Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer weekend...

This morning I bounced wide awake at 4:50am (a full ten minutes before my alarm would have gone off, had I set one, which I hadn't..) and then tried to get back to sleep.

Eventually, I gave up and checked email, read a book for a while, and took a shower. Dropped off a harddrive in the mail for my buddy Pete in DC (it's arriving Monday!) and arrived at the academy just in time to miss some of Giberson's infamous "little warmups." We do "little" ones when it's hot out. In cooler weather, 1000 crunches and 100+ pushups will be interspersed with ridiculous drills, rolls, and cardio that takes an hour. In the hot weather, we usually take things a little easier though still for a solid hour. I can handle things pretty well except wallstands.

In a wallstand, you put your hands on the mat about 2-3' from the wall, then prop the balls of your feet up about 3-4' up the wall from the ground, and make your back flat from shoulders to feet. Just when that becomes unbearable, he calls "heels to the wall" in which case you flatten your feet to the wall and raise your hips. You think that's restful for about 30 seconds fewer than you have to hold that position. And back. And forth. 'Till your delts are exploding like popcorn, your lower back is thrumming like a live electrical wire, and you pant like a dog in the sun. Don't forget this is in full gi and it's 90something in there, with 90% humidity and no breeze. Somehow it makes me deeply happy when big tough wanna-be MMA fighters come in to take their first class and end up puking on the back patio halfway through a warmup. Granted, I do break a sweat, and usually get my heartrate up to 90ish (resting rate is upper 50s) but I have never gotten queasy. Nyah nyah.

Anyhoo, then we did positional sparring, then technique (all closed guard breaks) and then we divided into weight classes for more positional sparring. Yay, in my group we had a 12 yr old boy who weighs 80 lbs, so I could have swept him at will. Found out after class from his mom Heather that his dad will be off to Afghanistan at the end of August. Felt really badly for them, they looked so sad to say it.. hopefully I can get her in training too. Give her something to focus on, and a new family support network, too.

Had one good roll with a purple belt, Lee... felt like my guard passes were tighter, my halfguard passing especially, and had good shoulder pressure, and had two entertaining armbar setups at the end, one of which he allowed me to nail in kind of a sitting-on-his-shoulder-hip-forward-belly-down way. Wooo!

But then sadness, my friend Amit took his last class before moving home to Sugarland where he'll be training at Leo Xavier's (lucky) and saving money (lucky.) I will really miss him. He's a big strong brute, but always reserved his playful, experimental, not smashy side for rolls with me. He also managed to consistently make me feel genuinely helpful for him and his development, which is something I crave. I just want to be a good partner for my friends, to be useful and not a burden.

Had lunch after, at Hoover's, with Spencer my judo tutor and his fabulous wife Sharla. (She'll be bellydancing tonight at a Greek restaurant so I'll see how the hubby feels about venturing out as moral support.) Hoover's makes delectable Southern comfort foods like smothered pork chops, green beans with onions and bacon, chicken fried steak, fried okra. I picked the green chile-cheese-poblano burger this time (boo, I didn't care for the smoky flavors) and green beans. Now I'm stuffed and drowsy on the couch.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lunchtime open mat..

Rolled with two people today at lunch open mat and wore myself to a frazzle in the first 40 min. My first partner was a whitebelt, maybe 8" taller and 30ish pounds heavier. I was decently happy with how I did against him, especially because I was focused on playing my guard as much as I could. As a result, ironically, my guard passing was doing better. Even Christy commented on that, which was nice. I think I got him a couple times, and he got me with an Americana. Eventually we quit and chatted a bit. How sad is it when you finish a roll and your partner asks if he's getting written up! So I offered him the opportunity to pick his "stage name." He offered Mr. Blah. Nope. So, now he's No-Name. :)

Then I rolled with Anthony, a blue belt and a dear friend of mine. He about trounced me, but made it sound better when we finished by praising my toughness. :) Go hedgehog!

Work is picking up the pace, have lots of deadlines to worry about, but had no motivation this afternoon. After I saw a friend off to the airport, I stared at the computer screen blankly. Spent a lot of time meditating on the meaning of life and pondering my place in it. Finally shook off the malaise and went home, skipping evening open mat, and grilled chicken and corn on the cob for dinner. I had no appetite to eat, but I did anyway.

Really looking forward to losing myself in jits tomorrow. But in conversation tonight, my husband told me I'm married to jits. Maybe he has a point.

Last weekend's festivities

Saturday night I went out to help Zade, one of my teammates (here on the far right,) celebrate his birthday. We had lots of lovely champagne which encouraged us all to dance. Fortunately, no photos of the dancing.

Jackie, another one of my teammates..

And Marc, one of my favorite training partners.

Then Sunday after class, we had a pool party/BBQ. Of course, the obligatory water-jits ensued. Here's Joseph-- maybe trying a swimming-armbar on Juan?

Me and Jackie..

It was perfect weather. Hot and sunny most of the time, but with a few threatening clouds and two brief spits of very light rain that brought in a nice breeze and cooler air.

Filip, Joseph and Vidush.

Joseph's wife Susan, Joy, and Filip.

Leila didn't swim because of her neck brace but it was GREAT to see her out and about again. We're all hoping for a 100% recovery!

Catherine, and my friend Leslie who works with me.

Mark, a purple belt in Dallas under Marcelo Garcia and author of The Bat Dojo.

It was a potluck BBQ and people brought a ton of food.

My husband Mitch.

Vidush, Chuck and Filip.

My college, law school, and post-law school roommate and dear friend Kelly.

It was a wonderful weekend. :)

Mai tai...

Not the fake one with the pineapple juice and maraschino cherries.. but the real deal-it traces back to Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron Jr. in the 1930s. Orgeat is an almond-sugar syrup traditionally made from whole blanched almonds. The nut oil gives the syrup (and cocktails made with it) a richness that can’t be duplicated with a cheap syrup made with almond flavoring and sugar. Find it in a well-appointed liquor store or gourmet food store.

