Saturday, March 28, 2009


This morning I dyed another gi. It was originally white with pale pink trim (my childrens' size Keiko) and I thought it would be good to dye it peach-- partly because it already had some set-in bloodstains on the sleeves thanks to my easy-to-bloody nose, and they were kind of a pale peach color already. I have to say I'm not happy, again, with the intensity and brightness of the result. Instead of pastel, I ended up with dayglow. A dayglow Orangsicle, if you will. The kind of orange-cream soda color you wouldn't necessarily enjoy wearing.

So after washing and drying it, I tried bleaching it. I'd say about 2 cups bleach to about 6 gallons of hot water, soaked for about 22 minutes, and then because I'd forgotten there was already a gi in the washer (from rolling this morning) I let the peach gi sit in the kitchen sink, still soaked in bleach solution, for probably another 20-30 min. The bleaching helped a bit. I'll post better pics later; this, taken with my cell phone, shows my stack of gis on the dryer with the peach one on top. I will have two greens to add to the collection soon enough.

I have some sage green dye, and 2 gis left. The Atama Mundial #7 has those rip-stop pants, so I'm not sure they're cotton and therefore might not take the dye. Ergo, I will still have one white gi. The Atama summerweight will be tie-dyed; the Keiko Raca with red streaks just got dyed coral pink (much more aptly called a strawberry pink, I think I'll love it.) I just sent off my too-big kelly green gi to Mark at Badgerland Jiu Jitsu and hopefully will get a smaller one of those soon. I'm also getting a single weight for only $60 from Howard Combat Kimonos and I'll probably try a Fuji single weight too. Call me crazy but I like being different and I'm enjoying the experiment process. I have had a few people ask me to dye gis for them (happy to do it) and many many requests for a tie-dyed one. (I think they just want ME to wear it and be an even bigger target than I already am. Fine, happy to do that too :) )

But the real thing I've been struggling with for a few days now... my frustration.  It started when I rolled recently. This guy is a higher belt, of course bigger than me, more experienced, and very nice. He's a good person to pair up with when the class is learning and drilling a technique, because he'll explain what you're doing wrong and he doesn't hesitate to give you feedback. However, both times I've rolled with him in a sparring situation have resulted in me crying. (He didn't know, either time, I hope, because I was quite sweaty anyway, and I wasn't sobbing or making noise. I just couldn't keep the tears in.)

I AM NOT THAT GIRL. I hate crying anyway-- except for those movies that are supposed to make you cry, in which case the catharsis is wonderful. But I generally don't cry, period, and I especially would never ever imagine crying in jits, over jits, or having anything to do with jits. It just isn't (usually) that frustrating or important. I have so much FUN when I'm rolling, it doesn't (usually) bother me much to get swept, caught, crushed, whatever.

But with him, it's been different, and I've racked my brain trying to analyze why. Partly I think it's because he doesn't smile or make any positive/friendly facial expressions. He appears quite implacable and unemotional. Kind of reminds me of the liquid-metal man in the Terminator-- you know, the highway patrol cop one? Super-serious, never cracks a smile, just keeps on coming after you like a machine. It starts feeling scary and even personal, which is illogical, but that's what my gut feels. After the third judo footsweep thing, in a row, in which I was obviously not getting how to avoid it or how to counter it, and in which my f-ing ankle felt like it was being hit with a hammer each time, I felt like it was perhaps incumbent upon the higher belt to stop a moment and instruct me. Since he didn't, I stopped, and asked what I was doing wrong. "Don't get in that position. Counter it." OK, thanks, obviously I don't know HOW.

At another point, after he successfully head-snapped me, he brought up his knee and  stopped just short of kneeing me in the face. I was really scared, tried to laugh it off and told him I didn't want to do the vale tudo MMA stuff. He responded by telling me I wouldn't have that option "on the street" so I had to be ready for anything. Yes, this is true, but since I'm not used to having training partners simulating "fights on the street" in class, I was pretty scared.

