Still no kibble.


Violence and the risk of violence goes up when people are insecure. Remember always that weapons embolden the insecure. –Rory Miller

Open mat at Edmonds.

Started with Georgette, no-gi…. she trounced me utterly and repeatedly. Found myself in that frustrated space… that one where I just need to call it a day, because both my performance and my mental state just go downhill rapidly from there.

Note that once in this place, I should really just VACATE the gym immediately, because if I sit on the wall, people bug me to keep going. If I beg off, it starts to look like I’m pouting like an asshole because I got tapped. Which I guess in a way I am. I think everybody could tell that I was frustrated, which frustrates me all the more because I am trying to hide it. Today, no disasters ensued from continuing under duress, but next time should just go. Haven’t really found a good way to deal with that state of mind, but continuing is usually not advisable. It’s the Point Of Negative Returns.

Anyway, I let Cindy use me as a dummy to do some drills and invent some new fiendish and painful contortions. Then she was rolling with Georgette, which she probably shouldn’t be doing with her shoulder injury, but you can’t keep her off the mat.

I rolled with a purple belt guy that I don’t know, who was flow rolling and doing some catch and release. Then Craig, whom I enjoy rolling with and haven’t seen in a long time: more flowing and catch and release, he wore his gi and let me let me wear my no-gi gear to make it marginally more even. Those were both kind of fun, even though my self-sabotaging mind kept flagellating me all the while with its I-wish-I-didn’t-suck-so-bad and why-do-you-bother-to-keep-trying-to-do-this refrains.

As a scientist, I am very aware that I am battling a very basic concept of psychology that just really can’t be battled: it is very hard to keep doing something in the face of a lack of positive reinforcement. My “higher function” brain can yell all it wants that this is actually useful and good for me and progress *IS* actually being made… but it feels like I’ve been pressing a lever repeatedly for five years (longer, if you count all of my MA experience and not just BJJ) and just never getting any kibble, ever. No rat would continue to press the lever this long. My inner rat is like, “WTF is wrong with you???!??”

I continue to not know what to do about this issue, and I continue to be very frustrated and discouraged about it.

Georgette pointed out a couple of things.

1)I keep giving up my back. She rightly parsed this as, “Most of your regular training partners are going easy on you, and failing to be heavy/tight enough to prevent you from squirming (technique-less-ly) out of back mount.” It makes me feel better that I had made this very same observation and come to the very same conclusion the very first time I rolled with her. At least I can see and interpret my problems, even if I don’t do so well at actually fixing them. I really need people to stop giving me slack here, as it just encourages my sloppy habits. Note that this is neither a happy nor a fun thing to face. I asked her to keep taking my back and subbing me, and to make it hurt a little.

2)She wants me to put more weight on her feet/knees etc while I’m doing standing passes. This is not the first time I have been told this, but as I tried it again, I was reminded of why I don’t do it- it feels way too vulnerable. Once I start leaning on the knees, as soon as the opponent pulls hir knees back, I’m going to face plant. Georgette says, “don’t let them pull their knees back.” I feel that there is no person on the mat older than four whom I could actually physically PREVENT from pulling their feet or knees back.

This leads me to a principle that has been a cornerstone of my game since I started: “You don’t have to move the other guy, you only have to move YOU.” Which I still feel is golden wisdom, for us teeny people. You can’t even begin to deal with a 200lb man on top of you in side control without embracing that idea. Otherwise you are just lying there helplessly crushed for eternity. And yet I begin to wonder if I have taken a good thing too far.

I have been aware for a while that I work under an assumption that I simply cannot move my opponent nor make hir do anything. This leaves me with a severely limited game that consists solely of 1)reacting to what the opponent does to me, and 2)losing all my options as soon as the opponent starts restricting my movement. I simply do not even TRY anything- ever- that involves moving the opponent, or making hir do something, or otherwise affecting hir. Like sweeps. And most subs. I escape. That’s all I do, because that’s all I *can* do that doesn’t really involve addressing my opponent in any confrontational way- because of course as soon as we go head to head on something, I am obviously going to lose. It’s not a fight. It’s not a contest. I’m not trying to beat anyone. I’m not even truly engaging them. I’m just letting them attack me while I try to escape.
Okay, I’m not sure what to do about this…. and it obviously is harking back to a lot of very deep-seated, ingrained, damaging conditioning from childhood on up. But it feels like a possible first glimpse into a different perspective on my defeatism problem. Which could be a first step.

Found that my Asics earguards do have a few spots where they start rubbing painfully at a certain point of a LOT of jiu jitsu over a two day period. I had to take them off, because it started to feel like I was more likely to get cauli from the earguards themselves than from going without. Note that I should start keeping a spare pair of (a different brand of) earguards in my bag.

“She’s tough!”


Perfect is the enemy of good. – Voltaire

Saturday competition training in Seattle.

Lord, this comp class wipes me out. I don’t know how long I am going to be able to keep doing this. Usually I have to bail on the second hour- which I went in today determined to not do- but the cardio, at my age and carrying the ten extra pounds I’m currently carrying…. UUUUUUUURGGGGGGGGGGHHH. I was whimpering as I climbed out of the car back at the Mount Index Daunless Outpost after class. Right now my thighs ache the way they usually do the morning after. Which means tomorrow morning is going to suuuuuuuuuuuuuck. But what a great week of training!

