Proving Grounds, Telephone Poles, Kittens, and Defeatism


The only reason I haven’t killed you is because it would make a mess. -xCecilex

Friday evening class: all spars. This was fortunate, because the next morning I was down two pounds and had no worries about making weight. I probably could have had that pizza for breakfast.

(Blue-belt) Lindsey came in right at the ends, and it was so much fun rolling with her. It’s been a long time. Unfortunately I was too tired to do more than one roll.

I love, love, love love rolling with Professor Herbert. He lets me work just enough, then all of a sudden I am flipping over to land on the bottom and thinking, “What just happened?” He does things I’ve never seen before.

Proving Grouds: I managed to dodge the group photo, although I got reprimanded by both Lamont and Cindy for that. Cindy made a point of instructing me firmly to come and get her when I was about to go on the mat, even though she was reffing. She’s like, “Will you COMMIT to that?” with piercing glare, like she thought I was going to try to ditch her. Honestly, the more people who are watching me, the more anxious I feel, so I would just as soon not have anyone there. Furthermore, while I appreciate the support of people who step up to corner me, it drives me crazy when they are exhorting me to do A and I simply CANNOT do A, for some reason. It makes me feel so guilty. I also feel guilty for letting them down when I lose. Especially Cindy. I am feeling guiltier and guiltier lately about failing to come through for Cindy. She’s so patient with the little kids, but I have got to be the most frustrating and disappointing failure on her project list.

There were 4 women there (all for no-gi), and they combined us all. As soon as I saw I was going to have to fight Chelsea, my stomach dropped. She dominates me in practice, and she has significant weight on me. I felt intimidated, and defeated before I even stepped on the mat. Sure enough, she had some gnarly head/neck control in standup and then got me down. I knew that once she was on top, it would be over, so I scrambled frantically, but turtle was as far as I got before she slapped on a nice guillotine and that was it.

Number one on the list of “I really need to figure this shit out, now”: As we started that scramble, I felt tired and weak as a kitten. It was less than three minutes into the fight. The phenomenon of having all my strength and energy leak away and leave me feeling weak as a kitten has been consistent throughout my comp career. I assumed it was the adrenaline dump- Cindy told me it was nerves- but it seems to me that my mental/emotional state has evened out a lot over the last several comps. After all, that was why I was doing it. I am not aware of feeling very nervous- so why the Kitten Effect? I do not understand why this is happening. Sure, I’m old and I get tired when I roll, but I regularly go for ninety minutes or more in practice. Why am I gassing out less than 3 minutes into a comp match?

The next girl was tiny- tinier than me. I felt bad for her. I spent most of the match in top side control, trying to get a keylock. I was actually able (for a change) to get my hand around her bird-like wrist and do Cindy’s “reverse motorcycle” rollout, but even that was not getting me the tap. Tiny seemed to have flexible joints and the keylock was not happening, but Cindy was kneeling about four inches away from my face admonishing me firmly every time I thought about letting go of it and trying for something else, so I just kept trying. Left to my own devices, at some point I will decide that the keylock just isn’t happening, so I will abandon it. Cindy of course can **MAKE** that keylock happen, to **ANYONE**, so I can see why that would not compute with her. I did use my weight a little to hold Tiny down near the end when I started getting really frustrated. I feel bad about that. She was game, but completely outsized. I know how that feels. I wish I had had a chance to say something to her before she left. She got my usual spot as 4th in a four-person bracket.

My third opponent had legs like an extention ladder. Seriously, I don’t think I have ever rolled with ANYONE with legs that long, except for Prof. Carlos. I mentioned this to John (who was kind enough to hang around with me and be supportive throughout much of this), and he said, “So what do you usually use to tap Carlos?” “Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha… what did **YOU** use the last few times **YOU** tapped out Carlos, John??? Nope, that was not going to be helpful in my tactical planning. 😛

