Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Anniversary... Happy head cold (?!?!)

Celebrated my first anniversary this Sunday-- my husband planned the whole thing. I woke up early Sunday morning feeling miserable with a cold, but forgot my woes for a while looking at my presents. An Ipod Nano in lizard green, a Canon PowerShot Elph camera in steely blue, and Viva la Juicy perfume in hot pink :) (I'll post pictures soon.) Mitch is entirely impossible to shop for, but I did find two things I thought he'd like-- unfortunately both had to be ordered and didn't come in time. He'll be surprised anyway.

After a leisurely morning and a long hot shower, which failed utterly to clear my head, we drove out to the Inn Over Onion Creek in Kyle. Our room was ready, so we dropped off our bags and set out on a short hike to the overlook. Not enough rain to have water in the creek, but it was a nice stroll anyway. I was pooped when we got back, so we chilled out, watched "The Wrestler" (very sad!), and napped. We polished off a bottle of wine while we relaxed.

Dinner was an impressive duck confit with dried cherry salsa, mushroom risotto, and braised collard greens-- all of which was accented by the sparkling shiraz we'd brought along. Could have used a bigger serving of greens. The pound cake with peaches afterwards was a nice touch.

Watched another movie, "Elegy" with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz (another sad movie! agh!) and eventually fell asleep waiting for the rain to fall.

Now I'm super busy at work getting ready for the Johnson execution. Be back later this week I'm guessing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How do you measure progress in jits?

Leslie is grappling (sorry) with this question, as am I. (See her blog post here.)

My sense is most guys measure progress by looking at who they tap to and who taps them. It's easy, I think, to evaluate readiness to be promoted by looking at abilities to dominate others of your own belt level and ability to compete with the next rank up.

If you're female and not privileged to be training somewhere with lots of other chicks, you probably don't use these metrics. Or do you? I don't, usually, because then I'd be depressed. Even whitebelts with 3 months of training can at least stalemate me if they're male. I used to use Leila as one of my metrics, but it's tough because she's improving faster than I am, so I'm pretty much perpetually frustrated rolling with her. I can only hope I'm occasionally stymieing her too.

Sometimes I measure success by single positions. Am I getting armbarred in guard, passing scissor, remembering sweeps? Sometimes I measure it by length of time (emotional time!) before I tap. What do I mean by emotional time? I'm obviously not really counting the seconds before a tap, nor am I trying to hold out without tapping to a well-set sub. I just mean I can get a good feel for others' difficulty level-- is this someone I will be happy to defend against and call it a victory if they can't sub me till the end of a 6 min round? will I be happy if I get through half? a minute?

Sometimes it's my comfort level with bigger picture perspectives-- am I chaining attacks? flowing? how's my hip movement? Sometimes I measure my progress by the kinds of moves my opponent pulls-- are they taking it really easy on me? less easy? whoa, did they just grunt? Sometimes if they grunt, sweat, or breathe hard, that's a sign I'm doing well. But ultimately I prefer quantifiable measures, things that are numeric or objective vs. subjective and "warm fuzzy." And unfortunately that means sometimes I am left with the "how many taps" metric.

I don't mean to crow about tapping people.  It's just my insecurity talking.  It's not "ooh, I'm so good.."   It's "Ooh, normally I'm so bad, and here I was a little less bad."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Being a blue belt is just like being a teenager.

I know this is not a novel concept but it really jumped into my mind tonight during class and after, so I wanted to share.

Adolescents are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. They often appear self-centered, completely convinced that their experience is unique and that no one really understands, especially parents or older people. They're trying out new identities, experimenting with trends, exploring values and learning about peer pressure.

If white belts are children, eagerly learning everything, slightly spazzy, full of boundless enthusiasm yet needing lots of guidance and supervision, then blue belts are the teenagers of jits. I base this on personal experience, intending no slam on other blues. Maybe I should be saying "I am going through my teenage years again" except that I hear this stuff from other blues, too.

