Sunday, December 16, 2012

an insight on injury from Jess

This great piece on injury management and rehab is reprinted with permission from Jess Fraser. It was originally posted on the Australian Girls in Gi Facebook page.

Jess is the moving force behind AGIG. More info about AGIG and Jess can found on the AGIG website.

An insight in to injury for my AGIG peeps.

Most of you know that I messed up my knee recently at this year’s Pan Pacs.

Yep. Fun stuff.

Before I begin, it’s important to note that this was like my 100 and somethingkth competition fight and the very first time I’ve come away with anything worse than the good ol‘ Jess Fraser Panda Eye…though I did manage to pick up one of those too.

In the grand scheme of things the injury itself is fairly superficial, though it’s impact on me and my lifestyle has been substantial.

I'm pleased that surgery is not on the cards but conversely I’m pretty distressed because I’m off the mats, which blows.

Not forever, of course, but longer than I had planned for. It’s a real shock to the system for sure.

Dealing with injury is hard. And, unfortunately, a very likely and common part of our sport.

It’s also something we don’t talk about too much until we’re right in the middle of it & then we quickly forget once we’re out the other side.

I feel like half my battle initially was that I was not at all prepared for time off and it has been hard for me to accept.  In hindsight I wish I had have given it some thought and a little proactive planning prior. It would have helped ease some of the burden psychically as well as emotionally & financially.

So, as always and as BJJ has taught me to do in life, I am trying to find a positive result from a crappy situation. I am writing this to heal myself a little but to also share with you gals some insights and thoughts that may hopefully ease the ‘pain’ a little if you find yourself in this situation.

Injury. For the purposes of this rant I want you to know that I'm not talking about how sore your muscles are, or how mangled your hands/toes/ears are yet you yet you’re still making it to training...I'm talking about really being forced out and away from the sport that you love and for a considerable amount of time.

I’m also not talking about life altering injury/career ending or chronic pain – that, thankfully, I have no personal insight into and it would be remiss of me to pretend I do.

(Though maybe you do and you’d like to share some insights with us also so we can better understand?)

For me it's been a bit of a battle so far. One that is much tougher mentally than physically. The surprise issue and almost the hardest for me has been socially & then, as a knock on effect, emotionally.

You take someone that is used to training upwards of 3 hours a day (talking/thinking about it upwards of 23 hours a day) and you stop them suddenly. It's not good. And it's not easy. It becomes something everyone has to ‘deal with’. Yuck.

The only way I am even slightly keeping sane is to be extremely proactive and disciplined with rehab. Not only healing the busted knee but really taking the opportunity to balance and fix the rest of my body. Posture is the major one. LOTS of stretching and core strengthening. Working on realigning my body properly and getting BS strong and ready to rock again.

There are a heap of bad habits we get into when training BJJ regularly & countering this is often either completely ignored or put aside for ‘later’. Injury time sucks ass but it sure is a good time to address this stuff. And address it comprehensively.

For me, keeping busy in this way has been pivotal in keeping sane though even then I can’t say it’s 100% effective.

The physical side of things has been almost easy compared to other ‘hidden’ hassles…I can’t tell you how far away my nearest tram stop is feeling these days. Or how long it takes to mop the mats at work. How shit it is to wear almost any pants. And stairs generally – FU stairs! Why can’t we live in a magical world of ramps and no pants?!

Things I wish I had known about and planned for pre injury:

See a bulk billing GP immediately so you can get a referral to a specialist. You’ll need the referral so you might as well see the GP on the cheap.

You can track down the specialist you want first and then ask the GP to refer you directly to them, you don’t have to just go with the GP’s recommendation or some local dude that you know nothing about.

Ask your teammates, coaches or gym for help or recommendations on good sports Doctors & specialists. If you know someone that had good help with their back and you’ve banged up yours, find out who helped them – as well as who didn’t. Their previous experience - positive or negative - is a resource and you should definitely call on it.

Sports Doctors and the equipment involved are expensive. Add to that some unplanned time off work and you’re looking at a chunk of cash heading out the door. Even with private health care you’re going to be out of pocket initially.

My best advice is to save some cash and put it aside. Do it now. $300 - 500 in the hand will feel like a lotto win when you’re feeling sore and sad, I promise you.

I used my (tragically small) Worlds 2013 savings (which sucks) but I was able to get the best help & immediately. You don’t want to fk around too much or have to scrimp & save on good help. You’re gunning to get back on the mats so do it right and do it quick.

Ask for help. Stop being proud and ask for that shit. You need it. Yes, you need a lift to the Doctors. Yes, you want someone to be there with you and yes – when you’re having a really bad day you can say so. You wont be judged. And if you are – remind them that you will be back on the mats all too soon and you aren’t all that mentally stable anymore…

But seriously - it’s okay to be a bit broken and need & ask for help. In a weird small way it might make life easier on your friends/teammates because they really want to help you – they just don’t know how. Give them the how.

Look at and modify your diet in a realistic way. You wont be moving nearly as much and the last thing you want to do is feel crappo about one more thing that’s happening for your body. Try to avoid and inevitable weight gain by addressing the fact that you are less active.

Also, certain foods and eating plans can really benefit things like ligament healing etc. Seek out a good sports nutritionist if you’re keen. Muzz from AGIG Camp2 is a good choice. If you’re completely broke the team at Endeavour in the city are very helpful and only $10. Winner!

Some ideas for keeping your sanity:

Plan & ask for rehab training/exercises/stretching etc. from your specialists. Do these things daily (or as advised, obviously). Even if each daily task is tiny and seems futile.

An ice pack for 10 minutes each night before bed might seem like nothing but it’s still proactive. Doing something daily – whether it’s cleaning up your diet, drinking more water or full blown lifting, whatever - it will make you feel like you’re actively working back to your ultimate goal of full recovery. It’s important to not feel listless & passive. That shit sets in like rot. Real quick.

Strengthen the rest of your body – around the injury. Ask a good physiotherapist about the repercussions of your injury on the muscles that surround it. See if there are exercises you can do to support your journey back to the mats.

You need the endorphins the working out & training will give you, you’re actually probably a little addicted to those bad boys. You’ll also need to keep training so you don’t lose all of your hard work/strength/balance and health from your current regular training. One of my big priorities is to hit the mats safe and strong once I’m ready to and to not create a second injury because my fitness has lapsed.

Ask teammates to join you for a strength and conditioning or stretching session.

You’ll miss them when not training with them regularly and it’s a good way to hang out for both of you. You know each other through training; you get along when training, it’s a good thing to continue & it’s active. Going for a coffee leads to talking about training, which leads to feeling real sorry for yourself all over again…not fun & a little unfair on you both. A movie and less talking is a better option if you’re looking for an outing.

Get involved at your gym in a different way from your usual.

I’m digging photography a lot. It helps me feel involved and keeps me connected to my team. Filming good sparring or comps & making a badass montage from footage would also be an idea.  Ask around also, no doubt people have some fights or pics that they’d love to see set to awesome music – everyone loves a good montage.  Make one for you or the team.

If your camera sucks maybe ask to borrow a good one off a teammate and take pics for them? Some people have no pictures of their training, it’s nice to have.

And of course, do something else. Anything else. Get away from jiu jitsu while you’ve got this chance. Break free ya free range injured chook!

Do something you’ve put aside because you’re always at bloody training.

FYI - My awesome boss recommends Hot Springs on the Peninsula.

That’s the PeniNsula ladies. Sheesh, keep it in yer pants. You’re injured for chrrisakes.

Some ideas for people who’s team mates are injured:

Definitely offer lifts to the Doctors & to come with/support. For many, bad news is softened with a friend nearby and if they’re not comfortable with this they’ll say so. It won’t hurt to offer.  This was given to me without a seconds thought by Liv and Lachie and genuinely changed the direction of my mood from the outset. It meant a lot and helped more than I can explain.

If you have ice packs/wheat packs/crutches etc do offer to lend them. Keeping the cost of injury down is more helpful and supportive than you probably realize.

Offer to help carry/do shopping in that first week. Food shopping is awful with a sling or crutches.

