Stayin’ Alive

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Everyone has a button, you just have to find it and press it under the right circumstances. So the goal is to find the buttons and push them in this type of training, in a safe environment. Not to hurt feelings, but to identify a button someone might use against the student in the real world and take that button away from the bad guys. Make it a non-issue. –Campfire Tales From Hell

10/2:
Thursday lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue. All spars. I held my own today, but nothing stellar. I was able to keep moving around and defend most of the subs from the colored belts, and control the single white belt (granted, he was being nice and not using his extraneous weight and strength).
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10/9:
Thursday lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue.

All drills. Armbars from guard, several different types of standing guard passes, spinning armbars. I was drilling with Dex, who is doing Monkey Bar Gym *and* cagefighting, and is in insane shape, so I had to hustle to be a decent partner. Even he was whining about the armbars from guard (I hate that drill, after the first twenty second or so… the first twenty seconds are fine, but it gets slow and painful quickly after that).

While we were standing on the wall watching demo’s, the stereo started playing “Stayin’ Alive”. I cannot believe that a whole line of people can stand there without dancing, without even head-bobbing, while the stereo is blasting “Stayin’ Alive”. What’s wrong with these young people today??!? It’s probably a good thing that none of my close compadres were there, or things probably would have gotten more out of hand than they did.

One roll with Amy- yes, the blue belt cage fighter. I started from standup with her, and she got a nice sacrifice takedown. She was in control about half the time, and spent the other half fighting my open guard. Knowing that she is an MMA fighter, I played spider guard. They hate that. Heh heh heh. She did not tap me, but she would have won on points from the takedown plus advantages.

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Thursday evening BJJ in Kirkland.

Lots of pummelling… Dave likes to tire us out with this before technique….

You on your back, partner standing, your feet on hir hips… s/he tosses your feet to one side, you hip out, cross the OUTSIDE foot over top to replace your feet on hir hips, repeat to other side. I tend to get sloppy with both the hip-out and the bracing on partner’s shins, because I can do it facter just by hiking up on my shoulders and letting my supreme flexibility and dexterity do all the work…. but Dave didn’t like that. 😦

Partner on hir back, knees up, you standing…. shove knees to one side and go to KOB. Dave reprimanded me for placing my outside foot too close to my partner’s head instead of keeping my feet parallel. When I did it his way, it was A LOT MORE WORK. 😦 He’s mean, isn’t he?

Keylocks, failed keylock to straight armbar, a weird sort of upside-down keylock with the elbow straight…. my brain has always had a difficult time parsing this one….

Head and arm choke.

I was working with Irwin, who is a huge guy, but so sweet, and super-careful about trying to not hurt me. I had to tell him several times that he needed to grab harder, choke harder, push harder…. don’t worry, I’ll tell you if you’re hurting me, and as long as you put on a sub nice and slow, trust me to tap when I need to.

One roll with Dave. I made myself keep moving and not stall out under him. Man, he is working rings around me now, though. He has gotten so good. And he has Cindy’s fingerprints all over him. Lucky dog.

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It’s illegal

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Stealing from the gods the fire of passion and creativity to lighten our life is just the first step of the trip, not the destination. Passion and creativity are not our private property, not our very own toys. They are the sparks lighting the fire of a big tribal camp. Having talent and not cultivating it is a crime, but cultivating it without sharing its fruits with others may be even worse. In its highest form, the way of the warrior is that of the bodhisatva: putting one’s talent at the service of a superior destiny. Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Lunchtime no-gi at Kirkland.

Some pummelling, some double leg setups. The double leg setups we were doing today…. 1)begin with feet square so as not to telegraph. 2)begin at very close range. 3) from pummel, make sure you trap or duck under opponent’s wrist on that side when you drop. 4)Step FAR in. I never step far enough. Foot should be between opponent’s feet and BEHIND them. 5)placement of the OTHER foot is eternally problematic for me. I tend to step *too* far forward with that one, and also too close to opponent. (See how I have exact opposite problems with each foot? Welcome to my world.) The hand placement, the upright back, and the head pressure I seemed to be doing (mostly) right this time (note this is about the eight millionth time Cindy has gone over this technique on a personal and intensive level with me).

