Thursday, February 28, 2013

Race and jiu jitsu, part one.

Just some food for thought on the last day of Black History Month... I will be following up on this in the future!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday is Watch This Day

My friend and sometimes-instructor Darren Branch (aka Keebler, like the elf) is a Gracie Humaita brownbelt under Donald Park and Royler Gracie.  He runs Evolution BJJ (Gracie Humaita Cleveland) in Ohio, and he has some videos you need to be watching.  Nope, not technique videos.  Short, punchy, often funny, always thought-provoking.

We'll start with this video first... kind of a Django-spaghetti-western meets serious business.  (This is something you might show your friends who wonder if Brazilian jiu jitsu has anything to offer them.  It's funny, but it's serious too, and since Darren is pint-size like me, it's all the more impressive when he demonstrates his self defense.)

Next up, Keebler shares his thoughts on the Olympics removing wrestling from their list... this isn't your usual diatribe.  He's a smart guy with some unusual perspectives, but I imagine you'll see his point.

Stove theory.  I totally identified with this!  What's funny is, Keebler aims this at the grappler-- but I think it highlights an equally important lesson for the coach/corner/instructor.  See what you think.

Keebler's last class teaching at our academy in Austin recently.  (I'm the very short person with red hair in the blue gi.)  Just a taste, and a peek at our academy's current/temporary location.

I'll be featuring some more videos from him in the future-- in the meantime, subscribe to his channel, cool?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thinking about keeping women in jiu jitsu...

Val Worthington wrote a really uplifting yet realistic and challenging article about focusing on positive ways to integrate men and women in grappling.  She also wrote about the difficulties in feeling a sense of belonging that afflict all new grapplers, male and female, which may contribute to dropout rates. I encourage you to read them. 

Not meaning to beat a dead horse... though I know I often do.  But I have been thinking about a further comment on the Keith Owen thing, made by his wife Shirlane on their blog.  Here's the interaction and I welcome your feedback.  It made me think that often, we blame women for being "girly" and quitting "BJJ" when actually the reasons they express have nothing to do with their gender, and in fact, would take people of any gender out of any athletic endeavor.  Anyway-- what do you think?
    (From me)
    Shirlane-- I'm curious! How do you explain the apparent contradiction between your academy's inability to retain female BJJ students and the enormous growth of women in BJJ elsewhere? Or do you see a contradiction at all? Thanks! 

    Shirlane Owen

    Let me go over the list for you of our experience...
    One student got pregnant
    One student had to have surgery for a bad caesarian
    Numerous were tired of being sore all of the time (a couple were black belts in another form)
    One had too many responsibilities at home as a mother and wife and had to quit
    One female student’s husband did not want her rolling with other men
    One had female issues and had to quit
    One could not handle the cardio aspect of it
    One student got divorced and could not afford it anymore

    Do you want me to go on?

    This has been OUR experience for 21 years and the blog is so we as adults can share our thoughts and ideas about the subject. It is not to name call, to belittle and degrade the person who wrote the blog as some are doing.
    Keith has been polite throughout this whole thing and has not said anything impolite or rude back to anyone. People are actually mad because he is saying “thank you for your comments”

    So let’s be adults- not blog bullies as many are being – people can share their opinion without attacking someone’s character.
(and my response:)

I hope you don't think I was being a blog bully in questioning you :) I would absolutely love for you to go on because it is my sincere desire to understand (and possibly to help, if I can.)

What I hear is that you had 7 plus "numerous" women quit BJJ over 21 years. [I assume that you are not including participants in your "Adult Sport Jiu Jitsu" program in these numbers... because I see that one of the instructors there, Kristen, is a black belt in ASJJ (and is thinking about getting a blue belt in BJJ, meaning she is still a whitebelt in BJJ... was she one of those "numerous"?) And there's Alanna, also a blackbelt in "ASJJ"...] How many women started BJJ in your academy's 21 years?

