Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

What did I do after writing out a post this morning, you might ask?  I went to open mat.  Like an addict.

I got to roll with Dan (4-stripe blue), Timmy (purple, 2-stripe I think), and Casey (4-stripe purple).  I'm a decent amount bigger than Dan, but roughly the same weight as Tim and Casey---I just carry it taller.  I spent the afternoon working my good game.  At least, when I could consciously implement a game, I opted for my good one.  Which is my guard.  And it worked pretty well.  Dan was having serious problems with it.  Talking afterwards, he said that most of the big guys he rolls with are my height, but at least 220, and that extra weight makes them move drastically differently than I do.  I, with my spindly legs and flexible knees, give him problems that he doesn't normally see.  But I was bad with my gas tank, and sapped it much quicker than I wanted to.

Tim just wrecked me.  I think my success Saturday against him was either him working a few specific things or him not being fully warm and ready for a spastic man with long legs.  But today, he took none of it and gave me a serious lesson.  A few collar chokes and armbars later, he even let me work simply takedowns and stand-up for a few minutes.  Here, I had mixed success and failure.  But, it was probably the second time I worked only takedowns, and I didn't embarrass myself or my academy, so I was alright with it.  Tim is one of the big personalities of that academy.  For a while, that school and ours were under the same flag.  Since January, Edina has come under a different affiliation.  The politics of jiu jitsu don't really attract me, but as I understand them, those politics can cause serious clashes between schools.  we thankfully don't have any of those.  There is a palpable disconnect, though, between Damian's students and Klint's, though, and it's not just the kind of game that their students pick up from their respective instructors.  Damian has had students longer, and he has many, many more of them.  Klint's been running his school for maybe two years now.  They have a swagger that they've earned with blood, time, and tears spent on the mats.  Klint's students are always welcome at Damian's academy to train or take classes, open-door policy.  In that respect, the instructors are world class.  I think I'm the student from across town who goes to Damian's most often, and occasionally I get that high-school, "not quite in this clique" vibe.  It's a strange thing, and today it was wonderfully absent.

Casey worked me pretty well, and complimented my defense afterwards.  As the defender, it never feels great to hear "Your defense is great" because it means that he was attacking the entire time and you couldn't get back to even a neutral position.  The good part, though, is that it means that your defense is improving, so eventually, you'll have time to spend on attacking.  Double-edged sword and whatnot.

Mat Rat

It's been a busy week.  I trained Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday night, and Saturday morning.  I worked Wednesday night, and Bar prep classes were going on all week.  I feel like something else happened, but I can't quite piece it together yet this morning.

As for training, though, we worked on escaping north-south all week.  Lots of useful stuff I hadn't seen before, and plenty of opportunity to drill it, which was nice.  Again, breaking down movements so that you look for indicators is a useful concept that Klint has brought to his classes, and he uses it with every technique and from every position.  Your opponent's movement triggers your attack; everything he does falls into a newly-set trap.  All week, Klint also left the last fifteen minutes or so of class and answered any questions that any of the students had about techniques or things that were giving us trouble during training.  We reviewed tech-mount escapes, high mount escapes, back-door escapes, counters to the standard triangle defense---basically everything that I have in my bag of regular tricks.  So this will not only help develop everyone's game on a general level, but on a specific level it reminds them that they already know counters to just about everything that I do and forces my game to evolve.  So I'm all good with that.

Friday night I got to do a few rolls with Stan, and then rolled for about a half-hour with JD before we just went over techniques.  Stan has been teaching at his karate school in Hugo for the last few months, so hasn't had a chance to train that much or that hard.  It's great for me, because it means that he and I are closer in abilities than we were when he was training all the time.  JD is still just a monster who can bridge for an hour at a time, but knows how to use his body so well that it's disconcerting for most of the rest of us.  He's a fantastic training partner, and we both get a lot out of rolling with one another.  His guard passing is getting pretty solid, and my recovery and sweeps seem to be getting more threatening.