He started mixing up his takedowns, but each one was equally successful, and within 4-5 minutes, I realized that I was both crying *and* mentally giving up. I wasn't quitting, I was getting up every time and coming back, but I was already certain I was getting taken down again, and I wasn't thinking offensively any longer. That totally SUCKED.

There aren't really any people who CAN'T take me down, so I'm not complaining about being taken down again and again. I don't mind that. I can't quite put my finger on why THIS time it bothered me so, but I definitely felt frustrated, even intimidated. The only thing I was proud of was not quitting and not asking him to take it easier on me. Maybe I should have made that request?

Then another day I rolled at lunch open mat. 45 minutes with a good friend and fellow blue belt. 45 minutes of being crushed in sidemount, in which all my escape attempts failed and left an arm exposed, resulting in americanas, armbars, and even a mounted triangle. 45 minutes of my attempts at mount escapes resulting merely in easily-passed halfguard, failed halfguard sweeps, failure in general. Oh, and don't forget-- we started every match from our feet, so there's also 45 minutes of not getting my grips, not breaking his, not getting takedowns, and getting taken down. *sigh*

At least he had to shower up at 45 minutes in, so I next rolled with a visiting blue belt from another city, a really nice guy. That resulted in 15 minutes of again being crushed in side, mounted, and two nice gi chokes, unusual ones I haven't dealt with much before involving the tail of my own gi. (I admit I did feel some detached interest in seeing what he did with the tail, so I didn't defend as much as I might have, even though I know it's never good when they start undressing you. Or themselves.)

He did give me some hints on bettering my transition from side to mount (something he called "going fishing": your headside arm is under their head, hipside knee tight against their hip, hipside hand digs down under their near elbow/tricep and pulls the arm up and over their chest, to be pinned there with your chest as you switch hips, sitting on the headside hip and now facing their feet. I don't recall what exactly the hipside hand then does but it would logically want to control their hips maybe by grabbing a knee? and I believe the transition to mount, when you're pinning their arm that tightly with your chest, is pretty easy; it felt like his hip was high up against my shoulder.)

To top it all off, I rolled with another good friend and as always was dominated. He gets air on a scissor sweep. When he let me pass his open guard, an area I'm intently working on these days, I did get mount and I was mildly successful in trying for the Donald choke and the ezequiel (shocker) and in not getting reversed, for a little while anyway.  I was grateful for the chance to work on stuff and not get "stuffed" the whole time.

I know this all sounds like a bag of wind. I don't want to whine, I just want to understand where I'm going wrong. I feel like I'm training hard, I'm trying to learn the techniques and apply them, but somewhere there's a connection I'm not making. My tentative conclusions:

- I'm letting people settle into mount/side control and not trying to work my escapes quickly enough.
- I'm putting too much emphasis on not wasting energy thrashing around (which is what lots of the side and mount escapes end up feeling like) and I'm playing too much a waiting game. I often catch myself giving up my back and I think that plays into the same phenomenon.
- I'm not focused enough on thinking-- about their moves, my reactions, and grasping patterns. Therefore later instead of realizing specifics I need to work on, I'm left with the vague generalization that I'm getting crushed. Not terribly helpful.
- I don't have a plan or roadmap for what I'm trying to accomplish, takedown-wise. I have six techniques running around in my head, but what comes out is 1/6th of each mixed together which is worse than nothing.

My ultimate conclusion is that really, I'm not a blue belt. People watching me and my friend rolling this morning exclaimed about his underbelted-ness aloud because that's true, he seems like he's better than the belt he wears, but no one points out that I am not a blue belt because they're being kind. I am not rolling like a blue belt, I'm not thinking like a blue belt, and I'm definitely not excited about competing as a blue belt.

It's a blue day for me in jits.


Rob said...

Sounds like you are worrying too much about what other people are doing.

What are YOU working on?

I always like to have specific things I am practicing, and when I roll, I work on those non-stop.

Right now, Im working the 93 / Galvao guard, and that's all I do. I feel like a complete retard doing it, because it's new and I'm no good at it. I have no feel for it, and no timing yet. But roll after roll, I just try to get to 93, then go for the first sweep I am learning.

