Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The purpose of the jits blog...

Happy St. Patrick's day, by the way. I'm sporting my green tiedyed gi pants courtesy of my sponsor, Happy Kimonos, and my green jacket, thanks to another sponsor, Badgerland Jiu Jitsu! I'm the only person at my academy who could dress for today on the mats! :)

And here's me, the hedgehog jits fighter, in green..

But back to the title...

"The" purpose... as though there's only one?

"The" jits blog, as though there's only one blog, or even that all posts on a blog have a singular purpose..

Well, how about this-- "some purposes of some jits blogs." Specifically mine.

This has been on my mind since reading a repost of Notes from Ringside's comments that BJJ blogs are by and for wankers... here, thanks to Meerkatsu. And it's also percolating around because I'm getting ready for Pan Ams, and because I did an interview with Caleb for Fightworks Podcast the other day. What's all this mean, you ask?


I didn't realize when I started blogging that people other than my godmother (Hi Aunt Karen!) and some other family friends would really be reading this. I guess I got a hint when I started plugging in to the online jitsuka community and reading ya'lls blogs and thoughts and commentary. And when people I didn't yet know started following here, well, I felt pretty special. Chuffed, as you Brits would say. It's incredibly comforting to share the journey.

I hope that in some way I can be part of the voice for us... the non-blackbelts.. the middlebelts in jiu jitsu.. the average Jane or Joe. I love jiu jitsu, I love the practice of it, the discipline, the challenge, the community and the process of learning it. I love to write, I love to be heard, and I love to discuss it all, which is a big part of my experience. It's not just self-flagellation or mutual masturbation either. There's a lot of useful information out there, and why reinvent the wheel when maybe we can learn from each others' experiences? Geez, the collective wisdom of this group... pretty impressive. I'm eager to connect to it, and if I have anything of any use to share, I'm there.

But then it gets time to compete. I'm a lawyer and as you can tell, a little on the obsessive side. Whatever I lack in native talent and ability, you can bet I will try to compensate with advance preparation. It's saved my bacon in court and I trust that someday I will actually feel prepared on the mats too. So, even though I briefly considered NOT doing it, I checked out the list of chicks in my division for the Pan. 10 including me as of today.

Then I take a strategery-type step back. Ahem. If I thought of it, they have thought of it too. So before I typed another sentence in this blog, I went back and made all my jits matches private on youtube. Even the ones from my first tournament, against guys, nogi, when I'd been training little more than a month or so. Zip. If you haven't seen them yet, y'ain't gonna see 'em. As if that will help :)

But it makes me wonder. I have occasionally considered being less than forthcoming about my training progress, goals, successes and weaknesses on this blog-- but is that just crazy egotistical? Like I'm enough of anything for anyone to want to research me?

The other side of my stupid head is yammering that it doesn't matter if you're a big threat or a pushover, information is information.

So back to my title. WTF is the purpose of this blog? Counterintelligence? Comfort-seeking? Journalism? I've always thought that a rising jits tide lifts all our boats in the sense that showing you my goodie moves will make you better which forces me to be better. Since I am no Jacare, it really doesn't matter much how I do in this or that particular tournament as long as the big picture shows me improving. If I lose a match to you because I told you how to counter my pass or whatever, then good for you, and I will be absolutely fixated on beating that counter next time we roll- good for me.

So do I put my money where my mouth is? Do I take the high road and lay myself out there for any leve blue belt headed to Irvine-- won't I be PISSED if I lose to them because they read one of my freak-out-day posts and discern a weakness? I don't know. Duh, of course I'll be pissed. But I'll never know. Chances are, there's nothing they can read or see that will give them that much of an edge. Like one of my many mentors, Steve Austin, told me... play YOUR game. Execute the basics really well. Make them come on YOUR turf. And then the chips fall where they may. So really, the research I derive such comfort from doing is probably no more helpful to me than a security blanket or Dumbo's magic feather. (Doesn't mean I won't be holding the blankie or twiddling the feather... still, as they say, trust in God but keep your powder dry.)

So, aside from putting all my footage in a paper bag tucked under my metaphysical bed, I'm going to continue blogging about my nerves, my unhappinesses, my successes, my failures in prepping for the Pan. It might help someone else but more realistically, this is a record for me of my journey. Maybe I'll get a kick out of it someday.

Maybe I'll be a blackbelt someday, and look back on this and chuckle.


Meerkatsu said...

Great post!
I would add that since the Notes From the Ringside article was first posted two years ago, many thousands of BJJ blogs have since been born and many more have since died.

