The head- a vulnerable design flaw



Curious friend: “What is guard, what does that mean?”
Me: “It means I can kick your ass while I’m sitting on mine.”   -Ginger Snaps
Thursday evening no-gi in Bellevue.

Carlos still called us “girls” a couple of times, but I think he was making a conscious effort and trying not to.  😉

I stupidly tried to put in my contacts in the car with too little light, and ended up losing one. It felt like it was still folded up in there, but I could not find the damn thing. I had to call Amy (she’s a nurse when she’s not kicking ass in the cage) off the mat to poke around in my eye, but she couldn’t find it either. I had to work blind. I still don’t know what happened to it. Eye is all swollen up…. hope I won’t have to go to the Urgent Care for this. At least I was able to do the class and then drive myself home.

Driving drills- pummelling, shoulder throws, armbars from mount, standing rear naked choke defense to takedown with shoulder lock to KOB. Drilling with Amy, you know you are going to work hard.

The shoulder throw ends with the thrower on both knees… I always want to cheat this because my knees hurt. Really need to get way UNDER opponent, and snug hir armpit right into you hard, then sort of meld into one with hir as you bow to the mat. Then you have to unmeld in time to not go over with hir, but  move to KOB.

Carlos yelled at me for trying to cheerlead a white belt through her last set of armbars. Usually this is a thing he encourages, so I was confused and hurt. Two minutes later, he was sitting in a corner with his shirt pulled over his head. Turns out he had a massive migrane. I’m choosing to believe it was this that caused him to snap at me, and not that he hates me.

Four years ago- or even two years ago- this small event would have sent me into an epic spiral of self-hate and doubt and flagellation….. “Carlos yelled at me… he hates me….I can’t face him again….. I suck….did I really do something wrong? It’s probably because of that exchange we had last week about “girls” vs “women”…. that’s why he hates me…. was I out of line with that? I suck….. Was I rude and inappropriate to that white belt? Did I make her feel uncomfortable? Did I look like an ass in front of the whole class? Everybody hates me….. I hate myself….. I suck….. I can never face any of these people again…..” Yeah, stupid, I know. And yet. Welcome to the world of anxiety disorders.  I don’t know if it’s being on meds, or feeling more comfortable with Carlos after five years, or just maturity- but I didn’t spiral too badly this time. I spiraled some. But not with the usual severity.  And I made a point of facing him on Friday and asking if his head felt better, instead of slinking away because I was sure he hated me.

Friday women’s class: Same shoulder throw we did yesterday; another standing rear naked choke defense ending in a reap instead of the shoulder lock and pulling-to-floor; and the donkey-kick standing guard pass to KOB. I have done this donkey-kick thing enough now to know where my trouble issues are. It really needs to happen in 3 steps, not twenty because I am shuffling my feet around trying to get them in the correct position for the KOB. Getting it down to 3 steps requires beginning with the outside foot planted WAY out, not beside opponent’s body, it requires actually USING the push-and-bounceback of the shin on the opponent’s thigh instead of just going through the motions, and it requires HOPPING that outside foot in and donkeying the other leg back IN THE SAME MOTION. Once I get really focused, I can do it, but the stupid side is very stupid. The hunching over is also tough on my back.

On the last round of reap drill reps, Chrisanne’s breakfall was less than optimal, and she got her chimes rung pretty bad. I felt terrible. I have quit treating her like an egg and usually go about 85% on her, but I may need to backpedal and be a little more gentle. Of course, she tried to get right up and continue, but Carlos and Doug and I told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to just lie there for a minute. They put me with Christy, who is training for Pans, and churning out guard pass reps like a damn machine. I was in awe, and said so. Her throws are also painful. I didn’t take any bad falls like Chrisanne did, but drilling two complete throws in one class to the extent that we did was a bit much. Just a lot of constant brain jarring. My head ached all night and still aches this morning. I had to take an ibuprofen, which I almost never do. I pinged Chrisanne to make sure she was alive, and she is. After she had refused my offer of a ride home,  I had quizzed her on concussion symptoms, and made her promise that if she had any, she would ask her son’s girlfriend to drive her to the Urgent Care. I know this isn’t really my fault (or at least MOSTLY not my fault), but I still feel awful. Chrisanne had a terrible week at work, and I put the cherry on top by almost giving her a concussion. (And not that this is important- weighted beside giving Chrisanne a concussion- but it did cross my mind that this incident is not going to do anything good for Carlos’ apparent view of me as a reckless, dangerous Godzilla on the mat.)