However much your training rocks right now it will be hard for your teammate to hear. No worries to gush about your improvements & excitement about the up coming comp but don’t expect them to be as excited as you are. Sorry but it’s just not the right time.

If you have expertise to share and 100% know you will not cause any damage in offering it – think about doing so. I have a whole bag of yoga tricks I can utilize safely to increase my healing and it’s invaluable to me at this time, if I can share this safely in the future I certainly will.

Ask how the injured/limpy gimp is doing and - how rehab is going if you’re stuck and want to make small talk. Ask if you can do anything by way of a training/rehab session together. Ask if the sanity is holding up. Ask about plans/goals once training commences again BUT please please don’t ask ‘how’s the knee/neck/wrist/ankle’ because here’s the answer: It’s SHIT. It’s so fkn SUPER SHIT that we really don’t want to talk about it. Coz there’s not much to say outside of the fact that it’s SHIT. And the really fun part is that we get to have the EXACT same conversation with the next 40 people we run in to today. SHITTYSHITSHIT SHIT! So please, ask almost anything else. Something that might have a positive answer…for both your sakes.

Be patient. If they’re being an asshole it’s because they’ve been dealt an asshole situation and life is not ideal right now. They’ll come good. It’s in passing but for now try to be patient.

Some final thoughts:

Something I should share with you is the positive side of injury/healing time.

Wait, what? Is there such a thing Jess? Well sure there is kids – follow me!

I was sore, so fkn sore before I got hurt. I wasn’t sleeping through the night because my back would wake me up with pain. My neck was doing bad things after a spike or two in failed wrestling. My fingers were looking and feeling like walnuts. Things were feeling oooooold. Real old. I was creaking like creepy ass floor boards.

I can happily say that I’m now extremely well rested. I have more time to myself and I’m getting loads done. I’m seeing mates that I haven’t seen in ages. Actually getting phone calls made to much neglected family members. I have done a huge spring clean of my house. Have gone to the night markets a bunch of times. Have mentored friends on and off the mats because I have the time and energy to give to them. Have spent some time with a very attractive man. Had a haircut – much to everyone’s happiness  - and even brushed it sometimes.

But the biggest and MOST exciting thing is that I’m not in the general haze of pain and fatigue for the first time in as long as I can remember. And it feels GREAT! Oh, I know, I see the irony in it all. Injury = less pain & more energy but I tells ya what, I aint arguing with it. I’m LOVING it!

So it’s not all bad. Far from it. It just isn’t easy. And all I can say is that you (and I) will make it through.

Just as he was leaving the gym just now Byron Silva (big awesome black belt from Dominance) stopped by to chat and of course, the talk about my knee began. He asked the usual stuff and expressed concern. I whined and sighed as I do. He left with one parting comment that was a genuine light bulb moment for me “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there”.

And he’s right, so so right. Every single person that you look up to and aspire to be has been through this. It’s hard but look where they are now & look what they have done. It’s a momentary set back in the bigger picture of an amazing journey that makes you happy – and will continue to for a long, long time.

Hope this helps those that needs it.

Love Swear Jar.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Postural problems

Head on over to the Scramblog for a great post on postural problems caused by BJJ and our usual sitting life & workstyle. Includes some exercises to help fix your dodgy body.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

bruises and year end

What makes better bruises than BJJ?

Paintball. Definitely paintball!

We had our end of year/end of project (uni) paintball day on Sunday. It was a good day. I scored more hits than I received and we had a lot of fun.

Someone saw the bruises on my thigh at training yesterday and immediately recognised them as paintball damage :-)

Well, we marked the end of our year long project for uni, the end of the semester, the end of the year and in my case, the end of my uni degree. The last couple of months have been super busy, which is why I haven't posted here a lot. I even missed some training, much to my disgust. But all in all, I have still been able to able to fit in at least four sessions per week so I shouldn't complain too much.

More sitting down to study and less time on the mat or around the horses took their toll in a bit of lost cardio and a couple of added kilos. I noticed though that after the day long paintball session on Sunday and the double training session yesterday, I've already lost most of that extra weight. The cardio will improve quick enough as well. I actually felt super well after the two hard sessions last night. On the other hand, my body had a few stiff bits and general complaints this morning.

Now that that I have finished my studies, I will finally have time to work through several DVDs I bought. Some I've seen but need to review, such as Ryan Hall's Back Attacks and Deep Half Guard and Roy Dean's Brown and Purple Belt Requirements. Others I haven't even seen yet, such as Robson Moura's Fusion sets, John Will's The Great Escapes and Stephan Kesting's How to Defeat the Bigger, Stonger Opponent Series 2. Tons and tons of material...

Monday, September 3, 2012

AGIG comp

I really enjoyed the AGIG comp on Saturday. Friendly atmosphere, well run by Jess Fraser and her crew of helpers, and hosted in Dave and Ting's beautiful new gym called Immersion Mixed Martial Arts.

There were three blue belts in each of the gi and no-gi division. I won and lost one fight in the gi, and won both fights in the no-gi division. I then participated in the grand absolute (sub only), where I lost to a purple belt lady.

I was very happy. I deserved to lose the two matches I lost, the ladies were simply better than I. The three matches I won, I won by sub, and I managed to make good use of back control and top positions. I also lasted well through all the matches, never feeling like my cardio let me down.

On top of all that, I caught up with people, and made some new friends. Really a fantastic day.

Friday, August 31, 2012

it arrived

I'm sure you heard about the movie being made by Hywel Teague about the Red Belts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I donated some money and got one of the perks, the one-off Scramble gi. It arrived in the mail today, and I'm pleased to say it fits almost perfectly. The nice guys from Scramble also sent a gi bag, some stickers, a wrist band and a key ring. How good is that?!

Here we are:

Oh, and see more awesome short videos at

Thursday, August 30, 2012

that time of the year..

  • When winter is nearly over and spring is in the air
  • When my horses and other furry critters start losing their winter coats
  • When the pace quickens and the workload adds up at uni
  • When a bunch of family birthdays are coming up 
  • When BJJ comps are calling

Yeah, I have two comps coming up.

This Saturday, we'll have the inaugural Australian Girls in Gi Comp. Both gi and no-gi round robins. After that, I'll be visiting my sister (it's her birthday).

The following Saturday, we'll have the annual Gathering (Will-Machado Nationals), followed by a Rigan Machado seminar on Sunday.

I've been having good, bad and average training sessions. Some days I don't feel like a grappler's armpit, but other days I think there is hope that one day, when the stars align, and I have put in a LOT more work, I might actually get better. Lately, I seem to forget more stuff than I'm learning. I know that's partially due to the fact that I have so much on my plate at uni (final year, doing a project, blah blah). But meh, I feel that my BJJ is pretty mediocre just now. In addition, my cardio is pretty shameful.

What marvellous prep for the comp, and what awesome mindset. Haha.. To be honest, if I hadn't gone and entered one and promised to be there for the other comp, I'd gladly not go. But then I know myself, which is why weeks ago, I ensured I couldn't pull out. I outsmarted my own cowardly self.

Chances are that when I get there, I'll get my arse kicked. But I know I'll enjoy myself and I'll learn from it. If I can get off my lazy ass and kick into a more aggressive mindset, I may well do better.

Anyway, never mind. I ramble. I always have this mental fight before comps. I'll now STFU and go and compete :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Royler Gracie seminar

The seminar was held at Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Kilsyth, an eastern suburb of Melbourne. This meant a 370km round trip, but it was well worth it! Four of us went, so I had company, which makes for a more entertaining and seemingly shorter trip.

Royler was awesome. What a nice guy!

As expected, we went through some of the Gracie self defense techniques. Two of them dealt with problems from the front (grab/shove), three responded to choke holds from behind. Simple and as far as I can see, pretty effective.

