyone, 20 on each of the guys and they had to say if I did it wrong. With plenty of feedback from Sensei and the respective armbar victim, I found the problems and addressed them.

By the time I had done 60+ armbars I felt hot and tired but things were definitely improving. Interestingly, I've always preferred to do them on someone's right arm. But because I'd been doing them wrong, now it was actually easier to get them right on the other side. My brain wasn't clogged up with incorrect movement patterns I suppose. So I managed several really tight armbars to the left arm of my victims, whereas the other side still needs polishing.

Where I was going wrong was not enough weight on the hands as I stepped over. I didn't lean on my hands enough, and it caused me to take a little step near his head before stepping over, which slowed it down and pushed my body up. The other issue was that I was unaware of the extra step and then it took some work to get out of the habit. Sensei pointed out the truth in the saying "practice doesn't make perfect - perfect practice make perfect!". Having practiced crappy armbars, now I have to first unlearn the crap before I can learn good ones. Sigh.

Anyway, the other thing which caused me problems was a bit of a fear of kicking my partner in the head during the step over. So I was hesitant, which made it slow and awkward. I got into severe trouble over "hesitant" and "careful" ;-). Oh well, I guess I've been accidentally kicked in the head several times myself and lived. It's not that we want to kick each other, but sometimes trying to be "nice" actually ruins good techniques. Ironically, if I do it smooth and fast, there is a lot less chance of kicking my partner. Right!

And finally, my grips weren't good. Once I concentrated on the correct grip near his elbow with both hands, that automatically pulled his arm in tighter for better control. That, combined with aiming to sit on his shoulder before sitting back finally gave me the nice tight control I'd been lacking. Even on the big barrel chested guys this works. All it needed then was to close the knees, pull the heels in and we had armbars that worked.

Success! Now I can successfully rip arms off from mount :-)

The rest of the class was free rolling. Despite the heat, this was pretty enjoyable. I had the bluebelt guy who didn't use all of his weight and he gave me little openings so I work not only on escapes, but on positional changes. I had his back several times but couldn't work any choke because he protected himself well. Sensei walked past and showed me an alternative rear naked choke where you use the knuckle of your thumb to work the hand in. Once the hard base of the thumb is against his windpipe, a little turn of hand will bring it into play. That was interesting, but the best part of the rolling was the opportunity to flow from one position to the next, to recognise openings and submission possibilities. At one point I tried a crucifix, but he grabbed my leg and I ended up in strife. On another occasion, I nearly succeeded in a modified crucifix without looking for it, and he reckoned that might have potential. But to be fair, I was swept, rolled, reversed and controlled a fair bit of the time, and if it hadn't been for the little openings, I would have been mat pizza in due course :-))) All in all, the sort of roll where you walk away happy and with a headful of stuff for next time. Thanks, mate!

An excellent class and well worth the large puddles of sweat I left everywhere!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm back!

My arm is better and I couldn't stand staying home another day :-))

We had a relatively easy class. A a senior guy took us two 3-stripers through the 4-stripe syllabus stuff. 3 armlock escapes as well as an escape from side control, escape from mount, escape from knee ride, pass half guard to mount and standing guard pass.

The escape from knee ride we had worked on some months ago, and I can remember that I couldn't get it together at the time. This time, however, it seemed obvious and drilling it gave me no issues whatever. Same for my partner, who commented that we must have learned something in the meantime :-).

I had been reading up on alternative knee ride escapes as I had been convince that this one wouldn't work for me. It's the one where you grab the guy's pant leg near his upright knee with your near hand (supported with the far one if necessary), then push his knee off you belly with your left while you hip escape away and turn into him. You grab his right foot with your left hand and pull it to the inside or outside (depending on where it is) while bracing up on your right arm to get to your knees. Holding on to the foot, you push into him to make him tip over backwards, a bit like a modified single leg from the knees. Anyway, after going through it all again, it works, and I'm pretty pleased about that.

The standing guard pass isn't my thing. I sometimes have a dodgy lower back, and while I can stand up, there is no way I can lift the guy up onto my knees. Just won't happen. Yes, I've started doing squats and I hope to get there some day, but for now I went through the motions with my partner's back on the floor. I found if I jolt around enough, he still opens his guard ;-)

The headlock escapes are reasonably technical, but I think I can work them out. I'm not sure how I would fare in a roll with one of the two really big guys, but the sweep version, while painful with a big guy (ahh, my ribs!!) should work if I get my technique right. And I think I understand the critical parts of it now. The other two escapes will be a challenge against a big guy with big strong arms, when they are clamped around my neck with their weight on my chest. Yes, I know good technique helps, but if they drive their considerable weight onto me, I find all escapes hard going.

Even the vanilla mount escape (elbow to knee, hip escape, go to half guard, hip escape the other way, go to guard) is tough against a big guy, unless I turn into him and get my side to the mat before he establishes his position. Even when he's not attacking me, it's hard. But then I'm talking a guy about twice my size. I think positive here, if I can escape his mount, I can escape anyones!

We had a bit of rolling afterwards. As my partner's neck was a bit sore and my shoulder in recuperation mode, we agreed to go easy. Still ended up in crazy positions. Managed a collar choke from the back. Then had to tap out, just because my left arm screamed, and that was without an actual submission attempt. But other than that, the arm behaved very well and I was pleased. I made some stupid mistake not retrieving my arm from around his neck when I had lost control over him, and it hadn't been time out, that would have been another submission, and well deserved. So good to roll with a considerate partner and we both had several laughs and learned something.

Had an enjoyable class and I'm so happy to be back :-))

Saturday, October 31, 2009

and just as I thought things were going well...

Yeah, bang. Injury.

Thankfully nothing too serious. A tear in my left rotator cuff. Some movements hurt, but I can move it in all directions. And it's improving. But it means time off and missed training. The last thing I want is to aggravate it or re-injure it before it's good, because then it will be more down time and more pain.

What really annoys me is that someone did it when he cranked on a figure 4 armlock, and it was so avoidable.

We were doing some no-gi grappling after learning a couple of new sweeps. I'd been working with a new, tall, young guy. I talked him all the way through the sweeps when it was his turn to practice them which was cool. He succeeded with both variation after a little while and plenty of help from me. Then we started grappling. As he was so evidently clueless, I gave him openings and encouragement and basically let him pass my closed guard. I let him get to mount with minimal resistance so that he could work on his transition. I said good, now what subs do you know from here? So he pushed on my left arm with both his to set up a figure 4. All good. I thought of a bridge and roll but thought no, let's see if he knows how to do this. So he put the grips on, goes to side control and starts lifting my elbow. I tapped with my foot as my left hand was busy and my right hand stuck under him. Then he hesitated and before I could say anything else, he cranked the sub on with a yank. Something in my left shoulder said CRACK. About the same time I said SHIT! Oh, he heard the crack and let go. I said that I tapped so why did he crank it on more? Well, he didn't know you could tap with your foot. WHAT?!?!