Saturday, I trained with the women in the morning, then got to roll with Timmy and Bob at open mat before I had to leave at catch class with Klint across town.  That's right.  Three chances to train before 2pm, it just takes some planning and a car.  And four training sessions between 8pm Friday and 2pm Saturday.  It was awesome.  I got to roll with Swicker at Gina's class, and she's coming a long way.  Gina is giving those ladies some great technique and fundamental knowledge of the game.  A handful of them are competing at Mundials this coming weekend, so they are all in a head-down, move-forward mindset.  She did a good job pressuring me the whole time, and it let me work out of compromising positions.  At open mat an hour later, I finally got a chance to work with Tim.  It was the first roll of the session, but I was still kind of warm from the ladies an hour earlier, and I didn't have that much time before I had to go to Woodbury, so I just dove in.  He beat me pretty soundly---two or three taps in fifteen minutes.  But I performed much better against Tim than I ever had before.  I was not just floating between bad and worse positions, I was active in regaining guard and working to attack from there.  I know that I shouldn't rely so heavily on my guard, but that's the strongest (or at least most developed) part of my game and Tim is a higher belt against whom I want to do well, so I'm going to rely on the parts of my game that I've tested and somewhat proven.

At Klint's class, we trained with everyone at the end of class---it was Tony, Mel, me, Andy, John, and Klint.  Again, pretty OK with how I did.  Tony wanted to start under north-south to work on the techniques that Klint taught us all week, and I was able to stay on top and keep attacking.  He got to his knees at one point and I dove on a clock choke, but I was barely not deep enough and he defended well. Rolling with Klint was much more enjoyable than the last time.  Though really, that's a low bar to pass.  But still, I did a few good things I think.  Rolling with John and Mel was good--I don't think I got to Andy.  But by the end, I was sapped.  I went to a bar-b-que that night, but by 10:15 I was sleeping on the couch, so I dragged myself to bed and didn't move until the dog started whining at 7am.  That might be the first time I've slept nine-ish hours straight in a few years that wasn't beer-induced.

I just watched Miguel Torres's fight from UFC 130.  If you like guard work, that's necessary viewing.  He didn't get the judges' decision, but his technique is simply outstanding.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And All Shall Be Well....

And when I returned to the mat, something else entirely happened.

We worked through the week's techniques in class on Thursday, and added a few that they must have done on Tuesday and Wednesday (because I don't remember them).  Again, working out of side control and trying to recognize indicators that your opponent gives you, each of which tells you to move on to a different technique.  Then you string them together so that no matter what your opponent does to keep you in side control, you have an answer, something that either gets you back to guard or reverses the position.

Thankfully, this class did not start with "real life self-defense" practice.

After class, I got to train with Colin.  And I did very, very well against him.  We're fairly evenly matched--got our blue belts within a few weeks of one another, roughly the same size (even though he has ten to twenty pounds on me), and we're both pretty athletic and competitive people.  So we got to train at a pretty decent pace without going break-neck.  I felt confident, in control, never behind, and aggressive.

After class, Klint was walking out and asked if I was alright after the other night, that I seemed pretty broken up at the time.  Yeah, I'm all good, I said, sometimes the five-year-old in me decides he needs to break out.  I told him I was just reacting to the drubbing he'd given me, and he said he was being aggressive on purpose.  "Oh I know," I told him, "and it isn't like I didn't know at the time, that was just the reaction my psyche decided to have that night."  Having an instructor so invested in my progression, as I'm sure I've said before, is very comforting.  And I know that I'll benefit from getting wrecked like that--it won't even be in the long-run, the benefits will start showing in short order.  And I think Colin was their first display.

Friday, May 20, 2011


So that whole "be careful what you wish for" adage?  Not entirely off the mark.

I finally got back to class tonight.  I was there Monday, and we are focusing on escapes from side control this week.  You know, those terrible things that everyone always needs help with and that no one ever enjoys.  Also, Andy competes this weekend, so training afterwards was directed mainly at him, giving him fresh guys to put him in bad spots.  So we worked for him a while and tried to get him thinking in a competition mindset.  Then the restaurant I'm working at opened and I've been working too often there, so I didn't get to train Tuesday or Wednesday.  By the time I got to class tonight, it felt like I hadn't done jiu jitsu in two weeks.

We still worked side control escapes.  I had some trouble with a few of them; part of that is that I'm kind of lazy on the bottom of side control, and part of it is that my partner is very strong in that position.  So it wasn't good, but it wasn't all bad, either.  Afterwards, I worked with Zach first.  I let him get to advantageous positions for me to work out of.  That lasted for probably ten minutes.  He's finally back to training after his knee decided to fail him, and he's trying to find his lungs again.  Also, he's still gripping with all his might and muscling a lot, so that will come with time.  Klint had been training with Vance, and when Zach was done I stepped up for a little whupping.

