Monday, April 21, 2014

Rape culture, education, prevention, and mansplaining.

On facebook the other day I posted this picture, which comes from here:

It started getting comments like this:

** Teaching women how to protect themselves works. Teaching predators not to be predators doesn't. That's why they're called predators.

** Most misogynists are timid little assholes who only have the courage to express their repugnant opinions from the safety of the Internet. They're not likely to assault anyone.

** The thinking presented in this sign . . . is sexist and dangerous. It is sexists because it implies that women don't have the same rights and responsibilities as men. That is, the right and responsibility to to prepare an adequate defense. . . . The thinking on this sign is dangerous because she plans to rely on the concept that "No one would dare!" to keep herself safe. And that is why we must all learn to defend ourselves against predators. Because they WOULD dare to cross that line and don't care you, or I, or your dean has to say about it.  

** Hey it's not my fault that the lady in the picture doesn't understand that ultimately we are all responsible for our own wellbeing...

** The problem with activists is that they want to cram their chosen cause down everyone else's throat, and fail to see that the harder they push, the more their audience wants to regurgitate.

** Do we try to stop the rain from falling? There will always be selfish, wicked human beings and they will prey upon men and women alike. It is not an insult, but in fact a great service to be told how to defend against them.

** Every opportunity to say something doesn't have to include your own special viewpoint. School orientation isn't the bully pulpit for the feminists anti-rape-culture.    

** This picture is what's wrong with the world today. Instead of taking something good out of orientation, she has to find a reason to bitch and complain.

** While we're at it we should do away with locks on doors and cars and just educate people to not steal from each other.

And finally... 

**   Is this another 150 comment thread of guys mansplainin' what this girl really needs instead of listening to what she's actually asking for?

Shortly thereafter, a terrifying article popped up covering a "banned" fraternity at American University in DC which had a massive leak of emails making their uber rapey culture an open fact.

Read the Rapey Emails of American University's 'Secret Fraternity'

Pretty timely.

So here's my take on this in kind of brain-dump format-- copying profusely from my own posts on the matter, as well as those by some friends including James Stilwell of Alabama, jiu jitsuka, husband, father, and articulate humanist... and David Wells, friend, classmate and lawyer...

Sorry, but to say we shouldn't bother telling boys not to rape (as we wouldn't tell the clouds not to rain) is the height of both sexism and rape culture.  

Broadly held, repugnant opinions loosely described as misogyny affect the general populace, and even if not a direct assault, the social impact is still real.  Forty years ago and maybe even today, racism made it possible to assault black people with impunity. Widespread misogynistic feelings make it much easier for people who are so disposed to commit sex crimes against women (among other things) and lead to the idea that we should place the burden of preventing rape on the people who are at risk.

I'm actually completely fine with freshmen orientation including a female specific segment about rape risk, awareness and self defense techniques, but why not also a part that's male specific which talks about gender sensitivity, rape awareness, social responsibility to gain enthusiastic consent, social responsibility to not engage in misogynistic behaviors and the social responsibility to call out misogyny when you witness it, to make campus safe for the vulnerable whoever they are and under whatever conditions they are found? Why not have it be the same class with the same message for everyone?

Did anyone notice that her complaint isn't that both were taught (which agreed would be sexist if the preference was teach only the boys not to rape) but that only the girls were taught how not to be raped?  I'd bet lots of college boys commit rapes that they have no idea is rape. Educate them about what consent means and you can prevent some, although not all.  Plenty of rapes happen because idiots think things like "she wanted it earlier, and she's not saying no now, who cares if she's drunk?"  Plenty of rapes are later excused by saying "well, I was drunk too!  so why blame me?"   Meanwhile fraternities put out how-to emails about rape-bait encouraging guys to get girls drunk so they can get laid. And yeah, I think they know roofies are not legit, but seems they all think getting her wasted is.

Rather than addressing the frustration the commenters above attempted to debunk its cause. The angst felt by this woman and people like her is well founded and justifiable. They live in a culture that consistently creates an environment where they have to be afraid and basically can trust no one. If they trust the wrong person, the society tells them that they should have chosen better. 

