Each Month is a Round in the Fight of My Life

DAY 17:
Another week working on half guard techniques.  I tried to walk in to class focused on the two things I needed to improve: staying low and tight in boa and getting up on my knees into dogfight.  I had the opportunity to drill with one of ladies getting ready for competition this weekend and for some reason I had a much easier time getting up into dogfight than I had previous nights; although looking back I don’t know if it’s because I was actually doing anything more right than normal…or if it was because she was closer to my size. I’m leaning more towards size and less towards I’m staring to know what I’m doing. 

Either way the techniques are beginning to feel much less foreign and I’m starting to focus more on little nuances instead of spending a lot of time thinking, “Wait, what am I supposed to do next?  Is this right?  I think my arm in in the wrong place. Why are my arms so short?!”  This is great because I’ve spent a lifetime contemplating my astonishingly disproportionally short arm length and I could use a break from it. 

DAY 18:
So it’s Thursday night and I’m driving to class, amped up to get some more reps in and as I walk onto the mats it occurs to me: “It’s Thursday night…that means it’s strength and conditioning night!”  But by then it was too late, I was already there, already committed, already condemned to a night of planks and wall sits and slow motion push ups.

Class was also huge!  There were at least 10 ladies there and just as many men. It was exciting to see so many people training and to see so many women in one class but a lot of people also meant a lot of heat and it was definitely hot in class, which made strength and conditioning that much more grueling. The term “hot as Hades” doesn’t even begin to describe what it felt like in our gym that night.

Side note: Remind me some time to talk about how curly hair, bangs, humidity/heat and jiu jitsu really don’t mix. I swear I look the most disheveled when I leave class. I’m going to pretend it’s because I’m working hard but I think it might just be my thin but plentiful curly Irish-Persian hair. 

I told myself I would push a little harder during strength and conditioning this week and for the most part I feel like I was successful with that but I also still feel like I quit on myself too soon most of the time.  I’m not used to pushing myself past my comfort zone mentally or physically and I really struggle with strength exercises.  One of the ladies asked me after class how I did and when I shared my feelings with her on this subject she suggested setting small goals for myself.  If I only did a few push ups tonight, try and do one more than that next week.  If I only lasted 10 or 20 seconds during planks, shoot for 30 or 40 the next time. 

I later told my boyfriend that I feel like there is a beast somewhere inside of me but instead of waiting to be let out of her cage she’s hibernating for a long long….long…winter.

I didn’t make three classes this week because I skipped Friday class to stay home and help my boyfriend cut a few pounds before weigh-ins for his competition on Saturday.  By the end of a few very sweaty hours in a hot bathroom, my boyfriend had made weight and I had come to the slightly depressing realization that by the time he reached his competition weight, he officially weighed less than me.  I am at least a few inches shorter than him and to say there is a disparity in our body fat content would be an understatement. It is inhumanely fit and I am extra fluffy.

We talked for awhile about my weight and how it would affect me if I were to decide to compete.  I haven’t been weighing myself since I started jiu jitsu.  My boyfriend assures me I am getting smaller but I’ve learned that the scale tends to demotivate me if I pay too much attention to it so I’ve been avoiding it and focusing on more positive and attainable goals (like getting to class three times a week, getting cardio in when I can, and making smarter choices in terms of my meals).

 I know about where my weight is and I know that if I were to compete at this weight it would be against women who are definitely a lot bigger than me.  Reference my Ragdoll post for reasons this idea does not appeal to me.

When I spoke to one of our higher ranked females about this she said I shouldn’t let my weight keep me from competing when I feel like I’m ready but I’m not sure if she realizes how much I actually weigh.  My boyfriend says I appear a lot lighter than I am. I guess it’s something to think about as far as long term goals…for now I’m more focused on learning to finish some of these sweeps properly. 

COMPETITION DAY:

This was my first time attending a jiu jitsu competition, and aside from being nervous for my boyfriend and all my teammates, and being insanely hot, it was great.  I guess I’ve forgotten how hot it can get in a high school gyms stuffed to capacity during the California summer months.  I think I was sweating more at the competition than I do in class. I’m pretty sure anyone who needed to cut weight could have just sat in that gym for a few hours before weigh ins and been fine.  Note to self: next time wear a tank top and bring more water.  Bring all the water you can find.

I was so impressed and motivated by the amount of heart my teammates displayed. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to go out there and put everything on the mats the way they did. All the pressure and expectation…from within and from others. There were people competing who had only been training a few months!  It has taken a lot of courage and determination for me just to show up to class consistently for the last month there’s no way I would think about competing yet.

I felt really honored and humbled to be able to be there and show support for them. If I learned anything this weekend it’s that competing brings a whole new set of emotions and anxieties to jitsu that I haven’t even begun to contemplate. But they seem like in the end they’ll make you better. 

Here’s a video of my boyfriend’s final match (what I mean is, here is where I make a shameless plug for my boyfriend). Check him out on Instagram @artofwwaarr.

On Sunday I sat with my boyfriend and one of our female teammates and reviewed some of the matches. My boyfriend broke down some of the good and bad things that were done and gave us both some foundational pointers relating to his matches as well as hers. I had no idea how beneficial this would be. I’ve noticed my brain is starting to shift from simply seeing a couple of people rolling around on the ground to attempting to identify different positions and searching to figure out what each person is attempting to do. Are they trying to sweep? Escape? Submit? Pass? Why? And I’m picking up little things like why it’s important to get an undertook or a whizzer or why you want to protect your arms or neck in certain positions. How is wrist control or head control important here or here?