And what I got was much more than a little whupping.  I got stomped on.  Nineteen different ways.  He played an aggressive game, and it was apparent that it was going to be that way all night.  At the beginning of class we did a few "real life self-defense techniques":  elbowing to the top of the head from guard, eye-gouging, throat-grabbing (the Roadhouse, as he called it).  His reasoning is that in real life situations, the rules we impose on ourselves in the academy do not apply, so we should be ready for anything.  And that means that if we have to get up to prevent someone's friends from running over and having a boot-party on our face, then worrying about his eyes or throat are less important than getting right the hell out of Dodge.  So that's the mindset he was in at the start, and his training reflected it.  We weren't (and he didn't) actually eye-gouging or elbowing or anything like that.  It was more to build familiarity with that movement.  On the mat training, he didn't give me any quarter.  At least, it didn't seem like I got any quarter.  It was one of those rolls where the black belt decides he wants to work a few things, and you don't get any say in it.  It's humbling, it's painful, and it reminds me exactly where my game isn't.  In short, it sucked.  And it made me feel like I've never done jiu jitsu in my life.  I couldn't get out of mount.  I couldn't come close to passing his guard (which is nothing new).  I couldn't protect my arm.  I felt my body resorting to pure survival and my technique packing up and running out the door.  After the first tap, I realized this was how the roll was going to proceed.  After the second--where I still couldn't do anything--I felt some control slipping.  I suppressed the tears and slapped in for the third.  Repeat.  And again.  And one more time (I think; I don't know how many times we went---I know only what happened).

At the end, I was demoralized and reverted to the five-year-old that part of me never stopped being.  So I bowed, thanked, and curled up in a ball on the side to try to regroup.  I refused to leave the mat in a blubbering mess, so I stayed there for much longer than was comfortable and, quite possibly, much longer than was appropriate.  I stayed there as Gina and Klint rolled, and he did the same thing to her.  She is much, _much_ better than I, and he played the same game.  It's even possible he gave her less quarter than he did me, but I have no real idea.  I was trying too hard not to embarrass myself to really measure Klint's degree of ferocity.

This is hard.  And we as practitioners are deeply invested in our technique and our progress.  And when it seems like we have made no progress despite the hours and hours of hard work we have put in, it is hard on our self-esteem.  It is emotionally draining and defeating.  And last night, I was both drained and defeated.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Itch itch itch

I'm dying to train.  But I won't be able to until Monday night.  And next week, I'll get maybe 2 training sessions in, 3 if I work some magic.

No news.  March in graduation tomorrow.  I'll officially be a doctor.  Of law.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Training

Open guard.  Again.  If it wasn't so entertaining, I would hate it.  Because it's hard.  And sometimes it hurts.  But the feeling of finally getting your opponent pretzeled and confused and then gently tipping him over and choking him is worth every bit of effort.  Not that I got to feel that sensation Tuesday night.

I couldn't possibly ask for a better instructor.  I don't know whether it is because my learning style fits with his teaching style, whether I think that because I've never tried learning jiu jitsu before taking lessons from Klint, or what.  I don't even really know if I'm actually progressing.  I mean, I can tell when I'm progressing in relationship to the other lower belts.  I know that my game is ahead of the white belts, and that JD is catching up to me right quick.  I also know that I can force Klint to have to work harder and longer to get the same tap out of me, so that's something.  But I've yet to feel like I'm in control of anything.  Even rolling against other blues across town, I feel like I revert back to relative flailing.  The calm and cool demeanor from my home academy vanishes and I'm left relying on my natural attributes more than I think I do at home.

Also, the balance between aggression and control still eludes me.  I don't know what that tipping point is that allows me both to be aggressive against a higher belt and also to maintain control and composure at the same time.  Part of that might be the anxiety of rolling with a "superior," someone who is higher than me on the food chain and who should, for all intents and purposes, be able to beat me.  And then I throw myself forward in an effort to prove my merit and abilities, whether or not they result in a submission or a positional battle or even just a scramble.  And that isn't what I train to do.