This was followed by a series of techniques involving standing guard passes. Yes, some of it was specific grips, but a lot of it was more broad, like how maintain good posture. Not just to avoid the sweep, but to prevent the guard player from placing feet on hips. He emphasized that we need to adjust level when standing in guard as needed. We then looked at a similar scenario, but where the guard player has double sleeve grips instead of holding our heels. We learned a neat way of passing which negated those grips. From there, we looked at what we can do in case the guard player gets his feet on hip and bicep. Some very simple but effective grip changes were shown to deal with this, and where necessary, bringing a knee into play to dislodge one of his feet.

We drilled the setups and techniques independently, and then had a "play" with it, where each partner could present the other with scenarios, which required one of the passes we had just learned. Royler repeated reminded us of how important it is to be a good training partner.

Lastly, we looked at two side control escapes. Royler started by saying that sometimes you have to give something up to make progress. So if you are stuck in bottom side control and can't budge, the only resort may be to stick an arm out. However, within reason :-) Of course, it's also possible to end up in bottom side control with the far arm in a bad position anyway, and then we are forced to deal with that bad situation anyway. The two escapes both started from me having my far arm between his near shoulder and head, but with my elbow out - the worst place to have it... One ended with a head arm choke from the bottom, the other (recommended for when the guy is too big to do the choke) is basically just an escape that leaves the other person turtled with me on top.

At the end, we had some time for questions. They ranged from how to deal with berimbolos and similar techniques to what he might recommend for a small woman trapped on the bottom of a bigger guy in a self defense situation. Someone also asked about Royler's most memorable fight.

Royler was generous with his time during questions, and with photos afterwards. He's awesome.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

absorbing stuff

I'm pretty slow on the uptake at times. I need to see, do, feel, do again, analyse and do yet again, before a technique has any chance of sticking in my brain. I feel old and retarded some days. I'm not sure if that is accurate, as I keep on hearing people say I'm the one to ask when it comes to a technique, or a specific thing which belongs to a technique. Not sure what's going on there, because I sure know I forget so much stuff...

In any case, I guess with going on four years of getting squashed and submitted by all and sundry, SOME stuff is finally sinking in. Talk about learning the hard way...

Every so often, I have a breakthrough of some sort. My most recent breakthroughs were:
  • working on Z-guard and learning some attacks from there
  • finding more effective ways to exert pressure
  • guard passing
  • being more pro-active instead of expecting defeat, and therefore getting good positions
  • better use of legs in open guard, leading to better guard retention, more success in reclaiming guard and overall making my hips more mobile.
The interesting part is that they are all related. They all feed into each other.

Consequently, I'm finding myself a lot less on the bottom, and attacking much more. That's a lot more fun! There are armbars to be had, which is hitherto unknown territory (excepting the odd one from guard in the old days). There are arm wraps, leading to multiple nasty things, there are knee rides (more armbars!), and all manner of chokes. I feel like discovering a new world :-)

At the same time, I'm finding that some of my standard defenses no longer work. I guess that's due to the fact that the others aren't wasting their training time, either. They are on to my defensive game. So now I'll have to think of better defenses and escapes. But that's where the fun is, in the constant change.

Did I mention I'm having a good time?

I can't wait for the Royler seminar on the weekend. I hope it'll be all on principles and "simple" techniques.

Friday, August 3, 2012

memorable Wednesday

We had a very BJJ-intensive day on Wednesday.

Glenn, our instructor, had been to USA the week before. On that occasion, he's managed to have a few sessions at Rigan's new school in LA. Of course he brought some new stuff with him :-)

In addition, one of the guys who used to train with us, but moved to Queensland last year, Matt, was down for a day. So it was decided that we'd get together and have a grappling-intensive Wednesday. So for about three hours on Wednesday afternoon, Ben, Warrick, Matt, Glenn and myself got together and we went over some stuff from Glenn's overseas trip and some other things. We rolled a bit, too.

We took a break for snacks and drinks before we re-convened for the usual 6pm BJJ class. The special thing about that class was that Warrick received his purple belt. Whoooopeee! Well done, man!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Adelaide trip + comp

We came home safe and sound after an epic three day trip. We clocked up 1500 kilometres.

All went really well. My friend Yvonne and I left home at about 11 am on the Friday. We'd hitched up the horse float and enjoyed good weather and a pleasant trip to the South Australian border, where we dropped off the float. We hit the road again and headed towards Adelaide.

We stayed with a friend in the Adelaide Hills on Friday night. She had had an operation on her left shoulder and was still in a sling. We descended on her with copious amounts of Japanese take-away food and sat and talked about old times and horses. She enjoyed the break from her routine and we took her into Adelaide on Saturday morning. Yvonne and her went to the markets and some shops and then back to her place.

I had fun at the comp. I fought better than last time, but still lost both fights ("weight" class and open blue), so only came home with two bronze medals. Bronze medals sound excellent until I add that there were three of us in each division.... Well, the first one I lost by armbar, the open I lost on point. At the very least, I threatened her with an armbar and a lapel choke, so I wasn't on the receiving end of submission attempts. I was actually quite happy with that fight. But I certainly need to work more on getting better positions, and be more aggressive/proactive from the start. Lessons learnt....!

At the comp, I caught up with people I know, discovered that one of the other women from Melbourne is German and we discussed life in that language for the rest of the afternoon. I saw some really good fights in both the men's and women's divisions.

As they had discount entries for women, the whole thing only cost me $25 for two divisions and they gave me a t-shirt.

I was all done and dusted at 4pm, so Yvonne came and picked me up (having shopped herself out) and we hit the road. I took some time to worm ourselves through Adelaide and fuel up. A few hour on the road saw us get back across the border into Victoria, and to the farm just before 8pm. They had spare accommodation for us. We had a quick dinner, emptied the bottle of wine I'd brought for the occasion and had an early night.

We had a quick look at some horses in the morning and then loaded up the three geldings I had bought. They were a bit green and spooky, but loaded pretty much straight away. So we were back on the road before 12 and home just after 4pm. Yvonne's husband cooked some dinner, which was welcome, as we were pretty tired after the weekend.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Adelaide comp

I've just entered the Synergy Pro BJJ comp. It will be held next weekend in Adelaide.

I hear that a few of the girls from Melbourne are renting a mini bus to head over. Sadly, I can't join them, as I dare say it'll be an entertaining trip :-)

I have to pick up three horses from near Bordertown, so I'm taking a horse float and will be picking them up on the way home. This will be a pretty long trip. We'll be leaving Friday and returning some time Sunday. But as I'll be killing two birds with one stone, it's not too bad. To be honest, without the horse pickup job, I probably wouldn't have attended the comp. So it's all good.

I'm not feeling top of the world today, but I'm hoping that I'll be ok for next weekend. It is the season of colds and flues here, and I'd be awfully annoyed to get sick now...

double seminar

After a rather busy week (2 sessions Monday, 2 sessions Wednesday, double sessions Thursday and Friday, and a normal one on Saturday, I went to a seminar in Ringwood.

The seminar was hosted by Deon and Jodie at Perkins BJJ.

Bruno Alves and Antonio Carlos Jnr ran a joint session which attracted people from several clubs. It was a very relaxed two and a half hours with plenty of individual attention.

Bruno is an omoplata machine, so he showed us two omoplata setups, one from side control and one from a sprawl on top of a double leg attempt. The third submission he taught was a neat setup from closed guard to triangle, but which could equally as easily be converted to omoplata.

Antonio showed us three related sweeps from an open guard setup. None of us had see this open guard before, so the question was asked what it's called. He sort of shrugged his shoulders and laughed, so it was instantly christened "Antonio Guard". Of course :-)

After that, we took turns practicing open guard passing. Ha, when I stepped into their open guards, it was like entering a lion's den, and it was a quick kill indeed.... I haven't felt so out of my depth since I stepped on the mat as a fresh white belt. Whoah...!

Anyway, both were really nice guys, more than happy to help and answer questions. I like the way they taught as well, it made sense. There was enough detailed information, but there were overarching themes. I came away with a far better understanding of omoplatas, in addition to knowing new ways of going for them. The open guard sweeps were harder going, but we had a small discussion about foot/leg placement at the finish of the sweep, which go a long way towards explaining some issues to me. With that more general knowledge, I think I can well finish some of my other open guard sweeps with a higher percentage of not getting caught in half guard.