My head ached too much to consider the all-levels class that came after this one- even if I’d had the energy, which I don’t think I did.

Some old guy already taught me that one.


Ultimately your mind and intellect are what save you, your body is the tool they use. So keep the tool in good working order, but tune up the engine. Campfire Tales From Hell

Friday BJJ in Bellevue.

Bullfight passing of spider guard. After bringing foe’s feet together and planting them on the mat, grab hir right wrist with your left hand (the WRIST, not the gi sleeve). Keep the pants cuff on the other side. Step beside hir right hip with your near foot and give a good ceilingward yank at both wrist and pants cuff before moving to KOB. You may then be able to transition to an armbar- but make sure you FIRST trap the arm firmly between your knees and THEN clear opponent’s grip on your sleeve cuff before re-grabbing the wrist and applying the armbar (one foot over hir neck and the other knee folded with your toe under hir ribs). Unsurprisingly, my biggest problem proved to be remembering to grab the leg (ideally both legs, although with my stubby arms I’m not going to count on that) before dropping back into the armbar. Also, as soon as I tried to speed up, I started getting sloppy about clearing the sleeve grip. I asked why it was necessary to clear the sleeve grip at all… it seemed to me that clearing it is just an invitation for the opponent to try to yank hir arm down in an attempt to get out of the armbar. Carlos explained that it may be difficult to maneuver the hand into position at the apex of the armbar if s/he still has your sleeve. (I think you could probably muscle that…. if you’ve got them well and truly trapped in the armbar, that cuff grip is not going to save them except in cases of extreme muscle disparity… but even in a comp I would prefer to not muscle that.)

Opponent bearhugs you from behind. Lower stance, bring your hands up to your chest to free forearms, and cover hir hands on your chest with your own hands. Step slightly to the right and stick your left foot behind hir feet. Kneel on right knee and plant right shoulder on the mat, making sure to drive downward forcefully enough and hold tight enough that opponent can’t free hir hands before getting tossed over your shoulder. Go with the roll and end in a T shape with your shoulder blades on opponent’s chest. Keep butt off the mat and apply as much weight as possible as you roll toward hir feet and move to side control, then KOB.

I have done both of these before, and felt comfortable enough to go decently fast *and* work them both sides. Armbar portion turned out to be much tighter on the Stupid Side, although my brain was very slow to grasp the guard pass from the Stupid Side.

A little KOTH, open guard pass vs defend the pass, me down in open guard the entire time. Lots of white belts- so I spent some time explaining what a guard pass is, some time telling a small woman to try to experiment with different positions and movements instead of trying to simply muscle out of spider guard, and some time getting Captain Cavemanned by muscley spazzy male white belts.

A roll with 2 white belts and one with Doug.

First white belt was strong and spazzy, so I was mostly just trying to control him. Let him have an upa, since he performed it correctly.

Hip-threw and then subbed the second white belt several times, explained about turning and shrimping out from under KOB, and explained about keeping the chin to the chest while I was groping for chokes.

I have rolled with Doug enough that I am recognizing a lot of his sneaky little traps and refusing to fall into them. (freezing in the middle of a guard pass that I know is going to result in a sweep) “Gee, I think I’ll slide right into side control LIKE AN IDIOT. Some old guy taught me that one. You’re going to need to come up with some new tricks, Doug.” He also let me get that same one on HIM… I was excited that I 1)remembered it, and 2)was able to make it work, as it’s kind of complicated and not at all intuitive.