My shoulder was a bit sore but felt fully functional, so I didn't go ape. I gave him the lecture about tapping and looking after your partners etc. I mentioned it to the instructor who gave the guy another lecture about the issue. Though I iced it of course, next morning was not good.

The bottom line was the guy didn't pay attention, because he was so busy putting on the sub. How on earth he could get an adrenal rush from it after being talked through and encouraged every step of the way, that I don't comprehend. Hell, it's not like we had an all out roll (not that it would be acceptable then..).

In hindsight, I should have done what I normally do, that is go to full survival position and never let him near my arm. Hell, he only ended up in a dominant position because I let him. He only got the arm because I let him. I should have just assumed that a newbie would go all egoistical and careless and put me in danger. I should have been more concerned with my safety than with his learning experience. I guess I'm just not used to people being such Neanderthals.

I've had overzealous guys give me sore elbows from hasty armbars, had elbows to the head, a sore neck etc, but this is the first time I'm having to take time out because of someone's carelessness. I'm not damn well impressed, that's for sure.

And I was having such a good week. I'm certainly not going to be wrestling for a few days, which means I'll be home and sulking (only kidding). Hopefully it'll be ok next week.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

spot on comments about women training BJJ

Leslie has written some excellent posts about her BJJ experiences in her blog BJJ Grrl.

She has a whole section about women in BJJ which includes links to resources.

There is a new page called Training as Women which is particularly good. It echos a lot of my personal experiences. When I started out in BJJ, I had a lot of doubts about all sorts of things, so I know it could be helpful to other women to read about Leslie's experiences. It may help them and their male training partners to see things in perspective.

I'm all for asking for no special treatment during training, only in terms of size/weight/strength differences. But Leslie addresses some very good points.

BJJ - a year on

It's a year today that I went to my first BJJ class.

Yeah. Well. What can I say???

I suppose to sum it up I will say that I sit here after my Friday/Saturday big double session sporting bruises, mat burn, sore ribs and certain other aches and pains. But I can hardly wait until the next class on Monday!

The truth of the matter is that the minor inconveniences take nothing away from the enjoyment I get from doing BJJ. It's the feeling of full on concentration, being THERE, NOW, especially during rolling, which is one of the addictions to me. Sure I get squashed, and I get frustrated and I tap often. But then there is the feeling of achievement, the momentary high, when a sweep works, when the next movement is happening before I think of it or when a submission works. I will be honest, I'm competitive and I love winning. In the sense that I have bettered myself, not so much in the sense that I 'beat' my opponent. That is why a successful escape or a good sweep is just as joyful as a successful sub. That is also one reason why I don't mind rolling with people more experienced, bigger, faster, stronger (which is nearly everyone, anyway ;-) ). It gives me the opportunity to become better. Even if it's the long, hard way.

I've now been through injuries, had a horrible plateau, overtrained (and paid for it). There was a brief time when I was constantly sore, tired, and started to fear some of the heavier guys, because I hurt every time I even drilled with them, let alone when I wrestled with them. I was always on the bottom, being ground into the mat and escapes didn't work too good. Newbies trashed me. Sometimes I hardly had the energy to get back up, let alone go another round. I've never encountered anything like BJJ for finding weak spots in body or mind. Although I truly hate to admit it and am still ashamed of it, I was so frustrated that I nearly choked holding back tears on a couple of occasions. Hey, this is a tough guy's game, tears are for girls, right? Worst of all was that I felt I as being unfair to my training partners and my Sensei. Unfair and incapable of doing anything useful. Which made it even worse, to the point where I was so angry with myself that I could barely speak. But give up? No. I'm too pig headed for that. I apologised for my "sense-of-humour-failure" and went right back. Determined to get better. Determined to believe that I had to pay my dues on the bottom and prepared to accept it. And determined to not be such a "girl".

To this day sometimes I take the easy route. We roll, I get destroyed. So often, the senior guys are pointing out where I went wrong and we go back to that spot and we go again. That is SO useful. Also, I get in a bad spot and we stop so I get the chance to analyse the situation, see the danger, work out the options and go from there. Now sometimes my inner lazy pigdog whispers in my ear that that's good enough. I'm hot and tired and stuck on the bottom and now that I've had the explanation, we can go get up and be done, have a rest, right? Now lucky for me, these pesky guys then say OK, now work out of it. There's never an easy way out of a bad spot, so it's work, work, work. I can't thank them enough for their explanations, their patience and their pushiness :-). Without good training partners, I would be nothing.

And without a good teacher, I would be nothing. I'm lucky enough to have good teachers and my Sensei in particular is a driving force behind my progress. His sometimes more gentle pushing and sometimes less gentle "toe up the butt" type of motivation is just the right mix. Thank you :-))

So if anyone tells you that BJJ is character building, take my word. It is. It finds and exposes the weak spots. The simple, no BS, in the moment character of live sparring is a bit like a washing machine. It washes away excuses, pretenses, ego, self-deceipt and other worries. It leaves only myself, my wits, my skills, totally focussed on the moment. It brutally shows me my shortcomings. And boy, there are plenty of those!

I think that any martial art which pushes your body and mind to perform beyond previous levels has the potential to to help me recognise myself. Every martial art, if practiced with the right spirit and dedication is a journey of self improvement Those arts where live sparring is included seem to me to be of greater value in that respect. The pressure testing of techniques in a live scenario will give the best feedback of what works well for me and where my weak spots are.

So a year on, I still like BJJ. In fact, I like it even better now. It's an addiction. I'll watch a training DVD over lunch or dinner if I have the time and I take a BJJ book to bed. How bad is that ;-) ?? So I'll gladly put up with the minor pains and all my friends shaking their head in disbelief every time my "weird hobby" comes up in conversation.

So see you back on the mat on Monday!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

purple belt wisdom

In BJJ tonight, I was paired with one of the purple belts. First drill: front sweeps.

OMG. I've been having a hard time with those. Combination of less-than-perfect lower back (probably age and abuse related..), making me feel weak in squat-like positions. But also lack of good technique. So although I've done front sweeps during gradings and managed ok, I'd been slowly but surely talking myself into "I can't do this".

