I apologize for the lack of posts but my lack of activity in the blog has been corresponding with my lack of activity in jiu-jitsu. Life has been crazy hectic lately with injuries and preparing a condo for sale (if you are reading this and might be interested in a 1br condo outside of Philadelphia, hit me up) and all sorts of other things that you probably don’t want to hear about.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my relationship with jiu-jitsu. When I first started training, I, like a lot of you reading this I am sure, was completely obsessed. I trained every day of the week, I felt guilty if there was a day I couldn’t train, the only thing I read, watched or thought about was training jiu-jitsu, the only time I travelled was for jiu-jitsu vacations. I own so many jiu-jitsu shirts that they took up an entire large box when packing up my condo. When I was in this obsessive compulsive training mindset, I had many people tell me that eventually I was going to slow down or my body would make me. Although I did get my fair share of injuries, it never slowed me down for too long and all I did was sit around miserably and wish I could be training.
During the height of my obsession is when I started reading, and eventually writing, jiu-jitsu blogs. Many of them I read from the beginning instead of jumping in at the end. After a while, I began to notice a pattern in some of the blogs I was reading. Many of the people would start their blogs while in a similar, obsessive love affair with jiu-jitsu. Of course this makes sense, most people don’t decide to write a blog about something they are neutral about. However as I’d read through the months and then years, I noticed that people would eventually stop being quite so obsessed with training everyday, often because of an injury but not always. Then the blog would change tone and the person would talk about having trouble getting back and then losing motivation to go entirely. Even though I had many experienced grapplers telling me I’d eventually slow down and I was reading the same in other blogs, I somehow thought I would be different. I couldn’t imagine ever not wanting to train all the time, so why was everyone talking about slowing down?
Well eventually I got a fairly serious injury (a herniated disc) which forced me out of training for a significant amount of time. It took almost a year to diagnose and treat and it got progressively worse until I could barely walk, let alone train. Once my back was feeling better and I could get back to training, I found it was very hard. The injury had taken a toll physically and I lost a lot of strength, my conditioning was awful and I had gained weight. In many ways I felt like I was starting all over again except now I knew what it was like to not be entirely awful which made it worse. Outside of the physical aspects, I also found that training had gotten a lot harder mentally. Once my life had to switch focus from jiu-jitsu all day every day, I found other things that I also enjoyed. I started hanging out with friends again (and not squeezing them in after training), I picked up new hobbies, I even started dating my girlfriend. So once it came time to go back to training, I found, much to my surprise, that I didn’t always want to go.
I still love jiu-jitsu and I don’t see myself ever stopping training (unless my old lady body completely falls apart) but I have a completely different relationship with it now. I find that often I have to talk myself into going to class instead of having to talk myself out of going to class (on the rare occasions I missed it). I am going back to the gym tonight for the first time in a month or so and while I am excited about it, I also am feeling sad that going to class means I won’t get home in time to spend significant time with my girlfriend or pets.
This month will mark my fourth year training jiu-jitsu. Our relationship started very hot and heavy. Jiu-jitsu quickly became my whole life and I was entirely consumed by it. But like any flame that burns too hot, it started to fizzle out. I do still love jiu-jitsu but it has become an aspect of my life and not my entire life. Most of the time I recognize that this is a healthier relationship with jiu-jitsu than I had before. I have things in my life besides jiu-jitsu and my world doesn’t completely stop when I can’t train.
In the end, I was not more dedicated or in love with the jiu-jitsu than anyone else and my obsession eventually ended. Redefining my relationship with jiu-jitsu over the last year has been very challenging and eye-opening. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder about what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten injured. Would I still be training everyday? Would I have a different belt? I look back at pictures of when I was at fighting weight and training was my whole life and sometimes I miss that person. I miss the obsession and how it fuelled my training. But then I look at the other things I have in my life now and I think that maybe that injury wasn’t the end I thought it was but the beginning of something new. I’ve come to realize that my relationship with jiu-jitsu is like any other relationship. It has to mature and change if it’s going to last in the long run. It’s been a hard process but I think me and jiu-jitsu will be together for a long time.