So it was pretty awesome. Jodie took loads of pictures, including the usual lot of silly ones. Check out the PJJ FB page if you want to see them :-)

After the seminar, I stuck around for another hour, as there was a girls open mat. I had a roll with Jodie, Jess, Deone and Anne-Marie. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for too long, as I had to go to my nephew's 4th birthday party afterwards.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

interesting stuff

An interesting article at about the secret subversive power of BJJ for women, by Valerie Worthington, Emily Kwok, and Lola Newsom. 

It made me laugh, but I think they have a point.

And then I found this on FB:

Oh yeah. I wonder if I'll get extra points if I achieve several of those in any one BJJ session?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

z-guard and other amazing stuff

After the z-guard stuff we did at the John Will seminar, we worked on that stuff in class some more. A couple of us took it on (so to speak) and played with assorted sweeps from z-guard. To this end, we looked up some other options from that position and found some really useful stuff in YouTube clips.

Particularly Robson Moura seems to have focussed on that guard. I then realised that his Fusion 2 DVD set has a load of z-guard techniques, so I have just ordered that set. Meanwhile, I'm going through my other DVD sets, and found some already on Rigan Machado's Half guard  DVD.

As some of the techniques which John showed us are back takes from z-guard, this re-focussed me on back control also. And as though everything comes around in circles, I realised that when I go for an arm drag from closed guard, and can't quite get the back, I can transition to z-guard and get a sweep instead. Just by moving my knee and adjusting my hips. In a way, that's mind blowing, everything is related to everything else, and instead of seeing separate positions and techniques, I'm beginning to see pathways and chains.

Z-guard seems pretty versatile anyway, especially now that I am able to transition from it to and from other forms of half guard. Also, there are some shin in sweeps which I struggled with, and basically forgot about, which suddenly seem not just possible, but very do-able.

So I'm having a pretty good time. Lots of old stuff revisited and some new stuff, all making sense and fitting in with things I can do reasonably well. Lots of growth...

Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z --->  :-) 

What else has been happening?

I clocked up another semester at uni and finished with good results. Now one more semester to go. Then I'll need to decide if I want to do honors or not. Just not sure yet....

A foggy morning on the way to work...

We're in the middle of winter here. No, it's not like a real winter in Europe or Canada. But it's usually grey, wet, cold and windy and it's getting on my nerves. And when it's not raining, it's frosty or foggy... I only have weekends to go horse riding at the moment, and it's damn annoying when the weekends are a cold, muddy, nasty wash-out. So I just throw some hay at my horses and promise them we'll do stuff when the days get longer (and warmer). But we do get to go riding occasionally, which is nice.

I've been lucky with work and uni load to still have the opportunity to train 5-6 times per week. As my work involves sitting in front of a computer, I also try to get out and run at least once a week. Hopefully, as the days get longer, I'll be able to do more of that, too.

A lot of people are having colds and flues at the moment, but so far I've been lucky. It has stopped some people from coming to training. Some are out with injuries, some are on holidays. So we are having a lot of pretty small classes lately. Still, I've managed to get in some awesome training sessions, including lots of rolling with purple belts :-)

Talking purple, I heard that Tatami is releasing a purple gi (link to Australian site, but it's also available from Tatami Fightwear in the UK and from in USA):

Whoa! How awesome is that?? It would of course look much nicer with a purple belt. I guess I could buy one and put it aside until someone takes my blue belt away and hits me over the head with a purple one ;-) Not that this is likely to happen any time soon...

Temptation in colour purple :-))

Ok, what else?

There is going to be a Royler Gracie seminar in Melbourne in August. I'm booked in for that and have a car ride organised. Should be fabulous.

Also, I've just booked in for another seminar in Melbourne on July 22. It's with Bruno Almeida Alves and Antonio "Cara de sapato" Junior, and will be held at Perkins Jiu Jitsu. I'm going to visit my sister and her family after the seminar. Looks like a busy and fun Sunday. Yes!

It appears that a lot of big names are making it to Australia this year. But we can't go to all seminars...

Last but not least, I'm booked in to compete in weight and open divisions at the Gathering in September. And yeah, I'll be going to Rigan's seminar :-)

Monday, June 11, 2012

do BJJ, get mad skilz!

Yeah, you learn to move upside down, back to front and (almost) inside out. Ergo, weird contortions are no problemo for BJJ players :-)

I had a fantastic opportunity to show off my skills to friends the other night. After dinner, we took to the recliners. And after some five years of having the damn things, I decided it was the night to finally take the plastic covers off the foot rests. They were sewn on, so they needed careful cutting along the edge, instead of just ripping them off as I'd hoped. So I got my trusty scissors and took to the floor to perform the operation. Pesky little bastards were awkward to get to, so I had to resort to my mad upside down contortion skilz, and here is evidence:

It didn't feel in the least bit awkward :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

seminar: John Will

Last Friday, we had another seminar. This time, I didn't have to travel, as John Will came to our school in Ballarat.

We had a two hour long session with the main theme Z-guard. We learned 3 back takes from there and one attack to front choke. Then we worked on 3 sweeps and another attack, being a figure four. One of the sweeps was a reverse Berimbolo, which is something I've been wanting to play around with for a while.

Interesting stuff, and I've been playing with Z-guard for a while. So it was excellent from my point of view. Since then, we've had one class where we've gone over some of the back takes, and I'm sure we'll do more sessions.

Photo by Kim Hamilton

seminar: Carlos Machado

On May 18, a few of us went to John Will's Black Belt Studios in Geelong to attend a 3 hour long clinic with Carlos Machado.

That was a real treat. He is an entertaining guy and a superb teacher. We didn't go into any new and/or fancy moves. It was all about principles and overarching themes. Also about little things that make well known techniques better. For example, how to use a slight angle and a certain stance to make a standing guard pass a high percentage move. How to be more effective with a cross lapel choke from mount and to force a finish if the opponent defends the choke. Also a lot on guard passing (by popular request), which boiled down to good defensive posture and what he called "holding the tray". Small circular movements, using elbows and hands had big effect when used in conjunction with this posture.

He said when he started that he doesn't like to exert himself, being a "lazy" grappler. That sure appealed to me ;-)

He demonstrated his defensive open guard techniques by picking the biggest guy on the floor. I'm not kidding when I say this guy is huge, and I know from personal encounters just how big and heavy he is... Well, Carlos insisted he uses all his weight to try and pin his legs down, and then effortlessly wriggled out! We also looked at side control escapes (also by popular request), which was a real eye-opener. As with all other stuff we learned, relatively small things which made a big difference.

Overall, a great seminar, and I would recommend anyone to snatch up the opportunity to train with Carlos.

comps do weird stuff to your brain.

Oh yeah, I have some catching up to do... I've been so busy! But now that the semester is over, and all work handed in, it's time to take a breath, slow down and catch up on things :-)

First things first, I went to the GTA Championship in Melbourne on May 13. It was, like last time, a fairly well run comp. It did run a lot later this year, but it's a friendly comp and I enjoy it.

Nothing spectacular to report. I was up against Jodie in the "belt/weight/age" division. As usual, that meant up a couple of weight categories, and down an age group ;-) But still no excuse for getting smashed. Jodie is a great competitor, and very strong. When I say strong, not in the negative sense, either. She uses her weight well and with accuracy. I stupidly pulled guard although I know she is a strong guard passer. So it wasn't too long before I paid the price ;-)

After that, we had a combined coloured belt women's division with 8 or 9 women. I drew Sunny, who is a purple belt. Not too long ago, she competed against Kyra at ADCC and lost on points. So I was quite happy to have a reasonably long fight with her, during which I didn't spend all my time on the bottom, and some of it was slow, intelligent grappling. I used open guard well. I survived her initial guard pull with instant triangle attempt and it was an enjoyable grapple before she eventually got my back and went for a lapel half nelson which I couldn't defend. She was clearly better than I, but I didn't mind, because I felt I rolled well.

