There are no anonymous mouthguards.

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Will you spend your time and pursue your training in a doomed attempt to not die? Or will you train to live harder and truer? –Campfire Tales From Hell

Thurs no-gi in Bellevue:

There was a massive, delicious-smelling buffet in the lobby when I walked in. I walked right by. Carlos told me that there was food (like I could have missed it). I said, “I didn’t come here to eat.” I thought he’d like that, but he informed me that I was being rude. Again with the awkwardness and frustration of trying to make better diet decisions in a world that constantly wants to shove food in your face. And again with the cultural minefields. Five years with this guy and I still can’t always figure out what’s going to offend him.

Pummelling.

Pummelling to backtake.

You have butterfly guard. Hug opponent around torso, lie back- load and lift.

Same, only now opponent whizzers you on one side. Grab hir wrist and hold it there while you remove your arm. Press hir wrist to hir own belly as you use your free arm to hug hir around the torso, lie back, and load-lift.

Same, only now as you lie back, yank hir arm hard across your bodies and kick with your opposite foot to spin the opponent and drop hir into your back mount. Hooks. Choke. Note- don’t forget to grab hir wrist in the backmount. This is a detail that I persistently forget across multiple techniques.

You standing, opponent sitting. Rocking-chair hir back. S/he sits up and wraps hir left arm around your right thigh. Dive your right hand UNDER hir arm. Place the blade of your left forearm on the back on hir neck. Gable grip. Sprawl. (ow… this made me want to tap right then… neck crank and spine bend…. and I was scared of what would come next) Rotate your arm circle so that your left bicep is facing the mat. Kick right leg through and drop to the mat. Head and arm choke. If you can’t get it, inch your body toward opponent so that your chest/belly cranks it worse (ow). I’m so happy I was doing this with Chrisanne. If it had been some big dumb whitebelt, I think I would have faked a stomachache and bailed. It was scary enough with Chrisanne.

Two phenomenal rolls with Chrisanne and one phenomemal roll with Danny.

Walked past the buffet a second time.

——————
Fri gi in Bellevue.

Same agenda, minus the head-and-arm, and plus this:

After the pummelling and backtake, your attacker lifts your feet off the floor in a bearhug. You need to achieve a slight shift to the side before s/he lifts you. Then you can hook a shin around hir chin from the outside as you are lifted, preventing hir from lifting you any higher or from throwing you. As s/he drops your feet to the floor, you bend your knees, reach between them, and grab hir foot. Yank. As soon as you have hir on hir back, kneebar. Then drop the leg, lift the foot that is between hir legs, and pivot to move to KOB. You can add a face/throat strike here (this is self defence), or- if you are working with Chrisanne- you can beep her nose.

Many drill reps, as Carlos is wont to due on Friday nights. Chrisanne and I had aching legs from the night before. I started out the butterfly boosts really strong (it was fun and felt good) but I slowed down considerably as time went on. Chrisanne gained eight pounds with each set. It was partially that I was already sore from the previous night’s reps, and partially that I was glucose-deficient (I had eaten lunch, but run errands before class, and should have bought a sandwich or something before going in), but mostly it was the fact that I am old.

I got a compliment from Carlos on my butterfly sweep to backtake- he liked my snappy foot kick as I twirled my enemy into my back mount. Chrisanne and I were both struggling a bit with the the fact that we were tired enough by then to make the technique quite physically challenging to complete even if we felt like we knew/understood the steps.

Positional training from butterfly guard. I suck from butterfly guard. Chrisanne is better at this than I am. She swept me two or three times, and I got squat.

I was too hungry to stay for sparring. It was punishingly hot and muggy, too.

Carlos (pointing at a random mouthguard lying on the floor): “Rodney! Your mouthguard!”

Me (wonderingly): “You can identify everybody’s mouthguards on sight?”

Yes. He can.

Head and arm

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Weapons do not change your nature, only your reach and power. –Rory Miller

I have spent the last few weeks wishing I was dead because my allergies are leaving me unable to function. Dragging myself to work- cuz I gotta- but otherwise, I can’t do anything. Feeling like crap due to allergies is compounded by feeling like crap due to not getting any mat time. Yesterday I had no fewer than five people FB’ing me personally, trying to get me to class, and I just couldn’t do it.

