Small class tonight, just five white belts. That's the best part about this school---we had five white belts show up, and a black belt instructor telling us where we were going wrong every step of the way. The thread that we worked today went: armlock-from-guard--RNC-defense--wrist-control-to-over-the-shoulder-sweep--elbow-escape-to-regaining-guard--ladder-up-armlock. I drilled with John, a man whose beard makes other men wilt with shame and envy. He's roughly my size, so we're natural drilling partners. I kept hooking the wrong leg on top to finish the ladder-up armlock at the end. Stupid mistake, but in theory, he's tapping by the time I get there, so it's a wash. Still, good to get the minutiae down while I'm learning rather than having to tear down the house a few months later.
We rolled in class today, going a few minutes then trading partners. I started with the same John, started playing my open guard and worked really hard not to let him pass. It worked pretty well, he never established side control and I could always swing my leg between us. Eventually, I forced an omoplata sweep---I can't even really describe the positioning, save to say that I was on my back with one leg over his shoulder, trying to get the second under his arm, and he kept his arm out but never went for double unders. So I reached in and hooked his arm with mine and forced it out into the omoplata, he rolled and I took his back. I was sinking the choke in right as Klint called time.
I moved to New John, a bit taller than I and probably a lot stronger, but still green as grass and using far too much strength. I mounted him and rather than just crush him, tried to get him to relax and unhook my feet from behind his butt. I want to work my techniques, but I always feel bad when I'm rolling with someone who is either a) very young and light and still working out how his body works, let alone how to choke someone else, or b) so new to the game that he's trying really hard in all the wrong ways. I know I can beat them, but I don't know how good it will be for them. I ended up tapping New John with an omoplata and something else that I don't remember. He'll be a real pain in a few months if he sticks around.
Last I went down to roll with Klint. Glutton for punishment, table for one. I pulled guard (something he told me later he let me do the first time and then wouldn't the second time because I was doing it wrong) and worked my grip breaks trying to break his posture. He ended up opening my legs and I went to spider guard, but I never got around to breaking his grips on my knees to start attacking. So he made it uncomfortable on me and passed my guard, went to knee-on-belly, ended up slapping on a kimura. Then he didn't allow me to pull guard, and I scrambled trying to assert my open guard, but he wasn't having any of it. I forget how the sequence went, but he ended up with me in a triangle-omoplata position, and I refused to let him get my arm across and baited the omoplata so I could have a chance to roll out. He, though, switched his triangle, putting the lock right next to my neck, and clamped down; I didn't feel threatened and the choke wasn't really i--until he shoved his hips up and threw my arm where he wanted it like I stole his son's lollipop. The tap was fast and fierce.
Overall, I am fairly comfortable with how my rolls went tonight. I know my open guard is going to be one of the last things to develop, and critiquing it now is almost laughable as it hasn't gotten past the larva stage. I fought well off my back against John, but his game is one that allows me to play that guard. Klint told me that I'm doing a lot right, and to keep thinking about making my guard offensive rather than defensive---every chance I get I should be breaking grips and disrupting posture and balance and making my opponent uncomfortable. A some point, my lungs will tell me that I'm doing too much and I need to breathe. The easiest fix for that is to be in better shape. But running sucks, and beer doesn't.
The last thing I want to talk about today is belt testing. BJJ belt promotions just happen when they happen---it's one of the quirks of the art. Camarillo schools have just started having promotion tests and ceremonies to reward students when they're ready for the next belt. We have a curriculum and certain things that we must have locked down and be able to use in our repertoire, both in technical drilling and in live rolling. So Klint told me tonight that I'll be testing for my third stripe at the beginning of next month. But it won't be just a piece of athletic tape....the other thing that DCBJJ schools are doing is giving a new belt for each stripe. So instead of a white belt with a piece of tape, the first stripe is a white belt with one blue stripe all the way around, the second is a belt with two stripes, the third is a half-white-half-blue, and--well, I don't know if there's a fourth stripe anymore. One thing I like about this new "testing" system is that I know the things for which I will be held accountable, and that's good. It gives me things to work when I don't feel like live rolling, and it gives structure to the entire process of learning jiu jitsu. It's also more family friendly, and lets students invite their families when they're up for a promotion. I do think it's unfortunate to lose the treat of spontaneous belt promotions, of surprising someone with recognition for all the work they've been doing, for the sweat they've given the mat and the blood they've washed out of their gi. I can't imagine the emotional storm that watching your instructor unexpectedly untie his black belt and put it on your waist must feel like. It's something that I know is years and years away--I can't imagine what getting a damn blue belt will feel like--but the spontaneity of it always seemed, well, awesome. You put your time in and then, when you've done it well enough and long enough, the heavens part and your prize hits you in the face.
Before that, though, I need to work these new threads and polish my armbars and triangles. Again. Also, that mole that Kyle scratched off? It's a pumper. I'll be wearing a shirt under my gi for a few days at least.