Keylocks from front mount. I was corrected for failing to use the thumbless “monkey paw” grip. Also for not having the elbow close enough to the opponent’s head. When jumping from low grapevining front mount to high mount in the armpits, move more quickly. Pull the head off the mat to keep opponent from bridging.

If opponent joins hands to defend the keylock, go to kimura grip. I need to focus on keeping opponent’s arm folded firmly. S mount. Take the foot closest to opponent’s head and fold the shin back along hir back. Pull opponent’s head and shoulders into your lap. This rolls hir over your shin, which you can now use to pin hir arm. Opponent is now in a triangle, facing away from you, with hir head and shoulders in your lap. Choke way up to right under hir armpit- you do not want opponent’s ribs inside this triangle. Now you can let go of the kimura grip and grab your own ankle as you post on the mat with your other hand. Readjust the triangle so that your shin is shoved horizontally right under opponent’s chin. Now you have to scoot yourself all the way around hir head until you are lying on your side and can grab one of opponent’s legs.

This particular technique makes me very, very relieved that Dave is now usually the demo dummy. This one hurts. Badly. In all sorts of ways.

A few rolls- Dave, Cindy, a guy I don’t know. I wasn’t doing very well today in the sparring. Last night I had been marvelling that I felt competant in sparring, so I’m not surprised… it is common to have a “wow, I suck” day right after you start to feel like you might know what you are doing. BJJ likes to keep you humble that way.

Cindy also informed me that the bicep slicer that Prof Herbert showed us last night is illegal. Dang. I liked that trick. Herbert failed to mention that it is illegal. I’m really glad she told me that before I did it to somebody.

Chopped off all my hair today. Feeling kind of self conscious. With the long, long, red “mermaid hair”, that’s all everyone ever looks at. Now I feel like people might notice my body and clothes or something. It’s sure going to be nice to be able to do BJJ for a while without that spandex cap, though. And without having wet hair for three hours after the shower.

Chrisanne!!

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The spiritual path is more than an event; it is a life’s walk. It is every step. -Tasara

Thursday lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue. Chrisanne!!!

Drills: Armbar from mount, failed keylock to armbar from mount, uhhh… there were a couple more, but my mind blanks….

Lots of positional sparring from mount. Most people switched partners a few times, but I stayed with Chrisanne. She’s been really sick, and off for a month, and her weakness and lack of wind are painfully obvious. I grabbed Gordon a few minutes into class and asked him to make sure to be careful who he puts Chrisanne with, because she’s fragile. Ritchie was there today, and that’s about the LAST thing she needed.

We worked on pinching her legs together on the armbar, and getting her knee and heel in tighter on the S mount. She continues to not be assertive enough about jumping back on top hastily when she needs to. Also, she is setting up subs and then sort of backing off at the very last minute. I hope I am not being too annoying by coaching her constantly; but she’s got great technique with just a few glaring loose spots that need fixing, and it’s so satisfying to watch the way she tightens everything up and gets so much better in an hour. I worry so much because she is so damn tiny. I nagged her to not let herself get flattened out under side control.

This tutoring did, unfortunately, involve me letting her armbar and bow-and-arrow me many times. God, my left shoulder. Is it EVER going to get better? I still can’t roll over in bed without groaning. Also, I had been kind of smug that I felt relatively okay after Saturday’s wrestling takedown hour with Pedro, but when I got up for work on Sunday night, I was hurting. My neck/throat, especially. He did choke me some, and have a forearm wrapped around my throat with that shoulder-grip thing we do- but I think the pain was actually from whiplash due to that one particularly brutal takedown he did.

I wanted to get a few more rolls in at the end, but nobody stayed except Rodrigo and Gordon, who were rolling with each other.

Anatomy of a slump

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Ultimately what I believe, or don’t believe, doesn’t really matter. The only thing that beliefs do for me is close my mind to different possibilities. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

For the next little while we are going to be taking a detour through SlumpLand. I apologize for being more dull and depressive than usual. However, if you are new to your MA journey and have never had one of these before, please do stick around and watch the show. It’s important to understand that this is part of the MA journey, and that they suck, but they do go away. I see a lot of people put down by their first serious Slump to the point where they quit. Don’t let it get you.