The problem is that rape does have a really negative stigma in most people's minds. It's when you rephrase the question that the grey areas start to pop up. When you ask things like, is it okay to have sex with a sleeping girl if she's been into you all night but she passed out before having sex? Most people might still say no, if given a yes/no option but when given a scale of agreement these kinds of questions begin to reveal a startling amount of ambiguity among the responders.  A common thread in the arguments against the idea of rape culture is the narrow re-definition of "rape" as something that is done violently, done by a stranger to the victim, and done in a situation the victim could have avoided. This is obviously (I hope) a very incomplete definition, but it serves to omit "date rape," "acquaintance rape," etc. It's a useful definition for people who want to dispute rape culture's existence by demonstrating that they personally would never do something like *that*.

One problem I'm seeing is the insistence on a binary, forced choice, zero sum perspective. Why can't we have education on what constitutes rape and consent AS WELL AS self defense lessons... also, why equate that education of men with ineffectual pleas of "please don't rape" to a snarling malevolent predator... when instead it could very well be eye-opening lessons in empathy for self centered but basically well meaning idjits? 

The majority of sexual assaults aren't violent assaults by a stranger in a dark alley. They're of groomed victims who have had boundaries encroached and often are friends-ish with their assailants, often intoxicated. So all the "how to beat a wrist grab" and "how to beat a bear hug" won't help them as much as telling that asshole in Steubenville that he shouldn't walk away from a passed out drunk girl being sodomized because yeah, that counts as rape too. 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest Review: Drysdale's Cradle nogi instructional

My buddy Pete (in the red shorts) has been training for six years, predominantly nogi, and currently trains at BETA Academy in DC under Nakapan Phungephorn, a Pedro Sauer bb.  He kindly agreed to review Drysdale's nogi instructional for me since I hardly train nogi but once a week.

He blogs at  and also runs a company helping people move-- a super green, super easy alternative to finding cardboard boxes when it's time to pack.  Check it out at


"I give this DVD an 8 out 10.   It’s definitely worth the money, but it has some shortcomings.

First, I’ll give the pluses.  This DVD is dedicated to using the cradle (a common wrestling move, but fairly uncommon in brazilian jiu jitsu) to pass or submit someone who has you in their half guard.  If you have trouble passing or submitting from half guard top, this gives a useful game plan for that and goes over any common reactions to these moves that you can think of.

You can find a LOT of videos on very specific things in BJJ (both as DVDs and free on YouTube) but I haven’t seen anyone teaching these moves, so it’s not as if he is just repackaging moves that you can see anywhere.

Also, in terms of valuable material he corrects a very common misconception about the brabo choke that I have seen everywhere.  If you’ve ever seen Ryan Hall’s Triangle DVD where he says that you don’t need to pull the trapped arm across your body, and you thought it was sacrilege until he explained it, but then you realize that even though top level black belts all teach you the same way to do the triangle and that this brownbelt (at the time) was telling you they were wrong, you have that a-ha moment and realize he’s right. Well, sorry for the run-on sentence, but you’ll have an a-ha moment about the brabo choke too. I won’t tell you what the correction he makes to your brabo choke is, because you need to buy the DVD to find out, but I will say that I had a lot more success finishing with the brabo after I incorporated his version of the choke.

Now for the minuses,  the video is not as professionally done as you’d expect from other BJJ videos from the big companies.  That alone is not fatal if the content is good. (I still recommend Erik Paulsen’s leg lock DVDs to people even though the production quality makes gonzo porn look like a Steven Spielberg movie by comparison).  Another minus is that it's only 58 minutes long.  If it was even a half hour longer he could’ve included other ways to use the cradle (from standing to a takedown? From turtle? From sidecontrol?).

It’s $35 from Budovideos or you can order it on his website..  It’s worth the cash to learn these techniques that you won’t be able to find in other teaching materials (free or paid).  And you’ll fix that brabo choke that’s been haunting your dreams.

Now get off the internet and go roll."