The really good BJJ blogs tend to last the course because they are well written, well researched, interesting, humble, funny, etc etc. Most of all, content is King, and if a blog is popular, there must be a reason.

Blogging brings together a community spirit. It's like a soap opera with real people's ups and downs, successes and failures.

In the life cycle of a well-stablished blog, what I find interesting is the moment that the writer realises they have a significant 'audience'. At this moment, the content and style changes - subtle in some, dramatic in others.

For me, I wrote an essay called the Jiu-Jitsu Sisterhood, principly to raise the profile of some good female jitsuka pals of mine, but also cos it was a catchy title! It got a lot of hits, still does. After then, I changed the blog to become less about my personal journey (although I still add bits when I feel there is something interesting to mention), and more about the BJJ world in general through my eyes - not too dissimilar to the way a pop magazine is styled, maybe.

At the end of the day, blogging is part of me as much as BJJ is. It's my voice and I am proud of my achievements both on the mat and on the keyboard. I'm also proud to call many of my fellow BJJ bloggers, my online pals.

Here's to the next 1,000 posts!

slideyfoot said...

Interesting post. I'm not a competitor, so that almost certainly explains what I'm about to say, but I don't see the point of hiding technique. As people like Roger prove (and it sounds like Steve Austin agrees), jiu jitsu isn't an arms race. It is about who can apply what they know better.

Personally, if and when I decide to compete again, I wouldn't be entering to win (though that would obviously be nice). I'd be entering to see if what I knew worked against somebody who was definitely doing their absolute best to stop me applying my technique.

If they already know what I want to do, then that's an even better test. Everybody knows Roger wants to pass, mount and collar choke, but he does it anyway. There isn't a scale big enough to show how much worse I am at jiu jitsu than Roger, but that is still the example I'd like to follow.

Georgette said...

Hehehehe. Yes, Can, I hear you. But there's a difference between actively showing you my cards in advance and letting you glean what I want to do by... having me do it to you. Jitspeeps who don't blog are probably much more in the latter category. Does blogging in a revealing way therefore disadvantage the blogger?

Also, there's a difference between "My plan is to pass, mount, and choke" and "Wow, I am sooooo bad at defending guard pulls!" So content of blogging can go beyond sharing cool moves and right into painting a big red target on your weaknesses.

Interesting things to consider :)

slideyfoot said...

@Meerkatsu: Definitely. Like I said back in your piece on blogging, BJJ bloggers are a community. Blogging is therefore a social activity, 'meeting' people, developing friendships, sharing experiences, communicating your thoughts in 'public' etc.

Not to mention that it's fun. Like you, I really enjoy playing around with my blog: not just writing it, but running through the stats, fiddling with the layout, labels, links, pictures etc. I'd feel like there was something major missing if for some reason I couldn't blog about BJJ anymore.

Although I'm not sure there are thousands of BJJ blogs yet (hopefully some day): I've looked. More like hundreds. ;p

@Georgette: Again, I'm not a competitor, but I don't see a difference. If the person I'm fighting knows exactly what I'm going to do in advance, my weaknesses, my game plan, then that is going to be an awesome test of whether or not I can actually apply my techniques on a fully resisting opponent.

If I was a professional fighter, then it would be different. In that situation, my livelihood is on the line: if I don't win, it could affect my career. In that situation, I can understand being tight-lipped about my training, gameplan and weaknesses.

I can understand it with elite level competitors too, as even if they don't directly get money from competing, they may well rely on their reputation to get students, book seminars etc.

I guess the question then becomes, where is the line between somebody who is doing this for fun, to test their technique, and somebody who has a burning need to win? What is the point of winning?

Is it because you want to become an instructor, you're looking to rise to the top of the sport? Is it just a matter of pride? What does winning or losing in competition really mean, if you're not an elite competitor, an instructor or a pro fighter?

Something I've been thinking about recently, as I'm currently drafting that article about competition I mentioned a while back.

Dev said...

I agree with Slidey, and I try to compete every chance I get. Like you alluded in your post, if someone beats me with a technique I showed them, well, good for them!

Hell, last weekend in Lake Tahoe, the ref was talking about footlocks prior to my first match. I looked right at the other guy and said "I'll tell you right now, I don't know any footlocks." He laughed and relaxed, and said "oh, good. Me either." The ref laughed, and we went about our business.

I like the "it's not an arms race" comment - I think that's most appropriate. Am I trying to win? Sure. But I don't need to be sneaky to do it - either I've got more options than you, or I execute faster, or I don't. Period.