I noticed that she kept her chin tucked like a boxer. If she had not been so tall, I would have tried to shove her head down and guillotine her- but she was over a head taller than me (even hunching) and I would have needed a stepstool to get that. Cindy told me that she was continually circling to her left and that I should try to single-leg her from the outside. A moment later, (black belt) Lindsey came over to tell me the exact same thing. So that was my tentative plan, but she unexpectedly pulled guard on me. It was like standing there and watching two falling telephone poles descending on either side in slow motion. It seemed fruitless to attempt to flee- you can’t backpedal away fast enough to get out of range of a falling telephone pole- and with most people I tend to be pretty good at squirting over their thigh as they are trying to close guard on me, so that was my next instinct. She was too fast for me, though, and she locked those telephone poles around my waist and then leisurely readjusted them into a body triangle that felt like it was set in concrete. I could feel plainly that there was no freakin’ WAY that was coming off, and that struggling against it would only exhaust my energy to no fruitful end. But that too is familiar to me, at which point I simply must wait for them to open their guard and give me a chance to escape while they are transitioning. But she never did. She was obviously waiting for me to be stupid enough to put a hand behind me to try to pry the telephone poles off, but I am not THAT stupid. I knew the moment I laid eyes on her that I could not let her get into position for a triangle or an armbar from guard. So we hand-fought for the entire match, and I tried (upon Cindy’s direction) to pass one of her wrists behind her back the way Jalen loves to do, but I never quite got it. If I’d had the gi sleeve, maybe I could have, but her wrist was just a titch too wide for me to get the type of decent grip that I had been able to get on Tiny.

I am never really clear on how brackets work, so I never know what is going on until I am told to get on the mat with this or that person…. I didn’t know if I would be fighting Tiny or Lanky again, but I did not. I wish that I could have fought both of the draws again. if I had known I would not be fighting Lanky a second time, I might have gone ahead and taken a chance by reaching back and baiting her into going for the triangle. It would have been better than stalling in closed guard for the entire match. Had I known I would not get a chance to fight Tiny again, I might have just let her up (or maybe not…. it’s really hard for me to deliberately do the exact opposite of what Cindy is telling me to do when she is four inches from my face).

I appreciate the comments left on my navel-gazing post…. I haven’t responded to them as of yet because I’m still thinking about them. There needs ot be a lot more navel-gazing. I left this comp still wondering if it behooves me or not to continue competing. It seems plain at this point that the Kitten Effect is not nerves, or at least not *JUST* nerves- there is something else going on. Although competing is not important to me in itself, I am very anxious that the Kitten Effect might occur if I find myself in a real-life defensive situation.

Number two on the list of “I really need to figure this shit out, now”: Defeatism. Defeatism is a huge, over-arching issue that is certainly affecting my comp performance and indeed could conceivably be 100% responsible for the Kitten Effect as well. And every single other problem in my MA training.

Rory Miller wrote some stuff about “struggling” versus “fighting”. When a woman is attacked and she wiggles ineffectually, squeaks, does the chicken-flailing thing where you bat lightly at your assailant with floppy wrists… it is not truly fighting back. She refrains from truly fighting back (IMHO) because she is too brainwashed to break out of the mindset of “I have to do everything I can to avoid ESCALATING this”. Rory mentions escalation- and the fear of it- briefly as well, and did not really go into it at length, but I remember that concept really gripping me when I saw it. I wrote part of a blog post about it some three years ago, and meant to go into it some more, but never did (although I never stopped thinking about it).

I grew up in a domestic violence environment in which I was thoroughly brainwashed from infancy to strive to avoid “escalation” at all costs. I feel like I’ve spent much of my life STRUGGLING to fix this- in my MA training and in pretty much all arenas of life- and have not seemed to make much true progress. I was trained to cower and submit. Any show of defiance- however tiny- was put down immediately and ruthlessly, in such a fashion as to thoroughly extinguish every last feeble spark of will. That type of conditioning- on a long-term basis, starting when you’re that young- is very difficult to uproot. Although intellectually I know that the perpetrator was evil and wrong- and that if we were to meet today, I could probably kick his ass- the CONCEPT of that looming, terrifying, all-powerful authority figure that could visit much worse than pain and death upon you at whim… it’s always sort of hanging over your shoulder all the time. I see a shadow of this juggernaut in every person and situation that presents (or even presents the possibility of) the slightest conflict of any sort. It is my boss, my teachers, the IRS, the police car parked on the shoulder, the creepy guy in the elevator, the staff member who questions my methods of running the donation table, the new big white belt guy… the competitor in the tournament ring. All are terrifying and so completely unopposable that there is no point in even thinking of resistance. If you even think about it- then will come the beat-down.

Much more insidious and terrible than this- seeing that juggernaut shadow in almost everything and doing that instinctive cower- is the brainwashing that has instilled one’s own self-image and self-worth as a thing ranking at the very basement-bottom of the food chain.

Sorry this is such a downer, and I’m not fishing for sympathy or anything here. I really need to delve more into this. If it is not the whole and complete reason for my shitty performance in competition (and on the mat in general), it is certainly a large portion. I am not going to get anywhere unless/until I can do something with it.

2 thoughts on “Proving Grounds, Telephone Poles, Kittens, and Defeatism

  1. Really nice post, some interesting perspective there. Thanks for sharing. You know, not everyone enjoys competition, and that’s okay.

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