I hear lots of other blues (and whites, and even purples) talk about the difficulties they experience as they grow and develop, and their problems sound familiar, but I'm pretty sure their experiences are nothing like mine (I'm not as coordinated! I'm weaker! Smaller! Definitely less disciplined, lower quality practice time, enjoy rolling too much and don't focus and concentrate enough.. etc. ad nauseum.) No one else really understands, because even other gals are bigger, stronger, lower bodyfat, more physically talented, progressed faster, didn't blow off triangles at the start of their experience, and so on.

People say "build your game around what you're best at" but hey, I haven't a clue what I'm best at 'till I try it all. So this month it's foot on bicep; maybe last month it was closed guard and before that, get on top and screw fighting from the back. This month I'm best at armbars, of all crazy damn things.. but next month when everyone is used to me doing that, I'll suck again (just like I suck at ezequiels now that people see them coming a mile away.) I'm trying out different identities left and right, imitating the "cool kids" at my school or on the world jits stage. What game are the smaller guys playing? how do they get away with all their coolness without getting smashed? I wanna be like them! And whatever I just learned is the sweetest thing since sliced bread, and will continue to be so, until I learn the next sweet thing.

And peer pressure. It's sometimes hard to discern what will work for me from what works great for the brown belt who's built like a linebacker, or even what works for the white belt guy who's six inches taller than me. I want to incorporate all of everyone's techniques into my game, but really, I have to weed through stuff. I can just hear my mom, "If so-and-so jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?"

I keep remembering reading (somewhere, out there, on the boundless internet no doubt) that you will never profit by comparing your own learning curve and progress with that of others. I think it's really true. Just keep plugging along, do your best, stay out of trouble...

Does it come down to strength?

So, today I had the opportunity to roll with a professional athlete who's interested in crossing over to do MMA. In his "former life" he was a professional cyclist, so he's in amazing shape, cardio and strength-wise. Think zero bodyfat, wiry and lean, and he never gasses. I like to think I have solid cardio and endurance for jits-- I rolled a solid 4.5 hours on Easter Sunday afternoon-- but he might have me beat.

He's not too much bigger than me-- maybe 15 lbs?-- and he is relatively new to grappling. You'd think (I thought) I should have been able to school him. Instead, I found myself struggling just as much: fight to maintain or regain guard, fight for armbars from guard, struggle for sweeps, defend armbars, try to escape side or mount. Mostly I felt like my offense was inadequate; my defense seemed to fall prey to his unconventional, unexpected "newbie" attacks. I felt like I was being muscled.

So I wonder-- is it really a strength issue? It's very frustrating to consider that as a possibility. I don't want to be a whiner (Some girls say *everything* is muscling) and I want to make sure I'm not giving up when it's my technique that's the problem. Because it was nogi, I had a very hard time controlling his arms. I broke down his posture pretty well, but couldn't dig his m... f... arms out of my thighs... tried to play open guard and got lifted, tossed, dragged, stacked and ultimately squashed. Managed a sweep or two but only because he's totally green; of course from mount in nogi I'm stuck thinking of all the chokes I like if only I had some lapels to work with... I'd love to do an armbar but (again-- is it really a strength issue?) felt like I just couldn't pry his arms into place. I know- bait the choke, trick the arms out, but somehow it wasn't working.

I need more drilling and more mat time. Seriously, how does ANYONE get any better any faster at this sport? I probably spend 20-25 hrs a week on the mats. It's gotta be a question of working smarter because I don't see how I can work any harder or longer.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Apparently, my pimping of Badgerland Jiu Jitsu's wonderfulness inspired my friend KW to hunt down this, my new theme song.

The Marcelo seminar...

I rode up to Faixa Preta MMA in Rockwall TX (north of Dallas) on Sunday morning with my friend Will. We gabbed the whole way there (3.5 hours) and the whole way back and I wasn't bored once. After a little difficulty finding the place (no one told us it was inside a health club, nor that the address numbering was a little screwy) we chowed a fast but yummy lunch at a little Italian place that was bustling with the after-church crowd. (Guarantee you I was the only female there over age 4 wearing hot pink pants.)