How many men have started training BJJ in those 21 years, and how many of them have quit? and why, if you know?

Of the reasons given by those women for quitting, how many are related to "women not being able to handle BJJ" as opposed to some other athletic activity which cost money?

I assume you would not count pregnancy, surgery, soreness, home/child responsibilities, female issues, lack of fitness, or financial reasons as unique to BJJ-- as all those reasons would/could equally keep a woman out of crossfit, soccer, triathlons, volleyball, swimming, am I correct?

Perhaps the soreness will be said to be unique to BJJ because some of those ladies were already blackbelts in other arts (and should have been used to being sore?) Unless they weren't sore while performing their other arts, in which case we might hypothesize that they didn't practice those arts with real resistance and aliveness? and if they had, might be they'd be more familiar and comfortable with it, and if they weren't then it's not BJJ they can't handle...

So far I'm only looking at one lady who quit because her husband was insecure and she was caving in....

Please help me to understand :)

Ryan Hall's interview with the Martial Arts Podcast

Ryan's interview on the podcast at Hiyaa can be heard here....  definitely worth a listen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Slow-cooker braised apricot chicken and carrots

For my friends Bobby and Amanda, who are cooking without the use of an oven....

This flavorful stew is delicious served over couscous, quinoa,  or brown rice pilaf with fresh cilantro or parsley. Feel free to use oil for the butter.

Apricot Chicken with Carrots recipe

Zest of 1 lemon (yellow part only)
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1⁄3- by 2-inch pieces
30 whole dried apricots (preferably with sulfur, for a pretty color)
1⁄4 cup plus 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour (if you're gluten free, can use a gluten-free baking mix as long as it doesn't contain baking powder)
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. ground coriander
1⁄8 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄8 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
20 grinds black pepper
2-1⁄2 lb. bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 thighs) *don't substitute white meat!*
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2-1⁄4 cups finely chopped white onions (about 2 small)
1-1⁄2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup apricot nectar
1⁄4 cup fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
1⁄2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1⁄4 cup toasted pine nuts, for garnish (optional)
1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

Place the lemon peel on a piece of cheesecloth, form into a “purse,” and secure with kitchen twine. Add it to the slow cooker, along with the carrots and apricots. Place the flour and all of the spices in a large bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and coat well, shaking off the excess and reserving any remaining flour.

Heat 1 Tbs. of oil and the butter in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, brown the chicken in two batches, about 11 minutes total; add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil if the pan becomes dry. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker.

Add the onions and garlic to the hot pan, and cook until the onions are softened, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and reserved flour and whisk well until the flour disappears, about a minute. Add the nectar, lemon juice, and stock; bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then pour the sauce over the chicken in the slow cooker. Submerge the chicken.

Cover and cook on low until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots are tender, 5 to 6 hours. Serve after removing the lemon zest "purse", garnishing each portion with nuts and herbs, if desired.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lloyd Irvin's codefendant was not acquitted!!

Lately, some folks have been running around like chickens with heads cut off, pointing to an appellate opinion in Virginia and claiming it means Lloyd Irvin is innocent.  No, no, my friends, that is not correct.

Edited to add: the short version is, Gatling found someone who said the victim wasn't sure about identifying him, so he won a new trial-- however, he then pled guilty before the new trial got started.  Also, no one else was acquitted, or won anything on appeal.  Four men including Gatling did prison time for this gang rape.

The long version, for you curious people with time to kill....

That case, Gatling v. Commonwealth, 414 S.E.2d 862 (Va. App. 1992), stemmed from the conviction of one of Lloyd's codefendants (Terrence Gatling) in the 1989 gang rape.

The appellate opinion said several things.

-- the trial court erred in denying a motion by the defense attorneys after the trial was over

-- the trial court should have granted the motion for a new trial

-- therefore the appellate court was "reversing and remanding"-- i.e., they reversed the trial court's decision to deny the motion for a new trial, and they remanded the case (sent it back) to the trial court, to enable the State (the Commonwealth, in Virginia terminology) to re-try Gatling, should it choose to.

