Memorial Day open mat

I was a little annoyed that SK and JM did not show up, especially after Cindy and I went to the extra effort to get them invited. I also don’t really like to drive all the way into Seattle for an open mat if I don’t know that there’s going to be anyone there who is even vaguely appropriate for me to spar with. I don’t want to drive all the way in there and have it be just me and two 400-lb white belts.

Luckily, it was a decent turnout and there were about fifteen people there. I rolled the entire 2 hours, with short breaks between people. Fred, Elliot, Dan, and some guy whose name I can’t recall. Elliot and Dan spanked me. Elliot’s a little too big and strong for me to be rolling with, but there wasn’t anyone else free at the time, so I went for it… he was fairly careful, so it was okay. I was reasonably competitive with Fred. He got one sub on me (armbar) but let go before I tapped. "Why didn’t you finish it?" "I was being nice." "It doesn’t COUNT unless you finish it!" "Yes ma’am." Razz The other guy- he got one tap on me and I got one tap on him.

I don’t often get a chance to free roll without being completely exhausted first by a regular class. I had imagined that if I got a chance to roll fresh, I’d be a lot more energetic and would perform markedly better. I was dismayed to find that after the first couple of rolls, I felt just as tired as ever!

Anyway, good practice.

I also did a three-mile walk yesterday that I probably should have mentioned as part of "training", even though it was me walking from the mechanic (where I left my stalled car) to the Aero Rent-a-car place.

Forms session

Today I went to the (non-MA) gym to work on forms.

Started with 2 reps of Hurricane Hands, then continued on through all of my forms (just the Shaolin ones). The ones I can do off both sides, I did off both sides. I did 2-4 reps of the ones that didn’t come out real nice the first time. I had a few little memory-blanks in Silken Needle, the fragment of White Crane Walking the Path, and Sil Lum Tao. BIG memory-blanks with Snake Versus Five Animals… I repped it till I had it clean again… the fragment of Three Step Arrow (I am gong to have to ask to go over that in class), and Box Form (again!) It was definitely time to review. All the Mirror forms were pretty good, though. Bung Bo Kuen seemed as adequate as anything else, which was pleasing. Box Form (the part that I remembered) seemed very powerful and Dragony. Knees hurt again. I would have liked to practice some more, but it was a productive session.

My gym has a new personal trainer- he is offering a free hour of personal training to all members; I may have to take advantage of that!

Conditioning Boot Camp- the return of the butterfly kicks

CN’s Conditioning Boot Camp.

SK whimped out today because there’s a capoiera class he wants to do tomorrow at the Folklife Festival, so he doesn’t want to overextend himself.

Not much to say, it was the usual stuff and a few new exercises. It was wet and raining, so he didn’t make us roll around on the ground too much today. He made us do butterfly kick line drills and whirlwind kick line drills. We also did the interval-sparring against trees… shadow-box the tree (any techniques) as hard as you can for two minutes, the thirty seconds rest, rinse and repeat several times. I like this exercise because the rapid shadow-boxing seems to be helping my flow from technique to technique.

CN commented that my conditioning is looking improved. I thanked him and mentioned that I was not at my best today, kind of tired. He said that he wouldn’t have known. Good- I try to never let my opponent see when I am tired.

He asked me how I am feeling about Tuesday- meaning my scheduled form performance- and I said, "Suicidal." He asked if it was just stage fright or what, and I told him stage fright plus the fact that I’ve been having a terrible slump since January. He commented that we all have trining slumps, and that it’s good to face the fear of performing in front of others.

“Don’t ask him that!”

Friday night no-gi in Seattle, with all of my minions there with me!

I was half-hoping and half-dreading that we’d be doing the no-gi version of the complex reversal that we’d done on Monday morning… but it was easy guard-pass stuff. Three or four guard passes, all of which I had already taught my gang. I was pleased to note that many of the important points that Cindy stressed were things I had been careful to teach. I like it when that happens, it makes me feel like I really know what I’m doing.

I drilled with Sonia, then there was a lot of positional sparring- I got to work with JB, JM, Sonia, Connor and Cindy herself. JM and SK got a chance to work with Connor, and the girls got a chance to roll with Sonia- so I was happy to see my students get to work with some really good training partners.