There are a few other reviews out there, hope this helps!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Review: Q5 supplements for performance

I don't usually review supplements, because I don't take them, honestly.  Always prided myself that, despite mediocre skills, I have one superpower and that's fast recovery.

But, Colin from Q5 persuaded me to give a few of their magic powders a try, and I'll tell you all about them.

Bill Thomas, forty-something founder of Q5, wrestler, and former Marine explained his goals with the company:

"Q5 isn't for the 20 year old juice monkeys looking to bulk up so they can impress skanky chicks down at the local club. Q5 is for guys like you and me. We take our nutrition seriously, but we still want to have some fun and kick a little ass. And while most guys our age are passed out in their La-Z-Boy with a beer and a bag of chips, we'll be making the young lions nervous. They'll wonder what in the hell the old man has been taking. Let them wonder."

I like his style!  I tried five different products: Warrior Purple, Warrior Green, Launch Fuel, and two flavors of whey protein, vanilla and chocolate.  I know, it's better to eat the real foods, but we all get crunched for time, and it seems better to get close than nothing at all.

Warrior Purple:  Antioxidant blend of blueberry, blackberry, black cherries, black raspberries, black currants, plums, elderberries, bilberries, figs, eggplant, purple cabbage, acai, camu camu, mangosteen, and goji, with no added sweeteners.  I tried it mixed with coconut water and it was pretty good, a nice indeterminate fruity/berry flavor that was easy to dissolve and not gritty or powdery.  Next time I'll put it in a smoothie with yogurt, banana and juice, the way I usually use hemp and acai powder.

Warrior Green: "Over thirty superfood vegetables" is what it says, but I can tell there's lots of spinach in here.  (That's a good thing, I love a veggie smoothie.)

 I mixed this one with mango juice [you have no idea how difficult it was for me to stop typing "jiuce"] and it was... okay.  I couldn't get over the cinnamon flavor, so I think I'll stick to putting pile of veggies in the vitamix (or my bowl.)

Launch Fuel:  This is designed to be taken 30 to 60 minutes before you train.  I wasn't sure what to expect, since like I said, I don't do the supplement thing.  I guess I worried when I tried it that I would be wired, jittery, spazzy... or that I wouldn't feel anything (caffeine traditionally has zero effect on me.)

Launch Fuel is supposed to enhance your mitochondrias' ability to process and recycle ATP, the molecule your body uses to transport and store energy.  According to Q5, "Launch Fuel is a much more effective pre-fight supplement that provides energy for sparring, and helps your cells cycle through their energy stores faster, and provides ready fuel for your most important weapon - your mind!  You only have about 250 grams (9oz) of ATP in your body, so you need to recycle each molecule an average of 10x an hour! When you are training this recycling process skyrockets and efficiency becomes critical to your energy level and your work capacity. Launch Fuel helps improve this efficiency. It also contains special ingredients that help minimize muscle soreness after training."    Well... I think it helped me feel more focused and precise, without making me feel jittery or hyped up, even though it was a late evening  90 minute class then sixty minutes of back to back rounds after a long day at work.  That's worth it.  The flavor is citrusy, and I mixed it in water so I wouldn't alter its effects with sugar from juice or whatever.

Whey protein:  I mixed the protein powders with whole milk.  I liked the vanilla better, it tasted almost like a virgin eggnog to me, whereas I was comparing the chocolate version to "real" chocolate milk (and since neither has any added sugar, it came up the tiniest bit short in a head-to-head with Hershey's.)  But both were yummy, easy to mix, and made me feel virtuous and ready to go rawr.

AND... on top of all the good reasons I see for supplementing my diet and training routine with these goodies... I'll tell you another reason I give two thumbs up to Q5.  They used to sponsor Devon Delbrugge from Team Lloyd Irvin, but yanked their support when they read what nonsense he was spouting.  My respect for this company skyrocketed when I heard that.

If you're gluten-free or vegetarian, they have products for you.  Don't want to buy something you haven't tasted for yourself?  get a sample pack!  And read more independent reviews, listed here.  You can buy directly from Q5 (and if you sign up, you can get a weekly text with a discount code by texting JOIN to 207-517-4242.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Maybe the horse can fly...