Total Time: 5 mins
Active Time: 5 mins
Makes: 1 drink

2 ounces aged rum
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, juiced lime half reserved
1/2 ounce orange curaƧao
1/4 ounce Rich Simple Syrup, also known as rock candy syrup
1/4 ounce orgeat
1 cup crushed ice
1 mint sprig, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except the mint sprig in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and pour the entire contents into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with the juiced lime half and a mint sprig.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

So much new stuff!!!!

My head's busting open with nifty new stuff to work on (as well as old stuff of course.)

Last night, got my judo on with Spencer. Spencer's just about the nicest person you could imagine. By trade he is a massage therapist but he's also a brown belt in judo under his dad, whose blackbelt is so old and frayed there's hardly any black threads left around the white core. Soooo, we worked on my steering wheel foot sweep from my retarded side... the two seoi nages that work for me.. a followup to a failed seoi nage.. 3 versions of the tomoe nage... it was all fun.

Then this morning, Max taught. He's a purple from LA under Octavio Couto, in town for the summer, and he has such a different style from us. I love it. We covered 3 passes for the sit up guard, then what I think of as the beginning and end of a choke series that brackets a choke Max taught me a couple weeks ago, from N/S turtle. Most of the time when I have to do rolling chokes or anything that involves substituting up and down or one side and the other, I just flail and screw it up. Somehow, someway, this choke series makes sense to my brain, and I love it. Dunno if I'll ever fully land it, but I have been trying for the center piece ever since, and I'm looking forward to trying it on some unsuspecting whitebelt soon in a theater near me.

Then at lunch, I drilled and rolled with a new whitebelt guy who is so super sweet. And a redhead. I actually felt like I had a closed guard offense for once, mainly because he's really slim as well so it wasn't a struggle to lock my guard. I was quite proud-- some triangles, armbars, a near omoplata, a cross collar choke, two back takes, two pendulum sweeps, a near whitebelt killers and a near kimura. Of course he got a couple near passes too!

All good stuff.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The purpose of rolling. And tapping.

If you haven't read Dev's post on this issue, stop what you're doing right now and get on it. It's much more thoughtfully-expressed than what I have been stewing over!

I just wanted to share some reflections on the topic. For reference you may want to read Allie's post which brought this all up... especially the comments afterwards.

The welcome thing: we only have an informal, rarely-discussed, unnamed thing like this, and it only comes out when a spaz does something unacceptable.

For example: I got a massive neck stinger from a whitebelt guy jamming my head into the wall (he launched forward with me on his back, about 18" from the wall, with my arms trapped in a seatbelt grip) once... a couple min later, one of our smooth, polished (bigger, male) purples asked him to roll. He elegantly, methodically tapped the guy with one sub per joint, top to bottom, down one side and then the other, within about 6 min. No exertion, just looked like a nice flow roll. It was so professionally done that I didn't even realize till later that it was the unspoken way our school looks out for its own... especially its own girls, smaller people, older people, etc. And of course I learned that if my head had been in the proper position, I wouldn't have been injured by his forward roll, so that was good to learn.

But as far as routinely attacking and "humbling" people when they walk in, no way.

As for the norm in terms of popping stubborn tappers.. I can only tell you what I have personally heard of and experienced.

I have trained at 4 different schools in California (Ralph Gracie Berkeley (Eduardo Fraga), Bay Jiu Jitsu (Stephan Goyne), 10th PJJ SF (Denny Prokopos) and New Breed (Johnny Ramirez, Cristian, John Ouano, Val Worthington)), tons of schools in Texas and have discussed this issue with people all over the US and the world, including (in the last several weeks) Thailand, Ireland, England, France, Mexico, India, China, and Paraguay.

I have NEVER heard anyone, ever advocate that stubborn tappers should be popped whilst training.

Maybe I'm overdramatizing it but I don't think so. You might think that "just an elbow pop" is no biggie, but I'd rather roll with control and pass on a tap than stop someone from training for even a week. Why not? What's the advantage to me of forcing them to tap? Isn't the WHOLE POINT OF TAPPING the AVOIDANCE OF INJURY!? Geez oh pete-- hurting someone to make them tap so they don't get hurt is like hitting a kid to show them you don't hit.

I know that you love this like I love this (if you're reading this blog I bet I'm right!) and that to take time off, whether a couple days for a popped elbow or 6 months off for ACL surgery, would really hack us off, especially if we thought we got popped too hard, too soon (and wouldn't we all, for the most part?)

And for me, closer to home: Leila's neck is amazingly good considering it was broken less than a month ago. She was LUCKY. If the (bigger, stronger) whitebelt guy had been going fractionally harder or faster, who knows what would have happened to her spinal cord. And they weren't doing anything terribly scary-- "it was just a stack pass." If our academy permitted people to roll like it was a fight, to "test" themselves... she could be a paraplegic from C5 down. Or dead.

It is our explicit policy to "train today so you can train tomorrow" (not "next week after you ice it" dammit) (not "If this were a fight, how quickly could I end the match? Tap him. Go hard. If he doesn't tap, pop his elbow") that makes me comfortable rolling with almost anyone at my school, once I see they've been there long enough to lose spazhood status. If my instructor's explicit advice to me was anything otherwise, I would bolt through the door and never return.

And this whitebelts/heelhooks thing. Ahem.

You're going to be doing jiu jitsu for years! YOU DO NOT NEED TO LEARN HOW TO ESCAPE AND PERFORM EVERY SUBMISSION IN YOUR FIRST TWO YEARS. Leave the more dangerous ones for later.

Sorry for shouting. Just had to get that off my chest.

Edit: Here's Allie's great follow-up post.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Passing guard.

I owe a big long post of my weekend, but having driver issues between my netbook (which runs ubuntu) and my camera's memory card. Fortunately my friend Mark set the netbook up with an alternate boot option (windows, which does see the card) so I will get those pictures up tonight, after competition class (assuming I'm not completely destroyed, which I might be.)

Suffice it to say, it was a really lovely weekend, between helping my friend Zade celebrate his birthday and the pool party/BBQ on Sunday.. however, I did burn the candle at both ends and the middle in terms of getting less than enough sleep. Sooo...

