Monday, December 26, 2011

Pain, Redemption and Learning


I haven't posted lately because I've been busy competing and then helping my family with Christmas preparations, but I finally have a loaded blog post! In two weekends in December, I competed at Grappler's Quest in New Jersey and the Renzo Open in New York City.

There's no nice way of saying this, but I went unconscious for the first time ever. My first match was nogi at GQ and like an idiot, I went for a single leg with my head on the outside. I've drilled the single leg several times and NEVER put my head on the outside, but I was in such a rush that I had my head on the outside. My opponent took the opportunity to grab a guillotine and it went to the ground. I felt myself fading a little but I thought I could muscle out of it. Next thing I know, I'm waking up to a referee yelling in my face. For the record, this ref. was AWFUL. My teammates were on the side yelling "SHE'S OUT!!", and he only pulled my opponent off of me when I started twitching. He didn't even turn me over and shake my legs to wake me up- he just waited until I regained consciousness.

Needless to say, I was very embarrassed. Being choked out so soon in front of so many people was mortifying. After I saw this girl compete against the other ones, I knew I could have done much better against her. I was angry and upset, which unfortunately carried over into my gi matches. I opted NOT to do the absolute nogi after this. It was interesting to note that there was a range of competitors in the nogi advanced women's division. Nyjah Easton ended up winning the division. Being a brown belt, she was the most advanced competitor; the rest were blue belts like myself.

My first gi match was against a blue belt from 50/50 BJJ. I didn't get submitted, but I was unable to gain control at all during the match. For a great deal of it, we were on the ground and I had the single leg (head on the INSIDE this time), but could not capitalize. I think being angry had drained some of energy. I ended up losing 3-0 (I think I may have had 1 advantage). Fortunately, I had one more match which I won on points. My opponent was someone from Josef "Ze Cobra" Manuel's school in New Jersey. She was aggressive, but I managed to maintain top control. Her coaches were calling me on stalling, but I kept attacking for the baseball choke from side mount as well as other submissions, so I'm pretty sure that's not stalling! This victory gave me third place in gi. I was still quite upset and basically threw the medal in my bag.

I took the train in to NYC the next day and went to open mat at Shaolin's, as I really wanted to drill the things I needed to work on. I drilled the single leg many times, worked on guillotine defense, and then rolled for 35 minutes straight.

On Saturday the 17th, I competed at the Renzo Open at the MMA World Expo in NYC. I was feeling more confident for this tournament. My parents actually came to this one because they want to learn a little more about BJJ, which I appreciated! Lots of people from Shaolin's were there, so I had people coaching and cheering me on. They made it an open weight blue belt division, as not enough girls signed up to have separate divisions. I am terrible at guessing weights, so I'm honestly not sure how much bigger or smaller these girls were weight wise, but they were around the same height. My first match was against a girl who was a little shorter than me. I was able to establish grips early, but could not get the single leg. She ended up pulling guard, and I was able to stack and pass to side control. I was then able to get mount and secure an Americana. My next match was against a girl who I'm pretty sure was around my size and height. This was a much tougher stand up battle. She actually went for a guillotine, but she had her hand under my chin and not my neck. Since we went out of bounds, we had to restart in the ring. We had a brief argument with the ref. because she tried to get the fully locked guillotine, but I protested that she only had the chin. I eventually gave in and defended that guillotine anyway! I was able to pass her guard to side control. I eventually mounted her and went for submissions until the bell rang. My final fight was against a girl who was taller but more lanky than me. I've rolled with her before- she's a more experienced blue belt from Renzo's school in Manhattan and I knew she had a really good spider guard. This was an awesome back and forth battle. I was able to pass her half guard and get side control. I honestly forget many of the details, but she ended up in my guard at one point, so I swept, but she ended up getting the top position. I was up for most of the match by 2 points and one advantage up until then, so she ended up winning by one point. Therefore, the final score was 3 points to 2 points with 1 advantage. I was disappointed I lost, but I am happy I fared well against someone I knew had more experience than me. And a second place medal isn't too bad!

Despite some tough losses in these past 2 tournaments, I definitely learned a lot about what my strengths are and what I need to work on. I have a couple of my matches on tape, and I have been poring over them so I can improve for next time.

Hope you all had a good holiday! The next tournament I plan on competing in is the Good Fight on February 4th, but I'll be taking training a little easy from now until after January 1st.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winter Competition Time

Have not updated this lately because as usual work is crazy and there has been nothing of interest BJJ related until the past few days.

I signed up for two competitions in December- Grapplers Quest on the 10th and the Renzo Open on the 17th. I feel like I've been working on enough things that I am ready to compete and test what I've been learning. I treat these tournaments almost the same way I do big IBJJF tournaments. I am not the kind of person who will do well if I take smaller tournaments more lightly than the big ones. I understand they are not as prestigious as IBJJF tournaments, but I know there will be some really good competition out there. I imagine that Grapplers Quest will be the most packed because it's more well known. I've managed to keep my weight under control enough so I don't need to worry about cutting too much and the weight classes for the Renzo Open are in my favor so I'm on the lower end of the weight range.

Of course gearing up for competition is more difficult in the winter, especially since Thanksgiving and my birthday were last week! And everyone seems to be eating chocolate and Christmas cookies! I had one piece of my birthday cake and put the rest in the freezer for after the 17th and am trying to eat as healthily as possible. Nice move by my parents who hid all the leftover dessert in the basement- I don't think about munching on that stuff when it's not in plain sight! :)

After the 17th I'll be easing up on training a little. I'll go a couple of times a week, but I have some nagging injuries I need to take care of. I'll probably try and do some strength and conditioning stuff, mainly bodyweight exercises and sprints, as I don't have access to a gym.

Next time I post it will most likely be competition results!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Should Guys Roll With Girls?

I could only go to BJJ once today (Thursday the 3rd- I'm writing this kinda late at night!), but it was the mixed levels/competition class so there was a lot of rolling. I was the only girl in class today- normally there's at least 1-2 more but I think people's schedules have just been crazy lately. I rolled with a 17 year old blue belt male and felt I was able to execute my techniques very well. I was able to mount some pretty good offense and was able to deal well against his sweeps. However, I noticed that he was significantly more aggressive when rolling with the guys in the class.

My philosophy for when men roll with women is that they should treat girls like men who are the same size as the girl is. For example, if you are 170lbs and you're rolling with a 130lb girl, the guy should roll as though he was going against a 130lb guy, assuming the two are the same belt level. He shouldn't muscle the girl around, but he should NOT go too easy and let her pull of techniques. I've gone against guys who think they're rolling at the black belt finals of the Mundials, guys who let me pass their guard (what?!), and guys who treat me no differently. I'd rather roll with the last category than be injured in the first one and not improve my game in the second one.

I was a little disgruntled about this and spoke to one of my friends at the gym and he said "Well yeah he wasn't going to go nuts against a girl". My response was that he should never "go nuts" against anyone but he should have used the appropriate resistance. If I ever rolled with Shaolin, I'm sure he could arm triangle me about 100 times in a five minute period, but he wouldn't. He roll against me but probably be able to neutralize all of my attacks and execute his own game appropriately while keeping a good flow. That's what a more experienced person should do against someone who isn't the same level.

This makes me wonder if all the guys at my gym and other gyms have this mentality. It's hard to tell, but I feel as though I might just tell the people I roll with the be a little more aggressive. You aren't doing girls any favors by going lighter than you would against a guy who was my size. If the guy is bigger, he should try and use his technique and hold back on his strength when rolling with a girl, or anyone who is smaller than him for that matter.

I'm not sure how many people actually read this, but I'd like to hear some feedback on this topic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Break My Heart!

I've been EXTREMELY busy with work the past several days. I had a 49 hour week last week, worked 12 hours yesterday and had to go in an hour early today! Still, I managed to go on Monday and tonight for three hours each time. Today it was ROUGH getting to class. There had been chocolate at work all day and I was feeling the lack of sleep and yesterday's work day kick in. But BJJ is the dopeness and I needed to burn off the chocolate!

Shaolin always seems to catch me when I'm getting swept from the top in half guard. Not that it's a rare occasion, but I'm glad he always sees it because he takes me aside and tells me what I'm doing wrong. On Monday he saw me get swept and said "Ayanthi! (or in Shaolin's case Aaanthi!) you break my heart!" He showed me that if someone grabs the arm on the same side as the trapped leg, I should not post the leg on the opposite side, as they will just sweep me the other way. Instead, I should pressure downwards, sprawl my legs, and pass to the side of my trapped leg. I've really been working my top game these past few days and I can see lots of improvement. I feel as though every class it gets harder for the other students to sweep me when I am on top in half guard. I've also gotten a lot better about exerting top pressure and making sure the person doesn't have enough space to move.

Today I finally got out of work early enough for the 5:30pm nogi class. Shaolin taught it today and it consisted of a pretty tough warmup with lots of rolling. I wish there was more nogi in the schedule. I'm of the belief that nogi is not as simple as just taking off your gi and rolling; there's different techniques you need to use when you can't grab onto lapels, sleeves or gi pants. (For the record, I am NOT a 10th Planet fan!) It's important to drill passes, sweeps and submissions that are more effective in nogi than in gi BJJ. Nogi was followed by two more BJJ classes. As Shaolin noted today "Ayanthi loves the mat! She is my sneakiest student- she managed to get in three classes- how?!" The perks of being a girl and above a white belt are that I can take any and all of the classes.