-- the trial court should have granted the motion because the defense attorneys followed the proper procedures for making the motion and used the proper timing for providing ("proffering") a summary of what they believed the evidence would show, if a new trial were granted.  (The trial court denied their motion because it believed the attorneys should have presented that evidence during the actual trial, not afterwards.)

-- the "new" evidence the defense attorneys wanted to present was the testimony of the rape survivor's "big brother", named Neighbors, who attended the gang rape and stayed in the other room while it happened. According to the defense lawyers, he would have testified that he didn't hear any screaming or crying during the rape, and after, the survivor told him that, although she had been raped by several other men, she could not remember what Gatling had to do with it, and that Gatling never forced her to do anything.

What that court did not say:

-- that Gatling was innocent
-- that there was no rape
-- that Lloyd Irvin was not involved
-- that the survivor lied
-- that the survivor was not credible

I'm working on getting more information.  Stay tuned.

Prior to retrial, Gatling pled guilty to forcible sodomy (same charge as original conviction) on 12/7/1992, and was sentenced to seven years in the pen, of which 6 was suspended (probably to account for time served, plus to sweeten the deal and avoid the expense and hassle of a retrial.)  Found here under case #CR89017916-01.

Fwiw, the two other codefendants were also tried by juries and were also convicted of rape and sodomy, sentenced to pen time, and appeals denied. A third was convicted of attempted rape and also sentenced to prison.  At least one is a registered sex offender (working on confirming the other.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can Keith Owens really handle women in jiu jitsu?

Fortunately, my computer had some issues the past few days, and I was in Houston all weekend at the IBJJF Houston Open.  Otherwise I might have completely lost my shit in public about this incredibly stupid post by Keith Owen, in which he muses that women might not really be able to handle BJJ (though at the end he fatuously proclaims that Gracie Jiu Jitsu is made for us! hooray!)

Now, having had a few days to calm down... I can say this:

WHAT CRACK ARE YOU ON, KEITH OWEN?  All the women quit, so it must be all of them, not you or your school????  And how do you explain the growing popularity of womens jiu jitsu around the world?  the growing numbers of women competing?  the growing numbers of female black belts?  Are they not really women?

1.  How is it that you find women "demanding" to take your class?  I've never once felt the need to "demand" anything from a regular business.  Usually, they WANT me to purchase their product or service.  All I have to do is hint that I might be interested and some salesperson follows me around the store, chirping happily in my ear about their sale, etc.  This right away tells me you might have a problem when women come in the door.  Are you pushing them away?  what kind of conversation happens first before they demand... are you encouraging them to try out something like your cardio kickboxing class at noon?  (That's about the only thing that would make me feel like I had to demand a trial class in BJJ.  If you said something even more insulting, like "Oh, are you looking for the scrapbooking store? it moved..." then I would just turn and walk out.)  And just why do you think they don't already know they'll be grappling men?  why the need to make such a case out of it? surely they have eyes and watch a class or part of one when they come in to check it out?

2.  How do you know your guys are nice, respectable gentlemen?  Is it because they're not hitting on you?  I can tell you, I have trained in many academies across the country-- from east to west coast, north to south, from big name schools like Marcelo's, Drac's, the Gracie Academy etc to small places in garages and strip mall storefronts with classes taught by no-name blackbelts, brownbelts, purple belts.  I have honestly never come across men who were NOT nice respectable gentlemen while training or rolling.  Maybe I'm lucky!  Sadly, though, I have heard from enough women who have had to train with guys with poor judgment, lack of brains, and even guys who are sexual predators.  Oddly enough, the assholes don't wear rashies that say "asshole" across the front.  In fact, the assholes are often well-liked by the other men in the team.  So I'm not impressed that you think your guys are nice.  They wouldn't be pinching your you-know-what or making you feel uncomfortable.

