Wednesday, June 30, 2010

But I was back on the mats in the afternoon.

You know the upside to having the memory of a goldfish?

By the time you need to leave for night class, you have forgotten crying after morning class.

OK, ok, so I didn't forget so much.. but blessed by ya'll and your comforting comments, I forged on.

Busted I was, though, by the new Machado guy, who apparently reads this. Erkkk. Good thing I didn't say what I really think of him! ;)

Anyway, class was all right, back attacks and whatnot; positional sparring was broken up by weight (as always) and tonight's lightweight group was all whitebelts, plus me and Lee, a purple. Thus I felt like I knew a little something, as most of the time I was able to make things happen in the right order with a minimum of fuss and thankfully no tears.

Afterwards, discretion being the better part of valor, I accepted the offer of a roll with a really solid female whitebelt. She hasn't been training long, but she's fit, strong, analytical, persistent, and totally not ego-driven. I must admit, I didn't really give away much, so maybe it was less helpful to her than it was to me... but I didn't go balls-out either. Caught her with a looping choke and a high lock guard triangle to armbar combination from guard, and a baseball bat choke from knee on belly that Donald refreshed my memory of just last night. I felt a little better... but not good enough to be cutting more athletic tape just yet. My issue isn't so much with being a blue belt, so the fact that I can womanhandle a female whitebelt who weighs maybe 20 lbs less than me doesn't earn me much self-respect.

I'll just be blunt. It's that I don't think my three stripes mean the same thing that male students' three stripes mean. My logical worldview is downright offended by the inconsistency of having the same belt as the Galvaoist Dancer of this morning's class. It just ain't fittin'.*

A friend who trains jiu jitsu in another school, somewhere else, asked me something along these lines. Here's her initial outreach on the issue:

"I wanted to ask your opinion about promotions as a female. From what I’ve read, I know quite a few females who have received their blue belts relatively quickly, 8 months or less. And then I know of several girls that have been white belts unusually long bc of being the only female at the academy or their instructor holding them at a higher standard. . . [snip]I think it sucks that when I get my blue belt, the other guys getting their blue belts will be getting theirs faster than me because they are guys, and when they get theirs I will have already been at their level for months and months."

That's a lot to process. I've already responded and she and I had quite an illuminating conversation but I thought I'd get your take on the issues of promotions.. standards.. gender and other factors.. consistency...

That's right, kittens-- talk amongst yourselves. But aloud, and here, in the comments. We'll continue this tomorrow.

* Two points if you can name the book/movie!

I cried this morning.

It's been a long, long time since training made me want to cry. So long, in fact, that I thought I was getting better enough at the zhu zhits' that perhaps I wouldn't have to cry again. Ha ha ha, funny girl.

At least I knew from prior experience that this is best done in the bathroom.

Of course now I'm spoiling it by blogging about it, but I doubt the people present at the time read my blog, so I think I'm okay. I'm just confessing to you, my brethren and sistren of the net.

Our school has an "official" class three mornings a week at 6am, but one of my fave training partners has a key and permission to come in for dedicated drilling sessions on other mornings. I inveigled my way into this bonus training, and reward his patience by picking him up on the way to the academy and giving him a ride home on my way to work. That kind of spread into picking up two others and giving them rides home too-- silly university students without cars!-- but I don't mind, they're all within 30-40 lbs of me or less, they're all very skilled and technical, and they're all funny as shit, so it's win-win for me.

This morning there were a couple other guys as it is an official class morning, including a purple who just came back to training after tapping out testicular cancer. Woot! I had some good rolls, trying to implement bits and pieces of advice people have tossed my way. (Last night, another purple schooled me a bit on my half guard passing, and it worked decently well.) I really enjoy playing with a new guy who just moved here from a Machado school out of state, because he has that rare, delicious ability to ratchet his resistance and speed to be just two notches above my own, and he gives hints, suggestions, and encouragement here and there. He doesn't critique the whole time; he doesn't wait till you almost have him to tell you how to do it better, he just fights you, convincingly, until you walk right by the $20 on the sidewalk, and then he points at it. And then afterwards, he always has some kind words.

So I was feeling challenged and successful, but humble from watching my betters tear each other up on the mats. It was good stuff. Then, one of the best blues in our group asked me to roll. [cue ominous music]

I'm usually pretty good at identifying a goal to suit my opponent. If I roll with a noob, then success might be submitting them with a particular submission on my bad side without going to a particular position to get there. With an upper belt, success might be just not getting submitted or avoiding submission for a certain number of minutes. With this particular person, I was hoping for success in the form of passing his guard. (And to my delight, it did happen, once. I did something Dan suggested to me yesterday, and it worked, I landed in side control, and grinned like a fool.) The flipside was, if I got swept, I knew my guard would be pretty easily passed, so I would shift to a "don't get submitted" defensive paradigm.

This is all standard stuff and I imagine it sounds familiar. So why did I cry? Because at a certain point, I felt like it was getting to be a beating. Humiliation. Not necessarily the intent of my training partner, who's a swell guy.. but it reminded me of this video of Galvao, I think, against some JJJ black belt who thought he could hang with BJJ black belts. Galvao gets him all turtled up and then just dances across his back, stands on him, does acrobatics, even a little break dancing, the whole nine yards. I tried to find it again on youtube and couldn't, dammit. Edit: Yes, thanks Steve, that's it. Here it is:

Andre Galvao Jiu-Jitsu Pwnage - Watch more Funny Videos

Specifically, I didn't have an answer for some positions. One being me in sit-up guard, wrapped around his leg, but unable to get up because he had good hand pressure on the top of my head. Looking back I should have just gotten a cuff grip, pulled his hand off my head, and held that grip behind his knee. But I felt like the prototypical little brother, swinging madly and ineffectively at his big brother who holds him at arm's length with a hand on the forehead.

Another trouble spot being turtle. I can turtle up pretty tightly, but when they just kneel on my back and wait, it sucks. I feel so weighed down that I don't even try to roll forwards. The process of rolling to guard is sloooooowwwed down and I feel totally vulnerable at all stages along the way. If I just sit there in a hedgehogy ball, he does all those Galvaoist antics on my back. This happened once, and I eventually got my back taken. (Fine, it happens, I actually escaped, but I'm pretty sure he gave it to me.) Second time, I tried to roll to guard, but that sucked; it took me a year or so, and he passed like knife through proverbial buttah. Third time, I was pretty close to tears, so I just tapped, thanked him for the roll, and went to the bathroom.

I was thinking, I don't deserve to be a blue belt. I am utterly failing to represent my instructors. I am so far behind the other blues I train with. Training seven days a week does me no good at all because I have the memory of a goldfish. (Every eight seconds it's all new.) Seems like rolls all go so fast-- positions change in a heartbeat and I don't have photographic/videographic recall. I can't remember where grips are, where my base is, what my posture was, so I can't later reflect on where things went wrong so that I can even ask others for help. I'm flailing. It's fun to roll, sure, and it's zen to let it all go and not dwell. But if I can't remember, if I can't masticate later, if I can't fucking DWELL on my mistakes, I can't fix them. And if I do something right, I can't be sure of repeating it.

When you're all hot, and sweaty, and your breath is coming a little fast, crying isn't even easy. And it doesn't feel much better while you're crying, or after. There isn't that release, that catharsis. Your hands are on the sink, your head is hanging, and all you can smell is the warm humidity of your own sweat and the faint scent of your laundry detergent rising like mist off a swamp. You're trying to be quiet, and you hate that you're crying at all because it seems like the ultimate in submission. It's not a momentary "you got me"-- instead, it was for me a confession of elemental inadequacy. A complete collapse of confidence.

I peeled a stripe off my belt and threw it away.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Every grappler's worst nightmare... with a silver lining.

The big news right now is my good friend and fellow blue belt training partner and teammate, Leila. Yesterday in class, she suffered a serious neck injury and had to be rushed to the ER around noon.

Apparently, she was rolling, got stacked, and tried to roll over her shoulder to escape. Something popped and she was in serious pain. She laid still on the mat in the same position and didn't move till the EMTs loaded her on a backboard. The class instructor, her rolling partner, and an academy owner all went with, and met her dad there.

The injury was serious enough that immediate surgery was performed. Leila's C5 and C6 were fused. She was out of surgery and awake in the ICU by 5pm. She's not paralyzed, thank God, and last night a couple of us got to visit her for an hour. Seems like she's not in serious pain, but her hands are tingly and I think she'll be in the hospital for another two days or so. Not sure what the long term prognosis is. Her attitude is really amazing-- strong, calm, and considerate. She's a trooper.

She's not out of the woods yet, there is still the worry of swelling around her spinal cord, and no one is taking this lightly.

Scary. Scary because it's not like we can point a finger at a cause.. at least that would give me the sense of security that if I avoid doing such-and-so, I can avoid a similar injury. But she isn't a spaz, nor is the guy she was rolling with, and it wasn't like she was dangling and slipped off a triangle or something. It appears to just be a freak random accident, reminding us all that this beloved sport can do serious, lasting damage beyond the popped elbows and torn ACLs we're all becoming familiar with.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Response from the, the mats....

G-Stamp's thoughtful reply (to the size disparity post) deserves its own post. My comments at the end.

