Thursday kung fu… errr… Thursday BJJ

Thursday night kung fu. Class was a bit abbreviated tonight due to CK’s presence- some of the group wanted to go out to dinner afterward.

After a failed attempt to lure squirrels (both JB and I had brought treats for them, but they were being coy today), I was about to ask JB if she was up for rolling a bit to warm up- but she held her hand out for a hand slap before I could even ask, so great minds apparently think alike. We agreed that we should try to do that more often- it makes for a good warm-up for class, maybe even better than my stretching routine (ideal would be BOTH- maybe I can have time for both on Tuesdays when there is a bit more of a time cushion before class begins).

Class started with a round of hand strike drills. I was getting really good low horse stance again today. When we did the Tiger circular slashing sequence, SK walked around and punched at us to that we could parry his fist and then rip his face off. I did so with such enthusiasm that I almost knocked him down. But then I bobbled the next rep, as I often get confuddled when I try to do technique drills against a live opponent instead of in the air as I do more often. I said "sorry, I got distracted by the spurting blood." JB hadn’t been paying attention, and looked over, startled. "Blood? Is someone bleeding?" "Only in my dreams," said I. SK: "You dream about ripping my face off?" CK: "Come on- what else do you think she would dream about?"

After hand strike drills, we had a brief water break. I walked up behind JB and RNC’ed her, and we started to roll again. Then we just kept going. I saw CN, SK and CK working on the Black Dragon form (I intend to try to squeeze that one out of SK in the not-too-distant future). The others appeared to be working on the some of the flying kicks from Tiger Versus Crane- actually, it looked like JM was teaching. JB and I kept going- neither of us wanted to stop.

I am so impressed with JB’s jiu jitsu, and I told her so in the car afterward. She doesn’t have a lot of flashy tricks yet, but her basics are very, very solid- which I think puts her ahead of a lot of people in the Gracie school with more time under their belts and maybe a few fancy show-off moves, yet don’t have good posture and base in guard- and other such weaknesses in very basic skills that will bite them in the butt for a long time to come. I am having a very hard time preventing her from upa’ing me, and I can almost never get front mount any more. In fact, getting front mount became my primary goal tonight, and I did manage to get it several times- with much gleeful triumphant cackling- to her disgust. Hey, she should be grateful I wasn’t doing any nose-beeping. This time.

It was also my goal to prevent her from doing that razzafrackin’ seat-belting, stacking guard pass that she always gets on me. She did get it a couple of times, so I still have more work to do on defending that thing. She was also doing a really good job trapping and holding me in side control and scarf. I think we ended up 3 to 1 me… She tapped me with a keylock and I tapped her with a keylock and two guillotines. I teased her after getting that second guillotine- "I can’t believe you let me slip that in there again!" So when I tried it a third time, she immediately recognized it, spit a naughty word, and defended vigorously (and successfully).

I tried a number of kimuras on her from various positions, and couldn’t get any of them to work (dang it). I suspect part of the problem is JB’s unnatural flexibility, though- I think a couple of those may have made a normal person tap.

I also tried- several times- the technique we worked at Cindy’s last week, where you get a wrapping grip on the opponent’s bicep, fold the arm, and then stand up and hoist the person and drag them. It worked sometimes, but when I tried to continue into the kimura like we’d done in the drill, I couldn’t make that work.

We also did one match from standup- that was fun, and we both need the practice. It took a long time. I finally took her down with some sloppiness that was not an actual technique, landing in side control. Three seconds, then front mount. Ha! Rack them points!

Next thing I knew, CN was calling us all for the sitting meditation. JB and I had used up the whole class rolling. I felt a little bad, but the both of us have missed a lot of BJJ in the last few weeks, and we really wanted to roll.

When CN asked if he could talk to me privately after class, I thought he was going to chew me out for hijacking the class- I apologized for that. We have been doing that too much, and we need to not let it get out of hand.

But no, he wants to me write a paper about what my training means to me. ???? I replied, quizzically, "Errr- broad subject." He said that he purposefully did not want to give me more structure than that. He also said that he had liked what I wrote about the dao training, and was curious to see what I would do with this. I hadn’t considered that couple of dao-training paragraphs anything profound- in fact I thought it was a bit lame- but okay. I could drag nothing more out of him as to either the specifics of what was expected nor why. I have a few weeks, so I guess I will think about it for a while and see what I can come up with. I really hope he isn’t pegging this for a testing requirement. I haven’t told him that I have decided to not test any further, and wasn’t planning to tell him- I plan to go the passive-aggressive route if that ever comes up. I hope CK didn’t say anything to him about me, either. This is rather weird timing for this rather wierd request out of the blue.