Monday morning Vidush, Mark and I hit the mats for some training, and I was like a noodle. It was an almost-out-of-body experience for me. We didn't roll (Mark had a back injury flare up) but he was able to walk me through a variety of guard passes (and some submissions too) which were very appealing to me. I haven't trained since, but hope to apply them this evening.

Donald once told us that passing guard can be summarized as one of three basic techniques: stretch them out, ball them up, or corkscrew them. I find I get in trouble most when I ball them up, but Mark and Vidush did some tweaks to my halfguard posture and position that made even my ball-up moment there feel safer.

It's grey outside and though I got almost eight hours of sleep last night, I still feel a little slow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm crazy.

I've been dealing with a personal challenge lately, outside of but I guess somewhat related to jiu jitsu. In a very short amount of time, I've gone all over the emotional map (except anger) and it's left me feeling wrung out and fatigued. At one point I was so happy that I wished for more smiley faces to express my degrees and flavors of the expression, like the Eskimo have so many words for 'snow.' And at another, I was tearing up and lamenting my stupid, stupid heart. But I think I see the light and with the love and help of my friends, it's going to be back to normal soon. Not that I want normal. The crazy thing is, while I was in lala-land, I loved it.

Then I got these pictures from my friend Dan and it cheered me up quite a lot.

Because Monday mornings aren't as funny as they could be...

Liam's posted an article on BJJ and self-defense on his blog the Part Time Grappler, but I had to share this picture from it with you. Made me laugh on this very early, very dark Monday morning.

Hopefully I can upload pictures from this weekend's festivities and share with you a little later. Happy Monday, hope you get a little giggle somewhere.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Congrats Dev!!!


And then BRONZE in the absolute! He lost to the gold medalist in the ultraheavy division (Dev's only a middleweight.)

Way to go, World Champion :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I am strong.

Sorry, listening to Tiesto, and this is one of my favorite songs.

Anyway... got to work some judo last night, thanks to the incredible patience of my friend Spencer, who has a brown belt and perhaps a subconscious dislike for his own knee ligaments. (Because, of course, he was letting me throw him, and sweep him, over and over. Not always successfully. Nevermind the fact that I couldn't tell right from left or two knees vs. one knee after a while..)

We spent a full hour going over about 6 different things. At least six versions of the seoi nage... osoto gari.. sashi something.. I can't recall all the names, but we did settle on at least one combination that is simple and basic enough for my brain. Then, he came with me to open mat and watched my attempts on teammates Amit and Marc. Amit's a bit bigger than I am, and his natural base and core tension was enough to stuff my kuzushi several times. Then, after another failed, I whipped back into the opposing kuzushi for the other throw, and just the kuzushi alone took him down. Whee!!

After Spencer left, I kept on playing, with Marc and then Jason. Jason saw me faking judo from across the room, so he knew I was hunting for lapel and tricep grips. Pahh, he batted away my paws and shot in for a solid double leg or three. I do think at some point I was passing his guard, combining some of the bits from my work with Vidush and Phil with Donald's butterfly sweep counter where they pull you into mount. And it worked, I didn't get swept (though I didn't get mount) and from top half guard, I held on the arm triangle grip. Thanks Gabe for the non-kesa finish to that, it worked like a champ. I'll say it's the first time I've tapped Jason but I might be wrong.

This morning, worked my takedown combination first (Vidush points out that Donald shows them in opposite order but still relying on one as the counter to their resistance to the other. Hmm. Must try.) Spent a while trying to pass Phil's guard. Once I passed, it seems like I got reversed spectacularly several times from side control. So annoying. Only made slightly more bearable by seeing Vidush flip over once as well. (God it would be nice to learn how to do that myself. I will have to bribe Phil with some healthy treats... maybe ginger glazed asparagus..) Anyway eventually ended up on the bottom of Phil's mount, and I would have kept shoulder-walking to beat his high mount, but my effing hair was obnoxiously in the way. He got me in two armbars with impeccable control, one really annoyingly from the back.

It occurs to me that my jiu jitsu is like living paycheck to paycheck. You have my back; I might only be able to escape by sliding down your front and working my way flat to the mat. That's one step ahead of being mounted, but I'm not mounted right now and I'll deal with the mount later. Kinda like putting things on your credit card-- you'll pay eventually, just not right now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can we say "poor sportsmanship"?

Ricco Rodriguez v Sean Spangler, Grapplers Quest Las Vegas 2010.

I'm back to judo again.

I know I'm supposed to focus on one thing at a time, but I just can't help myself. It's really more like five things. Connection and staying centered is tops on my list, followed by passing guard, sweeps, takedowns and escapes. Ummmm, that's about everything in jits, except for submissions. Hmm. I think my subs are good enough to succeed, if you're bad enough for me to do all the rest of that list...

So check out this pretty stuff. I really enjoyed the toss at :35, the reap at 1:32 and 1:38, and holy shit the reap at 2:15!!!!!!! And look at her amazing rotation on the hip toss at 2:28, which is shown from two angles, the second being way better... The combination at 2:43 happens so quickly but the setup is so silky-smooth.. and then what looks like epic flail to me at 3:05, but is probably highly technical...

Then check out this little kid, only eight years old!

I like Massey's teaching style...

And this one, a kuzure osoto gari...

And then, a random Alec Baulding (Alliance) match, purple belt absolute at Mundials this year. Yes I admit I have a major jits crush on Alec :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Girls in Gis, in Austin today.. making rolls personal.

So I know I'm only supposed to post cheery, happy, wimmin-all-gettin-grapply-happily stuff about the Girls in Gis thing today.

It wouldn't be too hard: nice gang of women (maybe 15?) with a good range of experience and skills, from novice whitebelts to savvy purples and a brown.. a bowl of cold sliced watermelon to beat the heat.. a little warmup and then open mat.

One special pleasure was Lindsey's return to the mats after a 3 year absence (broken wrist and family time). She wore her white belt instead of her blue, but after 2 minutes it was apparent that she had every right to wear the blue one. I had a great time getting to know her. Another friend, a purple from a local school I used to train at who is now elsewhere getting her postgraduate degree, was so much fun to roll with because she is sooooo mellow, controlled, and methodical. I hadn't seen her in forever and in some ways, she's like a measuring stick for me. I keep waiting for the day when she reappears and I can actually pass her guard or make any kind of progress, really. Today was not the day! I better hustle because she'll graduate soon and start training regularly again!