"Wow. Thanks Georgette! What great responses from the wonderful BBJ/Blogger community!

Like everything in life/jiu jitsu, suppose it comes down to balance. Part of my journey is to figure out where that line id between "muscling" something and not "going easy" on someone. It's a struggle, honestly. I'm 6'0" and 220lbs. I'm not very strong (sat on my ass for the last 12 years as a policy analyst/consultant), but I'm "bigger" (er...fatter) than 80% of my classmates. Often, I'm much much bigger. do I ensure the rolls are safe and challenging, without offending someone for "going easy" and not throwing my weight around? Remember...I've only been doing this 2 months. I DON'T KNOW MUCH TECHNIQUE. Wish I did, but when I don't have technique, what are my options? Give up? Or muscle/weight to advance position?

It's something I'm struggling with now because I'm a fairly sensitive guy (pacifist at heart) taking up an aggressive sport. I want others to learn, have fun, and want to roll with me. But I don't want them to think I'm not trying either.

I guess what I take away from your post and the other comments is that there is no easy answer to this question. Finding the right balance is part of my journey. When I roll with most purple belts, all brown and black belts, I know they aren't "going easy" on me. They are testing me. There's a difference. They expose themselves on purpose to see how I'll react. They put me in difficult positions without executing the quick submission. They will set up a submission SLOWLY and allow me ample time to realize what they are doing and try to think of an escape. If I can't think of something, sure, they'll finish it off. But that's much much different than destroying me because they can.

Clearly there is a difference. A purple, brown, or black belt, no matter the size/weight differential, is not muscling or throwing weight around. But is there a difference between an upper belt dominating a novice for the fun of it and a bigger/heavier guy muscling moves? Sure...but perhaps not really.

To me...I need to think it more like an upper belt. I have a weight/size advantage. That's obvious. Just like an upper belt has an experience/technique advantage over a lower belt. I need to check my weight/size advantage to allow the smaller opponent to advance his/her game like an upper belt checks his/her game to allow me to advance my game. It doesn't mean I should give up or forgo submissions. It just means I need to learn to advance position more slowly and deliberately. My submissions need to be in complete control or I should give up and set up for the submission again to improve control. After two months, I just don't know how to get there...YET.

So you more experienced white belts or upper belts, please be patient with folks like me. If you are rolling with someone almost twice your size with little experience and they muscle something or throw their weight around, maybe they don't know any better. It may not be that they are trying to be an ass. Perhaps learning to deal with and encourage clueless big, awkward white belts like me is part of YOUR journey as much as learning the right balance when rolling with smaller individuals is part of OUR journey.

I can't say enough how much this sport is changing my life. Incredible actually... Thanks so much to the BJJ blogging community. You've really helped me progress."

And my reaction:
I LOOOOOOVE JIU JITSU! It brings together such amazing people :)

But yeah, dude, we know that. I hesitate to roll with a brand new guy (male) of any size because they don't usually have control yet, they just simply don't know what they're doing or when they're in a position where moving one inch could really hurt me. It's not because I think they're malicious, they're inadvertently not safe. So I step aside and let the bigger blues and the higher belts take on the task of educating the noobs. (Whereas I find I am often the one rolling with the brand new gals, who can be dangerous, but less so since I am fairly strong for a chick.) But I don't look down on noobs, I don't get mad at them, they're like kids. What can you do but cheer them on (at arm's length) because they're enthusiastic about this wonderful sport, just like everyone else.

I have said before that there's a sweet spot in the life of a whitebelt. It's my sweet spot, really, because for that precious month or three, they're still new enough that they make mistakes I can easily capitalize on (er, help educate them on why not to benchpress me when I'm mounted on them) but they're not so new that they're totally dangerous. It's these precious whitebelts I can practice my iffy submissions on, my sweeps in general, and work on escaping from bad positions with. So I am always trying to keep track of people as they filter in. When whitebelts get so seasoned that they're not making big mistakes any more, I still roll with them, but they're the people I can go hardest with, since my technique is still better than theirs, but they have the strength advantage, making us usually pretty fairly matched. I don't mind when those peeps muscle me, it's part of the game, though I will tell them later so I don't reinforce bad habits. I never get offended or think they're being an ass.

It's the upper level blues and above that irritate me by muscling stuff. Because they should have the technique and the know-how. :)

Keep it comin', G-Stamp and all the rest of you wonderful whitebelts. And thanks for training with us. You make us all get better as you improve.

Spiked pineapple agua fresca, for your weekend relaxation...

3 pounds pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
2 cups white rum
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lime juice (from about 2 medium limes)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth (you will have to do this in batches). Transfer agua fresca to a large pitcher or punch bowl. Chill until ready to drink. Serve over ice.

From Chow's daily recipe,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Muscling? Taking it easy? Fairness in size disparities.

Oh, boy, this will be a biggie, I think. (Pun unintended.)

I got this question from G-Stamp in response to a previous post:

"I rolled with a much smaller gal yesterday (blue belt). She had me in deep half guard and I couldn't extract my thigh to bring my knee outside of her thighs. I COULDN'T muscle it. So I applied a cross face and started to lay into her chin/neck a bit. I tried not to lean too hard or use too much weight. The goal was to apply just enough pressure to get her to let go of the deep half clinch so I could pass. She blurted..."TAP!" with a bit of an annoyed tone in her voice. I didn't attempt it as a submission and REALLY didn't realize I was muscling or using too much weight. In fact, I had backed off knowing that I could probably hurt her if not careful. I felt sooo bad. Unfortunately, a 220lb white belt doesn't have the slightest clue what it's like to have someone quite literally twice his weight bearing down.

Question for you: Is it offensive when a guy doesn't use size/weight advantage? Do you consider that "going easy"? Or is using weight distribution and strength to advance position or apply technique different than "muscling"? Is it all part of the game? It's not a sex thing. I try to be conscious of my height/weight advantage when I'm rolling with all classmates who are much smaller than me. Guy or gal."

Wow, such a good question. It's (for me) not entirely a gender issue, though I phrase things often in terms of "guys" only because I rarely get to roll with women who are significantly bigger or stronger than me. [Christy, our 3 stripe brown belt, IS significantly bigger, and probably stronger, but she's scrupulously attentive to not using strength, so I can't be sure about her comparative strength vs. me.] On the other hand, it's a truism that men have more muscle mass per unit of weight than women do, so even a man who is my weight will most likely have a significant strength advantage, so to some extent, it can be a gender issue. Wherever I say "guy," please know I really could be including bigger gals, too. And small guys have many of the same issues I do. So.. anyway...

To me, going easy is letting go of positions, or not getting into dominant positions, regardless of/independently of my efforts. I might be offended when a guy (or gal!) spontaneously gives me position or abandons his good position even though I haven't earned it. I earn things by executing the proper technique in proper timing. If I'm rolling with a guy/girl my level who weighs within 20 lbs of me, I fully expect that I will be able to escape their dominant position or submit them, fair and square, without any "handicapping" on their part.

If a guy is more than 20 lbs heavier than me, I do sometimes appreciate it when they refrain from doing knee-on-belly to the best of their ability, because the size differential plus the location of the pressure is something I sometimes can't defeat. So I am not offended when, in this situation, they put the shin across my hipbones, or put the ball of their foot on the ground a little bit. I am still often stuck there, but at least it's not excruciatingly painful. And I am never offended when a training partner of any size opts to avoid causing me gratuitous pain.

[Keep in mind I am strictly a sport jiu jitsu player-- so comments about how "it wouldn't go that way in a street fight" will be ignored.]

If a guy is more than 30-40 lbs heavier, I appreciate when they don't do "bullshit reversals." A bullshit reversal is, for example, benchpressing me off them from side control. (I know a guy wouldn't be able to get some guy their size up off them like that. I don't mind a fair reversal, one with technique, but just shoving me up because I'm lighter *and* they have more upper body strength gets annoying if I am holding side control properly and using technique.)

I am not offended when stronger men refrain from forcing americanas, kimuras, etc. if I am defending properly. At the same time, I know that even proper defense can be defeated with strength and that's fair, too. So it's a tough call, and therefore I don't get mad when someone beats my defenses. I tap, we move on, no biggie. I shouldn't be in a position where only the strength of my arms protects me from a submission because then I'm strengthing out of something, and that is poor technique even if it succeeds.

I dunno. I guess to summarize, when someone is close to me in size (which, since I'm realistic, means within 30 lbs of me, though I know guys consider that to be a big disparity) I fully expect them to use their weight distribution and strength to fully execute their moves and defeat mine, and I would definitely take advantage without feeling any guilt if they were to give me stuff I didn't earn. When I roll with someone I'm a little bigger or stronger than, which is rare, I do use my weight and strength to execute my moves, but technically. I don't just crank stuff.

When someone is way bigger than me, or if they're one of those ripped dudes with biceps like basketballs, I'm not offended if they give me a little extra space, exert less than their maximum force, etc. It's more fun if they let me in the game, otherwise I just end up turning hedgehog.