There is no class on Monday, but there’s an open mat from 11am to 1. I asked SK and JM if they could come, and SK reminded me that they CAN’T come to an open mat because they are still stripeless. Argh! I said, "Ask Cindy if it’s okay for you to come to the open mat even though you don’t have a stripe- it’s not *exactly* asking when you’re going to get a stripe!" I had already warned them to not ask Rodrigo that! So when we asked Cindy about it, she said that she thought they all had enough classes to get a stripe, but that Rodrigo was running the open mat on Monday, so we’d have to ask him- wait, no, don’t ask Rodrigo about stripes, unless they wanted to wait another year. Rolling Eyes So she offered to ask him herself, and get back to us by e-mail.

I also got a chance to ask Cindy why we don’t get attendance credit for no-gi, and she said that it’s because it’s not part of the official curriculum. She said that Rodrigo is afraid that some people will come *just* to no-gi, and then want belts.

I got a chance on the carpool home to talk privately with JB a bit, and she was telling me about her problems with kung fu- which are remarkably similar to some of my problems with kung fu. She is feeling demotivated, ignored, and as if even her basic material is unravelling. I finally got her to fess up to the fact that this is affecting her attendance. I told her that she needs to talk to CN, and that it’s okay if she can’t articulate what the problem is- she should just let him know there’s a problem, and maybe he can HELP her articulate it. I also suggested that she try keeping a training blog, since this has been helpful to me in sorting some of those issues out. Anyway, I’m worried that the kung fu group might actually lose her if things don’t improve.

“Gimme your lunch money”

Thursday Kung Fu basics.

After striking drills, SK asked us what we wanted to work on…. JB suggested general self-defense practice.

We paired off and one person did a single-step attack while the other defended and countered- no agenda, just winging it. Then we switched around so that everyone got a chance to attack everyone else.

I was mostly throwing straight punches to the head, haymakers, underhand gut punches, and overhand "smashing" blows, because I feel like practicing defending against that sort of thing is probably more practical than practicing defending against a crescent kick to the head or double leopard-fists to the ribs.

I noticed that when it was my turn to defend, my first reactions to most attacks consisted of a parry or evasion followed by grabbing ahold of the person and kicking hir. Mostly front and side thrust kicks (belly, groin, knee), but also roundhouses to the belly or kidney, and I also did a little foot-stomping. I did a crescent kick to JB’s face once, and my foot actually brushed her nose. I liked the way my parry-seize-kick sequences were flowing with a Dragon-like continuation of energy. I also got a couple of compliments from different opponents on my targeting- which I am repeatedly told is precise and accurate to a surreal level.

SK noted that several of my defenses were setting up nicely for joint locks. Unfortunately, joint locks are not yet instinctual for me… I hope to someday progress to the point where I feel comfortable whipping out a wider variety of techniques under pressure.

Then Monkey In the Middle. I very much enjoy surprising my classmates by diverting from the standard menu of basic attacks that I know they are expecting. I surreptitiously got my yellow rubber gun out, stuck it in the small of JoE’s back and demanded that he give me his money. It took him by surprise, and after he turned around to look, I had plenty of time to "shoot" him while he was having that "Oh-sh1t" moment. ("Gun defense drills next week," commented SK… Rolling Eyes ) The others responded a bit better when it was their turns, because I had lost the element of surprise with the gun. I did surprise JM by tapping her on the shoulder, and then when she opened her eyes, I was swinging a stick hard at her head like a baseball bat. We had done a little stick/club/etc defense this last month, so she did better than JoE had done with the gun… she got out of the way with admirable speed, but she was slow with the counter.

I did fairly well tonight as the Monkey, even though I didn’t have my contacts in and was fighting half blind.

During individual forms time, I had SK look at Hurricane Hands. He had a couple of minor corrections, but mostly wants me to focus on flow and on relaxing. He also wanted to add a more advanced refinement…. I was like, "Noooooooooo, I think I’m going to have to perform this damn thing in front of the whole class in five days…." But it was so cool that I want to try to incorporate it in. It’s an extra couple of kicks to break down the opponent’s stance before one of the throws. It makes the throw seem more plausible as well.