The best part of the day was that I turned up not wanting to be there, and leaving with enthusiasm to go and do it again. Ironically, I got a silver medal for my crappy fight, and nothing for my good fight. Also ironically, I got my arse kicked in both fights, yet now I feel I'm happy to compete again.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

efficiency and effectiveness in BJJ

There is a great post by Roy Harris on the MMA Underground Forum. It's titled "For Blue and Purple Belts...".

Roy talks about different body types and the need appropriate techniques. About efficiency and effectiveness, and what a BJJ student should focus on at different levels.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

signed up

... for the GTA comp on Sunday.

Not sure why. So often I've said: No more competitions... and:  I hate grappling comps. But then why do I keep doing it? Well, one reason is that a bunch of guys from our school are going, some for the first time. If I go along to cheer them on, I may as well compete.

But I dunno what's wrong with me. I didn't just enter the geriatric female blue belt division for a cameo appearance (it should attract one or two entries), I actually entered the open coloured belt division as well. That will have several good purple belt ladies on top of several good blue belt ladies. I'm doomed!! Haha, seemed like a good idea to enter, but I suspect it'll be a smash-fest at my expense. Still, somehow that doesn't bother me this time. If I can do better than come last in a division of better, younger women, I will be happy.

I'll tell you Sunday night if it really was a good idea ;-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

sherdog wisdom

Sometimes, (among all the ahem.. opinionated B/S) on Sherdog's grappling forum, there are some excellent and thought-inspiring posts.

This one is from Gerbiljitsu:

There are many different tools used to increase performance. Goal setting, visualization, repetition, competition, and a variety of other things can be very helpful in skill gains. As you progress through your Jiu-Jitsu career, you will find that your understanding of grappling evolves and changes. You will view things differently as a black belt than you did as a white belt. This change in your views is very hard to explain, and often times can only be understood by someone who has made the journey. Even though I acknowledge this task to be very difficult, I will do my absolute best to explain to you my views of BJJ.

Let me start off by saying this; Technical fighters are the lowest level of trained fighter. To be technical means that you can regurgitate techniques upon request or when presented with a specific situation. This can be as simple as using the Toreando Pass (Bull Fighter Pass) when your opponent places his/her feet on your hips or something as complex as Cartwheel Pass when your opponent is in a seated position. The complexity of the move is not really important, but the mere act of viewing it as a move can lead to problems down the road.

I am NOT saying that being technical is a bad thing, I'm saying it should be a given. Think of each technique as a tool in your toolbox. As you acquire more tools you will be able to build nicer things. There will be some very important tools that every grappler needs (shrimping, bridging, ect) and some tools that make jobs easier (flying triangles). Not every tool is needed to build an awesome house, but some tools make it easier than others. I will however say this, if you are not practicing techniques and you find yourself in a situation that you need to use them (in a competition or a self defense situation) you will be the equivalent of a master carpenter who owns no tools. I dont care how talented of a carpenter you are, you're not going to build my house with your bare hands.

At this point you may be asking yourself “what is the next level of understanding” and the answer to that is conceptualization. Being a conceptual fighter/grappler means that you have progressed passed the “what” stage and moved onto the “why” stage. By understanding “why” you stack your opponent in an armbar you can help defend your arm in many different ways while avoiding a lot of the “tricky” things your opponent might try and distract you with.

This simple way of looking at things explains why many of the older BJJ black belts never named positions, submissions or transitions. Too many of our grappling forefather's side control consisted of 6 or 7 different positions (what I call Kesa Gatame, Scarf Hold, Belly Down Side Control, Reverse Sit and all the variations). Some of those old timers still shake their head at our younger generation's need to name everything.

By understanding why you are doing things it allows you to explore movements and defenses that fit your personal style. If your arms are longer than the average grappler than you may find through experience that you are more susceptible to some submissions than you are to others. This information is very important because it will allow you to assign value to each individual technique and how they apply to YOUR game (as opposed to how a particular technique fits into the general grappling community).

Conceptual understanding of techniques will also allow you to move onto the last level of understanding. Because understanding what your opponent is doing does not let you understand their next move, however understanding why your opponent is doing something often leads to being able to plan a response. The ability to plan a specific response to your opponents actions is paramount to strategy, and strategy is the last level of understanding. To formulate a proper strategy you must understand both the “what” (techniques) and the “why” (concepts). Understanding why your opponent is doing/performing a particular movement will lead you to predict techniques and formulate intelligent counters.

Technical grappling puts the focus on the individual performing the techniques (thus the person acting is usually the person winning). Conceptual understanding puts the focus on the technique itself, building a deeper understanding of ones own body and how it moves in space against other peoples bodies (think prioperception). Strategy allows you step beyond the bounds of your own body and focus on the movements, intention and objective of your opponents actions. When you understand your opponents goals you can account for them in your strategy.

For many of you, grappling with a game plan is very difficult. You enter a match with the best intentions. You plan on doing “X” but all of a sudden you're doing “Y” and your strategy falls apart. This can be due to a number of reasons, but the three most common are 1. Your opponent had a better strategy than you 2. Your opponent IS better than you or 3. You do not have a mastery of the two lower levels of understanding. In order for there to be mastery of Techniques and Concepts there will be very few times that you ask yourself “why” or “what” while grappling.

For example, if you just got swept and you say to yourself “what sweep was that” or “how did he do that” you have not progressed beyond the conceptual understanding stage (with a few exceptions). The only thing you should be thinking about is how to defend from that next position and continue to progress your strategy. The is no room in your brain for analysis of technique while grappling at the highest level...analysis of strategy yes, analysis of techniques no.

The biggest challenge in this journey of understanding is being real with yourself. You need to asses where you are in your learning cycle and set your goals based on your current understanding of our art. If you are a beginner than you need to focus on being a technical fighter. Memorize your moves, do countless repetitions and do your best to perform them while live grappling against resisting opponents.

If you are an intermediate then you need to look at the bigger picture. Instead of looking at individual techniques you need to look at the concepts that tie them all together. Suddenly guard passing is about getting around the legs and not applying any one specific technique. Most of your techniques will be condensed down to simple concepts. For a lack of a better explanation, sometimes a guard pass is just a guard pass (yes I stole that from Bruce Lee and his “a kick is a kick and a punch is a punch”).

If you are at the strategy stage of your understanding and your training has hit a wall, you might be TOO technical. If you are trying to pigeon hole every technique and make it work, even when it does not apply, this can lead to a lot of frustration and problems. And let's face it, if your opponent knows the same techniques as you, performing them can be VERY difficult, if not impossible. Think of trying to make someone laugh by telling them a joke that they have heard countless times before. Then the success/failure of the joke/technique is solely based on your delivery. This can become increasingly difficult as you continue training with the same people.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, because in all honesty, it is what makes our sport so awesome. You can learn defenses to moves and progress through the sparring session with a back and forth manner. It also allows you to streamline your movements and to increase your economy of motion, making every movement use the least amount of energy while still obtaining the highest level of effectiveness.

Our sport has so much depth to it that you'll often find yourself switching between the levels of understanding. You will constantly be reassessing your techniques, your understanding of the movements surrounding them and your strategies based off of those assessments. Our sport is continually evolving and I suggest you just open your mind and allow yourself to move between the levels while continuing to train. By having the ability to move between the levels of understanding, it will ensure you constantly add to your game with new techniques, concepts and strategies. By adding to your “toolbox” you will insure your game always stay relevant to the current trends in competition and self defense, which at the end of the day, is our main goal. 

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general update

I didn't go to the Vics. But I will enter the GTA comp in May.

There are a couple of seminars coming up which I have booked in for. In early June, John Will is coming to our school. I'm also going to a Carlos Machado seminar in Geelong in May. I'm looking forward to both of those.

I just received Roy Dean's Brown Belt Requirements. I have only managed to watch the first half of the first DVD so far. Awesome. Notwithstanding the fact that I'm a long way from brown belt (hey, I think I'm a long way from purple!), it is incredibly interesting. As expected, he speaks more of concepts than techniques, and emphasis is on stringing attacks together. The points about creating and maintaining pressure alone are worth having.