3.  You say you treat the women the same as the men-- and then you say they don't have to roll until they're comfortable.  Is this the rule for men?  Somehow I doubt it.  Somehow, I think you're probably making different rules for the ladies, which sets them apart and creates a pink ghetto-- "the ladies" who are too delicate to roll.  This not only makes the women feel different, it makes the men see them differently.  Treat women the same as men, and tell your students to roll with control against anyone significantly smaller or less-experienced than they are, regardless of gender.  Common sense.

4.  You've never had a complaint?  ANYONE who has run any kind of business or school for any length of time knows that complaints are common.  If you're not getting complaints, you're either missing them (they're not always heralded with a "hey, I need to complain about something privately") or you're deterring them.  You have to pay attention to body language, nonverbal communication, and your students' behavior both on and off the mats. You have to make yourself available for communication-- not just on the side of the mat during class, but before, after, by email, by phone, etc.

5.  How many men have started to train at your academy?  how many have stayed?  How many women have started? how many have stayed?  Let's put some hard numbers in here.  Both men and women move... Those women who "quit" by moving to another location might have continued training and don't belong in your blanket statement about "all" ultimately quitting.

6.  Damn those stupid bitches for getting pregnant (from their husbands or boyfriends... which I assume you need to point out, lest we gasp in horror at the thought of them getting pregnant some other way--) and not training until birth.  I guess you've been reading those grocery store tabloids with photos of women stick-skinny 2 weeks after delivery?  In the real world, women need a year to recover physically from birth.  Also, they work full time, have children, no nanny or housekeeper, and are expected to survive with maybe 15 minutes a day to themselves, if that.  Where will she fit BJJ?  Oh, well, maybe she'll come back when the munchkin is in elementary school.  Maybe she hasn't actually quit.  Maybe she actually switched schools!

7.  How accessible is your academy?  I looked at your schedule, Keith.  Not impressive.  9:30am on weekdays, many women are at work.  7:30pm weekdays, many women are getting dinner on the table and/or putting babies to bed.  So that leaves one 11am class on Saturday.  Nothing on Friday or Sunday either.  So how realistic is it?  How about having a 6am adult class so women can stop on the way to work? or how about two, three classes on weekends?  or even a noon class?

8.  "It then makes me want to do a male only class because we don't want to waste time on someone who is just going to quit."  You sexist bastard.  You have already judged "all" women as being "quitters" who aren't worth your time.  And you think this attitude doesn't come across loud and clear to the women at your academy?  How about doing a "no quitters" class instead?  only how would you know who to let in?  You can never know who will quit ahead of time.  You can't teach anyone at all with this perspective because EVERYONE might quit-- move-- get injured badly-- get pregnant-- lose a job-- develop new interests.

9.  Why do you think teaching jiu jitsu is a waste of time if someone doesn't continue taking classes, from you, for the rest of their life?  don't you see that it produces many wonderful benefits even if you only take it for a year? six months?

10.  "My male students are usually married and take a bit of a risk with their spouses by wrestling around with the opposite sex."  What poppycock!  What information do the spouses have access to-- aside from their husbands and possibly you?  You're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution, Keith.  If the spouses of your students are apprehensive or threatened, you are obliged to correct their perception of jiu jitsu.  Ultimately you are the blackbelt and you are the captain of the ship!  You need to sit your students down and tell them how to address this issue with their wives/girlfriends.  You need to bring some women in from other academies, if need be, and have a "demo night" with rolling and drilling, that the students' wimminfolk can attend and observe, so they can see that really, there's no funny business going on no matter whose legs are where with who.  After all if your female students' significant others need to be comfortable with them in a class full of men, then your male students' significant others need to be comfortable with a class containing women, too.