“Whenever you say “sorry” to me, it’s after you just did something really effective.”


“Is it worth the paperwork?” Campfire Tales From Hell

Evening in Bellevue. I had promised Kelly I’d be there for no-gi tonight. I failed to account for an hour and a half trapped in gridlock on 520. I shuffled in halfway through the class. Carlos glared at the clock and then glared at me. I apologized to him, then to Kelly. I was just in time to do two spars in a row with Prof. Herbert (I must be making the most awful impression on this guy) and a half of one with Carlos (he had to quit because his lip was bleeding- not my fault, the guy he was rolling with before me).

Because it seemed nonsensical to spend an hour and a half in traffic for two and a half rolls, I stayed for Advanced Class. Prof. Herbert was teaching, which was interesting because he has almost no English. They did the same thing to Carlos when he first got here, though- they just threw him in and we all had to muddle through it together, but he caught on pretty fast. The only real problem presents when somebody has a question. Then it becomes kind of impossible.

Herbert must be a judo guy…. of course all BJJ black belts do masterful throws, but after you’ve been around a while, you can still tell the judo guys. They got it goin’ on.

Shoulder throw setups. Do not wrap opponent’s arm around your own neck when you turn. Jerk hir arm down hard with your sleeve grip as you punch upward forcefully with the other arm, socketing opponent’s bicep into your bent-elbowed “nutcracker” grip. The hip contact was rather emphatic as well (I was wincing during the demo, hoping that poor Prof. Doug was wearing a cup tonight). I think I did mostly okay with this, as after one correction on my not-enthusiastic-enough upward punch, the other black belt guy (whose name I did not catch) simply stood over me and harrangued me to go faster, faster, faster, faster!! He had a million corrections for Kelly, whom I could tell was beginning to get a little frustrated. But hell, throws are complicated! It takes a lot of practice. I’m really glad for my previous experience with them, even if there are sometimes details that the BJJ teachers want done differently.

Standup, judo grips. The side that you are holding the lapel, that’s the foot you want in front. Take your hand off the lapel and switch it to the wrist of opponent’s hand (where s/he is holding YOUR lapel). Take your other hand off opponent’s elbow and grab your OWN lapel just below hir grip. Step back with the same-side foot and snap your hips and entire torso to the side as you jerk the opponent’s lapel grip off you. Now twirl in and shoulder throw on opponent’s OTHER shoulder… the side that s/he was not gripping the lapel. That took coordination, especially to do it fast.

We spent 3/4 of the class on this throw. Then….

Butterfly guard pass (Herbert says “gward” just like Enrique! Hee hee). Place your right arm under opponent’s left knee and grip the pants near the knee on hir right leg. Press your chest down on the knees and force them to the floor on your left. Place your forehead right on the mat. Now twitch your legs out and stretch them behind your so that you can tiptoe around to the opponent’s side. As you get over there, grab hir cuff with left hand and use that hold plus the one you still have on hir knees (this hold has not budged) to stretch hir out- helped along with the press of your head, which you now move from the mat to hir side. To end this drill and go to the next rep, we cartwheeled to the other side. Prof Herbert praised my cartwheel. (Score! I only took a few years of gymnastics as a grade-schooler, but it still comes in handy. Most other people had a lot of trouble with this.)

A little positional training from butterfly gward. On the last portion, I said, “Sorry about this,” to Kelly and started pushing her head around- first up so that I could pass, then down to the mat so that I could pull my foot out of her half guard.

Kelly: “It’s ok, don’t apologize.”
Kitsune: “This is kind of mean.”
Kelly: “But you need to do more of that.”
Kitsune: “…..”
Kelly: “Whenever you say “sorry” to me, it’s after you just did something really effective.”