So first let me start this post by apologizing for the ridiculously long amount of time I spent not blogging. Last you heard from me I had just found out I had a herniated disc in my back and I had to stop training. I basically took the summer off, went to PT, did a lot of walking and am happy to report that I am not feeling symptoms from the disc.
I went back to training at the end of the summer. For the first couple of weeks I was so happy to be back that I was in total euphoria. I decided I would be smart when getting back to it and just drilled the first couple of weeks and didn’t go everyday. I gradually started adding some rolling in and although my ego was taking a beating, I wasn’t having any back/leg pain which I was quite happy about.
My training when I got back was very different than before I got injured. I had to take time off entirely from jits which meant I had to give up teaching the women’s class as well. This was a very hard decision for me because I knew that would mean the class would end but I was in rough shape and I couldn’t do it anymore. Because there was no longer a women’s class, we also were not able to host the women’s open mats we’d been having once a month. That was also really hard to let go of because we were getting great attendance and the ladies were really enjoying it. I spent a while feeling very guilty that something great was ending because of me.
When I came back to training I had the hope that eventually we could re-start the women’s programs. If not the classes (which we always had attendance problems with due to the low number of women who trained there) at least the open mats. After being back a couple of months I was told that they were going to get rid of the programs. While part of me understood this, part of me was really upset about it. I still felt as if my injury had ended something great for the female jits community in my area. I also was really bummed out that this now meant that I would get virtually no training with other women. I was having issues after my return with feeling frustrated by my lack of viable training partners at my gym. I was always the only woman who stayed for open mat after class and I was very cautious about choosing rolling partners because I was coming off an injury. This often meant that I could only get a few rolls in a class.
So with all that going on and the fact that I was no longer going to be an instructor, I started to think about what was best for me as a student. I made the very difficult decision to leave my gym. I agonized about this for a while. I did, and still do, have a lot of respect and gratitude for my instructors there. I would have never gotten as far as I have without their help and I will always be grateful for all they did for me. I talked to my instructor about my decision one day over coffee (well I had coffee, he had water) and he was very nice and understanding about it. He told me not to feel bad and that he understood and that I was always welcome to come back if it didn’t work out for me.
If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you may recall that I used to train at two gyms, one during the week and one during the weekend. I gave up training at the second gym when the women’s classes started as they were taking up my Saturdays which meant I could only go to the second gym once a week (and also that I was training everyday). I had stayed in touch with the instructors there and they had a bunch of girls that trained there that I was friends with so I decided to go back to that gym for training full time.
Things have been going well at the new gym. I enjoy having girls to train with and the gym has even started hosting women’s open mats! We had our second yesterday and we had 19 women in attendance! However, I had this vision that I’d just go back to training and then everything would go back to the way it was before I got injured. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. I put on a lot of weight while being injured due to my lack of ability to do anything but eat pizza (yeah that probably wasn’t the best choice) and also the injury really took a toll on my lower body. Training has been very slow and frustrating for me. I feel like I am a new white belt all over again. I spend all my time defending and trying not to die. I feel slow, old, out of shape and stagnate. I know in my mind what I should be doing when I roll but I can’t make my body do it. More often than not, I end up leaving the gym feeling frustrated and wondering if things will ever go back to the way they were.
I’m not about to give up on jiu-jitsu though and I am not going to give up on myself. I am starting a new fitness routine this month and getting strict about diet (I’ll miss you pizza). I’m planning to compete in the NY Open in April and everything is focused toward that right now. As you can see, I am also starting to blog again. For the longest time I felt like I was out of jiu-jitsu, even after I came back to training, which is why I found it hard to blog. I am done with that though. It’s time to get back in the game!
A couple of months ago I went on a mission to find a submission (read all about it here). This was fueled by the fact that I realized I did not have a go-to submission but more than that by a desire to change the style of my game. My BJJ is largely reactive. I tend to wait for my opponent to do something and then play defense. This is something that is not uncommon for someone who is smaller and weaker and is not necessarily a bad way to practice BJJ. However if you want to compete, this is not a style that is going to get you the win a whole lot.