I finally finished reading Fighter's Mind by Sam Sheridan. Lots of interesting stories and bits from interviews with all sorts of people from the BJJ and MMA scene. In the end, one of the take-home messages for me was that dedicated training is real and bears results. Talent doesn't. That ties right in with what Josh Waitzkin talks about in his book, and what the book "Talent is overrated" is all about. Interesting stuff.

Winter is coming to the great land down under. The other night, I had cold feet when starting a class, and it occurred to me that I'll soon be wearing my fancy scramble spats to no-gi sessions again :-) So in good time, I received my parcel from BJJHQ. They had the Scramble Be like Water Rashies on sale recently, and I grabbed one (seeing it has long sleeves). That was the first time I had ordered from the company. The parcel only took a few days to get here.

It is Anzac Day in Austalia today, and being a public holiday, it means we have no BJJ classes. But it also means a day off work. I hope the weather will improve, so I can indulge in my second passion, which is horse riding :-)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

comps coming up

Two big competitions coming up in Melbourne soon:

Hmmm, I'm pretty sure I'll go to the Aus Champ's. Not sure yet about the Vics....

Friday, March 30, 2012


Why does it have to be that I roll like an old woman, and then behave like a #*@$(#&* girl???

(not the best session last night... grrrr)

Pretty, pretty please, can I have the ability to roll like a girl and then act like a mature woman? That'd come in really handy.

camp report

Finally, a chance to catch up and post a report on the AGIG camp which I went to on the 17th and 18th of March.

As with the first AGIG camp, Jess Fraser did a great job. It was well organised, there were great instructors, the program kept us busy and the food was good, too. The camp was hosted by Jodie and Deon, who own Perkins Jiu Jitsu in Ringwood (eastern side of Melbourne). Deon did a great job keeping things running, taking photos and reffing in grand style at the Sunday mini comp. Jodie looked after her kids, played hostess, took part in the seminar and comp, kept things running and still had time to be a good friend. An awesome woman!

Saturday:  we had Esther Tavares-Tutida for a couple of sessions. Lots of interesting techniques. Sadly, I missed the first half of the first session, as I was running late. Stupid me underestimated the time it would take to travel across Melbourne on a Saturday... Esther showed some interesting stuff, especially open guard sweeps. Unfortunately, I found it really hard to take in three variations of techniques in one gulp. I'm one of those people who need time for stuff to sink in and I need to rep it a few times.

Part of Saturday afternoon were rounds of free rolling. We certainly all did plenty of that :-)

Then we had Murray Ballenden in for a talk about health, eating, training, good posture and how it all relates and what we should consider if we want to live well and train well. I found that presentation extremly interesting and useful. I know I've made a lot of changes to my diet and other things since I started training. And I'm aware of areas where I need to do a lot more. He helped put it all together. I was happy since I'm obviously on the right track, but I sure need to do more. First and foremost, posture-related adjustments. But more in the food department, too...

In the evening, there was a bit of the competition on who could wear the most "offensive lycra". I thought I was doing really well in my Scramble spats, which I paired with my Honeybadger rashie. But that rainbow of colours was nothing, NOTHING compared to what some of the others wore. Think leopard pattern bodysuit under a lemon yellow set of skimpy bathers. Think a big lady with a black body suit and pink g-string bathers over the top. .... think iridescent coloured morph suit covering all including the head. Wow....

Anyway, after that, a couple of the little girls did a presentation and then most of them watched a movie. As I had no interest in the movie, but a uni assignment due, I settled down in my temporary bed on the mat with my trusty laptop and hammered away at the keyboard.

Sunday: Jess gave us a Yoga session. Very interesting. She tailored it to address some of the areas where BJJ is a bit one sided for our body. Ie: we did some stuff that opened the hips and stretched hip flexors. Unfortunately, I don't function well in the mornings at the best of time. I only slept moderately well, and I was a stiff as a brick and didn't feel human until after breakfast

Thiago Stefanutti did an outstanding session on Judo for BJJ. I loved his style of teaching. And I was lucky to be paired up with a young woman who is a Judo Brown Belt. So she was able to help me with my rather clumsy efforts at some of the throws. Actually, we did start with grip stripping and then did three lots of two throws. Each time, we learned one, and then another which fed from the defence to the first one. That was just outstanding. I skipped the randori after, as I still felt very stiff and tired.

The next section was with Fiona Muxlow. We had another good warm up, then did some standing pummeling and proceeded to takedown techniques from there. Same as Thiago, techniques were presented logically and with good explanations, and we had ample time to rep them out.

Last part of the day was the mini comp. We were allocated to teams, and the teams sent their membes out to fight others in the same division. So we had two big white belt divisions, and two small coloured belt ones. Two fights for everyone. My first fight was with Jodie, who absolutely destroyed me :-) I was actually really pissed off with myself, I was like a wet rag... My second fight was with Kirsty who hails from Sydney. I was getting a good flogging there, she was well ahead on point, but in the end, I rolled her when she attempted a choke from mount, and somehow ended up in halfguard top. As she was turning into me, I went for a D'Arce choke. I was getting really excited about pulling it off, when the bell rang. Oh well, I lost on points, but at least I felt I put up a fight. We had Thiago as ref, and it was nice that when he said to me "well done".

There were no awards for individual fighters, other than best takedown, best sub etc. And our team didn't win, so we missed out.

What I learned from that is not to be such a bloody woos, not to give up before the bell rings, that I can do ok even if my body feels like crap and that competing isn't THAT bad. :-)

I got home after 2.5 hours driving and pretty much fell out of the car. I just had enough energy to feed the cats and dog and check the horses, have a shower and have a feed before falling into bed.

What a weekend :-)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

how I'll be spending my weekend

This is where I'll be...

Oh, and I'm starting to wear in my new Scramble gi. What a NICE piece of work. Yes, yes, I'll take it to the camp, of course.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

back to uni and BJJ as sanity control

Oh, yes, back to uni, let the grind begin :-)

The nice thing is that I only do two subjects per semester now, and it's my last year. Yes, YES. Last year!! One more year of exams and assignments. Unless I decide to do honors... But this year will be full of fun and excitement, with lots of teamwork and a big software project. Of course, I'm working also. So there is never a dull moment.

On the mats, I'm cruising along. Good days, shit days, normal days all mix in. I still teach Wednesdays, and the more of that I do, the more I feel it's necessary for my own learning. However, I enjoy being a student most of the time.

We've recently had an influx of new people. In our small school, six new guys within a few short weeks does make itself felt. That means spending a fair bit of time taking newbies through basic stuff. I'm trying to figure what works best when explaining new things. Teaching is hard :-) Good teaching is very hard. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I really want to get things right. Not only because I know how hard it was when I started myself, but also as a matter of pride. Funny, even in classes I don't teach, I end up teaching...

I'm continuing to play around with deep half guard and back control. I tend to only go to closed guard and attacks from there when I feel pressurised or when, by mutual decision, we go hard. Armbars are definitely crystallizing out as preferred technique. Oh, and cross lapel chokes. Slowly, slowly, I'm starting to swap from choke to armbar to triangle and back. I need to work omoplata attempts in there as well. I also need to be more deliberate in planning the next move, so that the defence to one attack leads to a better opening for the next one.

Interestingly, I'm starting to have a bit of luck with getting mount lately.While that still feels a little alien, things are starting to happen there. I managed the first ever armbar from mount last night. OMG... I'm still prone to being rolled though. Side control still gives me trouble, I can't stop people from re-gaining half guard. On the other hand, I'm getting quite handy at taking the back, keeping the back and transitioning to side mount and back to the back.