Bottom line, training rolls are rarely about "winning." (When they ARE, then I know I've let my ego get in the way, and I'd like to minimize that.) If someone strengths out of a submission I'm throwing, so be it. If they muscle out of position I've earned fair and square, oh well. Honestly most of the times I think someone muscled out, I immediately suspect it's my crappy technique and me making excuses for it. I definitely don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder insisting people roll with me as hard as they can go. I have nothing to prove. :)

What do ya'll think??

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I love jiu jitsu, oh let me count the ways....

I love jiu jitsu :)

I love it even though some boys are absolutely cluefree about when they're muscling stuff. (Hint: if what you just pulled off on me would probably not have worked against a guy that weighs 20 lbs or more than you do-- you muscled it.)

I love it even though it tears my hair out by the roots.

I love it even when it's really hot and humid and I sweat through a gi in the first twenty minutes.

I love it for the feeling of accomplishment when I train with someone who feels the move work, and they get that "Ooooh!" excited look in their eyes.

I love it for the satisfaction of physical fitness reached without drudgery.. so that a warmup which makes noobs pant and groan barely makes me breathe hard.

I love it for the intellectual challenge, and the humility that always comes with it.

I love it for showing me humor in the weirdest situations. Like tonight, when I was trying to get some empathy for my short arms from my training partner, who'd been hounding me for not reaching around his leg-- so I grabbed his hand and put it right on my derriere, saying "Look, this is as far as my hand could reach on you!" And the whole time he's staring up at me with his hand on my ass with this devilish smile, 'til I realized what I'd done and absolutely cracked up.

I love it for encouraging me to be open minded and to reexamine conclusions and opinions.

I love it for connecting with so many people all over the world who share this love. Ahem, this obsession. Whether they're 6 years old with a killer double leg, or 78 years young and enthusiastic.. from pretty much every continent except Antarctica.. students, professionals, professional students, moms and dads, full-timers and part-timers.. you're all amazing!

I just love jiu jitsu.

* * * * * * * * *

This is what I was thinking about when I left class tonight. Even though I tweaked my knee doing (I think) a deep half guard sweep, even though my hair is all jacked up and my ear hurts anew, I had fun. Foot sweeps and double legs and an arm-in guillotine... loving it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Women's Jiu Jitsu tournaments

The Womens Jiu Jitsu Championship will be held in Dallas on October 9, 2010. More info will be available soon from Fenom Kimonos.

Also the second annual Grapple Girls Open Womens Jiu Jitsu Tournament will be held in Toronto, Canada on August 21, 2010. More information available here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Leticia Ribeiro seminar report

On Saturday June 19, Leticia Ribeiro put on an incredible 3 1/2 hour seminar in gi techniques for the ladies of Texas... thanks to Triin Seppel, the Fenom Project, and Rob Ables, who runs the Marcelo Garcia affiliate in Dallas (Tiny Killer Robot Jiu Jitsu, isn't that awesome?) And these pictures are all by Jen Sulak, unless I say otherwise.

Leila, another blue belt at my academy, joined me for the 3 hour drive to Dallas which went quickly as we gabbed the whole way up. We arrived a little early, so we snacked in the parking lot before heading inside. Shama, our purple, was in town for the seminar already, and Christy, our academy co-owner, arrived just in time.

We had a great turn out, from white belts all the way up to a 3 stripe brown. Leticia brought along her protege, 4 stripe faixa marron Beatriz "Bia" Mesquita, and both ladies were very warm, approachable and happy to help.

Triin thoughtfully provided a huge cooler full of bottled water on ice, as it was a little toasty just like our academy back home. When Leticia walked in, the first thing I thought was "damn, she's got guns." Sleek, cut, defined, and extremely muscular, Leticia looks intimidatingly strong. She was all business too, for the most part, but she took the time before beginning the seminar to walk around the room and shake everyone's hand and thank them for coming.

She introduced herself and Bia, explaining that she loves "zhu zhits'" and that she's been training 17 years! And it was quite endearing to hear her say she lives for jiu jitsu. Once or twice she apologized for her English but she's quite fluent, although retaining the charming accent.

Texas in June is plenty warm to do without a warmup, so we jumped right into technique, beginning with some thoughts on standup and grip defense. We moved along at a good pace from defending grips at the start, to grip breaks, like this one:

Then Leticia covered getting your own grips and then a variation of a Russian into a possible standing armbar and from there to a nice arm triangle, the counter, and a recounter.

You can tell Leticia is a very practiced, experienced instructor, because the first explanation had an adequate level of detail without going overboard, and then after a few run-throughs, she reconvened the group to address the next layer of complexity. She also emphasized things in order of priority, so your brain was filled first with the more important bits.

The remainder of class was focused on ground techniques, beginning with full guard. We covered a high lock guard attack series. If I told you "armbar, omoplata, triangle" you'd think it was just like class back home, and you'd be right... and wrong. The devil's in the details. It's nice to hear from a 3 stripe black belt that yes, locking in even a loose-lock triangle is hard!!! (I'm so tired of hearing people act like it's not. Maybe if you have hamstrings like Christmas hams...) Leticia's comments and Triin's patience as uke were great help to me.

And better than hearing it's hard is hearing how to make it happen anyway, with little grips here and there! (Secret, secret... until I try it on you!)

Leticia addressed some specifics with the omoplata as well, such as what to do before you try to sit up and finish it, how to make their counters go away, and how to capitalize on their momentum and sweep them in a way I had never seen before. Of course, being the uncoordinated one, I needed some special assistance from my drilling partner Triin and from Bia, but eventually I got it.

It's hard to believe Bia is only 19. And she was just a purple at last year's Pan! Leticia pointed out that Bia had chokes demonstrated on her so frequently during their European seminar tour, she lost her voice, and apologized with a smile and a chuckle.

Leticia and Bia circulated throughout the class of 24 women, frequently doing the techniques with us and having us do it to them to feel our pressure and positioning. We moved on from full guard to half, discussing some really nice pass techniques-- an easier way to flatten people out that doesn't load their thigh for a sweep; head pressure; a double lapel grip counter to knee in "da hippie bone." Here's Triin passing me...

She demonstrated some of these on me and her pressure is AMAZING. I couldn't believe such a little person could make me feel so smashed! (And I need to find out what dryer sheets she uses because while she smashed on me, I still noted how fresh she smelled.) And finally, deep half guard!

How to prevent it, how to defend it once they get it, how to pass it to side control or to a kneebar if you want.

A few girls had babysitter time constraints so we shot the group picture before they departed, but it was apparent Leticia had even more techniques she wanted to share. We'll have to wait for next time, sadly, though she was very generous with answering questions and even asked Leila to roll. I was jealous! Christy, our brown belt, rolled with Bia at the same time, and Shama was on the mats too, so I grabbed Shama's camera and took some photos after I had a few rolls with a visiting blue belt, Tiffany Skach, myself. Here's Christy on the right, chatting with Leticia...

Unfortunately the closest I got to rolling with either of these ladies:

The tshirt, by the way, is by Scramble and Manto and you can get one for yourself here.

Around 4pm, we called it quits and meandered to the Thai restaurant next door for some chow before hitting the road again. Got home around 8:40pm.

I highly recommend a Leticia seminar if you get the opportunity.

And as a side note: Triin was wearing the new Fenom gi-- the Lotus-- and it was VELVETY soft to the hand. But this has the strange side effect of being nearly impossible to keep a grip on it! I'm serious, we were drilling a technique where you're supposed to have failed a grip break first-- and each time, my grip was breaking where it wasn't supposed to! Triin kept looking at me like "come on, hold it tight!" But I literally was sliding off the damn thing. I think I need to look into adding to the collection ;)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pendulum sweep! Armbar! High lock guard!

Fifth time to see the pendulum but this time a slightly different setup. Finally the last piece clicked into place. Pulled it off in sparring with a fully resisting male opponent not 5 minutes later.

Fifty-fifth time to see armbar as a response to the forearm choke inside your guard. Finally the last piece clicked into place. Pulled something much like it off in sparring with a fully resisting male opponent about 10 min later.

High lock guard-- nope, I wish. But it IS the first time I tried it in drilling and it worked. So there's hope yet.

AND... I pulled off a slick ankle lock during sparring with a fully resisting male opponent.. and did it legally (the leg crossing the hip was legal) and not rolling to the inside. Finished it bellydown.


Hermes Franca v. Bill Cooper-- Grappler's Quest

Originally found on The Ground Never Misses.

Endurance training-- intervals vs. LSD

That's not acid, silly, that's Long Slow Distance. And there's a good article by Kurt Wilkens about this which you should read. Conveniently reprinted here...

Endurance Training goes by many names and takes many forms. If you spend a considerable amount of time in so-called ‘health clubs’, it’s likely “cardio” (probably the most popular terminology in general); cardio often involves a treadmill or an exercise bicycle. If you’re a woman, I would imagine you have, on occasion, referred to it simply as “aerobics”; aerobics are usually done in some type of dance class. If you’re an athlete, or at least athletically-inclined, you probably know it as “conditioning”, or, if your athletic interests take a decidedly Eastern European bent, it may even be “General Physical Preparation”; depending on your particular athletic pursuit, conditioning/GPP may have you running a lot and doing many, many bodyweight exercises. My personal favorite, and the nomenclature that we prefer at Integrated Conditioning, is ‘work capacity’; work capacity is typically developed via the use of various ‘weighted’ protocols, such as kettlebells (H2H drills, TAPS multi-level drills, etc.) and strongman implements (tire flip, sandbag carry, etc.).