On the way home, JB mentioned that she’s thinking about e-mailing SK about some of her training issues. I think she was talking to CK about it today after I left, and eventually came up with that plan. I think it’s great, and hope she follows up. I truly do think (and I told her so) that both CN and SK genuinely care about and are invested in our training, but they just don’t always know how to give us what we need from them- especially as they are both pretty new to teaching. We need to be very clear and very persistant in communicating how we need them to help us progress. We have a responsibility to actively help in that process. JB is feeling like she can’t talk to CN, which is sad. I am having a hard time figuring CN out. He comes off as being very sincere and open and easy to approach, but I often have difficulty trying to understand what he does and why- and he stalemates me many times when I try to get more clarity. I do feel that he has been pulling away from the group over the past year. And with his imminent return to college- who knows how much involvement (if any) he will have in the future of this group. So I would certainly hesitate to gird for some big heart-to-heart- or dump any angsty issues in his lap- at this point.

JB confessed that she found my training blog. I immediately braced for "How could you write________ about me, you ____ ____ ______??!!!!?!" Really, I don’t recall off the top of my head anything particularly unflattering or embarrassing that I’ve written about her, and I ain’t gonna sift back through almost a year’s worth of my natterings looking for incriminating tidbits. There are certain people that- if I thought they had found my training blog- I would need to take the thing offline and immediately leave town with the clothes on my back. But JB isn’t one of them. I told her, "I apologize in advance for anything I said that I need to apologize for,"….. and I guess that will have to cover it.

I don’t know what or how much she read, but apparently the most gripping thing she found (the ONLY gripping thing she’s found, maybe- heh) is the Carnal Carpool. She was outraged on my behalf. "I can’t believe they are making out in your backseat while you’re driving the carpool!!! That is so rude!!!! Why don’t you tell them to stop???!!!? Do you want ME to tell them to stop??! Because I will!!!" Thank you. But if I’m too much of a wuss to bring this up with them, that is my problem. We’ve already got two people acting like junior-high kids, I don’t need to join them by playing the Communication Relay Game.

Angst- the role of perspective and distortion

CK and I spent the morning doing a bit more of the slow, light sparring that we had done Tuesday morning. We also spent about half the time doing non-striking balance work type "sparring", which was sort of like aggressive Contact Improv. The object was to "attack with your CENTER" and also to try to stay relaxed and not have a lot of muscle and stiffness involved.

Then we picked up JB and did some formwork- short and long open-hands tai chi. As usually happens, we spent more than an hour on the first five moves of the form. Also, a lot of move-from-the-center focus, and a goodly amount of correction on weight distribution, knee position, and arm altitude.

JB looked awful. I haven’t seen her in about a week and a half- CK told me that JB’s cat had passed away, but JB hadn’t told me- and when I mentioned it in the car, I got a very abrupt "I don’t want to talk about it". There is also rumor of some kind of huge drama going on in her personal life, but I never know what is going on. JB said straight up that she was avoiding everyone and that’s why she hasn’t been to class, and that she still doesn’t really want to interact with anyone. I’m worried about her, but anxious about being pushy. I left her and CK in the early afternoon, partly because my attention span was all used up by then and partly because I want her to get a chance to talk to CK alone about whatever she needs to talk about.

I had really wanted to avoid angsty talks with CK about the Shaolin group. We haven’t had a whole lot of time together this visit, which helped in that respect, but we did get into it a bit in the car on the way to pick up JB. Again, I am dismayed at how wound up I am still getting once this topic is stirred, for all that I’ve tried to let the whole thing go.

CK agrees with me that- with CN pulling back for school- unless DD involves himself more, the group is a slowly-rotting corpse which will disintegrate fully in the visible future. She also couldn’t argue with my assertion that we are not doing enough sparring and are in danger of turning into the dreaded "forms factory" model. SK has admitted that both he and CN are anxious about taking responsibility for teaching and supervising sparring, and that’s why we’re not doing it, even though Nemesis and I have been consistently asking for it (and SK wants more too). I suspect that even the return of DD would not help that, as he was never big on sparring either. Part of this also has to do with the fact that all three women (myself included) are reluctant to spar with Nemesis (and to a lesser degree JoE) because of their lack of good control and the high likelihood of potential injuries for us. Yet neither Nemesis nor we the intimidated will be helped by simply avoiding the whole question of sparring forever. I can’t understand why no one but me and SK (and Nemesis, to some degree, from what little I’ve talked about it privately with him) is disturbed about this whole learning-a-martial-art-without-ever-doing-any-fighting thing. Like spending years upon years learning how to fish, but you never actually put a line into the water. If I was running this show, no one would get above one stripe without being more proficient in sparring than any of us below SK are now. (Developing enough control to be able to spar without injuring your training partners would also be a requirement for advancement, were I the teacher.)

