Archive | March 2013

I hate to lose

I am sure that very few people actually like to lose. I am not alone in this. But sometimes I get so annoyed by losing that I act like a…to be perfectly honest…jerk. I realized this the other night after rolling with someone.

It was my first time rolling with this particular guy other than some positional sparring exercises at the end of class. He is big and strong but relatively new (particularly to no-gi which is what we are doing this week) so I was able to control him and get positions for the most part.

At one point I was going to pass his guard and he sat up and sort of went for a back take but also grabbed my arm. I don’t really know how to explain it as I don’t think it’s a position I’ve been in before but he managed to muscle my arm into some kind of submission and I had to tap. This is often what is frustrating about rolling with new people, they try crazy shit that shouldn’t work but sometimes does.

Me, in my moment of jerkiness, went to reset and said “you know you were able to get that on me but you most likely wouldn’t get it on the other guys”. He laughed and agreed and told me he’d tried it on most of them and gotten shut down.

This is the part of being the weakest person that I hate. People are able to get crazy submissions on me that are not going to work 90% of the time. I know this is a lot of bitterness on my part. If I get a submission on someone it is often because I meticulously worked technique, I just don’t have the option to muscle anyone. So when someone gets a cheap submission on me I can’t help but want to pout and say “that’s not fair!” as I throw myself to the mat in a fit of rage.

After my initial two-year-old-temper-tantrum moment I decided to focus on not doing stupid things that would get me submitted and just holding position. I am happy to report that I passed his guard, got to side control and held it through several vigorous attempts to dislodge me. I also managed to get to mount and try to start working submissions, although I got swept (this has been a common problem lately). Overall a decent roll.

I got to thinking about this on my way home that night. I like to try to turn negatives into positives whenever possible so instead of thinking of what I’d done to get caught (which honestly I couldn’t fix anyway, I don’t know what he did and I don’t know how I helped make it happen) I thought about my success later in the roll.

Specifically I thought about how I was able to control his position and how I didn’t back down when he tried to muscle me off. This is a lot of progress for me. As recently as 3 months ago, maybe less, I would have backed down from this guy because he was clearly stronger. I am finding that by rolling hard with the stronger guys that I am learning more and more about how to deal with it and having more success.

So it sucked to get submitted in a crazy submission. It will always suck when this happens. But I will keep rolling and challenging myself and hopefully it will start happening less. And maybe I’ll try to act more like a grownup when I do get caught…maybe…

I hate my job

I do. I hate my job. And there’s no reason to hate my job. It’s a good job as far as jobs go. I get paid a good salary to do exactly what I went to school for (I design and develop software). They are very laid back, they have even let me work flex hours to do training in the morning before. It’s a fine and dandy job.

I have hated aspects of my job before. I have had projects I hated, I have had clients I hated, I have had commutes I hated but I have never hated the essence of what I do. I am a computer geek and I have always been somewhat proud of that.

So why do I hate my job now? The answer is simple (and somewhat cheesy and over romanticized, I apologize). I have found my passion. I am obsessed and consumed with BJJ in a way I have never been with anything else in my life and I am growing increasingly frustrated and angry that I have to spend the majority of my day doing something that is not my passion.

As I have mentioned before, I train a lot. It is rare that I do not do at least 6 classes a week and I also try to mix in some cardio and strength on occasion. This is very time consuming. I often tell people that I feel like I have two full-time jobs.

It is not only time consuming but it’s exhausting. I think that if I had a few days off I could easily sleep the entire time. So why am I doing this to myself? Because I don’t want to spend less time training and I can’t spend less time working (they are very strict about that 40 hours a week thing).

I would probably have a happier life if I could be a more casual trainer. One of those people that come in 2-3 times a week and are happy and fulfilled with that. If I were able to see BJJ as a hobby and not a lifestyle, I could be happy working in my good job and heading off to the gym a few times a week after. I am past the point of no return on this though.

As previously stated, I am a computer geek. I used to have all the latest and coolest gadgets. A nice TV, the best cable you could buy, a new phone every year. Now I’d happily throw them all away, sell my condo, quit my job, move to Brazil and train for the rest of my life. This is what love of jiu-jitsu will do to a person.