People will typically perform their Endurance Training for one or more of the following reasons: heart health, fat loss, and/or improved physical performance. Other than for occasional inclusion during specific periods or phases in an athlete’s training program, most people generally (I realize it’s wrong to generalize, but generalities are not always wrong) seem to think of Long-Slow/Steady-Distance (LSD) work as the best/most-effective-for-everything/only type of Endurance Training worth doing. This type of exercise has been around for a very long time, and it still persists to this day – even in spite of the mounting evidence that indicates that there may be a far better way to get your Endurance Training (no matter the reason you are performing it).

(In all fairness, interval training is receiving a little more ‘press’ in the fitness community, but certainly not near what it deserves. I’m hoping that this article will open the eyes and expand the possibilities of at least one person who hasn’t already considered switching from LSD to intervals.) LSD training, also often referred to as Steady-State aerobic exercise, is “steeped in tradition”, and anything with so much history behind it is going to be difficult to overcome. People often spout that useless rhetoric about how “… it’s worked in the past, it will work now! Why should I do it any differently?”

First, though, it’s important to note that there are essentially two forms of Endurance Training – aerobic and anaerobic – and they take place within the body’s three energy systems. Anaerobic exercise occurs in the Immediate and Non-Oxidative Energy Systems. The Immediate Energy System, sometimes referred to as the ATP/CP Pathway, involves the breakdown of Adenosine Triphosphate and Creatine Phosphate in the cells for energy; it provides instant energy for very brief bouts of intense exercise, typically lasting no longer than about three seconds. Heavy, one-rep weightlifting would be an example. After those three or so seconds, the Non-Oxidative/Glycolytic Pathway takes up the slack. This pathway produces short bursts of energy via the breakdown of glucose (sugar in the bloodstream) and glycogen (sugar stored in the muscles and liver), and typically is called into play for physical activities lasting between four seconds and one minute. A couple examples might be 100- and 400-meter sprints.

Aerobic exercise makes use – obviously – of the Aerobic Energy System, also known as the Oxidative Energy Pathway. This is the body’s only energy system that requires oxygen to work. (More or less. There is some overlap between the systems; a continuum of sorts.) The Aerobic Energy System cannot produce energy as quickly as the other two, but it can sustain its energy production for much longer durations; thus, it is used for events that last longer than two minutes – typically much longer. Think of marathons and/or the Tour de France. LSD training falls into this category. Now, let’s look at Endurance Training a point at a time.

Heart Health

First, and most importantly (at least it should be for all of us!), is the heart health issue. For the longest time, we have been led to believe that we need to do LSD work in order to strengthen our hearts and have them work more efficiently. LSD training was going to keep us from dropping dead of a heart attack. And it works, right? Yeah; just ask poor Jim Fixx. (Again, in fairness, there were certainly other factors that might have contributed to his unfortunate demise while running, but I think you take my point …) In the inaugural issue of The Performance Menu, Dr. Art DeVany (in an excellent interview by Robb Wolf) declares, “Routinized, lower intensity activities, even jogging, train the natural chaos out of the human heartbeat, making it less adaptable to stress.”

Dr. DeVany goes on to offer the following explanation as to why we still see LSD-type training being suggested as best in the so-called ‘scientific community’: “… [S]teady state training is often taken to be the norm for training because it is studied most. And it is studied most because that is what researchers know how to do. The far more effective intermittent training [intervals] is little known because the research is harder to do.”

In an article on his website, Dr. Al Sears, author of the terrific book ‘The Doctor’s Heart Cure’, offers reasoning very similar to that of Dr. DeVany for choosing interval training over LSD: “Conventional wisdom says that your heart needs endurance training to remain healthy. Indeed, they use cardiovascular endurance (CVE) as a synonym for heart conditioning. But is this really what your heart needs? I don’t think so.

“Heart attacks aren’t caused by a lack of endurance. Heart attacks typically occur at rest or at periods of very high cardiac output. Often there is a sudden increase in demand. A person lifts a heavy object, is having sex or receives an unexpected emotional blow. The sudden demand for cardiac output exceeds that heart’s capacity to adapt. “What you really need is faster cardiac output. By exercising for long periods, you actually induce the opposite response. When you exercise continuously for more than about 10 minutes, your heart has to become more efficient. Greater efficiency comes from ‘downsizing’. You give up maximal capacity because smaller can go further.”

In ‘The Science of Martial Arts Training’, Charles I. Staley, MSS, provides us a somewhat different benefit: “Intermittent exercise … accumulates a greater volume of stress on the blood pumping capacity of the heart. According to exercise physiologist Dr. Steven Seilor, the periodic elevations and decreases in intensity may create special loading stresses on the heart that are adaptive. Seilor suggests that during an interval, heart rate climbs high, then at the moment the interval stops, heart rate immediately starts to drop, but venous return remains high. These exposures to additional ventricular stretch may help trigger ventricular remodeling (increased heart ventricle volume).”

Fat Loss

Dare I say, this is probably the reason the ‘average’ person undertakes an Endurance Training regimen. We’re constantly told about how LSD training is going to burn the fat right off us and expose the hard, tight body beneath it. This works too, right? Clearly; just look at all the skinny-flabby women bouncing around their aerobics classes for hours at a time.

The reasoning behind LSD being so often cited as the best form of fat-burning exercise is actually quite logical. When one trains in the steady-state LSD fashion (typically for 30-60 minutes), they are training in the Oxydative Energy System. The oxidative pathway burns fat for energy. It has also been suggested that, after about twenty minutes of continuous steady-state exercise, you have depleted your immediately available energy sources – glycogen and fat – and are beginning to work on your stored body fat. At first blush, this all sounds well and good – but, as with so many other things, it’s just not that simple.

In an article entitled ‘Forget the Fat-Burn Zone’, Clarence Bass cites research done by a group of Canadian scientists, headed by Angelo Tremblay, Ph.D. Tremblay, et al, compared the results of an Endurance Training (ET) program versus High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on fat loss: “As you might expect, the total energy cost of the ET program was substantially greater than the HIIT program. The researchers calculated that the ET group burned more than twice as many calories while exercising than the HIIT program. But (surprise, surprise) skin-fold measurements showed that the HIIT group lost more subcutaneous fat. ‘Moreover,’ reported the researchers, ‘when the difference in the total energy cost of the program was taken into account..., the subcutaneous fat loss was nine-fold greater in the HIIT program than in the ET program.’ In short, the HIIT group got 9 times more fat-loss benefit for every calorie burned exercising.”

Clarence then gives us the researcher’s bottom line as to why this might be: " ‘[Metabolic adaptations resulting from HIIT] may lead to a better lipid utilization in the post-exercise state and thus contribute to a greater energy and lipid deficit.’ In other words, compared to moderate-intensity endurance exercise, high-intensity intermittent exercise causes more calories and fat to be burned following the workout. Citing animal studies, they also said it may be that appetite is suppressed more following intense intervals.”

In case you aren’t familiar with Clarence Bass, he is an advanced-aged bodybuilder who has truly earned the nickname “Mr. Ripped”. He knows whereof he speaks on the issue of fat loss. I would urge you to investigate his website, Another important consideration when it comes to Endurance Training for fat loss is its effect on overall body composition. LSD training is notoriously catabolic. In other words, it will often ‘burn’ almost as much muscle as it does fat, ultimately producing the dreaded “skinny fat person”.

Again, we can find an answer on Clarence’s website. In an interview with Dr. Pat O’Shea (author of ‘Quantum Strength and Power Training’), Clarence poses the following question: “… Would the Tabata protocol of high-intensity intervals be good for bodybuilders who want to preserve muscle mass while losing fat?” To which Dr. O’Shea responds: “The answer is definitely a big yes … short-term intense interval training is highly effective in altering the ratio of lean body mass to fat without compromising muscle size. Intense interval work is an excellent way of losing weight while simultaneously getting ripped for peak contest shape.” Mr. Bass’ website is certainly not the only place to go to find this data. There are numerous other independent sources that could be cited to support the premise that intervals are far better fat-burners than LSD.

Rob Faigin is the author of the remarkable ‘Natural Hormonal Enhancement’, a thoroughly researched and referenced work on diet and exercise. He appears in photographs to be well-muscled and quite lean, so it may be that he knows what he’s talking about. In a discussion – in his NHE book – on the impact of cardiovascular exercise on fat loss, Rob tells us that, “… once again, conventional wisdom is wrong. “The prevailing belief is that to reduce bodyfat you should perform cardiovascular exercise at a low level of intensity in a steady, rhythmic fashion for an extensive duration. However … this lowers the intensity/volume ratio, which, in turn, increases cortisol relative to growth hormone and testosterone – definitely not the hormonal profile you want.”

Allow me to summarize for you with a somewhat time-worn example: Would you rather look like a lean, powerful sprinter, or a soft, weak distance runner? No offense to distance runners, of course …

Physical Performance

It is a widely held opinion (by people who think they know) that LSD-type training is necessary and/or the best method for the improvement of one’s endurance if one wishes to succeed in sports. Almost everywhere you look, you will find athletes out jogging for miles at a time, hoping to put themselves into a better-conditioned state than their opponents. Do you find yourself gasping for breath after a particularly demanding grappling or sparring session? You need to run longer! Are you a football player who gets overly winded during short plays? You should be doing more aerobic exercise!