Since neither CK or I had any answers or ideas for that thorny apple, we returned to the topic of forms- and she asked me specific questions about what I am discontented about in that arena. I told her that over the last year, the more junior students have learned several new forms and now have forms resumes that are hot on the heels of my own- yet I have not been given the resources to progress in turn, and am essentially stuck repeating the fifth grade over and over while watching the first-graders catch up to me. I also resent that CN, SK, and even CK (whom I technically OUTRANK in Shaolin!) are given more material by DD whenever the opportunity presents itself to do so, but *I* an never given any more material even though I have repeatedly groveled for it. I have asked CN point-blank several times why he is dragging his heels so stubbornly on giving me any new material, and the man flat-out refuses to tell me. SK refuses to teach me anything new without CN’s permission, because he’s afraid of getting in trouble for it- so so much for that angle.

And yes, I am aware of my hypocrisy in spending one paragraph bitching about turning into a forms factory and then the next paragraph bitching about how I can’t get any more forms. I explained to CK that I’m grubbing for forms because it seems like that’s the only thing I have a snowflake’s chance in Hades of ever maybe getting… I’m lusting after the crumbs because I’m starving.

CK gave me the talk about how getting more forms isn’t necessarily "progressing"….. which I countered with, Yeah, I know- but I can do the same simple form by myself in a bare room for six hours a day for the rest of my life, and yes, I will keep progressing and getting better. But without any tools or feedback, it’s slower and more stumbling than I want to be going. Besides which it is monumentally BORING and really hard to stay motivated.

She said something about how masterful I must be at this point on those particular forms, after so much review. I told her that my forms all still suck. Silence. Yeah- It didn’t even make sense to *ME* either, even while it was coming out of my mouth.

I have been working on the assumption that my Shaolin forms suck. I know that my Shaolin forms suck in the same unquestioning way that I know water is wet. Part of this is attributable to my own personal neurotic hangups, and part of it is attributable to the fact that I can’t find any other reasonable explanation for why my teachers have persistantly held me back to the extent that they have. We have an uncannily talented group of more junior students, that it’s difficult to avoid camparing oneself unfavorably to. JM encourages that particular bad habit in me by giving me (a much more senior student than herself) an irritating amount of unsolicited instruction and corrections. I’m sure there’s more additional psychological garbage wrapped up in there as well, that I’m not even aware of. Consentual reality through all of these distorted lenses is questionable.

But it’s a bit of a mindf*** to stop and wonder- "Hey…. I wonder exactly how much my Shaolin forms really DO- or really DON’T- suck?" What if they don’t suck after all? How would it change my training if I found out they don’t really suck?

There is really no one that I can trust to give me a truly objective assessment of my Shaolin forms. (Not that I can really cast blame for this; in most cases it’s because the person has an interest in being NICE to me.)

CK then wanted to know why I didn’t feel I was getting tools and feedback in class. Well, I am- but not at the level that I need and want. As I said, the past year has been spent working on forms I already know. Yes, mine have plenty of improvement to be made- but the bulk of CN’s and SK’s time is (understandably) spent on those students who still didn’t know which foot you step with on the lunge, and such- when I need some more detailed and advanced feedback. They tend to watch the group do a form, and then pick out some of the things that stand out as group-wide problems, to work on those. But I feel like I am having DIFFERENT problems than the more junior students, and I am not getting the specific help for those problems.

I’ve blogged a lot about this, and I still don’t feel like I’m articulating it well- nor do I feel like I’m getting anywhere.

Okay, a starting point:
I think that I need to start forcing myself to request individual forms help from SK (and maybe a little from CN as well) during Thursday "free forms time" again. I have not done so *at all* for nearly a year. Mostly because I couldn’t bear for *anyone* to watch my formwork while I was enduring Epic Slump 2010, and partly because it is hard to separate one of the teachers from the class while making it abundantly yet politely clear that JM is not welcome to tag along and watch/assistant-teach.

Trying to figure out what to work on for the tournament

The following is an excerpt of the e-mail I sent Cindy, in response to her request that I let her know what I would like her to help me with before the November Revolution.

At first I thought I was going to come up with a list of the top eight or so specific techniques that I thought I might find most useful- perhaps a couple addressing my weakest areas, a couple capitalizing on my strongest areas, a couple that I just can’t seem to make work or just can’t seem to understand well. But the more detailed I got while I was thinking it out, the more I thought that the fewer specifics and the more free rein I give her, the better off I will be. She’s the expert- both in BJJ and in competing. And not only that, coming from the perspective and experience of a fighter very close to my size. She knows a lot better than I can what it will take for me to improve, and where my weakn- I mean my OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT- are.