I say that things are starting to come together more clearly but I want you to take that with a grain of salt. I still have no idea what I’m doing. In fact I’m pretty sure that even if I could get into a dominant position with someone I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Ok, I’m in mount, now what?? Perhaps my laser eye mean mugg will be enough to submit them! 

I imagine this is what it was like when we were a babies and something as simple as a set of keys was enchanting. It’s so bright and shiny! It makes noise! It’s not until later you realize the keys actually have purpose. Keys open doors and take you places?!  What??? I’m definitely still at the bright and shiny phase with jiu jitsu and I’m okay with that. I have plenty of time to consider the doors that could potentially open in the future. 

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Cognitive Dissonance and Cruise Ships

DAY 13/14/15:

This is my second week working on these techniques and I’m definitely still trying to get them worked out. I am eager to reach a point where I’ve drilled the techniques enough that I don’t have to think so much about my body positioning and what I should be doing next.  One thing I’ve noticed about jiu jitsu is that there’s a lot of opportunity for little victories.  I’ve been told by mentors that sometimes I don’t appreciate little victories enough because I can be so laser focused on the end-goal.  And I don’t necessarily disagree with that.  I don’t usually think in baby steps or milestones. I can, at times, be an all or nothing kind of girl. However when it comes to jiu jitsu I’m definitely starting to see a shift in my thought process regarding little victories. Every little victory feels like more than enough right now.  Today my granby didn’t suck as much as yesterday, today I remembered to get my whizzer in, today I didn’t want to pass out half way through drilling the last technique, today I held my plank just a little longer, my cardio was a tiny bit easier…. I’m not even thinking about getting a submission or winning a competition right now.  I don’t have a five-year plan for jiu jitsu (unlike the rest of my life).  If I’m being honest, just showing up to class consistently has been a HUGE little victory for me.  And I have to say all the little victories feel amazing.  Every class is thrilling, exhausting, mystifying, and informative all at once. I am constantly in a state of cognitive dissonance where half of my body and half of my brain are on a totally different page than the other halves.

So here’s what we worked on this week:

From half guard where your partner has head/arm control > Whip down to get double unders > Whip up > Old School Sweep

Our instructor continued to stress the importance of grabbing your partner’s toes for more control when you’re executing the sweep.  I kept reminding myself my knuckles should be on the ground as I reach for their toes and it seemed to help if I slid my hand down from their ankle/shin to their toes vs trying to just wedge my fingers directly under their toes.

Whip up > Boa > Dogfight > Pass/Sweep

I was still having trouble getting up into dogfight for these two techniques, which made executing them kind of difficult and far less smooth than I’d like them to be. I feel like intellectually I know what I need to do to correct my issue, but I can’t seem to translate that physically. When I was on the mats practicing I swear I could hear this running list of things my body should be doing: “get your left knee down, get your hips perpendicular to the mat, use your arms to help pull you up.” It’s as if my brain is totally on board the jiu jitsu cruise ship. My brain is standing on the deck wearing Hawaiian shorts, drinking champagne and waving to the crowd below…but my body is standing on the shore like “uhhhh no I think I’ll wait here until you get back, Body. Thanks for the invite, though and bon voyage!”

I suppose the challenge for me is going to be figuring out how to modify and tweak certain things to work for me based on my body type and current level of fitness. My boyfriend assures me that drilling/reps are the key.

I’ve had the opportunity now to drill these techniques with a few different partners and I try to take some lesson or tip from each of them.  It’s interesting to see how different the experience can be from one person to another.  I have partners who like to verbalize tips, and ones who don’t say anything at all and let me learn the hard way.  I’ve had partners who know way more than me and partners who are as new as I am. I noticed that when I work with partners who are bigger than me I have to focus a lot more on the timing and little details of the technique.  Some days I go home a pool of sweat and frizzy hair.  I also now understand why my boyfriend does so much laundry.

DAY 16:

You read that right. I made it to jiu jitsu FOUR times this week. I caught a fundamentals class on Saturday afternoon, making it my fourth class of the week. I really enjoyed the class too!  We learned a kimura from guard (which I suppose will be helpful if I ever try those rolling kimuras again), a failed kimura from guard to an arm bar, and a hip-bump sweep.

Here’s a little peak at a kimura for my non-jiu jitsu readers. 

I’m definitely planning on making the Saturday class a regular thing. I think the fundamentals will really help me fill in some gaps and right now it is hard for me to get to the weekday fundamentals class. 

I wonder how long it will take for my brain and my body to get on board and sail off into the sunset together….

I Do Bad Things to Good Versions of Me

Has it really been 27 days since I posted?  There’s nothing like a detailed blog built on sequential events that are supposed to occur two to three times a week but don’t to remind you of how much you suck at life lately.

I missed a lot of days jiu jitsu, and while I have a plethora of excuses I could potentially provide to you none of them really matter. Forgive me, Jiu Jitsu Blog Readers, for I have sinned and skipped classes for lame reasons.

