Wednesday, September 29, 2010

mental toughness

I just came across this classic post on sherdog, posted by HomerPlata in the thread Mental toughness challenged by BJJ?:
"I agree that grappling challenges your mental toughness but, like some others have said, not in terms of resisting locked-in submissions. It's more about whether or not you can drag yourself to class when you feel like the weakest, most talentless turd on the planet. Everyone has those days, and if you can still get to class, listen well, and train hard, then you do have mental toughness."

I can't vouch for being mentally tough, but I certainly have that weak, talentless turd feeling at times... Haha.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

rolling, rolling... and gear gripes

Well, another whole week has passed. Lots of classes, lots of rolling.

Nothing much new. Still stuggling against the bigger guys. That's so frustrating, knowing I must stay out from under them, and somehow not succeeding in achieving that objective. They know that all they need to do is get hold of some part of me and then move their bulk over the rest rest of me. I seem to have little success with open guard, they are able to just grab my legs and then I might as well give them a written invitation with gold edges to please take side control. Bah. Even with grips on their sleeves I seem to be doomed. On the positive side, at least I'm able to slow them down and my slowly improving hip mobility is helping.

Anyway, that just means I'l have to work on it more. I have absolutely no intention on giving up!!

Due to a couple of pretty small classes, I had more opportunity to work one on one with my instructor. Been working on two things. Firstly, a defence against a knee through guard pass, where I switch out my hips to face them, go to turtle and then fade right back to guard. I had a few issues with the hip switch, but I'm starting to get it. We drilled that numerous times with more and more pressure. The principles will also help me with my other escapes, so it will hopefully help address the issue with the bigger guys, too.

The other thing I had a thorough play with was the double hooking sweep. The first few attempts resulted in my poor training partner being propelled right up, which probably made for a tough landing :-). Then I got the body mechanics more under control and was able to do it smoothly and with next to no momentum, putting him precisely where I wanted him. That felt good. It's a great sweep, and now that I have the necessary coordination to make every one of my four limbs do different things simultaneously, I think I'll be able to use it. There are also a lot of principles behind this sweep which it helps me understand better.

Last night I had a quick reminder that as a blue belt, I need to be aware of leg locks. Haven't tapped to one of those since I was doing no-gi grappling at another school.... That's going to make open guard an even more dangerous territory for me. But on the positive side, I'm allowed to go for legs on blue belts and above.

I've had several rolls in my RDA gi. It is better fitting than my other gis and I like the material of the top. The pants are awesome. My two favourites are the Fuji Kassen and the RDA. Still not sure about the Shoyoroll. For starters, the sleeves are way too long, so I'm going to shorten them. I have an A2, and the sleeves are considerably longer than in my A3 Atama and Fuj gis. That irritates me so much I haven't even thought about whether I like the rest of it enough to hang on to. Maybe I should just stick it on ebay. From what I hear people pay stupid prices. With the proceeds I could buy a new blue Fushida (or maybe two!) ... Don't know yet.

I've been trying to hunt down another pair of compression shorts. I have a pair of BSCs (full quad ladies) which are THE thing. Perfect fit, and no niggles or pinching in unmentionable places. They are going on two years old now and have seen on average six training sessions every week. There is just a tiny bit of wear showing in a couple of spots. I wanted another pair only to discover that model is no longer made :-(. I checked out their "hot shorts". Too short and different design which pinches. No way!

I have a pair of 2XU shorts. They are a different design. So although very similar in size, they do tend to ride up on my legs a little. And they pinch in the nether regions, too. Oh yes, and the fancy big silver logos and stripes are all coming off, so they are not one of my best purchases...

Recently, I went to a sports store and tried on every pair of women's shorts and found: nothing. All the damn things are designed for discomfort. I don't have a big butt, or strange anatomy, so it shouldn't be that difficult. Maybe these things are ok for the occasionall half hour of bouncing around a gym or a little run. But for wrestling, they need to fit like a second skin, not have seams in stupid places and not ride up the middle and pinch my soft tissues. They should also have a draw string, and maybe need to be designed less for a low rise good look than functionality. But my biggest beef is why on earth they are made with a seam right along the middle. Think about it, the shorts are stretchy, with the seams being the least stretchy. So a seam up the middle will do what??

