Sunday, September 25, 2011

Movin' On Up

To the East Side (yeah we movin' on up).  [You were singing it in your head, I just put it to words.]

ADCCs are streaming in front of me on the television (thank you PS3), my wife is still asleep, my dog is curled at my side, and the coffee is still hot.  This is a good morning.

I trained five and a half times this week.  Half because I got to open mat pretty late on Saturday, and I only got to work for about fifteen minutes with Dumi.  Mind you, this is still fifteen minutes of good work with a purple belt that I would not get at my own academy, and Dumi has a super smooth game that requires constant attention and careful technique.  We weren't rolling hard, and he was working his inverted guard, so I concentrated on passing, top half-guard, and grip control.  If I could change only one thing about my academy, it would be the number of training partners we have.  I'm lucky to have the school across town with a stable of guys who want to train every day, and I'm lucky to have an understanding wife who understands my need for physical release and exercise.  So when possible, I get to travel cross-town for some serious work.  Friday, though, was fairly light, which is actually what I wanted.  I just wanted more time for it.

Saturday morning with Gina's class was good.  I keep working one takedown setup with options to go to a single leg, an uchi mata, or and knee tap.  Klint has me focusing on this one setup for two reasons:  1. I'm not generally comfortable with takedowns and we don't have the guys to constantly work them (especially since our guys keep getting hurt); and 2. it keeps my head out of trouble when working for the takedown.  So I'll have to put more time into that, slowly upping the intensity.  JD has said that he's more than willing to work with me on it, which is good because he's bigger than me.  So if I can work it on him, that bodes well for tournament utility.  I'll be in the 175.5 lbs division, and if some guys cut serious weight, it's not outside the realm that they would be JD's size.  Good things all around.

Then Klint's class was again good, working on defenses--triangle and armbars.  After class, he tested me for and awarded me my first stripe on my blue belt.  Had to demonstrate a few techniques from the set curriculum, and then rolled with the three guys twice through, live the first time and starting in disadvantageous positions the second time through.  I was pretty tired by the end, and Klint said a few very nice things, we bowed, and that was the day.  So now I'm a one-stripe blue belt.  Is that any different from the beginning of the week?  No, not so much.  I had some people come watch my promotion from white to blue, and Brenna asked if I was going to do the same anytime soon.  I think not until purple.  That's the next big step.  Everything until then is like "What About Bob":  baby steps.  And I have a lot of baby steps to take before then.  So that starts with training on Monday.

Tournament date:  October 15
Weight class:  175.5
walking around:  177-82
Should be easy enough to make that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Note To Self

Worst way to prep for class:  spend the weekend before at a beer festival.  Iggity.

We're working defenses this week.  Last night was triangle defense.  We worked a grip-break arm drag takedown series, then drilled the defenses Klint wanted us to work.  He's been having us work pretty hard in class, and I'm pretty sure it's because he knows I have a competition in my sights.  Lost of "OK guys, you have one minute; guy on top pass, guy on bottom submit, win as fast as you can GO!" kind of drills.  It's good for getting used to struggling and getting your body accustomed to fighting with a lot of energy and adrenaline, but it's damned tiring.

I've had a few conversations with Klint about how I'm not improving as quickly as I want to.  In the end, I know that I'm doing well and that it takes time and I'm probably ahead of the curve for a lot of guys.  I've been grappling for a little more than a year and a half and I can give purple belts who've been training for ten years trouble, so that's a good sign.  I want, though, to be competing with them, not just giving them trouble.  And I'm not exactly easy on myself, I'm competitive, and I've been known to be impatient.  A lot. So if my mind and body could just get their shit together, I would really appreciate it.  I've started giving myself specific goals in training (focus on breaking grips and killing hooks, finish with only this submission if you get a dominant position, work open guard instead of closed, etc.), and I think that helps.  It's the problem with development, though; it takes time, and I don't want it to.  As the great philosopher Jagger once said, though, you can't always get what you want.

I read The Cauliflower Chronicles this weekend.  It took me an afternoon.  It won't win any awards or anything, but it was an entertaining read.  It's one guy's story of going to Hawai'i to train at BJ Penn's academy and earn his blue belt.  I'm sure part of the reason I enjoyed it is that it is temporally very close to my own quest for a blue belt, so I can empathize with a lot of the author's tales of getting waxed on the mat when you feel you should be doing better.  That, and I want badly to go to Hawai'i.  So if you enjoy hearing stories about jiu jitsu, I would recommend it.  But if you get frustrated by grammatical conventions and sentence structure (and on a few occasions simple things like subject-verb agreement), you would be better off spending the time on the mats.