While I’m not going to make excuses, I do want you to know what it’s like living in my head and why it’s sometimes so hard for me to push myself outside of my comfort zone, so let me try to explain. Sometimes I imagine there’s a tiny, angry, version of me in my head. This Tiny Angry Me sits at a desk all day long furiously writing down excuses on individual slips of paper. “You don’t have time.” “You have other obligations.” “You are just going to give up anyway.” At some point, when the excuses have piled high on the desk, this Tiny Angry Me proceeds to crumple up a few of the excuses and rises from her desk. She stomps angrily over to another tiny version of me playing happily in a sandbox….and shoves the excuses down the throat of this other tiny, scared, version of me. Then Tiny Scared Me runs crying straight to a third tiny version of me and says “Don’t make me go back there again!”  And this third version of me, Tiny Rationalizing Me, comforts Tiny Scared Me and says in the most delicate, nurturing, and somehow authoritative voice, “if you’re scared you can just stay right here where it’s safe. You don’t have to go back there again.”

Basically alll the tiny mes in my head need to calm down and shut up.

To try to compensate for my embarrassing  failure to attend class and write regularly I offer you this story of success: I promised myself I would make it to jiu jitsu three times this week, and then in spite of all the tiny mes in my head, I actually made it to jiu jitsu three times this week.

I’ll give you a minute to ruminate on my grand triumph over my own inner demons before we talk technique.

DAY 10:  The class had moved on from granbys by now (just when I had convinced myself I could do one following hours of instruction I forced my boyfriend to participate in). Either way I was excited to try something new and vowed in my head not to let granbys get the best of me.

Lockdown to Old School: I’ve included a video for reference because I know some of my most avid readers are my non-jiu jitsu friends and family who have no idea what any of this is.

I would say the most important thing I learned with this technique was to make sure I grabbed my partner’s toes and not their shin or their ankle which would be easy for them to kick out of. I also learned when our instructor says, “What do you grab?” I should loudly and enthusiastically proclaim “Toes!” (given that’s the appropriate answer at the time).

We also worked on another technique where instead of using the old school sweep we went from lockdown to our knees into dogfight while maintaining a gable grip around the waist of our partner. I really struggled with getting up into dogfight without losing my grip. One of my teammates suggested that I just wasn’t anchoring myself to my opponent and using their body to help me pull myself up. Apparently I should get a satisfying “omph” from my partner if I’m doing what I should be to get up.

DAY 11: Two days in a row? The Tiny Mes were now feeling confident and prepared, but just when I thought it was safe to get back in the jiu jitsu water a new terror showed itself. I thought granbys would be my long time arch nemesis and most obvious protagonist in this jiu jitsu story. Enter the rolling kimura.

Here’s a video of one of the 10th Planet warm up series which includes rolling kimuras.


Rolling kimura.  Since I’ve never learned how to do a standard kimura, I had to learn the proper grip before I could even attempt the rolling part. Just learning the grip was enough to send my brain into “what the eff am I doing?!” mode. Then I had to figure out how to actually get myself to roll properly over my partner while maintaining my grip and not smushing my partner’s head or killing myself. The hard part wasn’t learning the technique itself, it was convincing my brain that A – it was physically possible to do this in the reality most people live in, B – I am also living in the reality where people can do this and C – I could physically do it myself and I would survive doing it.

Some day I’m going to figure out what it is about any kind of roll or inverted movement that freaks me out so much.  I wonder if this is a repressed childhood playground tramua or just another weird neurosis I’ve developed in my thirty years of living.

DAY 12: Three. Freaking. Days. No. Really. Three days in one week! Forget perfecting my granbys or ninja rolls – THIS is an accomplishment!

We worked on a few of the techniques I’ve already mentioned as well as a sweep from dogfight. I’ve been looking for a good video to show you the movement since I don’t know the name but after hours on YouTube the only thing I have to show for it is the knowledge that everyone calls every technique something different and none of the videos are as accurate as the ones in my head.

My boyfriend and I have been throwing around the idea of filming videos for my blog. Why not add to the collection of random jiu jitsu videos on YouTube, right?

Strength and conditioning. Our strength and conditioning routine was the same Thursday night as it had been previously and I was no better at it. Obviously since I haven’t gone since the last time. I am pretty sure you have to actually work on your strength and conditioning for it to improve. I was secretly relieved to find out it was the same routine since my boyfriend had gone to the afternoon class and told me some crazy story about pull ups and sprints that had me re-thinking my entrie existence.  I’m still amazed at how strange it feels to consciously engage my muscles like that. Driving home I found myself at a stoplight staring at my left bicep as I attempted to engage and disengage the muscle. “This is how it should feel right? Is there a muscle in there somewhere? Hello?  Squeeze, damn it!  Squeeze! Is it that my brain isn’t communicating properly? Or that my muscles aren’t listening? Have they gone on vacation?”

Tiny Mes and missing biceps aside, I am looking forward to next week.I’m aiming for three days next week too. Soon I’d like to start including some notes on how the changes I’ve been making to my eating habits are coming along so you have something truly exciting to look forward to….like pictures of my food. Cause who doesn’t like pictures of food coupled with my irresistible and charmingly self-deprecating wit? ūüėČ

I Guess Knowing I’m Weak Is When I’m Really Being Strong

Let me start by saying that I learned more than a few valuable lessons at jiu jitsu on Wednesday night.

First, I learned that as a newbie it’s probably unwise to not go to jiu jitsu for an entire week. It’s an even worse idea to not go to jiu jitsu for a week and then hope that your instructor doesn’t playfully make sure to call you out on it. He will.

I’ve heard it said that the best way to get in shape for jiu jitsu and improve in jiu jitsu, is to do jiu jitsu. I know this is not necessarily groundbreaking news to anyone. To get better at anything you have to practice. While this would seem like a logical and simple piece of advice to abide by I have to admit that one of my weakest points in life has been sticking with things that are challenging or uncomfortable. Getting over that initial “what the eff am I doing? I suck so bad at this and it’s uncomfortable and I’m over it” feeling is a challenge. Quieting my inner critic is a challenge. I have quit a lot of sports and hobbies over the years. I don’t think you can truly appreciate the weight of my confession without being given evidence so let me list them for you.