Unfortunately, wasn't allowed to tape the seminar. Also unfortunately, the other two guys from my academy (Donald and Dan) couldn't make it, and most unfortunately of all, Marcelo's flight got changed (thanks Travelocity!) and he had to leave at 3:30 instead of after 4pm. However I still feel like the 2.5 hrs of teaching/drilling and 30 min of open mat were worth it (OUCH $100!)-- he's a very good teacher, focuses on helpful details, and makes you think about how every small piece fits into the larger whole. We covered takedown defenses into guillotines, finishing guillotines, and of course, taking the back. I will say Marcelo is a lot bigger in person than I expected-- very muscular and taller than I pictured, too.

Saw a couple girls I've seen at tournaments before. Sue, a purple belt, is a familiar and friendly face. There were also two that I recognized from NAGA nogi last year (didn't have matches against them) but I didn't get a chance to say hi or roll with them. I was quite the earnest note-taker, and I was happy to have Will around. He's a good drilling partner- analytical, precise, and encouraging.

Bummer, I wanted one of his rashies, but they were $45 and long sleeved, so I passed. The t-shirts were cool, but the smallest adult size, a medium, was literally a dress for me, and the biggest kids' size, a 10, was less a babydoll shirt and more a tourniquet that when shrunk in the dryer would become a postage stamp.

Anyway... here's Will and Marcelo. Will was so excited to be in the presence of greatness his hands were all shaky. (Just kiddin' Will!)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Have a good weekend....

Yesterday morning's class was cool, got to roll with Shane (I actually double-legged him and picked him UP! yay, and got two subs, too...)

Also rolled with a new guy from Utah named Yager (sp?) and it was going okay, although he has lots of nogi experience so I'm sure he was taking it easy on me, until I rolled backwards over my right foot... the big toe got completely curled underneath itself. Ouch.

Then at the night class, I had a very profitable lesson on Dan's sweep from Dan himself. Then I took a lot of crap from people for making my facebook status something about having swept a purple. I therefore became a target :) I rolled about 40 min with Donald, Royler's new black belt, and of course crowed for victory when he (let me get a) got swept by yours truly. I love rolling with him because he's so gentle, so deceptively relaxed, and so much fun to talk with.

Tomorrow another salsa lesson, a private at the house, and I'll be baking treats for the San Antonio people coming to the academy, as well as for the birthday party in the afternoon.. then class noon to 3, then Dax's first birthday party at 4, then UFC somewhere that night.

Sunday gotta drive up to Dallas for the second day of Marcelo's seminar.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I love jits...

It feeds my need for intellectual challenge, social camaraderie, strenuous physical exertion, and competition. It's mostly guys and the girls who do it are the coolest kinds of girls... not sissies, not high maintenance, very real...

I had a wonderful class this morning, taught by Doug, a purple who sidelines as a standup comic. I'm already an early bird by nature, but it makes it even easier when you're getting up for jits-- and easier still when you get up for FUNNY jits. Plus, we had some whitebelts join us for the first time, and I love seeing new faces at a morning class. And, Jarren made it in-- a new-to-our-school guy who is genuinely kind and goes out of his way to compliment everyone.

What I'm really happy about right now is how I did in the guard passing drills. Whether I was on top or bottom, I felt like I had an adequate toolbox for the task, I was transitioning well, I was moving without thinking too much, but I was using my mind and analysing and selecting techniques, not just moving randomly. I am starting to become more comfortable with my guard retention, especially using open guard/spider/Dan's guard... I'm working on my sweeps, and I'm seeing more armbars and triangles than I used to, not that I'm actually executing but that will come I hope. All in all, I was a happy chicklet this morning.

Last, thanks Ely for the grand idea-- when I tiedye my gi, I need a big "Keep Austin Weird" patch for the back! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Usually-quiet readers please shout out!

I love the Clustrmaps widget on my blog. It tells me I have some hits from readers in places like Ireland, Lithuania, France, Saint Lucia, Iran, and Brazil to name a few. That's cool!

Now I'm not saying that peeps in the US or England aren't fascinating to me. (You are.) What I am saying is, I'd love to hear something from those of you who don't usually comment. I would like to get to know you lurkers a little better.