More training tonight.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I realize what I've been doing.  And what's more, I know that it almost certainly doesn't affect anyone other than me.

I know that each time I return to post, I pledge that I will write more often and resume the regularity with which I once updated this space.  As often happens, though, life has other plans.  The sporadic timetable that I've been following in recent weeks/months?  It's probably going to be the regular schedule.  I say "probably" because that isn't set in stone.

Here's how it breaks down:  I bartend two nights a week (if you're ever in Minneapolis come to Republic for a pint or four); I'm working for two different attorneys (one estate planner and one military defense guy) to do odds-and-ends projects for money (because as it turns out, that's important); I train at least four times a week; I have a job on the horizon (federal clerkship for January through August, '12) that will demand attention and therefore time; and my wife is currently incubating our first.  So strangely, blogging time has not returned as I expected.  Instead, I find myself wondering where a lot of my time went.  Add to that the fact that our attendance is or has been expected at eleven weddings this calendar year, and it makes sense why I have started and abandoned this individual post at least three times before this one.

I just finished re-reading two of my favorite books, AMERICAN GODS and FIGHT CLUB.  AMERICAN GODS is great and makes me wish I was more connected to the tribal myths of my heritage.  I didn't live in a house where we left milk out for the piskies and leprechauns, where we sacrificed to the gods of winter and spring, where we reveled in tales of tricksters and hid from the valued a good con.  But I kind of want to raise my child in one.

FIGHT CLUB is different entirely.  I can't tell whether it's cliche for someone my age to enjoy and appreciate that book, either independent of or in conjunction with the film.  But I thoroughly enjoy it every time.  David Fincher did such a good job capturing the voice and tone of the book, but he changed a fundamental part of it.  Well, maybe not changed; he diverted the focus, and I think Tyler Durdens' purpose and motivation is more fully portrayed in the book to the point that too much is left unsaid in the film.  His quest for perfection is lost. The purpose of breaking everything, of hitting bottom, is not only to see what one is truly capable of, but for the perfection of the moment in which the rock-bottomed-out person realizes it.  It is that perfect, fleeting moment--rather than the resulting mayhem--that drives Tyler.  Anyways.  I spend hours upon hours a week thinking about and practicing combat sports, so parts of this book make perfect sense.  You break yourself down so that you can see what lies beneath, so your mettle shows.  Jon Fitch has said that FIGHT CLUB is the reason he got into fighting.  I would be lying if I said it had nothing to do with my interest in combat sports and martial arts.

[insert week-long pause for various reasons]

This afternoon I read THE CAULIFLOWER CHRONICLES.  It's a book about a white belt whose network dumped him shortly after his girlfriend did, so he took the opportunity to spend a semester in Hilo, Hawaii and train at BJ Penn's academy.  It wasn't particularly well-written, but it was still enjoyable to read.  I wanted more to be underneath the surface, but in the end, any story about someone who wants to train as much as I do will find a receptive audience in me.

I've picked up my training a decent bit this last week, and I'm hoping to maintain that pace for the next month.  This weekend I spent drinking beer (a brew review in town, combined with a friend's thirtieth birthday, means that my liver is a little angry with me right now), so I'll be working that off next week and then spending the next few getting down to 175.  Shouldn't be too hard; I walk around somewhere between 177 and 183, so minding my diet and portions should take care of it nicely.  I have another wedding between now and the competition, though, so I need to pay attention.  As far as the training itself has gone, I've had mixed results and personal reactions.  A few guys across town got promoted, and they were due.  I find myself having an internal conflict about how to structure my training so that I get the most out of it.  I need to carve out time for takedowns.  I need to find someone other than my black belt instructor to train with, because as useful as that is, I don't think I'll ever be able to fully implement my gameplan against him, much less get to the point where it's muscle memory.  I do feel a bit snobbish when I read myself bitching about training with a black belt too much, though, so really I don't have any complaints.  Last week I went to class and I was the only one there.  So I spent a half-hour trying to pass Klint's guard.  It's all breaking grips and killing hooks, but implementation is always much harder than conceptualization.