Well, not exactly.

With the obvious exception of the true extreme-duration steady-state-type endurance sports such as Triathlons and marathons and the Tour De France, more often than not, LSD work is actually counter-productive when it comes to maximizing one’s athletic performance. In fact, all in all, interval training will offer far greater benefits and improvement than will LSD. Let’s look at two of the biggest reasons why you should choose intervals over LSD in your quest for peak performance.

First, interval training will develop your aerobic capacity along with the anaerobic; LSD-type training will only build your aerobic capacity. Rob Faigin, in his book ‘Natural Hormonal Enhancement’, again provides us with some science: “In addition to the hormonal advantages of interval training, there are cardiovascular benefits as well. One study that compared improvements in aerobic capacity (as measured by VO2max) achieved through interval training to improvements achieved through continuous training, found that interval training resulted in a two-fold greater increment in VO2max. Another study comparing these two types of exercise found that while both training modalities improved aerobic capacity to the same degree, interval training increased anaerobic capacity by 28% while continuous exercise failed to improve anaerobic capacity. Furthermore, once aerobic improvements are attained through exercise, interval training is the most effective means of maintaining such improvements … Collectively, these studies demonstrate that intensity is the key factor relative to both increasing and maintaining cardiovascular fitness. Interval training accentuates intensity; hence, it affords considerable cardiovascular benefits in addition to hormonal benefits.”

Second, anaerobic endurance is more practical to most sports, as opposed to aerobic. This is especially so for most power athletes, such as fighters (boxers and wrestlers/grapplers and traditional martial artists) and ball players (football players, baseball players, etc.). Anaerobic endurance is also more applicable to one’s day to day activities, in my humble opinion, than the LSD work. The reason for this has to do with the fact that the action in these type sports, for the most part, is anaerobic in nature; it takes place in the Immediate/ATP-CP and Non-Oxidative/Glycolytic Energy Pathways, to be precise. Typically, there is a brief flurry of high-intensity work followed by a short – often active – rest, followed by more work, etc.

Let’s look at some examples from combat sports, because it’s an area with which I have some familiarity. To illustrate just how much this tradition of LSD work has held on, allow me to use a personal example. Just a few short years ago, I had a Tae Kwon Do instructor who was preparing for yet another rank test. Already a fourth- or fifth-degree black belt, I would have thought he’d know better by now. Nonetheless, I found him one morning, jogging slow laps around the job site (we both worked in construction at the time). While he did in fact pass his belt test, I have to wonder how; and, would it not have been easier for him if he’d been doing some interval work instead of – or at least in addition to – his jogging. Meaning no offense to him at all, I suppose that this also illustrates how one can be quite technically proficient (and an excellent instructor) in a particular athletic endeavor, and at the same time, really not know how best to train for it. As I recall, he may even have told me he wasn’t a fan of heavy weight training; that it made one slow. He was clearly “bound by tradition”. (On the other hand, it’s been a few years since I’ve spoken with him. It may well be that he’s come around to the ‘right’ way of thinking. I hope so …)

In ‘Special Topics in Martial Arts Conditioning’, the course text for ISSA’s Specialist in Martial Arts Conditioning certification, Charles I. Staley, B.Sc., MSS, touches on this very subject: “As a martial artist, most of your energy output is anaerobic. Without oxygen (kinda makes you wonder why most martial arts instructors stress aerobic conditioning so fervently, doesn’t it?). Delivering blows and kicks, grappling, throwing, and lightening fast reflexive movements must be performed over and over again, testing your tolerance to excruciating pain and fatigue …” In other words, why train for that type of performance by settling in to a long, slow, almost relaxed, form of exercise?

For a more practical, in-the-trenches, example of the effect of LSD running versus intervals on performance, we can look to Forrest E. Morgan, Major, USAF. Maj. Morgan, a very serious traditional martial artist, is the author of the comprehensive tome on how a warrior should think and train: ‘Living the Martial Way’. Maj. Morgan relates to the reader how, after graduating from the USAF Officer Training School, he continued his running program, eventually working up to the point where he was running for an hour a day – sometimes as much as seven miles or more at a shot. “I thought certainly this would give me the stamina I sought for fighting. Wrong!

“The more I ran, the more my fighting suffered. I lost all my burst speed, the ability to spring at the opponent … Furthermore, I lost the ability to jump; it seemed my feet were anchored to the floor. But most frustrating, for all the work I was putting in, I didn’t seem to have any more fighting stamina than before I started running. I tired just as quickly as I always did. I discovered what track and field athletes have known for decades: the steady, plodding pace of distance running produces a steady, plodding athlete.”

Thus it was that Major Morgan discovered the need for, and benefits of, interval training. It also brings up a very good point. Intervals develop speed, LSD doesn’t, and once you’re fast, you can always slow down; if you’ve trained yourself to be slow, it is, I submit, nigh-on impossible to suddenly get fast. Put as simply as possible (which is the only way I understand anything), LSD-type exercise trains the slow-twitch muscle fibers; intervals tend to develop the fast-twitch fibers. It has also been suggested that exercise can convert one type of muscle fiber to another! This is a crucial point because we are born with only a certain number of muscle fibers – slow and fast – and only the luckiest among us have a high degree of fast-twitchers relative to slow. These fast-twitch-fellows are the ones we seem to look up to most; icons of strength and power and speed. Why would you do anything that is going to change some of your precious fast-twitch fibers into slow?
Being fast can also save your life. Consider the following scenario: Walking alone at night through Central Park (not the wisest move to begin with, but …), minding your own business, you find yourself suddenly set upon by a gang of no-goodniks. After a flurry of brutal violence, you are able to extricate yourself from their grasp. In making your escape, which would you consider to be your wisest course of action: Settling into a slow, measured jog that would allow the hooligans to quickly catch up with you and kick your face into a Jackson Pollock painting; or, sprinting all-out for the nearest source of light or population/witnesses before your assailants can grab you and drag you into the bushes to … well, you know?

In the interests of full disclosure, however (and after a several-page rant against it), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that some LSD work may be required at the outset of an athlete’s training career, simply to develop a foundation of aerobic endurance. Once the athlete can perform steady-state aerobic activity for 20-30 minutes at a shot, however, it’s probably time to move on to anaerobic training.

In an Internet article entitled ‘A Basic Primer on Endurance Training’, Charles Staley writes, “Note: Many conditioning specialists eschew the concept of developing an aerobic base, feeling that a highly developed aerobic capacity is counter-productive to the attainment of speed and strength. However the anaerobic system is based on the aerobic system, so at least in principle, it seems logical to develop the system which will promote lactic acid clearance during high intensity training efforts later in the cycle. As in all things, it really is an issue of how much aerobic work is done, and where it is placed in the training cycle.”

There is one form of aerobic training that I do find sort of intriguing – as far as aerobic exercise goes, anyway. It’s called Aerobic-Intervals, so I suppose it may not even fit perfectly into the LSD format. I think this form of aerobic work may be more beneficial than traditional LSD aerobics if only because it utilizes shorter work intervals, with rest periods between, thus allowing for relatively greater training intensity. If you need to include some aerobic-type work – in the off-season, say – I would submit that this may be the way to go. You can find further tuition on this method in Staley’s article referenced above, or in his excellent book, ‘The Science of Martial Arts Training’.

On a personal note again, I’ve been trying for some time to get my sister to switch to intervals, but she just won’t do it; she sticks with her LSD-type jogging on a nearly daily basis and wonders why she can’t make any significant progress in fat loss and conditioning! (Naturally, diet can also play a very significant role in one’s success or failure, physique-wise. This is another area where traditions remain strong, and I can’t get my darling sister to pay heed to anything I say about this, either. “But I need my bread and pasta!” Oh well …) If I had to guess, I would venture to say that most fitness-minded people – my sister included – don’t like interval training because it can be a downright brutal form of exercise. Believe me, I can relate to this way of thinking.

On the other hand, the real beauty of intervals is that they usually only need to be done for a relatively short period of time, and with less frequency. Whereas LSD training is most often expected to be done 3-5 times a week, for 30-60 minutes at a shot, an effective interval training program can feature workouts as short as ten minutes (total time!), performed as infrequently as twice a week. I should think that the time-efficient quality – irregardless of its many other discussed benefits – of interval training would be a real boon to busy people with full-time jobs, family and social obligations, etc, who do not wish to spend all their lives in the gym.

There are many varieties of interval training available to you – most of them quite good. Just a couple of the more popular ones for your consideration: The Tabata Protocol, based on the research of Japanese doctor Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., is typified by 6-8 intense 20-second work intervals followed by 10-second rest intervals. High-Intensity Interval Training (first promulgated, I believe, by Shawn Phillips in an old issue of Muscle Media) involves doing one 30-second jog followed by a 30-second sprint; this is repeated four times in the first and second workouts – for a total of four minutes – after which another minute (one 30-second jog, one 30-second sprint) is added for the next two workouts. You continue in this way, adding one minute after every couple workouts, until you are doing fifteen minutes of work.

