Saturday, October 31, 2009

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

Yeah, bang. Injury.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, October 25, 2009

spot on comments about women training BJJ

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

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

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

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

BJJ - a year on

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

Yeah. Well. What can I say???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So see you back on the mat on Monday!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

purple belt wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

just another enjoyable Saturday

I have no particular reason for another post :-)

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 10, 2009

BJJ grading - three stripes!!!

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

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

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