I’ll never forget…..




To achieve an elite standard of personal performance usually requires a fair amount of natural ability, motivation and commitment. It does not follow that an elite martial artist also has the ability to pass those skills on to others at all levels. In fact, the opposite is usually true. To become an elite performer usually means that the student has natural ability and therefore learns skills quickly and easily. A great degree of self-motivation and commitment is also required and such performers generally find little difficulty in applying themselves to the rigors of training, grading and competition. Since very few students achieve such high levels of performance, too often a coach does not understand the needs of these “lesser mortals” who are in fact the majority. When one looks at specific groups such as junior, female, male, elderly, competitive, aggressive, shy, introverted, or combinations of these, many martial arts coaches in the past have been- to say the least- underprepared.    Tony Gummerson, “Teaching Martial Arts”

I read a book that basically gutted me. Have you ever read a book in which the sadist- I mean the author- makes you totally fall in love with a character and then tortures that character with an endless litany of events that are a thousand times worse than death? Till you’re almost hoping the poor sap just buys it, but you don’t think you can handle that? I read a *LOT*, and this is only the second book that has made me feel like that to an extent that it made me feel actually traumatized. In addition, I’ve only read 4 books in my life in which a character death has made me cry. So this was a double-slam. And it was book 3 in a series, so I was already in love with the character by the start of book 3… there was no lead-in or warm-up, she started torturing my poor dear on page 1 and didn’t stop till the epilogue. I didn’t really want to read book 3, because by the end of book 2 I knew there was absolutely no way this was going to not end in savage and bitter heartbreak… but I couldn’t bear to not find out what happened.

I know this is partly because I’ve had a difficult week and incredibly little sleep, but I’m feeling really gutted and raw right now.

Lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue. Standing guard pass drills to KOB to start. These squat-heavy techniques are hard on me and John, especially at the beginning of class, when it’s THIS hot, and when it goes on for about five years. Prof. Herbert had the timer set to ding every twenty seconds, so every twenty seconds we would stop, panting, and look pleadingly at him- but he made us keep going…. and going…. and going…..

Same thing, only starting from spider guard. When opponent straightens one leg, you step on the thigh of the OTHEr (bent) leg and pass to that side, yanking both the leg and sleeve as you move into KOB.

Same thing yet again, but now instead of KOB, paste the top of your foot to the opponent’s shoulder blade and place the other one over hir neck. Armbar. This was a classic Herbert move- he likes these things where he gets his strong, short legs in there and hooks his toes all over you and then subs you to death. As usual, what works well for him seems to be working well for me, although of course he does it about a zillion times faster and more gracefully. But I was already nicely set up to segue into this, as I had been setting up a bit of a straight armbar while doing the KOB.

A little positional sparring from spider guard.

Sparring with John, then Ed. Ed ankle locked me about ten times in a row. He looks like he could be doing his taxes while he tools me.

Evening in Bellevue:

Luis is injured and specifically asked me if I would work with him. I know this is mostly because I am tiny, but I do like to think there’s at least a LITTLE aspect of me being trustworthy and safe for the injured to work with. He did, however, bring up that time I ran over to him while he was lying on the mat and dropped into front mount and apparently did not catch myself QUITE as high on my knees as I had intended- he moaned like he was dying, and I felt AWFUL…. that happened about 3 years ago and I’ll never forget it- but I was really hoping that he had!!!! No such luck!!! I asked him if he still loves me anyway, and he said yes.

He let me do more than my share of the drills, since they were hurting his injury… although he had to tell me several times to be heavier (I was trying to be gentle on his injury). When he admonished me to be heavier in N/S, I whined that I was trying to not smother him with my enormous belly. He laughed for a really long time when I said that.

“Around the world” flow drills: side control to scarf to N/S to scarf to side control, etc etc. At the end, we did some front mount as well. Luis suggests using my forehead heavy on opponent’s belly in N/S. It was quite immobilizing when he demo’ed it on me.

N/S, pull both of your opponent’s gi tails under hir armpits and snug them in as tight as you can. If s/he is wiggling around, it actually makes this easier than if s/he is just lying there. Then hop up to your feet and step forward so that you force opponent into a sitting position. There should be very little pulling involved, unless you really WANT to work that hard for some reason. Sit back down in back mount and squeeze opponent between your knees. Grab for the choke immediately. When s/he goes to defend the choke, sink the hooks in and immediately roll to the side (NOT to your back, and make sure you pick the correct (pillow) side).

Everyone has been asking me if I’ve had a chance to work with Amy (Dex’s wife, blue belt, professional MMA fighter), and she was there tonight, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her. I would have liked to spar with her, but not in the shape I was in at that juncture. She has a big-deal fight scheduled next month and is training very seriously right now, and I was way too tired at that point to be able to press her.

Today I was in a tournament bracket with Cindy Hales. Place your wagers.


The moment in which you know the real measure of your power, you don’t have to put on a show to prove your worth. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Friday lunchtime BJJ in Kirkland.

Got to drill with Bree and Izzy- always great to work with them. Bree was in a foul mood (“people and their drama”), so I made a point of baiting her and teasing her and helping her work off some aggression.

Flow drills from the top: Side control, scarf, N/S. A little positional sparring; one person flowing on top and the other resisting enough to make hir work.