I did have an embarrassing moment when I started the first run-through of Hurricane Hands while SK watched- HH has the same opening salute as Leopard Fist, and since I’ve been working on Leopard Fist In the Mirror, I started to do the opening salute off the opposite side. Embarassed

Not by the hair, please.

Tuesday morning BJJ- the Danger Room! I haven’t been able to come back to the Danger Room in a long time, due to work.

I have never seen Tuesday morning class so full. It looked like an evening class. Nelson was so happy to see me that he gave me a hug! That was sweet. He now has a third stripe on his white belt. Bob has a new blue belt.

Round three (for me) of Technique Set A. Again, only the simple versions. Maybe Rodrigo is using Monday morning class in Seattle as a testing ground for what he’s going to teach during the week- if Monday am struggles with it too much, he simplifies it for the rest of the week. I drilled with Nelson. His groin injury is still a little tender, so I had to be careful. I kept asking him if he was okay. I was watching his face carefully, and saw him grimace a bit at the half guard escape, so I asked him if it would be better if we did it on the other side. He was like, "No, no, I’m fine," and I said, "Well, I have to keep asking, now that I know you’re not always smart enough to stop when it hurts," Then he cracked up, and said, "Yes, okay, let’s switch it to the other side."

Nelson had to bail after drills, so I did positional sparring with John for for 2nd day in a row. "**YOU** again," I grinned. I thought, this time he’s going to pound me. But once more, I did pretty well against him. I used spider guard against him. He didn’t do so well with that.

At the end, I did a free roll against Bob. He’s another one who usually owns me, but I seem to be on quite a roll (pun intended)… I did well against him. I escaped a number of his sub attempts, including a wicked triangle that I was sure I was going to have to tap to- but I stacked him aggressively and then summersaulted over his head and he let go. With some of the more flexible people here (like Leah), that wouldn’t have worked- but it worked on him. It was quite a long, competitive roll. He finally tapped me out with a kimura.


Intermediate kung fu.

I did a couple reps of Leopard Fist In the Mirror while waiting for class to start. It’s coming along well.

We did several reps of the parts that everyone knows out of Bung Bo Kuen and Little Red Dragon. There are a couple of spots in Bung Bo where I continue to lean my torso forward, and I’m having a hard time breaking myself of that habit.

Nevertheless, as soon as we started doing Bung Bo, I could tell that I was having an "on" night. Not only was the energy flowing and the form feeling masterful (**THIS** form! My worst form!), but my knees for some reason were hardly aching at all. I can’t remember the last time my knees didn’t ache doing kung fu, especially Northern Mantis. I kept thinking, "After a few minutes of this, the pain will kick in," but it really didn’t in any significant way. It was surreal. Then we started doing Little Red Dragon, and Dragon being my secondary style…. well, I don’t know what it looked like, but I don’t think it has ever FELT better- *ever*- than it did tonight. I did the flying kicks like I was on wires.

We then worked on some Dragon kicks- Dragon Whips Its Tail, Ruby Dragon Whips Its Tail (same kick, only planting the hands on the ground during the windup), and the combo from Little Red Dragon- hook kick, turn, inside flying crescent. I love that combo from Little Red- I have always enjoyed hook kicks, and I’m good at all sorts of crescents. Those Dragon Whips Its Tail ones, though- I always struggle with the hip positioning on those as well as recovering the balance after the kick. We also worked on a side kick to the knee followed by a scooping, looping scrape down the shin and continuing into a low scissor stance. We practiced all these kicks as line drills, then on partners (using "pork chop" pads for all but the knee kick).