Things I Gave Up On Too Soon:

  • Dance
  • Swimming
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Cheerleading
  • Running
  • Guitar
  • Flute
  • Learning a second language
  • Math (all of it)
  • Photography (both the hobby and a formal education in the subject)
  • College (hey, I went back and fixed this one at least. #StayInSchoolKids)
  • Graphic design
  • Dating (that’s an entirely separate blog)

Honestly, the list goes on. Call me fickle.

This is a bad habit that I am really trying to overcome, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to embark on this jiu jitsu journey in the first place. Which leads me to the second thing I learned last night.

At some point during the time we were drilling techniques, my partner asked me how long I had been training. I told him it was my third class at this gym and he asked me how I liked it so far. I replied and said, “I love it. It’s really¬†challenging for me but I love it.” ¬†He smiled and agreed that jiu jitsu is challenging and then said something about how jiu jitsu will teach me to be comfortable being uncomfortable and that it will make everything else in life so much easier.

You know sometimes there are these moments in life where the universe just completely affirms and validates why you are where you are. ¬†No, you’re not on a hidden camera show. You’re not secretly trapped in a Truman Show-esque existence. It’s just that fate, the universe, God, or whatever you believe in, has brought you to this moment for a reason. I am on the mats for a reason and when I’m feeling nervous or anxious or critical or flighty, I need to remember that.

Ok. Let’s talk technique.

Granby:¬†I feel like this technique should have a name more reflective of it’s dreaded and troublesome nature. Something with the word “evil” or “torturous” in the title. I bet you’re wondering how mine are coming along. They’re not! But I admit I haven’t been practicing. ūüėź I did get a valuable tip last night though. My partner told me he thinks what would help me would be to pay attention to moving my head as the rest of my body moves to make room for my other shoulder to land. At the time this advice made so much sense and I came home and watched some videos that reaffirmed the gravity of this new insight, but as I write this I’m still at the point where I get half way there and an alarm goes off in my body: unfamiliar body position, unfamiliar body position, return to normalcy now or die. I have promised myself to make more time on the weekends to work on some of these things outside of class. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who can help me when I force him to!

No Arm Darce/Ninja Choke: At this point in the class my partner was now acutely aware of how little I really know, and he very generously took the time to explain a standard Darce choke to me before helping me try the no arm Darce. I noticed when it comes to chokes and finishing submissions I’m still weary of actually applying any pressure. My partner told me not to worry, I wouldn’t hurt him but it’s still a strange feeling for me. This is one of the few social situations I’ve been in where choking someone is not only acceptable but highly encouraged and even lauded. #NewSocialNorms. I also noticed that I’m really going to need to work on my flexibility. I don’t know if it’s partially that I’m a little large for my frame, out of shape, or something else…but I find I sometimes have a hard time getting my arms or legs or hands or feet around to where they need to be.

Ashi Garami (leg locks and heel hooks): We had a guest instructor go over some leg lock techniques. He explained that “ashi garami” translates roughly to “tangled legs” and that couldn’t be more fitting of a description because there were moments where I couldn’t decide whose legs went where and whose legs were supposed to be where. Again I noticed my flexibility was at times a challenge. I also noticed that as the instructoris explaining a technique I usually follow and understand pretty well, but when it comes time to drill it myself I feel like I instantly brain dump everything I just saw. These techniques are so much more complex than what I was learning at the last gym and that’s great and I’m sure it’s supposed to be mystifying to a new person. Sometimes it feels like some kind of spatial recognition issue. Which arm goes where? This hand does what? ¬†Whose legs are where? I used to hate learning a dance routine from an instructor in front of a mirror because I would get all twisted trying ¬†to translate their movements in the mirror to what I should be doing. The leg locks were really interesting though. We also learned how to finish them with a heel hook and I went home and had to ask my boyfriend all kinds of questions about where I should feel the discomfort and how much and why do I feel it here instead of there? All that’s aside, we learned the basica of ashi, double outside ashi (DOA) and ashi heel hooks.

Here’s a video clip that demonstrates some of what we learned in action.

Welcome to the Dark Side

It was never my intent to take so much time off so close to the beginning of my jiu jitsu journey but never fear, dear readers (all ten of you), I’m back on the mats and at the keyboard!  My boyfriend and I have moved from the South Bay and we’re now training at a new school in Los Angeles. Since we’ve been working on the same techniques at both of the classes I’ve made it to so far, I’m going to give you a play-by-play of my first day and jump right into the good (scary) stuff for the second day.

DAY 7 (or is it really DAY 1 again?):  My first night at my new school.  I walked in knowing a few faces from having sat in on my boyfriend’s practices but none of the faces know me.  My boyfriend was home on Daddy Duty so it was my first ever class without him there and something about not having my security blanket was both exciting and terrifying.  I arrived just as the fundamentals class began, and made it through a series of drills relatively unscathed.  By “made it through a series of drills relatively unscathed” what I mean is I still suck at forward rolls and reverse shrimps are new and utterly awkward.  One of the more advanced females walked me through all the drills and I’m thankful that she was there to give me some extra guidance and support (because I need all the help I can get!).  I had planned on leaving after the fundamentals class but for just a moment reason, fear, and anxiety subsided long enough for me to decide I should stay.  This was both my best and worst idea ever because shortly after, I found out it was strength and conditioning night.  What have I just done?  Where is the nearest exit?  Will anyone notice if I leave? In case you’re curious as to what strength and conditioning could possibly mean, I’m pretty sure it’s actually a clever term used to describe torture which you foolishly volunteer to participate in. After agonizing wall sits, push ups, planks, and a tug of war that certainly was developed in the deepest pits of purgatory, I survived the night and headed home sweaty and acutely aware of how unfamiliar it is to consciously, purposely, and completely engage and sustain utilization of my muscles.

