An intense double helping of BJJ

I never picked up my medal for being the loser in a two-person bracket last weekend… but if I deserve a medal, it’s for being an almost-forty-year-old keeping up with a ripped eighteen-year-old athlete for an hour’s worth of advanced class.

Today was one of the most intense double helpings of BJJ ever.

Lunchtime at Cindy’s… rare gi class here; and still very hot in the gi inside the studio. It was just me, Lamont, and Spencer today- and Lamont has an injury, so he was doing drills only. He and I drilled collar chokes. He’d done them already Monday night, so he knew them already and could give me pointers.

Left hand deep to the tag, right hand grab a handful of fabric on the opposite shoulder of the opponent’s gi- then slip right forearm across throat and choke. I recall seeing this once a long time ago, but I never seem to remember that you can use that grip on the shoulder. Lamont suggests that I need to be sneakier and faster, though- so that the opponent can’t tell what I’m going for and have time to defend.

Cross-collar choke, using the forearm on grip one to force opponent’s chin up to sink in grip two.

Trap opponent’s elbow, cross-collar grip, hip out to opposite side, hug opponent’s head and pull collar sideways to choke. This one was a bit above my head… I could walk my way through it, but I’ll need to drill that one again before I can think about trying to use it live.

Relay sparring- just me, Cindy and Spencer. That was a long bout of grueling rolling. Spencer is a purple belt, really good, medium-large size. He grins like a kid on Christmas morning the entire time he’s rolling- it’s so cute. I called to Cindy, "When are you gonna wipe that smile off his face?!?" But when she gets something on him, he grins even more!

I didn’t seem to have a lot of gas this morning, but I pushed myself really hard to keep moving, to stay off my back, to stay off the bottom, to not do my patented Clench-n-Cling. I am mostly remembering to never voluntarily go onto my back; Cindy hollers at me whenever she sees my back going toward the floor. Spencer commented, "You like those guillotines, don’t you?" Yeah, I was going for those repeatedly on both him and Cindy (didn’t manage to finish any), and I was doing it yesterday too.

Rolling with Cindy is hopefully going to break me of the Clench-n-Cling…. getting grips and just clinging for dear life whether they are useful grips or not; meanwhile I’m getting turned onto my back or other unpleasant things. Cindy can take any grip you have and turn it into a sub against you. In the rare instance where she doesn’t seem to have one handy, she simply changes position and then she’s got one. It makes you want to avoid committing too much to a grip, unless you’re going to do something really good with it immediately.

I got a "Good, Kitsune." after our last spar- neato. Smile

By my final roll with Spencer (OMG, so tired… Lamont kept forgetting to set the timer, so the rolls were loooooooong ones), I got into a really cool groove wherein I was just flowing along really fast, constantly moving, and skating around on top. Whenever he moved, I let go of whatever I was holding, squirted out of whatever he was reaching for, changed position and bounced back on top. I see Cindy doing flow grooves like that sometimes on top of people, and I want to learn to do that.

I didn’t get a chance to ask this today, but I need to ask Cindy to help me with suggestions of what to do against people pulling guard and trying to slap on triangles. I want to get some good practice defending that. (mental note- make sure to have a gi jacket with me on no-gi days.)


Evening BJJ in Seattle. I hadn’t seen Rodrigo in two weeks, and I didn’t want him to forget what I look like. Commute sucks, though, without any of my group with me… it took me an hour and a half. Ugh.

I knew I wasn’t going to like this new schedule that has the basics class and the advanced class running simultaneously- and I DON’T.

We all warmed up together, then Rodrigo said, "White belts three stripes and lower, over THERE," There was no unobtrusive way for me to sidle over into the basics group, and no other colored belts went over there either. Later on I might get bolder about just holding my head high and marching myself on over there… but the unpleasantry remains that if I’m in the basics group, I will no longer have some of the good higher-belt training partners I’ve enjoyed working with in the past. It’s going to be really unbalanced toward brand-newbies in that group. Less educational- as well as greater potential for injury- for me.

Another thing- Rodrigo is teaching the advanced class. He had a blue belt over there tonight teaching basics…. don’t know if it’s going to be a regular person doing that, or rotating. A blue belt might be fine, as long as I like hir teaching style. But it’s not Rodrigo. I’ve always been acutely aware of how spoiled we are to be having someone like Rodrigo teaching basics classes… well, I guess that luxury is going bye-bye. I’m bummed- I really like taking classes from Rodrigo, and now it looks like I won’t get any unless/until I’m ready for the advanced class. I know my crew is going to be disappointed with that as well (and they don’t even have a choice about it, as I have). That may well be the final push for them to quit altogether. Sigh.