Then we were asked to pair off and come up with multiple apps for one of the sequences out of Bung Bo Kuen. I was working with SK. He came up with an armlock app that seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to simply break the elbow. He wanted to just use the armlock to yank the opponent toward him and then into a throw. Great, said I, but why not go ahead and snap that pesky elbow, as long as you’re right there… you can still throw him afterward. SK felt that 1)doing so would involve altering the movement enough to lose the characteristic circular
momentum of Dragon, and 2)Dragon is unlikely to be so crass as to simply blow through the elbow. I disagreed heartily with both suppositions and told him that he was being too linear (both physically and theoretically). We argued about it for a while and then appealed to CN (he is a Dragon stylist). CN was observing this debate closely and with visble amusement, and pointedly refused to validate either of us. Argh! ahh

I do feel like my sense of KNOWING "What would Dragon do in this situation" is advancing. (SK is always griping about how his Dragon sucks… so he oughtta listen to me! Razz )

At the end of class, it was Nemesis’ turn to perform a form in front of the class and then dissect it and explain apps. I had asked him before class which form he thought CN would pick for him, and he guessed Five Points Of the Star. Bingo. Unfortunately for him, we got booted out of the community center gym just as he was about to start, and he had to do it outside on the wet grass with a light rain falling. Five Points Of the Star spends the final 1/4 of the form rolling around on the ground. I announced, "You realize you’re going to have to strip before you get back into my car."

Nemesis had to demo some of the apps on SK (Great! Now they’re BOTH going to be a couple of mudmen on my nice clean upholstry!)… at one point, he had a handful of SK’s hair in one hand and a handful of the inside thigh of his pantleg in the other- CN said, "Show me the throw." Nemesis tensed up to do it, and SK yelped, "NOT by the hair, please!!!" Laughing He made Nemesis readjust his grip to the back of the neck.

CN informed JoE and me that one of us was to be on the Hot Seat next Tuesday for the form performance and dissection. I tried to intimidate JoE into volunteering, but I was unsuccessful. So I suggested rock-paper-scissors. My scissors, his rock. Dammit. My stomach roils just thinking about this. In the next week, I am going to have to find time to review *ALL* of my forms- and this is not going to be the work of only a few minutes- even if I only buzz through each one once. And then some more intensive review of Hurricane Hands, since I know in my gut this is going to be the form CN is going to choose. I wish I could ask SK to review the form and a couple of the more foggy apps with me, but I dare not. If he rats me out to CN and CN realizes I’m prepared for that form, he’ll pick something else!

As far as the knee pain (or lack thereof)… I did take two ibuprofen around 10 or 11 am this morning (for an unrelated matter), but ibuprofen (and a wide variety of other pharmaceuticals I’ve tried) has never helped a smidge with the knee pain… and besides, I would have expected them to have worn off by 7pm. I’ll have to try that again a few times and see if I can duplicate the phenonmenon.

I’m cautiously intrigued by the instances lately of my Shaolin work feeling good… I want to think I’m at last coming out of this terrible rut (PLEASE Rickson Gracie!!!!), but I’m afraid to hope. I wonder if this is connected in any way to these last six days of unusually awesome BJJ rolling performances on my part… and if so, how.

In the carpool home, Nemesis, SK and I (JM had skipped class due to homework overload) were discussing SK’s black sash test of last fall. They had had him doing a ton of prep work for the "test" for almost an entire year, including videoing all of his forms and travelling to Portland to spar with the teachers and high-ranking people in our sister school. He had been expecting an actual "test" as an EVENT, and not seeing the "test" as a PROCESS including all of this stuff. So he had been anticipating a scheduled weekend gathering of all of the higher-ups during which he would have to fight all of them, then receive his sash. Instead, they surprised him at a seminar- just gave him the sash and told him the test was done. He was the only one who didn’t realize that he had in fact been testing all year.

So this led to some discussion in the car among the three of us regarding the black sash testing and how it’s been different for everyone, and why the higher-ups decide to do this or that regarding the tests, and what it means to the person. After we dropped off Nemesis, SK asked me if I was wondering what my own test would be like- at which point I reiterated that I have no intention of testing. I had figured I’d test for the next stripe (the final one before black sash) whenever I was told to, and then stop there- but now I don’t think I’m going to do even that. If JM had been in the car, I could have/would have avoided this whole discussion, but since we had the privacy, we went ahead and discussed our respective views of why it does or doesn’t matter whether we test for rank. I’m not sure if either of us succeeded in getting the other to see any new perspectives- maybe if we’d had longer to talk about it.

Tap… tap….tap

Monday BJJ Two-fer!