I just had this conversation with my coach - I was disappointed that my competition game doesn't show as diverse a set of techniques as I think I might have at this point. His reply? "So what?"

So for every blue master middleweight, go ahead and watch my matches. You can see how my game is progressing. But like Georgette said, watching my matches from last year will not show you how to beat me - I'm a monumentally different fighter today than I was even 6 months ago.

And to be honest, I'll tell you exactly how to beat me, because I want you at your best when I try to beat you.

A.D. McClish said...

I agree with Meerkatsu. If your blog was nothing more than self-promotion an boasting, then no one would keep reading it. I can say from personal experience that you and Leslie and Megan and Elyse and all the other women bloggers I follow are a big encouragement to me.

When I come off the mat feeling like I've just been steamrolled, it's nice to be able to get online and read about how I'm not the only one. It's not just the womens' blog. When I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong with a stupid half-guard sweep, it's nice to have someone like Dev be able to tell me that I'm not hipping into the person.

It's like you said. This is a community where we encourage, challenge and even call people out--all for the sake of growing in a sport we love.

I, for one, think that if the guy at Ringside doesn't like BJJ blogs, he can take his high horse and ride off into the sunset. Sure there are some people who only have a blog to talk about how awesome they are. But that is not what the average BJJ blogger is trying to do. We're trying to figure things out, both in our technical and mental game. If Ringside wants to be the Lone Ranger and figure all his stuff out on the mat, that's great. Happy tapping to you. But I don't think there's anything wrong with getting advice from other people who have been through similar experiences already and have come out on the other side with knowledge that can save you a lot of bruises, both mental and physical.

Wow...I ranted a little more than I meant to. :)

Liam H Wandi said...

Sssh...Georgette! Don't show them anything :)

I started to blog because I knew it would forces me to examine my thoughts. While that's still valid, I know blog for more and more reasons, most importantly:

6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.”

read the rest on or even better, buy his fab book :)

Make sure you send me your vids tho, Georgette :)

Georgette said...

LOL. I feel another post coming. The old "why do I compete" thing bears examination.

Short version, knee-jerk reaction:

Um, I'm not as fully-actualized as you people! I honestly do NOT want to fight 4 matches or more against a bunch of tough chicas who already know my weaknesses and my go-to moves. Nope. Yeah, in some pure, choirs-of-angels-singing way it would be lovely-- but I'm just not THAT confident in my skills and execution.

Backing up a step or two-- I compete because I want to win. It's a matter of pride, insecurity, two sides of the same coin. I'm potentially in the top 2% of most intensely competitive people in the world, according to Forbes Magazine. I get enough mat-hours at home with an enormous variety of people and if diagnosing holes in my game were the point, believe me, I'd get it there. I don't need to pay $100-200-300 or more and kill a weekend and eat holes in my stomach and stretch the patience of my husband just for diagnostics. I'm in it for the medal. :)

Maybe that makes me the kindergartener of the mats, so be it.

More... in a day or two. In another post :)

HomeImprovementNinja said...

Hmmm...I read somewhere that Terere showed a guy at a tournament how to counter the move that Terere just used to beat the guy. When the guy asked why he would show him that, he said that if people know how to do it, it makes him have to work even harder to counter the counter and makes him a better jitsu player. It's an interesting theory, but I'm probably still at the level where I want to keep my tricks to myself.

But yeah, I agree with the others that playing to your strengths is probably a better idea than trying to adapt your style to overcome one opponents weakness. We work guard stuff in class, but I suck at closed guard (my old man knees don't like elbows getting ground in them)so I always play half guard. If i read someone's blog and they said they are terrible inside the closed guard, I would still play half guard because that's where my "A Game" is.

Georgette said...

@Liam-- Wow, NEAT book! Maybe next month I'll be getting that...

Here's what moved me a ton as I was reading the first bit... I think it sums up my approach to the jits pretty well.

"Stamina is utterly important. And stamina is only possible if it’s managed well. People think all they need to do is endure one crazy, intense, job-free creative burst and their dreams will come true. They are wrong, they are stupidly wrong.

Being good at anything is like figure skating- the definition of being good at it is being able to make it look easy. But it never is easy. Ever. That’s what the stupidly wrong people conveniently forget.

If I was just starting out writing, say, a novel or a screenplay, or maybe starting up a new software company, I wouldn’t try to quit my job in order to make this big, dramatic heroic-quest thing about it.