11.  Both men and women get grabbed in places that, in a different context, are usually sexual in nature.  We get over it.  I was never given any kind of "speech" or "talk" when I started jiu jitsu-- I just did it.  I think I might have been more nervous hearing about it before I felt it.  When I felt my first "hand touches boob" moment, it was immediately and obviously not sexual so it didn't bug me at all.  After all, my bra and my shirt both touch my boobs all day long.  When I hug a friend, my boobs touch their chest.  BIG DEAL.  Sounds like you have more of an issue with it than we do.

12.  Have you asked women who left your academy why they're not training with you any more in an open, accepting, non-confrontational manner???

13.  I totally disagree with all-women's classes.  My personal experience with them has been negative.  I only speak from my own experience, of course, which was that the higher belt women at the school (a brown, a purple, and myself and another blue) either had to give up our productive time training with other (male) students or we had to give up more of our own spare time.  That would have been fine if I had gotten anything at all out of training with the newbie women.  Clearly I didn't expect to get great rolls out of it-- but I didn't even feel like I learned as a teacher or that it was useful for the women, because they were either sporadic in attendance (thus they got nothing out of it, stayed fat and noodle-like and completely lacking in any resistance) or they were regulars, who quickly graduated to the co-ed classes and stopped attending the waste-of-time womens' class.  Just sayin'.

*** edited to add: I realized, thanks to a comment from a reader, that I failed to be precise and complete with my language in this paragraph.  I was rushing, angry, and time-pressured when I wrote this post, but that's no excuse!  So let me clarify:  I do not have a bias against whitebelts in general, of either gender.  I  am often still just as "new" and clueless as any whitebelt, and regardless of belt color, we're all still learning (especially me.)  When I was taking the womens class, I was not a teacher per se.  I did not expect to be teaching, and I did not expect to roll beyond positional sparring in the class, much less go hard.  It is true that every extra rep I did was good for me-- except that drilling a technique on a completely limp partner is often not super useful.  Except for two women, the class (in total, 4 to 7 ladies including me) was roughly approximate to the "regular" classes in terms of the students' interest level, aggression, and willingness to work hard.   (So I did get just as much out of working with those ladies as I did from working with guys.)

However, two whitebelt women in particular were frustrating because they did not work hard, did not seem motivated, and only attended sporadically.  They wore baggy t-shirts that snagged fingers and toes, and loose sweatpants that were always coming down, necessitating adjustments, and were overly warm in our non-air conditioned academy.  As a result, they were uncomfortable and unhappy.  They did not make progress, and they described themselves as "fat" and "noodle" like.  These descriptions were fair.  The other ladies, who put up with wearing loaner gis until buying their own, would have done just as well in bjj if there hadn't been a women's class, if not better, because the regular class was longer-- 3 hours compared with 1 hour.    So in the end, based just on my own experiences with the women's class I attended and helped out at, I concluded that women who are going to like jiu jitsu will like it in a co-ed environment (as I did) and women who need a little gentler introduction can get it in the co-ed class.  The women who don't need a women's class aren't terribly helped by it while the women you'd think would have quit but for a women's class quit anyway because even an all-women environment wasn't enough to save it for them.  And creating a "women's class" seemed to set up an environment where women had permission to be sloppy (if they wanted to be) and if they relied on that class alone, they wouldn't make progress at the same rate as people in the other classes because there were some 20+ hours of regular classes a week available, and just 1 hour a week of women's class.  So why bother, in other words.

To me the alternative my academy implements is superior.  Any new student (male or female) takes their first class strictly with one upper belt who goes through a set introductory lesson on position and a basic technique or two.  Female new students are introduced to any women present at that time as well.  The next time they come, they are integrated into the "on ramp" classes, which all of our beginners go through for about 4-6 months before being permitted to take our other fundamentals classes.  The "on ramp" is just what it sounds like, technique-wise, and often we have a few browns, a purple or three or five, and lots of blues as well as whitebelts.  So it's a great training environment, 45 min to 1 hr long 3 times a week, with positional sparring but no "rolling," and women are usually paired up with upper belts.  No one is overwhelmed or overfaced, but no one is specifically set aside because of their gender.  It, like Julia's post pointed out, acknowledges that being a beginner is what is usually the toughest part, not being female.

