Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Near Passes and Back Control

Class tonight was about back control and finishing when you get it.  Fall to the head side for the rear naked choke, or you can feed the gi for a different collar choke; if you lose that, dismount right into an arm triangle.  Falling to the arm side, you have a different gi choke (same basic grips), the armbar, or progress to mount.

Rolling afterwards, I made my opponents start on my back with their hooks in and over-under control.  I rolled with Zach and Neal a ton---I don't remember if I had a chance to roll with Eric or not.  We did some of the same drill in class.  I didn't work with Andy tonight, as we're actively trying to get time with everyone else in class.  We train together a lot, so no need to do it every class.  I also rolled with Klint again.  I came away from that feeling pretty OK.  There were definitely moments when I could tell that my entire weight was on just one of his hooks, and he gently let me down with a smirk.  He let me work the snake-the-leg technique that he taught us on Saturday.  I also ended up on the wrong end of an arm triangle choke (that wasn't choking me unconscious but was definitely giving my neck reasons to question my chosen pursuit) and gift-wrapping my arm for him at least twice.  Of course, I didn't realize that I had gift-wrapped it for him until it was straightened, but that's beside the point.

A few months ago, I rambled for a few posts about excellence in jiu jitsu (here, here, and here).  We've had two of our excellence events at school (the third is costing me training Thursday night), and by far the most interesting was by Vito.  (Just because I don't want to ruffle feathers even unintentionally right now, I'll call him Vito.)  Vito is widely recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the business.  He came and talked about big game hunting in Africa (he's got taxidermic lions and wildebeests that he killed in his house), playing the trumpet (he was weeks from pursuing a career as a trumpeter in Count Basie's band), and lessons from the Godfather movies (really just Parts I and II; Part III never happened).  After the event, a handful of us got to join Vito for dinner.  The concept of excellence peppered the conversation.  At one point, he said that everything else has to be secondary to the one thing in life at which you want to excel.  I asked how that affected his family, and his response was beautiful in its terror:  "I left my family for ten years to be a better lawyer."  And he had; he lived in New York during the week and came home to Minnesota on the weekend to kiss his wife and kids on the head, switch out briefcases, and go back.

So it's going to take a lot of time and effort.  Many other things in life have to take a back seat.  And I truly think that jiu jitsu is a particularly demanding pursuit; it changes your body, your eating habits, your energy levels, your self-confidence--literally everything about you.  It changes how you think and your willingness to adapt to address problems.  The hardest part is that it does all these things only after hours and hours and infinite hours on the mats, growing cauliflower ears and tweaking joints and getting gi burn on your neck from cross chokes.  It is not for the faint of heart, that's for damn sure.


  1. Very thought provoking, Chris. This makes me ask, do I want to be excellent?

    I am a guy who has a lot of different talents and interests. I am good at all of them but truly excel at none of them. Sometimes this is frustrating - I'd like to be really, really good in at least one thing. But other times I really like being this way. I get to enjoy a wide variety of hobbies at which I am competent, but I don't have to make huge sacrifice for them. Not sure there's anything wrong with that.

    With BJJ I admit a determination to become excellent, and it's required more of that sacrifice. How I will deal with that is yet to be decided. One thing is for sure - I will pursue it like crazy unless it becomes obvious that it is having a negative impact on my family. But I can honestly say that so far it's been nothing but good :).

  2. Excelling at anything has a cost. We need to make sure that what we choose to excel at is worth it. I'm not sure I want "he was an excellent lawyer" or "he was an excellent jiu jitsuka" on my tombstone. I would prefer "he was an excellent human being," but I haven't figured out what that looks like yet.