So now I'm supposed to drill this sweep, slowly, properly and with no momentum to assist. Luckily my purple belt partner is my size and near my weight. I tell him I'm not good at these and that in rolling I'd never, ever think of using it. In any case, when I had a go, he made the observation that one of my legs felt stronger than the other (the right) which is why I might be having trouble. So he suggested two things. Firstly to sweep over the other shoulder. Secondly, to change the foot placement. Instead of having a foot on each of his hips, to place my right foot closer to his middle, to take a bit more weight. He said he's had a sore ankle once and used that to save it a bit.

I give it a go and I'm surprised about the difference it makes. Several more sweeps later my body has "understood" the adjustment and it's working. Not fabulously well, but I'm getting there. And the last sweep I try feels sweet. I can't help but comment: how smooth was that!!

Now in principle, I should have worked that out for myself. But it took the observation, feel and experience of someone more senior than myself to find and correct the problem.

Such a minor thing, such a large effect. Both in the sense that a small adjustment made the sweep possible for me. And in the sense that it shook me out of thinking "I can't" and put me back on the track of "I can", which is so important.

Monday, October 19, 2009

just another enjoyable Saturday

I have no particular reason for another post :-)

I had a great Saturday with two very enjoyable classes. A PFS class in the morning and a BJJ class after lunch. Shoots, takedowns, sprawling and punching drills in PFS. In BJJ, a new sweep, rehearsal of basic drills and then some free wrestling.

Friday/Saturday are tough two days, as I have a late Friday night BJJ class, followed by open mat. And then the Saturday double. Generally, I'm pretty destroyed by the Saturday afternoon, but it's well worth it ;-). But this time I felt top of the world. Of course I'm glad to have the Sunday off though.

When I came home, my friend decided it was time for a photo. I so hate posing for photos! But ah, it didn't work out too bad - if I may say so myself. It's even hard to make out the black eye. My second black eye in about two weeks! This time it's the right one, and just in time after the left one faded. It did not happen during BJJ, and the guilty party shall remain anonymous. Of course there are matching bruises in a lot of other places, and of late, I'm sporting mat burns, too. But a black eye sort of sticks out like dog's balls. People give you funny looks ;-).

Anyway, all in a day's fun and I'm looking forward to my next class!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

BJJ grading - three stripes!!!

We had another grading last night. It wasn't quite as much hard work as the last one, but we were certainly kept moving :-). Actually, I enjoyed myself a lot, both in the drills, and in the wrestling we did throughout the grading.

So I'm now the proud wearer of three stripes on my white belt. And what's best about it is that it entitles me to partake in open mat after class on Friday nights. I said to Sensei some months ago (just after I received my second stripe), that I really was looking forward to my three stripe grading just because I want to be allowed to stay for open mat. So yesterday, when Cal and I became 3rd stipers, we both said oh, goody, open mat - here we come :-))) And of course we stayed after class!

A couple of guys were awarded their first and second stripe also. It's so nice to see how pleased everyone is for everybody who passes a grading. I'm really glad to be part of a school where there is such a good, supportive and sportsmanlike undertone to everything we do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

back again

I've had the flu. No training for 10 days!! Waaah.

It's bad enough to be feeling horrible. But it's worse not being able to go to classes. But it's pointless to go back too early, before I'm recovered. The last thing I want is to get sick again. And it wouldn't be very public spirited to share the nasties with my training partners. So I was patient and stayed at home and just kept up my stretching. Yeah, ok, I admit it, I also practiced my katas and did a bit of sinawali ;-)

But yesterday I had my first training session since I was sick and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a PFS class with a bit of stand up, a bit of grappling and some takedowns. I was still a little bit short of breath, but it didn't hold me back. And it was SO GOOD to be doing something again.

Tonight, I went to BJJ. Lots and lots of rolling. And despite the fact that I was a bit short of breath again on a couple of occasions, I held up well and actually felt better as the class wore on. My escapes were happening. I had good starts as well so I made it to some good positions and had a chance to try for some subs. I stayed behind after class for some more rolling which I felt fit enough for. Had several more good rolls and as usual, picked up some good stuff. We have such a good mob, with the senior guys always taking time to explain moves and help you.

Came home on a real high :-)

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I'm back home from my first BJJ competition. What a long day.

I competed in the women's 60-70kg white belt division at the Will-Machado Asia Pacific Championships in Melbourne. I came home with a trophy for third place. This doesn't mean too much in itself because the luck of the draw and the small number of women competing meant I only had one fight in this division, which I lost it to the eventual division winner. The fight went nearly full time but I had to tap out to a lapel choke.

I was also asked to compete in the open weight white belt division as they were a bit short in numbers. This fight went full time but I lost on points. What was nice was that after the fight, the girl from Tassie came over to say hallo and she complimented me on my good grips and told me what a hard time I gave her :-) .

Of course I thought much about both fights and what I did right and what I did wrong. One mistake I made in the first fight was being too relaxed. I had waited and waited and been called up and then had to wait again. I was determined not to get worked up about it and I was lucky that I managed to get in a bit of a warmup just before I was called to the mat. But I walked out there and bang! she went for a shoot (while I was sort of going... hey man, here I am, this is so cool). I sprawled but a bit late, she angled off and hey presto, side control. What also surprised me was the intensity. It's not like rolling in class, that is for sure! Soon after, she got mount, as I couldn't escape. She tried to choke me but I defended while getting half guard. Her coach kept yelling at her to cross-face and make me feel uncomfortable. There was some pretty heavy elbowing going on to my face and neck, that's for sure. I defended an armbar attempt and more lapel chokes while trying for escapes. I managed half guard at least once more but in the long run, she caught me out with a choke.

I was disappointed initially, but on thinking about it some, I've come to the conclusion that I did some things right, and I made her work for her victory. She apologized after the fight for 'the facial'.... So that was my first fight.

The second fight took longer to go to the ground. I tried to get a good setup and good grips for a takedown, but she beat me to it. However, I managed to pull her straight into my closed guard. I spent some time breaking her posture, while looking for chokes. She had a very hard time to get posture and wasn't making any progress in passing my guard. But then I stupidly went for a sweep at the wrong moment, giving her an opening and she passed my guard. As before, I couldn't escape the side control and I ended up mounted. As before, I gained half guard a couple of times, but she managed to get to mount. But I kept her busy with my escape attempts which meant she didn't attack much and I defended some chokes well. So time was up, but I had scored no points while she had scored for several positions. So I lost this fight, too. But I felt I did much better than I did in the first fight.