The reason Shaolin lets girls above white belt take the beginners class is because he always wants the girls to roll together. He has no problem when girls roll with guys, but it is definitely different rolling with men than it is with women, and I imagine he wants us to be comfortable in competition against women. In today's beginners class I had the chance to roll with Jody, who is a 3 stripe white belt with a pretty fierce spider guard. She is determined to get all the techniques correctly, and I think she'll be a competitive force if she continues to train consistently.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Future

Today I went back to the Grappler's Guide Academy. It was an open mat day and I thought it would be a good opportunity to switch things up a little, not to mention it's kind of rough to hike out all the way to NYC just for Shaolin's open mat every week. One of Jason's old students who now trains full time at Lloyd Irvin's Camp Springs location was visiting as well. I didn't get to roll with him, but I did get several good nogi rounds in. My work schedule doesn't coordinate well with the days Shaolin holds nogi classes (which are only twice per week anyway) so it had been a while since I did nogi.

One of the good things about being at Jason's school is that a lot of the guys are significantly bigger (at least 20 pounds more) than me so I really have to focus on technique. Jason also teaches more leg locks than Shaolin does, and is also great about ensuring that students do NOT crank or ever really finish a leg lock. My first round I was leg locked and wrist locked quite a few times and then got used to watching out for them. I got to roll with Jason for a round as well. I don't really get the chance to roll with black belts but it's the best opportunity you have to see where your weaknesses are. Jason has been preparing for NoGi Worlds in California so he took today easy in terms of rolling. I could tell he was looking out to see how I was executing each technique and as expected, Jason was always one step ahead of me. He wasn't really going for submissions but definitely working to better his position at all times. At the end, he pointed out that I needed to work on the knee cutter pass. I'm still not really used to doing the knee cutter in nogi, but all you need to do is get the underhook in the opposite leg you're knee cutting and go for the pass.

I'm pretty certain I'm going to do the Grappler's Quest in December in NJ. Apparently the Abu Dhabi Trials were postponed until next year, so maybe if I have more time when that date is announced I'll be able to compete in that.

Additionally, I had to have the "what are you going to do with your life" talk with my parents the other night. They weren't too pleased that I wanted to work for one more year before attending graduate school, but frankly, I don't have time to visit schools, study for the GRE, take the GRE, write a personal statement, and apply to graduate school with my current work schedule (and would like to make some more $$$ to pay for higher education!). I don't even have weekends to myself- I'm working 3 out of 4 weekends this month! The point of my saying this is that they told me that training will really have to take a back seat next year if I'm applying for graduate school in fall 2013. This is something I obviously knew, but didn't want to really address. I hate not being able to train at least three times per week, and having next to no training next year is really going to be rough on me. I doubt whatever job I get next year will be as taxing as mine currently is in terms of hours per week at work, but regardless all that work for graduate school is going to take up a lot of time and is ultimately more important than training. I'm going to try my best to take morning classes or something, but I'm really hoping I don't stagnate too much next year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All Work and No Play...

...makes me crave BJJ! See that rhyme? :)

This is the first time in 7 days since I've been on the mat. Work has been nuts lately and I was hoping to make the 5:30 class today, but only got the tail end of the 6:30 and the full 7:30 class, as I had a meeting that went over time.

That all being said, I was not in the best mood. Between not being able to train for the past week and missing the first class, I was pretty frustrated. It's not the greatest idea to unleash your frustrations while rolling, because (shocker of shockers) no one will want to roll with you! So I tried to focus all this energy onto learning what Shaolin was teaching.

The drills in the advanced class built off of one another. The sequence was this:

- begin standing in front of the person who is laying down. grab the knees and step to the side to knee on belly
- person on bottom turns into you
- person on top puts their hands on either side of the head of the person on bottom and jumps to the other side
- person on bottom goes for the single
- person on top circles to the back
- as the person on top circles to the back, the person on bottom blocks the leg and gets the high crotch to step out and take the back

We did these step by step over the course of half an hour. Definitely a complicated sequence but it's a nice option as opposed to just sprawling when someone gets the single leg.

Shaolin has extended the Monday and Wednesday classes from 8:30 to 8:45 so we can get some longer rounds in. Additionally, students can stay until 9pm to get some extra rolling and drilling in. However, Shaolin himself leaves at 8:45pm and some of the purple belts monitor the class until 9pm. Rolling was better than expected for me. One big thing I've been trying to focus on is making sure I post my leg when on top in half guard. Otherwise, it is very easy for the person on bottom to sweep you and/or take the back. This happened to me a couple of times during one roll today, and Shaolin came over to show me that I had to maintain top pressure and head control to avoid this. I appreciated that he was watching and really noticed what I was doing wrong. Rolling was much more smooth after that, and I even managed to sneak in two triangle chokes during two separate rolls! This is not common for me, as I always seem to get stacked and passed when attempting the triangle. I've been trying to break my opponents posture when they are in my guard, and I think this has helped me in setting up submissions, particularly the triangle.

I'm hoping I can make it to BJJ tomorrow. The rest of this week is going to be crazy at work and I need BJJ as an outlet!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Another Crazy Saturday Night

I'm sure you're looking at this post and thinking "Really? A blog post on a Saturday night?" Despite the fact that I'm 22, I am boring sometimes! AmeriCorps requires participants to average a 43 hour work week, and since my host site wasn't ready on time, I need to make up several hours by doing volunteer projects on the weekends. This means that I've been travelling from New Jersey into Manhattan and throughout the boroughs of New York City doing volunteer projects on the weekend. More often than not, I'll try and spend time with my friends who live in NYC when I'm done with the service project, and by the time I get home, I'm tired! This weekend is being spent with my family, who I rarely see now between getting up early to go to work, getting home late from training, and doing service projects on the weekends.

I only had the chance to hit the mat twice this week. Kind of a bummer, but I had to work late for a couple of nights. Not to mention I had some meetings to prepare for so I went home a little early- how grown up am I!? :D Well, I think that smiley may have negated the grown up factor...

Some people begin BJJ and quickly find out that they either favor a bottom game involving play the open/closed guard or a strong top game, which involves passing the guard and working from side mount or regular mount. I don't think I have ever really favored either approach, but I am feeling much more comfortable from half guard after training with Shaolin. Shaolin is great at half guard, and not only does he show a lot of half guard techniques in class, but I've been forcing myself to get into half guard lately. It's done wonders for my half guard game. I can't say it's my strength, but the gap between my half guard and the rest of my game has decreased tremendously. I no longer feel flustered and frustrated when in half guard, which gives me more confidence when thinking about competition.

Additionally, I've been getting better at the wrestling aspect of BJJ. I'm not doing Palhares style slams, suplexing people, or doing granby rolls around the mat, but I am no longer hesitant to go for a takedown from standing or open guard. I've been getting these takedowns with a pretty high success rate, so I'm happy this is something to add to my arsenal. Adding these aspects to my game has made me happy about my progress in BJJ and it makes me want to compete to see how these new aspects would apply in a competition setting. I believe Abu Dhabi Trials are in the beginning of November. I want to compete, but it all comes down to how much mat time I can get in between now and the event. Plus I can't find the registration page...Regardless, there is a Grapplers Quest event in December in NJ that I definitely want to do.

Oh, and two shameless pieces of propaganda:

1. There is another NYC Women's Open Mat on December 4th. Time and location TBA, but I'm definitely going!

2. Fushida, a Canadian gi company, has just come out with some new gis. They were kind enough to send me their women's gi, which fits me REALLY well straight out of the bag. It's a sharp looking gi and it's nice to see a gi company that supports women in BJJ. They put a lot of time and effort in producing this gi so I expect nothing less than awesomeness. Their new gis will be released to the public in a couple of weeks, so keep checking www.fushida.ca for updates. Expect a detailed review in the coming days regarding their women's gi.

Monday, October 3, 2011

EPIC

This past Saturday was the NoGi Pan Ams and one of my old coaches and one of my old teammates came and competed. After planting trees in the Bronx (AmeriCorps stuff), picking up cupcakes, and battling downed subway routes, I eventually made it to the venue. After seeing Jeff's beard in the crowd I was able to catch up with them for the rest of the night. It was nice to see some old faces and wished they could have stopped by Shaolin's to train! But I needed to ship those southerners back to Atlanta where they belong :)

The next day there was a women's only open mat. It is going to be held at different schools across the city and held about every 2 months. There were about 15 girls there with a good mix of whites, blues, 2 purples and a brown belt. Got some awesome rolling in and it was good to go against people who I knew nothing about. I didn't know their strengths or weaknesses and it was good to get exposure to other people's styles, as inevitably your instructor favors a certain game. Not to mention everyone was really friendly and we all talked afterwards about where we train and what the environment is like at each of our respective gyms. No nonsense, just some good solid training and then talking afterwards. I'm excited that the first one was a success and that there will be one every other month or so. One of my teammates and I told Shaolin about it and he said he would be happy to lend the school out for mat space. Plus I got to wear my Scramble rainbow tights which is always a plus!