Basic guard break to side control

Ducking to the side to escape a jab, then closing for takedown

Escape from the half-guard

In the am, we also did two extra complicated (but really cool) techniques out of the same half-guard escape, involving diving over the person and then flipping them over. Opponent ends up in an exceedingly unpleasant position, face-planted on the mat with legs knotted up and the lower back twisted. It’s a move that you could DEFINITELY break somebody’s back with if you did it really hard and fast. Poor Kevin was Rodrigo’s demo dummy, and there were some interesting facial contortions… even a few involuntary gasps and grunts. I could tell it hurt- Kevin is not a one to gasp and grunt in front of the whole class unless it hurts BAD. I was drilling with Bryan this morning, and I was quite relieved that I was. I would have been really scared to let some big stupid white belt try a move like that on me.

Speaking of Bryan- he got a stripe on his purple belt! And Bree got a stripe, and Jim got a stripe, and Angus got his blue.

After drills, I did some positional sparring with John, which was good, since I haven’t worked with him in a while. I seemed to do a little better against him today than I usually do. Usually he spanks me pretty easily.

Then we watched Rodrigo school some Spazzy White Belts. He was trying to explain to them that they didn’t have to struggle like crazy and waste a ton of energy, especially when it was fruitless struggle. He rolled with one of the spazzy whites, and just perched on top of him in a pose of serenity. The guy fought so hard, sweating, red-faced, flailing and grunting. Rodrigo just moved around in a lazy, relaxed fashion… not grasping the guy, not trying to sub him, just casually and
easily changing position in response to the student’s motions and constantly staying on top. I don’t think he ever even broke a sweat. It was pretty impressive. Then he said to all of us who were watching, "That’s all you have to do."

Then I asked Nic for a roll, and we got so into it that we closed down the place. I was doing *fantastic*, if I do say so myself. Nic was consciously avoiding using any strength- after the demo we’d just been treated to- so it was just technique versus technique… and dayum, I guess I really *DO* have a little technique after all. I stayed on top of him almost the whole time… when I did lose the top, I recovered it pretty quickly. I got full mount repeatedly. It got so easy that I started experimenting with my rather limited submission repertoire. I tapped the guy three times. Mr. Green thumbsup

I kept trying to get a keylock, and that was the one place he was muscling a little, keeping me from getting it fully set up. So once when I *almost* had it, I tried the "alternate ending" armlock where you plant your elbow on the mat and rotate the opponent’s straightened arm. We weren’t quite in the position that had been used for the lesson, but I changed my angle and tried to make it work anyway- and to my delighted surprise, it did. He swore and tapped, and then asked me what the heck that was, and I said I was just experimenting.

He stuck an arm way out, and I cross-grabbed the sleeve cuff and hiked both of my ankles over the back of his neck for a tap. It took me a few tries… and again, it was a bit sloppy and not exactly as I’d been taught- but it worked. Serves him right for leaving his arm stuck way out there; after a couple of aborted attemps, he should have realized what I was going for, and tucked his elbows in to defend.

The other tapout was a gi choke from behind- my right hand on his left lapel pulling it to the right, my left hand on his right lapel pulling it down.

So not only three taps- I got three DIFFERENT subs. Forgive me for bragging… I don’t often do this well, and I’m really excited about it. mosh I hope Rodrigo saw at least some of it.

In the pm class, we didn’t do the complicated variations- just the three basic moves, and then the "Faster, faster!" drill-till-ya-puke treatment. It was warm up there again tonight. We were supposed to have the whole crew there, but JB had a migraine and had to bail. I drilled with JM. The second hour, Rodrigo ejected everyone under two stripes (maybe he was saving the more difficult variations for that group), so I went ahead and took off with my no-stripe-white carpool buddies.

Friday face-plant

Cindy’s Friday night no-gi BJJ. JB, JM and I walked in, and Cindy yelled, "Where’s the other one?!" Razz He was still in the changing room.

Transitioning from guard to taking the back, while wrapping the opponent’s arm around her own neck and trapping it there. Once on her back, you underhook the arms, grab the wrists and make her do a face plant. JB, JM and I had to drill in a trio. I told them to be very careful with the face plant. Cindy had once done that same face plant- HARD- to me as part of a class demo, and she didn’t tell me it was coming… it was very very unpleasant! surrender

Then we added on another piece that involved flipping the opponent over and getting an armbar. This part was really complicated. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to pull this off in real life. It was cool, though.