Again, these are just a couple of the more well-known examples. There are many other ways of implementing intervals into your program, and I would encourage you to look into some of them – or even create your own protocol!

For the purposes of this article, and in the interests of simplicity, you will note that I’ve addressed Endurance Training only in terms of the more conventional types of non-weighted protocols (running, swimming, jumping rope, etc.) rather than including the somewhat more unorthodox weighted variations. Bear in mind that weighted Endurance Training can be just as marvelously effective – if not more so – as any non-weighted exercise at improving heart health, fat loss, and physical performance.

Something to consider when choosing a form of interval training, from Health for Life’s ‘MAX 02’: “Studies suggest that weight-bearing activities [such as running, jumping rope, etc] promote faster caloric expenditure. Which means weight-bearing activities may increase your aerobic efficiency more rapidly than non-weight bearing ones [such as swimming and cycling].” Which basically means, if you choose to jump rope, for example, rather than ride the recumbent exercise bike, you will burn more calories quicker, get aerobically fit quicker, and ultimately, lose body fat quicker. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

While I may well be “preaching to the choir” on this issue, there may be some of you – like my TKD instructor and my sister – reading this who are still stuck in the old ways, wasting away your time, energy, and muscle on Long-Slow/Steady-Distance exercise. If this is you, I sincerely hope you will at least give some consideration to the ideas discussed in this article. Don’t turn a deaf ear, blind eye, insert-favorite-bodypart-metaphor-here, to this information; investigate intervals for yourself. There is far more research out there supporting interval training than what I’ve presented here.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with one parting thought: Just because you’ve always done something a certain way (and perhaps even gotten some results from it), doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it the best way. After all, if you can get better results for your efforts, in less time, isn’t that something you should be thinking about?

Kurt J. Wilkens is the founder of Integrated Conditioning, Inc., a South Florida-based personal training company that emphasizes Functionality and Wellness over simple ‘fitness’. Integrated Conditioning specializes in combining Old-School Physical Culture with Modern Sports Science to develop the most effective programs possible for any individual’s specific needs. Training is available to you online, or in the convenience of your own home. Kurt is an ISSA-Certified Fitness Trainer, an ISSA-Specialist in Martial Arts Conditioning, and a Certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor. He can be reached via his website:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Inverted, upside down, sucked in and sprawled.

Usually I say I have to be taught things 5 times before they sink in, make sense, and have any potential for being executed in live sparring.

Maybe I'm making progress? But hot DAMN, this visiting purple belt from LA (Max) showed a couple things the other day, and wouldn't you know, I went for one of his chokes the next day? Would have been successful too, except it's one where you get a grip and then roll under the guy, meaning he (usually) rolls with you to alleviate the pressure.. only I tried it on this guy at our school who calls himself Short Bus (and if he's reading it, he's laughing, he totally eats up the attention). [Short Bus has appeared under another moniker in this blog previously but I won't share. Just know that he is in fact short, and he's a little stout, but very strong. He doesn't hesitate to smear me into the mat like he's tidying up a tube of toothpaste with his sternum.] Short Bus rolled halfway with it, and then stopped, on top of me, laying on me, reclining on me, and I was smooshed, so I couldn't tighten the choke any more. DAMMIT. I chalk that up to experience...

a) When someone is way bigger and heavier and stronger, don't do things that involve rolling them on top of you on purpose. Especially when your nose meets their body and is subject to their entire body weight.

b) Try new moves on people your own size. I extrapolated from the experience with Short Bus, plus that video I posted recently of the two flying armbars... and I thought you know, if you're not strong enough to control their weight, and they react strangely or the move goes awry, you could really hurt someone inadvertently. Or hurt yourself. So I won't be clambering over people like a monkey bar to sit on their shoulders (just in case I fall backwards, I bet they won't be able to stop me with their arm at that angle.) And I won't be rolling underneath the Bus either.

c) Get a deeper grip into the collar first with that choke, so you're not dependent on core strength and leg control after the roll to finish it. They should be wanting to tap enough in the middle that they go with you on the rolling part, out of self interest.

The title actually refers to last night's lesson on the upside-down guard, playing with it, options from it, entries into it, and passing it. Woulda been nice to know before the Pan but it's cool... I think I was able to get it enough that this might be a "show me twice" kind of thing instead of the full 5 times. Jason was a great training partner, too.

And then this morning... freaking Ian and his $^&*#*! open guard. Sigh. I'm not doing as well with the mobility game, still heavily dependent on the position game, and he ate me for breakfast metaphysically speaking. And then knelt on my ponytail while we rolled, tearing out a ginormous clump of hair. Sigh again. Too damn hot to wear the headgear so I guess I assumed the risk.

Congrats to my husband for getting a 91 on his first exam in summer school-- after a lengthy absence from the halls of academia!

Hope your training is going well! :)


Found in Slate:

From Sarah Palin, to Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, June 15, 2010: "Well, then what the federal government should have done was accept the assistance of foreign countries, of entrepreneurial Americans who have had solutions that they wanted presented. They can't even get a phone call returned, Bill. The Dutch—they are known, and the Norwegians—they are known for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills. They offered to help and yet, no, they too, with the proverbial, can't even get a phone call back."

"Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill. And we must!" Facebook note, June 8, 2010.

"Contested primaries are so good for America's political process! Competition makes everyone work harder, be more efficient, debate clearer, and produce more." —Palin in a Facebook note endorsing Joe Miller in Alaska's Senate race, June 2, 2010.

"I think it's appalling and a violation of our freedom of the press."
—Speaking about the negative media coverage of Republican congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, Boise, Idaho, May 21, 2010

"And while we're at it, let's expedite the regulatory and permitting and legal processes for on- and offshore drilling."
—Speaking at the Tea Party convention on Feb. 26, 2010, about six weeks before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

"These oil companies must be held responsible if there's any lax at all in their measures and we will hold them accountable, but I am still a believer in domestic drilling. There is an inherent link between energy and prosperity and energy and security, and in a nation, energy and freedom."
—Speaking in Clarkston, Mich., at the Defending the American Dream Summit, May 1, 2010, about a week after the oil spill

"One thing we can all agree on, though, is how much we respect and want to protect the freedom of the press and we have that in common, so at the end of the day, I think as long as we're protecting that and not abusing the right—we have to be writing truth—then we'll get along just fine tonight."

"I want to make a toast to all at this press event who agree with Thomas Jefferson, who said that our liberty depends on the freedom of the press. So I want to lift a glass to those who defend that freedom. Our finest, the men and women in uniform who defend that freedom, our Constitution, and our exceptional way of life in America."
—Speaking at the Time 100 gala, New York City, May 4, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Eagle custom embroidered gi review...

Disclaimer: I'm sponsored by Black Eagle. They sent me this gi free. But I'm telling you, I have plenty of gis, so I really don't care if I piss them off, it's not like I depend on them to send me more in the future.

On that note you'll be expecting a bashfest, and you're going to be disappointed. I really like this gi! I got a single weight, white, custom embroidered gi and it's going to get a lot of use. I admit, I feel like a big cheese, at least a medium cheese, having a gi with embroidery on it. The downside is my training partners seem to think it merits extra choke attention or something. This just encourages my natural hedgehog jiu jitsu tendencies.

This is the Black Eagle logo (actually, a green eagle!) which is on both shoulders. That, plus a small label on the bottom of the front lapel, and two stripe labels on the side of the legs, is the only ornament that comes with this gi.

Seymour at Meerkatsu already wrote a very detailed and technical review of this gi in comparison with two others manufactured in the UK, found here, which I highly recommend you read. His photography is definitely superior, as well.

I ordered an A1, and measured it before and after washing/drying in the machine. Happily it is a shrink to fit kind of gi, because it was a little big on me at the start.

Measurements: in inches, out of the bag first then after 6 washes, the first in hot water, the rest in cold, in a hot dryer first and low heat after that.

Pants inseam 21.5/19
Pants outseam 36/33
Pants cuff 9.25/9

Jacket back 28/27
Jacket arm outside 20/19
Jacket front 28/27
Sleeve cuff 6/5.5

It did all the shrinking in the first go-around, so I was able to wear it the first time I trained after receiving it (at New Breed in California.) So you see, the pants got shorter, but the jacket didn't shrink too much. My A1 fits me perfectly. I really like that they sent a plain pair of pants for training as well as an embroidered pair. The gi is sewn with a great deal of attention to detail, from the triple stitching to the reinforced cuffs and the soft, thick, comfortable collar. The custom embroidery is SLICK... I sent an image file of my Red Menace logo (from's printing people who made that patch for me) and one from my school website of the Relson Gracie logo.

The embroidery itself is super tight, very detailed, and well done. It's nothing like the crappy embroidery I had on a womens' Atama (the white gi with pink/blue embroidery.. the one I had tiedyed by Chris at Happy Kimonos.) which was frazzled and loopy and frayed almost from the get-go. The inside side of the embroidery is smooth, too, and not irritating on your back when you fight from guard. I did notice that the fabric-softener-sheet stuff that's stitched into a design like this, on the inside of the garment, did shred pretty quickly and get tossed, especially that underlaying the eagles on the shoulders, but it doesn't appear to have any detrimental effects on the design.