And if you think I couldn't top that....well you're wrong. Sarah, one of my new teammates, told me that one of the people at the gym is good friends with Hillary Williams and that Hillary would be interested in coming to the lunchtime BJJ class at Shaolin's if the other girls were interested. Well OBVIOUSLY we are! I don't normally take a lunch break at work and just do emails while eating, but I ducked out and ran to Shaolin's. I was partnered with another blue belt girl for drills, and one of my last rolls was with Hillary! She was very personable
and asked me if I was working on anything. I started on bottom in half guard, which she promptly passed. She was good about latching onto submissions but then quickly letting go so that the roll would continue. Not that I was surprised, but it was insane at how easily someone can just smash your game into pieces. Since I normally roll with whites, blues and purples, the experience gap is smaller than it is with a black belt world champion.

Hillary is EXTREMELY humble and down to Earth. She spoke with all the girls after class and told us the following:


-don't think about trying to beat someone in class. If they started before you, they're probably always going to be better than you because just as you get better, they will too but they are already a little ahead
- don't have an ego. If a 250lb dude wants to roll with you, don't do it just to prove a point. This also applies to tapping- she showed us how her elbow now doesn't extend all the way
- While BJJ is about technique over strength, BJJ is not JUST about technique over strength. It's about using your strength effectively. She then demonstrated this by being in side mount and being really tense followed by by being in side mount and distributing your weight so that you're tough to move
- she also said that "She has quit BJJ for life seven times" which shocked me! She told us that there are peaks and valleys in training but not to get discouraged

This was all of course followed by a group shot with Hillary taken on
about seven phones and I was able to get one with her as well. By this time I had been out of work for two hours so I ran back to work wearing my gi. Yes, wearing my gi. I figured since I'd stayed out for so long I might as well look like I was doing something cool! But as long as I get my work done and get my hours in my coworkers don't really mind things like that. I was well on time for a work call, so it's all good! Out of respect for my teammates, I did not go to evening BJJ, as my only gi was now sweaty and stuffed in the bottom of my backpack. This also made me realize this was one of the first times I'd eaten dinner with my parents in a while, as I'm either at BJJ and getting home late or they are out doing something. Such is the nature of obtaining a work/life/play balance!

So basically the past few days have been awesome, between seeing my old teammates, training with people I didn't know before, and meeting Hillary effing Williams.

Also, if you come across this page and are interested in the NYC Women's Open Mat, feel free to go ahead and "like" "NYC Women's Open Mat" on Facebook. Stop by if you're in the area, whether permanently or just on vacation!





Friday, September 30, 2011

Beast Mode

The past few days have been very busy for me, but I've managed to train on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Yesterday was easily one of my best training days since I've began at Shaolin's. Thursdays I can get about 3 hours of training in, as I can take two advanced classes and jump in on the beginner class. We had seven women on the mats yesterday, which is pretty incredible! There's no women's class at Shaolin's, but he tries to pair all the girls together when he can.

In the first advanced class, I finally found myself being aggressive but not spazzy while rolling. As I've written previously, I used to be very frantic while rolling and then became too calm, so i was glad to finally have balanced the two. Additionally, I was able to block certain techniques I hadn't had much success with in the past. For example, I had been getting choked while trying to pass the guard, but was able to remember to simply push my opponents elbow down to break free. I've also been getting better about thinking one step ahead to avoid being stuck. It's days like this that give me an extra boost of confidence regarding competition. It (almost) made me regret not signing up for NoGi Pan Ams, but I also have a tough time making it to NoGi training consistently because of my work schedule. I will however, be watching my new and old teammates tomorrow at the event. There is a Grapplers Quest on December 10th in New Jersey and I'm thinking about competing. Of course this depends on how work goes and if I can put enough time in on the mat. Plus that's holiday time and I'll need to make weight!

Regardless, the past few days of just pushing myself through work and 2-3 hours of BJJ have really allowed me to challenge myself and progress. Now that I train fewer times per week (I miss college!), I put in that much more effort in while I am on the mat.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NYC is Full of Food

Seriously! Everywhere I turn there is a food truck or food cart. And most of the time, it's cheap! Five bucks for a gyro or chicken over rice, one dollar for a giant pretzel (don't even like those), and a dollar for a cup of coffee (run and tell that, Starbucks!). I passed a waffle cart today- A WAFFLE CART! You can put ice cream and fruit and other delicious things on it. I've seen carts selling tacos and dumplings and cupcakes OH MY! I don't buy prepared food that often because I think more often than not it's a waste of money. However, I've gotten stuck in the trap of forgetting to pack dinner and have either not been eating dinner or have been buying food after work. Neither of these things are good for your body, especially if you're training 1-3 hours.

Outside of what I learn directly at work, I've realized I need to plan ahead at all times. The night before, I need to pack my gi, make sure my lunch AND dinner are ready and packed in the fridge, make sure there is someone to take me and pick me up at the train station (it's three dollars a day to park there in addition to the 400 bucks per month I need to pay to take the train!) get up on time, and make the train so I am on time to work. I am basically packing my entire day into my backpack. I guess this is what being a real person and a commuter in the working world is like!

In terms of actual training today, I still find that I'm getting caught in things that other people do consistently to me. For example, there is one person who always gets me in a collar choke from half guard on top. It takes a little while because I resist, but more often than not I end up tapping. One weekend, I need to sit down and write out what I keep getting caught in and work on countering it in class. I think I'm going to start bringing a notebook to class or write it out on the train home to see what I need to work on. This would be good material to bring to Shaolin's open mat on Sundays, assuming I can make it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Training at Other Schools

It's been a while since I updated this, but between work, the commute and BJJ, I just come home and pass out! I think I've said this before, but I have to work a minimum of 43 hours a week. It's an AmeriCorps funded to position, so to ensure that I get 43 hours per week, I have to sometimes do community service projects on the weekends to ensure I get enough hours in- I need 1700 by the end of June between work and community service projects! BJJ is definitely keeping me sane and balanced through the early morning train ride in, the working day, and the late train ride home.

I think most people who do BJJ, if not all, feel a pretty strong sense of loyalty to their gym and their coach. This is natural and to be expected. Your coach is the person who pushes you to get better, shows you techniques, and supports you in competition. You also probably have teammates that you're friends with. They are as important as your coach and they often push you (literally) on the mat and help you to get better as well.

However, I think you are closing yourself off if you ever only choose to train at your own gym. Now if your gym is the only one in the area, one can't expect to drive several miles just to find somewhere else to cross train. But in more densely populated areas like New York and New Jersey, there are a plethora of gyms. Training with other people is important for the following reasons:

- exposure to other teaching styles and techniques. Your instructor might favor a certain style (spider guard, half guard, etc.) and it's good to get exposure to what other instructor's strengths are. This is also why seminars are a good idea
- training with other students sharpens your game. After a while, you can figure out what your training partners' strengths and weaknesses are, making rolling a little more predictable
- for women, it's tough to find other women to roll with, so going to other gyms is a good idea

I'm not saying you should equally split your time between 2 or 3 gyms. But I am saying that maybe once a month, you should go check out the classes or open mat at another school. During nogi class at Shaolin's a couple of weeks ago, Alex, one of Shaolin's purple belts was teaching class. He clarified that our open mat on Sundays is open to EVERYONE- from white belts to black belts, men, women and students from other schools. He made the point that the more you train with other people, the better you're going to get. You're going to be exposed to so many different styles and setups that you'll be rounded. He went so far as to say it's easier to progress in BJJ in NYC because there are so many different schools and therefore more training partners and opportunities to improve. I'd never thought of it that way and it makes sense.

Having trained with three different coaches in the past 6 months alone has showed me the value of cross training. At Traven's there was an awesome, consistent group of women to train with and that's where I first began training BJJ consistently, thus setting a solid base. At Jason's I learned to focus on competition gameplans, balance gi and nogi, and was forced to roll with people much bigger than me because there were fewer women on the mat. At Shaolin's I feel as though I am really improving my half guard and getting more opportunities to train because I can roll in the beginners classes and drill and roll in the advanced classes. All three of these black belts are AMAZING coaches and each gym is a unique experience that will ultimately improve my jiu jitsu.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life Isn't Always Fair, But It Is Good

I couldn't go to Shaolin's no gi class today because I got out of work a little late. It looks like no gi has been intense lately because of those competing at nogi Pan Ams in the beginning of October. He had me train for the entire beginner's class and paired me with a brand new girl. She'd trained once a week for about a month at LA Boxing, but wants to go to a pure BJJ gym and focus only on BJJ. She was friendly and Shaolin took the two of us aside and had us to some more basic moves, like the scissor sweep, Americana, and a sweep from spider guard while your opponent is still sitting in your guard. The new girl was doing what I had done last winter and checking out all the BJJ schools in the area. I'm of the opinion that you need to choose the school atmosphere that's right for you despite the caliber of the instructor (within reason obviously). I encouraged her to sign up at Shaolin's and pointed out that we have a decent number of women who train regularly.

During the advanced class I had the chance to roll with Chris, one of Shaolin's purple belts. I've really gotten the chance to roll with more purple belts at Shaolin's because there's enough of them. I like rolling with higher ranked students because they capitalize and point out my weaknesses the best. If someone is the same rank as you, you might be able to muscle/wriggle out of a submission because the skill level is so close, but you can't really do that with a higher belt. Chris pointed out a couple of things after rolling which I definitely appreciated; while Shaolin points out things during class it's nice to hear it from someone who directly feels what you're doing.