So how about commenting with your name and a brief introduction? How did you find this blog, are you a first-time visitor or do you come back regularly... how old are you, what do you do, and do you train jiu jitsu?

It's YOUR post, folks :) make use of it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Oh, yeah, bow and arrow guard...

So most of my rolling Sunday was nogi, and I tried the knees in biceps, hands on triceps thing.

Without knowing what the heck I was doing (a given) because I hadn't researched it in books or youtube before trying it, and with the additional caveat that my training partner might have been giving it to me, I would say it seemed like a good control position, but I'm too much a noob to be able to spontaneously come up with transitions to submissions from that position. So, Scott, heal that wrist. :)

My garden in spring...

I have to say I love me some antique roses (which reminds me, I'm ordering two more at least, to fill in where the buddleia died last fall.) I love them because I don't fuss with them, prune, spray, or otherwise interfere-- they're just sturdy, strong and beautiful all on their own. They're "antiques" because they're very old strains, usually, and often found in cemetaries and old houses long abandoned. Low maintenance, just my style.

Also, my amaryllis bloomed beautifully. I wish they had more of a scent. Virtually everything in my garden is scented-- jasmine, osmanthus, buddleia...

More dyed gis, like Easter eggs in fact....

So here's the peach gi... again much more dayglo orangesicle than I had envisioned... unfortunately I did this to one of my absolute favorite gis, the kids Keiko Raca, so I might have to get another one and leave it the heck alone this time..

Though who am I kidding?? I will still wear the peach to train in. I want to wear the absolute smallest-yet-still-legal gi I have for competition (which would be my F2 Kyra Gracie, magenta) and yet I want to wear the kelly green gi for my sponsor's sake and yet I don't want to always be the "girl in the green gi" either. Who cares, no one watches me at a tournament. Yet.

And here's one of my favorites-- this is Dharma Trading's coral pink. I think this looks sharp! Inevitably, I end up wearing it on the same day one of my training partners wears his red gi, so sassy people ask if we did laundry together...

I still plan on dyeing my Atama Mundial #7 a nice sage green... then need to practice tie dyeing on a pair of pants before I attack the Atama summerweight...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tournament of Champions III

So, Saturday was the TOC III here in Austin. Pretty big for a local grappling tournament, I heard there were 50 schools and over 400 competitors at pre-registration. I didn't compete but I did watch most of it, and lots of peeps from my school competed (and did very well.)

First off, one of my training partners won her division in gi! I was very excited to watch her matches and absolutely tickled to see her win. First match was against a girl who looked both bigger and stronger. I missed her second match but my teammate won by armbar from guard. I have to admit I am relieved she won her tournament because she beats up on me all the time at home and frankly, it's become a bit of an issue for me.

I am not whining about it, but I liked it better when I thought we were 60/40. Now I feel like we're more like 90/10 in her favor.  Good motivation to train hard!

Lots of great matches to watch, great camaraderie, very motivating overall. Got to hang out with some of the girls I've competed against in the past (Hooray Liana for making blue!) and I'm starting to look at NAGA in May as less a burden and more a pleasure.

Ended up watching some MMA at my buddy Anthony's house on Saturday night. Mitch has been an MMA fan longer than I have mainly because until jits, I thought of fights as needless violence. Now I can empathize with the desire to prove yourself. However I still cringe when I see utter beatings like Chris Cyborg vs. Hitomi Akano.

Sunday morning was rainy at first, but cleared up beautifully in time to enjoy a lovely brunch with my coworker and friend Fredericka and her family. Of course I ate way too much, but went to the academy in the afternoon for 4 1/2 hours of rolling, mostly nogi, with Anthony who has always been super encouraging and helpful to me.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"When on the brink of complete discouragement, success is discerning that... the line between failure and success is so fine that often a single extra effort is all that is needed to bring victory out of defeat."

From Steve Austin's blog yesterday.

Sloooooooow progress.

One thing that's funny about me is that I often talk while I'm rolling. Not the whole time-- but if I think of something funny, I'll say it.

(There's other funny stuff too, like last night while I was rolling with Anthony, I think I did a good solid two minutes without opening my eyes.  But anyways.)

