Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taking it out on the whitebelts.

Side Control wrote a great post today about the necessity of training routinely with smaller or less experienced people, with whom you can experiment, develop new techniques, and focus less on your "A" game.

Go read it, I'll wait.

I think his post helps articulate something that's been bugging me lately about my training and my game. I think it might resonate with other small jiu jitsu people out there, and maybe women in jits generally. My theory is this: smaller people and women (less upper body strength, even if you're a big tall lady) develop different games in different orders and at a different rate than bigger/male people. Why? Because for the first year or two or three, you rarely roll with those "smaller or less experienced people" with whom you can play your non-A-game stuff.

Of course we all start out in the same place ("A game? what's an A game?") but I've always felt like I failed to develop an A game at the same pace as my male counterparts. And now, what I view as my A game would still be the B or C game for them, in terms of quality and quantity of execution.

I admit for a while I wandered around feeling disgruntled* at times, wondering when I would get to spar someone and try new, unfamiliar, unpracticed stuff with any success.

Lately I have though... I've triangled a couple people a couple times, I've swept people with new stuff, I've played tons more guards with more success than I thought possible. And they're all whitebelts. Not redshirts-who-should-be-bluebelts but real true whitebelts. So I'm torn between happily mounting experimental assaults on this pool of willing victims for my own benefit (see above) and taking it easy on them, letting them work their stuff, blah blah blah.

I know as a blue belt that I'm really only a short step up the ladder from them, and I know how much I owe to all the higher belts (but especially the ones one rank up) for their untiring generosity to me. I really feel strongly that I should be as encouraging and helpful as possible with all the whitebelts.

On the other hand, I do get tired of having to go close to 100%, A-game only, all the time. I can hear it now-- "Well, G, just say you want to go light!" :)  It works sometimes with some people, but not as often as you'd think.  I totally understand the psychology behind it and I'm not upset by it, I just wish it were different.  And people can't change what they weigh.  If your technique is solid, you can compensate for weight.  Developing solid technique requires forgiving situations where you can sort of play "warmer/cooler" to explore what the right movement should be.

So I lately have found myself doing 3-4 rolls with each whitebelt.  If they're really solid and technical and good I will still have to give it my all to avoid being crushed like a bug (ahem Marc, Zack, etc etc.)  If they're newer, I'll do two rolls where I work my stuff and (happily) doing a little crushing of my own... then two more where I settle back and let them work.

This must seem really lame that someone who's trained two years is happy she can beat some whitebelts (not even all!)  Especially seems lame to me when my cohorts wearing blue belts are hunting purples and browns, and routinely handling other blues with relative ease.  I dream of hunting blues :)  But until then...

THANK YOU whitebelts, you are a big help to me.

*This is a weird word. Where, o where has my gruntle gone?

p.s. Zen Mojo wrote a really nice follow-up post here.


Anonymous said...

You're not taking advantage of them. You're teaching them to not get stuck in traingles, and to keep their balance so they won't get swept. Which is a nice thing, not a mean one.

Also, when you're as small as we are you take your victories where you find them.

SkinnyD said...

I found your gruntle:

Who knew?

SavageKitsune said...

I never get to crush anybody. :( There's one poor little white belt who is even tinier than me, and I don't want to crush her because I figure EVERYONE crushes her. So I always let her work, but I do make a point of doing one or two scissor sweeps on her.... because they're fun to do, and I can't get them on anyone else!

I do wish there were some people below me on the ladder, so that I could try out the drill-of-the-day during sparring afterward. I think it would stick a lot better if I got to try it a few times. I'm always too busy trying to survive to be able to experiment with any new moves.

Neilis said...

Well you're welcome, but you don't really have to say thank you because that's what we're here for.

And besides, every time you roll with us you make us better. When you play a little harder we learn about defending and we go away to learn how to stop you doing whatever it was you just did, when you give us some space and let us work we learn about how to do stuff that one day we'll help some other white belt learn how to defend.

fenix said...

I don't know how you do it...

I mull over stuff in my head and think about articulating it, and then you've already written about it :-)

THIS is exactly what has been concerning me lately. Especially after yesterday's class, where I was all over a whitebelt guy when we rolled - a choke here, an armbar there
... and enjoyed it
... and felt somewhat guilty afterwards (but not much)

I always try to help the new guys, but sometimes I need to work on sweeps and subs. Like you, I try to find a happy medium. I feel I have paid my dues on the bottom and on the receiving end. So I shouldn't feel guilty. Neither should you.

leslie said...

Lol, sounds like you pulled this post straight out of my brain. :P No A-game, happy if I'm even with most white belts and any blues, only a few whites I can whip up on (bless their little hearts), can only hunt higher belts when they're playing around.

The "light" thing -- I think some people are convinced that they are going light. I don't usually bother saying that except to the few who I know can modulate their game, and even then I always add that if I start going harder, that they're welcome to return the favor.

JCC-CSV said...

I have learned a ton of technique from you! You are an awesome roll partner.

Dev said...

