Thursday, April 21, 2011

never a dull moment

I managed to get my uni assignments done on time. Currently have a couple of weeks off from uni, but I'm still working. I'm settling in to whole days in front of a computer, but it's hard going. Thank goodness for the opportunity to do something physically demanding at the end of every day. Without BJJ, I'd be going nuts.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the studies and the job, but it's soooo much sitting down. And as we are heading into the winter months, the days are getting too short do do anything with horses when I get home.

The way things have panned out, I can train at least once every day except Sunday, and work finishes in time for me to get to classes easily. So no complaints there.

Last Friday, we were treated to a three hour seminar with Scott "Einstein" Epstein at the 10th Planet school here in Ballarat. That was pretty good. The seminar was well attended, and I think that most of us would be keen to go to anothe seminar with Scott. We didn't do anything relating to rubber guard or twisters, but we learned another whole lot of interesting stuff. Some new techniques and some tweaks to well known techniques, such as the rear choke. At the end of the seminar he asked for a technique people wanted to work on, and as most of the group wanted the d'Arce choke, that's what we worked on.

My training has been going well as a whole. Some days I feel like a klutz, some days I feel awesome. But lately, I feel I'm moving better. I guess I have to, some of they guys who are now 3 and four stripe white belts are getting pretty good. They make me work :-)

I have finished the book "Talent is overrated" by Geoffrey Colvin. That was interesting, as it goes into what makes people really good at what they do. While the book seems to be aimed at making people and teams better in a work/corporate environment, I found a lot of the info pretty relevant to not only work and study, but also to BJJ. Interesting was the comment that it takes about ten years to become "good" at something. Which is roughly equivalent to the time to get a BB in BJJ. It also ties in my with my personal observations in other areas.

I've worn my fancy new grappling tights to training. When I rocked up with them under my black Hayabusa shorts, I got a few smiles. Don't get me wrong, I love black. But when everyone in the nogi class wears mainly black, a bit of grey and white and otherwise there are only minuscule dashes of colour, then it's time for MORE colour :-). The instructor laughed. Otherwise I nary got a response. However, when I went back the next day, sans brightly coloured tights, they wanted to know why I wasn't wearing them. And it transpired that some admiring comments were made. 

I guess they think I'm crazy enough as it is, to be the only female in a nogi/mma gym, being at least twice as old as most of them to boot. Crazy old birds can get away with wearing almost anything, even on the mat :-) I'm an introvert, really, but the older I get, the more crazy stuff I do...

And what are they like to wear? Nice! I was worried they'd be too hot. But not so. I've even worn them under gi pants and that was fine, too. So when the colder weather comes, I think they'll be great. So I can only recommend them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

clothes make the grappler

I have been bad. Bought more stuff. Just couldn't resist.

A couple of weeks back, it was the Koral Light gi.

Then it was a purple Scamble Hoodie ... and purple shorts (with lots of yellow).

But then came...

These are also sold by Scramble in the UK.

They are so way out, so crazy, I just had to have a pair. I'll have you know that once upon a time, I was a shy, introvert kid. I don't know what happened in the meantime.

What can I say? I grapple, therefore I must be crazy by definition, so what's a crazy pair of grappling tights?

How they'll be received by my training partners, that I can't be sure of. I mentioned these tights to one of the guys. He had a look at the pictures and his comment was: "Wrong. Very wrong."

Oh dear. But never mind.

I so can't wait to triangle someone while wearing these.

They'll look so increadibly cool under my black grappling shorts, it will blind the guys. And while they blink, I'll choke them. How's that for a plan.

I suppose now you expect me to post a picture of me wearing these?


I found this video clip on the DSTRYRsg blog. Well worth watching.

I just wish I'd known all this when I first started BJJ :-)


First, I need to have a moan about life :-)

I'm so busy! Studies, new job etc. Assigments due for uni. Looking after the horses, keeping up with the housework. Rah rah ra!!! I seem to eat, sleep, shower and pack my bags for the next day when I'm at home. Oh yeah, and work on the assignments. Other than that....

Hmm. Last Monday I actually finished work & uni. I had an hour to wait around before the first no-gi class, and I could have stuck around there until just before the start of the gi class a couple of hours later. I would have been home just before 10pm. Only I was overcome by being tired and a strong feeling of wanting to go home and calling it a day. I know better than being a hero these days, so home I went, had early dinner and worked on one of my assignments (sigh).

But that aside, I trained at least once daily for the rest of the week :-)

After all that sitting down and listening to lectures, work inductions and staring at the computer, BJJ is my release, my sanity. Even if it means I come home late after a long day, feeling all beat up.

I learned some good new techniques in the no-gi classes. For example, how to get out of half guard bottom if the top guy has a solid over/under grip. With hipping out, a gable grip pressuring his shoulder and the correct leg position, I found I could break even the grip of some of the guys (something I have always struggled with, weakling that I am). From there, it's easy to take the back, or try for a cutting armbar. As an alternative, if I can't break his grip, I have enough space to try for a Zombie, get a frame on his neck with the other arm and finally feed my foot through (kung-fu move), to finish with a nasty shoulder lock.