But more interesting than all of that is that it's been a year since I had my knee injury. Exactly one year ago on this day, my mom flew down to Atlanta to drive me to doctor's appointments, go food shopping, and help me get around. I couldn't bend one of my legs, was in an immobilizing leg brace and was on crutches. I didn't know if I'd need surgery or even if I'd be able to train again. My injured knee was bruised, swollen, and didn't look much like the other one. I was in a position where I was going to class, coming back, and sitting on my bed because that was all I could do. Today during class, I blocked a sweep with that same previously injured leg and pulled off a half guard sweep. Life isn't always fair, but it is good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"I Know I'm Not the Best"

Our team took the team trophy at the Long Island Pride tournament in NYC this weekend, so many of the students were discussing the tournament. From what I can gather, tournaments in NYC have competitors that come from not only the city, but also NJ and some other surrounding states. This means there is often a pretty good/deep pool of talent at these tournaments and you're not going against the same people all the time. One girl gave a brief speech about how great of a teacher Shaolin is and everyone applauded loudly after. Shaolin then followed up with something I found really humbling. He told us he knew he was "not the best" at jiu jitsu (uhh, you won worlds THREE TIMES at black belt in the lightweight division which is arguably one of the more stacked ones plus you had a pretty awesome run as a lightweight MMA fighter back in the day...) but that he believes in all of his students. He doesn't want anyone to sit on the sidelines at a tournament because they're afraid to compete. He invests his time equally in everyone, not just those who choose to compete and medal at big tournaments. I liked that he said that, because given his accomplishments he could easily focus his energy on the people who compete at big IBJJF tournaments and pay less attention to people who attend for more recreational purposes. Fortunately for me, I've never trained under an instructor who favored students who compete more.

On a more humorous note, my gi pants ripped down the center of my butt tonight. You may recall that about a month or so ago when my nogi spandex ripped during class. Well, I guess this my christening of sorts at Shaolin's but in the beginning of class as we were drilling half guard sweeps, someone pointed out that my pants were ripping. I knew they had been fraying, but when I inspected the damage after class it was definitely worse than it had been the last time! I hadn't worn this gi in a while because it's not my favorite gi. But ironically enough, those freaking Atama Ripstop pants are the only gi pants to rip on me!

Apart from that, training was excellent today. I got around 2.25 hours of training in- 2 hours of advanced BJJ and about 15-20 minutes of rolling in the beginner's class. There was a ton of purple belts tonight so I had the chance to see many of my weaknesses. I notice I was getting swept a lot when someone had me in butterfly guard, and Shaolin pointed out that I need to post my leg out but not too close so they can grab it. I'm not too familiar with butterfly guard, so I'm glad Shaolin pointed this out to me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Balancing Work and BJJ

Last week was my first week of work. I really like what I'm doing; I help recruit retired lawyers do nonprofit work and give legal advice to low income families in New York City. There's a big learning curve but it's all very interesting and I'm learning a lot about the field. Plus, all my co workers are very welcoming and knowledgeable. Plus, I work at Fordham Law School's Feerick Center for Social Justice and I've met Mr. Feerick himself multiple times! What's been equally challenging is balancing work and BJJ.

It's more difficult than I expected. I get out of work around 5:45-6pm and then head over to Shaolin's. It's only one subway stop away and a 3 block walk. I stay until 7:30 or 8:30pm, depending on if Shaolin asks me to stay for the beginner's class and drill/roll with the other girls. If I get out at 8:30 (which I did this entire week), the next train I can catch is at 9:38pm, which gets me home by 10:45pm. At this point, I still need to shower and make sure I'm prepared for the next day of work.

This is pretty late considering I get up at 5:45am to catch a 7:12am train to NYC which gets in at 8:15am. I'm sure you're thinking 5:45am is pretty early for a 7:12am train, but I leave at around 6:45am to account for any traffic, plus I'm really slow in the morning. A couple of nights I've only had 4 or so hours of sleep, which I know I cannot keep up long term and still perform well at work. I've also cut it pretty close in terms of packing all my gear and getting to the train station on time. I haven't had any issues thus far, but I don't want there to ever be issues, especially since this is my first job.

I think it's best I do the following things to be efficient about training and commuting:

- shower at the gym so I don't waste time waiting at the train station and showering at home that late
- pack my lunch and dinner, gi, mouthguard, etc. the night before so I won't be so rushed in the morning

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that if I'm feeling tired or overworked, then don't train! This is very tough for me because you'd probably have to shoot me to keep me away from training, but it's not worth risking performance at work just so I can train. I had to miss class on Wednesday and I was definitely sad about it, but I need to make sure I can balance everything.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You've Come To The Right Place

Instead of just rolling during the beginner class today, Shaolin had me drill with two other girls in the class. I'm really glad he had me drill, because it was a half guard sweep I've been having trouble with. Quite honestly, I was frustrated for most of the drill, but I finally understood it at the end. This alleviated some of my frustrations from yesterday's class so I felt pretty good when it came time to roll and during the advanced class. At the end of the beginner class I told one of the other female students I've been having trouble with half guard and she told me I'd come to the right place. Shaolin drills half and butterfly guard a lot, so I'm excited to improve on these two things.

During the advanced class we drilled some stuff from the turtle position. I feel like I rarely work from this position because every time I get into it, I have been able to forward roll out of it- granby rolls FTW!! I noticed less of a difference between rolling with the men and women today. Maybe yesterday was just a weird occurrence...

A bunch of students are competing at the Long Island Pride tournament this weekend. Given my erratic training schedule, I don't think competing would be the best thing for me right now. I need to work a little more on my technical base before I feel comfortable competing at the blue belt level.

Alright, I need to be up in about 4 hours, so until next time!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of the Rest of My Life

Today was my first official day at the office. There was a lot of information thrown at me but I'm excited to start the projects the Feerick Center is working on. And I'm calling this the first day of the rest of my life because I'm working full time until I decide to go to graduate school. But you don't care about that; you want to know how my first day of training went after Labor Day weekend! :)

I'm typing this on my phone as I wait for the train. I haven't trained since last Thursday and I certainly felt it! I came at the tail end of the beginners class and Shaolin had me roll with one of the female white belts. I'm still trying to figure out what patterns/strengths my new teammates have, but it seemed she'd rather pull guard and sweep as opposed to playing guard. This ended in an unfortunate knee to the cheek which is swelling quite a bit! Shaolin also spoke to me before class and asked if I could come a little early each time so the girls in the beginner class would get the chance to roll with another girl.

In the 6:30 advanced class, we did a butterfly guard sweep that was somewhat tricky. You bait the person into thinking you're going to one side but then you sweep to the other. I was partnered with a purple belt and even he seemed to have trouble with it initially. During rolling, I thought I was going to pass out. We did several hard rounds, 2 minutes of half guard drills, and ended with very intense 1 minute rounds while switching partners after each minute.

I ended up staying for the 7:30 beginners class but only stepped in when Shaolin needed me to. A different girl was in that class and he had me drill and roll with her the entire time. During this set of rolling, I became quite frustrated. I kept getting stuck in side mount on the bottom and had a tough time escaping. I don't know if it was "just one of those days" or whether it was because I'd been out for a while, but I felt a little out of it.

I also noticed that there is a big difference between rolling with men and women at Shaolin's. I feel as though it's easier for me to get sweeps and passes on the guys than it should be. Not that I'm sweeping and passing easily, but it comes more easily than when I'm rolling with the girls. I don't feel as though they're going easy, but I think some of them definitely less resistance. I can't tell if this is good because they're not muscling me around, or bad because I'm not getting as much resistance as I'm used to from people who are bigger than me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Protect Ya Neck

I only got to train at Shaolin's for one hour today. I had planned to run some errands upon getting home, but a 5 minute ride home turned in 30 minutes because of construction. Even though my power is FINALLY back, I still curse you Irene!

There were only about 8-10 people in class today. I was the only girl, and definitely the smallest person on the mat. Shaolin had us do some passing drills from half guard. One of the main things I learned from this is to maintain top pressure when passing half guard, or being in the top position at all for that matter. Space is always something that others can capitalize on in BJJ, but it's easy to forget that space and pressure are intertwined. Our next half guard drill was for the person on bottom to always protect their neck. This is something I've worked on in the recent past. I want to work on being more active from the bottom in half guard, and this always begins with making sure that the person on top can't attack.

Finally it came time to roll and I believe there were about five rounds of six minutes each. I rolled with one purple belt and the rest were blue belts. I was surprised to see that I was immediately using the half guard passes and defenses that Shaolin had taught us. It normally takes me a long time before I can implement something just taught, but I guess it stuck with me. Lately, I've been trying to think of how to analyze rolling in class. I know thinking about it as winning or losing is a bad idea, but I do think it's important to evaluate what you did right and wrong during the roll. I think a good process would be to say

- what move did I try to execute?
- did it work?
- why or why not?

Thinking of each roll move by move might be difficult to remember, but if you can draw common themes or moves from the session, then you can figure out what you're doing wrong and what you need to work on. Shaolin is always calling out to everyone in class what they should do and what they need to work on, so that definitely helps.