We recently had a series of classes on head arm chokes, will all entries from side control, but variations depending on the bottom person's arm position. I liked the pressure used in thosed techniques, but at present my side control sucks and head/arm chokes are not my strong attack. So I'm filing these for future use. On the other hand, we've learned some more side control and bottom half guard escapes/sweeps. They are of immediate use :-)

I was talking to one of the guys after open mat last night. He said the first thing in his life is his family, the second thing BJJ, then his job and all else. He emphasised how much BJJ keeps him sane and how much he looked forward to the next session. Since starting BJJ, he has lost around 20kgs, and he feels much better. We agreed that BJJ is a serious addiction, and sometimes we pay the price in soreness and tiredness. But the payoffs are so worth it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Brave new world... Testing blogger on android :-)

grappler's friend

Meet my new friend:

This thing is great. It is a vast improvement over ice-cubes in a plastic bag. It works much better than a frozen gel-pack on places like elbows, feet, wrists etc. The gel pack is good for large flattish areas, but on joints, I find I need to bandage it down tight to get the contact I want.

The ice bag makes it much easier. I put it to good use on my dodgy right elbow this last week.

In Australia, it can be obtained from the Lecaronol website. They were very helpful.

Monday, February 13, 2012

back from holidays and all settled in...

I'm pleased that the almost 3kg I gained during my holiday (more lack of exercise than too much eating, cross my heart!) have been worked off again. That didn't take long, I was back to my usual weight within four days of coming home and training :-)

As much as I enjoyed the break and the different scenery, it was great to get home again. I was straight back to work on Monday morning, and two BJJ sessions on Monday evening. I missed my Wednesday lunchtime class due to a work meeting, but the evening class more than made up for it...

In all, during the week I had six BJJ session, which included one private. The latter was great, I had decided on DHG as the theme, and it was a very good session indeed. The other classes during the week focussed on guard passes (variations of the Sao Paulo pass) and a defense to the double-under pass. There was plenty of rolling, too.

My home school is quite small, as we are in a country town. So it was good to see that more guys are finally back from summer holidays and other lay-offs, and we have more bodies on the mat again. It was especially good to see Ben back on the mat. Not only is he the nicest guy, but rolling with him always expands my game. In addition, I found out that another purple belt who dropped in a few times in the past, has joined our ranks and he will be training with us regularly. I even had him for a partner on Saturday. Good times!

I'm really happy to be back and do battle with the rather competitive blues and whites we have. Guys, you are all good value :-)

There are comps coming up. Time to get organised. There is a small no-gi More Grappling comp in a fortnight. The Victorian Championships are in April some time and the first Grappling Tournament for 2012 (also in Melbourne) has just been announced for May 13. I suppose I better work out which ones I want to go to. Ha, if any... I'm still not too sure on that one.

Jess Fraser has organised another Girls in Gi Camp for March. A two day event this time! I'm already booked in as it was damn good value last time.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

BJJ in Saigon

On the last day of my Vietnam trip, I had the chance to join the guys from Saigon BJJ for a class and some rolling. I had contacted Matt when I found out about the gym and he invited me to come and drop in on the Saturday afternoon.

BJJ is currently only available at three schools in Vietnam, two in Saigon and one in Hanoi. As far as I understand, they are all no-gi schools. Matt told me that they are looking at gi classes in the near future though.

Due to underestimating the Saigon traffic and the distance from the hotel to the fitness centre, and some problems in getting into the place, I was a bit late for the class part of the afternoon. However, I still had the chance to get in some reps of several techniques. Essentially, the class was about guard passes and knee ride. Not all new stuff to me, but knee ride isn't really part of my game, so it was good to work on that side of things.  This was followed by a bit of situational rolling to give people the chance to practice the techniques.

After the class, there was some rolling. I enjoyed a thorough butt-kicking from four of the guys :-) One particular roll I will remember for a long time. The guy tells me he's a bit rusty, and had several months lay-off due to an operation. Then he proceeded to demolish me by way of some of the most continuous, switching-sides, surf-the-wave type of knee rides I've ever encountered. Yeah, I did fend of a lot of subs. But I was forced to turtle several times just to escape the pressure. And no, I'm not a knee-ride woos, we have a couple of guys in our school who use it. However, this was out of the box... Still, good times :-)

Here are some pictures of the drilling part of the class:

Hehe, and they liked my BJJ Brotherhood rashie :-)


So I've been back from my Vietnam trip for a week. But it's taken me this long to organise myself. I arrived in Tullamarine on Sunday morning after an overnighter and then drove home two hours. Then straight back to work on Monday. Somehow, my place is still an untidy mess :-)

On the positive side, I managed six training sessions this week. After all the genteel sightseeing, sitting around and eating in Vung Tau, this really was good. The nearly three kilograms I put on during my trip, I lost within four days after I returned home. My body has that nice worn (slightly trashed) feeling again. Life is almost back to normal...

Ok, now to the answer to what Vung Tau has in common with Rio.

It has a massive statue of Christ. It is actually bigger than the one in Rio (unless you count the pedestal it stands on). According to Wikipedia:
"It is 32 metres (105 ft) high, standing on a 4 metres (13 ft) high platform, for a 36 metres (118 ft) total monument height with two outstretched arms spanning 18.3 metres (60 ft). There is a 133-step staircase inside the statue."

As the statue is on top of a small mountain, there are quite a few steps on the way up. Someone mentioned about 400 (but don't quote me on that). We did go up inside it, and you end up standing inside the shoulders to look out. Looking down, on the gardens below:

You get a good view of the city of Vung Tau:

All the way up to the statue, and on top of the hill, there are nice gardens with small statues, potted flowers and ponds. Fantastic.

It appears that Vung Tau has a large Christian population. So there are several big churches and big statues all over the peninsula. The strong Buddhist tradition means that there are many beautiful pagodas and Buddha statues as well. From certain vantage points, you can see several large statues from both faiths on the hills at the same time.

We visited three pagodas while I was in Vung Tau. I was blown away by the architecture, the gardens and the artwork everywhere.

Vung Tau is a busy port city. I understand that about 200,000 people live there. It certainly has some pretty busy streets. Though of course, not as busy as Saigon. And let me tell you, the traffic in Vietnam is different to the traffic in Australia :-) Some cars, lots of taxis, loads of motorbikes and bikes. Everyone beeps all the time, signs and traffic lights are suggestions only and nobody on two wheels thinks twice about using the wrong side of the road. Roundabouts are fun! I stayed with friends. The get about on motorbikes, so I had lots of rides on the back, which gave me the opportunity to sample the traffic from close up.

I ate lots of pho and bun and other noodles, but also sampled fantastic seafood and some of the awesome cakes and bread (which, like a lot of the architecture, stem from the time when the French were in Vietnam). I also love the Vietnamese style coffee. Coffee drinking is a bit of a pastime in Vietnam. Coffee can be had in upmarket seaside coffee shops or in hammocks strung between trees by the roadside.

So yeah, it was an interesting week. And thanks to my friends Tuyet and David, I saw a lot of different things and had a great time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


What does Vung Tau (Vietnam) have in common with Rio?

Aside from hot, humid weather :-)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vietnam holiday

I'm currently visiting friends in Vung Tau, Vietnam. I'm missing my grappling :-)

However, I'll probably be visiting Saigon BJJ on Saturday afternoon before I fly back. I'll report back...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

all geeked out

So I saw a lot of interesting stuff at lca last week, and had a great time of watching geeks in action ;-)

I did attend the morning session with the martial arts geeks. That was pretty cool. Everyone talked about their style for a bit and then did a little demo. Lucky for me, a guy volunteered to be my grappling dummy :-)

After it was done, someone put up a couple of pictures on the lca wiki page. Enjoy. Oh, and no bonus points for identifying the BJJer!

Monday, January 16, 2012

geeks and martial arts

I'm doing the geek thing at present:

Seeing it's right here in Ballarat, I decided to take some time off work and attend some sessions. It started today and runs for the whole week. Certainly, the talks at the miniconfs today were interesting. I went to some sessions regarding women in IT and programming.

