Saturday morning was somehow the antithesis of Friday night. I was moving decently, I was engaged in the rolls, I was (I think) learning from my opponents, and I was aware of what I was doing. I rolled with Ron (somewhat older guy, same rank as I--3-stripe white---, roughly the same size if not just a bit smaller), Brady (small purple belt), Damian (bull-framed black belt), a guy whose name escapes me but who is an attorney at a big box firm in town, and Derrick (blue belt, about 30 pounds smaller than I).
Ron was a good fight. I don't remember how I started those rolls, whether I tried to keep him in my guard or whether I worked to pass his. Most of the time, though, I was on his back---sometimes with hooks, sometimes with a kimura grip and shoulder control. I was able to stay pretty calm and methodical the whole time, focus on technique and execution. My armbars have gotten pretty sloppy, so that's a little disheartening. I'm going through something of a collar-choke phase, looking for bow-and-arrow chokes and using them to set up kimura-grip control on the shoulder.
My roll with Damian was a bit intimidating. Part of it was the inescapable fact that he's a black belt, part of it was that he's got at least 40 pounds of muscle and eight inches of chest circumference on me, and part of it was just my pride. He let me get to side control right away, and it was all downhill from there. His sweeps aren't as blindsiding as Klint's; I can generally feel him setting them up and can tell when it's getting bad (as opposed to Klint's where I'm suddenly inverted and wondering what happened that allows gravity to release me for a minute before I realize it's his hooks). I don't know how much of that is the difference in their games and how much of it is what improvements I'm making, but I'm willing to bet more on the former than the latter. It was fun to train with him; and it's comfortable enough that we can both laugh at my mistakes as I make them. At one point I was in his guard and my right wrist was under his left armpit, and he started raising his hips; for reasons passing understanding, something in my head decided that it would be a good idea to grip with my right hand, and that if I gripped hard enough, I'd be able to get out of that terrible position. That was funny. And by funny I mean stupid. But it was a great lesson in the economy of motion. What he and Klint have in common is that neither of them waste a movement. Everything is as small and controlled as possible; they cut out all the fat and get to the essence of the movement. Large movements waste energy and create scrambles; small movements let you keep control and dictate the pace.
After Damian railed me for a while, we were talking to Nameless, the attorney, and Damian said we should train. Nameless (I'll fix this once I learn it) is pretty newish to jiu jitsu. He spends a lot of time doing cross-fit, only hitting the mats every month or so. He only had about 5 minutes to roll, and he kept falling back to guard. The work Andy and I have been putting into half-guard passes really paid off this morning, both against Nameless and Ron; I passed half-guard at least 5 times.
Derrick has a great game. He started standing, I sitting. One thing I enjoyed was when he asked where I usually train and I said, "With Klint in Woodbury." His response was, "Great, that means you're going to have a painful guard." And not wanting to disappoint either his expectations or my instructors reputation, I kept him in closed guard for the first five minutes. After finding that armbar, we restarted, and I hit one of the sweeps I'm training myself to look for (even though I didn't have the sleeve and so technically it wasn't great and created more of a scramble in changing position than I would have liked), and I got on top. We worked for probably 20 minutes, and he was very complimentary at the end. Said to work on my patience because in his mind that's probably the one thing between me and a blue belt. I had a few immediate reactions to that: 1) that's sweet, dear, but please ignore my laughter for the next minute; 2) definitely not ready to receive a blue belt quite yet, not when I'm still to scared to shoot in for a takedown; 3) I enjoy giving blue belts a hard time; 4) really, I'm not ready for that yet.
I heard something on the Fightworks Podcast a few weeks ago about how whenever someone gets a new belt, it never feels like it's deserved. The new belt not only weighs heavily on the hips (much like the weighted crown on a king's brow), but it spurs its wearer to train more and harder to show that the belt is a valid and accurate reflection of its wearer's skills. So in other words, no matter when you get the promotion, it will always feel premature. That is both reassuring and terrifying.
Don't know what we'll be working on this week, but I'm looking forward to finding out tomorrow night. I rode 24 miles on the bike this afternoon to get some cardio in on my day off. (If you're ever in Minneapolis/St. Paul, find a bike and ride the Midtown Greenway; it's beyond cool and reminds you how that pork-barrel spending can help everyone.) On the way back, the bike shop on the Greenway was giving out hot cider for free to riders. And all was good and right with the world.