BJJ Grrl

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

Blood + Sweat + Tears = Blue

I got my blue belt tonight.

Not expecting it. Even commented to myself during my first two rolls that, yeah, no chance of that tonight — caught every which way, couldn’t control positions, couldn’t pass. Third roll I was excited to roll with Buddy #1, who was gone all summer. I hadn’t rolled with him yet and wanted to because I knew he’d tell me if I’d improved.

I could tell we were near the end of the round. Suddenly, I hear Tim’s “someone’s getting promoted!” yell. I started to turn to see who it is, half-expecting it to be Buddy (to purple), and instead I am getting hit with something. What the–? Who the–? … … No. Way. … … Way! Stunned, in shock, unable to speak or form coherent thoughts.

There was suddenly a crowd of guys congratulating me. Tim gave us a water break, so I finally got to tie it on, and then class continued. Kept having to force my brain off it’s “I got my blue belt!” track to pay attention to the rest of class.

Tim talked to me a bit after class and said that there were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in making that belt. He said that it says a lot about me that I come in every week and work against guys who are all bigger and stronger than me, but that I keep coming and keep working. And he said that he’s been harder on me these last few months especially on purpose because he saw I was getting close and because I have to continue working with these bigger and stronger guys. He said for a girl to get a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, rolling only against the guys like I have been, is hard to get, and since I’m his first female blue belt, he wanted to make sure the standard was set high. He also said my technique is getting really good (which is the part I really wanted to hear).

Buddy chimed in then and said that while we were rolling, he’d started wondering when I would get my blue belt. And then there it was.

Last summer, Tim told me that I would be more proud of getting my BJJ blue belt than of getting my TKD black belt. Well, he’s right. For my black belt, I had to get through a six-hour test. For my blue belt, I’ve been in one long 17-month test.

Not that I’m suddenly frustration-free. But now I have tangible proof that I’m doing well.


Apparently there was class last night — Justin got back in town and came to teach. But my family was having a small cookout anyway, so I’m glad I didn’t know about class and stayed home instead.

And I’m sore! Little Cindy kicked my butt. My biceps, lats, traps, and hamstrings are stiff and cranky. I had to take a long walk at lunch so I could sit through the rest of the day. … So of course I want to meet all of Cindy’s friends. 😛

Tonight, we started with rolling to warmup. Started with Will. He wasn’t playing so much spider guard with his open guard, so I was able to get in better. Still reversed easily, though, and under half guard and side control a fair bit. I think I had a sweep or two, and he let me get to guard a few times, but I’m not doing well attacking there; he has everything tight. He had a few triangle set-ups from the moments when he did play spider guard, but he let me work out of them. Oh, and I remembered that knee-on-belly exists! But of course, we learned a counter to it on Saturday… Doh.

Then rolled with a guy who was hurt before class, so I was trying to avoid his injury. But it seemed at times as if he wasn’t hurt at all — the injured part was used extensively. Couldn’t keep my base for anything; swept to under side control and mount a lot. Did catch at lots of half guard as he tried to pass every which way. He pulled me in to one triangle from spider guard; I defended for a while but eventually lost the tug-of-war over my arm. Later — I think it was still this roll, or it was later with Yoshi — he tried the Peruvian necktie, but left it loose; I actually rolled out and started to escape, but he locked in a D’Arce (Yoshi had one, too, which is why I’m confuzzled). Defended for a while, tried escaping for a while, but finally started on the way to Blackout Land, so tapped.

These two rounds I was thinking, “Well, you know who’s still a looong way off from her blue belt.”

Another roll, and Buddy asked to roll with me since we hadn’t gotten to since he’d come back. All I was thinking about was getting to roll with Buddy, a blue belt, and find out if I’d improved since he left. Lots of trouble against his open guard — even more sinister than Will’s — and again easily swept and under side control and half guard. Again could catch the half guard from lots of positions, but couldn’t get the sweeps after to work. I think I did have one almost sweep that required a lot of effort to get on top after; not even sure I made it. I was trying to push the pace some because I know Buddy won’t hurt me.

And then at the end of that, I heard Tim yell, and I got whipped quite thoroughly with a new belt.