Then a similar move from full guard bottom to break the grips. Only this time, I go to overhook his near arm and do the swim move to roll him over for an armbar.

With all of these, we got lots of reps in. And this time, I didn't feel too retarded :-) Even the swim move worked, and that is big progress :-)

In the gi classes we did some stuff on sweeps from turtle position. And we worked on transitions from half guard to knee ride. The sweeps from turtle address a part of my game I'm keen to expand on, so that was really useful.

Rolling started crappy early in the week. I fell back into the habit of straining, using muscle. Why?? Presumably because my little ego was concerned about looking bad when rolling with white belts. Thankfully, I woke up to that after a few rolls and I eased off. Miraculously, not only did I roll better, more open, more smoothly, but I actually did a lot better, too. Duh.

After that, things improved. I kept on reminding myself to try new things, to flow, to give my partners opportunities. And it felt so much better. In the no-gi classes, I got caught in twisters several times. I am recognising the setups earlier in the piece these days, but not early enough yet :-) Still, it was good and there were several no-gi rolls which I was very happy with. Especially one with a guy who is not that experienced, but he is considerably heavier and stronger than I. He went at it with typical speed and power and strength. I will admit I couldn't stop some of his passes and he flattened me out several times. But I had good hip movement, so getting back to half and full guard was easy. And I successfully used hooks to frustrate many of his passing attempts. He was straining so hard to get a grip and set up armbars/armlocks, but just couldn't finish anything. I wished I could have spent more time attacking. But realistically speaking, I think I did quite well against him, and I expended maybe a quarter of the energy he did. So I was happy with that, because it proves to me that the art I'm learning is effective.

We had a couple of brand new guys in for the gi classes. I spent some of my time showing them basics. When I was showing the cross lapel choke from mount, I thought of a little thing which I was already doing unconsciously. But doing it made sure the second hand goes into the collar correctly, and it opens up the lapel at the neck, too. Talking about the technique to show the guys made me aware of it. And once I showed them that particular bit, they picked up on that detail right away. As so often, teaching the stuff you know make you more aware of it. It shows where you have holes in your knowledge, but in trying to articulate what you want to teach, it also brings better understanding for yourself.

At the end of the week, we had a grading. The guys did really, really well and I'm proud of all of them. Lots of stripes were handed out, and there were happy faces all around. Great to see.

We lost a couple of people for various reasons. One guy to take care of his family, one guy moved to Melbourne. Matt, one of our Blue Belts is moving to Queensland with his family, and we bid him farewell in our Wednesday class.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

gi observations

I've had a chance to wear my new Koral Light gi quite a few times over the last two weeks.

As I mentioned before, when I bought it (second hand, near new though), I wasn't even aware that the top is the rip stop weave. All my other gis are a more traditional weave, either single or pearl.

The pants on the Koral are without reinforcement over the knees. The drawstring is material, not cord, but it's not too difficult to pull through. I personally prefer cord though, and may replace the material some day soon.

The pants material is fairly rough cotton (compared to all the other gi pants I have). Like the top they are very fast drying. As I air dry my gis, this is a definite plus. Especially in winter, as I have to hang it on a coat hanger in the house for drying. However, the rough material has one draw back: it is rough. We were drilling the sit out from turtle on Saturday, and I ended up with gi burn on my right knee. Considering my knees are quite well acclimatised to BJJ, and can cope with the shorts or gi pants for hours every week, that was a bit of a surprise. The only explanation I have is that the material is so rough that it rubbed my knee raw. It's still sore, a day and a half later. I don't fancy a band-aid and knee brace on it tomorrow, but I don't have a choice.

The gi top is well cut and fits me perfectly. It's quite light due to the material, but not insubstantial. What I have found though is that it has less structure than a standard single or pearl weave. What I mean by that is that it behaves like softer, thinner material. And although it has a pretty thick, stiff collar, it tends to open up, even when the belt is done up. The innate stiffness of normal gi material keeps the front halves sort of across, untill there is a lot of pulling and the cloth gets very wet from sweat. With the ripstop material, it acts like a limp curtain and the front halves just start parting and hanging down. That's not a problem, more that I look untidy even sooner than I normally do when I roll :-)

Another thing.. The collar is covered in the same material as the pants. Or at least that is what it looks and feels like. And guess what else caused me abraded skin last week? We were drilling lapel half nelson chokes. These DO have a tendency to be a bit harsh on the neck. But lucky me was the demo dummy. And after a few applications of the choke at the hands of an expert, the skin on my neck was starting to protest. Oh, and wasn't the after training shower pleasant on that spot. ... And the next day....

So, that material, in the space of just over a week, caused me gi burn twice. Not good.

Apart from that, I'm quite happy with the gi. But I'm still debating if I should keep it.

holy crap, it's April already!!

So how did that happen?? I was cruising along in March, I blinked and now it's April.