BRILLIANT post. I tried to say something similar when I was talking about being a good training partner, but I screwed it all up, and as it turned out, you pulled the thought out of my brain, which makes all the more sense as to why I couldn't write it correctly. THIEF! :)

slideyfoot said...

Yeah, that was a good post: shame that Side Control doesn't have an option to comment on their blog, or I'd encourage them to post more stuff like that. :)

I like this follow-up too, and totally agree. I'm small, so I'll often use small, inexperienced white belts to work stuff. Resistance training is at the core of BJJ, but in order to learn the technique, you need to try it out against less experienced, smaller people first (easier said than done when you're not particularly experienced or big... ;p).

At the same time, it is important that you let those fresh white belts try stuff too at some point (e.g., give them an opportunity to practice what you just learned in class, leave some room for them to escape and see if they take it, move to a weaker position instead of just crushing them from side/mount etc), rather than just using them as a training dummy every roll.

Liam H Wandi said...

Jiu jitsu is a give and take. I used to be guilty of give give give and now I balance things out. Often I ask white belts to start in mount or even with me in their submissions and I take it easy and try to be as technical as possible:

and sometimes I go for the: ATTACK ME WIZ ALL YOUR MIGHT! version.

It's a wonderful environment where most of the damage and hurt is psychological and (ideally) no one hates eachother and it's hard work. Back and fro.

As for the "lame" feeling of satisfaction of beating white belts, I have very strong opinions on that:

White belts are 99% of the earth's population. It ain't no small feat my friend. Everytime you survive un-tapped under someone bigger than you is a HUGE triumph, nevermind sweeping, reversing and tapping them.

always, ALWAYS give yourself a pat on the back after every session.

Hahaha pat is tap backwards :o)

Georgette said...

ya'll are some sweettalkers :)

Zen Mojo said...

I think rolling white belts is one of the those essential things you need for growth. We all need that safer environment to experiment and learn to "trust" your jiu jitsu.

That said, it also our responsibility to bring those white belts along by feeding them openings and "teaching" through our rolls. If a roll is 6 minutes long I might work what I need to work for 4 minutes and then make sure my partner gets at least 2 minutes getting to be the aggressor.

I also think there is a ton that you learn from being outclassed size wise. I always joke that I'm 220 lbs. in my mind (I'm really 165) as I seek out the heavyweights in our club to roll with. It lets me know which techniques I really know vs. which ones I think I know.

I'll try not to clutter up your comments section with more and just write some more on my blog tonight...

Zen Mojo said...

...just posted my additional ramblings - give it a look if you like:

Anonymous said...

I think you make valid points but I would argue that a lot of guys have issues too.

As a relatively big guy I often grapple with other big guys and even with 7 years of grappling experience a big strong dude is still a big strong dude! I have to be careful at all times and pay attention to detail. If I do that then it is often easy to submit newer guys and lower belts (or should I say white belts since I am a blue belt with what I call purple belt tendencies) But if I relax then as you know they can submit you on strength alone. I have been submitted with non technical head squeezes, belly fat and by guys who just grabbed something and pulled as hard as they could. I often have to grapple with guys who have never been paired with lightweights (men or women).

In my new academy it is even worse for me because our instructor does all of the matching through the entire class so as one of the smaller big guys I am often matched with giants. Some classes I am never able to wrap my legs around an opponent or can drill technique properly because I always have to modify it because of a partner's girth.

I don't get down about it though because I believe we all have super human qualities based on our sizes, shapes, etc. Mine happen to be that I am strong, pretty quick and can do things like just sit up when someone has me in their best side control. I would love to be able to put someone in a real rubber guard or play inverted guard or constantly switch position. But then I probably wouldn't be able to latch on a knuckle choke for the tap within seconds of mounting someone.

Anonymous said...

<--Yay me :) (white belt) lol Just left a comment on Zen's blog, so I won't totally repeat myself here, but I like it when people who are better then me roll with me cause I learn more that way too...I get little hints and clarifications--hey, you're doing this wrong, or try putting your hand/weight/etc here...Yay for rolling with white belts :)

Deborah Clem said...

Yes yes and yes. My competition game has left me angry and frustrated on more than occasion. I used to spend so much time training with larger men, that I developed a strong, but slow defense, and a weak offense. Come to find out, rolling with a wiry spider monkey-like She-Ra (Beatrice Mesquita anyone?) is not only as difficult as rolling with large men, sometimes it's harder. A large man is not going to change positions and rip around around your frame like a tornado, but that sweet looking 100 pound girl in the rooster division might make you dizzy.

Point being, now I seek out same size training partners, and push my speed. Low and behold, I am starting to develop and offense.

A.D. McClish said...

As usual, I identify so much with your post. You have explained very well the same exact thing I struggle with at times! Recently though, one white belt girl I grapple with helped me put this into perspective. I think I will go write a post about it and link to this post because it really opened my eyes about the whole "To submit, or not submit" thing I struggle with about whitebelt girls. GREAT post.