So I just offered a short generalized summary of the most pressing issues that I am conscious of:


General weak areas that need help:

My most persistant and frustrating problem right now is that I seem to always find myself defending on the bottom- and I can often get to bottom half guard, and then I get stuck down there. I still need more ideas for useful things to try from that position, and lots of practice trying them- especially against resisting opponents at speed, under the pressure of a live roll. (This problem is less tournament-related than a general ongoing frustration…. almost everybody I work with in class is much bigger, stronger and heavier than me, which makes me more likely to find myself stuck in this situation and more intimidated/defeatist about trying to get out.)

It seems to me that when I roll, I have some moderate success with guard passes and escapes, but my subs and sweeps in general are much weaker areas. I’ve always concentrated much more on "position" than "submission" thus far, to the point that I still don’t attempt many submissions at all and have a poor rate of success with the ones I do try. When I’m on the bottom, an escape (squirming out, getting to knees and turtleing, replacing half-guard or guard) seems like less work and more likely to succeed for me (especially against big heavy guys) than trying sweeps, so I don’t even try them much.

So- subs and sweeps in general, and it might be a good idea to just focus on a couple of simple, reliable ones that can be done from a variety of positons- and drill, drill, drill, practice, practice, practice those few items as opposed to trying to get me to absorb a big toolbox of stuff. I am a VERY slow learner and I often have to be taught a thing several times before it starts to stick… and then there’s a big gap for me between being able to drill a technique against an unresisting partner versus trying to remember it, recognize the opening, and make the technique work in the speed and pressure of a live roll.

If we had time, same with takedowns- they are weak in general, so maybe pick two good ones and work them to death. I’m much more worried about the subs than I am about the takedowns, though.

Miscellaneous tidbits, specifically Revolution-related:

1) I will almost certainly have to fight Bianca- who is very persistant and adept with a wide variety of chokes, and our rolls almost invariably end with me tapping to her choke sooner or later (again, because I’m not trying many subs myself.). I have some moderate success at choke defense, but more will probably be needed to save me from her. And I need a plan to get her subbed before she can choke me.

2)A few Revolutions ago, there was a white belt woman who got the Vicious Submission title for a flying armbar in about twelve seconds. That woman is probably a blue belt now- and this may be stupid, but I’m all paranoid now about feeling like I need to be prepared for an opponent trying to flying-armbar me right out of the gate. I’ve never even seen one outside of a video, so I’d like to know 1)what it looks like coming at me so that I’ll recognize it, and 2)how to defend. As I said, I don’t want to get too hung up on having to WIN (especially as this would be my first tournament), but what I seriously do ***NOT*** want to have happen is that I _DO_ NOT_ want to get subbed in the first fifteen seconds of the match. That would be really humiliating and discouraging.

3)I have never really paid attention to the scoring system, what’s illegal, and other details of competition (I’ve never even watched one), so an ongoing feed of informative comments about those types of things would be welcome. I don’t want to be giving up points because I don’t understand what I ought to be doing in order to accumulate them efficiently. And I’d be completely embarrassed to get DQ’ed for doing something dumb that I didn’t realize was not allowed.

Sparring with CK


CK and I met up at the community center at 9:30. There was some inevitable catching-up chitchat, then she suggested that we spar a little "to warm up". I told her about Epic Slump 2010, and that the Shaolin group is still very deficient on sparring practice, and that I am feeling very out of practice and intimidated. I didn’t spar at all with MM when he was visiting. I just was not feeling up for a violent beatdown at CK’s hands this morning (and she can bring the Violent Beatdown, I assure you). I suggested freeze-frame sparring, but she’s not a big fan of that process. So we agreed to just go slow and light.

I am so very outmatched against CK, it’s ridiculous. I usually do my best work close-up, but I can’t close with CK- she just crushes me. I have to keep some distance, and of course her reach is longer than mine (although nowhere near as bad as SK or Nemesis). This is one of those faceoffs where you go in with the knowledge that you are just not gonna win this one.

I don’t think I got a single head or throat strike in all morning. I was getting some belly strikes, some belly/groin kicks, but mostly what I was getting was knee kicks. You have to be careful trying to kick at CK, because she has very quick and bony knees that pop up to cover, and you end up hurting yourself with the kick more than you hurt her. She was also getting belly kicks in at me, which I find very frustrating- I’m unhappy with myself when I leave myself open enough for her to get a solid belly kick. She was also getting a lot of throat strikes on me.