My coach suggested that I pick a submission from the top and one from the bottom. So because I am fond of getting on top and mashing my shoulder into people’s faces, I decided to try to work on the arm triangle (or head and arm choke if you prefer) from top and wrist locks from bottom (well from everywhere really). I will admit that my wrist lock quest has more or less ended. I just never got used to looking for them. But I really liked working the arm triangle. So I did.
But of course you are rarely going to get to start in mount with your shoulder in someone’s face so I couldn’t just work the arm triangle. I had to first learn to get to a controlling top position. For me this usually means getting to top half guard (I don’t know why but I seem to end up in this position all the time), starting to work the shoulder pressure and control, transitioning to side control and then finally to mount.
So finally I learned to get to mount with my arm in position under my opponent’s head. So naturally I became an arm triangle machine right? Well not exactly. I found that I was getting rolled over a lot when I got to mount. This is somewhat expected since you are giving them an arm and making the bump and roll super easy. But I knew I could stop it if I learned to control the top position better. So I did. I learned how to better distribute my weight (the bump and roll is even easier if I leave all my weight on that side) and utilize hooks to block the bump and roll. Sometimes I would not go for the finish and just let me partner try to roll me over and over again so I could practice keeping the mount.
OK so now that I learned how to get to mount and how to hold it, it was nothing but arm triangles right? Yeah, not quite. I was getting successful with them but the thing about training with the same people and going for a submission over and over again is that eventually they catch on. So while my arm triangles were getting better, so too were their escapes.
But because I was constantly going for the same thing and because there are only so many ways to defend it, I found myself in the same positions over and over again. Because I was there so much I started to figure out what I could work from these other positions. If they bring their arm up to block the choke (the “answer the phone” defense), I can trap the arm and go for an Americana. If they roll away from me I can transition to technical mount and go for a collar choke or bow and arrow. If I can’t get their arm up, why not go for an Ezekiel?
When I decided to find my submission my only goal was to get good at arm triangles. I didn’t intend to build a whole series around it but that’s what happened. First I had to learn to get on top, then I had to improve my top game to even have a shot at the submission and then I had to work with the reactions of my opponents when I didn’t get the finish.
So what did I really get by going on my submission mission? Have I turned into an arm triangle machine? Not really. I go for them a lot, sometimes I can finish them, sometimes I cannot. If I get to top half guard though I know there is a better chance than not that I am going to get to side control. If I get to side control, it is very likely I will get to mount. If I get to mount, you better believe I’m going to try to isolate your arm, slide off and work that arm triangle. You know how to successfully defend it? Well I am waiting with some other stuff to try too.
So, no, I don’t always get the finish when working my arm triangle but I keep my opponent defending the entire time. That’s a lot more than I was doing a few months ago. And by stubbornly going after one submission all the time, I was forced to tighten up a lot of aspects of my game. This has been useful in many ways, not just when going for an arm triangle.
So if you haven’t found your go-to move yet, I encourage you to pick a submission you like or one that plays well to something you are already doing and go for it all the time. You will be surprised how much your offensive game improves. If you do have a go-to move, keep training it! Better yet, start training another! I am almost to the point that I want to pick a new go-to move (maybe start thinking about those wrist locks again). Although I will never abandon the arm triangle, I am excited to see what other types of series I can build.
Lately some of the guys I train with have been telling me that I have become one of the guys. What this means in the shallowest context is that they will say things about girls who come in for the other classes or they will talk about their weekend shenanigans with no thought to edit it for a lady in the room. I roll my eyes and make sarcastic comments when they do it but I really don’t mind.
I don’t mind because I know it is their way of showing that they respect me and consider me one of them. One of my teammates told me “you’re one of us because you train like us”. It actually makes me really happy to hear them say things like that. I train like a maniac and it’s very hard for me because almost everyone I train with is stronger and bigger and sometimes it just sucks. So knowing that the guys see my hard work and respect me for it gives me the warm fuzzies. I am glad they don’t consider me to be different than them because we are all jiu-jitsu nuts at heart.