I certainly came home with a headfull of new stuff I learned. I was warned that competitions are a different thing altogether, and I can only agree to that. It pressure-tested not only my skills but my ability to function under mental pressure. I found that I need to work on my skills, especially my escapes and my half guard game. But the other thing is that I need to get more worked up. I simply was too relaxed to begin with and lost valuable time and position before getting my act together. And even then I seemed to have loads of time to listen to what people were yelling (at me and my opponent) and listen to my opponents (heavy!) breathing ;-) . My conditioning was fine, at least for the two fights I had.

Will I compete again? Absolutely. I had a great time and learned so much.

I've competed in a lot of equestrian events over the years, so I was familiar with competition pressures. But I had never been to a martial arts competition. I was positively surprised by the respect the competitors showed each other and the judges, the support each team gave their fighters and the general atmosphere of the competition. What specifically impressed me was that a lot of opponents took to the practice mats after a fight, to show each other moves they used during fights. I have to say that aside from a few team competitions in the horses world, the general level of sportsmanship, respect, goodwill etc lags way behind what I saw at the BJJ competition. It is ironic, that a fighting art, whose aim is to hurt and disable the opponent can generate a much higher level of sportsmanship than a "gentle" art like horse riding.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Today, I graded for my Zenshin Karate green belt (4th kyu).

I enjoy gradings and even the fact that I had to go for a run before (I hate running!) didn't detract from the occasion. Not that it was a very long run...

It doesn't seem so long ago that I was a white belt and I remember my first grading quite well. I was looking in awe at what the higher belts had to do. What seemed far away and almost unattainable at the time is now reality. As I'm progressing through the kyu grades, my fitness level is improving along with my skills. Sometimes I get caught up in it all and it's good to reflect on the progress made, rather than looking at that oh so distant goal of shodan. And knowing that that is where it really all begins, that's a big task ahead.

Well, it's the journey that's the most important to me, and the little milestones which I reach on the way, a skill attained here, a problem overcome there.

So the new belt is a milestone, one of the bigger ones. But the best thing about it is that I'll be learning new stuff now, new moves, new katas.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

BJJ for women

Found this really good post on Miss Catface's Blog titled Brazilian jiujitsu for women .

There is a bit about attire, hygiene and some general info for women who are thinking of trying out BJJ.

With nearly a year of BJJ, it's pretty much exactly the same advice I'd give to a newbie. Even the list of her first aid box contents reads just like mine :-)


Sunday, August 23, 2009

everything is linked

Can't recall where, but I found a reference to an interesting sounding book. So interesting, I bought it. It's called "The Last Wrestlers: A Far Flung Journey In Search of a Manly Art" by Marcus Trower.

The first chapter is about India. The second which I'm reading now is about Mongolia. As the author visits the different countries (there are further ones in the book), he asks questions about the history of wresting, the customs, if there is a spiritual connection and how the wrestlers live, train, eat and conduct themselves.

What struck me this evening were the explanations of of some of the Mongolian wrestlers and how they train and what makes them strong. Mongolia is a country of herdsmen who live from and with herds of cattle, yak, sheep, goats and of course horses. Through my other great passion - horses and horsemanship - I have read a little about Mongolian people and their horses. Over the years of my involvement with horses, I have seen and experienced horses in numbers and on a professional basis, much more so than the average recreational horse owners. Ok, so where's the connection you ask?

Well, as the author travels to the country outside Ulan Bataar to visit the places where great wrestlers come from, he stays with herdsmen and talks to many wrestlers. When asked how they train and learn and how they become strong, part of the answer is that they learn from a young age to handle livestock. They literally wrestle foals and grapple cows! I have to explain this a little more in detail. Unlike here (Australia) and where I come from (Europe), in Mongolia, it's a daily chore to tie up the foals and milk the mares. The milk is used in milk tea, straight or fermented as an alcoholic drink. It's a staple of the Mongolian diet. Apparently, they tie up the foals so they can't suckle. When the mares' udders are full, they lead each foal to it's dam, let it have a sip and then take it away to milk the mare and collect the milk for the humans. Some foals aren't keen on leaving and wrestling matches are common.

While I can't say I'm used to drinking mares' milk (especially not the fermented variety!), I certainly have milked mares on several occasions (it's more difficult than milking a cow). And having been in the stud and breeding business, I have certainly wrestled foals :-). Not so much to take them from their mothers, but sometimes to catch them or teach them to lead or to administer medications or trim their hooves. And yes, in one of my previous lives as jillaroo/stationhand, I've also grappled calves, even sheep. So I can kind of relate to the what the author is talking about. It certainly tickled my funny bone thinking how ironic it is that I have wrestled with people and with farm animals.

It is also funny that my relatively new interest in wrestling has such a strong connection - at least in Mongolia - to horses. Everything is linked. :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

BJJ Study

Bryan is running an academic study based on a survey of BJJ practitioners.

For details and links to the survey, please go to his blog BJJ Study.

Monday, August 17, 2009

gi pants

Every pair of traditional gi pants I own came with a drawstring made from pants material. That works ok the first couple of times, but then after a few wears and washes, the things twist.

I was soon fed up with the acrobatics and strength required to pull the strings tight. Having read that some gi pants come with cords, I bought some cord. I bought mine at the markets, because I happened to see some there, but any store selling sewing and craft stuff should have it. The stuff I bought is just the right thickness and it's soft so it doesn't cut into me if the slits at the sides of the pant top gape open during rolling.

I've replaced the material with cotton cord in all my gi pants now. To do that is very easy. Tie a knot in the end of the existing string to attach the cotton cord. Then slowly pull the cord through the pants (once along the front and twice along the back). Tie cord ends off. Wonderful.

The photo shows the simple figure eight knot I use to attach the new cord to the existing string before I pull it through.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Women's boxing

Times are changing - what great news!

I read on the news this morning that the London Olympic Games in 2012 will include women's boxing. Apparently, instead of having 11 men's events, there will be 10 men's and 3 women's events.

This will help a lot in getting more interest, more competitors, more sponsors and more events for women who want to compete in boxing.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Today, I came across this clip with JJ Machado:

NICE :-)

And what good timing for such goodies. Since getting over my recent slump, I'm attacking again and the difference in my mental approach to rolling is very noticeable. I'm actually getting submissions instead of spending all my time defending from the bottom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teaching - a learning experience

I've taught skills before, such as machinery operation, running a small office and using computer programs, all in an occupational/job scenario. To this end, I actually did a course many years ago, for which I have a pretty certificate to hang on my wall.