Chrisanne hasn’t had a chance to work with Georgette yet, so I told her she could have first crack at asking Georgette to drill. She’s like, “Oh my God, no, I’m just a blue belt… you go ahead…” so I went to the locker room and told Georgette that Chrisanne really wanted to drill with her but was too shy to ask. 😉 I had been hoping that Z or (short) John would be there today, but none of my favorite men were there (unless you count Lindsey and Griff, whom I can’t really ask to drill unless they offer). I also didn’t want to shanghai Casey, because we had already used each other to warm up before class. Now that Pat is brown, I feel a little awkward asking him to drill an entire class with me unless he offers first. This put me with Emma, a white belt that I seem to recall working with once or twice before. She had weight on me as well as enough skill to match if not dominate me.

Standup- one lapel grip that you can’t let go of; try to get a takedown. I couldn’t get anything on Emma, who has very superb reaps and was also trying a few other things.

Standup to pulling half guard.

We were doing some rather complex multi-step drills, and it was a struggle to get all the steps.

Opponent has spider guard. You pull back, squat, and pass your left hand UNDER the leg to grip inside of pantleg. Step to the opposite side and stand/yank upright, then crouch so that hir thigh is trapped atop yours. S/he tries to roll away, you take the back. It flows really well *IF* you shove your right knee between the floor and hir waist just as s/he rolls- the momentum seems to sorta suck you right into the gap and there you are with your hooks and choke sunk.

Opponent has Del a Riva. You turn your right knee (the one s/he has trapped) to the outside. (This same detail was in one of the techniques Carlos did with us earlier this week, so THAT step at least was easy). Then kick that same leg in the opposite direction, and pass to that side. DO NOT LET GO OF THE PANTS during any of these passes, until you are well past and the position is secure- otherwise s/he will just roll away from you.

Lots of drill reps, interspersed with about a zillion more periods of takedown sparring, and some random positional sparring. All the takedown fighting, combined with the repetitive get-up-get-down of the half guard pulls, and all the get-up-get-down of those spider guard passes, had me reeling with exhaustion. I made a very poor account of myself against Emma, which was kind of embarrassing. I really notice how tired I get when we do drills that involve a lot of having to stand back up over and over, as opposed to drills where you just stay on the ground and roll/wiggle back into place after each rep.

I had wanted to get at least one roll with Georgette, but she had to go (which was probably just as well, since I’m not sure I had the energy left to fight off a newborn kitten at that juncture). I sat a while (mainly because I was wishing someone would come along to carry me out to the car), then noticed Lindsey sitting on the mat with his back to me. So of course I had to take it.

He stuck his head right up into my favorite gi choke, but I still couldn’t finish it on him. He explained that if I can crawl my guard up a little higher on his back and/or teepee my feet up a bit, I might be able to get that little bit extra enough to finish.

It was amusing to have both Chrisanne and Georgette come up to me separately afterward and say of one another, “She’s tough!”

I am considering calling out Anica for the next Revolution- not because I’m ready to compete again or because I think I can beat her, but because having a comp on my schedule seems to be the only way I can reliably discipline myself to get my weight back down to normal. If Georgette competed, we could have a three-woman purple belt bracket between 120 and 140.

This got me thinking again about my defeatism problems and my utter lack of making any progress on them. I don’t know what to do. I’m considering pinging Side Control (Dave) on FB and see if he has any advice. I don’t really have any reason to think he has the answers to this issue, but I’m just not feeling comfortable discussing this with any of the other black belts right now for some reason. I can’t really imagine any of them dealing with persistent and serious defeatist mindsets. Dave is at least near my age and he says he has a cruddy comp record at black, so maybe he would at least be able to relate a little easier than some of these BJJ machines.

The meanest one of all


The only thing easier than the physical part (of self defense) is the intellectual understanding of the physical part. And that is sometimes a trap. Knowing the words is not the same as knowing the music. Knowing something with your head alone is almost useless when it comes time to apply those skills with your body under stress. But people often believe that knowing is the same as understanding, and that the ability to talk about things or answer questions is in some way correlated with the ability to do those things. It is not.
–Rory Miller

Thursday evening BJJ in Bellevue.

Short warm-up roll with Casey.

Standup, judo grips. With your sleeve-grip hand, slide fingers down opponent’s sleeve to your own lapel and briskly snap lapel out of hir hand while you turn out slightly. Kneel between hir feet, turned slightly out toward your lapel-grip hand (which grip you have retained) and use that lapel grip hand to yank opponent into your fireman’s carry. Carlos stresses that you must not curl into a “c” shape when you kneel- body should remain upright. Don’t dump to the back or front- dump hir right on hir head.

Same, only opponent sprawls. Transition to single-leg. Peter was praising my single-leg effusively, which was weird since I’ve struggled so much with it and continue to do so.