But I am different. Sometimes I can’t deny this. I often have my own changing room at the gyms I go to, that’s kind of nice. I don’t have to wear a cup which is both good and bad (the guys often use them as weapons!). I can’t wear a gi without anything underneath the jacket without causing controversy. These are basic differences we all know exist between men and women.
But I know I am not one of the guys when I roll too. It saddens me to admit that but it’s true. I know that sometimes the stronger guys have to completely hold back any use of strength in order not to just crush me and hold me down. I know that they often go to extra efforts to not put all their weight on me so I won’t get smashed. I know that for guys it is tricky to roll with girls sometimes and I really am appreciative of the guys who are not only willing but eager to train with me.
But as much as it is tricky for guys to roll with girls, it is equally tricky for girls to roll with guys. If a guy is using no strength on me than I don’t feel like I can use any on him and it just turns into a flow roll. On the other hand if a guy is using a ton of strength it is sometimes tricky to know whether it’s in my best interest to try to use strength back and thus encourage him to turn it up a notch or just go into defense mode and hope that I survive the round. And sometimes I can just feel my training partner’s lack of desire to be rolling with me, either because he is uncomfortable, afraid to hurt me or whatever reason and then it’s just an unpleasant roll for everyone.
This is not really a problem for me when I train at my gym because I know those guys so well and we are comfortable with each other, but I often go to other gyms to train and am faced with these awkward situations when rolling with new guys. I would like to point out that I am not complaining or trying to say these guys are jerks. I understand that it takes a tricky balance to roll with a girl when you are a big, strong dude and I really do appreciate any guy who will take the chance to train with me. But if you are a man who has ever had a difficult time trying to figure out how much strength and weight to use when rolling with a girl and find it to be somewhat puzzling, imagine being a girl who has to figure this out every roll!
So no matter how much I love rolling with the guys, it will always be different than rolling with girls. I know that they often have the capability to out-muscle me and escape techniques because of size and strength disparity. I have learned to handle strength much better and I know as I keep training and my technique gets better this won’t be as big an issue anymore but even when I can beat a strong guy with technique, he is still stronger and I have to adjust my style to handle that. The same goes for size. There are techniques to deal with someone bigger than you (isn’t BJJ supposed to be the small man’s defense?) but again you have to adjust your style of BJJ when fighting a big guy. How I roll with the guys will always be different than how I’d roll with girls who are closer to my size and strength.
While preparing for the NY Open I had the opportunity to train with women that I don’t typically train with. It made me realize how important training with women is, especially if you want to compete. It is a very different experience to be able to give 100% of your strength and technique to a roll and be able to handle your partner giving 100% back. Also it is so much easier to move around when your partner is closer to your size! The NY Open has come and gone but I have pledged to make it a priority to keep training with these women. I think that it is beneficial for us all plus it’s just really fun.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still love training with the guys. I will probably always train with guys more than girls, that’s just the nature of the sport. I also think that training with the guys is important for every woman, especially when you are training for self-defense. But if you are a woman and you want to compete, or you just want to know what it’s like not to be outsized and outstrengthed all the time, than I think it’s crucial for you to find other women to train with as well.
I enjoy my position as one of the guys at the gym. I earned it and I feel like I am one of them as well (you know from the training standpoint…boys are still hairy, smelly and gross). But I think now and then I just need to be one of the girls.
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.
One time after rolling with a purple belt at my gym, he asked me what my go to submission was. I stared at him with a confused, blank stare. Submission? How often do I go for submissions? If I do go for submissions was there one I felt I was good enough at to consider my go to? I told him that I guess I spend more time playing defense than offense and didn’t really have a solid submission. He said that was normal because I was smaller and I would get one eventually.
I started thinking about the other guys I roll with and how I would often know what submission they were going to go for because that was their thing. I didn’t have a thing. It made me realize that I was not attacking enough and was instead content to play defense. I decided that I had to start thinking more offensively when I rolled. I made an effort to do this for a while. I liked how my playing offense meant that my opponent had to play defense and I wasn’t getting smashed and submitted. However, I did find it frustrating that I very rarely finished a submission. Recent events have found me playing defense again and I haven’t thought of finding my submission in a while.