The pants are really nice. I wish the waist tie was cord, not flat fabric, but I haven't had problems with it yet like getting knotted up, being hard to pull or whatever. There are two loops in front, kind of lower and spread out pretty well, so no issues with the fabric cutting into my waist or hips. There's room for my junk in the trunk but not too much extra fabric.

I like having my school logo low on the front lapel, so you see it but still have room for other patches on the front, or can leave it plain if you desire.

My only complaint, such a small one, is that they didn't give the Relson Gracie shark a pupil in his eye. No biggie.

The single weave fabric feels like the Gameness Pearl weave. It's as sturdy to the hand as my Atama Mundials jackets (7 and 9) but not as stiff. It comes out of the dryer or air-tumble feeling silky soft, which is nice. The pants are sturdy too, but much softer and more fluid than Gameness pants. They're almost a bit fuzzy or peached in texture, but they haven't picked up dirt yet. Both pants and jacket breathe well and have been comfortable in the 100 degree heat, 3 hour classes here.

The single weave is on Black Eagle's site for 60 British pounds, which today is US $87.47. Getting your name embroidered on the back will run you an extra $8-11, depending on how big you want the letters. They'll also, of course, do your academy logo, and the cost starts at $25, depending on the number of stitches, intricacy of design, etc. Turnaround time is surprisingly quick considering the custom design and the overseas shipping-- as fast as a week or up to 2-3 weeks depending on their level of business.

I have been told that academies wanting to batch order gis with their school logos will get a good price for quantity orders.

They also do custom embroidered gi belts starting at $18, and custom embroidered back patches (to be sewn onto your gi) starting at $38.

That's my pitch... I think it's a sweet gi. I'm so torn when people ask me my favorite gi!
** My tiedye gi makes the list but simply because it looks so awesome-- the female Atama itself is fine, take or leave it.
** The Fenom gi (which just came out with a new model, the Lotus gi) is on the list because I like the company philosophy and because it's soooooo thick and soft at the same time, but I do kind of think it's not a depth-of-summer kind of gi for me.
** I find myself reaching for the Kauai nylon ripstop gi all the time because it's cool, light, and my hips move so well in it.
** My Vulkan Ultralight competition gi is great for IBJJF or when I'm fat, and it already has all my patches on it. I have to get some duplicate patches so my wardrobe has flexibility, LOL.

But overall, for a very sharp look and the most comfy fit and fabric, in hot weather or cold, I like my Black Eagle.


Holy crap.

Hillary reffed me at my third tournament ever, my first NAGA, as a purple belt in December 2008. I was impressed already because I'd never had a female ref. She writes a great blog with insight into the international competition scene and from it you can start to see that she's a very down to earth, compassionate, dedicated, and yes, well-rounded person. She's far from one dimensional, and her ability to juggle success as a pre-med student, her dogs, her family, her dressage, her art, and her incredible travels for jiu jitsu... it's just so impressive to me. She always has a kind word; she's a very skilled teacher; she is very encouraging.

Her amazing tournament successes over the last two years (hell, over the life of her HOLYSHITSHORT career in jits) are just a few of the reasons she immensely deserves this black belt around her waist.

She was once a blue belt but not like me. Still, it's nice to know that even the best out there started out... down here. :)

Parabens, Hillary.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lessons and report from the 2010 Mundials...

The Long Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. Home of the Mundials! Can you believe I didn't even get a picture of the outside? It's blue-- I thought it would be glass, but no.

Here's the view from my seat for the first and third day. (I was on another mat for day two.)

You already know I had a great time. What a sweet gig- get paid for watching jiu jitsu, enough to fly out to California (sunny or no), stay with a dear friend, rent a car for a week and train two days on the end. Plus they feed you. Doesn't get better than that!

Here's my hostesses with the mostestes Heather and her dog Ashes. Heather, one of my best friends from high school, lives about 15 minutes from the Pan and about 20 from the Mundials so I will be enjoying her lovely Craftsman bungalow and her charming company each April and June for years to come :)

The brackets, first day. I'd say I scored 70 matches a day, average. Only 62 on one day; more than 80 on another. Of course blackbelt day was fewer.

Right before things got started, from upstairs where the vendors all set up, where the bathrooms are, and where the snack foodies live, not that I ever ate them. I brought apple slices, baby carrots, and scones for my refs, my ring coordinator, Tony (The Voice of Jiu Jitsu) and anyone else who wanted some. I was on mat 1-- bottom left hand corner. Behind that is the admin table and behind those yellow barricades at the bottom is the bull pen, where competitors get warmed up, IDs checked, weighed in, gis measured, and wait for matches.

I was not as blown away by Mundials mainly because I had a fair idea of what to expect after the Pan. This is not to say the jits wasn't impressive because you have to know it was, beyond a doubt. I was just more ready for it :) I still think my Pan Ams lessons apply at the Mundials, so I won't copy and paste, but here're some refinements.

My thoughts:

1. It's all about the guard. I saw a couple matches that stalled out on the feet, usually really big people or wrestlers. However, the majority of matches went to the ground fairly quickly. If you don't have a good takedown game, you pull guard or jump guard. Many matches especially at the higher levels started with both people RUNNING at each other and simultaneously sliding into home base (pulling halfguard.) From there, you simply CANNOT assume you'll be able to pass. Many, many matches at brown and above were 0-0 and decided on advantage(s) because guards just were impossible to pass. My noob eyes are simply lacking the vocabulary necessary to parse what was going on in some of the higher level matches. I knew peeps were trying for sweeps, but didn't know if the sweeps had names, if the setups were common or freakish one-offs, etc. Nevertheless, it is absolutely safe to say that play at the Mundials level is usually all about the guard.

2. Divide your training time to be 20% takedowns, 80% guard. Don't neglect takedowns! It's the easiest 2 points to get. If you're a top player, make that 80% proportion be about passing and subbing people while you pass. If you're a bottom player, make that about sweeps that follow immediately from the guard pull, or subs while you're being passed. Drill your triangle and armbar defenses and make them chained just like you have offensive series.

3. Gripfighting. Didn't see much of it at the lower levels. It's a big plus.

4. Turtle to avoid the guard pass points going to your opponent.

5. Know a bit of Portuguese and know the arm signals. Sorry, some of the refs don't speak much/any English. "Combach" (sp?) means "Fight" and is rather obvious. "Paro" means stop, as in "You're in someone else's mat space, come back here!" or "Time's up!" And you'll get warned for stalling by the ref tapping one of you and then grabbing his forearms, hands at the elbows if that makes sense. You have about 20 seconds or so to get moving or the staller gets a penalty; the victim gets an advantage. Second warning, the staller gets another penalty and the victim gets 2 points. Lots of people stopped completely when they got the stall signal and acted as if they didn't know what was going on, so I think that's something coaches need to inform their fighters about ahead of time.

6. No one low passes. I still saw mostly standing up in the guard to break guard, or elbows into the thighs, and then knee-through. I did not see low passes, Tozi passes, Wilson passes, etc.

7. Know your color. Ever wonder why the ref makes you switch which side you're standing on, or why you got the green belt? It's gi color, baby, and to make sure the ref gives the points to the right person. The ref's right hand has the green/yellow cuff on and that's the hand I watch for that person's points, advantages etc. The ref's left hand is the white (uncuffed) hand. That's also which side you stand on, at the start and at the end.

Who is which depends on gi color and bracketing. Blue vs white gi, the blue will be green and white is white. Black vs white gi, black is green and white is white. Blue vs black gi, blue is green and black is white. Refs with experience won't even bother with the belt for these matchups. If you're both in the same color gi, I believe the green belt goes to whoever's name is first in the bracket. This is also why IBJJF only allows blue, black and white gis and no mix/matching of pants and top.

Ultimately, you care about this because when you look up at the scoreboard (which you should) you want to know whether you're green or white so you know how you're doing in points.

8. Cross face. This was something I commented on at the Pan and now I get it. Grab the collar when you're postured up so you have arm length and use your forearm to crossface, use your bicep when you're down low.

9. Don't pull guard when they shoot. They'll get the takedown points because likely they're touching your leg.

10. People will stand on your leg, kneel on your face, etc. Be prepared for it and use it to your advantage when you're in a position to do so.

11. Majority of subs were classics (triangle, armbar, choke, kneebar) but it was the setup that set the more advanced people apart.

12. Remember your exact position and grips during a ref stoppage.

13. Know the rules about legal subs. Should go without saying. I still saw people DQ'd for reaping the knee. You can have a leg between their legs with your foot going towards the outside of their hip; you cannot have their leg and cross your foot from the outside to the inside of their hip. Make sense? 50/50 guard is okay; knee reaping, twisting knee locks etc. is NOT.

Now, aside from the "lessons" I took away from things.. my report. I was utterly CRUSHED to be instructed not to publish the video footage I'd been taking. I have some AMAZING matches. *sigh* However, I can tell you what I filmed, and if you ask me for it-- because it's your match, I will get it to you. And thanks to all of you who are sending me footage to show.. I promise I will get that up post haste!