Proving Grounds III.

Their scale was a full six pounds light. I only wish I weighed what their scale said I weighed. I could have gone for the cheesy garlic bread potato chips after all. I was relieved to see that my opponent was only 3lb lighter than me.

I fought her 3 times in gi. She is a professional MMA fighter. She was very very good. We ran out the time in the first two matches. She took me down both times and I spent the rest of the time in bottom half guard. Somehow I ended up with an arm above my head, and she was very patient with her tightening up and waiting. She was right on the side-neck nerve, and it hurt so bad. I was within a titch of tapping twice. After the 2nd fight, I thought we were done, and I told her that she had almost had me those two times. Then of course on the third match, she got the same thing and held it a little longer, and I had to tap. Note to self: next time, make sure all your matches are done BEFORE giving helpful feedback to your opponent.

Got to watch Chelsea fight four matches against another tough girl, and she finally took first.

I asked Chelsea’s opponent if she was doing no-gi, and she said yes. So I was figuring me and her in intermediate, MMA girl and Cindy in advanced. Well, the next thing I knew they were calling me up to the mat with MMA girl. I don’t know what happened to Chelsea’s opponent- maybe Chelsea took all the Mickey out of her and she decided to scratch. Well, that left me pushed into the advanced bracket, where I *SO* do not belong. I just about wet myself when I realized that this meant I would be COMPETING AGAINST CINDY HALES.

As Griff and Cindy and I were sitting there in the bullpen, I turned to Griff and smirked, “So, are you going to corner me against Cindy?” Poor guy looked from me to Cindy and back again and sweated and gulped. Just then one of the other refs walked up and asked Griff to relieve him. Griff scurried away. *HE* was the one who was relieved. That was funny.

So MMA girl and I fought to another draw, then Cindy wristlocked her, then Cindy did a little exhibition on me and let go of about six subs before finally tapping me. Full-on, flying, cartwheeling circus- the entire crowd in the building stopped whatever they were doing and gathered around to ooh and ahh. It could have ben humiliating, but I didn’t really mind- I was honored just to be on the mat with Cindy.

Then MMA girl for the 5th time, and she wristlocked me for the win. They had told me that I could end tied for second place with her, and it was our choice whether we wanted to fight again for placement or not. We both wanted the learning experience of an extra match more than we wanted a red ribbon, so we chose to fight again.

Two main things to learn: Number one, I repeated some of the same mistakes many times with her. I think she took me down with the same takedown at least four times. I was in bottom half guard constantly. Cindy reamed me for that on the sidelines, and I could hear her yelling fruitlessly for me to get on my hip while I was fighting… I knew what I was supposed to do, but MMA girl was very good with her downward-sinking weight and left ZERO room- she pinned me very well and I just couldn’t do anything. I got tired quickly, too. I think this was the greatest total time I spent on the mat in a tournament, and your energy saps much more quickly here than in class. Also- I let her get my arm up above my head repeatedly. I will ask my training partners to try to do that to me for a while so that I can work on defending it.

Number two: the limiting factor- aside from the generalized exhaustion- once again turned out to be failing grip strength. Cindy dismissed this when I told her, and insisted that my problem is getting trapped under bottom half guard and that I shouldn’t be gripping that much anyway. Point. It still concerns me that my forearms and hands seem to be getting numb and weak and painful after the first few fights. Not only does my weakened grip disadvantage me from that point on, it is a big psychological factor. I don’t like going into a match feeling like I couldn’t hold onto an apple. I will need to dig out my little squeezy-toys and the shot bag, and work on this.

I did observe- and Griff told me this as well- that my game plan in the gi fights was not working against his girl and I needed to do something different (especially as these MMA people tend to be better in no-gi). I did make a point of being more active and squirmier in the no-gi matches (even though I was hella tired), took more chances, and I think it made for better matches (certainly more exciting for the audience than five or six minutes of her lying on me and us straining back and forth microscopically).

Nerves: mostly okay. Felt a little acid indigestion and some “I hate doing this…. Why am I doing this?” on my way to the venue. The speedy pace of this comp helps- you get called up and then you’re fighting before you have time to ferment in the bullpen and stand around on the mat and get nervous. I also tend to relax quite a bit once I find out that my opponent is not an aggressive neanderthal.

MMA girl later came over and apologized because she worried that she had slammed the wristlock. I assured her that it had been fast, but felt controlled, and I tapped quick (a broken wrist is high on my list of don’t-wants), and all was cool. She was really nice. She also thanked me repeatedly for agreeing to fight her in gi so that she could get more matches, after driving up all the way from Oregon.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to fight Chelsea’s opponent in no-gi- she looked like a tough girl. I also missed fighting Hadley and Amy. But it was a learning experience to have those five good fights with the MMA girl. It was no shame to lose to her or to Cindy. I feel like I earned my medals, even though I came in last in both brackets. I later found out that MMA girl has fought Miriam Cardosa professionally- and won! I was way overmatched in talent today, but it’s heady just to have existed in that bracket.

I had promised myself a bag of those cheesy garlic flavored bread potato chips on the way home from the comp, but the Woodinville Safeway did not have them!!! Housemate says that they were a limited edition, and I may not be able to get any at this point. Damn. The universe owes me a bag of Cheesy garlic bread flavored potato chips.