I don’t think I would have been able to bear going back to another work rotation (especially since I know there’s a truly hideous body fluid chamber count CAP survey lurking in my inbox) without at least a little BJJ, so I was determined to haul my suffering carcass to no-gi in Kirkland today.

Fortunately, it was a small class and it went low-key. Cindy still can’t roll because of her shoulder injury; there were three huge guys, Dave, and me. Cindy went over a couple of things from the awesome seminar that I missed yesterday (sigh). Then I did a short roll with Dave. I was weak and congested and sneezy and sniffly, and my soft palate itches so bad that I want to eat a wheelbarrow of sand- but the headaches held off long enough, and Dave was really nice to me (especially since he was the only one present who wasn’t too big, too injured, or too new to work with me). That could have gone either way. I could have walked into a no-gi takedowns day with Pedro. This, though, was just what I needed.

Guard pass detail: when you’re blocking behind the knee, if you place your elbow on the mat, it is structurally impossible for the opponent to pull your arm out of place because s/he would just be pulling it against hir own thigh.

Head and arm choke: this variation requires firstly that you make sure to snug the inside of your elbow right up to the opponent’s neck and not leave a hair of space. Crab-crawl your fingers across the mat and give an extra little jerk or two to the side to cinch it all up. Use that same hand to clasp hir shoulder. You want to be lower on the body than we normally tend to be for one of these… and lower under the jaw. Place your head in there to block. Shrug your shoulders up a bit. This was incredible for two reasons: 1)Dave was already tapping when I had barely exerted 1/10 of the squeeze and room that I had available, and 2)It didn’t involve having to jump your lower body to the side (which way to jump is one of those little details that my swiss-cheese-brain always struggles with).

Oh yeah- osoto gari me again!

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The overwhelming majority of training and drilling focuses on technique and not on applying judgement to situations, which is completely bass-ackward. –Campfire Tales From Hell

Thursday lunchtime at Bellevue. So excited to see one of my very favorite partners: Nelson! We did a lot of standup today, and Nelson is probably the best person in the whole GBNW to do that with. He’s not much bigger than I, and he is an excellent judo practitioner, as well as a very helpful suggestion-giver.

Standing guard pull (Nelson suggests that I pay more attention to eliminating my telegraph- ie, yanking on the grips just before I execute the guard pull.)

Single-leg takedown to KOB

Same, add spinning armbar. This particular permutation had us grabbing the belt, which is something I do not do often. Of course on my first rep, I tried to grab for the pants (hell, at least I TRIED to grab SOMETHING, for which I give myself credit, for as we know, I suffer from persistant “forget-to-keep-hold-of-the-pants-osis”). I couldn’t reach, and Carlos was cracking up. “That ees why I tell you to grab thee BELT.” Yes sir.

Armbar from front mount- no, wait, it only LOOKS like you’re going for an armbar. Once you yank opponent up on hir side, Keep the knee that is behind the opponent lower than you otherwise would. Latch on a head-and arm (gable grip). Do not get sloppy and hasty here. It must be well-placed, tight and your hands must be fully locked. Strangely enough, it works ten times better on my stupid side. Now roll opponent to the opposite side and place the second hook. If you positioned your knee wrongly at the start, you end up trapping your own leg and not being able to get both hooks in.

A little positional sparring from front mount and from standup. Again- standup with Nelson is awesome. Of course you are not going to get anything that he doesn’t LET you get, but you won’t get brutalized and you experience a lot of interesting ways to fall on your ass (and your side, and your back, and your face).

Standup usually taking it out of me more than most things, I was unfortunately too tired to spar. If Nelson had stayed, I would have forced myself, but he didn’t.

Went from there to Lindsey’s studio to have a little green bamboo colored in. 2 hours of RIBS and a little back waistline… two of the absolute most painful areas, and color (which is more painful than linework, I don’t care what people say). This was the most painful tat session I have had to date, and it still hurts like a mother this morning. The green looks incredible on my paper-pale skin, though. Lindsey also kept making comments along the line of “Vic, come and look at this badass bamboo” and “Damn, this turned out nice” which is exactly what you want to hear from your tattoo artist (especially when s/he’s working on parts you can’t watch).

Just experiment.