Again, I don't have a problem with whitebelts of any gender.  I love whitebelts, I'm no longer afraid of them unless they're Hulk-smash roid-heads, and I don't dismiss them because they're not precocious berimbolo-ers or whatever.  They're great partners for when I need to practice new stuff, even old stuff, and they keep me humble because they're definitely not pushovers.  They're often the only people I can get sweeps on and even then I have to really work for it.  They let me take time to think through stuff and they're wonderfully sweet about whatever few words of advice I can share.  I think I get more out of showing someone how I did something (and the resulting analysis as I struggle to put something into coherent sentences) than I do out of getting smashed by a fellow blue belt (purple belt, brown belt) etc.

14.  Why aren't blue belt women just as special and awesome?  why do you assume that blue belt ladies haven't legitimately tapped men?  God the stupidity.

15.  After writing such a provocative post, Keith then (again fatuously) responds to every comment on his page with "Thanks!"  By failing to engage with your critics, you display a notable condescension that I feel is likely to be in your other interactions.  So I'll again make the offer-  bring me to Boise, and I'll train at your academy a few days with an open mind.  I'll let you know if I see any reasons a reasonable woman wouldn't stick with it or you.

Edited to add:  Keith has two women instructors at his academy.  Kristin is a black belt in "Adult Sport Jiu Jitsu" and is "considering" getting a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.  QUALITY.  Alanna is also a black belt, presumably in "Adult Sport Jiu Jitsu" since her name was on the sport jiu jitsu page as well.  There are no female instructors in the Brazilian jiu jitsu program-- two have Owen as surnames so I imagine they're Keith's sons?

Nakapan Phungephorn comes forward with more info about Lloyd Irvin's ways...

Nakapan Phungephorn, blackbelt and co-owner (with his wife Melanie) of BETA Academy in Washington DC, severed his connections with Lloyd Irvin in January 2013.  He has now written an eloquent critique exposing some of the inner workings of Lloyd's approach to people and business.

Because I can't figure out how to post the pdf of the file here, and when I copy and paste it into this post I get an exclamation point in between each word (!!!annoying!!!) I'll just post the link to Bloody Elbow's site which has it up.

And when you get done reading that-- check Lloyd Irvin's "The Real Player Lifestyle" blog....

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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Home away from home...

I like that when I come to Vegas, I have a home away from home.  Not just that my in-laws are so warm and welcoming (and the good home cooking, too) although that is a big part of it.  (And they let me borrow their car to go to train, and use their laundry daily to keep the gi fresh, and they tease me with little karate-chop kiya noises when I come back.)

But also that I feel like Drysdale's is a home academy away from home.  Each time I return, I'm a little surprised that people remember me when I walk in.  And there's less of that scared feeling you get when you're showing up at a new place-- I pretty much know how bad the warmup will be, I know how hard I will be pushed, and I know what I'm signing up for, so to speak.

Sadly, I have also attended class here enough to recognize things they like to teach, and things I've been taught before, and to realize that I obviously didn't learn a durn thing.  For example last week back home, right before my private with Darren, a training partner did this stupid thing to me I couldn't figure out and turns out it was a berimbolo-- which hurt my feelings because I first "learned" it (or not) at Drysdale's.  So I realize I should have also learned counters to it (which I did, in theory) and it chapped my hide that I was flailing. And wasn't even immediately clueing in that hey, this is a berimbolo.  Grrr.

Yesterday's class at Drysdale's (taught, as most of the ones I attend are, by excellent smaller blackbelt Sonny Nohara) was more of the same.  It was the ninja roll counter to the berimbolo, and counters to the ninja roll, and Sonny showed in rapid succession at least 5 different entries or opportunities to use it.  I missed all of them because I was still trying to absorb the ninja roll itself though I know I've seen it at least twice before here.  *sigh*  I wish I was more familiar with every positional permutation so that I could use nicknames for the starting points and take notes faster. Writing "both people are laying on their sides somewhat facing each other.  Bottom player uses bottom leg, knee on the ground, to hook inside their top leg" takes a long time, and by then, the demo is done.  And that's just the barest beginning of the start position.  I might remember more if I pushed myself-- but I won't write it out here, in case I have it wrong and make them look bad.