I like seeing women with different games and approaches all get together and put aside competitiveness (like we don't see enough of that at tournaments) and just have fun with it. I was really in the mood for fun rolling. I took the 3 hr regular class before it, so I was actually pretty fatigued and looking forward to ... well, fun rolls, not tournament smash.

I'll describe the not-fun part like this: lady I grappled at the start of my career, who I beat on points, at least one weight class up from me, who I am told (by others, and once by her) was eager for a rematch ever since. Approached me for rolls. I had the feel that she was hungry for victory and wouldn't be happy without it. I wasn't in the mood to contest it so I decided I would let her work whatever she wanted and wasn't going to cry if I lost. Frankly I was pretty sure I'd lose. I let her pull guard, worked to pass, got muscled into a triangle, tapped to hair pulling but truthfully she had it tight and better than 50% likelihood of getting it. Basically played defensively (a hedgehog egg!) the whole 20 min or so. I think she tapped me with a kneebar too. Good technical (on her part) rolls, but not fun. Not fun because I felt this singleminded hostility from her. I didn't enjoy it, and have no desire to repeat it outside of a tournament setting again. Maybe I misread her, but that's what I felt.

I did another two hours or so of intense physical labor in sweltering heat, after the lunch with the ladies, so I came home thoroughly beat. The shower felt like heaven. The pizza tasted ambrosial.

So I'm wondering.. is making rolls personal something guys experience? only guys? only girls? is it common? Sometimes I'll have a goal that drives my training (Dammit, I will not let Rudy choke me while passing his guard ever again, etc. etc.) and that could be said to be personal, but that's not what I mean.

I mean personal in a grudge-match kind of way. It seems like it would be a common guy thing, but man, I don't see that happen much at our school. I definitely haven't ever experienced a cross-gender personal grudge match. Then I start looking at my perception that men are basically simple, direct and easy to get along with, versus women who tend to be more complicated, subtle, easy to offend, and devious... even passive-aggressive.. sorry, am I being misogynistic? simplistic?

Let's discuss :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What goes down must come up.

I was antsy on the way to class today. I have a good friend who is traveling abroad and making me pea-green. Everything he said to me made me want to go be there too! I might have to dig out my Central America journal and pictures just to torture myself.

Then, I was really pissy in class today. I was pissed because it seemed like I was doing all the right techniques yet none of them worked. I know, probably wasn't doing them correctly then. But really, I promise, I was even getting feedback like last night from Dan (who told me I was doing the right thing at the right time, it just wasn't working because he's stronger.) It just made me steaming-mad. A good example is a butterfly pass where you flatten them on their back, head to sternum, hands gripping their sides, sucking your arms in tight and back so they have their heels in their butt and your elbows touch your own knees. I won't bother describing the rest of the pass because every frickin' time I do that I can't even move to step 2 because they just straighten out their legs.

What makes me mad about that is it's arms versus legs. Even if it's core, it's arms+ core versus legs+core. Legs beat arms. WTF!

So once again near tears, several times. Get tired of being squashed and forced and made to feel weak.

But then... at the end of open mat... rolled with a much bigger and stronger blue who is very talented and has a beastly rep. Granted, he kind of gave up the pass or halfguard, twice or three times... but I tapped him with a rude but legit farside reverse armbar from side, and then later, with a Monson choke.

Hot damn.

Chael Sonnen is an ass.

Found this courtesy of The Ground Never Misses. Just a spiffy little lowlight. Check out the coolio armbar around 1:02. Hell they're all cool, but I like that setup especially.

Just plain ol' training.

LOL, another female blue belt in Texas messaged me and said a local tournament promoter was trying to set us up for a superfight in September. (We both thought he was serious for about a day.. 'till he said it was a joke because we're both redheads.) It kind of made me scared to be honest. Bad enough competing, when no one else cares about your match but you, them, and the coaches. If something is labeled a "super fight" then you have to be, well.. super. Yikes.

We have the womens' grappling group Girls in Gis meeting at our academy tomorrow afternoon after class. That will be fun, but in some ways has potential for unfun. There are some personality conflicts (if you know the people involved you know exactly what I mean.) There are issues with age limits (if your daughter is young should she be allowed to come?) and with the format (teach a technique? just open mat?) There's a smaller teen in another city that I think would really benefit from the support and encouragement of trying techniques on non-180 lb non-men, but she doesn't have transportation. So there's all these side issues swirling around.

As far as my training is going, I struggle to find something noteworthy to report. Still working on my guard passing. Still working on control from the top.. on sweeps from the bottom. I had several fun, fun, fun rolls in the last couple days (and have discovered the power of the blog. Seems like people put some effort in to not muscling things, being controlled and technical, etc when they think they might show up here with some alias for public discussion.)

I did have one new metaphor come to mind whilst rolling with a big gentle bear of a man. We started from knees, and he has substantial nogi experience, so it wasn't long before I was down and in a disadvantageous position. It stalemated there for a while, I couldn't escape but he wasn't getting too much out of me either. Oh, I got to bottom halfguard, and had the underhook, but wasn't having any success in getting up to my elbow for a sweep. If he'd been of a mind he probably coulda kimuraed me (and maybe I was baiting it to try for the armbar) but he didn't. Anyway, after the roll (I don't think we tapped each other, just got tired) I told him it was like being an egg. Under a blanket. The blanket can't crack the egg, but the egg can't get out from under the blanket.

I had another roll with a guy who is incredibly strong. He plays a game I'd like to have-- he's short, stocky and muscular and has a nice 93 guard, scissor guard, butterfly guard... he let me play a while, then reasserted himself and smashed me mercilessly. It was good.

15% off sale on Atama till July 31

Atama Kimonos is having a sale... through July 31 enter July2010 as your coupon code to get 15% off, plus free shipping to the US and Canada for orders over $100.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Please take this gi survey....