Primarily though, I've taught people how to handle and ride horses. I have a lot of experience to back me up and to help people, as I've been around horses since my teens. It's a subject area I enjoy very much. I find teaching fairly easy, mainly for those reasons. Casting a self-critical eye over my teaching skills, I have to admit that often I've been somewhat impatient. I guess I fell into the trap of making the assumption that things which are easy and/or obvious to me, are so perceived by my students. I didn't understand just how difficult the learning of a new task can be, as it had been some time since I learned a totally new set of skills. (I think that was learning to scuba-dive just over 10 years ago.)

I knew I was in for a lot of learning when I stepped on the Dojo floor for the first time in March 2008. I wasn't wrong.

I was asking my body to do things which it had never done before. I watched my teachers perform movements with effortless ease. When I tried the same (basic) movements, it looked like a parody performed by a wooden toy with inbuilt wobble-effect. Well, it felt bad enough, most of the time I was too embarrassed to look in the mirror. I was determined to get better and I did. But still, there were and are times when it seemed near impossible to string together three simple movements. And when the frustration set in (doesn't take long with me), it becomes even harder.

Then I started BJJ and learned yet another completely different set of skills, using (and abusing ;-) ) my body in ways it hadn't experienced before.

Haha, now I knew how my riding students felt!

Well, as a result I'm more patient with them and I break things down further. I have more realistic expectations of training outcomes, too. So learning one art has made me a better teacher of another art.

Now I've come full circle. I was asked to teach basic grappling skills to a class. I felt honoured to be asked but a bit apprehensive, too. After all, I have only been grappling for some 10 months, and - pardon the pun - I'm still grappling with the subject matter ;-) . There is so much of it. Sure I know some basic drills, basic positions and a number of attacks, sweeps, reversals. But I know that I only have a basic understanding. The fact that BJJ black belts still improve on their basic stuff is a bit humbling, after all, most of them have been grappling for 10 years or more. I am getting to the point where I am seeing underlying principles and beginning to string techniques together. I'm feeling for points of balance and I can see a point of attack. But I am humbled every time I roll! What I'm trying to say is that I know how little I know and how much more there is yet to learn. Even though I know a lot more than those I'm teaching, I'm acutely aware of the gaping holes in my game, but I will teach them to the best of my ability.

I took one class tonight and I feel it went quite well. It wasn't a big class, and I know all the guys. Basics is what they need and that's what we worked on. For example proper back control with hooks in and a correct RNC.

But teaching sure is harder than learning. When you learn, you only have to worry about yourself. When you teach, you have to worry about everyone in the class :-) But more importantly, different persons see different things and as a result ask different questions than the ones you asked when you learned the same thing. Other people have different body types, and what works for you may or may not work for them. To be able to teach something, your level of understanding of the subject matter has to be much higher, so that you can deal with the differences and the questions arising. However, this goes both ways. Watching and interacting with people you teach also helps you reach a higher level of understanding. When students are truly passionate about learning something, they will really apply themselves and they will ask holes into your head as well as freely share their observations.

So I view the teaching part of it as part of my learning experience. It will make me a better martial artist, and the skills I teach will help others to become better as well.

And after the first session, I'm not so nervous about it any more. I enjoy grappling too much :-)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grappling for older folks..

Being in the "over the hill and halfway up the next" age group, I always read with interest any wisdom imparted by others who are involved in the martial arts as they get older. I'm particularly interested in their opinions when it comes to wrestling.

Now, I'm not bitching, but my personal challenge (I'm not allowing myself to see it as a problem) is compounded by the fact that I'm a woman and that I started martial arts less than two years ago. What I have in my favour is the fact that I've always been very active, due to a work and life on a farm and around horses. Also I'm not too squeamish and have a reasonable level of pain tolerance.

... With other words I thought I was tough and in shape until I started grappling ;-) Well, that was my first mistake.

I've had my fair share of bumps and bruises and more serious stuff. But at the height of my competition 'career' with the horses I was several years younger and all the injuries I sustained and all the sore bits I had I got over pretty quickly. I never managed broken bones, but I ended up in the casualty ward with things like a kick to the abdomen, a broken nose and concussion and a near busted ankle. I injured my knee, nearly dislocated my jaw, was knocked out on a couple of occasions and my toes were bruised and battered. Yes, I was a wild child.

I had some years off from competition and that whole scene is behind me now. Instead, I discovered the martial arts. Only now, my body takes longer to get used to new things, takes longer to get over exertions and especially takes longer to get over injuries. That's something which frustrates me but with old age comes not only a more decrepit body, but a more mature mind (well...). So I know I have to deal with it and I guess I'm coming to terms with it.

Having recently come through a bit of a slump which I'm sure was mainly due to overtraining and post-flu fatigue, I've learned a few new lessons. The hard way. I need to listen to my body. I need to back off sometimes and miss a few sessions. Hard to do when BJJ is a bit of a burning passion, but if I still want to do this stuff in 10 years, I need to look after the body I was issued with. There are no warranty claims, no parts exchanges, no upgrades. What you see is what I've got. And like any ageing mechanism, it needs regular maintenance and a bit of TLC.

So tomorrow, I'm having a massage. Not because I'm hurting all over, I'm actually back to my usual training levels and holding up well. I'm having a massage because it will make me feel good and because it will loosen things I don't even notice are tight, and hopefully make me perform better. I'm sure I'll have down times again, but by investing in a bit of TLC for my old bones, I hope that I will feel better for longer or ward off another low spot.

Am I regretting getting started in BJJ? No way. Yes, it can be tough. Yes, I need to pace myself a little. Yes, I need to tap often and early. And yes, I enjoy it tremendously, even if it hurts at times. And I don't care that I'm old, a girl and a latecomer. The odd one out in most classes. I'm alive, and I'm so much more alive and in the moment when we're rolling, so it's all worth it.

And just to prove that I'm not the only one who's grappling on the downhill side of things, here are a few posts from Stephan Kesting's site, Grapplearts. Some of his Grappling Tips Newsletters deal with the older grappler. So if this subject is dear to your heart, read and enjoy :-)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fuji gi

I don't like to tumble dry my gis and as as I do several BJJ classes per week, winter is a difficult time to get them dry after washing. My house mates are now used to the sight of gis hanging about the house on coathangers for drying purposes :-) Anyway, I needed another one, so after a bit of research, I ordered a Fuji gi from Grapplingstore.com. Their service was great, I ordered on Tuesday and it was in the mail on Wednesday.