So the worst one one of these that I’ve had thus far was in Kung Fu, and it lasted a full 7 months. Man, did that one bite. Most of them tend to last a few weeks. I can only speak to my own experience with them- maybe other people’s slumps are different. I haven’t figured out, as of yet, how to make them go away. Fighting harder as they descend seems to make them worse. The law of negative returns kicks in. It’s like the Universe has decided to tap me out, and the Universe is a 350lb black belt with PMS, so struggling against the inevitable seems to only prolong the process. Tap tap tap. There ya go, Universe. You win. Now let’s restart.

The last time I had one of these, I had finally figured out that part about “fighting harder only prolongs the process”, so instead of spending a long while denying what was happening, and then struggling in futility and frustration like a fly in a web, I simply acknowledged that I was having a slump and validated my emotions about it. Then I tried a fresh tactic. Instead of increasing my training hours, I cut out all sparring and just did drills for a few weeks. I think it’s critical to **NOT** stop going to class. Your conditioning goes to hell, if nothing else. TV and video games start to look attractive again. Your diet goes out the window and the weight starts coming on.

Positional training actually is worse than free sparring at this point…. unfortunately, while it’s fairly easy to avoid sparring for a few weeks (with the exception of the odd class where the teacher decides that’s all we’re doing for that day), it’s impossible to do just drills and opt out of positional sparring unless I want to fake an injury. Being a straightforward person with a low BS tolerance, I don’t want to go there. So there will have to be some positional training, but I’ll just have to deal with it as best I can.

Avoiding sparring and just doing drills minimizes the amount of failure that one has to deal with on a daily basis. It breaks you out of the Deadly Failure Spiral. It’s critical to be able to deal with failure- in MA, getting our asses kicked repeatedly is how we learn- but when you’re in SlumpLand, it’s difficult to keep this in perspective.

Tonight- after pummelling, keylocks, figure-4 armbars and the same takedown we did this morning- I had to do positional sparring with Dave and two medium-sized white belts. Now, Dave has been a prince to me lately, and he only wants to help, and I truly appreciate his efforts. But I’ve been doing BJJ long enough to be able to tell when you’re handing something to me. It doesn’t make this better. It was actually easier to cope with being smacked down soundly by two white belts than it was to cope with Dave dialling his performance to just a half notch above mine and then handing me a guard replacement at the end. But it’s the thought that counts, and I have enough presence of mind to will myself to accept it- if not with as much grace as I would wish, at least without openly snarling at him. I once got snippy with Ben during a Slump- this was like three years ago- and I immediately felt awful about it and still do to this day, so I try really hard to be mindful to not take out my frustrations on my teammates.

I’m hoping to come up with at least one new tactic to experiment with during this Slump. Still looking for a method to actually make it go away.

Izzy got her first stripe today, which is awesome.

A cancellation…. and some TMI

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I don’t think conflict is a physical problem most of the time, and even when it is a physical problem, there are minds and social rules and the world involved. The more of those elements you can manipulate skillfully, the better off you are. Sometimes you play the cards, sometimes you play the person and sometimes you play the table. –Rory Miller

Well shazbot- Amanda’s a no-show. There are no other female purple belts registered. My gi bracket is cancelled.

Evening BJJ in Kirkland. I’m giving myself points for effort, but it really just does not work to try to do MA classes the day after working a graveyard shift. I took a Nyquil and did get a few hours of sleep, but it was just not enough. I felt like something on the bottom of someone’s shoe.

Unfortunate timing of hormonal cycles means that this week- today in particular- I have felt as if I had two gigantic, swollen, painful pumpkins sitting on my chest. It seems as if they are taking up the entire room. It hurts just standing still, nevermind being squooshed beneath Izzy’s excellent top pressure. (Sorry for the TMI, men… but you should take this moment to thank the patriarchal deity of your choice that you don’t have this crap to deal with, because it’s terrible.) I really hope I make weight, because another unlovely aspect of this time interval is randomly gaining a few extra pounds of water retention overnight.