I'm excited today to share my home away from home with a girlfriend.  Like so many of the wonderful friends I've made through the internet, I've never met her in person, but she moved here to Vegas a while back and works as a veterinarian.  She's between academies and so I'm going to show her around Drysdale's, we'll take a class together this morning, and maybe have lunch after.  (Class is 10-11, and I notice that there's open mat from 12-1, but that doesn't seem to work too well with our plans.)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Training in Las Vegas again...

I'm very proud that I made it through our Tuesday "Training" which is usually the hardest one of the week... I didn't stop, I didn't quit.  I tried to play butterfly (failed utterly to even get people off the ground, so no opportunity to transition to X) and I tried to do the Barry Sanders pass Keebler taught me (most of the time people just snagged me with their damn long legs, but it did work twice.. hooray!)  And at the end of class I made it through the five minutes of hell without stopping too.

(Five minutes of hell is Keebler's thing, but maybe we'll keep doing it because it is truly painful.  One solid minute of whatever, followed by another solid minute of whatever... and so on.) Tuesday night it was hold a low squat with both arms held out straight and horizontal in front of you, opening and closing your grips as fast as possible... then V-sits, extending and contracting your legs as fast as possible... then pushups with one arm close and one arm out far in front, alternating... then holding a plank.... then burpees.  I think.  I might be mixing up the previous Tuesday with this one.. but you get the picture.

But yesterday I flew to Vegas to be with hubby's family and celebrate his uncle's 86th birthday.  Uncle has spent some time in the hospital lately with congestive heart failure, pneumonia and diabetes, so he's not doing well at all and we're worried.  So it's not what you would picture when I say "a trip to Vegas."  I brought work from work and I will also get to train while I'm here, which is awesome.  Where I go will depend on the day's events with family.  Today, I will head over to Drysdale's gym for an hour of drilling from 9-10am.  I know a couple people there, but they're the instructors (Aaron, Sonny, Rene) so I hope I will see a familiar face wearing a blue belt, or at least find someone who is interested in using me as a drilling partner.  When asked, I am going to be drilling the butterfly into X guard transition, and the passes from Keebler.

I'm just happy there's a class I can take at a time I can make it.  I brought my superlight Kauai Kimonos gi and I'm happy to get on the mats.

have a good one people! :)

Monday, February 04, 2013

Moldova's first-ever BJJ tournament a huge success....

Thanks to everyone, including Christian Graugart and BJJ Revolution in Richmond VA, who helped by donating or providing a gi, patches, and/or money for prizes used in the first-ever BJJ tournament in Moldova!  It was a big success, mainly due to the efforts of Bobby and Amanda McMasters and all the competitors who put it all on the mats.

Without further rambling-- please allow Bobby (below, in the black jacket) to introduce the winners!

I'm really excited to see that there were several ladies at this tournament!  

Bobby was recently interviewed by Caleb on Fightworks Podcast.  And Christian Graugart just posted about the grand opening of the new facility for BJJ Moldova HERE.

And a while back, Bobby made this video to show how much the Moldova program desperately needs your help.  If you would like to make a donation-- how about a rashguard? some old whitebelts? grappling shorts or a gi?-- 100% of it would go to improving grappling there-- possibly a fund for new mats, more gis (they don't have running water, much less gis-- many of these kids are grappling in mom's bathrobe), the costs for transport and entrance fees for otherwise indigent competitors or future similar projects.

McMasters Robert
Cal. Grivitei 192
Ap. 49, Et. 1, Sc. C

You can also paypal him a donation, at bobby.mcmasters(at) 

Thoughts on returning from a layoff...