One of the most common things I think (and say) while I'm rolling is "So the last 5 minutes didn't just happen" ... this always comes after one of my epic battles to pass guard which is successful for about 3 seconds, until they regain guard and massive deja vu sweeps over me. (Or, speaking of sweeps... nah, you get the picture.)

How does this relate to my title? I realized last night that I might be making progress, because the positions that I keep finding myself in are different than the ones I kept getting in a few months ago. When I first started, I kept getting in armbars from guard, triangles from guard, guillotines from guard. For a while it was kimuras from guard.

Now, it's passing scissor guard... escaping technical mount when they're sitting on your hip with their heel dug into your stomach (I know some escapes, but I'm not doing them fast enough to avoid Fretson chokes and Americana/armbar threats)...

If nothing else at least I'm using bigger words and getting into stickier wickets.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Guillotine at morning class... two successful open/butterfly guard passes... then a nogi armbar from guard that transitioned to bellydown at lunch...


Friday, April 03, 2009

Funny sign...

Be careful what you say you're proud of. Or at least say it outloud before you put it on your sign.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Thought for the day....

When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible. Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about.

--shamelessly pinched from Steve Austin's blog.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shorter, sorer...

So my hair is shorter (at least it's functional in jits, but I am very sad to see it go!) Lost about 10". It does work better-- had it in a ponytail for class and it felt fine; got caught in a few positions but I didn't have hanks of hair coming out afterwards. It feels EXTREMELY STRANGE when I wash it-- there's virtually no hair there. It's so much thinner than it used to be. I think it could look cuter if I were willing to mess with it, but I'm not. I loved long hair because I literally didn't have to do anything to it (besides condition the heck out of it) and it looked great. Now here's how it looks wet from the shower, towel dried. Took this at work this morning, and it's a little shaggy for my taste.

But here's what I'm thinking on the hair. I notice lots of the better women jits fighters do have long (healthy, not broken) hair... perfect example is our brown belt Christy Thomas. Here she's armbarring Michelle Nicolini at the Pan Ams last weekend.

What this indicates to me is that the better you get, the more controlled you will be, and the less time you'll spend with your head flat on the mat, sliding on the mat, etc. And, the fewer occasions you'll have to resort to crappy escapes by pulling your head out in the nick of time-- you just will be better at avoiding the position entirely. So, happily, I think I'll be able to grow this out and not be doomed to a life of shoulder-length hair.

Sorer-- if that's a word-- because I jammed my right thumb last night doing takedowns. It's a plummy-rosy color all around the big joint and it's amazing how many things you need your thumb to do. Like releasing the emergency brake on your car so you can leave the academy after class... like holding the pizza boxes... like unscrewing the bottle of water... like taking notes in class this morning... So I sat out during class this morning, and I think I'll skip it tonight and just watch UFC and eat a burger instead.

Read this on BJJ Grrrl's blog... shamelessly pinching it so I can remember I'd like to try it tonight. Assuming my totally-jacked up thumb heals by tomorrow. It won't, I know.

A long set-up to a choke that Adam worked out on me while we were rolling, and then with some more working on it after we finished. Start in their guard, and start with your posture down, for whatever reason. (I didn’t drill with the smelly guy, and I feel completely sorry for whoever had to.) Work one of their lapels out and pass it over one of their arms; with that same side arm, reach around to the other side of their arm and grab the lapel, and then pull it tight in to their hip, trapping their arm (generally around the elbow). Pop up on to your toes, keeping pressure with your shoulder on their chest/shoulder, and pass that lapel under to the other side, and grab it with your other hand. Come down to your knees again. Grab their pants on the trapped arm side and break their guard. Slide that side leg over, hooking their leg; your free arm grabs their collar behind their head and your shoulder pressures in; open your hips to pass, still keeping control of that fed-through lapel. Switch your hips over to side control. Slide the knee by their hips over their stomach, then switch your knees and go to side control on the other side. Keep shoulder pressure; switch the hand on the lapel; slide the now-free hand across their throat, grab the collar there, and drop your weight on that elbow.