I observed that I am still falling into the habit of getting frustrated, tense and sloppy as soon as my opponent lands a few solid hits. I also observed that I was very tense in general. It is quite exhausting to spar for long periods when you’re that tense.

I made the mistake of mentioning to her that Cindy is trying to get me to observe when an opponent’s head extends past her knee, and then grab around the back of the head and force the opponent to kiss the mat. So CK started doing that to **ME** whenever she saw my head come too far forward.

She also commented about how I was keeping my hands resting on top of her forearms the whole time. It wasn’t conscious, but with my hands there, I could feel whenever she was about to move and I coud react immediately- I could try to keep her from striking at my neck and head- and this way I didn’t have to WATCH her hands; I could keep my gaze on those treacherous feet of hers. This must be something I have started doing in BJJ, but I wasn’t aware of it. Will have to take note of whether I notice that next time I roll. Anyway, CK says that the gesture reminds of her her late cat Niko, who used to place a paw on her kittens’ heads and bear down… it was noticed at some point that Niko used the same gesture on her humans. This behavior took on the moniker "The Niko Dominating Paw". So after that, one or the other of us would periodically break into giggles during the spar, as we noticed my "Niko Dominating Paw" coming into play yet again.

I noticed that she overcompensated with the backing-up and covering whenever I bent over in low Leopard-strike position- even though I never got anywhere near her and in fact don’t think I ever even extended any of the strikes. I also got her once by throwing a circular Crane top fist to the side of the head which was COMPLETELY a ruse to distract her from the kidney kick that I was *really* setting her up for. I also got her a couple times with a second kick after she’d blocked my first one, if I didn’t put the foot back down before following up with number two. I balance well on one leg, and I think people tend to assume that after a kick, they don’t need to worry about that leg any more until after it regrounds… not so!

Any time I did land any sort of a hit, though, it was like pressing a "GO" button on her- she immediately followed up by closing in rapidly with an aggressive attack. After a few of those, I got more intimidated and hesitant about trying to land something.

Once, she knocked me down and stepped toward me to help me up- only I assumed that she was stepping toward me to drop her considerable solid weight on top of me and flatten me into roadkill. So I balled up and then pistoned my leg out and kicked her in the knee- not that hard, but harder than I’d meant to. She gave me a shocked glare and an "OW!!!" and I felt Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelly bad. She stopped and put some jow on it, so I know it hurt. Then I was trying to be even more careful with my force and targeting, and trying to not kick her again in the same spot on the same knee…. but darn it, knee strikes were the only thing I was having decent sucess with!

We paused for me to hop around and swear a little after kicking her ankle bone at the wrong angle with my toe… she checked the time and realized it was already 1pm. Wow- time flies when you’re getting beat up. So we adjourned in order to have a little downtime before Tuesday kung fu class. We had gotten one run-through of the tai chi short form in there during a sparring break, and a very little posture work, but mostly it was sparring. I know she wants to get some stance/posture work done and some formwork as well- and I do too- but I think the sparring practice was very valuable and time well spent.

I got home ravenous, and ate everything in sight.


Kung fu Tuesday. No CN, and a small class- It was just me, Nemesis, SK, and CK- then JoE showed up a little later.

While waiting for class to start, I worked on all of the Snake Dao stuff. It seems pretty good, and I’m particularly proud of the slashy-spinny-flying-kick. I got that tricky footwork sequence, too. (SK peeked around the corner and warned me to not be too hard on my knees, after spending all morning sparring CK.)

We started with some forms- Little Red Dragon, Black Crane Three (walking CK through that one- she hasn’t worked it in too long), Northern mantis Bo form (same). Then SK set to teaching CK some of the Snake dao, and told the rest of us to work on the Dao-vs-staff material. Since there was an odd number, I left Nemesis and JoE to work together on that and went off by myself. I went though all the Sanke Dao material again, but since I was pretty satisfied- and my knees were starting to ache- I got my bo and worked the spinning (high and low), turning (both directions), spinning-with-abrupt-stop-and thrust- (both sides, and with same-side foot lunging forward, then opposite side foot). Then I picked small visual targets on the trees and bushes and did the spinning-with-abrupt-stop-and-thrust while trying to develop decent thrusting aim at speed. That still needs more work. Everything is a little trickier with a staff that is too long for my body- but I can’t really cut it, even had I the means- because I haven’t paid for it.

By that time, my upper arms were starting to get tired, so I went around the corner and practiced Dragon forms. Touch Bridge (flow is seeming a bit better), Long Qi (that one’s gone downhill a bit- I need to revisit that one again very soon), Box Form (a little stumble on a couple of details, but I figured them out after a few minutes… it’s still a bit too staccato and needs a little smoothing out…. the energy and power in this form is still stunning). I was about to start on Dragon Plants the Seed when SK called me back to work the Dao vs Bo with CK. That took the rest of the class.