Then positional sparring- JM and then SK. JM and JB both got a chance to work with Cindy. Some free sparring with JB, then with Anthony. Anthony dominated me positionally much of the time, but I didn’t let him get any subs. I did get on top a few times, and one really good reversal- that’s great for me, especially as he has size/strength/rank on me. I *almost* got a triangle on him. That’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to finishing a triangle in live sparring. Improving my triangle skills is a goal for this year. I also want to learn more no-gi chokes. I hope that the extra no-gi classes I’ve been making since my Shaolin buds signed up are going to result in improvement in my no-gi skills.

JM continues to get better at a scary pace. Of course she executed the complex flip-over drill pretty well. While we were rolling, she dug her shoulder into my throat very effectively… granted, I taught her that, but she has taken that skill and really run with it. She also put her knee on my belly and leaned there to lever one of my grips off. It was a bit of a weight-exploiting move (as I told her), but still quite effective, and she did it well.

SK’s a little frustrated that 1)he can’t make the drill techniques work in live sparring, and 2)he doesn’t feel like he’s improving. I assured him that this is a very typical experience in the first few months. I hope he doesn’t get really discouraged. He really is getting better. But he’s definitely not used to getting his butt kicked on such a consistent basis…. he’s accustomed to being the one doing the kicking!

The MA version of Whack-a-Mole

Thursday night kung fu.

We played the modifed build-a-form game again. One form consisted almost entirely of techniques on the ground- but it covered a great deal of ground. It was a very thigh-intensive form!

Then some stick/club/baseball bat defense stuff. I was having a really hard time grokking which way I was supposed to be turning my body for the leg sweeps, according to where the club was coming from. The way my instincts were telling me to turn was WRONG, I was informed. And when I tried to discuss why turning to the right in this particular case did not parse to me as "turning AWAY from the club", we had one of those moments where the whole class stops and everyone is staring at me, with everyone present taking turns trying to explain something that is obviously as clear as 1+1=2 to everyone EXCEPT me. I hate those moments. So when it devolved into that, I just said, "Okay." I was feeling too frustrated and defensive to persue the matter. I don’t like myself when I do that. If it had been a one-on-one situation, I would have wanted to keep dissecting the issue until I could really *SEE* where my perception problem is, and thus fix it. But not with the whole class standing around staring at me and talking to me like I’m a moron.

A little Monkey-In-the-Middle, being attacked by classmates with clubs. It’s pretty scary (especially when I have my glasses on) to face down Nemesis during defense practice. He clobbered me once upside the head (with his fist, not a club, thank Gods), but it wasn’t overly hard- other than that, his control was okay tonight.

At one point, I was on the ground kicking out JB’s leg as she swung a club at me; I grabbed the club right above her hand and then crescent-kicked her arm to break her grip and claim the club. It was very smooth. I got actual applause for that one. mosh

Individual formwork time- I went through all the "mirror" forms and started working on Bung Bo Kuen In the Mirror (sigh). Well, it needs doing, so I am doing it.

Can you repeat that?

I missed half of BJJ class tonight because I was trapped in gridlock on 520 for an hour and a half. I got there in time to watch the last drill, and then jumped in for the positional sparring.

I did positional sparring with JM and then SK…. JM is almost equal level with me at this point… SK not there yet; but as he gets a chance to work with some other people and do more technique drills, he will get much better quickly.

Then sparring with Jim and then Adrian- both blue belts quite a bit bigger than me. Both of them were being nice about not using their weight. I was on top almost all of the time, but wasn’t able to finish any subs. Adrian and I were fighting back and forth for the same underhook repeatedly- we’d struggle for it, he’d get it, I’d take it back, and so on, over and over till it started to get rather comical. I think I was doing fairly well with the positioning, though. Jim made some comment after one of the rolls which contained the sound byte: "…..but your technique was so good that I…." and I confess I don’t remember what else was said, because my brain was stuck on replay.

JM finally got a chance to roll a little with Cindy… I didn’t get a chance to watch, nor to talk to her before she left, but I can’t wait to hear how that went.