I would do something far simpler: I would find that extra hour or two in the day that belongs to nobody else but me, and I would make it productive. Put the hours in, do it for long enough and magical, life-transforming things happen eventually. Sure, that means less time watching TV, internet surfing, going out or whatever.

But who cares?"

Dev said...

ABSOLUTELY 100% AGREE with homeimprovementninja... you said it, too, Georgette - you have to play YOUR game, not theirs. And if THEY'RE playing your game, well, that's what you want, right? If they're trying to work something because you're not as strong there, well, they're not playing THEIR game either... or am I thinking too much about this?

At the end of the day, it's also like Slidey says - it's not all about winning for me, it's about making myself - and my peers - better. If posting my fights helps someone "get" a technique, then so much the better. If they use that technique to beat me, I swear I'll jump up and congratulate them, then work my ass off to figure out why it happened.

slideyfoot said...

"I get enough mat-hours at home with an enormous variety of people and if diagnosing holes in my game were the point, believe me, I'd get it there. I don't need to pay $100-200-300 or more and kill a weekend and eat holes in my stomach and stretch the patience of my husband just for diagnostics. I'm in it for the medal."

Now that is interesting, because I often feel, why should I bother competing, because I already get so much analysis in class?

One of the top reasons I hear people put forward for competing is that it is like a private lesson, showing you exactly what you need to work on. I can't help but wonder if it is really more helpful than class, given that I'm already obsessive about over-analysing everything in nerdtastic detail.

On top of that, not only do I wonder is it more helpful than class, but if it isn't, then why would I want to risk injury, pay lots of money, give up my time, go on some kind of horrendous weight cutting diet and generally get immensely stressed? For me personally, the distant possibility of a medal isn't anywhere near enough incentive.

The only thing that tempts me is that there is nowhere else that you can be completely certain your opponent is doing their absolute best to resist: in class, there are always mitigating factors (they're trying to help you, they're working something specific, they're injured, they're bigger/smaller/better/weaker/older/younger than you, etc). Hence why I plan to compete at least once per belt level if possible, despite my reservations.

Of course, that would again require my qualification of "I'm not a competitor, but." One competition, in my case, is not sufficient evidence on which to make a judgement.

I look forward to your 'why do I compete' piece: should provide further food for thought. :D

DSTRYR said...

Well said, Georgette. There are so many good reasons to blog about jiu jitz. Everyone's contributing something different.

When I started DSTRYRsg last year, I had no idea there was already such a great community of BJJ folks on the internet.

You guys are great.

leslie said...

Geez, I leave to get some work done, and then you people go and say everything I was thinking ;)

I throw a lot of these thoughts around, too. They just haven't made it into a post yet because they usually come when I'm nowhere near a computer. Or, as I do with replying to comments, I think I've already written it down and so don't.

As far as blogging goes, I blog for myself. As you said, I never expected anyone to really read it; I do it for me, not to be anyone's internet guru. And I do it mostly because I have a short memory and need to have everything written down. I'm not so good as analyzing as it happens or even as I write it down, so I need to have it all available to review & analyze later.

As for other blogs, I'm with Allie -- I find it helpful and encouraging to know I'm not the only one, to know I'm not some weird reject but am going through exactly what everyone else does. And I like reading about different classes, different styles, different people. It's a way to be part of BJJ when I can't be on the mat, and to be part of BJJ beyond my gym's walls.

As for competition -- I've felt the same way about maybe having said too much and given away all my strategies and weaknesses (and that's only for the local tournies!). But then I swing back to realizing that I don't even really have a strategy and it's all weakness, or that all these things I whine about are done against larger boys, which is half the problem in itself. But then I think I'm too accepting of these bad positions because I'm always there. But then I think no one's crazy enough to read my blog to find a weakness so they can develop a whole game around beating lil ol' me. But then...!

I can talk myself in to and out of almost anything. So I just say, "Forget it," and blog about it anyway and train hard. And if you beat me because of something I said, well, then I should have seen that coming since it was my idea in the first place.

Also, I've been thinking about tournaments since I wrote that strategy post. I think there's a difference between "why enter a tournament" and "why compete." I think there are times I enter a tournament just to enter a tournament and don't show up to really compete. I can enter a tournament to see how my game stacks up against others, to travel, to be with my team, to collect medals, to learn, to experience it, etc. But I compete to win. Once I've shaken my opponent's hand, my only thought is to win. The medal itself or the place doesn't drive me; I want my arm raised. I want that moment.

Meerkatsu said...

The whys and benefits of competing are worthy of a far lengthier discussion than on this comments board, but just quickly I'll say that competing has definitely improved my jiu-jitsu.