Even a dead fish floats to the top.


Yeah, I had some cookies. And some SpaghettiO’s. I think the SpaghettiO’s were more calories than the cookies- did you know there are 460 calories in a can of those things??!

It was an oven in the Bellevue school tonight. I can only imagine how bad it was up in the loft in Seattle.

I had wanted to come to the 30-min takedown class that was scheduled before the regular class…. but I was a little too slow getting out of the house, and showed up too late. I got to watch about half of it, though.

Standing guillotines, guillotine defenses, breaking the turtle, chokes from the back (ezekiel, clock, and one where you just loop your elbow around opponent’s neck, grab your own lapel and squeeze). I drilled with SK. I like chokes. I really want to get better at chokes.

No positional sparring tonight. 6-min timed rolls with first SK, then Jim, and then Steve. I got tapped a couple times, but seemed to be doing fairly well (better than my usual) overall in terms of postions and escapes with these three larger, stronger (and in the cases of the latter two, more senior and technical than I) opponents. I actually did worst against SK, but he did seem to be muscling a bit- not real bad, just a bit. Both of the blues commented that I had done really well. I kept moving, kept (at least pretending as if I was) going for subs, and when I found myself squashed on the bottom, I kept trying to move around and fight it. No more lying helplessly on the bottom. Even a dead fish (as Bryan is wont to classify me when I do this) floats to the top.

By the time Steve and I were halfway through our roll, we were both ready to die. Sometimes we would clinch up and just lie there for a long moment, sucking air and praying that the other would hold still for just a minute longer so we could get a little gas back.

I wanted to roll more, but my body said no way. I had to lie on my back on the floor in the lobby for a while before I felt like I could drive safely. "You okay?" "Yeah- I’m so hot and exhausted, I think I’m gonna puke." "Roll over if you’re gonna do that." "Thanks. You’re a pal."


The consequences of my diet are beginning to weigh on my conscience. By the time I get to 124lb, I will have single-handedly decimated the planet’s chicken population (both corporeal and embryonic) to a point where the creatures will be an endangered species. German chocolate cake, on the other hand, is a much more renewable and sustainable resource. I really need to put some thought into my level of self-centeredness here.

I have no training to post on my training blog this weekend.

132.5… Yesterday’s little doughtnut interlude notwithstanding….

An unfortunate series of misunderstandings conspired to snafu my private lesson tonight with CK, to my dismay. It might be just as well… I am exhausted and sleep-deprived, and she is still jet-lagged- chances are high that we would not have gotten a lot of constructive work done. Although we might have been able to get some of the inevitable chitchat out of the way so we could get down to serious business next week. I have booked her for Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

I tried at the end of July to get a lesson with CC for Aug 1…. He finally contacted me a couple days ago and suggested this weekend (Sunday)… today he e-mails me AGAIN and wants to slough me off to next week. Next week is totally booked for me. I’ll have to try to pin him down for the weekend of the 21st. This is typical. I think I spend more time attempting to coordinate lessons with CC than I actually spend *IN* lessons with him.

CN is out of town, so no Conditioning Boot Camp; and I had to work this morning/afternoon which necessitated missing Competition Training day at Gracie’s. How’s that for a bummer of an MA-less weekend? I’m so glad I dragged myself to class last night- I’d be kicking myself so hard right now if I’d stayed in bed.

I am very conscious of how fortunate I’ve been to have been gifted with as much high-quality MA training from skilled teachers as I have, GRATIS. These people don’t owe me anything, and I’m grateful for every minute they have generously and kindly donated to help me out. However, I must concede there is a thing to be said for belonging to a commercial school, where you fork over your credit card and then your teacher HAS to BE THERE, consistently, on time, according to some reliable schedule.

Mmmmmmm…. doughnuts.

Worked the graveyard shift last night, and crashed when I got home this morning. I sooooooooo did not feel like getting up for class. Especially as it involved fighting Seattle Rush-Four-Hours traffic into the city alone, without access to the carpool lanes. The commute (one way) takes longer than the class itself. But I knew I’d regret it if I wussed out of class, since I am having to miss so many this month due to work. So I hauled my groaning carcass out of bed, ate my half a baked chicken breast (sigh), and set off.

It turned out to be a great class, so I’m really happy I made myself go. Cindy asked where I’d been, and where the rest of my crew was (it’s nice to be missed).

Leah was there! I haven’t seen her in months. She is skinnier than ever. Didn’t get to work with her at all, sadly. Pat had mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that Leah was supposed to be back (at Gracie’s). It would be good to see more of her, in either or both places.

