Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whose responsibility is it?

Hi all!  Coming to you from NY and sorry for not having posted in a bit.  IVF is going well-- surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning to remove the eggs, hooray!  My ovaries are each about softball-sized right now and I'm feeling like I ate two Thanksgivings.  Oy!  So after this, I will go home and recover, and take some super-serious anti-immune-problem medications, and prepare for an embryo transfer in a month or three.  (In the meantime my embryos will be vitrified at the lab.)

In the meantime, I'm going to take a huge risk and post a comment here on my blog regarding something I read elsewhere which was brought to my attention by a friend.  I couldn't comment on the original site (maybe I'm just dense, couldn't find the comment spot!)

The post is here: http://gi3girls.com/2012/06/im-a-bjj-practitionerand-a-girl/.  By the way, congrats to Jen, the author, on her brown belt which is well-earned and deserved.

Here's my comment.. whose responsibility is it to protect training partners in that situation?

And here's my thought:  while the person who launched into some kind of flying kimura was clearly taking things too far... and while it sucks to be promoted right before Mundials especially via a tough-as-nails belt challenge like this... it's ALWAYS ultimately OUR responsibility to protect OURSELVES by tapping.  (Not that Jen could have tapped in time given the description of that flying kimura!  but perhaps she could have tapped in many other rolls after that?) As soon as you are injured, you tap.  There are no points for "winning" in the academy.  There is only learning.  If people allow their pride and determination to continue to force themselves into positions where they worsen their injuries, that is THEIR  fault because training partners can't be expected to read their mind. 

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Common BJJ beginner questions...

I received this email from a new BJJ practitioner and thought I would share with you her (anonymous) questions and my answers, for whatever they're worth!

I recently discovered your blog and I was wondering if I could ask you a question. I started BJJ this spring, and since then I've learned a lot, but sometimes it feels like too much. I feel like my instructor just taught me a bunch of moves for a variety of situations but I just can't remember them all-- or if I'm put into a position, my brain just starts going wild thinking about, should I submit, choke, sweep? and if I choose one, even more options come up and finally when I decide to do something, my opponent has already escaped. I've tried to just sort out which ones work best for my size, position, etc. but the next week my instructor would ask me to demonstrate a sweep that I don't use in rolling so I perform it poorly. Is there any kind of balance? Any kind of trick to help me remember everything?


Dear ___________,

OK-- finally, at a real keyboard! sorry for the delay!

What you described is 100% totally normal and was experienced by all of us as we began jiu jitsu.  I will say that there are probably 3-4 instructors I know of in the world who would not have you feeling this way-- but only because they structure the learning opportunities for rank beginners very differently AND they have ridiculously exceptional grasp of the theory of BJJ AND the ability to teach. 

I'm sure you know, being able to do something is not necessarily proof that you can TEACH something, and rarely do the two run together!  Plus, most classes are comprised of a range of experience levels, so the "bottom" people who just started have to kind of tag along as best they can.  It's a steep learning curve the first year (or if you're like me, year or two...)  BUT it's not YOU, it's everyone, so just keep plugging away...the short version is--- relax (impossible) and ride with it... eventually, it will start making more and more sense, either because of the natural progression of learning BJJ, or because your instructors get better, or both.

One thing you can do to help yourself process things and be more systematic is to think about BJJ outside of class.  What you're really lacking at this point is a plan... a program of action.  Kind of a recipe-- when a little kid approaches a street corner, mom always tells them "stop-- look both ways-- listen for a car."  You need the same kind of simplistic 1-2-3 kind of plan at the beginning which hopefully can be expanded and adapted to incorporate new stuff. 

I learned this when I was training about 3 months in a haphazard horrible way, and had been at a real BJJ school a week.  I decided I was going to compete!  (Get it out of the way when I couldn't possibly expect much of myself.)  On the way to the tournament with some teammates, they asked me what my gameplan was.  (I laughed.)  The advice I received was, pick your favorite submission. I said-- "uhhhh... I don't have one!"  They said PICK ONE-- so I randomly picked "guillotine." The next advice: Always go for that submission if you can't think of anything else to do.  (In other words-- if someone GIVES you a triangle, don't struggle to get them out of it so you can do your guillotine.  But when lost, go for a guillotine.)  The last piece of advice: if you're not in a position where you can go for a guillotine, get into better position.

