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.