By the way, if you don't understand or appreciate the fact that this blog post title is from the Wu Tang Clan, then either quit reading this blog or EDUCATE YOURSELF! :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Vitor Shaolin BJJ

So the power has been out at my house since Sunday and may not be back until as late as September 4th! It's been a little crazy- we had to throw out all the food in the fridge and freezer, have no hot water, and don't even get me started on trying to get ready for bed when you're getting changed and brushing your teeth by the light of a pocket flashlight. The train to NYC hasn't been running and is still a little iffy, so I've been taking the bus early to Manhattan so I can sit in Port Authority, find an outlet, and charge my phone. Thankfully, we have a generator currently running, hence why I can type this. Because I'm such a nerd, I drafted this entry at a coffeehouse in Manhattan as I charged my cell phone. Go on and laugh, but honey badger don't care!

After checking out a couple of BJJ schools in NYC, I decided to join Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro's BJJ school. For those who don't know who he is, he is a 4x world champion- once at purple belt and 3x at black belt. He's also competed in MMA as a lightweight and has a 20-5 record. I picked the school based on the following criteria:

- solid instruction
- good warmup
- price
- good atmosphere- no egos
- solid caliber of students
- location relative to my office
- orderliness- people strolling in late, chatting, etc.

Shaolin's school is only one subway stop away from my office, and most of the other BJJ schools in Manhattan are farther downtown. Since I'll be working more than 40 hours per week, getting downtown on time would be tough.

Yesterday was my first class as an enrolled student. Loro, one of Shaolin's black belts, taught the classes that day. Many students and Shaolin were just returning from competing in the Boston Open and I'm sure Hurricane Irene didn't make travelling easy.

Real estate is a valuable/expensive commodity in Manhattan, so the mat space was smaller than what I'm used to. This also means that the warmups were a little different than what I'm used to. We lined up and began with stretches. I was initially concerned that this would be the only warmup, but then we began running. This was followed by pushups, jumping jacks, sprawls, sit ups, shrimping in place (yes, that's how small the mat is) and a few other exercises I can't remember. Needless to say, I was sweating and out of breath by the end. We then drilled some sweeps from butterfly guard/ I'm guessing Shaolin likes butterfly guard because we did a similar drill the first time I took a class here. One of this purple belts walked around to help people, as this was a beginners class. It should be noted that only 3 striped white belts and below attend the beginners class, but I attended this one because it was my first time there. There were two other girls training in that class, and both were white belts. Both were very friendly and introduced themselves to me. I ended up rolling with both of them. The first one was a little smaller than me and moved pretty fast. She immediately pulled guard and started working spider guard. I eventually passed her guard but she had very good control. The second white belt was slightly bigger than me and armbarred me relatively quickly. I realized that I can no longer rely on my flexibility to get out of armbars and need to start working on proper defense. As we continued rolling, it became more of a back and forth exchange.

I also took the second class, which is the advanced class. There was one brown belt, three purple belts, and several blue belts. The warmup was the same, followed by some knee on belly drills and taking the back from open guard. I was able to get more rolling in that I did in the first class. The blue and purple belt men I rolled with did not try and muscle me, which I appreciated. At the same time, they did not "go easy" on me and neutralized most of my attacks. There was also a blue belt girl who was visiting from England who I rolled with. She trains at a Braulio Estima affiliate and is sponsored by Scramble, a pretty awesome BJJ company that makes RAINBOW TIGHTS!

I went back tonight. I didn't take the beginners class, but rolled with some of the students in it at the end. I like that Shaolin doesn't let more advanced people into the beginners class; it allows him to focus all his attention on correcting the mistakes of newer students and making sure they aren't "spazzy". He also pairs them up with higher level students waiting to take the next class so higher level students learn control and beginners learn what they need to work on. In the advanced class, we did some guard passing drills and rolled for a solid half an hour. We need to alternate in two large groups who rolls because the mat isn't big enough for everyone to roll at the same time.

Shaolin is an excellent teacher. He spells out the details very well and speaks loudly but clearly. He also goes around to every pair and makes sure we are doing the drill correctly. Additionally, all of the students I met were friendly and it seems like the school has an excellent sense of camaraderie. Shaolin himself is a nice guy and greets every student like they're a member of his family. A lot of the students compete and there are about 8 girls who train pretty regularly. Jen, who helps run the school and mans the front desk, is a blue belt who normally teaches the women's class, but is nursing a knee injury at the moment.

I am excited to start training with a new set of people. It will be for at least the next 10 months, as that is how long NYC Civic Corps lasts. Because many of the people at my office are on vacation and the hurricane put everyone behind schedule, I don't start work until next Tuesday, but Civic Corps has me working on service projects in NYC so I can still clock some work hours (you need to have 1700 at the end of the ten month period). I did meet my boss today, who happens to be the assistant dean for Fordham Law School's Feerick Center, so I am pretty excited to begin work next week. Even though the commute from NJ to NYC can be rough, I really don't mind it since I like the work I'm doing AND I get to train at an awesome gym.

Now I just hope I'll have enough time to train!

PS, if you're ever in NYC, you owe it to yourself to check out the gyms around here. Just google "NYC BJJ" and see what comes up! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Job, New Gym

This past Monday I was able to catch one BJJ class before my first day of work today. I rolled with a lot of newer people so I took the opportunity to try and improve some of the things I've been working on. I worked a lot of open guard, specifically spider guard. I normally use spider guard to get people off balance, but I tried to work on 1-2 definite sweeps this time. I've been watching Tinguinha's spider guard dvd when I have the time, and I think it's paying off. Spider guard is definitely my favorite open guard but I need to strengthen it.

Unfortunately, Monday was one of my last classes at Jason Scully's BJJ school known as the Grappler's Guide Academy. I found out today that starting next Monday, I will be working at Fordham Law School's Feerick Center for Social Justice for the next ten months. I won't be back home on time to get to train at GGA, especially since Civic Corps expects its members to work an average of 43 hours per week. Vitor Shaolin's BJJ school is about a 15 minute train ride from where I will be working. I've dropped in and trained there once and it seems like an awesome atmosphere and everyone was very friendly. Of course it remains to be seen whether a 43 hour work week will give me that much time to train, but I'll figure all that out once orientation is done and I see what my work schedule is like. The real world is nuts!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Open Mat

Jason ran a tournament this weekend, so I didn't get to train this Friday or Saturday. Instead, I opted to go to the open mat on Friday for one hour. Jason's open mat always has a pretty good turnout, and it gives students a chance to work on certain moves and openings they have noticed during class. I got about 6 or so good 5-6 minute rounds of nogi in.

One of the guys I rolled with was in his forties or so and I think he was either a wrestling coach or had a lot of wrestling experience. He helped me clean up my single leg a little and showed me some variations. Stand up is one area of BJJ that I really need to clean up, so I was excited that there was someone there with wrestling experience. Jeff, one of my coaches when I trained in Atlanta, has been wrestling for a ridiculously long time and therefore also incorporated wrestling takedowns into the women's class. Between Jeff's drills and this guy's help, I was able to pull off three single legs on one person afterwards! This was exciting for me, because I always try and go for a takedown, but almost always end up pulling guard. All of my sparring sessions were pretty technical, and I did a better job of balancing being calm with being aggressive.

I noticed I was getting caught in some leg locks and calf crushers. Especially at higher levels and in nogi, I'm going to have to start getting used to having leg locks applied on me. I don't even go for them normally but I think I might start to in the future. Jason has always stressed to NEVER crank on leg locks, and his students definitely respect that.

This week I begin orientation for Civic Corps, which lasts for four days and is in four different sites. I think they will be in four of the boroughs and will not touch Staten Island. You can guarantee I'll be bringing my gi to orientation so I can check out the BJJ schools in each borough :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Beginnings and Back to Basics

Tonight's BJJ class had some pretty insane drills. Jason first had us go one round without using the right arm, then not using the right leg, and then two rounds with our eyes closed! Strange as it sounds, I think rolling with your eyes closed is less difficult than the other two. Once you grab someone's gi, you can kind of figure out what position you're in and what you can do. It also makes you think a little more while rolling, because it's more complicated to figure out what move to do and how you're going to do it. He has had us doing some very slow and technical drilling lately, and I think making us roll with our eyes closed made us apply it during rolling. I think drilling is very underrated, and one of my pet peeves is when people just stop drilling because they've "done it enough". Unless you have 100% effectiveness in pulling off that technique from any position and setting it up from any position against anyone, you haven't drilled it enough. The top level guys drill the same moves over and over and that's how they get as good as they are. If they're still drilling, you can certainly do it for a few more minutes.

This has been a crazy couple of weeks for me between being out of training and going on job interviews. After many rejection emails and phone calls, I finally have a job. I will be participating in the NYC Civic Corps program, which is a partnership between AmeriCorps and the NYC Department of Service. From August 2011-June 2012, I'll be working on a service project in one of the five boroughs. I'll receive my project assignment next week during orientation, and will start working at my host site the following Monday. Given that it's an AmeriCorps program, my stipend is smaller than the salary for a full time job. I am a little nervous about not being able to pay for training, as a great deal of the stipend will go towards my train pass and Metrocard. I'll see what happens and how my finances work out, but after next week, I'm not sure where or how much I will be training.

Monday, August 15, 2011

FINALLY back to training

After having company over for a week and then going on vacation for another five days, tonight was my first night back training. I become restless when I stay away from doing anything active for too long so I was really craving some BJJ. I managed to get some running and did circuits on two days, but you can't really replace BJJ! I still haven't caught up on sleep from my 6am flight the other day and almost didn't hit the mat today, but I couldn't resist!