I should mention that I woke up at 3 AM more sore than I’ve ever been in my life.  Sleeplessly sore.  Sore in places I didn’t think could be sore.  Sore on levels I didn’t know were possible.  But an incredibly satisfying and gloriously uncomfortable kind of sore.  My jiu jitsu journey is real now, and that soreness was all the evidence I need to believe that.

DAY 8: As luck would have it, my first two nights at my new school were focused on one of the things I struggle with and dread most: rolls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing about conquering the forward roll (and by conquering I mean attempting and at least kind of completing something that closely resembles a forward roll). But this was a new level of frustratingly terrifying rolls: the dreaded gramby roll [insert suspense thriller horror movie sound affects here].

By the way, is it granby, grandby, or gramby because the internet is apparently out on that one (*GASP*).  I know it’s not granny, as google so helpfully suggested.

We started out by practicing our gramby rolls on their own, both traditional and side to side.  For my non-jiu jitsu readers (Mom, I know you’re still reading this!) here’s an idea of what they look like:

Now you all know about my trials and tribulations with the forward roll so I’m sure for those of you that have seen my facial expressions on a regular basis, you know what my face looked like as the instructor was demonstrating these movements.  *Cue blank and awkward stare of confusion and disbelief*  Our instructor broke the roll down into steps that were painfully easy to understand and yet impossible (for me) to master: tuck your arm, tuck your chin, roll onto your shoulder, now push up onto your toes and walk your feet around.  Ok!  But as it turns out, once my ass was up in the air my mind loses all sense of equilibrium and I end up feeling like an elderly sloth trying to look graceful or coordinated as it rolls around from side to side.  Where the hell are my feet and which way am I walking them around?  I know I’m supposed to tuck my chin but my head seems to have other ideas.  Can someone please tell me what happens if I get stuck like this?  I hate and love this moment and this movement with all of my soul.

After the warm up rolls we moved on to the techniques.  I had to enlist the help of my boyfriend to accurately describe these and I’m going to write them just as he described them because I think it is a vividly accurate illustration of why I left both nights thinking, “what the hell did I just do for 90 minutes?”

THE TECHNIQUES:

In side control, break dance escape to reguard.  Opponent gets double under on your guard and executes baby wipe pass to side control.

Gramby roll from turtle position and opponent has seat belt control.

Sit out from turtle position and opponent has seat belt control.

Opponent has you in sprawl control/head arm.  Sit out to opponent’s back.

Opponent has you in sprawl control/head arm control.  Arm drag to opponent’s back, put nearside hook in with option to transition to truck control or calf slicer.

Sorry non-jiu jitsu readers, I’ll have to start posting videos some day for you.  To jiu jitsu readers, I’m so open to hearing your tips, thoughts, and corrections on any of those techniques.  Maybe one of you can actually help me understand where 90 minutes of my life last night and on Thursday of last week went.

I had great partners both nights; they were patient and helpful and encouraging.  At the end of the both nights I was overloaded with information, covered in sweat, and out of breath.  The other students began rolling and I sat back, secretly thankful that our instructor wants new students to wait a month before rolling.  I had a chance to talk with him on-on-one about my diet and goals.  I’m pretty sure he very discreetly gave me homework to watch the documentary “GMO OMG” (which I did, and don’t get me started on how that made me feel).  I watched the other students roll, eager for a time when things will start to come together and make sense for me, but also happy to wait and work for it.

MY THOUGHTS: My boyfriend and I were talking about jiu jitsu the other day and he said to me that he feels like you can tell a lot about a person by the way they roll. I’ve been chewing on that idea ever since. Last night, driving home from class, I found myself wondering: what did my experience on the mats tonight say about me? What was the common theme to my hang ups tonight?  What can I do to improve?  If I had to describe it, the best words I can come up with are uncertainty and hesitation.  I think I need to learn to commit to the moment more.  Sometimes I allow myself too much time to think and while thinking is usually a good thing, when my inner voice starts doing the thinking it usually isn’t saying anything helpful.  I seem to do better when I toss caution to the wind and just go for things (my parents might disagree with this statement now that I think about it).   But that IS how I ended up at strength and conditioning, after all.  And even though it was voluntary torture, I was so glad I stayed.  I wanted to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable when I started this journey, and I know the only way I’m going to get comfortable with things is to keep going to class, keep doing them, keep practicing.  Gramby rolls won’t magically get better unless I’m working at them.  I wonder if practicing gramby rolls in the hallway at work would be considered unprofessional?

I’m rippin’ up a rag doll. Like throwin’ away an old toy.

The last few days of jiu jitsu have been interesting. And by interesting I mean totally frustrating and substantially uncomfortable.