I was off the mats, more or less, for about a year.  Sure, I took a class or two here and there when I could, but my mind and body were more devoted to the IVF process than anything else, so I really wasn't connecting to jiu jitsu.  In fact, I got so lazy and comfortable with my little Susie Homemaker routine in the evenings, I began to wonder if I'd ever go back to training.  (This disturbed me, obviously, but also worried my husband; I'd put so much of myself into BJJ that for me to just "get over it" might mean the endtimes had begun.)  My layoff was a little different from most as it wasn't entirely injury-driven.  Sure, there were times it would have been physically difficult or dangerous for me to train hard, but it isn't like I have to go through rehab on a knee and then take it easy on that body part when I come back.

So how did I decide when and how to get back into it? 

Partly it was just waiting for a point in my IVF schedule where I knew I would be able to train, as hard as I wanted, for a few months.  (I'll have to take a break again when we get to the stage of putting embryos back in and hopefully being pregnant.)  But a lucky coincidence helped me out-- right about the time I was coming back, one of my favorite acolytes of my instructor came for a three-week visit.  He's a brownbelt just about my size, with a personality and charisma fifty times his size.  So I decided I wouldn't miss a moment of his teaching.  (Our usual instructor, Paulo, is back in Brazil while his wife has a baby and they're packing up to move to Texas permanently now.  And Donald has been busy with work for a while.)

I have really enjoyed getting back on the mats and I think some of the secrets of my success are as follows:
1.  I got back into my regular gym with my crossfit-esque classes for about a week before getting back into jiu jitsu.  I know that's not really long enough to restore cardio and fitness, but it helped me feel like I was getting back into it gradually, it helped me deal with sore muscles, and it gave me the confidence to face our warmups.  (If you work out for an hour a day for a week, you approach a 20 minute warmup with more assurance that you will, in fact, not die in embarrassment in front of your team.)
2.  I told myself I wasn't trying to win. I finally allowed myself to expect nothing of myself except that I would keep moving and not give up.  This applies not just in sparring, but in drilling and training too.  I'm so very hard on myself usually, even during the technique portion of class I would expect perfection.  I would be embarrassed if I couldn't do something right even when my partner wasn't resisting.  But having been gone a while kind of gave me the excuse I needed to be rusty, ineffective, uncoordinated. 

3.  I told everyone that I sparred with, and everyone I partnered with, that I was rusty, old, fat and out of shape, and just try not to tear my head off, but to feel free to work on whatever they wanted to do as I was sure I was back to whitebelt level.  In response, I got a lot of positive reinforcement, encouragement, and even the whitebelt guys didn't try to tear my head off.  I knew I wasn't in the right place, physically or mentally, to be going 100%.  Some people were willing to pause and say, come on, you remember, hip out! again!  Sometimes I needed the reminder and it was nice to get the feedback.

4.  After I'd been back about two weeks, I took some privates.  It gave me the opportunity for one-on-one correction and instruction, following up on new problems and new areas I want to work on.  (I have two new guard passes, answers to the berimbolo, and firm resolution to play butterfly and X guard whenever possible.  Hot damn.)  And the visiting brownbelt was perfect for this-- it financially rewards him for taking time away from the school he runs in Ohio, but also he's my body shape and size, AND he's phenomenally positive.  One thing I know about myself as a student: I crave positive reinforcement.  I will move heaven and earth to earn words of praise.  It feels SO good to do something new and hear someone yell "YESSSS!!! BEAUTIFUL!!!"  (even if they yell it in your ear.)  So when the going gets tough-- I mean, when it's 7:20pm and my couch seems like it might need some holding down-- I remember that I EARNED that exclamation, and it makes me want to try to get more.  Whether it comes from someone yelling in my ear, or from getting a sweep, or getting a hug from a teammate, that feeling of happiness is fresh in my memory and more rewarding than relaxing at home.