I get to the gym and the first thing I realize is that I forgot my belt, which has never happened before! At my gym, if you forget your belt, you have to wear a pink belt. So I definitely got some weird looks and laughs when I put on the pink belt, especially since there were quite a few new faces on the mat today.

I had no problem with the first class, but the second class is where it showed that I had not trained in a while. Jason had us drill for the first half of class. We started from open guard and had to drill a pass followed by a submission of our choice. This gave me the opportunity to work on my strengths and moves I would do in competition. I definitely blanked on what I needed to be working on. I was messing up some basics for the knee cutter pass and was unsure of what to do once I passed. After a few tries I finally got into the groove and Jason helped me clean up the pass. But I definitely felt a little embarrassed when I wasn't sure what to do. We then did 2:22 rounds, which allowed me to pick up the pace while rolling. I need to work on becoming more aggressive when rolling without going nuts, so drills like this are good for me.

I could have some really exciting job news in the next couple of weeks, and if everything works out, I'll be training in New York City. Now where to train...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brief Training Hiatus

I haven't been on the mat for more than a week now. Between job interviews, family visiting from out of town this past week, and going on vacation this coming week, I really haven't had time to train. Of course I love spending time with my relatives who are visiting from England, but it is frustrating not being able to train. I've been trying to stay in shape by going running as much as I can. It's quite convenient living across the street from a park, so I just head over each day when it's not too hot out. I've finally built up running 7 miles at a time, but the past few days have been tough.

I've realized that once you are forced out of the groove of training regularly, it is very easy to become lax on staying in shape. Since we have guests over there is A LOT of good food around and despite all the running I am doing I know it's just not the same workout BJJ provides me with. But on the bright side, I am missing BJJ for some things that are ultimately going to benefit me more in the long run. I've had some very promising job interviews lately and I am hoping for some promising results in the near future. Both are in New York City so I'd have to find a new place to train, but NYC is chock full of BJJ talent. Off the top of my head, I can name Marcelo Garcia, Renzo Gracie's school (he doesn't normally teach there but the instruction is obviously legit) and Vitor Shaolin BJJ (my personal favorite). There are also quite a few in the outer boroughs, so I'll really have my pick of where to train. But I've got to get that job first! :)

Hopefully I will begin to blog more about training once I start up again in about 8 days or so.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life takes over!

I haven't been updating lately because there's been a lack of BJJ in my life! I only went to class TWO TIMES in the past week, and if was only for an hour each time :(

My family has been getting on my case about never being home and always being at BJJ by the time they come home. I intern and apply for jobs during the day and train by night, so this is why my family rarely sees me these days. Additionally, we've got guests over this week and I'll be away the following week. This doesn't leave me with a lot of time for training. I plan on coming back full speed ahead when I'm back though. I will have ended my internship and all my efforts will be towards finding a job, studying for the GRE, and training- in that order!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

That Awkward Moment When...

...your spandex rips during nogi. Yes, tonight, during the second hour of nogi training, I was wearing my vale tudo shorts, and after the first roll, someone pokes me on the shoulder and says "uhh, your shorts ripped". Thank goodness I had some regular grappling shorts in my bag, which I threw on over my ripped VT shorts. When I came home, I inspected the damage and the shorts were almost ripped in half right over my butt! Hopefully no one else noticed my brightly colored underwear that night...

Other than that, I got some solid nogi training in. Right now I'm just focusing on getting better and not preparing for competition. Job hunting is more important right now than competing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gi Review: Manto 3.0 Gi (in black)

I received this gi from BJJHQ. In no way does this influence my opinion on this gi. BJJHQ.com is a website that does a "deal of the day" for BJJ gear, which ranges from gis, to rashguards to earguards and everything in between. It's always $5 flat rate shipping in the US, and as long as it's in stock, you can grab it! Check out www.bjjhq.com every day for a new deal.

I was excited to get my hands on this gi because I had not seen a great deal of reviews done on it, and it looked like a quality gi for the price. I'm happy to say I was right! I've received a lot of compliments on how sharp this gi looks. However, sizing was an issue for me.

General Overview

This is a single weave gi, meaning it's one of the lightest kinds of gis you can get. There are two rectangular Manto patches on the shoulders as well as the emrbroidered Manto logo on the arms. There is also a Manto rectangular patch on the lapel. The pants have the Manto rectangular patch on the outside of the left and right thigh. There is the Manto logo embroidered on the upper back. The drawstring is a cord as opposed to a flat gi material tie.

Fit

The first time I put on this gi it was HUGE and I mean HUGE. I was swimming in the darn thing! I am 5'5" and 138lbs and ordered an A1. The sizing chart says the A1 is for up to 5'8". I washed the gi in hot water and dried it twice before I wore it to class. To put the shrinkage into perspective, I took some measurements. These measurements are based on Fushida's (Canadian gi company) sizing chart, which is quite detailed and can be found here

Pre Wash

A. 63.5"
B. 30.5"
C. 21.75"
D. 15"
E. 6.5"
F. 11"
G. 22"
H. 38.5"
I. 9.75"
J. 8.5"
K. 11.5"
L. 14.25"

Post Wash

A. 61.5"
B. 29"
C. 20.5"
D. 14.5"
E. 6.5"
F. 10.25"
G. 22"
H. 36.5"
I. 9"
J. 8"
K. 11"
L. 14.25"

Needless to say, it's still kind of big after the hot washes and dryer sessions. I've worn it to class at least 5 times now, and have hot washed it about 3-4 times and cold dried it the other times (remember I washed it a couple of times before I even wore it). I put it in the dryer every time on the highest setting.

This gi is very soft and dries pretty quickly. The collar is reasonably thick. It's not as stiff as my Keiko or Sirius, but it's certainly not flimsy. The sleeves are a little baggy- not as baggy as my Keiko, but not as slim as my women's Atama Mundial 9 or Sirius Ultra-Lite Gold Weave. When my arms are stretched out to my sides and parallel to the ground, the sleeve comes to my middle knuckles. The bottom of the gi top comes about 2-3 inches below my butt.

One gripe I have is the drawstring. The cord is made of a very smooth material that keeps coming undone. The pants are really baggy and before I tighten the drawstring it looks pretty comical! I do like that the pants are lightweight but are NOT ripstop. To me, ripstop becomes too see through when you're sweaty and my ripstop pants are the only ones that have ripped on me. Even though they're a little big, I think they are comfortable.

Conclusion

This is a good lightweight gi that is durable enough for everyday training. It's not as light as some of the competition gis on the market (Vulkan Ultra Light/Pro Light, Gameness Air, etc.), but certainly good enough to wear in the summer. The pricing on this is pretty reasonable- according to mantousa.com, it's only 149.95 for this in black, and the one in white is 139.95. There are cheaper gis out there, but I still think this is pretty good bang for the buck. If this gi was just a size smaller and had a different drawstring it would be PERFECT for me, as I love that it's lightweight and durable. I will continue to wear this gi to class and it will be in my regular rotation.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Brief BJJ Reunion

I spent the past few days in Atlanta. I've been back home for a couple of months now and wanted to visit some of my friends who had graduated and were still in Atlanta as well as visit my BJJ friends. I tried as best as I could to make it surprise, but when you need to keep snagging rides from people, it's pretty tough!

I flew in on Thursday, and the train broke down, so I left the station and briefly dropped in to Unit 2. I saw Traven and said hello, but didn't get to see him for the remainder of my time there, as he had a superfight in Ohio that weekend.

I managed to get some open mat time in with Victoria on Friday. She's a blue belt who won Pan Ams AND Worlds this year, so it's always a time when I get my butt handed to me. We did ten minute rounds for about an hour and then called it quits. I think I held my own a little better than I normally did, but it's tough to say. I used the time to try a couple techniques I'd been playing around with in class, but still need to work on hitting them at a higher percentage.

Saturday morning I rolled up to women's BJJ in the morning, and at least one of my teammates was surprised. I was glad to have such a warm reception and to roll with some of my friends again. There was one new student which was good to see- I'm convinced that Unit 2 has one of the most consistent women's programs around. One of Traven's purple belts taught the class and all the girls did about an hour of nogi rolling after that. They are getting ready for a big tournament so they've definitely increased the amount of nogi they do.

After having been back in Atlanta and trained for a little bit, I see the importance of switching up your training partners. When you roll with the same people all the time, you get used to their game and base what you do off of how your same few teammates roll. When I came back to NJ, I could definitely feel a difference in how my new teammates rolled. It also showed me some of my weak points and what I need to work on.

I wish I could have stayed in Atlanta a little longer, but there are cover letters to be written and resumes to be mailed out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Conditioning is (almost) everything

Despite the title of this post, this isn't about a session where I gassed and realized the importance of conditioning.

One of my teammates recently moved to Camp Springs, Maryland as he received an offer to train full time with Lloyd Irvin's team. After a few days there, he had spoken to my instructor and commented on how he'd never been pushed that much in training. Not because our training/conditioning wasn't hard enough, but because he was training up to 3 times per day. He worked as a personal trainer at a local gym, and therefore could probably only come to class a maximum of 2-3 hours per day, while I bet he now has a solid 6 or more hours of training per day.