On Sunday my boyfriend and I went to the gym. He decided it would be a good idea for us to practice takedowns off the wall. Are you wondering what that was like for me? Have you ever tried to move a heavy and awkward piece of furniture on your own? You push on it. Pull on it. Try to lift it. Try to slide it. Sweat profusely. And end up accomplishing absolutely nothing. That’s pretty much how my attempts to take down my boyfriend went. Did I mention he was defending my takedown attempts without the use of his hands? Yeeeeeeeah. I on the other hand, ended up on my back more than a few times. It was probably one of the most frustrating training moments I’ve experienced thus far. He told me afterwards that¬†I actually did well and commented that if I had used a little more shoulder pressure to pin his hips I probably would’ve been successful. He is forever encouraging me on my jiu jitsu journey.¬† For someone who hadn’t been shown any kind of takedown technique prior to that practice¬†I guess I did okay (except that by the end of it all¬†I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry, punch him in his cute bearded face, walk out, or just die there on the mat and be buried in the gym¬†at the ripe young age of thirty).

Speaking of frustrating moments in jiu jitsu that end with a flurry of unrecognizable and indistinguishable emotions, let me tell you about last night’s class.

DAY SIX:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a child’s doll? To be thrown around and slammed against things without regard to your lifespan or skeletal structure? No? Me neither, really. But regardless, I think I found out last night what that feels like.

I’m curious if what I’m about to describe is common for female grapplers. I’ll refer to it as “The Female Effect”. Let me explain. In social-psychology there is what is called a cognitive bias phenomenon that is often referred to as “The Halo Effect”. The Halo Effect is when¬†a single trait of a person is used to make an overall judgment of that person. It usually¬†occurs unconsciously. For example, a good-looking person might automatically be¬†perceived as being smart and kind even though there is no logical reason to believe that looks correlate with smarts or kindness. We think because he/she is good looking, they must be good all around, and so therefore¬† this person must be smart and nice as well. In class last night I observed what I have since come to call “The Female Effect”. The Female Effect is when gender alone is used to make an overall judgment, assessment, or decision about a fellow jiu jitsu practitioner. For example, because she’s female, she should train and roll with another female.¬†Females just naturally belong together regardless of size or experience level. Or, because she’s female, she’s feminine and therefore she’ll be gentle and easy going on another, smaller,¬†female even though she’s basically a lumberjack with boobs.

Last night I experienced The Female Effect first-hand when I was paired with a much larger and also very new¬†female for sparring. I don’t know for sure if it was her first class but I know she was new,¬†and I know she has¬†probably never heard jiu jitsu referred to as the gentle art.¬† And she probably hasn’t read an article or had a conversation about what not to do when you’re rolling with someone. She was a very nice, and very pretty young lady. But she was a thug. A nice, pretty, strong, unintentional, thug.

And she was not a small girl. I’m not a small girl either and for me to say she wasn’t small…well, she stood next to my boyfriend at one point and she was bigger than him so she was at least twice my size.¬† But in spite of the fact that we’re both new and we’re staggeringly different sizes, the Coach paired us up and¬†told us he wanted to see full intensity from us,¬†but instead of submissions he wanted “WWE style” wrestling, pinning the shoulders down for three seconds and then starting again. Well, my partner heard the WWE style part, and she heard the intensity part, and she¬†definitely gave me both!

Both sparring sessions with her (yes, the coach decided to keep us together for both sessions) felt like being trapped in a bad horror film staring a female version of¬†The Hulk who lived and breathed only to smash the smaller, weaker, female population of Earth. There was no where to run, nowhere to hide, no escape.¬† Only smashing.¬† Endless smashing.¬† I felt like a rag doll being thrown around for entertainment. If you’ve ever seen a highlight film of Ronda Rousey’s judo throws, picture that, only instead of a bunch of clips of different people getting tossed around, just imagine me getting thrown around. Again. And again. And again. All the while being encouraged to “C’mon girl!”.

I did everything I could think of to try and defend but neither one of us really had much going in the way of technique so my attempts were pretty much futile. She threw me like I was a pi√Īata made of paper and stuffed with¬†glitter and feathers. The strange thing is I didn’t get frustrated like I had with my boyfriend the day before. I think maybe I was just too busy trying to survive to get frustrated.

I left class puzzled, emotional, and irritated. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to ask twenty-thousand questions.¬† I wanted to quit. I wanted to try again.¬† I wanted everything and nothing and I was angry and understanding and resentful and thankful all at the same time.¬† I was a mess.¬† I had so many questions running through my mind.¬† What could I have done to defend her better? Was there anything I could have one?¬† Would coach have put me with someone of that size and experience level and told them to go “full intensity, WWE style” if they hadn’t been a female?¬† Does this happen to other female grapplers and jiu jitsu practitioners? What happens if she’s there again on Wednesday? Oh God, what if she had FUN and wants MORE???¬† Should I have said something?¬† Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I think because the Coach would have intervened.¬† Or was he too busy?¬† What.¬† The.¬† Eff.¬† Just.¬† Happened?!?!

My boyfriend of course thought this whole exchange was hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing at my facial expression on the way home. Not because he enjoyed the fact that I got smashed on but because he said he’s been there too, and so has everyone else who has ever started training jiu jitsu. He said it gets better. He said I handled it well, and that I should try to let it should motivate me to get better.

I was in a pretty negative mindset last night so when he said all of that I pretty much disregarded it at the time, but my emotions have mostly cleared since then (although my back definitely feels like I spent most of last night trapped in a trash compacting machine). And I know that I did learn a valuable lesson last night. I learned that in the moments when size does matter, technique matters more. If I had known what to do I probably could have defended a lot better against her smashing.