This gi survey is from Boris on the forum. If you haven't taken it already, please do so, he needs about 80 more responses.

Forgive him in advance for the inartfully worded questions, lack of an "other" response in many categories, etc. He's no sociologist.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Taking notes, trying to remember jiu jitsu techniques...

After my clean desk post, Murphy's Law struck again. Jason Scully puts out a great service called Grappling Tips that come right to your email inbox for free. Today's email was the first in a series of two about how to take notes and be effective in remembering your jiu jitsu techniques. You can be added to this list if you email him at Grapplers Guide:

Without further ado, I shamelessly repost!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hey There,

***Those of you who are used to my writing know that sometimes my
tips and articles can be long but they are fully of information I
truly believe can help. So always make sure you read the whole

People take notes for many different reasons. You take notes in
school so you can study, you jot down notes when you need to
remember what to pick up at the store, and you may take notes when
you have an idea that you want to try out or check on. I know I do
in these situations, so I have some questions for you.

-- Do you bring a notebook into class with you when you train?
If so, what do you do with it in class?
-- Do you have a notebook that you write in at home after
training? If so, what kind of notes do you write down when you get
-- Do you have a specific way you take notes? Is there a system?
-- Do you review your notes that you take? Does it help you
remember techniques or make you better? Do you even do anything
with them?

For the first 2 years of my training I wrote down every single
technique that I learned. I would go home and then type out every
single detail that I could remember. I would categorize the
movements, date them, and I even made a color key so I knew right
away what type of category each technique fell under. Around the 2
year mark I compiled about 400 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques that
I learned in class. I was a true collector of techniques. I wanted
to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Now am I saying you should do what I did? Definitely not! Why?
Because I took all of that time to write down all of these
techniques and I must have only reviewed them only 10 times max. I
realized that just because I wrote down everything I learned didn't
mean that I was going to remember everything. Another thing I
realized was that the task was very monotonous and didn't have any
real significance in regards to what I needed to get better at in
my grappling.

It turned into the equivalence of collecting baseball cards but
instead I was just collecting techniques. Once I realized that this
approach wasn't really benefiting me, I didn't stop taking notes
but I decided to change my approach so that if I was going to take
notes it was going to be in a way that would actually help me get

Here is what I did:

-- I stopped writing down every technique that I learned

-- I only focused on things I was having trouble with. If you
focus on actual problems you are facing then it will be more likely
that you'll remember what you learned and it will help you improve
your actual game right away.

-- Everything I wrote down in training was in the form of a
question or I would have a question at least related to everything
I wrote down. Why? Because if I wrote it down in question form,
then I would be well prepared to ask that question to someone who
may know the answer and it will help them relay the information
easier back to me.

-- I realized that the one important aspect of my training that
I wasn't taking notes on was my rolling. So after each training
session I would go home and I would write down questions that
related to that nights rolling. The reason I started doing this was
because during rolling you experience issues that you really are
having trouble with. These are areas that affect what you are
actually trying to do, so these are the things you should focus on
more then anything. Examples of the types of things I would write
down after rolling would be.

----- How can I stop my opponent from turning their hip down on
me in half guard?
----- What can I do to open my opponent's closed guard if I'm
having trouble?
----- When I'm in the guard I keep getting caught in a triangle
choke. How can I prevent this?
----- How can I stop my partner from getting the guard back
when I have them in side control position?
----- I went for a hug choke but for some reason I couldn't get
it. What was I doing wrong?
----- How can I stop from getting mounted?

-- After I would write down the question, I would reflect on
what happened in regards to that question I asked. The reason I
would do this is for a couple of reasons actually. It will help me
try to figure out what I might have been doing wrong myself and it
will also help me tell my instructor what I felt happening during
the situation so he can better assist me in fixing the problem.

For example if I had the question "What can I do to open my
opponent's closed guard?" I would write down what I remembered
happening such as:

----- He kept pulling down on my head.
----- I couldn't open my training partners guard by using my
----- When I tried to put my knee under my partner's butt I
would lose my balance.

Additional Tips

To make this even better you should take advantage of your breaks
between rolling. When you are done rolling each time go straight to
your notebook and jot down one issue you want to address that
happened during that rolling session. Whether it was a problem you
had that your opponent was causing or a problem you had that you
couldn't quite figure out to do yourself. If you roll four times
during one training session then you should have four different
issues to address. Or you can mark off a particular issue if it
happens again in a different rolling session with an asterisk,
which is noting that particular issue as a primary focus that you
need to address. You don't have to think of a question to write
during this time. Just write down something to help you remember
the issue.

Then when you go home take each issue that you wrote down and
create a question for each one. You now should have four questions
related to your training in regards to what happened during your
live rolling sessions. These questions will be more important then
any technique that you decide to write down because they are issues
that you really had trouble with. They happened while you were
going against a resisting opponent.

The goal is to improve upon your current game as much as possible.
Expand it and make it better.

As you train more and more you should have a list of questions in
your notebook related to your current issues. Some questions may
come up frequently and those particular questions you should mark
down as "very important". Those should be the areas you address
more then others because you want to prevent yourself from
experiencing the same problems over and over again.

Remember also to note your experiences in regards to the situation
you created the question about so you have some information to feed
to your instructor when you approach him. If you have readily
prepared questions and experiences corresponding to that question
you will help your instructor a lot in regards to them being able
to help you even more.

Now that you are building a list of questions in regards to your
game, what can you do with those questions?

-- After class pull out your notebook then look at the your
questions (along with your experiences related to the questions)
and ask your instructor at least one question. This question is
very important because it's a real problem you had. Usually one or
two questions max (mostly one) is good because other students may
have questions also.

-- Use these question so you can be prepared if you decide to
take a private lesson with someone. To have a set list of questions
when you attend a private lesson is a great courtesy to both you
and your instructor you're meeting with. It will make the lesson
much more productive, it will run smoother, and you'll get a lot
more out of it.

-- You can even use these questions to ask fellow grapplers on
the internet and see what they can come up with or what experiences
they have in relation to your issue.