I don't know, maybe they are cheaper to make this way. Though when I look at how many extra unneccessary seams many of these shorts have, just to look fancy, I can't see the problem. But why don't they make them to actually conform to a human body?

Anyway, I have ordered a cheap pair from Korea on ebay. They cost a quarter of the ones in the shop, and they have no seam up the middle. So I'll see how they go. And I hope that my BSCs will last for a long time yet!!

I got my Rupture RG in the mail today. I ordered an old style one, because I think they look really classy. A men's small size fits me perfectly. Well, hopefully I'll get a chance to try it out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

looking at the line up

Today, I had my first opportunity to look at the line up from the front. Over the last couple of years, I have worked my way from the left side of the line over to the right. Recently, depending on who was at class, I've been the top end, taking warm ups for the instructor. I knew the day would come when I'd be the one in front. Well, that came on Monday.

For some reason, a lot of people are away at the moment, especially the senior guys. Some on holidays, some are sick or busy with family matters. Being a small school, all the coloured belts stand in and teach. And it doesn't take too many absences to feel pretty lonely up that end. So there was a room full of white belts (some were there only for their second class), and myself. But to be fair, I had some help and moral support in the form of a fourth stripe lady who is a Karate BB at our school.

I'm pleased to report that I didn't stress too much and as a result didn't have the dry mouth and sweaty palms like I get with public speaking. Phew! I guess part of the reason is that 1. I LIKE BJJ and 2. I'm reasonably confident in my knowledge and skills. I know it sounds stupid, but walking around with a blue belt gave me more confidence. I guess I finally worked out that I should have confidence because others have confidence in me. What a strange and difficult and emotionally challenging journey this is!

Anyyway, coming back to the class....I did a standard warm up but threw in a few stretches which I find easy but know others don't. Nothing like a bit of showing off ;-). Ahem, not really! They were mainly glute/hamgsting stretches and others which I think are good for developing flexibility for closed guard. But I sure heard some exasperated groans.

With mostly total newbies, I put basic drills on the menu. I told the guys they had to put up with my efforts and if I made stupid blunders, because it was my first time. But it all went pretty well. I demonstrated the positions and transitions with the lady and sent everyone off in pairs to go and drill. Then I went around and checked, encouraged, corrected where necessary and slowed people down (guys!!). I took turns with the other lady. She happend to be partnered up with a really big guy, so I made sure it wasn't too hard on her back (she's my vintage... ) by giving her a break. And to keep warm :-)

At the end of the class In know that even the two stripers picked up a few things and everybody had kept busy, looked nice and hot and said they'd learned something. I guess I couldn't wish for more than that. They looked happy and said thank you.

Personally, I'm still not sure what to make of the experience. It didn't faze me, and I wouldn't have issues doing it again. That in itselt is a surprise. But I would wish to have a bit of notice and make a plan. Something to fit in with our instructor and the theme/s he's working on. I was lying awake in bed that night thinking what I could have done differently or better. I know I forgot to mark the attendance sheet :-) Guess I better figure out everyone's names, too...

I'm sure I will learn from watching and helping others. From trying to see and understand and correct their technique to make it work, especially when they have a vastly different body type to me. But hey, I'm only a beginner myself, and my biggest worry it that I make a mistake which is propagated through teaching to others. So I'll do my best for everyone and learn as much as I can in the process.

But I'm most looking forward to classes where I'm just a student :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

put that boy down!

I still feel weird stepping out on the mat with a blue belt around my waist. Not only because it's new and slippery and wants to come undone. It's just... strange :-)

On the one hand I feel like maybe I have more responsibility. On the other hand, I'm pretty relaxed. I don't feel (so far) that I have a target on my back, that I need to prove anything or that there are sudden higher expectations which I must fulfill. The guys have been great. Oh, I get teased. How much the belt suits the colour of my eyes. One guy keeps saying he wants to roll with the champ. And there's the "now that you are a blue belt.." sort of stuff :-)

To be honest, it worried me to begin with, but now that I know the sky isn't falling on my head, I'm enjoying myself. With the comp over, I can experiment to my heart's content. Both with new techniques and with modifying ones I already know. Rolling is more fun all the time.