People I used to tap are now passing my guard, side mounting me, etc. I don't really care... straight 93 guard all the time. When they pass, I try to figure out a counter.

The point being, if you go into each roll with something specific you want to practice, you can guage your progress much more easily than trying to evaluate your overall game.

And as far as the belt, who cares. Let your instructor worry about what belt you are :) But if you focus on very specific things (pick ONE or TWO), you can improve more quickly, and you don't worry about the rest of it as much.

Keep your head up!

Steve said...

Hang in there, Georgette. I know exactly what you mean regarding your blue belt. I felt the same way for a while. It passes. Rob's advice echoes the same advice I was given. Work your game and mark your improvement according to your own standard.

Regarding the gis, do you find that the bleach weakens the fabric? It sounds like you have plenty of them, so it might not be an issue.

slideyfoot said...

Yes, that's the first thing you have to keep in mind: the only person you should be measuring yourself against is you. Is the Georgette of now better at BJJ than the Georgette of two months ago?

Second, nobody ever feels like they deserve their belt. However, remember that your instructor thinks that you do, or they wouldn't have given it to you. Trust their judgement: whatever other people may or may not think, the instructor's opinion is the one that counts in terms of rank.

So, keep training just like you did when you were wearing a white belt: the colour of the belt unfortunately doesn't give you magic powers, so try to ignore it as best as you can.

I'd agree with Rob and also strongly recommend coming into each lesson with a specific set of techniques you want to work. Look at what positions you end up in most frequently, then pick some basic moves you'd like to practice.

Every time you spar, focus on using those techniques, then gradually develop each component: e.g., where are you hands/elbows/knees/feet? How are you moving your hips? What about your weight distribution?

If you keep on working on those components, getting that small improvement every time, then eventually the technique is going to click. That means each sparring session has a structure with clear goals and progress you can track, which I personally find very motivating.

Elyse said...

I disagree with Slideyfoot -- your belt DOES give you magical powers. This is why you should never ever wash your belt. When you do, all the blood and sweat and tears (power) you put into it will be SUCKED away. Whenever you feel like you don't deserve your belt (which is absolutely not true) you just look at how stained and worn it is to remember how much work you've done to get where you are.

Also, I hate to say this but you better get used to crying :). I think as one gets further and further into the journey of a jiu jitsu career (yes, this is your second career), and as you become closer to the sport as a supportive and integral part of your life, it is only natural that you should cry when things become strained or frustrating. I only suggest trying your best to do it outside the school away from the other students because it destroys the light atmosphere of a school and hurts morale.

I used to think I was the only idiot who cried over jiu jitsu and then I found out that ALOT of people do too.

Who hasn't cried over an important relationship in their life?

Why should jiu jitsu be any different?

The more you train the more you are going to expect of yourself, and so the more gravity you will begin to place on your progress and performance. What you need to remember is that your performance on one particular day is not at all indicative of your overall progress.

Finally, understand that people are going harder on you now that you're a blue belt. Sometimes it's a shock to realize people were taking it easy on you previously... but once the shock wears off you can make sure you get lots of sleep, maybe drink a red bull, and then really hand it to them next class ;)

Keep training!
Jitsu loves you!

slideyfoot said...

You mean I don't have to put up with a mundane non-magical belt? Damn, no wonder my guard passing is still so terrible... ;p

Georgette said...

a) I only bleached the one gi, the peach one, and I don't know if that one time will weaken it. It's not my favorite color, though, so if it tears, I won't cry.

b) I haven't yet cried in a visible way, and I won't. I'll go to the bathroom before I'll let anyone see me.

c) As unsexy as it is, I'm working on guard passing and sidemount/mount escapes. I don't really need more attacks-- especially if I can't get into position to use them.

leslie said...

Hey, now you're posting about my life on the mats. I don't have any good advice like everyone else does; I can only commiserate.

Hang tough, chica. We're all on this crazy jiu-jitsu path together.