The main point is to have actual questions that related to real
problems you're having in your training. Don't waste your rolling
time. That is the time where you should actually be taking notes.
After each training session you should have a minimum of two
questions created related to what happened when you were rolling
with your partners. You may not get a chance to address each
question right away and your list of questions my build up faster
then they are checked off as "addressed" but at least you know
exactly what it is that you need to work on and what it is you
should ask for help on.

Be on the lookout for a Part 2 on taking notes which will talk
about how to effectively take notes of techniques you learn in
class without becoming just a "collector"!

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to reply to
this e-mail.

Jason Scully a.k.a The Grapplers Guide
BJJ Black Belt

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yes, I counted.

Competition class tonight. Temp outside 97, heat index 103. Who knows what it was in the academy but even with the fans going, after the two hour regular class, it was warm, stuffy, moist and stinky. Fortunately Donald didn't make us do any conditioning or warmup.

Instead, he broke us down quickly into teams for takedown sharkpits. Each group had a different takedown. Double, modified double, and 2 different judo takedowns-- the tipping refrigerator and the steering wheel (I can't recall the Japanese names, which Donald used and I should know, but am braindead...) The modified double was pretty tiring, and I got kneeled on (ouch) and crunched on my shoulder (ouch) and twisted a finger (ouch). Then on the footsweep one, everyone else seemed to get it more or less, but for me. I tried, and I tried, but the angels cried and pouted... nature averted her eyes, and Donald had to intervene.

After he told me ignore the feet and focus on the kuzushi, I got more praise from him in one night than maybe I've gotten my whole life from him.

Four beautifuls, one perfect, and a good.

Nope, didn't count all the not-those comments before the intervention. They don't count.

A clean desk is the sign of a dirty mind.

So, earlier today I finished one massive project at work and needed to get moving on a second. I decided to clean off my desk and do some filing for an hour, as a diversion.

Happened to stumble across a stack of notes from various jiu jitsu classes, seminars, and whatnot.

I'm psyched. Theoretically at least, this will all be easily-understood review material. I see a seven-sweep series, sweeps and counters, the Marcelo nogi seminar, chokes from guard series, and several other yummy treats.

Do you take notes? When, how, and is it helpful? Discuss.


When last we left the heroine [that's me] it was Friday open mat. As I sit here trying to remember exactly what we did Friday night open mat, then Sat and Sun classes, then Monday morning class and this morning class, I think I need to train less of a certain kind of class and much, much more of another.

The kind of class that's not as helpful to me is the one that's purely technique. I just feel like at this particular moment in my training, it's unlikely that twice a day we'll have a class that focuses on 4-5 techniques that fit what I am working on.

Instead, I am preferring classes with lots of conditioning, one technique or maybe two, then tons of positional sparring. I can fit one new or refresher technique into the brain, but then when positional sparring, I have a way of working into the position I'm focusing on more. I would say that my primary focus now is passing guard and secondary focus is playing it. Or I need more one on one time with better people, where I get to be dummy for their new stuff [thank goodness for osmosis] and they get to walk me through my baby steps. Drilling with no resistance for a million reps is good, I guess, but I actually prefer just 5 reps, and then a little resistance. Five more, then maybe 20% resistance, and so on till you're just sparring from the position. It helps me more, anyway.

I did have a good time rolling with Vidush and Phil yesterday morning. Good work on halfguard passing, first. Then later, instinctively reached for DLR guard w/Phil at one point and even said aloud that I had no clue what I was doing, but noticed that apparently pushing his knee away with my other foot was part good. Would've been better if I could have done something after, like get up on top? But that's a lot to ask. Just fun to play with it. I do want a more efficient side escape. As he pointed out, I'm good at getting the knee in there, but my upper body stays flat. I need to make something happen, decisively, instead of just moving one step at a time and pausing between.

Feel like I totally wasted class this morning. The heroine's usual sidekicks (Vidush, Phil, and to a lesser extent, Shama, Richard, Sean and/or Travis) were unavailable, so she...

Okay-- where'd the third-person perspective come from? Heck, I'm no heroine. It just sounded good. Anyway..

... didn't prioritize arriving quite so early. I didn't even get out of the house till 7, so rolled into class around 7:30. Mark, the new brown belt, was teaching and it looked like a variation on torso control for armbars. I ended up getting some hints on a kimura/armbar series from Andrew, a BIG freaking blue who writes Swollen Ears. Then straight into rolling; first a few rounds with Mark who generously let me work through a few things. My standing guard passes need better balance. I see things that Ian would have handled easily, but I'm off base which limits my range of movement, and once you start tipping, it's all over. Second with Andrew who made it obvious that I need a better side escape. When someone who weighs at least 180 settles in nice and tight, it. just. plain. sucks.

Comp class tonight. Hope Donald is back in town to teach it.

For a little treat, Stephen Kesting just put out this nice video of 5 basic types of triangles. Enjoy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Evil, wicked workouts for fighters...

I want to call a little attention to my buddy Mark, who writes The Bat Dojo. Mark's a purple under Collin Grayson and Marcelo Garcia up near Dallas. Not only is he a network security whiz (with HILARIOUS stories about the neighbors' use of his honeypot wifi) and a very talented photographer (with hundreds, it seems, of hot women friends who beg him to do boudoir and nightclub shots!)... but he's got a tight grappling game, a great aptitude for teaching, and more energy and motivation to train than almost anyone I know.

Recently, he started this blog to talk about his at-home training facility a/k/a The Bat Dojo, and about his torture/exercise plans. Read this latest post of his describing a workout. I really like the fact that he includes shots of the scene and the victims.

Makes me tired just reading it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Training.. training..

Friday at open mat I had a rollercoaster ride.

First, I rolled with a small male blue who is visiting for the summer from another school. For what it's worth he has one stripe. Interestingly he's smaller than I am (I've been eating watermelon, fried chicken, banana bread, blah blah blah) by about 10 lbs, but he's probably similar in height.