There was some distraction from having other classes going on simultaneously, but not too much (tonight at least). There is also some distraction from people going in and out, since the main trackways through the school as well and to/from the front door are right in the middle of the mat space.

So anyway, I found myself in the advanced class tonight, and thanking Rickson Gracie that I’d stayed to watch on Tuesday night, so I had at least some clue about what was going on. I also found myself drilling with Connor. I have some concern that he’s not happy when he gets stuck with me (he usually jumps on a higher-belt partner), but I really like working with him. He’s just my size, and really good.

Butterfly sweep. Butterfly sweep in which the opponent defends by standing up- so you transition to X-guard, try to stretch hir into the Chinese splits, and tip hir over backward so you can get on top. (Notes: make sure to take time to get yourself all the way underneath the person; make sure the knee on the higher hook is in BACK of that person; and grab opponent’s far sleeve before you even try to stretch him). Then a takedown using a butterfly-sweep-esque move. (Notes: don’t lie back on the mat- either on your back or on the shoulder!)

Rodrigo is in his Tournament-prep-overdrive mode… no downtime for us in the week after the Revolution Foreplay tourney. No breaks, driving, driving, driving, "Faster, come on guys, faster, keep it going…" I didn’t have a whole lot of energy today to start with, and after a hard class at Cindy’s earlier, I was flagging. Connor of course has enough energy for eight of me. The takedowns in particular, I was catching some significant air every time he tossed me over. And then there was the thud. And thud. And thud. And THUD……

By the last quarter of the class, the only question left in my mind was whether my lungs were going to explode before I passed out or after I passed out. Thank Rickson Gracie I wasn’t drilling with anybody heavier.

One cool thing- I got to be Rodrigo’s demo dummy briefly, for the first time ever. He saw me standing up on my one free foot while Connor was stretching me out in X-guard and then getting up himself. So Rodrigo used me to demo what you do "when the guy is REALLY flexible and doesn’t fall over when you have their leg up on your shoulder." It was a takedown. THUD, again. Ooooooooo. It wasn’t particularly hard, it’s just that I didn’t know what he was going to do or where I was going to land, so I couldn’t brace myself. Rodrigo asked if I was all right. Curses- I didn’t want to look like a whimpette on the very first occasion that he used me for a demo dummy! I jumped up as spryly as I was able, and he demoed it again (much more gently this time).

Then drilling all of the previous, over and over. Then some positional sparring from X-guard. Then bow-out- thank you Rickson Gracie. I staggered to the sidelines, ripped my jacket off, collapsed onto my back and lay there like a corpse. I didn’t even have the strength to lift my water bottle to my lips.

After a time, Connor’s dad’s head appeared upside-down in my field of vision to compliment me on my fight last weekend. So then we Monday-morning-quaterbacked the match, and Julie’s game in general…. he said that he generally sees her staying on top, and was surprised that she’d pulled guard on me. He opined that she was scared to try to take me down because I had seemed heavier and stronger. I watched several of her Youtubed matches, and she seems to be a real pull-guard-triangle-armbar type of girl…. but that’s not his impression… it’s good to be reminded to not get too confident that you know what your opponent is going to do.

Then we chatted some about how others had done in the tournament, how Connor’s BJJ is going, and how mine is going, and Rodrigo and Cindy as teachers, wrestling vs BJJ, and other related topics. Rodrigo started people going with the live training, but there was no way I could get back on the mat. He came over to ask me if I was okay. (Ya know, part of the downside of "double-dipping" at two schools is that he may not realize how much BJJ I am doing… and when I’m exhausted from doing a lot of classes, and die near the end of the evening, he might think I’m just a lightweight.)

So we chatted (with Connor and Sabrina coming over to join in a bit between rolls), and I hoped I’d get a second wind back and be able to do a little rolling, but no way. I was disappointed to not get a chance to free-roll with Connor. I haven’t sparred with him in a long time- and as I said, he’s just my size and good enough to be an excellent challenge for me. But I had to take a rain check.

The schedule may not stay like this…. they do tend to fiddle with it a few times a year, and maybe the basics and advances classes will change out of simultaneous time slots (I hope). Hopefully that status quo is not being seen as a needed indicator of Progress and Growth for the school, or something. I do fear that the precedent of having blue belts teaching basics classes will be here to stay, regardless.

This pic shows part of the interior of the new school.


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