This was great for me.  It reinforced that my ultimate goal is not points, not stalling, not anything other than submission.  It gave me a clarity I needed desperately.  And while it was no good at all as far as HOW to get into better position... it was a good starting point.  It helped me narrow down what felt like a yawning chasm of amorphous opportunity-- when I did have some kind of dominant position, it foreclosed those moments of freezing while thinking-- in which people always started causing problems by MOVING, durn them... and when I was on the bottom, it helped me define everything in terms of "can I do X from here? if not, I must get out of here." 

Think of it like a flow chart.  Maybe easier if you have submission you like that works from top and from guard-- that's probably why I picked guillotine then-- now, I am so top-dependent, it has fostered by sweep game out of sheer desperation to get back on top.. But the flow chart in its simplest sense goes like this:

Where am I?  If on top, go to X or submission.  If on bottom-- can I do X sub? can I do Y sub? If yes, do it.  If not, sweep, get to top.  Then go back to "if on top."

When you have only one sweep, for instance, you need to work very hard on understanding the physical elements that make the other person likely to be swept by that sweep.  A scissor sweep is a basic early-beginner sweep, but it's also very hard to do if they're sitting back on their haunches, which is the easy defense.  So you can't just try to FORCE them to be swept-- you'll sit there with legs akimbo and they'll pass.  Sometimes it is best for beginners to only learn a couple options from each position because it forces them (and their classmates) to really home in on the elemental side of BJJ.  "Hmm, scissor only works when they're putting their momentum forward.  How can I make them do that?"

Now-- the other questions you asked.  When you're rolling, you have to predict that learning new stuff NEVER goes well against people your level and higher.  It just doesn't.  And when you have just begun, there is NO ONE below your level (usually) unless you're a guy and you can out-muscle them.  Sheer force does work, sad to say.  But if you don't have sheer force to rely on, it's okay-- you will develop more slowly, but you will develop better technique than someone who is capable of muscling their opponents inefficiently.  But the longer you keep at it-- and keep trying, regardless of the fact that you will be losing most or all of your "matches" and rolls and rounds and so on.... eventually people will join up after you, and you will have a brief moment or two where you are weaker physically but have better technique. 

(I used to kid, sorta, that for me as a blue belt, there was a two week golden period in the life of every whitebelt-- in which they was experienced enough to not be a danger to me by spazzing, but not experienced enough to overcome my superior technique with just enough technique of his own plus all that muscle.  The trick was watching the new whitebelts and pouncing at the right time so I could use that whole two weeks to experiment and practice my offense.  The better I got, the longer that time period got-- now there's a good 2-3 months of most whitebelts for me.)

Sorry for rambling-- to summarize that-- you will constantly lose, and that's okay.  It doesn't mean anything about whether or not you're learning.

And your last topic issues-- your instructor wants demonstrations but it wasn't what you were practicing and you do it badly.  This too is commonplace.  I struggle with this.  There's simply no way to practice everything equally-- but you should make an effort especially now early on to use your open mat times for drilling.  Just make a list of every technique you have been taught-- it's probably somewhere near 30 by now if not more.  And pick three to five each time you train, and drill each of them just 5-10 times (more if you're determined) with a partner (be sure to give them drilling time too).  Let's say this week you drill sweeps from guard-- scissor, push, flower-- and next week your instructor wants you to show a butterfly sweep.  You screw up-- so what!  He doesn't expect you to do it right and no matter how well you did it, he'd find something to suggest for improvement.  Won't mean you won't be promoted or anything else.  The important thing is, you get into a routine whereby you systematically review and practice all the time.  Sometimes you won't practice the "right" thing to catch the instructor's "cycle" or eye or whatever, but who cares, you are going to be improving.

As for remembering everything-- omg no.  There's no way.  I have two notebooks I use for seminars and privates, and I have a box full of printer-paper-sized pages of notes I used to take during class proper (I'd pinch from the academy printer.)  I have hundreds of pages of exhaustive notes on techniques and I really don't remember anything instinctively outside of what I use all the time.  And instructors know this.  That's why in time you'll realize they repeat, repeat, repeat techniques.  