In somewhat chronological order, from my ringside notes, here's the matches I have- sometimes I have weightclasses, sometimes no... I didn't always have a great note-taking system for my personal stuff since my attention and time was fully devoted to scoring matches and my personal notes only got scribbled in the downtime. Likewise the still photos only happened when a friend hanging out with me would grab my camera and snap a pic, except for blackbelt day when I actually took two-three pictures of the surroundings, the celebrations etc.

Day one: I wish I'd taped some, but I didn't. Thus you're missing out on the pena and leve blue belt female matches. Mackenzie Dern, Megaton's daughter, age 17, beat Jen Turner in the pena finals with a belly down armbar at 1:22. She has a super fast guard sit! Mackenzie got her purple on the podium but returned to fight (and win, I think) in the blue belt absolute the next day. And in blue belt female, leve class, 14 year old Dominyka Obelenyte defeated Erikka Flom in finals, 3-0.

Day two:

2 of Tracey Goodell, Lloyd Irvin-- she stormed the purple belt leve division. Here she is waiting for (I believe) her first match, just two weeks after being promoted from blue belt.

Alaina Hardie v Jen Whitcomb- quite the fierce match between two friends from GrappleCamp. Alaina won with a tough choke.

Purple belt, heavy weight: Cecilia Minshall (Team Renzo) v. Nellie Cavin (Gracie Barra). 3 person division, Cecilia and Nellie fought twice. Nellie won first match, 0-0, ref decision. Cecilia won their second matchup on points, 8-2, for the gold medal.

Middle weight purple finals- Alaina Hardie v. Kay Stephenson. Kay won with a bellydown armbar at 1:39.

Purple, leve? Travis Orr v. Medina-- Orr wins by triangle after being rudely thrown twice.

A match I think between Ronis Gracie, purple, Gracie Barra, and a black gi from Checkmat.

Ronis waiting for his match..

Ronis Gracie v. Faria(s) (sp?) Ronis won 2-0.

Jaxon Smith, purple from Machado in Redondo Beach, v. Roh, Jaxon by bow & arrow choke at 2:22.

Jaxon Smith v. Ronis Gracie. Gracie wins, 6-2.

Purple middle finals, Alec Baulding (Alliance) v. someone I can't read my notes. When I process that video I'll see if I can edit this with the correct name.

From day three, blacks and browns:

T. Hirata v. Felipe Costa-- Costa by armbar, I think. Again notes unclear.

A short clip of a random match with a very cool judo armbar, with both legs crossed over the arm you're barring (their near arm) and ankles are crossed right under their jaw. He didn't get the tap with this, but it was cool to look at and toy with.

Hillary Williams v. Weatherford, Hillary for the win.

Tove Soderston, who won the Pan I'm told, v. Fernanda Mazelli. Mazelli FTW.

Siyaka Shioda v. Bruna Ribeiro, kneebar by Shioda at :45, with Roger Gracie in the background.

Shioda v Kyra Gracie, who won on points 10-0. Here's Kyra going for an armbar, defended by Siyaka.

Luanna Alzuguir v. Penny Thomas, Luanna by choke. Here's Penny battling valiantly to pass Luanna's guard. On the video, this is EPIC WAR.

Fernanda Mazelli v. Michelle Nicolini, Michelle with the triangle-armbar in 2 minutes.

Hillary Williams v. Kyra Gracie, Kyra with the choke at 4:56.

Finals of the black belt weight class (galo? pluma?) T. Hirata v. Nazimiento (sp?) from Paragon, Nazimiento wins 13-4. I think this is a photo of them with Hirata on top. Let me know if I'm wrong. I think there's a mistake here, maybe this isn't finals but is absolute... or maybe I was mistaken about who prevailed in Hirata v. Costa.

Luanna v. Michelle, Luanna wins 10-2. Here's Michelle working the pass, shortly before Luanna scissor-sweeps her.

Beatriz "Bia" Mesquita v. Gaby Garcia, of course Garcia wins. This was on another mat so I don't know if a submission or by points, but my guess would be submission, americana from side control. Just a guess ;)

I didn't tape the match but here's Tammy Griego, Gracie Barra Albuquerque, and Bia after their match. Don't know who won.

Rhalan Gracie v. Armburst, Gracie for the win but I didn't write down how.

Kyra v. Luanna, Luanna wins 5-0.

Ian McPherson, brown belt phenom, v. Rhalan Gracie, with Ian winning 4-2.

Alec Baulding, Alliance's purple belt magician, chokes Bruno Pucci.

Karen Miller gets choked by Luanna at 1:56.

Val "Valhalla" Worthington v. Penny, who wins by choke, seen here..

Michelle v. Fernanda, with Michelle winning by toehold at :52.

Luiza Monteiro v. Penny, who won with a choke from mount.

Cobrinha v. Yokinori, with Cobrinha FTW 18-0. In the background you see Tracey Goodell v. Kay Stephenson, with Tracey pulling off a triangle. I think this was either semifinals or maybe just a division match.

Here's Cobrinha against someone, don't know who.

Ronis Gracie falls to Alec Baulding, didn't note how.

Fereira v. Clark Gracie, who won by choke.

Alves v. Marcelo Garcia, who wins by choke.

Carlquist v. Abmar Barbosa, who wins by mounted triangle in 1:27.

A Gracie kneebars Mendes but I didn't write whether it was Rafa or Guilherme, whether it was Kron or Clark or who.

Santana chokes Abmar Barbosa. In the background, you see the purple belt female absolute finals, Jacqueline Oliveira (Alliance) loses to Tracey Goodell by triangle.

Marcelo beats Mendes by Monson choke at 4:37. As a side note: damn I wish I had a better Monson choke.

Roger Gracie v. Luiz Fernando (I think) in semifinals. Shocker, Roger chokes him.

Day four-- da da DA- the blackbelt day:

Even though you've been through 4 days of the Pan and 3 days of Mundials, nothing quite prepares you for the absolute intensity of team spirit displayed on Sunday. Sorry, sometimes it was overboard, reminding me of high school antics, but whatever, I get that this is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

I did get to hang out a little while with Dustin from Kauai Kimonos and he showed me the custom gis they made for Felipe Costa. Way cool!

Sounds like the nylon ripstop gi is making its way through the IBJJF approval process. I'm going to review that gi SOON, I promise, but for now I can't say enough nice stuff about it especially in hot humid weather, for travel, and for facilitating hip movement. Eek, sorry, that sounds like a review.

Barra, Humaita, and Alliance all set up camp in a different section of the bleachers, wearing their special Mundials tshirts made for the occasion, waving banners, chanting and singing and generally lacking only short skirts and pompoms. This is the Alliance section. Sorry for the camera movement in the middle.

Another teensy little 2 second clip of someone celebrating, don't even remember who.

Here's Humaita's section before things got really going.

The IBJJF does a good job of running this tournament. On Sunday, there's only two mats set up, with mirror-image/linked scoreboards facing both sides of the mat to make it easy to spectate-- no matter where you sit, you can see the score, time left etc. for both matches. And I hear Budovideos did a better job of giving the women airtime- is that your opinion? I'm interested!

I only know of one screwup in terms of brackets etc. but it was a competitor error, not admin error. Two guys had had their IDs checked and were waiting to compete near some other waiting competitors. Apparently they didn't speak English. Why that matters I don't know, because when names were called, they answered to them-- even though THAT WASN'T THEIR NAME. So an Asian name was called-- Asian guy answers. Hispanic name called, Hispanic guy answers. Asian fights Hispanic and then we discover oops, they weren't supposed to fight each other. Easy mistake to make for the staff side, everyone starts to look alike, and you never expect someone to answer to the WRONG NAME! It was resolved quickly and no one was mad, but we all had a mini coronary, of course.

On Sunday, I was sooo excited by watching, and sooooooooooo nervous about making a mistake, that I just left the camera alone for the most part on blackbelt day. I had it running some, but without much input from me in terms of on, off, aiming, zooming, etc. I just didn't want even the appearance that I was distracted.

I did catch Rafa Mendes defeating Ryan Hall... Lucas Lepri v. Augusto Mendes (don't recall who won).. Cobrinha v. "Crazy" Mario Reis...

But most of the time I was just too busy and too intent on watching to mess with recording. Most of that jiu jitsu was over my head anyways, except for the finishes. I will say that, if you're going to compete at the brown or black belt level (and prolly purple, too) you better have an answer to the 50/50 guard, which I saw a LOT of.

At the very end, here's Roger, celebrating his absolute victory, bittersweet as Romulo Barral was unable to contest the finals due to his knee injury from semifinals..

After four days of sitting still watching all this you already know I was chomping at the bit to go train. And I did, at New Breed. I meant to get pictures with Val and John and Johnny and everyone there, but really it just doesn't occur to you to grab the camera when you're sopping wet and exhausted. No matter how happy being that way makes you :) So I just have this one photo, grabbed as I was leaving on Tuesday to catch my plane. That's Val in the way-back background choking someone from the back.

What a fantastic experience. I got to meet lots of people face to face for the first time, like Leoni from the UK, and Felicia Oh, and Alaina Hardie, and others I just know by their forum names, like NinjaBoy. I'm just starting to get the footage rendered from all those fights-- I have about 5 hours solid of film! Let me know if you have footage for me to share, or if I have your footage and you want it.

Can't wait for next year.