I've rolled with him before and now I know it's not a cakewalk. He has a tight guard game, though very basic and elementary. (That just makes it more frustrating when he eats me with it.) If you're not careful, he'll just forcibly mutate you into an armbar victim. If you are careful, he'll get you into scissor guard and bait you to suck up halfguard, then he'll cross collar choke you while you think you pass. MFer. I must be insane because I did the same, same, same thing 4 times in a row (producing increasingly gargle-y sounds before I did, yes 4 times, tap.) He also has a strong butterfly game. I thought my private with Daniel made my butterfly pass become kryptonite but I was wrong.

This was annoying. More annoying was the internal dialogue. "Dammit" and "sheesh" and "not again!" And then even MORE annoying... I quelled my sophomoric stiff-necked-ness and asked what would help against his cross collar choke, but then got irritated when he also started to tweak my butterfly pass. What's the matter with me? Stupid to resent someone being helpful. Stupid to let my ego get involved. I hope he couldn't tell what I was thinking. I want mentoring. I just don't want it from people I theoretically outrank. Because then it feeds into my conviction that I am overranked. But anyway.

So I got over that by ending the flagellation (one step in the right direction-- sense when you're getting emotional and take a break.) There was a whitebelt sitting around so I asked him to roll.

This is the up part of the rollercoaster. I won't belabor the point, I'll just say I successfully swept him from half butterfly/elevator a few times (even though he's 6'5"!) I also [cue momentous music] got my second ever triangle to submission of a fully-resisting adult male. [/music]

It was something I had to work my derriere off to get, of course. But somehow that made it all the better.

Maybe I can't keep up with other blues in my "class" who get better faster, grasp the game more easily, develop more sophisticatedly, apply themselves more efficiently, learn more intuitively. But maybe I can still, eventually, find other ways to beat their asses.

Even if it's just at baking. And then making them fat. :)

p.s. I did put that 3rd stripe back on my belt, last weekend, before a girlfriend who trains came in town to visit. I didn't want to get an earful from her. Congrats to her, by the way, for winning her division as a whitebelt at her first ever tournament! And best wishes for a safe smooth move with her husband to their new posting in North Carolina.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Help survivors of domestic violence....

Launching One Hundred Dollars, One Hundred Donors, One Hundred Days!

The Little Black Dress Society is raising money for the Kendall County Women's Shelter in Boerne, Texas where there currently is no shelter. I am asking for your help to make this campaign a success to set an example for other Societies to follow in their cities! Many small towns across the nation are without shelters.

Women living in Kendall County have to go 30 or more miles to a shelter. In most cases this means uprooting their children from school and/or leaving their jobs. Because of the distance, the likelihood of them leaving an abusive situation is very slim.

When their website launches next month, women across the nation will be able to start a Society in their community and kick off their own campaign to build more shelters.

Their goal for the One Hundred Dollars, One Hundred Donors, One Hundred Days campaign is to raise $10,000 in 100 days to donate to the shelter, slated to break ground in September 2010. They're challenging 100 members, individuals, groups, or companies to match the original $100 given to the founder, Amanda.

She was given a $100 bill and the challenge to make a difference in her community. She took that $100 and matched it with $100 of her own... and now I'm challenging others to do the same.

Get involved by donating online at the Kendall County Women's Shelter website. Make sure to mention LBD Society in the message field of the online form.

Join the challenge! Encourage your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family to participate. Together we can make an impact on families touched by abuse.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Ohhhhhhhhhh goshi... (gesundheit)

The major hip toss:

An unusual one from the other side, maybe a minute in:

Please sign this petition.

The same company that just brought you the most catastrophic oil spill in American history is now planning a risky new project that would use untested drilling technology in Alaska's Beaufort Sea -- the heart of America's polar bear habitat.

The leaks from corroded pipelines in 2006 and 2009 aren't enough to scare BP off of more dangerous drilling, apparently. Read more about it here.

BP's so-called Liberty Project would use the biggest rig in the world -- propped up by a manmade gravel island three miles from shore -- to drill up to eight miles horizontally, exposing pipes to the same kind of explosive gas kicks that led to the blowout in the Gulf.

In other words, this latest BP project is a disaster waiting to happen!

Please help stop it by signing this urgent Petition of Protest to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

You might have thought BP would lay low after the Gulf disaster: focusing on the cleanup effort and repairing its dismal environmental record.

Instead, the company is planning to begin drilling this fall in one of the two Polar Bear Seas that are home to HALF of our nation's polar bears.

Here's a few facts about BP's Liberty Project:

Even though it's three miles offshore, this project is NOT subject to President Obama's moratorium on offshore drilling in the Arctic! That's because the operation is built on a 31-acre manmade gravel island. In other words, BP is getting a free pass based on a technicality.

BP is prepared to drill up to eight miles horizontally in search of oil, even though this type of drilling is even more prone to gas kicks like the one that caused the huge blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. In order to drill these unprecedented wells, BP has commissioned the building of the largest drilling rig in the world!

Shockingly, BP was allowed to write its own environmental assessment and emergency response plan for the Liberty Project, just like it did in the Gulf. And we know what happened there.

The Obama Administration needs to make clear that the days of BP running the show are over.

Tell Secretary Salazar to stop the Liberty Project immediately by denying BP's application to drill. He is unlikely to do that unless he hears a groundswell of public opposition -- starting with you.

BP's horrendous environmental record is well documented. It is already responsible for the 2010 Gulf disaster, the 2006 oil spill on Alaska's North Slope (the largest oil spill to date in the region) and the 2005 Texas City explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 more.

We can't afford a repeat performance in the Arctic. High winds, freezing temperatures and dangerous sea ice could make cleanup impossible. The nearest Coast Guard station is over 1,000 miles away, and much of the oil spill response equipment on-site is more than two decades old!

Tell Secretary Salazar to prevent a disaster on ice by saying No to BP.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What the.....

I just have to laugh a little. Spent about an hour this morning with the patient help of a good friend, exploring the intersection of my open guard pass (which, thanks to Liam aka TPTG, tries to have a straight back and a staggered stance) with his De La Riva guard sweepy-take-your-back position.

I really do like the exploration side of jiu jitsu. It's so easy to flow back and forth between cooperative and scientific examination of physics and body mechanics (hmm, what happens if I do this?) and the defiance of the adversarial system (then I'll do this!) and the pleasure of success (and you'll get nowhere!/and you'll sweep me like a dusty floor!)