Every time you see a tech in class, you'll learn maybe 40-50% of it.  You'll go out and try it in live sparring and use it probably badly to one degree or another.  After a couple months maybe he'll show it again-- you'll see an additional 10% that didn't stick out to you the first time because you lacked any experience in trying to implement it yourself.  So you'll practice and try it more and more-- sometimes you'll totally forget a technique the minute class is over and you won't try it at all.  Sometimes what happens is there's no place in your game to park the new technique, so you just never come close to it.  

(Here's my lily pad theory of jiu jitsu.... as students, we learn by hopping from one lily pad of technique to another.  If we only know techniques that are widely scattered apart like lily pads far apart on a lake, we stay on one pad.  As we learn more techniques that are very closely related to the pad we're on, we can "make the leap" from one to the next, and get comfortable and familiar with that "neighborhood."  So you'll see a very common assortment of techniques to be taught together might be-- from closed guard, the armbar, the triangle, and the omoplata.  Or from closed guard, the hip-bump sweep, the kimura, and the guillotine.) 


Anyway, that was my long ramble on her questions.  Your advice and input is, as always, welcome :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to deal with an inappropriate woman in your academy.

This topic came up in a discussion recently, and one of the participants offered to write a guest post here on the subject.  I should point out that this type of misbehavior is extremely rare (I've only seen it once in nearly 4 years of training) and this is not a case of "She's pretty, the guys like her, I think she's flirting and I hate her."  If you've never experienced this lady in your academy, be grateful-- but on occasion, ladies like this DO check out BJJ and can pose a temporary hiccup in the smooth life of even the most high-minded, professional school.

I'll leave it in their words (anonymously!) but I will add my own thoughts in italics and brackets.  Thank you Anonymous!

The Inappropriate Woman

I.  Who is she?
     A.  She makes comments of a sexual manner while drilling or rolling.
     B.  She interrupts the instructor with comedic sexual commentary.
     C.  She positions her body in a sexual nature on he partner during training sessions. 
D.  She wears inappropriate attire to class-- lingerie in lieu of athletic bra, makeup, omits tshirt or rashguard, or wears tanktops that reveal the lingerie underneath.  Clearly not a case of "oops, forgot to wipe off lipstick after work" or "I'm so new, I only have sweatpants and a t-shirt to wear as I haven't bought a gi yet" or "Woops, wearing a thong and my gi pants have slipped down a bit."  
E.  She speaks while the instructor is speaking, or otherwise behaves in a way that shows she is not thinking about what is being taught.  Any behavior which communicates that she's just passing time while her partner(s) are trying to learn goes in this category.
I'm thinking specifically of a young lady who attended our classes for a while in a very tight tanktop which revealed the edges of a leopard-print underwire pushup bra, with yoga pants, and super-thick cat's-eye eyeliner and mascara.  She also giggled inordinately and seemed to see the boob-smother as her ultimate weapon.