Sadly do to a failing economy and a strong sense of practicality this is not an option for me (yet). So I find myself at a crossroads of sorts. Do I try to find ways to make my dream of training more a reality or do I listen to that strong sense of practicality and realize that I am 33 years old and it might be too late for me to follow dreams and just be happy working my good job and training less?

Screw practicality 🙂 I have been thinking a lot about ways I can save money and live a happier existence. I have plans in the works, now I just need to find the time, energy and guts to implement them. But hey, if I can let large, scary men choke me I can do this right?

The end of an era

I made the difficult decision this week to stop regularly training at my weekend gym. I had been thinking about it for a while but I knew my contract was ending this month so I had to make the decision.

When I first started training there I didn’t feel I was getting enough opportunity to train at my regular school. At the time I started looking we only had class 2 times a week and this was simply not enough BJJ for me. I wanted to train on the weekend too and this school offered me that. Well now, a year later, we have 4 classes a week plus 2 open mats.

We also have started a women’s program at my regular school which means I do not get to train as much on the weekend at my other school. I am also trying to save up some money (I have big things in the works!) so paying a regular tuition to train a day a week was not the best decision for me right now.

I will really miss the people at my weekend school but I still plan to drop in at least once a month to train. I get really attached to people (and places I guess) so it’s hard to leave but I think this is the best decision for now.

On the plus side there are increasing opportunities for additional training on the weekends now. I am doing two days of tournament training a week at other schools right now and have heard of several other open mats during the weekend that I’d like to try out.

I am also looking forward to having a little more downtime and rest time! I train a lot and sometimes I am so exhausted I don’t feel like waking up at 7:30 on Saturday to train but I always felt I had to if I was paying to train there. It will be nice to have a little time to stop and smell the roses…and maybe my friends will cancel the training intervention they have planned 🙂

Two trainings and a wedding

That was my weekend. I participated in tournament training on Friday and Sunday but did take a much needed day off on Saturday to rest and to attend a friend’s wedding (although I did dance at the wedding quite a bit). Although both training sessions were designed to be tournament like they were quite different.

Friday was very intense. A lot of people showed up and we were going all out. The coach running the training also yelled at us from the sidelines if he caught us slacking off, talking or doing anything else that you wouldn’t do during a tournament match.

There were moments on Friday where I was terrified. We did 8 minute rounds but often switched partners in the middle of a round. Each time we started, we started from our feet. I will freely admit that my standup is the worst so I knew it was good for me to get some work in there. That doesn’t mean I enjoyed it though. I often found myself paired up with large purple, brown and black belts and I would panic and try to pull guard.

Between bad guard pulls and awful takedown defense, I found myself on the bottom every round. I was still feeling very unenergized Friday night and so I wasn’t moving very well either. I got submitted a lot, I rarely got out of bad positions and I was just exhausted. Because we were going tournament level, the guys were going hard and there were lots of crossfaces, shoulder smothers and even one guy who used the “muffler” technique quite freely. There were times where I found myself curled up in a ball under a large training partner trying not to tap to panic. I would tell myself “you can’t just lay here, move, do something”. But I wasn’t doing a good job of listening to myself (I rarely do).

Sunday was a different experience. It was more laid back and it was more about technique than trying to beat the crap out of each other. I was still getting owned but in ways where I could move and work technique a bit more intelligently than I was doing Friday where it was mostly survival mode. I also got to work a couple of rounds with a female brown belt which was a rare and fun treat. I also felt much quicker and able to move after taking Saturday off from BJJ.

I learned important things in both these training sessions. Friday was a lot about survival. About three minutes into the first round I actually thought about stopping and telling the coach I was clearly not ready to compete and taking myself off the mat. I didn’t work many good techniques and I didn’t tap anyone and I had to deal with a lot of panic and bad situations. Although this sucks, it’s important to learn how to deal with these things. A lot of BJJ involves some level of discomfort or even fear. When someone is laying on top of you holding you down and trying to choke you unconscious, it’s hard not to feel scared! But I’d rather learn to deal with this in training than in a tournament or in a self-defense situation.

I also learned that rest is really important. I knew I was rundown Friday night and I could tell I was rolling flat. I couldn’t help but think how much more I’d be getting out of the training if I was able to move better. My body was so tired and sore that when I tried to push for an escape or pass it was very ineffective. After taking Saturday off, I felt like I was moving again Sunday and it felt so much nicer (I at least made the guys work a little to kick my ass).