You are under side control, opponent has both arms on hir own side. Buck up slightly and place hand nearest opponent on your ear. Now push and shrimp; shove your other arm under opponent’s armpit as far as you can. As soon as you have room to do so roll on your belly. (Note that if you fail to control opponent’s other arm, s/he will crossface you and force you back down.) I have always resisted rolling onto my belly in this technique. I feel very vulnerable. Carlos demo’ed how it is actually pretty impossible for the opponent to prevent you from moving from belly-down to turtle no matter how much s/he sprawls.

Next, tuck right up beside opponent, shove the knee nearest hir in there and force hir over into side control. As you slide on, switch to scarf.

KOTH starting from side control: escape vs mount. I was on top of (huge, brown belt) Jim- whom I rarely work with- at one point. He commented afterward (admiringly, not critically(!)) that I was “the meanest one of all” because as soon as I took side control, I shoved my forearm bone against his jaw and made him turn his head. Good thing Cindy was not there to hear that comment. YES, this is the same technique that I did to E-man some three years ago which causes her to STILL TODAY run around telling everyone that I “neck crank little kids”. It is not the least bit mean- and I have such a low bar for “mean”… it’s not painful at all, it’s just pushing the face away in order to make it more awkward to see what I’m setting up. When I came through the line and got Jim a second time, he looked up from the floor, saw me looming over him, and whimpered, “Oh my God!” It was pretty funny. He also had good things to say about my sprawl.

A long, pleasant roll with Chris.

I have been putting a lot of thought into the defeatism issue that I discussed after Proving Grounds. It has become impossible to avoid the reality check that I routinely surrender every single roll before it even starts. Anything I might get, I assume it’s because my opponent was being nice and gave it to me. If they praise me- as two people independently did tonight- I can’t accept that. I assume they are just saying it to be nice (probably because I suck so horribly that they feel sorry for me). I have mentioned this before… it’s not like I wasn’t aware of this all along… but I didn’t really see that I am doing it EVERY…..SINGLE…….TIME. Tournaments are disturbing because it somehow feels less acceptable to meekly resolve to lose every roll in a comp than it does to meekly resolve to lose every roll on the practice mat. I think that terror of “escalation” is a factor as well in comp- it feels like the situation is dangerously and intimidatingly “escalated” right from the get-go, so instead of rising to meet the challenge, I am simply “struggling” (as opposed to “fighting”), being defensive, and trying to “de-escalate”.

Also a factor, of course, is the fear of failure. If you don’t try, you can’t really fail- because you can still tell yourself, “Well, I *could* do it, if I was really trying.” How unthinkably awful it would be to REALLY try and find that you STILL couldn’t do it. That’s just the endpoint of it all. There ain’t noplace to go from there.

I have not yet come up with any constructive ideas for trying to work on this.

It does occur to me that blowing off positive feeback from my training partners is actually a form of disrespect to them. Feedback from your training partners is a gift. Presumably they are trying to help you, and not just coddling you and blowing smoke up your ass. If you respect that person as a martial artist, one should respect their viewpoint and advice, and assume that they know what they are talking about.

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.

Navel-gazing, re: attitude


Someone who has agreed to fight you has agreed to serve as part of your test, your struggle for knowledge, your quest to make yourself better. –Sam Sheridan

As I’m sitting around thinking “What I wouldn’t do for a piece of pizza- or ten”, the inevitable “Why am I doing this?” questions start circling around in my head.

My recent batch of comps, I did specifically because I wanted to learn how to deal with the adrenaline dump. While I won’t say that comps no longer make me nervous, They are now making me much less nervous than before. So I’m not sure I’m still making decent progress on that goal.

I do not enjoy competing, my record is phenomenally lousy…. and while I do feel that I learn things every time, I find myself once again wondering if it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

I was well aware before even starting BJJ that the major limiting factor in my martial arts progress is my own defeatist mindset. I don’t really know how to fix this. Continuing to train, and continuing to compete, thinking that at some point all the work is going to result in enough increased skill to make me feel more competant… it’s not working.

I have made something of an effort in the last two years or so to be slightly less negative in my training blog- to mention more positives, and cut myself down less often. But it’s not enough. To truly tackle this hurdle, it’s going to take something else (probably multiple something else’s). I don’t know what. All I know is that it wouldn’t be easy, and I feel exhausted just contemplating the question.

Yet if I am truly serious about my training, and not just going through the motions, I can’t ignore this forever. It’s the elephant in the room, and it’s looming larger and larger. It’s not just going to go away, ad I’m going to be stuck behind it as long as I fail to deal with it.

I’m having a sense that picking up Kung Fu again might be part of the key. I have really dropped the ball on this. It’s hard for me to continue training without a teacher. Also, just the thought of Kung Fu is wrapped up with so much emotional trauma that I’m terrified that working forms again- tearing that scab off, so to speak- will result in being pulled further into the Black Hole of nightmares and depression. It’s the same fear that working on art is igniting- only more direct; closer to the belly of the Beast. Just the thought of doing forms makes my stomach roll over queasily.

While there is certainly a spiritual component in BJJ- and that’s mostly about what you put into it- so far I haven’t gotten it to trip my spiritual triggers in the way that Kung Fu did.

I do not know how to proceed. But “ignore” is becoming more and more unworkable.