As part of the whole thing, which attracts geeks and wannabe geeks (like me) from all over Australia, NZ and other parts of the world, there are lots of little side meetings and get-togethers. Someone is planning a bof (birds of a feather) session for martial artists. Only down side is the starting time: 06:30 on Thursday. Gawd, I don't function well at that time of night 8-)

But I've put down my name. So far, I'm the sole BJJ player.  Would be so cool if another grappling type person turns up. Anyway, should be interesting :-)

Further to the geeks and martial arts theme... I was listening to some talks about the lack of women in technology type jobs, specifically FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) projects, and what could be done to attract and retain more of them. I see a parallel to the lack of women in BJJ. Obviously, totally different sort of thing, but some of the ideas offered at the panel discussion on the subject of attracting and retaining women in IT may also apply to grappling. The ones that struck the greatest chord with me were a couple of points made by one of the presenters:
1. talk to girls early (ie: at a young age)
2. don't tell girls/women that there aren't enough of them, that's like a guilt trip and it won't work. Instead, give them role models, show them women who do it (ie: IT/engineering/technical jobs) well, are respected, are enjoying themselves and are not necessarily trying to emulate men in the process.

Another presenter spoke of the need to make friends and have like a network for support. That is where for BJJ, groups like Australian Girls in Gi come in.

I think this could translate to BJJ/grappling. Food for thought!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

how to from here?

The quiet holiday time is nearly over. We'll be back to our normal weekly BJJ routine starting on Monday. I have missed it, yet I've enjoyed the bit of a quiet time. I've managed to get to 6 open mats in three different schools. Each and every session was good in it's own way and I took something away from it.

I didn't overeat or overindulge in any other way over the holidays, so I have no regrets and nothing to work off. Possibly, my body appreciated a bit of slow time, so I'm feeling great and I'm totally looking forward to get back into the thick of things.

Of course I've had a little bit of time for reflection. I have loads of questions, such as:

? Is it the right approach to try to firstly understand techniques primarily on an intellectual level. By this I mean to deconstruct it, analyse the prerequisites, the necessary steps, the possible finishes and the variations. See where it logically fits into the context of other known positions, attacks, defenses or other moves. Discover the mechanics of it, determine the best use of leverage or weight distribution. See how far from the ideal scenario I can take it and still make it work succesfully.

? Or is the right approach (for me) to investigate how something should feel. Try stuff out in flow rolling and then in live sparring. Only consider the broad approach, not focus on specifics and let the body figure out what to do and when. Like when I flow roll, I find sweeps just happen, I realise that I can shift someone's weight by making some small adjustment to my own position.

? How can I avoid information overload? We are so bombarded with techniques, on lists, on FB, on blogs we read and of course by way of instructionals we buy. Already, I only superficially look at stuff that sounds a bit interesting. The only techniques I look at more closely are those which fit into my game or are similar to things we currently work on in class. And still it is too much. I want depth, not breadth. Yet I watch because some part of me thinks that getting a broader idea of a technique will give me a better understanding (= more depth).

? What is my game? Well, I know what it isn't! But is my game what I do when I play, what I do when under pressure against someone my size and skill level, what I do against someone better, how I roll when with a big spazzy newbie or what I do when competing? It seems like totally different things I need to do to succeed. So what IS my game? Is it maybe what I THINK I should be doing, or what I WANT to do? And what is it I actually want to do in each of those scenarios?

? Where am I going? All I know is that I want to improve and that I want to have fun doing in. Don't mind doing the hard yards, don't mind various levels of discomfort, because learning means I need to know how to lose, how to be in bad positions and how to survive. But should I have specific goals? And if so, what should those be?

? I feel I'm been overtaken by guys who started after I did. I know we all have our own journeys, and on an intellectual level, I understand that. But on another level, I'm disappointed. For all the fact that I'm pretty easy-going, there is a fiercely competitive streak in there somewhere, and it's not at all happy. That part of me wants to know if I'm just lacking drive or dedication or understanding, which are things I can improve on. Maybe I'm pushing against boundaries I can't shift, such as age, physical ability, ability to concentrate and absorb more knowledge. Honestly, I don't know, so I can't tell my competitive self whether I'm doing well under the circumstances, or whether I'm just a slack-arse who needs to step up a gear and stop complaining about how tough it is.

Soooo.... Not only am I unclear about where I'm going, but I also don't know how to go about going there :-) Methinks I have a lot more thinking to do. But then I wonder if I should spend so much time in intellectual self-debate, or whether I should just pull my finger out and get to work. Or in other words, just shut up and train...

? Hmmm..... !

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Women who grapple

I've had my share of frustrations lately. The whole box and dice of thinking I suck. Seeing guys who started later than I doing 'better' than I. Being stuck in a 99% defensive game. Wondering if I'll ever improve. Scratching my head about the need/want to compete. Generally questioning at times whether I 'have it', it being the necessary drive, agression, pushiness to ever develop any sort of successful game.

It's been good to talk to a few other women lately. A lot of what goes around my head is echoed by others. I absolutely see the need to train with other women if I want to compete.

If my goal is to roll at the school and generally improve, it doesn't matter. Though this will continue to emphasise the development of my defensive part of my BJJ skillset. At the very least, I have several male training partners who are close to my weight, which is a bonus. Another bonus are the senior guys who freely share their experiences and help me get better. I love rolling 'at home', and the guys are like family. Every one of them, no matter the experience, size or type of game they play, is good value hand helps me become a better grappler.

On the other hand, to do well in competition, I need to do two things: train with women and compete more. Competing more isn't so difficult, we now have several decent comps in Melbourne every year, and nothing stops me from travelling further for more. Regular training with women is another story. It is simply too difficult and time consuming (considering my job, uni and the farm) to travel to Melbourne a lot. I'm very fortunate that I've met Jess, Jody and several of the other ladies who train in Melbourne. I wish I could train with them weekly, but that's not going to happen.

On the same subject, there is a decent thread on Sherdog, titled strength in womens grappling. It is (so far) devoid of the usual meathead remarks which wreck most open discussions involving women in any grappling sport. Hillary Williams has contributed some lengthy posts which are quite interesting. Several others are discussing mental and physical aspects of grappling in an intelligent and interesting way. Quite useful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

first roll for 2012

I couldn't resist the temptation of an open mat on New Years Day. How could I?

So on the invitation of Deon and a bit bit of urging on from Jess, I headed over to Perkins Jiu Jitsu in Ringwood (on the eastern side of Melbourne). Deon and his partner Jodie own and run PJJ. I met them and Jess Fraser at the Australian Girls in Gi day camp. Jess is the brains behind AGIG.

It was a stinker of a hot day, and despite A/C in the car, it was a long 2.5 hr trip from home. It was hot in the gym, too. But despite that, I had several rolls with Jodie and Jess, who are both blue belts.

I don't get a lot of chances to roll with other women, so it was a great opportunity for me. I understand that both of them are heading for the ADCC qualifiers in Sydney in February, so they are training as much as they can. Therefore, female grappling partners are very welcome.

Interesting to see our very different games. I was the only real guard player of the three. But I was encouraged to see that my guard was fairly effective against these two very competitive ladies. However, I seemed to still get caught in a lot of chokes :-)

It was very hot, and it was tough to keep up the wet stuff. But I'm taking the heat very well this year, so I'm pleased with that.

After we agreed to meet again and keep in touch by way of the usual social media, I departed the small but very friendly school.

While in Melbourne, I caught up with my sister and her family. I stayed the night and went for a nice ride with my sister in the morning, before it became too hot again. So the two days made a nice change from my usual routine. Now I'm back home and getting organised for work in the morning.

Our usual BJJ classes will resume on the 9th January, until then we are planning to have open mat most nights.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

happy new year!

Only five minutes left to go of 2011. And what a year it was!!

Lots and lots of stuff happened, both in BJJ and outside. A busy year, and a good year. Three cheers to a great year drawing to a close.

I went to three open mats since Christmas. Small affairs, but fun. I'm lucky to know some really nice people through BJJ. We share the same passion and we all couldn't wait until classes resume in early January :-)

Tomorrow, I might go to Melbourne. I heard there is an open mat going at Perkins Jiu Jitsu in Ringwood, and a few people I know are attending. So I might use the opportunity to start of the new year with some good BJJ, and catch up with my sister afterwards.

Should be great. Anyway, midnight is now, so wishing you all a fantastic 2012!!