I tried out my new Fuji gi in class today after giving it a quick wash at 30 degrees to see if it would shrink. Yes, there was a little shrinkage and I expect a little more in subsequent washes, but the fit is excellent for my size and shape. Having pretty long arms and legs, I ordered an A3. With shrinkage, sleeves and pant legs are perfect. It certainly felt good during class and seems much softer than my Atama gi. I like the collar and the seamless back design. And there is plenty of reinforcement on the pant legs.

There is a logo on the back and on one of the sleeves. I haven't decided yet if I'll sew on any or all of the patches that came with it. One the one hand, patches can look cool, but some gis look like advertising billboards.

Anyway, my first impressions of the gi are excellent.

Trying harder

As much as I'd like to think of myself as superwoman (only kidding), the reality is that like everyone else, I have my comfort zones. In terms of training, it's the drills I know well and like, the number of pushups I know I can do, the positions in rolling which I'm better at. These are just examples.

I admit, I'm not the greatest self-motivator. When nobody is around, I work during my workouts, but I rarely push the boat out, or when I do, not long enough. I know it, I just seem to have trouble doing better. I will try some goal setting so I have something to work towards.

Now if I'm in class or at a grading, it's a different story altogether. I'm not sure if it's my competitive nature or if someone's expectations are motivation enough for me, but I sure push myself then. Suddenly, my comfort zone boundaries stretch substantially. I don't care how difficult or tiring it is, while there is any gas left in the tank, I keep pushing. Knowing that this works, I have used it. For example, stayed for sparring classes straight after full on Karate lessons, so that I would need to dig deep. And I don't think it's an ego thing, I just want to get used to fighting in a fatigued state, and have the opportunity to push myself.

During BJJ classes, I have come up against my limits quite often. I think I automatically step outside my comfort zone every time I step on the mat :-) But that's ok and in a way it's part of the overall challenge of BJJ. Especially when I first started, I'd inevitably end up on the bottom during a roll. Most of the guys are heavier than I, so I was squished and squashed and submitted every which way. There were times I couldn't breathe, couldn't move, was in pain and all those sorts of things which is why people love submission wrestling ;-) And there were many times when the gas tank was empty. Nothing more to give, arms like jelly, vision narrowing, breathing hard. But not once, even if at that instant some big guy sits on my chest, trying to rip my arm out, will I moan about how hard it is. Let me have a breather, a sip of water and let me at it again.

But there is no way that I would be able to replicate that kind of energy output while I'm working out solo.

Well, I'm not unique in this respect. I stumbled across a post on The Psychology of Success blog which talks about the same thing. It's called: To improve performance, you may want to get an audience or compete.

Also interesting are Roy Dean's comments regarding how to set a goal and then have a special occasion when you demonstrate to yourself and your teachers and peers that you have reached that goal. Have a look at Jimmy DaSilva: BJJ Brown Belt on Roy Dean's Blog. Awesome.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Starting late and excuses...

I sometimes wonder about starting late in life in something new. But I'm convinced that you are as young as you feel and medical problems aside, you should never say "I can't" or "I'm too old".

Of course it's great to discover a new passion when in your prime, like in your early twenties or even before that. But it's never too late until they nail the lid down. And why shouldn't you be passionate and give it your all, just because your fourtieth (alternatively, insert ANY age) birthday came and went?

There's a great post and comments on Steve's BJJ Blog, titled Don't let ____ be your excuse.

So if you are out there wondering if you would like to try BJJ, Karate or whatever. Stop wondering and give it a try. Do it now.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Books, video and dvd listing (my library)

I've put together a listing of the material in my library. It can be found here. That page also contains links to sites I've found useful, including suppiers I've used.

As time goes by, I will try to add reviews or at least comments about books and videos, and I will update the list as I go.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Up and blogging!

Today is the day where I finally start this blog properly.

I've been keeping a progress page elsewhere . Now I'm moving all the old entries to this blog and I'll be adding new bits and bobs as I go, together with various ah-ha (or sometimes duh!) moments from my training diary.

The old page will just contain a link to this blog and maybe some photos when I can get some more together. Photos are a problem. My friends and family don't understand my addiction, and it's pretty hard to convince anyone to come along to classes and watch and take photos. When I started Karate, my friends were worried about me. Why would anyone want to get hot and sweaty and hit and kick people? I wisely didn't mentioned the stuff we learn in PFS.. But when they found out about BJJ, they knew I'm totally off the planet. Wrestle??? Like as in: roll on the floor with sweaty men? You cannot be serious!

Needless to say the sight of my bruises and my occasional complaints about being tired and sore are just met with a shake of the head. Evidently, no person in their right mind would have a hobby that makes them look like a domestic abuse victim. Hell, no person of sane mind would willingly roll with blokes and get sweaty, particularly not a woman.

Well, I'm obviously abnormal :-) . So what's new?

On a positive note, on the rare occasions that I've been able to drag a less than willing partner or friend to a class, the comments at least hinted at admiration (such as: 'wow, that's much harder than what I thought', 'I wouldn't even last through the warmup, let alone the rest' etc.). And I have promises to watch at future gradings and at the comp I've entered.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

John Will seminar

John Will came and held a seminar at The Ballarat Dojo.

We learned entries for the single and double leg takedown, particularly from roundhouse kicks. We saw how foot placement and correct distance is of utmost important to set up the takedown. Depending on whether the kick is with the rear or front leg and whether we step forward after the kick, we are set up ideally for either the single or the double.

Then we worked on building the open guard from foot placement and getting the correct grips. John had some interesting comments about the importance of open guard. We then learned sweeps from the open guard.

As usual, the two hours passed way too quickly. John not only teaches methodically and in an easy to understand way, he breaks up the instructions and drills with stories and anecdotes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the letter is in the mail....

Today I posted my entry for the Will-Machado Asia Pacific BJJ Championships on 12 September 2009.

That will be my first MA competition and I'm certainly looking forward to it :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Visit to Black Belt Studios

Going to Geelong with Sempai Trent from The Ballarat Dojo (one of my instuctors there), I had the opportunity to particpate in a BJJ class at Black Belt Studios.

It was terrific to be so warmly welcomed. I learned heaps and all the guys were very helpful. I had my first chance to roll with a black belt, the instructor Craig Robinson. What an eye opener! I rolled with a lot of the other guys as well, getting something out of all of it. Thanks, guys for all the help. After all, it was an intermediate class, so I really appreciated the opportunity. I hope I'll be able to take up Craig on his offer to come back again.