Of course I've been training. Had a couple of days off because I had a very mild dose of a head cold. Felt a bit woozy and stuffy. These days I know better than just soldiering through and hoping it'll go away. Instead, I give training a miss for a couple of days (grudgingly), and I get over it and that's the end of that. See, I am capable of learning.

I've been busy with uni, we had the first little exam for the semester and I have three assignments due within the next couple of weeks. I never thought that an IT degree would be "easy", but the sheer amount of work to get assignments and other course work done is quite staggering.

On top of that, I've started in my new IT job. Totally new field to me. It's part time and is part of my studies. There is still a lot of getting used to the new workplace, settling in, getting to know people and places and routines and all that sort of stuff. Hopefully, by next week, I'll actually be starting to hook into some real stuff.

With part time work, full time studies, the farm and horses, training (between 6 and 10 sessions per week), I barely seem to have time left to eat, sleep and do the other household jobs. Ah, it's a grand life ;-)

I know it sounds silly to some people, but some of the lessons I've learned in BJJ are coming in handy. Such as:  not giving up, accepting that some things need to be done in small steps, staying positive, having a game plan, believing in myself ... and... not giving up :-)

Anyway, back to BJJ.

As always, there are ups and downs. The down side is that I haven't been able to get to Geelong to John Will's school. And it looks I won't have much chance for it over the next few weeks as well. With all the travel time, it just takes too much time out of my Tuesday, and at present, with work and study it just can't be done. But at our school, the Ballarat Dojo, there are five classes per week plus open mat, and I usually get to all of those.

In addition, a new gym opened in Ballarat which also offers grappling. Ininite MMA is a 10th Planet affiliate run by John Campbell. There are no-gi classes and later on there will be MMA classes as well. I know John and a lot of the guys who train there from before. We rarely do no-gi at the Dojo, so it's nice to have the opportunity to play with that aspect of BJJ. The 10th Planet stuff is pretty different, almost a wholly new skill set. My flexibility isn't fantastic, but not bad either, so I can integrate a lot of those techniques into my game. Also, I have the chance to roll with more people, giving me a broader range of training partners. I go to that gym 2-3 times per week, as time permits.

Needless to say, I'm the only female at that grappling establishment, too.... Only that the average age of the guys who train there is even is lower than at the Dojo. So if I weren't so hard-headed and ignorant of what is seemly for a middle aged woman, I'd be feeling even more out of place ;-) But the sad truth is that I don't give a ... As to what the guys think? Who knows.

Had a chuckle last week when I went there. The first couple of times I went, I drilled and rolled with guys who I also train with at the Dojo. But then I went one evening, and the only guy I train with was already paired up and that left an unimpressed looking young guy who seemed hesitant, but was the last one left and just had to drill with "her". :-)

So we drilled stuff. Turned out he's much more of a newbie than I am, and I helped him a bit with some of the positions and transitions. Which he took well. And after a bit, he loosened up and we helped each other. Then we did some positional rolling to put the new stuff into action. We worked really well and both got a lot out of that. And at the end of class, he smiled and we shook hands. And as I walked past him a little later, he thanked me again and looked very happy. So I'm guessing that he no longer has issues drilling and grappling with "her". Good stuff!

Since then, I've drilled and rolled with others and there have been no issues at all. I had some rolls with John and I was thoroughly destroyed in the process. But I consider it a small win that he had to change tactics a few times, and that it took him longer than 30 seconds per roll to make me tap out.

At the Dojo, we had a lot of fun as well. Last time I wrote, it was the day before the grading. That saw several guys get their first stripe. And it saw several guys get bounced on stuff. There has been some pretty dedicated drilling of techniques since then, and this coming Saturday will see a re-run. I expect to see all the guys get their next stripe.

We've been doing a few sessions on the switch from turtle. I really had a lot of trouble with that. Mostly because I didn't have the technique quite right and because I lacked the commitment necessary to pull it off. But a few sessions working on different variations (depending on whether the guy sprawled on top has his arm in below my arm, above my arm and reaching for the collar, on in a guillotine choke) and I'm starting to get some confidence with it.

Last Wednesday evening, I took the class. I was going to show three collar chokes from closed guard and do some slow rolling and chess game. But we started with the chess game, swapping partners ever so often, and somehow we all had that much fun that we ran out of time. Everyone said they got something out of it. One of the blue belts discovered a hole (and a new attack!) in his game, and all the white belts used the chance to play what-if from different positions.

Generally, I'm still under the impression that my rolling is pretty aimless and so-so. Some days I manage some really inspired stuff, other days it feels completely lack-lustre. Funny enough, I seem to fare better against the big guys, I don't get pinned so often. I get back to guard surprisingly often, and even get to superior positions regularly. On the other hand, the two lighter guys really have picked up with their grappling, and their speed and squirmimess is now a real challenge. Also, they are onto my favourite attacks and are developing good defences. But that just goes to show that nothing was ever meant to be easy, and that the only thing which is constant about BJJ is the amount of change which happens within us and our training partners.

So, that, in a ramply, incoherent sort of a fashion, is what happened within the last couple of weeks.

I'm just so glad I found BJJ :-)