We did a few new warmups, including a strange sort of backwards shimping wherin you pull yourself toward your feet with your heels instead of pushing yourself toward your head. There was also an exercise where you had to spend three straight minutes doing different movements in different directions with no pause, and you couldn’t repeat a single thing more than three times in a row. Harder than it looks (pretty clownish, too). But good cardio, and good practice transitioning from one thing to another.

It was just me, Leah, Dan and Ian. We drilled another one of those long sequence things that Cindy likes to do. I definitely struggle with this teaching style. It’s a lot of information at once for my small brain. I hope that after a few months, more parts of the sequences will be familiar to me, and there will be a few small unfamiliar bits to focus on instead of one long stretch of intimidating newness.

This particular sequence had a guard pass to scarf hold, to north-south, to four different ways to finish (two variations on a kimura and two armbars). Good, kimuras again. I continue to struggle with the hand/arm positons, which I still have to think much too hard about. I had to be walked through the sequence slowly a few times, and have a few questions answered. It was nice to have so few people in class today, so that I was able to hog Cindy a lot for help. It was also nice to have Leah step in as Cindy’s principle demo dummy. I had to laugh (and wince in sympathy) at all the faces poor Leah was making as Cindy worked her over. I feel for ya, sister. EVERY SINGLE THING Cindy does to you hurts. Every single hold, every single transition; there is no pause in the Parade Of Pain. I had to endure some too, as Cindy always does an additional demo on a second dummy, so that her main practice dummy can watch.

I drilled with Ian. After drills, Leah and Dan booked. Ian had some specific technique questions. As soon as he started asking questions, I thought, "Oh, great, here we go with me as demo dummy again," Twist, yank, spin, stuff, squeeze, flip, wrap, tap tap tap tap tap.

Then a few four-minute spars with Ian, followed by four minutes of being annihilated by Cindy.

Ian: I went to start on my knees, since that’s the way we always do it at Gracie’s, but Cindy wanted us to start standup. Uh-oh…. okay, I’ll try. I tried to reap him a few times without success, and he kept trying to force my head down and guillotine me (he’s significantly taller, so he was already up there and ripe to decend upon my poor head and sprawl). He got his arms wrapped around me and forced me to the foor on my knees a few times, but I had my chin and hand in, so he wasn’t finishing the guillotines. I pulled guard once, although he passed and got side control almost immediately. Once we were on the floor, it was fairly competitive. As per usual, my version of "we were fairly competitive" means that I was able to dominate positionally at least some of the time, and also pull off a number of decent escapes, until the oppponent eventually taps me because I try few submissions and have a poor success rate on the ones I do try. So anyway, he tapped me one or twice (with kimuras), I spent a fair bit of time on top of him. I also spent a fair bit of time trapped in bottom half-guard (what else is new). He was decent to work with, though. Some slight Spazz and muscling, but not enough to make it too unpleasant. He was obviously making an effort to be nice. Better technicality than me. He’s bigger but not too much bigger. It was some fun rolling.

I told Cindy that I was thinking of doing the November Revolution, and that there were some specific things that I would really appreciate her help with between now and then. I said that I wasn’t really looking to WIN- whereupon she immediately made it clear that she does not want that attitude. I also expressed trepidation at the likelihood of having to face Bianca, and she assured me, "I can teach you how to beat Bianca." Heh heh.

She wants me to make a list of the specific things that I want to work on. I guess I should narrow it down from "Everything". I already know I want to work on:

Things to do from bottom half guard

Subs in general (maybe pick one to three to focus on)

Sweeps in general (again, perhaps concentrate on just a couple basic ones)

Any specific techniques that are particularly well-suited for small-person-vs-big-person

Choke defenses (for dealing with Bianca, Queen of Chokes)

Flying armbar recognition and defense (for dealing with that scary Vicious Submission girl)… maybe I’d do well at flying armbars myself, too, if we have time to play with that

A couple of good takedowns for tournaments

I’m sure I will come up with a lot more… in fact I’m sure I will come up with much more than we will have time to work on, but this will be an ongoing thing, I hope. I couldn’t wish on a star for anyone better suited to help me get ready for a tournament than Cindy Hales. I hope I will be lucky enough to be able to hog some decent chunks of her time in the coming few months.

Grace, our new lab assistant, brought in five dozen doughnuts from Top Pot this morning. I restrained myself from kissing her. I did have one doughnut. It was soooooooooooooooooooooo good. My level of rapture must have been plain on my face, because when I opened my eyes again, the security guard was standing there watching me and grinning widely.

Where’s the enemy?