I also learned that I really hate always being on the bottom. OK, I knew this already but I definitely relearned it this weekend. This means I really have to put myself in positions to be on top when I am training and stop letting my opponents take me down. At this point I’d settle for a good guard pull though, at least that is manageable bottom.

So this week I’m concentrating on taking things a bit easier so I do not get as rundown, getting enough rest and I guess I have to work on standup…darn.


Something’s gotta give

So as I mentioned in this post, I have recently undertaken a very ambitious training schedule. Since then I’ve also lost my recovery day (Fridays) to tournament training. Not surprisingly, this has left me feeling perpetually exhausted and sore. I know that I cannot keep this pace. Eventually something is going to give and I’m going to get injured or just worn down to the point of uselessness. This means I have to cut back on something but what?

I am now training BJJ 7 times a week. It seems obvious that this is what I should cut back on. But this doesn’t make sense to me. I am training for a BJJ tournament, why would I cut back on BJJ? This means that I am going to need to cut back on weight training or cardio. But which one?

I was giving this some thought the other day as I was stuck under my opponents while rolling, too tired and sore to do anything useful. It is my belief that I either need to lose weight to get into a smaller division or build some muscle to compete at the weight I am at. I feel like all the girls at my weight are stronger than me. This is why I started weight training a few weeks ago. So naturally I was leaning toward giving up cardio.

But of course this seemed like a bad idea too. If I want to go hard for 6 minutes, I better have some cardio in reserve! Then I started to think about rolling at the gym. That is a pretty good cardio workout in itself. Could that count as my cardio?

I got a headache from all the thinking I was doing so I decided to just ask people who know better than me. I asked one of the school’s coaches who is a pro MMA fighter (and also a brand new BJJ brown belt) and I asked my coach what they thought I should be focusing on. Both of them said they didn’t think traditional weight training should be my focus right now. They also said I don’t need to be doing a lot of cardio. They both suggested I check out a video by Marcelo Garcia in which he explains to his students how he uses jiu-jitsu and nothing else to train for jiu-jitsu.

The basic idea is that you go really hard and fast the entire time you roll. This does not mean you muscle everything and beat your opponents up (the quickest way to find yourself with no rolling partners) but just that you make yourself constantly move an exhaust yourself. He contends that this is not only good for cardio but also great training for when you are tired and out of gas while competing.

I wanted to try yesterday but I was still so tired and sore that I could barely move. This reinforced my belief that I am pushing myself too hard. Monday and Tuesday I felt like I was rolling good, moving out of bad positions, getting where I wanted to go, etc. Wednesday and Thursday I could feel the drain on my body and could not do anything.

Part of me thinks that I should just push through. I am tired now because of the extra activity and I just need to adjust. The other part hates that I have no energy for rolling because of the other work I’m doing.

I am thinking of trying to combine cardio and weights next week by doing kettlebells or something similar and just keep moving so that I don’t need to do 13 different workouts a week. I’m also going to take Marcelo’s advice and try to be constantly moving while I roll so that I have to drag my lifeless body off the mat every night. Hopefully I will find the right strength/cardio/BJJ balance to bring out my inner badass.

For those of you interested, here is Marcelo’s video:

Getting your butt kicked is not always a bad thing

Despite the fact that I admitted in my last post that I have a problem with overtraining, I spent a lot of my weekend…wait for it…training. On Friday night I drove from suburban Philly to South Jersey to train with a woman I have met and fought in tournaments before (she is up 2-0). We are part of the same larger team and we both said we’d like to train together as it’s hard to find women to train with sometimes. Saturday was my usual training, women’s class at my weekend gym, some rolling in between and then basics in which we did skill drills the entire class. After that I headed over to my regular gym to teach the women’s class there. Sunday morning I went to tournament training at our team HQ in Center City.

So why all the training? Well the short answer is that I am preparing for a tournament. I am planning to compete in the New York Open on April 20th.  I went into my last tournament feeling unprepared and incapable of winning. A lot of this was letting my self-doubt affect how I performed so I am trying to take steps to improve my mental game. I figure if I know that I worked as hard as I could to prepare, I can use that knowledge to settle my queasy stomach come tournament time.