Keeping up with the theme of basics, we worked on guard passing on Friday night. For a change, it was only a very small class. One of the senior blue belts took it, then there was myself, and three guys. One of them with only a couple of classes behind him. I had the new guy for a while and was reminded how much people rely on muscles :-). We went from some drills to free guard passing against minimal resistance, then to guard passing against more resistance with the bottom person really working on breaking down posture. And finally free rolling. I mainly rolled with the two more experienced white belts. When it came to rolling, one came in grinning, called me champ and ran around to my back to attack. Silly bastard :-) We had a lively roll. I had him in a crucifix which I lost when I was experimenting. From then it was a tangle of arms and legs with several sub attempts from both of us, because this guy is pretty fast. I had a ball. He kneed me in the back of the head on an armbar attempt. We stopped to check for damage but it was time anyway.

Then we did a warm down. Oh yeah. 100 crunches. Push ups. Hold pushup position with arm/legs off the floor. Hold halfway down. Just hold for two minutes. Ha, that was funny, too. Hold the position came last, with arms & backs already tired. First he said let's hold for a minute. Cool. Two of the guys were groaning. Then he said how about two minutes? I said cool. That instantaneously led to the collapse of one of them :-) Another failed seconds later. Hehe. I don't know why, but I really find that quite easy.

Then he said, ok, let's wrestle some more. Arrright. I will say I wasn't too fresh by this stage... But the two guys I wrestled were my size or smaller, so I was going quite well. Finally, the blue belt wanted a roll. And then it was kick my arse time :-) Oh well. He always explains stuff after he catches me out and he's shown me loads of stuff. But I did feel I was getting it dished out to me. I think the best bit was when he decided to congratulate me on the new belt whilst applying a pretty nasty crossface and then ripping my arm out. Haha, fun times.

Saturday class was also reasonably small. Before the class, one of the brown belts showed me a couple of new things which he picked up from John Will and Rigan Machado down in Geelong. He couldn't stay for class, but we had a few minutes before it started.

First thing was a refinement of the standing open guard pass to knee ride. That was one of the passes we had worked on in Rigan's seminar last Sunday. Then he showed me a way to break the gable grip around the legs if someone is doing a double underpass. It's combination of making heavy legs and arching up. Next technique was a defence against the standing pass to attempted knee ride. You have to do a bit quick for this one. As he steps around my legs on my right side, I roll onto my left elbow, rock back onto my left shoulder and get my legs up. I then swing the legs in a circular motion to the right, rocking onto the the right shoulder and then the right hip, which either gets him back in my closed guard or a triangle. But you have to be quick, otherwise....

The last technique he showed me was a side control escape straight to d'arce. We didn't have a lot of time, so I only tried that one once. I'm mulling it over in my head and will have try it again a few times. But very interesting!
When class started, I took the warmup. Then I was partnered with the young, small guy. We drilled guard passing again, and the new guys were shown and drilled the figure four from guard. Then we went on to free guard passing with a bit then more resistance. And finally the bottom person was allowed subs. My partner and I were the most experienced pair on the mat, so we were sent up one end and mostly left to our own devices.

On the suggestion of our instructor, I worked on standing guard passes. With a light guy like that, it doesn't tax my back too much, and I can actually pick him up. When on the bottom, I made sure I gave him lots of problems to solve, but I ensured that he had some successes when he did something correctly. I showed him some of the several things one can do to slow down guard passing, such as move aside when the passer puts the knee in the middle, stiff arming, heavy leg on the under pass and such things. I showed him one of the crushing guard passes and then how if you don't control the arm, the bottom person will climb on your back. He's very ego free and thinks it's really cool when you catch him in something. But then I always show him what I did and what he might do to avoid it. And he picks stuff up fast. I was busy having a good roll with him and was busy taking his back, when I was told to "put that boy down!" :-). I made disappointed noises and we all laughed. End of class.

Friday, September 17, 2010

help - am I turning into a gi whore?

Ha, I know I'm not as bad as some, but I'm worse than many :-)

There isn't any help for this addiction, but there is a support group on Facebook, called BJJ Gi Addicts Anonymous. Sigh. I've signed up.