Slide into home


A melodic tinkling sound suddenly drew her attention downstream. If she’d been in fox shape, her ears would have pricked up. –The Hole In the Clouds

Evening advanced class in Bellevue. I almost didn’t go in… my forearms felt very achey and weak. Achey I can ignore, but the functional grip impairment was more problematic. Then it occurred to me that this was the same thing I had been dealing with in the no-gi portion of the last comp, and I could do worse than to just run with it and try to cope.

I was also pretty drugged up on allergy meds.

So of course we began with RUNNING and SPRAWLS and BURPEES, and within three minutes I was heartily regretting my folly.

Standup: single-leg setups (using judo grips, pull down on collar and yank up on elbow, grab leg on the elbow side).

Then, break lapel grip and shoulder throw.

Next: you are standing, opponent lying on hir back before you. Underhook one thigh and hike it onto your shoulder while pushing other knee to mat. “Slide into home” with NEAR knee cutting across opponent’s thigh. Move to side control. Make sure you do not leave your trailing arm between hir legs (I did this once, and Ross helpfully slammed me into a backward triangle to show me my mistake).

Rotating spars. I know there are plenty of subs you can do without hand grips, but I just was not in the game tonight. The only positive thing I can really say about tonight’s spars is that they burned calories.

Hopefully arms will be better in the morning, or I may need to give the bod a break.

Right before class, I watched Carlos devour an enormous submarine sandwich and make a huge shake disappear. Then- to my envious horror- he produced a stuffed pita sandwich every bit as large and wolfed that as well. I don’t know how he can eat like that five minutes before getting on the mat. We razzed him. I said, “You’re not going to puke on us, right?” We concluded that the food is being transformed directly into muscle even before it reaches the stomach.

Takedowns to opera


Turn your body into a temple and nature starts talking to you. It brings you back to a wilder, more authentic state. Nature is not just a name to identify what we have not yet covered with concrete and asphalt. It is life lived without fear, without sense of guilt; life not enslaved by the artificial rules of a society which has lost it center. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path


This lunchtime in Bellevue we did ALL TAKEDOWNS- to opera music.

It was nice to see Carlos again; it’s been a couple of weeks.

Double legs; shoulder throw (dropping to knees); Standing shoulder throw (a few grip variations), fireman’s carry.

Note that you can start with judo grips, then use your lapel grip to pull opponent’s lapel toward the distal, and feed it to your other hand as you turn- so that as you pick opponent up, you now have hir lapel wrapping hir bicep.

Also- with judo grips, you may be able to duck your head under opponent’s straight arm to the outside. This is illegal in judo becaue it endangers opponent’s elbow. Perfectly acceptable in BJJ. You can attack the arm, try to swoop to the back, or do one of several additional throw setups as soon as s/he has to let go with that hand.

Drills, then TAKEDOWN KING OF THE HILL. OMG. As I shook each big guy’s hand, I said with mock seriousness (only I really *was* serious), “Don’t kill me.” They were all careful.

Doug got a clean takedown on Prof. Carlos, then strode off the mat declaring “I’m gonna retire now!!!” Daniel also got a clean throw on him, which was awesome to see- Daniel being a blue belt not much bigger than me.

We recieved a fingernail hygiene lecture today. Note: Do not tell the prof that you are leaving the mat to deal with a broken nail. He interprets this statement as “I am an inconsiderate jerk who didn’t trim my too-long nails before getting on the mat”.

This was a very exhausting class. I came in feeling fairly stiff from yesterday, and turned down Casey’s offer to play balancing-circus-bear on the exercise ball so that I could get well stretched out before we began class. Allergies have also been troublesome the last few days- and by the time we started KOTH, I almost had to duck out because I had one of those ice-pick-in-the-temple headaches. I decided to try to stick it out… fortunately for me, it mostly went away by the end of class instead of getting worse. Messed with my concentration a bit, though. I didn’t do so great in the KOTH.