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 for updates. Expect a detailed review in the coming days regarding their women's gi.

Monday, October 3, 2011


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!