After reading about the RDA gi on Meerkatsu's blog and on on Jake's The Ground Never Misses blog, I couldn't resist. Well, the fact that the price dropped substantially also helped. I don't think I would have parted with over $200. In any case, Seymour had posted the exact measurements (pre and post washing/shrinking) and that helped me choose my size. So I ordered one from, which didn't take long to get here.

It's arrived and it looks fantastic. It's been washed, has a bit of shrinkage and now it's ready to roll (pun intended!). Can't wait to try it out. It certainly fits beautifully.

I've managed to sell two of the gis that didn't fit me so well. I'm also going to sell my huge and bulky judo gi and my Fuji gi. The latter I actually like, but it really is a tad big and I find I move around in it too much. That will then leave me a rather battered Atama, a newish Fuji Kassen, a new blue Shoyoroll (batch 6) and the RDA gi. That should keep me going for a while.

Two are reasonably lightweight and will be perfect for summer. The Kassen is a bit on the thicker side and will be good for winter. And I love the fit on that one, too. The only one I'm not sure of is the Shoyoroll. The sleeves are very long compared to the other gis. I have yet to use it at the school as I wasn't allowed a blue gi as white belt. But as of now, I can wear it, so I'll give it a good workout and see how it feels. By feel and fit, I think the RDA and the Kassen will be my favourites.

The only other gi I'm still tempted to get is a Fushida. Well, maybe I can talk myself into buying myself a birthday present ;-) .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

da basics!

A comment made by Rigan at the seminar was that he saw too many people make mistakes with basic stuff. People got stuck in the guard. People got armbarred a lot. And people were slow to transition or didn't transition well.

His coloured belt seminar addressed some of those basics. Ironically, the subject had been chosen before the comp, but the theme certainly addressed what he and some others felt was lacking on the mats at the comp.

Out of our school's contingent, two guys got stuck and a couple got caught in swift armbars when their opponents pulled guard.

So the topic at our school for this week is to go over the same basics which Rigan took us through at the seminar:
guard - transition between closed and butterfly and hooks in and spider guard
guard passing - grip fighting, getting posture, negotiating legs in open guard

That's what we worked on today and will be doing for a while longer. We have a large influx of new guys, they need the basic anyway. But everyone else will benefit from a revisit. Myself included!!

The lunchtime class was very small indeed and consisted of myself. Well, I don't mind one on one time with our instructor :-) . It gave me plenty of time to go over the aforementioned basics and address a couple of little problems. He also showed me a way to defend a knee through guard pass, where I deflect my opponent with my arms, switch my hips and get to my knees. I retreat to turtle, but fade back right away, pulling him back into my full guard. Nice.

After that, we had a bit of a chin wag about life in general and how my journey as a blue belt might pan out from here. I'm under strict instruction not to feel obliged to prove anything to anyone, and not to stress out over the new belt and put myself under pressure. I'm to hang loose and not try to tap anyone, rather go easy, experiment and be tapped. When I read what pressure people seem to put themselves in when they get a new belt, I can well understand why I've been given this advice. And I'll do my best to heed it.

This evening, we had a fairly decent sized class with mostly beginners and moderately experienced whitebelts. We went over the same basics again. I was able to help the guy I was partnered with quite a bit, but I picked up a point about breaking open the legs in closed guard. That aside, I value the opportunity to work on and get better at the basics. I am much more aware of where my weight is, and I am trying to make my guard passes and transitions more "waterproof".

There was a time when I (foolishly) used to hate doing basic stuff, but that is no longer the case. There is always some small bit I pick up, and extra reps will develop my technique and general feel.

Da basics rule :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

eventful weekend

So I went to the 2010 Gathering. That's the Will-Machado Nationals, held in Melbourne every September. It was my second Gathering, and my fourth competition in all.

I had two fights, one in my weight division. Well, actually, they combined three divisions, so I fought at over 74kg, while I weighed in at about 68. But there was only one other woman. The second fight was the absolute and it was against the same woman.