Same keylock/armbar/kimura sequence as Monday. For some reason I had the idea that the kimura wants a 90 degree elbow. When you’re doing it flat on the mat, the arm actually can/does go almost straight by the time you start pulling up on the elbow. Cindy notes that I am being sloppy about making sure the opponent’s wrist is pasted to the mat throughout. Also, she recommends “monkey grip” (ie, no thumb). I feel insecure with this grip, but I can’t get a decent grip on 99% of people with the normal grip (their wrists are too big around) so I guess I have nothing to lose.

Flow drill: side control, keylock, backsit with good “kickstand”, front mount, dismount with backsit (mind your kickstand again), side control, keylock, wash, rinse, repeat.

This was cool: From side control, isolate the near arm with your elbow and thigh. Sneak your own gi tail into the hand nearest opponent’s feet. Feed it over opponent’s chest and beside hir neck and grab it with the hand behind hir head. Palm down. Bonus points if you can keep the tail hidden under your cupped hand and/or dig into your opponent’s face to obscure the fact that you’re sneaking it in there.

Now: Give a little tug to snug it up. Mind that your arm around opponent’s head is snug enough that s/he can’t pop hir head out. Now lean away, toward hir feet, making an X shape. Don’t worry about that near arm now, it doesn’t matter. Place forehead to mat beside hir hip (if you even get that far).

A little positional sparring from side control. I was not doing well against Izzy, and feeling more and more exhausted. I had really, really wanted to ask her and Dave to roll with me afterward (no-gi), but I was just limp.

Five days out

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Unarmed arts only exist for emergencies you didn’t see coming. If you can predict it and plan it and force is unavoidable, it is stupid to go in without a weapon. For that matter, without getting every advantage you can. –Rory Miller

Evening BJJ at Kirkland.

Same techniques we did this morning. Additionally: Keylock, failed keylock to straight armbar, failed straight armbar to kimura. Note that this kimura requires both a switch of handholds and a “standard” motorcycle grip wrist turn.

Positional training from side control.

Then a couple of rolls with Izzy and a couple with Dave (both gi and no-gi with Dave). Dave was being a prince helping me out.

Found out that Izzy has a lengthy judo history. Now I feel a little better about how poorly I am doing against her… she seemed to be catching on scary-quick, and now I know why!!!

I’ve been having a great couple of weeks BJJ-wise, and I wish I could pinpoint why. It’s not that I have been getting more taps or tapping less; in fact the scoring has been on the lower side for me. But I have just been kinda feeling like I sort of know what I’m doing. Wish I could bottle it.

Tournament in five days. I would shank somebody for a piece of garlic bread right now.

Monday evening

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The first step to unlock the doors of perception and sniff the scent of the secret is to awaken the five senses from the numbness that normally surrounds them. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Monday evening BJJ in Kirkland.

Standup: foe presents you with a thrust kick. The defense was functionally identical to the Black Crane one- turn and deflect with the NEAR arm, and comtinue the swing back and up and around to an elbow/forearm strike. I continue to have the same problem I have always had with this one, of course: it’s difficult for me to remember under pressure which arm to deflect with.

You are in closed guard. Basic guard break, then underhook one thigh with a forceful throw of the shoulder and pass on the side. Press opponent’s knee to hir nose and grab the back of the pants to stack hir while you pressure down in an evil fashion. (Cindy urges me to get up on my toes to be even more evil.) Don’t forget that forearm in the throat. Pass to side control. I like this pass, if only I can adequately accomplish the shoulder shrug.

From here we applied a keylock. It made a dramatic difference to do what Cindy calls the “reverse motorcyle” and crank the opponent’s wrist toward the outside before pulling the elbow down. I did, however, finally identify at least one of the reasons I find that detail so tricky: although I had a female partner tonight, I still found myself dealing with the familiar problem of not being able to grip all the way around her wrist.

Positional sparring from closed guard: pass vs sweep or submit. After the white belt girl (who is pretty good already), I got to work with Will, whom I haven’t seen in a while. He handed my ass to me. It didn’t even bother me as much to get my ass handed to me by a teenage orange belt as it did to get pounded by the newbie whites this morning- because Will is damn good, and I adore him. The only thing I feel bad about is that it’s gotten to the point that I can’t really give him a challenge.

I was tired and a little headachey, so I pleaded off sparring. Cindy convinced me to do a few minutes of light standup gripfighting with the gi tops off, so that I could prove that I remembered the things she showed me yesterday.