But I am also going to different gyms and trying to find new training partners so that I can challenge myself. At my main gym, I started training the first day they had a BJJ class so I am one of the most senior students there. There are only a handful of people there who have trained longer than me. I am not saying that the other students can’t tap me or challenge me but it’s rare I feel ridiculously out-techniqued while I am rolling there.

This weekend I spent the majority of my travel training rolling with people who have more experience than me. This meant that I often found myself in positions where I didn’t know what the end game was, I was scrambling to get out of bad situations a lot and my offense was practically nonexistent. Does this suck? Well yes. But is it also awesome? The answer to this is also yes!

Nobody likes to get owned on the mat, but everybody has been. This is the reason why people with big egos don’t tend to last in BJJ, because inevitably people are going to dominate them on the mat, especially when they are just starting. Eventually we all move past the point where we are shark bait to everyone on the mat and learn to hold our own. Eventually you might even get to the point where you are owning some of the new people. But think back to your days as a brand new white belt. Think how much you learned because someone better than you capitalized on a mistake you made. You learned not to make that mistake again.

This shouldn’t end just because you are not a brand new white belt anymore. By challenging yourself to roll with people who are significantly better, you have the opportunity to find holes in your game and get out of positions that you are not used to being in. I know this can suck as it’s happening but in the long run it’s the best way to learn.

So I spent a lot of my training this weekend working on escapes, scrambling out of danger and, yes, tapping more than I care to admit. But I had a blast doing it. If I can survive some kind of leg lock I have never seen before applied by a very large brown belt guy, what is a blue belt girl going to throw at me during the tournament that I can’t handle? Sometimes a good ass kicking is what we need to learn.

I have a confession to make

I overtrain. There I said it (they first step is admitting you have a problem). I have long known that I overtrain. I have also long known that eventually this will catch up to me in the form of injury or even hating jiu-jitsu. Yet I just can’t stop doing it.

I not only overtrain, I feel anxious and incomplete if I have to miss a day. I frequently turn down invites to go out during the week if it would mean skipping class. On the rare occasions I do skip class, I feel guilty all week knowing that I am going to miss a day and when I am somewhere else at class time I inevitably wonder what they are drilling in class and feel sad. A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. Did I go out for my birthday? Of course I did! After I trained.*

You may be asking yourself how much I train. Here is my typical week. Mondays and Wednesdays I go to the gym right after work, arriving around 5:30. I workout downstairs before class and then have class from 7-9.  Tuesdays and Thursdays I again head to the gym right from work and have class from 6-7:30. Fridays I try to take off. I don’t always succeed as we have an open mat then. Saturdays I wake up early to go to a women’s class at my weekend gym at 9. Often I stay after and roll with the purple belt instructor. Then at 11 I either take the basics class there or I head over to my regular gym for instructor training. Then at 1 I teach the women’s class at my gym. Sundays I have been getting to my weekend gym at 10 to roll with the purple belt instructor and then I stay for basics at 11 and rolling afterwards, typically leaving somewhere between 12:30 and 1:30.

Crazy I know. This week I added to this. I had been using Mondays and Wednesdays to get cardio in before the gym but now I’ve decided to add weight training to the mix and do that on M/W instead. So now I’m staying after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays for cardio.

I know that this is adding a lot of stress to my life. I am often exhausted as by the time I get home, shower and do whatever needs to be done around the house (i.e. laundry…you do a lot of laundry when you train that much), it is well after 10 before I actually eat dinner. My friends are getting frustrated with me trying to schedule time with them around training. I am neglecting other things I want to do (ex. some side web projects) and other things I have to do (ex. paying bills, cleaning). I feel like I am never home as I have to jam non-BJJ activities into what little free time I have on the weekends. It has gotten so bad that my one cat has resorted to chasing me to the door crying as I leave and will hold on to my arm for dear life if I pet her. I am the worst cat mom ever.

So knowing all this why do I keep doing it? I think there are probably several reasons. I feel like I have to get in as much time training as I can if I am going to keep up with guys. I can’t beat them at strength but I can have more technique. Also I just turned 33, I feel like my time to be competitive is limited. Unfortunately there is not a lot of opportunity for masters women to compete (I am not even going to mention the 40+ and 50+ divisions that guys get) so I have to fight the 20 year olds (sometimes 14 year olds as mentioned in this post) which is hard. However I think the biggest reason is that I just love jiu-jitsu. Someone could come up to me at work, tap me on the shoulder, say “want to roll?” and I’d bump fists and look for an empty conference room.

