The body’s subconscious ‘race to the bottom’


Evil housemate has stocked the clear cookie jar on the kitchen island. Curses! Temptation right in my FACE, multiple times per day. I had one last night and one this morning- bite sized frosted oatmeals. I love those things. This is throwing a monkey wrench in my system.

Thursday morning BJJ in Bellevue.

Bree got a stripe promotion today. She is now a three-stripe white. I asked her if she is going to do the Revolution. She said that she’s like to wait a little longer before competing, but that Carlos is really pushing her. So maybe.

Bearhug from the back- frame up, step to the side, grab behind opponent’s knees, tip hir backward to takedown. I have done this one several time now, and I persistantly end up falling on my keister. I didn’t fall today, but Carlos told me to stand up straighter when I picked the guy up. That seemed to help quite a bit. It also helped, I’m sure, that I was working with John and not trying to pick up someone three times my weight.

Side control escape- rolling to stomach and then driving into opponent, grabbing behind hir knees, turn and dump hir on hir back. I had a little trouble with this at first because the initial move involves rolling AWAY from your opponent, and I have been so brainwashed to never do that. But I think this is a good move for a small, compact person who can maneuver well in the small space underneath an opponent who is on all fours.

Also- scarf hold escape, getting to knees and taking the back. John and I found that if you reach across your opponent’s waist as you take the back, the opponent’s hand is trapped firmly between your jaw and shoulder, and you get a nice chicken-wing armbar without even half trying.

I really wanted to stay and do some free rolling- especially since John was there- but for some reason I was feeling very low-energy. It was affecting me a lot during the positional sparring, and the thought of free rolling was exhausting. I sat for a few minutes and watched, hoping I’d get a little juice back once I cooled off a bit, but no… so I split.


Thursday evening Kung Fu. JaE was there for the first time in several months. I exclaimed, "Who are you???!!" and he said, "The new guy!"

One round of hand strike drills, one round of kick drills. When JaE’s turn came, he picked a weird double-crescent combo that they had apparently done at the retreat in Portland in January. Apparently you’re not supposed to let your kicking foot touch the ground in beween the two crescent kicks, which is a bit challenging. I had to ask some questions about how the balance and power generation was supposed to be working out with that, before I could get it straight in my mind. Still, my crescent kicks are stunning in both height and form as always! So then halfway through the round, SK said, "For those of you already kicking above your heads, try starting and ending with your feet side by side. And keep your hands in a guard in front, not out to the sides to help your balance." Then it got a *LOT* harder!! I commented that I was noticing that the more sore and tired you get, the more your body instinctually tries to make little compensatory changes in the technique to try to make it less painful and use less energy. It’s easy to not even notice this happening, especially at first.

Then we worked some of the same one-one one and then two-on-one sparring exercises that we’d done last week. Again, it was an enclosed space, and for the first few rounds, the defender was allowed only to evade and parry- no attacks. Everyone had to stay in low Tiger stances throughout. Freeze-frame counting again- one move per person per count.

The first time Nemesis rolled away from JaE, JaE looked at the extreme expanse of space that had opened up, looked back at us with a disgusted expression, and remarked, "Oh, crap!" I said, "Doesn’t that suck?"

My first rounds were with JB- one of them devolved into a BJJ roll which SK allowed to continue till sweep or submit (I swept her). I was getting a great triangle on her at one point and had it THIS CLOSE to being locked on, but then she stacked me hard and I had to let go so that I could breathe. It was a great stack- my ribs are pretty sore right now.

My two-on-one rounds were with Nemesis and JoE. It was laughable. They caught me and "killed" me within 4 counts no matter what I did.

Individual forms time- I worked the Southern Mantis bit in "micro-fu" meaning I wasn’t trying to get all the stances and extentions perfect, I was just running a truncated version repeatedly to try to build flow, develop a decent breathing pattern, and work past the "what comes next" pauses. I really need to pay attention to the breathing on this one. It is very staccato- and with my bad habit of huffing on every strike, I get out of breath very quickly. I had to keep reminding myself again and again to not breathe like that.

Then I worked the three-strike sequences with the short double sticks again. I slowed it down and payed careful attention to making sure I didn’t cheat the third strike. But when I tried to speed up- keeping that attention on the third strike- I noticed to my dismay and disgust that the SECOND strike became truncated.

It was the same situation that had been happening with the double crescent kicks- the body was trying to compensate, for the speed this time instead of for exhaustion and pain. But I was reminded of a conversation on one of the jiu jitsu forums yesterday, in which someone had referenced "the race to the bottom" regarding belt ranks and how some people/schools cheapen them by trying to get to the lowest common denominator. I hadn’t heard that particular term before, and I had to think about it a while. But I was reflecting tonight that that’s what my body was trying to subconsciously do when the factors of speed/pain/exhaustion were introduced- my body tried to "race to the bottom" and see what it could do to make the technique easier. Something to really start paying attention to, since usually the compensatory changes that my body wants to make are easier- yet they make the technique a lot less effective. So then I looked back at this morning’s BJJ lesson and realized that that was also happening with the takedown. After I’d done several reps, I was getting pretty tired… John is a smaller guy- lighter than anyone else I’ve done this drill with before- but still heavy enough for it to be a chore to lift him entirely off the ground and hold him for three counts (we had been doing that instead of the actual full takedown, for reasons of space). So when I started getting fatigued, my stance and posture altered sort of involuntarily to most efficiently get him off the ground and hold him there- even though I was aware that the subtle changes were not optimal for doing the actual takedown, had we been doing it. At the time, I was feeling very low-energy, so I just kinda let it slide. But I know I might as well not do drills at all if I’m going to be lazy enough to do them WRONG. So now I’m going to pay closer attention to recognizing this phenominon when it happens, and consciously choosing to return to the original, more challenging and more correct version.

I asked JB if she’d made a decision about whether she was going to leave Gracie Barra for Cindy’s school. She said that she didn’t really want to leave GB right now- she would miss Rodrigo, and miss the wide variety of training partners available, and also Wednesdays (when GB had class and Cindy doesn’t) is one of the days she is most likely to be available to come to class. So she’d like to stay at GB and do drop-in’s at Cindy’s…. which is pretty much my own current plan.

It did occur to me at that point that if SK leaves GB, I’m going to be stuck commuting into Seattle during rush hour without access to the carpool lanes- which will not only SUCK MIGHTILY, it will make JB and me late every time. Tempting to mention this to him…. but it’s not really fair for me to try to influence his decision according to what is convenient for me. It did also occur to me then that if SK DOES stay at GB, the first leg of Wednesday carpool would be just the two of us. I have to admit that I’d really like that. I almost never get opportunity any more to enjoy SK’s company/conversation one on one. Back when we were the only people in the carpool, we had lots of valuable (to me, anyhow) discussions about training (and occasionally some really deep and fascinating ones about religion, moral issues, and all sorts of other things). I miss that, and those sorts of conversations do not happen with others present. But he has to make whatever decision is right for him, and I’m hoping that he will do so without having JM’s preference be the weighting factor- so it’s not fair for *me* to be trying to weight him with my preference either. I need to just keep my mouth shut.

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