So I don't know if my training is helping.  I don't know if I'm fostering those habits of excellence that will serve me for years to come.  I know only that I keep training and hoping that, if I keep showing up for a long enough time, eventually I'll stop sucking.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Status Quo

More and more systems.  This is week two of open guard, and we're learning how to use the outside hook to our advantage, transitioning from one open guard attack to another, knowing which indicators tells us to go where.  "This isn't anything that someone taught me, this system of indicators and progressive attacks," he told us last night.  "This is stuff that I put together after failing a lot and reviewing what went wrong and where I _should_ have gone."  So literally, these systems are his own creation.  They aren't anything new--the techniques are the same ones that he was taught--they are just wrapped in a new presentation style.

And they're great.

So, Christopher, how's your training?  To be fair, I don't know.  I think it's going well.  I'm spending a fair amount of time on the mats (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday nights, Saturday afternoons and sometimes mornings, and probably every other Friday night open mat), so I don't leave enough time for any cobwebs to set in.  From time to time, though, I have a few of those training sessions where I feel like nothing goes right.  I don't quite embarrass myself, but I definitely don't perform as well as my training indicates that I should.  Last Monday, for instance, I made it to morning class across town, and I got to train with a few guys there.  One I should be even with, going back and forth, and I felt sluggish and a few steps behind.  Another, a three stripe blue, went back and forth with me, and I felt like I should be ahead of him the entire time.  It was probably good that I was there and working all the same.  I didn't fail entirely.  So there's that.

I'll be back in this space more regularly in the coming weeks and months.  Andy has a local competition in about a week and a half, and I have a take-home final and law review editing to finish.  Because I graduate law school in five days.  And with luck, I'll be sober by Saturday to help him from the sidelines.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BJJ and MMA Gear Deals

If you are not looking for a new gi, this probably isn't for you.  But if, like me, you're always keeping an eye out for another gi or a new rashguard, pay attention.

MMA HQ offers one great MMA gear deal a day. The sell gis and rashguards pretty frequently. Today's deal starts at midnight eastern, and it's:

Fuji BJJ Kassen Pearl Weave Black Gi for $94

It's $139 everywhere else. MMA HQ is by the company that brings you lost of great martial arts uniforms, Karate Depot

Extremely light, high quality pearl weave gi with patches by Fuji.

Every day is another great BJJ or MMA deal on

The Pain of Progress

This stuff sucks.

I mean, let's be serious about this.  Roughly four times a week, I go to jiu jitsu.  I learn or refresh my memory about a technique or three, and I spend some time training.  Once every week or two, I get to train with Klint.  And when that happens, I end up in pain.  All colors of pain, from that gentle off-white "this is a strange position I've found myself in" pain to that bright red "I need to scream before he keeps pressuring that lock" pain, even that subdued green "how the hell did I get here and what exactly is he doing to my shoulder" pain.  Usually, I can walk away fairly unscathed, only my pride hurting (which, to be fair, is half the reason I keep going to jiu jitsu).  Every now and then, he'll hit something with just the right pressure that tears shoot out of my eyes as I tap.  Last night, it was a lot of that.

In class, we worked open guard sweep cycles.  The last few weeks, he has been very adamant about putting everything we're doing into a fluid system, and it's been amazing.  I have not put this many different moves into this kind of context before.  So we've worked side control, guard opening, guard passing, back defense, closed guard, now we're on open guard.  What they've done with the curriculum is really impressive.  And we get to reap the benefits by having a six-man class with a black belt instructor every day of the week.

So I rolled with Klint, and the results mixed improving failure (with a waft of success on the horizon) with abject failure.  At one point my body reverted to stupidity and I just held a collar hoping that it would stifle his pass.  Clearly, it didn't.  And we laughed at that.  He said that my pressure on my guard passes was better, and that I have to improve my side control.  Which was obvious when I (for once) got side control and was back in guard within four seconds.  That first roll, though, cracked my neck and back in a few places, to the point that the pain woke me up a few times throughout the night.  (It's along the same vein as when I wrenched it last fall, but not nearly as bad.  I just need to be careful with it and work to relieve a bit of the stress on it over the next few days.  I even opted not to go to morning class because I didn't want to tweak it any more.)  And the rest were partly a thrashing.  At one point, I definitely had to dig deep, force myself to continue.  And not only to continue, but to continue training with the requisite attention and effort.  Anyone can revert to "just tap me already" mode after a few rounds of abject failure; refusing to do so is very, very hard.

Then I worked with Andy for a while.  We need to figure out how to get him beyond the psychological barrier that turns him into a purely defensive creature when we train.  He's going to be competing on the 21st, and I'll be there supporting.  But training with me only not to lose the same way is not going to prepare him.