I also watched a class full of blue belts and above, which gave me a lot of food for thought :-)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

BJJ grading

We had another BJJ grading. I'm the proud owner of two blue stripes on the white belt now.

I had to work for this one, we all did :-) . Sensei Glenn is a hard taskmaster.

Those of us who went for their second stripe had to again demonstrate the correct first stripe drills. Then we went through basic, hooking, front and back sweeps as well as chokes. We were assessed on the cross lapel choke from mount and guard, rear naked choke, front choke from guard and half nelson choke from sidemount. The grading wasn't finished until we had wrestled for a bit, attempting positional changes and submissions in a live situation. That, of course was the best part of the grading!

My thanks to my partners on the day, and congratulations to the others who graded the same day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Padilla & Sons gi

I received my Padilla & Sons gold weave kimono last week. What a nice piece of gear! And what nice and prompt service from Joe.

I decided on this gi after reading several lengthy reviews about the product. All agreed that these are excellent.

My only disappointment is that after a couple of washes, it has shrunk in the sleeves and pant legs. As I'm fairly tall and slight with long arms, I now realise that I should have ordered an A3 instead of an A2. I guess after my first Judo gi, which is huge, I wanted to be sure I had something better fitting, and I went too far the other way.

It's ok to wear, but it certainly isn't competition legal, which is a shame. But it's nice to wear, I love the material. Down the track I'll replace it with an A3.

Is buying a gi always such a hit and miss affair?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Karate grading

Zenshin Karate - Graded to maroon belt (which is 5th kyu).

Really enjoyed the grading. It was great to see how much effort everyone put into their training and especially on the day of the grading. Good to see the support from everyone for those who grade as well. It makes us all feel like a worthy part of the dojo and it makes the day even more enjoyable.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book - The Pyjama Game

Finished reading "The Pyjama Game - a journey into judo" by Mark Law.

I was interested in Judo as the mother art of BJJ and because the guy who wrote it started at the youthful age of 50. I greatly enjoyed the book, aside from history and general background about Judo, there are so many little anecdotes about famous judo players (and their ideosyncracies). But what I most enjoyed were the author's descriptions about his own encounters on the tatami mats, many were a hoot and I had tears in my eyes from laughing at times. I could certainly identify with the author at times. I loved the book.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reflecting on my journey so far

Just over a year has passed since I took my first Karate lesson and started on this journey. I guess that led me to reflect a little.

I've never regretted taking that first step and I continue to thoroughly enjoy my involvement with all three of my chosen disciplines. Why three, and such very different ones, that's a lot of classes? My sister agrees that a gene runs in our family that if we do anything, we do it full on :-).

The answer to why I chose the ones I do is a bit longer. I had a brief taste of Karate when I was in High School in Germany. We had a chance to choose the sport we liked in year 12. Karate appeared on the menu for the first time so I put my name down for it. I enjoyed it very much until, not long after, we emigrated to Australia. A combination of (relatively remote) places where I lived and my pig-headed obsession with all matters related to horses meant that I didn't follow up on any of the martial arts.

Since our last move, we are withing striking distance of Ballarat with all the opportunities offered by a decent sized town. I went through deep disappointments and disillusionment relating to my horse/riding/breeding involvement and I needed something new to focus on. Of course, there was no question that it would be Karate I would want to return to, so I did. I value all the things involved in practicing a traditional martial art, and the more I learn the more I enjoy it.

Coming from a background of physical activity (and don't believe people who tell you that having horses means you just get to sit on them and be carried around the countryside!), I had a reasonable level of fitness. But it still was a bit of a shock for my 40+ year old body :-). Well, the body is in much better shape now and I can do things I couldn't do when I was 20. Oh yeah, it's cost me a lot of sweat and then some, but it's well worth the effort.

True to my genetic heritage, I figured that where one martial art is good, two are better. As the Ballarat Martial Arts Centre offers PFS classes as well as Karate, I gave that a go. While initially my joining the PFS classes was a result of opportunity, I've long since come to see the uses of that type of training and with a year of learning, reading and researching, I think I'm reaping the benefits of this incredibly useful system. Weapons & disarms, boxing/striking, kicking, footwork, trapping, grappling and more :-). We are a small group only (I often wonder if the rest of the Dojo think we are mad), but we have an excellent instructor who keeps it interesting and challenging. It is totally unlike Karate in just about every way and I think it complements it very nicely. And I love the Kali sticks!

The grappling sessions in our PFS classes introduced me to takedowns and groundfighting. To my surprise, I liked it. Considering I'd always been worried about falling over, viewing the ground as dangerous territory (probably comes from all my years around horses) and liking a lot of interpersonal space, I took to it well. My takedowns are still inelegant, but once we're down, the ground is my ally now :-). Our grappling sessions are all no-gi and sometime we incorporate striking, giving it a very MMA-like feel. Through our PFS instructors I found out about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at The Ballarat Dojo. To satisfy my curiosity I just had to try it out. Needless to say I liked it, and have been going to classes for about 5 months now. Things are different when you wear a heavy gi while grappling but it opens up a whole lot of new possibilities! Chokes r us ;-)

I feel that the grappling complements the kicking & striking art I am learning. So all in all I think I've really struck it lucky in finding these three very different arts. They will keep me challenged and amused for a very long time. So much to learn!!!

I will admit to the occasional frustration about times when things don't progress at the rate I wish. But then I'm impatient in general, and I like the feeling when something works well. So, when I feel particularly flat footed or unbalanced, when the brain doesn't seem to drive the body or the body says "you cannot be serious!", when those combinations we practice simply don't flow, then I get mad with myself. But that seems to be the only real downside to coming to training.

The upside is that I enjoy the learning itself and trying new stuff. I've learned a lot, and the more I learn the more I learn that there is so much more to learn yet! There is the realisation that some of it is now feeling good, here and there things are coming together, as not only the brain, but the body remember. I'm now looking at refinement in some areas, I'm working on accuracy and speed. I'm no longer bedazzled by trying to remember a new technique. Sure, there are loads more techniques to learn, and as I'm trying my hand (and the rest!) at three different martial arts, there is an endless stream of new techniques. But many build on other ones already learned. With that comes a better understanding of the hows and whys of techniques and what logically follows what. There are marked improvements in making the feet (=delivery system) work together with the hands (=weapons system) during the stand up stuff. And the groundfighting is no longer quite so exhausting because I'm learning not to waste my energy in futile matches of strength. Instead I'm getting my head around which technique is appropriate when, how to use is, and when to abandon and go for another attack, it if it's not working. And then occasionally, it all comes together, and everything just happens just how it should. Be it a combination during sparring in a Karate class or practising sumbrada or sinking a near perfect RNC after a good roll.