CK’s in town! Unfortunately, my schedule is not looking great for having a lot of time to get together and work with her. I am *not* skipping Cindy’s Friday no-gi class this week, since I missed it last week and will have to miss it next week (work… such an inconvenience… Cindy’s probably wondering why I officially enrolled in her school and then promptly vanished). JB should be able to store up many tai chi corrections and such to impart to me later, though. Am not looking forward to answering CK’s probing questions about why I turned down the Wednesday advanced class. (She asked me about it by e-mail a few months ago, and I dodged the question.) I’m sure she thought she was doing me a favor by interceding on my behalf, and is likely to be irritated with me (or worse, disappointed in me). If I don’t get much time with her this visit, the silver lining is that at least I’ll be spared those uncomfortable conversations. Just thinking about the topic today is starting to stir up discontented emotional sludge (get back- back under the rug, you!). She is actually STAYING with DD, so also am not happy about the idea that I am likely the subject of some discussion between the two of them. Well, they won’t have much to talk about, unless they haul in SK for interrogation, since he’s the only one who knows anything about what’s going on with my training. I’m surprised and disappointed to find that the knowledge that CK is surely scoring a lot of private instruction with DD during her stay still stings.


Thursday Kung fu. CK wasn’t there. SK told me it was because she was having a private with DD. Humph. See how it is?

After warmup (my knees were doing okay at the beginning of class, enough so that I was able to do some good "tabletop" horse stance), we took turns picking forms. We would do the selected form 3 times, and then SK would pick out whatever most needed help and we’d go over that section. I picked Tiger Versus Crane. JM asked me, "Which way are you kicking on that first flying spinning kick?" I pointed. "Oh. because I’m kicking here." She pointed in the 180-degree opposite direction. I asked SK, "Where’s the enemy?" Always a good thing to know. JM was right. I need to work on adjusting my rotation.

Nemesis picked Leopard Fist. After we went through it three times, I commented, "Wow, for a form we’ve been doing for years, that sure sucked," "Needs some work," was SK’s response. The section he chose to work on was the funky Snake-stepping part that resembles the footwork in the Snake dao form… the part I told him on Tuesday that I was having trouble with. Then we worked on the throw that got changed a few months ago to make it "more advanced". Nemesis is still struggling with that throw. I can do that part, although I had had to put a lot of practice into it when we were first taught the new version.

JM picked the White Crane "Walking the Path" sequence from January’s retreat. Good, I needed some refinement on that and had a couple of questions. I had to ask everyone to go through it slower, because there is a deep lunge-and-sweep section at the beginning which hurts my knees…. it was slowing me down, and then I had to hurry to catch up and was making more errors in my haste.

Then we worked apps from a section of the Tiger kick drill, with two opponents. SK made me go last, which meant the others had already used up the easy and obvious apps. But (because it was Tiger) I was able to pull something decent out.

SK quizzed us about where exactly on the opponent’s knee we should be targeting on a certain one of the low kicks. I have almost entirely ceased answering questions in class, so I kept my mouth shut- even when he eyed me pointedly and added, "Someone who knows about anatomy and knee pain…..?" But after JM answered (bottom of the kneecap), SK looked at the rest of us and said, "You all agree?" No, I didn’t, so then I had to answer. Why would I want to kick right on a shield-shaped bone? Sure, it’ll hurt, but that’s the most armored part of the (albeit fragile from all angles) knee. Yes, I am a biologist and I know my anatomy- but all I have to do for a question like that is think about where on my poor knee I would least like to be kicked. Where have I been kicked in the past where it hurts worst, and is most likely to collapse my leg? Well, the back of the knee is great for at least a momentary collapse- but from the angle we were working at the time, the back was not readily reachable. Why, the side of the knee, my dear Watson. This time *I* was right.

We also revisited a variation on this sequence involving bracing the hand on your own knee during the kick. We had never had any app for that explained to us. SK asked us to come up with some. We were collectively flummoxed… it doesn’t make any practical sense. SK refused to give us the answers, to my exasperated annoyance. He said that if nobody can come up with anything by next week, he might tell us then.

Individual formwork. I worked on Silken Needle (still a little hesitant about the sequencing on the side-pushes section, but flow and energy seem nice), Iron Needle (all seems well here), and Touch Bridge. I have questions on Touch Bridge, and SK doesn’t know the form. I was irritated that CN was absent tonight- again- and will also be absent this coming Saturday and Tuesday.

Racy Rideshare tonight- worse than usual! I am about to crack. One of THEM is driving home every single night next week, I swear. I feel bad demanding that they drive so much, but REALLY people…. given the situation, why on earth am *I* so reluctant to be inconsiderate??