II.  What I want to say to her.
     A.  As a woman, I've had to work very hard to earn the respect of my team, for myself and the women that will follow behind me.  Even if we came into a "well-trained" group of jiu jitsu students who respected us from the word 'go' it's possible to tarnish that and spoil it for women who come after you.
     B.  Every time you are inappropriate on the mat, you diminish my hard work.
     C.  To be a fighter you have to be respected for your hard work and your integrity, not your sexual prowess.
     D.  When you are inappropriate on the mat you are sexually harassing your partner.  You are possibly making it difficult for them to concentrate-- they're paying for this time, and they deserve the opportunity to use it to their advantage.  It may be that they can only train once this week, or once today-- why do you get to put your goals and ego gratification ahead of their goals?  And what if his girlfriend/wife decided that today would be the first time she comes to observe a class... now you have infected her with the idea that girls in jiu jitsu are not training partners, that her man will be subject to predation like yours, and not only should she not come and train, but he shouldn't either.  Gee, thanks.  Jiu jitsu might have taught her self-defense skills, might have improved her relationship to her body or to her man...
     E.  No one should have to tolerate sexual harassment, female or male.
III.  Options a person has to dealing with the inappropriate woman on the mat.
     A.  Zero tolerance - Stand up and walk away.
     B.  Direct method - State, "That is NOT appropriate." and move then verbally instruct them on their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu technique.  Be sure to use the word "not" instead of "isn't".
     C.  The politically correct method - In private, tell your instructor that said person makes you uncomfortable and why.  Then request that they discuss proper decorum with said person.
     D.  Old School - A sensei of less politically correct times would say, "Class, you seem distracted.  Do twenty push-ups and refocus your attention on the lesson.
E.  When you're a woman and you observe another woman behaving inappropriately:  This can be tricky-- so much depends on your own position and role within the school.  If you're a whitebelt it can be different than if you're a purple, of course.  
  1. The first time or two it happens, hope that whoever she is partnered with will handle things on their own-- or that the instructor will observe and address it on their own.  But don't feel hesitant about bringing it to your instructor's attention privately.  I say this specifically to women because we all know that what is seen as "direct" or "assertive" in a man will often be attributed to being "a bitch" when coming from a woman.  Thus I advocate a little extra sensitivity and discretion in the woman-to-woman interactions.  
  2. If the behavior continues, personally I suggest attempting to partner with this woman every time she comes to class.  Often this is encouraged anyway, because, well, we're both girls.  Make sure she has a good experience with jiu jitsu so that she will want to train for jiu jitsu's sake-- but help her understand her attire, makeup, or word choice will get in her way and in others' way.  If you need to be direct-- take her aside and quietly say "Next time you come to class, an athletic bra and a tshirt will help make sure nothing shows accidentally, and a poke from an underwire can be very uncomfortable."  In fact, when I was new to jiu jitsu, a purple belt gal from my academy took me aside and told me to start wearing a tshirt or rashie over my athletic bra.  I wasn't trying to get attention, I was just bloody hot, and I didn't think I was at risk of accidental exposure.  She explained to my benefit that sometimes a tshirt will be the only thing saving your modesty.  I'm grateful she explained it to me because she ended up being right-- I've had a slip or two and been relieved that she gave me that advice.
  3. You might consider trying to discern her motivation for behaving as she does-- is it sheer cussedness and desire to be the center of male attention? is she just young and over-friendly? is she nervous and retreating to a place of "safety" because she doesn't know how to deal with having a sweaty guy laying on her, or laying underneath her?  And then after class during conversation, paint a picture of your own beginnings in jiu jitsu, and talk about how you overcome those same feelings (or someone else overcame their feelings if you really can't say it with a straight face.)  Sometimes the temptation is to make the chick miserable so she leaves-- but it's to everyone's advantage to train jiu jitsu, on a spiritual as well as physical level, and she might need jiu jitsu more on this plane than you imagine.  So restrain your irritation and help her understand that it really isn't sexual-- make her focus on not getting choked out by someone who isn't presenting a sexual circumstance-- and be friendly throughout so that someday when she looks back on it, she doesn't feel such embarrassment or mortification that she wants to quit. 
IV.  Don't be a hater.
     A.  As much as I want to despise these inappropriate women, I realize that they are human.
     B.  There are medical conditions that can heighten a person's sex drive, which can lead to inappropriate behavior.
     C.  Pheromones and hormones play a part in our behavior. Read more here!
     D.  If a woman has never been physically active and suddenly finds herself in a sea of sweaty male bodies, her senses can be overwhelmed.  This person will not have the social skills to deal with the situation.
E.  This is what I was talking about above.  There are lots of reasons she might be choosing to act this way.  Even if she's had a bad run of luck with men and wants to feel attractive and whatever-- forgive her, and get her back on track.
V.   You've exhausted your options and the person continues to be inappropriate.   
     A.  Boot their tail out of your school,
     B.  If you don't boot the person out, they will cause problems.
     C.  Don't feel guilty for booting them out.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Congrats Allie the PURPLE, not CLEAR, belt...

Allie the Clear Belt is now a purple belt-- well-deserved!  WOOT!

Christy Thomas, first female blackbelt under Relson Gracie

Ooh!  Megan over at Tangled Triangle has just posted a new interview with Christy Thomas, Relson's first female blackbelt..  I'm biased of course because I got my start in BJJ at Christy's academy in Austin (at the time, it was Phil and Christy's.. but I digress...)

Go give it a read here!