There are always possibilities available to us in life. Whatever the world throws at us, we should never lose hope. Our circumstances will improve if we keep pursuing our desires.

There’s an old Sufi legend about a man named Mullah Nasrudin. This wise old philosopher was once condemned to death for saying things that upset the local Shah.  When told of the sentence, Nasrudin immediately offered the Shah a proposition. He said, “Hold off the execution for a year and I will teach your horse how to fly.” The Shah was amused and intrigued. He thought about for only a minute and then agreed to the bargain.

Later, Nasrudin’s friend asked him if he really thought he could escape death with this crazy plan.

“Why not?” the wise man said. “A lot can happen in a year. Maybe there will be a revolution and a new government that’s more in tune with my thinking. Maybe there will be a foreign invasion and a new Shah will come to power.  Or, maybe the present Shah will up and die of natural causes or get poisoned. If that happens, then according to tradition, the new Shah will have to pardon all prisoners awaiting execution. And besides, my captors might get careless and I’ll be able to escape – I’ll always be looking for opportunities to do that.

“And finally, if no other possibilities manifest, maybe I actually CAN teach the damned horse to fly!”

A key element of the Sufi world view, expressed here by Nasrudin, is that each person is an incarnate part of God, with infinite possibilities to improve his or her circumstances and in the process improve the world.

“Maybe the damned horse can fly” is a Sufi proverb that points out it is always a mistake to abandon hope.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Victory and loss.

Won my division Saturday.  (Blue belt masters light/feather; I didn't fight nogi.)

Best friend died of cancer Sunday.

Heather, I'll never forget you, I'll always miss your smile and loving kindness.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Out of the Pan, into the fire...

Sorry I haven't been around in a while... it's been busy.  The best news (from a jiu jitsu perspective) is that I'm finally off my duff and going to compete again.  Tomorrow, in the WBJJF charity tournament benefitting Rescue Her, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women in the sex trade escape and learn to support themselves.

Let's see, brief recap... in mid-February I had some time with my aunt who was recently widowed and the gang of cousins, and then a girlfriends' weekend with my two friends from grad school, Janet and Shelley..

We spent a whole weekend on the eastern seaboard, looking at the beach, getting a mani/pedi, eating lots of indulgent food, drinking wine, and laying around in the hotel room on facebook and catching up on House of Cards!  And of course, gabbing..

This is the indoor heated pool on the roof of the resort where we stayed...

Work has been slightly less insane, thank goodness.  I've been training more consistently too-- averaging around 5x a week, playing nothing but guard, guard, guard.

Went to the Pan in Irvine mid-March for a week.  It was a wonderful opportunity to cheer friends on (I did not compete but Ketra from my academy won gold in blue belt adult middle heavy) and also to see my bestie, Heather, who is fighting a brave battle with breast cancer that's giving her a run for her money.  I'll be going back to Cali a few more times this spring and summer as well.

While I was at the Pan I got to meet Jonathan from Kauai Kimonos, Derek Okahashi of 31Fifty, James Foster from Lotus Club in Seattle, and I was able to train at Oyama (Giva Santana's Lotus Club hq) and GB Irvine with some super nice people.  Also had a few ugly interactions with Sijara of TLI, but whatever, water off a duck's back, and it taught me not to get caught by myself in the future, because she wasn't nearly so brave if her words and behavior were public.  Don't think I'll be going back for Mundials but we'll see...maybe nogi worlds instead.

I did get a visit from some Chicago cousins who are looking to move to Austin, hooray!  Here's me with Kristina, Patti, and Katie...

The last week has been interesting because I've stopped the guard obsession and tried to remember how much fun it is to play top, in prep for the tournament.  I find that cutting weight is MUCH easier now that my hypothyroidism has been diagnosed; dropped about ten pounds in the last two weeks.  Distress for my friend is part of it, too.  But I feel good and healthy (grips are sore as heck though!)  So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and I'll post video etc. when I come back.