That all changed this week though. After losing at the tournament last weekend, the purple belt coach at my weekend gym told me he thought I should pick a submission and just drill it, work it and make it mine. He suggested it be something quick, like a wristlock, since I am very often overpowered.
I liked the idea of this. Most of us have heard the saying that you shouldn’t fear the person who practices 1000 moves 1 time but instead fear the one who practices 1 move 1000 times. But once again I was faced with the problem of not having a submission I felt I was solid at. I don’t land any submission with enough regularity to think I can own it.
I talked to my main instructor about this idea and he agreed it was a good one except he suggested picking one from the bottom and one from the top. Lately when I get to mount my favorite thing to do is go for an arm triangle (or head and arm choke if you prefer). As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of shoulder pressure which lends itself well to this submission. I have also recently learned an americana transition from here and have discovered that if I get rolled I still have the option to finish the arm triangle or go for an ezekiel (in gi at least).
Now I just had to think of a submission from bottom. I asked my coach if he had any idea what I should choose and he suggested I work triangles as mine are pretty tight. I will humbly admit that I can throw on a nasty triangle. This is contingent of course on my partner giving me their arm and not trying at all to resist as I lock up the triangle. I said as much to him and he showed me some setups and suggested I work them while rolling in the coming weeks.
This weekend I got a lot of work in with my purple belt instructor and he helped me drill wristlocks. As a fairly new blue belt, I have not had a lot of experience with going for wristlocks which is why I dismissed them as my go to submission when he suggested it. I rolled with him a long time before class this morning and tried to work those triangle setups with minimal success. If I did get into a triangle position he would defend it (I hate when people do that). I feel like I can work armbars and omoplatas off of it though so I don’t want to give up on triangles yet but I want to be able to finish a submission now!
After having minimal success with the triangles I started thinking about the wristlocks he showed me. At one point I was in technical mount and about to swing around for an armbar when I noticed his arm was in perfect position for a wristlock. I went for it. I didn’t finish but it surprised him so much that he even admitted after that he went right to muscle mode to escape it and he told me at the time that I had almost got him. I kept going for them throughout our various rolls and had much the same experience, I almost got them but he managed to just escape.
If I am almost catching a purple belt after one day of trying I figure there is something to this wristlock thing. So I am going to make an effort to go for them as I roll from now on. Well except I guess I can’t with white belts. Can I? They have to learn sometime…
I am excited to possibly have a submission to make my own. I hope to have a running tally of people I submit via wristlock very soon 🙂
Training this week has been pretty good. After a tournament I like to identify issues I need to work on and try to incorporate fixes while I train. For example, after watching videos of my previous tournament I realized that I was sitting way too high in guard so whenever I am in top guard now, I make sure to pay attention to sitting low. I think it has helped a lot. Fixes from last weekend’s tournament that I am working on include working more standup, not settling into bad positions when rolling and drilling harder.
Working standup has been going well. I am lucky to have partners who are willing to work with me and several of them even have wrestling backgrounds (how I wish I could go back in time and somehow convince my parents to sign me up for wrestling). One particularly helpful partner (you know who you are!) showed me some takedowns that he thinks would be good for me to work considering I have pretty strong legs and base. I am hoping to pick one or two and work them to the point I can get them automatically.
Not settling into bad positions is something I have been telling myself to work on for a while. When people pass my guard or escape a submission I tend to start thinking of how I am going to get out of the bad position they are about to put me in when I should instead be focusing on stopping them from getting into that position. Having this mindset will also help my goal to be faster when I roll.
Drilling harder is a new revelation. On Tuesday in class I was working with another blue belt who has been out for quite a while with back problems. I was watching two guys next to us drill and they were giving each other maximum resistance. At first I thought they were going way too hard for drilling (probably they were) but it got me to thinking about how I drill. I am used to drilling with little to no resistance which is possibly giving me a false sense of security in the moves. I have often said that I am really good at drilling but not so great at applying the techniques to my rolling. My thinking is that if I drill with some resistance it will be a more realistic application of the technique. It will also help me with my general goal of “GO HARD”.
