BJJ Grrl

"Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically." ~Sensei Keiko Fukuda

Suspicious Characters

Everyone in my academy has been thoroughly conditioned that, if someone does something you haven’t seen before, you should instantly be completely suspicious of it and get far, far away. In other words, my attempts at using the techniques from Girls in Gis have so far been met with everyone just bailing out and frantically trying to strip my grip. One day…

(Personally, I always stop and try to analyze what it is. And even let the person do what they want to do to see more of it. What’s the worst that happens? I tap and we start over. Big deal. Then after that first time and knowing what’s coming, start trying to see if I can figure out how to negate it without completely disengaging. And start trying to figure out how to do it for myself, to see if it’s something that works for me. I’d rather stay in there and work through the puzzle, while so many people seem to prefer to only do things that start with them holding the advantage.)

Monday night was back attacks. We started with King of the Hill escape vs submit. For the round where the winner was continuously getting their back taken, once I won one to stay in, I stayed out there. Surviving/escaping the back: I’ve spent so much time here, I could do this all day. For the next set of KotH, we switched so that winner was attacking the back. I am rather terrible at attacking or maintaining the back because I have so little experience with it, and the few times I do ever get there (though mostly get blocked when I try to take the back), everyone escapes so easily. 

I was planning to start back to morning classes next week, but Andrew mentioned that this week the mornings are starting a guard-passing section. And since I need to work on guard passing… So I was there yesterday morning, and will likely hit up more morning classes during this section. Maybe (maybe?) see about training more mornings. My primary excuse for missing mornings is gone now: it’s not cold and dark anymore. Well, it is cold and overcast, because May has decided that we need a lot of rain, apparently. 

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Girls! In Gis!

I parallel-parked! 

I won a pineapple!

I met Julia!

Oh, there was also grappling. And gis. And girls in gis. 

Yesterday was Girls in Gis: DC edition at BETA Academy. From the moment this was announced, I have wanted to go. I’ve been out of the grander BJJ east coast women’s scene for a few years now, between injuries, having so many women of my own team to train with, and even apathy toward BJJ in general. I’ve looked at going to other open mats, but none of them grabbed me the same way as this one.

No one else from my team was available, but I still wanted to go. Usually when I have a trip out of town planned — even good ones, like going to see my goddaughters — I get up that day dreading having to drive so far. Not yesterday: I was excited to get on the road. Took between 4 and 5 hours to get there, brave the crazy DC drivers, wind my way through DC a (my GPS decided that of course I wanted to swing by the Mall area and all the tourist traffic), and then comb the streets for a big enough spot to park in and decipher all the signs to figure out if I was even allowed to park there in the first place.

I got to see a few familiar faces and a whole lot of new faces. They said there were 150 spots, about half of them white belts. (BETA has two huge mats, though, so that wasn’t a problem.) The event started with instruction by belt level; purples and browns worked with Jen Hall, and she showed a couple techniques involving “inviting” your partner to do something which only serves to let you load their weight and then reverse it. Gonna start playing with these, especially against over/under passes, which everyone at home loves to do. She also had some advice about being the smaller person in general. 

There’s was a break after that for pictures and the raffle (I won a portable USB charging station, shaped like a pineapple), and then there was time for rolling. I had forgotten to look at the attendee list to see if Julia was planning to come — though we’re both in Virginia, we’re on opposite sides of the state, so haven’t had a chance to meet yet — and so had been looking through the assembled blue belts to see if I could figure out if one of them was her. I’d narrowed it down to maybe this one lady near me during the raffle, then saw the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” patch on the back of her gi, and that sealed it. 😉

We got to roll a round-and-a-half and then sat and talked for while before finding other partners to finish rolling with. I left the mats a bit early to change so that I could head out right at 5; the last time I lingered after a women’s event in a city was the only time I’ve been in a car wreck, and did not want that to happen again. My GPS tried to send me into incoming traffic once and almost made me run over a pedestrian another time, though thankfully this time it avoided the Mall. Got home close to 10, grabbed a quick shower, and went straight to bed. 

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Christmas in May

Today was the day to be at Open Mat if you thought you might be close to your next belt — Tim awarded 5 belts. 2 Browns and 3 Purples, one of which was Danielle, so there are now 4 purple belt women here. I joked that he needed to be wearing his red gi, but instead he was rocking his new favorite teal jacket.

I have decided that I need to work on passing guard. Consequently, I have found out that I am terrible at passing guard. I am also working on submissions other than straight armbars. Sometimes I forget, or sometimes the armbar is just there and I have to take it. I’m also trying to roll one more than I really want to, which generally ends with hitting the wall so very, very hard.

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Nine years ago, I was looking for something to supplement my tae kwon do. That same weekend, my dad just so happened to meet a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who was moving his school practically right in my lap. I showed on the first day of class in the new place, nearly passed out during the warmup, and was hooked. 

In those first few years, I lost weight, got in shape, started eating healthily, and trained like a maniac (usually 9 times/week, which was even more than the instructors!). Then the injuries started coming, and I was sidelined again and again with broken-down & busted joints. But I kept coming back for more. And then the slide started — my new job has doughnuts on Fridays and snacks the rest of the time; I didn’t have time to walk as much; I started buying less healthy food; and then I hurt more during BJJ, so I took more days off, down to 2 days/week at one point. I noticed the slide a while ago and started trying to make corrections, only to slip up as soon as someone waved a doughnut at me or when it was cold outside at 6am so I’d go back to sleep instead of going to morning class. My jiu-jitsu has slowed down to where I mostly feel like I have no idea what I’m doing; I feel slow and heavy and reactive. Yesterday I got on the scale, and I weigh as much as I did when I started.

But, that isn’t the end of this story. Yes, mistakes were made: I got lazy and complacent and expected everything to just coast along as it had been. I’m not the same person I was nine or even five years ago; my body isn’t quite the same body. I can’t just wish that it will all get better on its own, just like I can’t just expect people to fling their arms up for me to armbar (though they often do anyway, and I happily demonstrate why they should not do that). The biggest thing I need to change is my own mind and the patterns it has fallen in to, so I’m working on that guy. (The first real test will be this Friday when the doughnut box shows up again.) I will likely never be a 9 times/week fanatic again, but I know that I can still change myself in to a better me again. The one thing I have done right is that I haven’t given up on training entirely, even when I was training least; at some point, I still show back up, ready to roll.

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Five and sevens

Five black belts on the mat Saturday: the usual four of Tim (back from hip replacement surgery), Justin, Andrew, and Blake (our Philly transplant), and also Jeff, who was here for a while then moved to Florida and was up visiting us. You want some hard-working rounds? These guys are how you get hard-working rounds:

Blake, Jeff, Tim, Justin, Andrew

(I actually only missed rolling with Andrew, but he sits on me and crushes my soul frequently enough that it’s fine.)

Seven-minute rounds is the new game in town. Longest five minutes of my life every time. My brain is so conditioned to fives.

More new women have been showing up! I love it. The other night, Andrew made some comment about how tall the 14-year-old girl is getting, and she and I discovered that we are now exactly the same height at 5’2″ (well, okay, really we’re both 5’1.75″, but we both round up). She’s still all knees and elbows and overall tiny, but we really can’t go easy on her anymore, either.

End of Open Mat was the black belts sitting around trading techniques they’ve been playing with. I sat in on the group, and it very quickly turned into a “So, there’s this thing I was working on Leslie today…”, “Hey, I was working something on Leslie today…”, and “Oh, hey, me, too, let me show you what I worked on Leslie today.” Seems I was the grappling dummy of choice.

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