I won both fights by submission. One armbar and one from pressure (I had her back and flattened her out, and while I was going for an arm, she tapped). What made me happy were several things. I felt I had time. I had the initiative pretty much all the time and was racking up points and advantages. While I couldn't finish a couple of the chokes I tried for, I went straight for something else. I had a bit of a game plan and I followed it. The attacks from closed guard which lead off an arm drag worked perfectly.

I had lots of team mates to cheer me on, which was fantastic. They sounded very excited :-) I hope someone took some pictures.

A couple of strangers came up to me after and said they enjoyed watching and it was very technical. Someone said it was good to see that at white belt level, rather than the usual ripping and smashing.

My instructor watched and said a few nice things afterwards. But the nicest thing he said was that I'm now a blue belt. Woooohoooo! It still hasn't quite sunk in, to be honest.

On Sunday, Rigan Machado ran a couple of seminars, one for coloured belts and one for white belts. So I borrowed a blue belt and went to the morning seminar. I've never seen so many black belts in one room! It was awesome. The seminar was great and I was lucky to score a super nice black belt guy to drill with.

So all in all, a weekend I won't forget in a hurry.

Friday, September 10, 2010

comp tomorrow!

I have been so busy with work for uni and a plethora of other things (mainly farm and horses), that I honestly have hardly had time to think about the comp. I don't know if that's good or bad :-)

I had a class on Monday night. We basically did our last lot of rolling before the comp. Some rounds from standing, some rounds from knees. I had a couple of very long rolls and one where I caught some weird surprise sub on one of the blue belts. I wanted an omoplata but he got his leg across my body. Yet, I hung on to his arm and managed a shoulder lock. Has us both scatching our heads ;-)

Wednesday lunchtime, there were only three of us, including a total newbie. The instructor had a cold and wanted to not share it with us, which I found commendable. So there was no rolling with him, or even demos, it was instruction by distance. The other senior guy and I took turns working with the new guy, teaching him basis stuff. Otherwise, we basically talked strategy with the instructor, and had a chance to troubleshoot a couple of small things in our respective games. We then practised them on one another while the newbie guy did some stuff on his own (hip escapes etc). So I went over how to use my whole body to effect an arm drag. I need that set up for the armbar, to get the back or to sweep. Lately, I've had trouble getting their arm across because they know what I'm up to and they'll muscle their way out of it. But as the instructor said: firstly, that's a good thing, if they worry so much about it they resort to muscle. Secondly, they may expose something else, like the other arm, so afte the comp we'll work on what might lead off that.... Goody.

So that was a really useful session for me. Both from a motivational and a technical point of view.

I missed the Wednesday night class because I needed to finish off two assignments for uni.

Thursday night, I did go to open mat. Not a big turnout. And mainly guys who are not going to the comp. I worked for a bit with one of the blue belts, who was all happy to help me with whatever. So I suggested flow rolling, simply to move and get position. Got stuck in half guard bottom. Had lockdown, but because he was across my upper body, found I couldn't do my usual stuff. And then remembered that this had puzzled me before. So he showed me a way to trap the foot, get a hook under his thigh and then lift him to get full guard or sweep. I'm sure I've been shown those things before, but they must have fallen out of the sieve...

So that was very useful to me. We did roll lightly for a bit more, which was also good.

Then I had several rolls with my heavy white belt friend. He held right back on squashing hard, and he toned down how much muscle he used, giving me a chance to work, work. Good, lots of effective escapes, mainly getting back to guard. He knows I like to work from guard, so he worked in with that. Didn't give me anything, but sort of saw to it that I had lots of chance to try. And things were happening.

Then we sort of had an idea exchange about armbars from guard, armdrags, the setup I've been working on. He showed me a good armdrag with a hand in the collar which sets up a choke, and if they manage to get their arm out, and are busy thinking of it, getting the second hand in for a choke is easy. I showed him a couple of things I was experimenting with and we both played with different ways to get to the setup and then the subs that would come off it. Very useful for both of us.

I had a good workout without going too hard and with the help of the guys, a couple more little pennies dropped.

I'm going to the Will-Machado Nationals in Melbourne tomorrow. I had a call asking if I'll got against a heavier girl in the absolute. For sure! Apperently, there is only one other girl in my weight division. So that means I'll get two fights. That sounds good to me. The draw isn't up yet, so this could be on any time tomorrow. The comp starts at 10am. That's an early start for me, as it's nearly 2 hours drive to the place.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

looking back at the week

I felt a bit flat and useless at the end of last week, but this week has been better. Don't know what it was, but I'm pleased I'm ok now.