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Knife is not a precision skill, not at the serious level. It is a matter of intent and will. –Rory Miller

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Ow! Lower fronts of thighs! From all those reps of the leg-squeezing takedown! I put some salicylate patches on them. I have been taking a ton of allergy drugs lately, so I don’t really want to dump oral ibuprofen on my poor liver which is working too hard already. Besides, at least this is one of the pains that says, “You worked hard, and it was good.” I can bear that sort of pain a lot easier than the type which says, “You have an eight-pound sandbag sitting on your face and you can’t draw more than a sip of air at a time.”

Evening BJJ at Bellevue. Four professors on the mat for a Friday night, and only the most junior one spoke any English.

To my surprise, there was a girl! Lindsay was so giddy to see me walk in. She said that she has been feeling crappy all week, but is better now and really, really wanted to have a hard sweaty workout. Well, after that, I would have been an asshole to run out right after drills, especially as there were no small guys in there tonight (unless you count Prof. Herbert).

Armbars from mount. Herbert demo’ed them with a crossing of your free hand to press on opponent’s opposite shoulder. I’m not sure how practical that is for us weak mousies. I like taking that cross-hand and placing it on the mat, snugging it right up to the opponent’s throat. Lindsay was impressed with the effectiveness of this detail. Also: Prof Herbert was grabbing the pants as he lay back. This is always a challenging detail for me, and I struggled to remember with every rep, as per usual.

I made Lindsay promise to not heel-kick me in the face, and then she went and did it anyway- got me right in the nose. Then she was exaggeratedly hesitant and gentle for the rest of the class, even though I was shielding my face with my hand and telling her repeatedly to not worry about kicking me in the back, top, or side of the head.

Second technique- this was sooooooooooooooooooooooo cool. I have never seen this before. Same setup from mount, only instead of putting up the knee in BACK of the opponent, you put up the knee in FRONT of hir, bring THAT leg around in a big sweeping loop over hir head, and place the top of your foot on the back of hir neck as you sit back. Armbar. I like it, I like it! Lindsay struggled with it- partly because she was being so paranoid about kicking me in the head. Finally, I said, “I’m going to cover my face, I want you to do it faster and not worry about kicking me.” Then she got smoother.

A little positional sparring from mount. Then I did a few no-gi rolls with Lindsay, starting from standup.

She mentioned several times that I was feeling really strong and aggressive and heavy tonight. I admitted that what I was mostly feeling was relief and some excitement that I was actually fighting someone who didn’t outweigh me by 50lb or more, for a change. There really has been even more of that than usual, lately. Lindsey is about 136, but feels 15lb lighter, and her wrist is small enough for my hand to encircle, and our strength and skill levels are comparable. It was the first time in quite a while that I didn’t feel like a pomeranian at a rottweiler gang fight.

I didn’t get any great takedowns, but I got a nice guillotine off one of her attempts, and there was some good standup struggling in which I felt at least competant. On the ground, we both gave as good as we got- she got a few taps, I got a few taps. I focused on trying to fight my way out when I found myself on the bottom, instead of giving up. She has good mount skills, so it was work… but I just kept telling myself that we were evenly matched and that I *could* get out if I just tried hard enough.

She got “tiny package” and a few variants of same on me, and I asked her to keep doing it… by the end, I was seeing these techniques coming a little sooner, and getting better at defending them. For Lindsay, it was head-and-arm triangle. The second time I got it, I grinded on her kind of mean, and said, “Don’t let me get that arm up there again…. if you do, I’ll make it hurt worse next time!”

Then she got *my* arm isolated up there- twice- and failed to capitalize on it, instead transitioning to armbars (both of which I escaped). I explained that if I was stupid enough to let her pin my arm up by my head, she should keep me there and tap me out instead of transitioning- each transition gives me an opportunity to escape. She’s not comfortable with head-and-arm choke. Well, I’m not really comfortable enough with them to TEACH them, but I told her that if she had me well trapped with my elbow to my ear (that position sucks…. it’s a bear to get out even if the entire rest of your body is free), that she should just keep me there and experiment until I tapped. That’s what I do.

I lay there and let her grind on my head and arm for a while, trying different holds and hopping from one side to the other. After she’d tapped me out a few times, we restarted. Later on, she got me in some weird position that had my arm pinned in a sort of inside-out, bastardized, mutant omoplata variation. She started to transition into something else, and I stopped her. “You have me pinned really well here, and you have an arm… see if you can just bend it in some way that will make me tap.” So she experimented, and she eventually found an elbow lock.