Of course then my instructor told me drilling with resistance is not a good idea. I can see his point. If you don’t know a technique and someone is applying a ton of resistance then you are most likely going to get frustrated or think that the move doesn’t work. I feel like there is a compromise though. I have decided that the first few times I drill something, particularly if it is new to me or not something I am not comfortable drilling, I will drill with little to no resistance. After I feel more comfortable I will add some resistance and when I get more comfortable I will add more resistance and so on. I think this will be a big help and I really enjoyed drilling this way during the week.
I had some good rolls while trying to focus on all this during the week. I rolled with a guy who is very strong and generally just tries to grab my wrists and hold me still while we roll. I managed to stay on top for most of the roll and refused to back down because he was using strength. I know his technique is not as good as mine (he spent most of his time in bottom guard trying to x-choke me) and I worked a pass to half, got swept, reversed it back to guard and eventually got to mount where I was trying to work an arm triangle when the round ended. I also felt good about my roll with my smaller, quicker, extra squirmy fellow female blue belt. She is very strong and quick and often gets out of whatever bad position I manage to put her in or avoids it altogether with that pesky strength and quickness. I decided to take it up a notch this week and we had a really great roll which left us both exhausted but happy at the end. Tomorrow is my day of training with the girls, which I am hoping the snow doesn’t ruin.
We have not had a lot of people in class this week for some reason which means I did not get a lot of rolling in. In a way this is good because I am competing tomorrow and I did not injure myself or wear myself out rolling. In a way this is bad because I am competing tomorrow and I feel I need the practice. Oh well.
Tuesday I didn’t roll at all as there were only 5 people in class and 2 of them did not roll and the other two guys were happily rolling with each other. Also one of them gave me a black eye before and I am still bitter about it (it doesn’t help that he likes to bring it up still). Wednesday I did get some great rolling in with my instructor and the other female blue belt in the gym (also a blog reader…hi Diana!). I tried my omoplata sweep series again and she managed to slip right out of it and my instructor let me get it but when I asked him if the finish was good he said “not really”. I will keep working it but maybe not try to push for it tomorrow when I fight.
Yesterday was really fun because a friend from Massachusetts is in town to also compete tomorrow so she came to our gym for class. It was great getting to see her again and drill with her. She is small but mighty! After class we kept drilling for a little bit and then I got a roll in with one of the guys. Her shoulder is bothering her so she didn’t want to roll and risk hurting it more right before the tournament. After class we went out to dinner for some yummy food and some catching up.
Both my female rolling partner and my friend from MA are smaller than me. I found myself getting frustrated by them because they are very good at being quick and moving out of bad positions and just never sitting still. I really need to do this in my game. I am in a weird in-between space where I am too small to use strength and size against most of my opponents but too big to play that small, quick game. I think this means that I need to keep concentrating on my diet and working strength and conditioning.
Tomorrow is NAGA. It is my first tournament as a blue belt. I have yet to be hit with the bundle of nerves that makes me want to curl up in a fetal position and quit BJJ but I’m sure it’s coming. I have competed many times and it’s always been a good experience. I always come away with things to work on, I get to meet new BJJ girls or see ones I have met at previous tournaments and it’s just a great touchstone to see how far you’ve come. Yet every time I am waiting for them to call my name on the mat I am thinking that this will definitely be the last time I compete. My coach might not make it in time for my matches as he has to teach in the morning and the women start at 10am but thankfully some teammates will be there and my friend from MA so I’ll have a cheering section. Time for war!
Saturdays are quickly becoming my favorite training day because I get to focus on training with other women. A few weeks ago my school started a women’s only BJJ class on Saturdays. I like to think I was actively involved in getting it started, and by being actively involved I mean that I kept asking my instructor “so when are we going to start a women’s BJJ class???” We have large Muay Thai and kickboxing programs at my school and there are a lot of women who train in those so we are hoping that having a women’s only BJJ class will make BJJ seem less intimidating to any of the girls who might be thinking of checking it out. We also have enough women who train BJJ to deserve our own class. My instructor wanted a woman to teach it so he asked me to. I was really intimidated by the thought of teaching a class, I don’t feel like I know enough to teach anyone anything but I really wanted there to be a women’s class so I agreed. I have found that I really like teaching the class though. I have to focus on little details so that I can accurately teach the moves and this is helping me a lot when I do my own training.