So I find I have a war between my head and my heart. My head is telling me I need to spend less time training but my heart is saying “NO! MORE JIU-JITSU!”. I suspect that eventually my head will win as my old lady body is not going to be able to take this abuse forever. But my heart is putting up a really good fight right now.

A hard role to fill

The purple belt instructor at my weekend school has been one of my very favorite training partners since I started there. From the beginning he has made it a point to roll multiple rounds with me and he even invites me to come in before class for extra rolling. He might secretly be my favorite person there.

A couple of months ago, it became clear to me that he was pushing me toward a roll I didn’t think I would ever fill. He wants me to be an enforcer. This first came up in a conversation I mentioned in this post where he said that a few guys at the gym needed to be taken down a notch and he thought I was just the person to do it.

I understand the reasoning behind wanting me to be the person to catch these guys. What better way to take a guy down a notch than to have a girl tap him? In a way I feel like I should be insulted by this. It shouldn’t be insulting to be tapped out by a girl! But I really do get where he is coming from. He is not looking to humiliate these guy but to show them that BJJ is not about being strong and going hard. The beauty of BJJ is that if it is applied correctly the smaller/weaker opponent can win. It’s the basis of the whole system. Valerie Worthington shared a story about an experience she had with a new guy while training once and also just recently blogged about it here. In her words, it’s the art!

There is one guy in particular that my coach has been pushing me to get. I think it is important to note here that neither of us dislikes this guy. I actually like him a lot. He is a good guy. He just likes to go fast and hard. As my coach put it, he likes to ragdoll everyone. He is having success doing this against newer people who don’t know how to handle it and I get the feeling that my coach thinks this may be going to his head. This is where I am supposed to come in.

I have not had a ton of experience rolling with this guy. I do remember that the first time we rolled, after I got over the initial onslaught (I really should just prepare for everyone to go nuts after we bump fists so it stops surprising me), I realized that in doing everything hard and fast, he was also being very sloppy and leaving a ton of space. It was really one of my first “aha” moments when I started to realize that there are ways to deal with someone who is going really hard. I have had some bad rolls with him since when I was in my defensive, “please don’t hurt me” phase.

As I said though, I don’t see him that often in class as I am only there on the weekends. My coach will periodically give me updates on him as a subtle reminder of what he wants me to do. Yesterday at the end of basics class I saw him come in which meant he was there to roll. I felt a sense of calm come over me. I didn’t even need to look at my coach, I knew what he wanted and I knew what my duty was and I was going to do my best to fulfill it.

I didn’t ask him to roll right away, I knew he’d come to me eventually, he always does. About half an hour in he asked me if I wanted to roll. We bumped fists and I was determined to get him. Not only did I want to come through for my coach but I wanted to vindicate my previous terrible rolls with him. The whole round I was getting better position on him. I scooted around his muscely guard pass attempt, I caught his sloppy triangle setup and used it to pass to side mount, I used an ill-advised bridge to get into mount, I got his back after he charged at me and even got a body triangle on him, I felt like I was doing everything right. However I could not get the tap.

At the end of the round he tried to lock up a kimura when I was trying to pass. I defended it well and wrapped my arm inside and grabbed my own belt. I also rolled to that side a bit so he didn’t have leverage to finish it. I could tell he was going to use all his strength to muscle my arm out though. As I frantically thought of ways to defend the arm, I could feel him pulling on it with all his might. He got it out and cranked it back and I had to tap. The round ended almost immediately after that. I had failed to complete my task.

It is somewhat discouraging to lose that way. I can’t blame him for muscling. I obviously didn’t protect that arm well to begin with and let’s face it, most of us would do the same. If you have the ability to out-muscle someone, why not use it? The bitter part of me needs to point out that he would not have gotten that submission on most of the other guys there rolling as he would not have been able to pry their arms out. But oh well, I got submitted.

So I lost the battle. But I have not lost the war. I had him on the run the whole time and it was only a list minute Hail Mary that had gotten him the submission. I was proud of my effort and I look forward to the next skirmish with this guy. Victory is so close I can taste it.

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