It then occurred to me, no matter how great your technique is, if you have bad conditioning, you're never going to do well. You need to not only be able to physically keep up with the other person, but to also be one step ahead of them in order to win. And that's where sometimes toughness can overcome technique. There are people that will just fight their way out of submissions, and the other person's arm/legs/body is so weak from gripping onto that submission, that he/she can no longer effectively attack.

I think one of my first advantages coming into BJJ was conditioning. While it has certainly improved since beginning jiu jitsu, the one thing I could do was wiggle my way out of certain chokes and locks without gassing and could keep pace with the other white belts. I had run cross country in the past, and continue to run at least 6 miles per week, which I've steadily increased. I've heard sprints and interval exercises are better for BJJ, but I often end up doing distance running because it's what I'm used to.

Needless to say, running and conditioning are things I will always maintain. It also helps that running is a stress reliever for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Private Lesson and My Grappling Game Plan

Yesterday I had a private lesson with Jason Scully. We went over what my gameplan was, as I realized I had never evaluated my strengths and weaknesses in BJJ. I never took the time to think if I preferred playing guard, passing guard, being in mount and submitting, etc. Jason has a sheet called a "Grappling Game Plan". I believe you can find it if you subscribe to his newsletter, which you can do by going to http://www.grapplersguide.com.

What the sheet does is it lists every position (being in guard, having someone in your guard, being on the bottom while the other person has mount, etc.) and your job is to list what moves you do the most in those positions. Not the moves that you know you can do from each of those positions, but the moves that you do most often. Once Jason and I figured out what my "go to" moves and what my most comfortable position was, we were able to figure out a sequence of moves that would be the most effective in competition. So for example:

Start standing-->single leg-->half guard on top-->bullfighter pass-->side control-->mount-->mounted triangle

That is an example of what one sequence would be. That isn't one of mine, but Jason and I went over what several scenarios would be for me. He also made the point that those sequences are thing I should pull off in competition, but should work on all aspects of my jiu jitsu during regular class. That's the difference between doing well in competition and being good at jiu jitsu; being good at a few moves is different than being able to do many with a reasonable level of competence.

I found Jason's lesson very helpful, and now I have a blueprint for my own grappling that's going to come in handy during competition. It also gives me some good things to work on. I don't have any plans to compete soon, because I really need to apply to some more jobs and focus on finding something full time for the next year or two. I'll train as much as I can, but I also need to work on becoming a "real person" :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Training Full Time

My instructor has fallen sick, so no BJJ today or yesterday. I decided to once again try to break in my Vibrams, which is putting my calves in a ton of pain! I totally see how the vibrams change the way you run though, and the trails around my house aren't too gravelly so I can run with no pain on my feet. I'm hoping that I won't need to go back to traditional running shoes now.

On Sunday, I found out that one of my teammates had just moved to Camp Springs, Maryland to train full time under Lloyd Irvin. For those who don't know, Lloyd Irvin runs one of the most successful Jiu Jitsu teams in America. He has garnered some controversy amongst BJJ traditionalists, as Lloyd gained his black belt relatively quickly, and has produced some to black belt rather fast as well. Some of his more famous students are JT Torres, Mike Fowler, and Tracy Goodell. Tracy went from blue to brown in only one year. Lloyd was a businessmen before he entered the Jiu Jitsu world, and therefore has the money to give students a living stipend so they can train full time.

I think a lot of people at some point have wondered what it would be like to train full time. I certainly have wondered what it'd be like. And while BJJ is a lot of fun, I could see doing it full time as being somewhat stressful. I don't know if Lloyd provides his students with health insurance, but there are bound to be injuries training full time and it's risky to put all your eggs in one basket like that and then get injured. There is the risk of burnout like there is in any other sport. I've been doing some form of martial arts since I was 8 and have yet to burn out, but it is something to keep in mind. There are few people other than Lloyd who have really made BJJ into a full on career. After competing for many years, I imagine most black belts aspire to run their own academies. Running an academy is quite an endeavor, and I can only imagine how tough it is to keep the costs of a gym afloat, pay the instructors, and have some left for the owner. I think this is why many black belts hold seminars and charge anywhere from 60-150 per person.

On an emotional level, would I train full time? I'm 22 and currently unemployed- of course that sounds awesome! But from a levelheaded perspective, someone like me essentially becoming a professional athlete and then trying to piggyback off of it into a career is a bit far fetched. Plus I have this degree I'd like to use someday, plus eventually get a masters.

I can only imagine what my parents' reaction would be if I told them my college degree was going out the window to jiu jitsu!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dustin Denes Seminar

Today I had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Dustin Denes. Dustin is a 3rd degree black belt with quite a slew of accomplishments, including submitting Marcelo Garcia in a BJJ competition, a 12-4-3 MMA record, helping start American Top Team, and training for a period of time in Brazil under the Nogueira brothers. There's more information about him on his website http://www.dustindenes.com

I got out of my internship at 5:30pm (I'm still looking for a full time job- read: paid) and (fighting jersey shore traffic and the rain) raced over to the seminar, which was held at BJJ Shore Academy. BJJ Shore Academy is run by Bill Scott, a first degree black belt under Pablo Popovitch. As soon as I entered the gym, a woman greeted me, showed me the locker rooms, and took my ticket verification for the seminar. Bill immediately introduced himself, and all the other students were very friendly. I am pretty sure I was the only person who did not train there, which made it all the more awesome that everyone was so welcoming. I was also one of the lower ranking students; most of the others were purple or brown belts with one other blue belt who had 2 stripes.

Dustin immediately got into drilling. We went over three things during the seminar

- basic triangle setup
- transition from the armbar to the triangle
- omoplata

Even though this was a three hour seminar, these three items took up the entire time. It looks very basic, but Dustin showed some ways of setting up the triangle and omoplata that I had never seen before. I was drilling with one purple belt who bases him game off of the triangle and he said he felt lost! I liked spending such a long time drilling each one. Dustin is very big on details, and went around to each pair and gave a great deal of attention and instruction. He is very intense, which I've found is a teaching style I really like. He balances it out with a sense of humor. For example, whenever he sees someone who doesn't have their grips, he tells them "What are you doing? Waiting to sign autographs? Holding your hand out for a margarita?" He calls his drills "chop certified" and "battle tested", meaning that he has used them consistently in competition and that they are high percentage moves. I like having these basic moves broken down so that I can understand how they really work and how to execute them in different situations. I'm not sure if I'll ever base my game off of the triangle, but I'll certainly be more gutsy in going for it.

It's hard to explain why I enjoyed the seminar so much. When you have someone as enthusiastic and caring as Dustin teaching, it's hard to not like what you're learning. He talked to everyone during the seminar, and spoke to me for a little asking where I had trained, etc. I also like Dustin's mindset of always working hard and always practicing to improve. I think that most teachers emphasize this, but it's very evident that Dustin really lives what he preaches. To him, there are no "tricks" or shortcuts in jiu jitsu; it's just a matter of drilling, repetition, and understanding.

Additionally, BJJ Shore Academy seems like a great place to train. The students, Bill and the other black belt (forget his name) were extremely welcoming, and invited me to come back whenever I wanted to. They seem to have seminars somewhat frequently, and mentioned past guests like Pablo Popovitch and Vagner Rocha. They knew my current instructor's name (Jason Scully), and spoke highly of him. If I lived in that area, I would definitely train there. You can find out more about BJJ Shore Academy at http://www.bjjshoreacademy.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In the Absence of Mat Time

I still have some nagging injuries from Grapplers Quest on Saturday. I think it might be a good idea to take the next few days off. I had 3 hours of class last night, and my injuries definitely flared up.

However, I think this is a good opportunity for me to formulate a game plan. I need to write out my strengths, weaknesses, and my "go to" moves in every situation. I think I'm going to sit down with my coach and go over it as well, as he is big on game plans and has done an EXCELLENT job of pointing out my own weaknesses.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What is Jiu Jitsu? (courtesy of Lapel Choke)

I found this on Lapel Choke's Facebook page and thought I'd repost it. It's in regards to how difficult it is to explain Jiu Jitsu and the subsequent addiction.

It's hard explaining Jiu Jitsu to people. They never want to look past the choking and joint locking. They instantly imagine it's some super macho wrestling thing where guys beat each other up and snap towels in the locker room. There's no proper way to verbalize things like pushing yourself past physical and mental limits, when you're about to break and you dig deeper than you ever have to come out the other side victorious...or at least wiser for the experience.

There's no comparing the camaraderie, the respect, the fun, the learning, the grace and the art, the ups and downs. And as much as we love it and want to share it with them, they will never know unless they step on the mats themselves.

To all my brothers and sisters, arm draggers, joint lockers, ankle snatchers, and throat hunters, you know exactly what I'm talking about, and for that you'll always have my respect.

See you on the mats.

Jesse

Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Blue Belt Tournament

Today I had my first blue belt tournament. This was by far the most difficult tournament I've competed in. As I've previously stated, there is a bigger range of blue belts in terms of experience compared to white belts, which makes it that much more challenging.