So to my jiu jitsu readers, what are you suggestions for dealing with a smasher you know you’ll inevitably end up rolling with again? Especially a newbie smasher! What are some good, but basic,¬†techniques to use against smashers?

And to my female jiu jitsu readers, have you seen or experienced anything similar to “The Female Effect” I just described? How did it make you feel? How did you deal with it?

In other news, I didn’t make it to class last week and therefore didn’t post last week because my boyfriend and I were busy apartment hunting. Apartment hunting in LA is a sick kind of torture. It’s like trying to haggle at a middle eastern street market, only you and the five other people haggling for a single item¬†don’t even really want the thing you’re haggling for…you just know¬†it’s just better than walking away with nothing. This side note is really¬†just to say that this will likely be our last week¬† training¬†at our current gym. So expect to hear stories about my anxiety and nerves as we start training at a new location. Stay tuned!

I’ll leave you with this visual representation of how I felt last night:

Push it. Ah. Push it real good.

DAY FIVE:

The boys turned up on me last night!!!

When class started it was just my boyfriend, me, and one other student. Mid-way through our warm up another student whom I had never met before joined the class. I guess Coach took this as an opportunity to challenge us on our cardio and push us on our conditioning because it got real during the warm up!

Things started out normal and then went from 0 to Oh My Gawd in a matter of seconds. We began with our usual jog around the mat followed by inside/outside shuffles, but quickly moved on to forward and backward bear crawls, followed by wheelbarrow walks. Let me pause here and point out that at the end of the wheelbarrow walks I was already dying, but our Coach and the boys were so encouraging that I kept trying to push myself within reasonable limits (and when I say that I mean on a scale from feeling fine to death by jiu jitsu, I was definitely in the red zone approaching jiu jitsu warm up death).

After the wheelbarrow walks we did partner body drags. I never envisioned dragging my boyfriend’s body across the mat when I thought of us spending quality time together during the week. He pushed me to get completely from one end of the mat to the other, and pointed out that he’s been cutting weight so I should be glad we didn’t try this a few weeks ago. ūüėź Yeah. Right.

At this point Coach let us take a water break, and I was counting my blessings that the warm up was over. Only it wasn’t.

What happened next I can only describe as the jiu jitsu version of monkey in the middle. One person stood at each end of the mat, with another in the middle, and the fourth person resting. The person in the middle then sprinted toward one of the two students at the end of the mat, executed whatever take down the wanted, sprinted to the other student on the other side of the mat, executed another take down, and back and forth until the coach called time. So I got a chance to practice breaking my falls. The boys were super technical to make sure I didn’t end up broken. Coach shouted out tips about how to break my falls. Since I don’t really know any take downs that well, Coach told me just to sprint back and forth between the boys and practice at least shooting for a take down. I don’t know how long we did this, but I know it felt like the longest 5-10 minutes of my life.

I was proud of myself for not giving up. Or passing out. Or dying.

After the most exhausting warm up of my life we learned a d’arce choke. For my non jiu jitsu readers I’ve included a video.

The only difference between the video and what we learned last night was that we learned it from side control. I really struggled with this technique. Coach showed us an alternate gable-grip neck-crank version of this for those of us who couldn’t quite reach around to our bicep to finish the choke.

I couldn’t quite get my head around either technique. I was struggling with which way and where my hips should be, getting deep enough that I could grasp my bicep….honestly, this submission in general was just totally lost on me. I plan to work it with my boyfriend some this weekend, but if any of my jiu jitsu readers out there have suggestions for executing a d’arce choke from side control, please comment below!

After attempting to drill the d’arce, we sparred. The guys felt huge, heavy, and insurmountable today. I worked on trying to pass guards and not get into bad positions. I was so exhausted from the warm up that surviving the sparring was more of a challenge than it usually is. I was completely gassed by the end of class.

But I felt good about how hard I pushed myself and I haven’t given up on figuring out that d’arce yet. It was a great session and this morning I am sore, tired, and completely satisfied.

The Anatomy of Progress (Measuring Time in Milliseconds)

DAY FOUR:

Have you ever noticed that progress happens in what seems to be a millisecond? The millisecond you decide I won’t have that soda today, or I won’t eat this peanut butter cup right now (or the other 12 in the package for that matter). The millisecond you decide to click the button and enroll in a degree or submit an application. The millisecond in which you allow yourself to consider an alternate perspective or a differing opinion. Everything significant in terms of change and progress happens in just a millisecond of thoughtful commitment and yet we measure life in days, months, and years.

I have learned to find victory in the milliseconds today. The millisecond in which I told myself to just commit to the forward roll, and then another, and then one backward roll, and another. Yes. You read that right. I, NoGiGirl, of the greater Los Angeles area, borne from a hardy line of Persian and Irish people, raised in the foothills of Northern California and aged by the rains of England and the sweltering heat of Arizona, have completed not just one but numerous rolls of the forward and backward persuasion today.

And the crowd rejoiced.

In other news, we got our “Honda Housey” on today and focused heavily on arm bar techniques. We started with the basic CPR arm bar from mount then worked on techniques to counter common arm bar defenses. I felt a little more comfortable with executing the arm bars this time than the first time. There were a lot of newer students in the class so we benefited from a really good breakdown of the technique and the chance to drill with more experienced folks.

Afterwards we had a brief sparring session. I got a chance to try the arm bar and the various counter defense techniques. I also got to try passing my partner’s guard a few times.