A girl who used to occasionally train at my main school has started training at my weekend school*. The owner lets us come in at 9am and we drill for a while and roll a couple of rounds. We did armbar/triangle/omoplata transitions yesterday which was really fun. On a normal Saturday (well normal since the women’s class started), I would have to leave after that for instructor training at my main school. However, my instructor was at the newly opened second location of the gym yesterday so I got to stay and participate in the basics class. A new girl started at the school this week so I got to drill with her. It’s always nice to get new girls in the school and she definitely has that look in her eye that I have to come to realize means she is going to become a BJJ addict.
After hanging out at the weekend gym for a while, I headed over to my main gym for the women’s class. We had all of the girls (6!) show up for class yesterday. It was an occasion so momentous that we stopped halfway through class to document it with pictures. I think the fact that all of the women take an hour out of their Saturday to come train shows that I was not the only one who really wanted a women’s only class. It feels kind of awesome that 5 other people are willing to come in and listen to what I have to say about BJJ for an hour too. Getting to train with all those women yesterday made my entire weekend happy. Can’t wait for next Saturday!
* I have two gyms. My main school, the one I go to most and the one I get my rank from/compete under is my “during the week” school and the other is my “weekend school”. However the main school is where we have a women’s class so it’s also my Saturday school now. Confusing I know.
I often worry about whether I do enough at the gym to earn respect for my BJJ skills. I am very dedicated to training, I go almost every time there is a class. I also try to be as friendly as I can. I feel relatively confident that most of my teammates respect the work I put in and (hopefully) don’t find too much on a personal level that they dislike. But what about my actual jiu-jitsu skills? I am submitted far more than I submit. A lot of times I feel like I am moved from good positions at will. I often wonder when rolling with someone who has less experience than me if they are thinking “How did she ever make it to blue belt…I am totally beating her”.
I realize that this is largely in my own head. I am projecting my own feelings of shortcomings onto rolling partners who probably are not thinking that. I know that when people get promoted they often feel that they do not deserve it. But every now and then something happens that makes me think this is not all in my head.
At my school, as in many others, we line up according to rank at the end of the night. I am often amused by watching everyone try to scurry and shove their way into where they think they should be in the line. This week the advanced classes were no-gi (we have beginner and advanced classes simultaneously on the mat, the advanced class alternates between gi and no-gi weekly and the beginners are always in a gi). I have noticed on no-gi weeks that there is one particular white belt who will regularly make it a point to get in front of me when we line up. The first time it happened I thought he had done it inadvertently and I made a joke about him being in front of me. He just looked at me and then stayed where he was. I was not really interested in getting in a pissing contest about lining up so I just let it be and have done the same every time it’s happened since.
As you astute readers may have guessed, this happened again last night when we were lining up (it actually happened twice this week out of four classes, one of which I didn’t line up for…not that I am counting…) and this time another white belt got in line right behind him. I again didn’t say anything but every time it happens it galls me. I feel it is a clear indication that he does not think that I have earned the right to stand in front of him in line.
Last night was different though. When we started the line to bump fists, a fellow blue belt at the beginning of the line saw me a few people down from him and asked quite loudly what I was doing down there. I made a joke about how I guess I didn’t outrank the two guys in front of me in no-gi. The second white belt most likely had just followed the first in line and he immediately apologized and said he had not been paying enough attention when he lined up. The first white belt, the one who does this regularly, again said nothing. The blue belt then said “it’s not right”.
So while the white belt may not feel I have earned my place in front of him, it made me feel better to think that the blue belt thought I had. I thought about it again after I got home and decided that the blue belt was right. It is not right! If my coach thinks I’ve earned that spot then I’ve earned it. From now on I’ll be taking my spot in line, loudly and rudely if I have to.