By that time, everyone else had left except for Casey and the black belts, who were playing Dancing Bears on the exercise balls. Casey was griping at Lindsay that he wanted to go, so we quit. But it was a very good workout, and I think we both got good learning points from it.

James’ juicy neck

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Chi, outlaw Taoist wanted in vain by the inquisition of Western science; the breath of a God forgotten in a mortal body; nightmare of the laws of physics; Zen warrior of our will; fuel in the engine of the universe. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

I almost didn’t go in tonight because of the twisted ankle, but I wanted to work it some…. I knew I just needed to not do anything stupid. I wore the brace and stayed strictly on the ground. It was an open mat, which is probably a good thing.

I rolled a bit with Casey (no jackets) and then for a long time with James (also no jackets). I seemed to be doing fairly okay with James, even though he’s big and muscular and technical. Very shortly I found myself zeroing in with razor hyperfocus on his succulent neck. Guillotines, head-and-arm chokes, RNC, baseball bat. I was also using head control a lot- pushing his head to the mat, hanging on the back on his neck.

He pointed out that sometimes when I slap a guillotine on, I don’t fully commit to jumping closed guard. It’s true. Reason A) I play almost no closed guard… but at a tournament, it may be reasonable to expect that I might be fighting people that I can actually get my guard closed around. There’s a shocking notion. Reason B) If I’m not positive that the guillotine is on really well, I don’t want to jump guard because I know that if it fails, I’m on the bottom- and I suck on the bottom, so I do **NOT** want to be on the bottom. But I need to be mindful of this tendency in myself, and make up my damn mind if I’m going to jump guard or not- and if I am, to do it wholeheartedly.

I had really been hoping to get in more rolling time with women this week… but I think that long session with James was really valuable. He was being really nice and helpful even though I was grinding terribly all over his neck. I’ll have to thank him personally if I win anything tomorrow.

“Twang”

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“Cats never regret anything.” –Tybalt, King Of the Cats

No-gi at Bellevue. Crisanne is sick, and I emailed Kelly but she was busy. I thought I was going to be the only one there- which could, depending on Carlos’ mood, turn into either a private or a cancelled class. As it was, Ben showed up. Ben is great to roll with, although it is an exercise in humility! So we just rolled for an hour.

With Ben, your number one goal is to stay out of his half guard. I knew this, but it’s difficult. I usually charge in on my opponent immediately after the fist bump- and when Ben is sitting there on his butt with his knees apart, there’s really no place else to go. With most people, beginning by stepping into their half guard is ducky…. because I’m good at passing top half guard, so we start the roll with me getting passing points and then side control. Ben, however, does not follow my script.

He did show me an option which involved hugging below his butt- which you have to do fairly snugly, gripping one wrist with the other hand. Sprawl hard, sink weight down, pry/kick leg out.

At another point, he was observing that having my butt posted a little ways out helped me defend the sweep or roll. One of the things I’m trying to pay more attention to lately is my habit of pasting myself as closely to the opponent as possible at all times. 95% of the time, this is exactly what you want- but there are a few positions where you really need to scoot your butt out a few inches. I am trying to be more aware of figuring out those specific situations.

Another learning moment: being in the head and arm choke. I had the free arm- the one on the side closest to Ben- wedged in there horizontally with the elbow against his head, and it seemed like it would let me hold out for a bit. He suggested that instead I cover my ear with my hand. That didn’t make practical sense to my brain, but I went ahead and tried it- and yeah, it was better. I was cooked either way, but the hand-over-the-ear bought me a little more time.

Straight ankle lock- he’s playing with a figure-4 grip here. I tried it and liked it. This might work better for me than the standard.

Coach Dynamo saw me standing on the mat doing toe-heel, toe-heel, and asked if I was doing ballet. I said no, I have plantar fasciitis. Turns out he has had it too. He poked at my foot a while. It was fairly painful after the afternoon standup class.

I’m sure CK- who often makes things in my back go “twang”- would be amused to hear that the coach actually made something in my HEEL go “twang”. We found a knot in the bottom of my heel. It felt like a marble deep in there. Something is really skewed in the world when you can have a KNOT in the bottom of your HEEL. That can actually be twanged. That is just wrong.

I saw Pam in the locker room getting ready for the next class, and that made me want to do the next class. I actually felt fairly okay at that point, but I was pretty sure that after the warmup I would crash hard. Reluctantly I decided to pass.

Pam told me that every time she makes eggs, she thinks of me.