As we have the Will Machado Nationals coming up next weekend, we've been doing a lot of rolling. I missed the Wednesday lunchtime class as I had to go to a meeting, but had lots of rolls on Monday, Wednsday, Thursday and Friday.

There seems to be not much pattern or logic to where I go or which submission to try. Of course, I still like the closed guard, and my most effective attacks seem to be collar chokes. But that aside, anything goes from anywhere, as long as I get out from under people. I suppose it's a good thing that there is always something I know I can go for, and it's always several things in a row. The stringing together of techniques is starting. But as yet, there is no set game plan and therefore no setting up of techniques. It's all a bit ad hoc, so to speak.

I had a few really good rolls with a purple belt during Thursday night's open mat. I hit a couple of sweeps, passed his guard and actually threatened him a few times. I also had a lot of success in breaking him down inside my guard and going for things (not that I succeeded...). And then we ended up in all sorts of weird positions which were way off the map and needed serious rearranging of limbs to go back to known positions. Well, I suppose that's not all bad. Let's call it experimental :-)

I nearly did a dummy spit on Wednesday night. We went from standing and I just couldn't get my act together. So I was frustrated with myself. I got pinned under a large white belt and just couldn't bloody well get out. I just expect that I can do better than that by now! At the end, I had two rolls with a purple belt. First roll took some time and though he took me down, I did at some time get a top position. It took several minutes before he could armbar me, as I escaped several of his submission attempts. So I should have been happy. I mean - do I really expect an experienced purple belt NOT to beat me up?? So then we start again, and he took me down with a textbook double leg. He was worried it was too hard, but no, it was very controlled. Then he made short work of me seeing we landed with him in such a good position. And that was totally fair enough. Still, I was grinding my teeth. Sometimes I'm such an idiot.

I came home and reread all the stuff about just shutting up and training. And found this post on dealing with frustration on Liam's blog. I needed that reality check. Three cheers to my fellow bloggers, they have saved my day many times :-)

So instead of spending any more time thinking about how well things didn't go for me, I started planning on how to deal with specific problems I've been having.

For example, a big strong whitebelt is one of the few people who simply mows through my closed guard. So instead of hanging on to a lost position, I need to be pro-active. Go to open guard, get feet in. Control his arms and put feet on his hips and make space. Or at least get a knee in. And guess what, Friday night I did exactly that. I also paid particular attention to using my hips more. And lo and behold, I not only held him off for about ten minutes, I got top positions a coupe of times and actually threatened him several times. That would have been advantages :-)) Did I feel good about it? You bet.

Inbetween rolls with him, I had the little guy. What a strange feeling, going from one opponent who outweighs me by 30kg to one who is half his weight, and about 15kg less than I.

Today, Saturday, we drilled an escape from turtle where you trap an arm as you sit out and then go to back control. I was paired up with a young guy who has only had a few classes. Hihi, he was making comments like: "I'll go light on you because I don't want to hurt you", "I can be really heavy", "oh, I could try THIS instead" and "AU - your elbow" :-) .

Oh, and then we were told to roll, with the usual caution not to break the newbies, and the newbies to take it easy and not to use muscle. Haha. Well, I broke him three times. Gently.

I hit sweeps all over the place, and choked him. Well, I guess that's what I do, so I might as well resign myself that that's my goto move for the comp.

But while we rolled, I helped him and pointed out when to go for a bridge and roll, why not to try and choke me from within my guard, and to keep his elbows in when mounted. Then it was time. Ah, and he did point out he could have armbarred me, from within my guard. Ok. Right.

But it was fun :-)

We had a visiting brown and purple belt on the floor. Sadly, there was no chance to roll with either of them. But there will be a chance another time. And the brown belt showed me a knee bar from switch base side control. Well, once I'm a blue belt, I can and will use leg attacks. I did learn some a while ago when I did some no-gi grappling at another school, but here we don't use leg techniques until blue belt, so I haven't thought about it much.