Have a guest post or two coming soon and a slew of reviews:  Drysdale's Cradle DVD, Combat Skin's spats and rashie, OK Kimonos spats, Datsusara's hemp (version 3) gi which I've been wearing for two years now, Black Eagle's new (version 2) Predadora female gi, and some supplements from Q5.... the list goes on and on!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interview with Leo Negao!

GymTalk just did a cool interview with Leo Negao, thought you might enjoy it.  He's a four-time World Champion in BJJ, teaching in London now.  A little bit of trivia: Negao is the student who gave Fabio Gurgel his nickname of "The General."

Leo was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He started to train at Carlson Gracie’s academy in 1993 together with Murillo Bustamante, Amauri Bitteti, Mario Sperry, Vitor Belfort and others. At this time Carlson Gracie himself was the coach for Leo Negao and these aforementioned fighters.

In 1998 he moved to Sao Paulo and started to train at Alliance Academy together with Fabio Gurgel, Alexandre Paiva and Romero “Jacaré” Cavalcanti.

At this time Romero “Jacaré” Cavalcanti was the coach for this fight team.

In 2002, Leo Negao trained with Vitor Belfort and Antoñio 'Minotauro' Nogueira to develop his striking techniques.

Thereafter, Leo Negao moved to Sweden and opened BJJ and MMA schools around Europe.

An experienced MMA fighter and teacher of MMA, Leo has recently launched Fight First MMA, An MMA promotions company, promoting both professional and amateur MMA fight nights around the UK and Central Europe.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pan 2014!

I'm leaving this evening for Santa Ana CA and I'm pretty excited about working the Pan!  Five days of good, even great jiu jitsu... seeing a girlfriend too...

I notice today on the brackets that Caio Terra remained in the Ultra Heavy adult blackbelt division.  That's Galvao's division.  Ooh!

The brackets are up here...

See you there! :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Countering how BJJ destroys your hair

The oldest story in the book of women and jiu jitsu might just be about the relationship between us and our hairs.  The topic of how to contain and restrain one's hairs has been analyzed exhaustively by many excellent writers, including:

Patricia at JiuJitsuAddict: includes how-to videos for different hair lengths
Meg at Tangled Triangle: dealing with African American hair
Discussion on Jiu Jitsu Forums
The jiu jitsu hair page on Facebook

But I'm not here to talk about preventing the inevitable attrition with braiding, bunning, ponytailing, shearing, etc.

I want to talk about recovery and taking care of what's left so it grows back faster.  This was motivated by the discovery a few days ago of a ginormous patch on the back of my neck/skull about 4" x 5" with hair only 2-3" long... whereas the rest of my hair is bra-strap length.  Not to mention the frilly curly tendrils alllllllll around my face like a false-advertising halo.

I have a dear friend who is fighting breast cancer and has lost her hair (twice now) through chemo and radiation.  I started googling regrowing hair for cancer patients and the lightbulb went on... maybe this works for patchy-baldy BJJ babes like me.

So here's what I'm trying:

1.  Prevent further losses as best I can: try not to use just a ponytail as the elastic hits the strands right about where that short patch ends.  Try to just do a single braid down the back, not french.  Tell all my training partners please stop and let me get my hair out (I'll give up any collar grip you want, and I'll lift my head for any crossface you want.  Good practice for me being in a bad position too.)

2.  No more shampoo with sulfates.  Watering down my shampoo half and half.  Using conditioner for shampoo lots of times.  And air drying when the weather and time permits.  (Works well when I train at night and shower before bed.)

3.  Biotin.  A "B complex" vitamin also known as Vitamin H, anecdotal evidence indicates it makes your hair grow.  Usually hair grows about 1/4" a month, but with biotin supplements it can be twice that.  It's cheap too, like $2 for 100 at Target and you can find it at any drugstore pretty much.

up&up Biotin 1000 mcg Tablets - 100 Count

4.  Minoxidil:  I haven't decided whether to try this.  Usually it's for men but the FDA has approved the 2% version for women, and I know cancer patients who use it.  While it can produce some new growth of fine hair in some women, it's not a quick fix, either. You won't see results until you use the drug for two months. The effect often peaks at around four months, but it could take longer.

Anyway... that's something rattling around in my head.