Sorry about my radio silence here.  Have a major work project next Thursday and I'm working late hours getting it done.  Also, we leave for NYC the next day to give IVF another try. 

I am currently working on reviews-- some very in arrears, and some very new-- to include Brian Johnson's B12 instructional for beginners (it's good stuff!) and Robert Drysdale's nogi series on the Cradle, and Emily Kwok and Stephen Kesting's "Bigger Stronger Opponent" set... then there's the wildly fashionable Scramble spats from BJJHQ.com, Lucky Gi's new bamboo offering, the limited-edition Diaz Brothers gi, and Datsusara's Hemp gi version 2.0.  I'll be posting a BUNCH while I'm in New York because Mitch will be working remotely so he's likely to be very unentertaining, and I just can't handle the guilt any more from not getting these off my plate!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Leticia Ribeiro in Florida this month!

Hey-- Leticia Ribeiro is running a seminar in Delray Beach FL September 29-30.

 Annike, a friend of a friend, is looking to share a hotel room and cut costs... if you or someone you know would be interested, please post here in the comments section!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Jiu Jitsu Style magazine-- free app! free issue!

Jiu Jitsu Style is Europe’s first bi-monthly magazine dedicated solely to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  The magazine is packed full of gripping interviews, reviews and special features, making it a definitive read for lovers of BJJ and grappling.

Guest edited by Jiu Jitsu sensation Roger Gracie, JJS is sure to keep you informed of the goings-on in both the European and World Jiu Jitsu scene.
.. and now, they've set their app as FREE to download from this issue.  (Previously, it would cost £2.99 to download the app.)  If you download the free app, you can then download a free 21 page special issue featuring Marcelo Garcia and Ronaldo Jacare Souza.

Features include:
• Full digital editions of Jiu Jitsu Style print magazines
• Interactive Content
• Easy to use page turning technology
• Easy content navigation and Skip-To-Page features
• Remembers the last page you were viewing
• View on iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch 

Read more about the app here, where there's also a link to the android version. 

Download from itunes HERE.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Mango sorbet

A cold dessert is the perfect antidote to the late-summer heat. Mangoes can satisfy your sweet tooth while packing in fiber and important nutrients such as vitamins A and C, which together boost immunity, improve heart health and reduce your risk for many chronic diseases. And switching from ice cream to sorbet is a great way to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol. 

This recipe skips the refined sugars found in most commercial sorbets, so you can feel good about every ingredient. Mango sorbet is also perfect for vegans, those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity, or those keeping a gluten-free diet. Best of all, this refreshing and healthful sorbet has a difficulty factor of zero. Frozen mango chunks (in the freezer section at your grocery) are cheaper than fresh mangoes, plus they save time in that they have already been diced. With just three ingredients and a mini-food processor (or blender), anyone can enjoy a naturally sweetened version of sorbet.

● One serving of mango offers an excellent source of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens immunity and wound healing. Plus, Vitamin C strengthens artery walls, helps improve cholesterol and lowers blood pressure and your chance of stroke.

● Mangoes contain a high dose of Vitamin A to boost your immunity and help fight off infections. Vitamin A is also important for vision, bone growth, healthy skin and reproduction.

● Mangoes contain heart-healthy fiber and potassium.

All about agave
● Agave nectar syrup is a vegan, natural sweetener that comes from the agave plant. It is a plant-based food that is not refined like granulated sugar or corn syrup and is also not considered an artificial sweetener.

● Agave has a naturally sweet flavor and is well known for having a low glycemic index. This means it raises blood sugars more slowly than sugar, honey, brown sugar or corn syrup. It still does contain sugar and calories, so it is best to use in moderation. One tablespoon contains 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar.

● Because agave syrup is sweeter than regular sugar, you can often use less of it for the same effect.

Mango sorbet

Serves: 1
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 tablespoon light agave syrup
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
(Total prep time is less than five minutes)
1. Place all ingredients in mini-food processor or blender and pulse until smooth
2. Scoop mixture into bowl and serve immediately
Optional: Top it off with fresh mango slices, fresh mint or berries for garnish.

I got this recipe from Elaine Gordon of the Washington Post.  She is a master certified health education specialist, is the creator of Eating by Elaine and director of health management solutions at LiveHealthier.