I'm having a ball of a time. I have been fortunate to find several excellent teachers and so many fellow students who are great partners during drills and sparring. My sincere thanks to all of them.

There have been many funny moments (no, I'm not going to mention names :-) ). Like someone watching me try for a takedown (very early in my training), and commenting to the instructor that they're turning me into a monster. Thankfully that didn't seem to stick as a nickname. Then there was the class when we all heard a ripping sound when doing squats during warmup. Someone left hurriedly shortly afterwards to get a new pair of gi pants. Here is one that I laugh about every time (albeit sometimes painfully..): practicing chokes on one another, eliciting frantic tapping and choking sounds, while congratulating one another saying "that was great!" Cough!! "it was really bad!". Oh, and once I stupidly asked my partner if I had applied an armlock correctly. As I was sitting on his head at the time, the muffled "I can't see" was fair comment. I guess you had to be there...

I'm thinking of writing a paper about the coloration and maturing rate of bruises on humans :-). I sometimes look like a victim of abuse, with multicoloured bruises from one end of the body to the other. Bruises in places where nice girls don't have bruises! Add to that occasional blisters on the feet, skinned knuckles, bent fingers and a shoulder which has had a bit of a rough time recently, and you get the picture. And I thought I led a rough life handling and riding a bunch of horses!

But swap all this good fun for nights in front of the TV? No way! As a friend of mine used to say: more fun than a bucket of grubs!

Friday, March 20, 2009

John Will seminar

BJJ seminar with John Will at The Ballarat Dojo.

Well, what an eye-opener that was :-). We all enjoyed two full hours, learning escapes and armbar variation. We were also treated to some excellent advice and some general pearls of wisdom. Plenty to go home with and think about and work on. I highly recommend going to one of his seminars to any martial artist.

And we've been practising the sidecontrol escapes and the armbars!

Monday, February 2, 2009

BJJ grading

BJJ grading - I earned my first blue stripe!

We had to demonstrate the four basic drills (lap drill, pass the guard drill, keep the mount drill and circuit drill) and do some free wrestling, showing the application of basic moves. It was a pretty hot evening and hard work for all of us, but it was also fun. My thanks to Sensei Glenn and my training partners.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

PFS - my take on knife defence

Among other drills, we were going through knife defense and learned one to defend against a downward stabbing attack. My initial feeling was that it put my left arm at great risk to a cut, so I mentally categorised this defense as 'dangerous' and best avoided. I raised this point with Conan whose comments (as usual) made a lot of sense. If attacked by someone with a knife (assuming that running away isn't possible), you will get cut anyway if you do nothing. A defensive move, counterattack and disarm must be made with total commitment. You may still get cut, but probably much less so, and most importantly, it gives you a good chance to stop the attacker from harming you further.

So my thinking about defense against any weapon, particularly a knife goes along these lines...

I hope to be always aware enough of my surroundings to avoid a 'situation'. If despite that, I'm fronted by an armed assailant, my best option would be to get away. If I can't get away, I will try to diffuse the situation if at all possible, but I will immediately look for any suitable object within my reach that could become a defensive weapon in my hand. I will arm myself with any useful object as soon as possible (excepting in the unlikely case that I can talk the attacker out of his plans and have him hand over his weapon).

Having come to this point, I'm committed to taking action, fast and with determination, as the only alternative is to be a guaranteed victim. If I have been able to arm myself, I first of all use my weapon to disable the attacker's weapons hand (The Kali concept of defanging the snake) while staying out of the reach of his weapon. If I can't locate a defensive weapon, I will be even more concerned with staying out of his reach, but I may need to block/parry a strike, while going for a simultaneous counterattack. So whether I have disabled his weapons hand with my weapon or whether I've blocked and grabbed his hand, I need follow up immediately, or better simultaneously. The goal of my follow up is to disarm the attacker and to ensure that he is unable to continue his attack, be it with weapon, with strikes or kicks.

No defense is without risk, and in the sudden attack any practiced response will be less than perfect, but as long as it's done with that total commitment, it will lead to a better outcome than doing nothing or making a half-hearted move. A cut to the outside of my forearm and a disarmed and disabled attacker is infinitely preferable to a deep stab wound to the body followed by further cuts/stabs delivered by the attacker.

I am sure that in the sudden confusion of a real attack, things won't be so clear, and choices limited. After all, an attacker doesn't want a fight, no, he wants to hurt me to gain advantage, so he will only attack if circumstances are in his favour. With the added advantage of surprise, the odds will be in his favour.

All my training does is to even the odds a bit. Learning to use a stick and a knife effectively means I'm better prepared to use a weapon to defend myself. Learning moves to defend against a knife attack and knowing which parts of me are most vulnerable is as important. Sure, in the heat and trauma of a sudden attack, I won't have time to go down a long decision tree to work out the correct response. But drills are about positioning, minimising exposure and setting up a counter attack as much as they are about specific grips. So in the muddle of things when things go bad, the part of the brain that deals with threats will likely remember a move from the drills which will vastly increase my chances of survival. Moves can create distance or close distance. Other drills and sparring practice have increased my reaction speed, my ability to function under pressure and to read the attacker's body language. Finally, training ensures that I know how to disable an opponent, be it on the ground or standing up.

Nothing guarantees my survival in a sudden armed attack. Training improves my chances. Realistic training improves them further. But in the end, my ability to react appropriately and efficiently and my will to survive will be what most strongly determines the outcome.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kigami Biraki

Kigami Biraki in the park at Lake Wendouree.

Our opportunity to start the year officially and set goals for not only our martial arts journey, but life in general. Sensei Dick held a class which was brief due to the extremly hot weather, but which was inspirational all the same. We were treated to a drumming demonstration and some board breaking by several of the sempais from BMAC.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just another PFS class

Yes, a person with a camera came with me!

Having only recently learned about leg locks and the like, here I am trying to get one on Conan (my PFS instructor). If you look (not too) hard, you can see that I don't have a really good grip. What you can't see is that he has the same leglock on me. Had I been quicker, I should have 'outleglocked' him, seeing my legs are longer than his :-) That they are also better looking would not have helped! In any case, the outcome was that about three seconds after this photo was taken, I tapped out. As usual. :-)))

Another BJJ class :-)

We had another good BJJ class today. A friend came along and took a couple of photos, here is one of them. Looks to me like Zeb was just about to pass my guard :-)