The instructor encouraged me after class, saying my technique was coming along and that things seemed to be coming together for me. He told me to just keep enjoying myself and told me if I could, focus on not falling into the common frustration of things not clicking fast enough or not being able to submit someone. Just focus on my fundamentals and getting trough each session.

Sometimes getting myself to go to class so late in the evening after working and commuting in LA traffic is a challenge. But when I take things a millisecond at a time I find not only do I make it to class, I end up having a really great and productive session. And just when I’m starting to enjoy myself the class is over.

So that’s my lesson learned for today. Measure things in milliseconds.

Preparation is the Solution to Fear

How many of you out there like to speak in public?¬† I know more people who don’t like to speak in front of an audience than people who truly enjoy it.¬† I’m not one of those people who enjoys it, but in high school I was involved in theater and my job requires me to speak in front of a group often, so I’ve had to learn how to get over my fear and make the most of my nervous energy.¬† When I first started having to speak regularly in public, I was taught that preparation is the solution to fear.¬† Know your material, anticipate what questions are going to be asked, and have an answer prepared, and some of that nervousness you feel will go away.¬† You know the nervousness I’m talking about — the “what if I say something stupid and it’s forever captured in the minds of the people I have to see every day as an example of my shortcomings?” fear.

That fear is similar to the irrational fear I have of forward and backward rolls. So over the last few days I’ve been trying to apply the same “preparation is the solution to fear” lesson to my fear of rolling and falling.¬† I can’t tell you where this fear comes from, I just remember always having had it.¬† I remember being the only girl on the playground who couldn’t do a cartwheel. I remember it being one of the main reasons I didn’t stick with gymnastics.¬† And I’m sure that being¬†picked as a “flyer” at cheerleading camp and¬†being subsequently¬†dropped from an unreasonable height didn’t help. There was also this time I was almost thrown from the back of a truck while wearing a bear suit and ended up suspended upside down over the tailgate with a bunch of cheerleader on top of me, but I’m not sure that story belongs with this blog post (maybe another time…).

So in an effort to prepare myself for class tonight, and in hopes of overcoming my forward/backward rolling fears, I’ve been watching these videos all morning.

Let me first point out that this is exactly the way my boyfriend tried to teach me these rolls yesterday and I was absolutely frozen with fear.  Listen, I know it makes no sense.  Who is afraid of a somersault?  This girl right here.  For. No. Apparent.  Reason.

Secondly, let me say that he makes this look incredibly easy.

And in no way do I feel any more prepared or any less likely to overcome this fear tonight.

But I’m going to try.¬† Check back later to see what happens!¬† It may not be a success story, but it will undoubtedly be funny.

Unlocking the Secret

DAY THREE:

Tonight was a really great class. I think I unlocked the secret tonight. Or at least my personal secret. I know what you’re thinking but follow me on this…

We had a different instructor tonight. He was a third degree black belt. His warm up was much lighter and shorter than our normal warm up, which I was perfectly okay with tonight because I was struggling to even get myself to class and definitely wasn’t prepared for the mental challenge of a grueling warm up. The gentle lullaby of sleep always tries to lure me to bed instead of to the mats. Luckily I have my boyfriend to drag me there when I feel the blankets calling me.

After the warm up we learned two techniques: an arm bar from guard and a triangle from guard. I was paired up with my boyfriend to drill the techniques one at a time. Class was small so we received a lot of one-on-one individual instruction from the coach. It was helpful to have that level of attention because I really had a chance to breakdown the techniques and figure out what I was and wasn’t doing properly. Half way through drilling the triangle the coach asked me how long I had been training. I said it was my third class and he complemented me on how I was doing and decided to teach me the flower sweep. I think it’s my favorite technique of the few I’ve learned.

I don’t know if it was working with my boyfriend, the focused attention from the instructor, or the positive encouragement but I really felt like things were actually clicking tonight. Probably for the first time.

I sat out for most of the sparring tonight. I actually enjoyed just watching the guys. I got to see my boyfriend use the flower sweep on someone which helped reinforce what I had learned.

When we got home my boyfriend and I went over the flower sweep again. Yes. I admit. We are that couple that rolls around in the living room. I imagine if it were up to him we would have mats on the living room floor instead of Persian rugs. In case you’re wondering, Persian rugs are NOT a comparable alternative to mats. Don’t try that at home, readers.

So what is the secret I unlocked tonight? At the end of class, our instructor asked us a seemingly simple question. “What’s the secret?” Everyone was shouting out answers and when all plausible answers had been exhausted he told us, “There is no secret. If you want to get better, train. Show up.”

He told me as I was leaving to keep coming. And even though sleep is extremely alluring, I don’t plan on giving up any time soon.

So if the coach told us there is no secret then what secret did I unlock tonight? The personal secret I unlocked tonight is this: I have to stop doubting myself so much. I needed to hear that I was doing well from a neutral third party tonight. I usually feel like I’m struggling to capture what I’m leaning in words, and some days it feels like I’m not learning anything at all. But the reality is I’m learning a lot and I’m learning it well for me. Am I as flexible as others or as strong as others? Do I have the stamina of others? No. But I’m doing well for me and that’s all that really matters. And as long as I keep showing up, I’ll keep learning. And the reality is when I make those excuses for myself, I’m selling myself short. Is it hard for me to get into certain positions because I lack the same level of core strength as others? Yeah. But when I really apply myself and commit to a movement in that moment, I have exactly the strength I need for those few seconds. The rest will come as long as I keep showing up.

I guess this means I have to face my fear of forward rolls now….