I barely squeaked out a win in my first gi match. She was in my guard most of the time, and I won on advantages through submission attempts. My legs were DEAD after that match. I had to sit down, drink some water and recover. I've never felt that tired after a match before, and I think it definitely played into the my next match, but I don't think it was the reason I lost. My second match I lost via Americana and lost my third place match on points. When nogi came around, I won my first match in a very back and forth exchange. After 6 minutes, the score was 10-10 with one advantage for each of us. They added 3 minutes on the clock and we went again. The girl who I was going against had a very obnoxious coach, who at one point told my opponent "don't worry, you can let her take your back!" Well, I did exactly that and won by rear naked choke! My next and final nogi match was against the same girl who beat me by Americana in gi. This time she won on points. So that means I didn't place in gi but won 2nd in nogi. I found out that the girl who got the Americana on me and won first in nogi trains at Lloyd Irvin's main school in Camp Springs and is only 15! Perhaps another one of Lloyd's prodigies? (not because she beat me, but because she is 15 and going against blue belts who I am almost certain outweighed her!)

One thing that surprised me was that I was not nearly as upset as I was when I lost at Pan Ams. I don't know if it's maturity in competition or just understanding that there are more experienced blue belts than me (I've only been a blue belt for a month), but it was nice to not get too worked up and sad over a loss. Additionally, my coach pointed out (and I recognized) some aspects of my game I need to work on. I feel as though I don't really have a gameplan when I compete, and I think that's important to figure out. My coach has asked me what I like to play, and quite honestly I often work with what happens. I think it's important to be aggressive and set the tone for the match so they are at your mercy and you can execute your strengths.

Overall, I think this was a very important learning experience for me. I'm excited to work on the weaker aspects of my game and figure out a gameplan. But my elbow is in pain from that Americana (which is strange because I am very flexible) and I rolled over my big toe! So I think a few days off are in order.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Laziness

One of my biggest pet peeves is laziness. I don't mean getting up late on the weekend or pressing the snooze button a couple of times. I have two definitions of laziness. One is when there is a distinct lack of motivation in someone that prevents them from improving their lives. The second is when someone has someone else do something they know they can do, but just don't feel like doing it.


The first reason is one of the reasons I choose to do BJJ and remain an active person. I think it's very easy to fall into the trap of coming home from school/work, sitting in front of the TV, eating dinner and/or having a beer, and then going to sleep. Believe me, there are some days I came back from class/school/interning and all I wanted was a nap! (which I totally did when I was injured) :p But I've found that some of my best training days are those days when I felt tired and did not feel like going to train. Part of that is probably because when you're tired, you really don't feel like doing something and thus often have low expectations.

But (especially in jiu jitsu), there is also a drive to not only remain active, but to improve. It's hard to measure improvement when you go to the gym outside of the way you look in the mirror. There are only so many ways to perfect your squats or dead lifts in terms of technique and weight. But in BJJ, you improve (in my opinion) in every class. Whether it's the repetition of drills, or working to pull off the same move on different people, you're improving your jiu jitsu.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Jack of all trades, master of none

I don't think there's really much I can say about training at this point. I have Grapplers Quest in a week, and I feel as prepared as I can be. However, I've been watching more MMA lately and have noticed a couple of things.

Ever since the end of middle school, I've watched MMA. As I've previously written, I began with a karate/kickboxing background, so I was first training in striking/standup martial arts. I remember watching my first few MMA matches online and I was intrigued at how MMA fighters blended striking and grappling styles.

However, this was back in 2004, and MMA had not (and probably still hasn't) fully developed. I feel that people who now watch MMA are forgetting that MMA in and of itself is not a style. MMA is not A martial art; it's Mixed Martial ARTS. This means that it's a blend of styles, and different fighters typically base their strategy around the style they are best in. For example, Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck built their style around wrestling, while guys like Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva built their styles around striking. I feel as though people are losing appreciation for the individual martial arts that go into MMA. People get bored and boo whenever a fight hits the ground. They ignore the sweeps, passes and setups that most BJJers/grapplers will often see. I don't care if someone doesn't know what's going on, but if you're going to watch MMA I think you should at least do some research on what the heck you're watching!

Because of this blending, I see many MMA fighters become a jacks of all trades but masters of none. Many are okay at each style, and sometimes it's sloppily thrown together. I hate seeing a fight hit the ground while the person on top stalls to retain top control. There are so many basic sweeps, setups, submissions, and even takedowns that many MMA fighters seem to not go for, even at the highest levels. Striking often becomes a series of haymakers with little appropriate timing or precision. I'm not saying all MMA fighters are like this, but there's an increasing amount that are.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gear Review: Scramble Rainbow Spats...also known as my super magic rainbow pants

Scramble is a European based BJJ company. They put out lots of cool tshirts and gear that aren't your typical glitter, foil, and skulls designs. I've been following their product releases via their Facebook page, and one day I saw them announce the release of their rainbow spats aka rainbow grappling tights. Being an Aoki fan AND a lover of unique gear like this, I was dripping with envy at those across the Atlantic that could get their hands on these. Since they are a European company, it's tough to get their products in the USA, and I wasn't too keen on paying a conversion fee and international shipping. HOWEVER...

...MMA Outlet carries Scramble gear too!!! I tweeted/emailed/begged MMA Outlet to stock the Scramble spats. I'm guessing they received a lot of these requests and a month or so after the initial release, they stocked the rainbow spats. I immediately jumped on the chance to buy them.

The picture appears to be too big for the blog post, so you can find a direct link to a picture of the spats by clicking here.

As soon as I opened the package, I was VERY impressed by the spats. They are very smooth and soft with sublimated logos. The colors on the front are different that the ones on the back, and the Scramble logo is on the bottom right shin while there are some Japanese characters on the upper left thigh. It has an elasticated waist with no drawstring. As you can see in the picture, it looks as though it's made of multiple pieces of fabric stitched together. This may be a factor in future wear and tear, but it's far too early to tell.

I've worn these in gi and nogi. I was so stoked the first time I bought them that I wore them under my gi even though there are long tights! People immediately took notice and asked where I bought them. I've also worn them to nogi classes. In both scenarios, they did not ride up and I didn't have to adjust them. I am 5'5", and these are a little long on me (I bought a size small), so I have to pull them up a little and roll the waistband over. They are really comfortable to roll in and they don't make me overheat while rolling.

Pros: cool looking, sublimated logos, comfortable, light but durable
Cons: price, no drawstring (doesn't bother me, but some prefer the drawstring), may be flashy for some.

I would recommend these to anyone bold enough to buy them. Would I wear them to a tournament? Not me. My opinion is that if you wear something so flashy, you'd better be REALLY awesome at BJJ (i.e. Gene LeBell and his pink gi, Aoki and his rainbow tights) and dominate your matches, otherwise you're going to look like a fool. The price is also steep at 55.99. Since this is a novelty item, I decided to splurge a little. (It also helped that I found a coupon code hidden in my gmail!) However, I love wearing them to my nogi classes. If you're interested in buying them, check out www.mmaoutlet.com. The direct link to the spats at MMAOutlet is here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Competition at the Blue Belt level

The one good thing about not having a full time job yet is that I have time to train! I'm back going to BJJ about 5 times per week and love every minute of it. The good thing about my new academy is that they balance gi and nogi training very well. I have the opportunity to train in both styles without losing leverage in either.

I am considering competing at a Grapplers Quest event coming up on June 18th. Since I've only been a blue belt for such a short time, I'm debating whether I should do it or not. Competition never hurts, but I'd hate to pay and only have one match. I've also realized that when you're competing above the white belt level, there is going to be a bigger gradient of experience. People don't often stay at white belt for more than 1.5 years, but people will remain at the higher belts often for more than 2 years. I could be going against a blue belt on the verge of getting her purple. I think it's important for me to get out there, see what the level of competition is like, and work on my weak points after my match.

Since I'm back living at home, I have less control over my diet. When I was at school, I could cook whatever I wanted and could cut weight appropriately. Even if I do cook at home, it's not normally for myself, but for my entire family. I think I might start cooking different meals for myself so I can cut weight appropriately. The good thing is that I'm not far off from my weight limit, so I have plenty of time to come to the right weight.

I'm also thinking about doing the No Gi Pan Ams in the fall. They are held in New York City, so it's only a train ride away for me. I'll see where I am at the end of the summer. I imagine a lot will depend on where I'm working, if I have enough time to train, and how much I can expand on my no gi game.

Friday, May 20, 2011

NOW we're doing Jiu Jitsu!

Since I am now back home from college, I've been training back at the place(s) I trained when I was home on break. I made it plural because even though I mainly trained at one place, I definitely checked out a bunch of other schools. Being in the New York/New Jersey area, there are a TON of great schools in the area.

I was training with someone I'd consistently trained with during school breaks and it came time to rolling. We rolled for a few minutes and briefly before the timer signaled the end of the round, she caught me in a tight triangle. Keep in mind that it had been a LONG time since I'd rolled with her, as I was injured over my winter break and hadn't really been home since then. She told me I was SIGNIFICANTLY more calm when rolling and even exclaimed "NOW we're doing Jiu Jitsu!"

When I started BJJ, I was definitely a spaz. I never injured anyone, slammed anyone, or cranked submissions really fast, but I definitely had very quick, sudden, jerky transitions (not submissions) that were done at a high speed without much technique. I felt frustrated every time someone mounted offense on me, and would then begin to furiously and quickly try to regain control. I'm now much more calm, collected, and methodical while rolling. I noticed this myself, and I think part of it has to do with being injured. When I came back, I wasn't necessarily nervous about rolling, but I was much more aware of certain movements and positions. This awareness hasn't left me, and I hope it never does. It has definitely elevated my game, and I'm glad that others have noticed it too.