So that was my morning. Vidush wants to get DLR guard, and then take the back, of his standing opponent. I pretended to be his opponent (but don't often fight DLR very long, so I wasn't sure I was a quality uke.) For a while he just played with that, varying grips and pressures while I tried to surf the position, maintain my base, and advance to a better place. I wasn't terribly successful, but neither was he (at getting my back. Sweeps were working fine.)

Then, we worked through/he taught me some basics of another open guard pass, involving knee grips, foot position, and posture that made me feel like I was kneeling on his hamstring. He pointed out it's just like knee on belly, but standing in his guard. Hmm. Good stuff. Eventually we got into a semi-positional sparring mode. I learned that IF I can get my foot in the right place and IF I can get the good pressure forwards BEFORE he gets feet on my hips, I can manage. So I trotted out of the shower at the academy all fresh, squeaky clean, and perkily confident that I could handle at least a whitebelt open guard tonight.


Came to class around 5:45pm and the air in the academy was like... soup. Warm, thick, wet. Really not suited to bringing oxygen into the lungs. Like cake batter against the skin, only NOT smelling so good. Actually, didn't smell much, but it was like inhaling warm water. (Until Amit sat down near me. The man bleaches his gis all the time. Smells like summertime and fresh clean swimming pools and all manner of good clean fun. I love it. Men, take note. Do I need another post about why gis shouldn't smell like catbox?!)

After technique and 4 promotions (two to bluebelt! and Anthony and David got 4th and 2nd stripes on their blue and purple, respectively!) we had some positional sparring round robins. First I landed with Tommy, a serious and respectable purple. Um. What the...!?!? First I went for the knee grips. Gone! without the grips, I can't control his damn feet! They're pushing on my hips! Grabbing for the knees again... dammit stripped again! And with the foot/feet on the hips I can't get my foot in the right place, I can't pressure forwards on the hamstring, I can't control the hips, damn his paws. Damn his feet. Shit swept again. What the...!!!!

Phew, Coach calls time. Next I landed with one of the new blues, a really nice guy whose name I don't know. He's playing open guard. PERFECT!

Except, um, crap. I keep the grips this time, have the hamstring pressure. But not enough, the damn hips are moving! I'm slipping! Pond of sweat on the mat and my foot slides and I'm on my knees and I'm in half guard. OK. Not bad. I like half guard. I can put in some mean shoulder pressure. Nope. He's coming up! I'm scrood!

.... phew, time again.

After a few rotations, I'm back to Tommy. He tweaks, encourages. Good deal. Then we switch peeps and sides and I am bottom half guard now, against another tremendous purple. I have an answer (though lumbering, inefficient, slow and ugly) for passes where they face my head... but shizzle for the reverse pass. Start again. Try for one of Sean's weirder half guard passes, but I can't get the knee grip behind myself. (Don't ask.) Kept the underhook against his wizzer when I should have gone for Scott's sweep with the clamped wing. But it's progress. I'm remembering stuff. I'm recognizing stuff. Late but better than never.

Monday, July 05, 2010

It's all about the guard.

I really need to just suck it up and play guard over, and over.. get passed over, and over.. and keep coming back for more. Instead it seems like I'm working my passing. What makes me laugh is that people always say by working on your guard, you can see what you need to do to pass-- but rarely (it seems) does working on your pass carry benefits for your guard.

I've been training so much lately that I can't keep the rolls separate in my mind, but the last couple I had today are still fresh. I keep trying to do the standing open guard pass that Daniel showed me, but I'm getting hung up in butterfly hooks and DLR hooks. It's also hard to tell when their grip is something you can ignore for the moment and when you need to stop the presses and strip it before progressing. I was (nicely) told today that I'm too timid and lacking in confidence with my movements. I can see this. What intrigued me was that this person went on to contrast my approach to him (bigger, also a blue belt) with my approach to whitebelts and new blues or smaller people (he said I'm much more aggressive and experimental with them). I didn't realize people examine my rolling to that degree. I kind of watch people with one eye on them and one eye on another rolling pair. Maybe I should be paying closer attention.

Sleepy. 2 hours open mat at lunch and really got a good sweat going. Unfortunately my gi is in my trunk, all wet and stewy in the heat. Blech. I think I'm going to catch a quick nap and head back for more rolls.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Privates are good.

Not the personal body parts, not the military rank. Private lessons.

Especially with someone as talented, down to earth, enthusiastic and successful as Daniel Moraes, a Royler blackbelt who also affiliates with Relson. Five time world champ, too. That's him on the left, with the 8-pack. On the right is our head instructor, Phil Cardella.

Wish I'd had the cash for an actual private, but even sharing it with another guy from the academy was really helpful. I hoped to be able to smashingly, convincingly pass any mere open guard afterwards. Alas, privates are not the jits equivalent of Dumbo's magic feather, but I'm optimistic that I have more building blocks to play with and of course plenty of willing partners for experiments.

I am still finding frustrations in my rolls. Once the seal is broken, it seems it's been easier to go have another good cry in the bathroom, but I consider it a step in the right direction that my internal voice is no longer nattering on about how I don't deserve my rank. More, I'm just plain effing mad. I seem to recall having this experience before. Seems like it was a couple months of this (which looking back was a plateau) right before a jump up. So, coolio, I'm all right with bopping my head against a few brick walls with the hope that in time I'll look up and see the rope ladder, or whatnot.

Leila's doing well, considering. Lots more motion, lots more confidence in her motion. She'll be in the rehab hospital for another three weeks, then home plus outpatient rehab for a while. Prognosis is murky but if she's doing this well one week after breaking her neck, it seems like it must be good.

Have fun watching UFC tonight. Looks like the pool party/potluck BBQ we'd planned for tomorrow is rained out, so we've rescheduled for the end of the month, after a jits tourney in Houston (next weekend) and one in Ft. Worth (the following)... neither of which will see my shiny face in competition. Money's tight and as I've said, I enjoy training so much more when I'm not prepping for a competition.