A short break for water and so I could tie my belt on (it’s so stiff!), and then back to rolling. Oh goodness. So tired. Besides trusting Buddy to play with me and not hurt me, I’d also figured that it was the last roll before technique, so I knew I’d get a break after and so could push a little more. But, no, more rolling. I want oxygen…

With Guillaume. He teased me that I would try to crush him now. I joked back that the belt only came with about 10 seconds of superpowers. … … I think I jinxed it: I had about only 10 seconds of superpowers, and then I was back to being exhausted. He let me around to his back straight off, but I couldn’t get my second hook in or my arm around his neck or my fingers in his lapel. I ended up on top, and actually managed to hold it in some form for most of the round. Remembered knee-on-belly. Tried for the baseball choke, but couldn’t quite work out my hands; tried for a D’Arce, but couldn’t hang on; tried for the north/south kimura, but he’d defend by grabbing his pants; tried the Big Poppa, but couldn’t hold it long enough (also think I wasn’t quite under his chin). Justin was trying to help me out from the sidelines by telling me where to go next, and I was transitioning, which I was happy about, but I couldn’t quite catch anything. Went to knee-on-belly again, though he rolled on his side facing away from me; tried for a gi choke from there, but again couldn’t quite get under his chin. Finally posted one hand on his head and came around for an armbar there, which worked.

Last roll with Yoshi. He pretended to be scared of the belt’s superpowers, but I told him that Guillaume had already used them all up and it was just an ordinary belt now. Very similar to those first two rounds — swept a lot, under side control and half guard a lot, grabbing half guard a lot. A few near sweeps; maybe one that I did manage to follow up on and get to top, though he quickly reversed it. Turtled lots and tried for the single leg from there, but couldn’t hold on when he sprawled. Tried the switch to escape several times, but couldn’t quite get through. (I suppose the reassuring part was that I wasn’t getting upset that I was a blue belt now and was getting my butt beat by a white belt. Not even sure it had quite sunk in at that point. Not that I want to get upset; I don’t. Anyway…) He also got a D’Arce eventually. Same as earlier: I could defend and move and try to escape for a while, but he finally got his weight right and finished it. This seemed like the round that would never end, partly because Tim was the timekeeper but he was also rolling.

Finally to drilling, now that there were about 15 minutes left in class. Worked with the little 14 year old.

Then, even though we were past time for class, Tim sent us on the wall for some drills. Alligators, single legs, single leg/sprawl, then squat jump down/bear crawl back. I was almost through my last trip down on squat jumps when he called out that we were done, but I finished anyway. Ow.

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Seven eight nine

This has entertained me all day.


Large class. All the wannabe fighters in their Tapout gear. One new guy, head-to-toe Tapout before class; head-to-toe Tapout during class. (We laugh, and predict they won’t last long. Once they find out it’s actually hard work, they leave.)

Out of breath again during the warmup. Phooey. I hate being wimpy. But Justin was calling out for 3 trips on everything; I was doing good to make 2 (and 1 on something, too.) Meh. I know it was for the wannabe fighters, but still; I want to at least decently keep up. (Tapout Boy dropped out during the jogging.)

Then we circled up for a sprawl drill, followed by partnering up to work pummeling from standing. Worked with Clifton. After a few minutes doing that, until everyone was mostly doing it right (or were finally declared to be not listening, at which point the instructors stop trying). Then we picked up the pace for another round. Supposed to be 70% on this round; I was already there, though. Then a round of actually trying to get double-unders.

Then we worked a single-leg takedown. I had to stop to catch my breath several times and a few to get undizzy. This not be good.

Then we drilled the move of the week, the running side control escape back to half guard. Justin showed me and Clifton a sweep after you shoot that half guard deep. Similar to Old School in the placement of your limbs, but not as rigorous. So then Clifton and I had to combine the move of the week with the sweep and a pass to side control, and then the other would go. The only problem is that this combination had us moving all over the mat; we kept having to reset because we were about to smash in to someone else.

Lots of drilling today for all the new guys. One round of rolling with your drilling partner. Pretty much smashed. Clifton hit that sweep on me; even knowing what he was doing, I couldn’t seem to stop him. Did not seem like a long round. I remember being under mount, but that’s about it.

On the wall for a few more drills. Body not happy. Single legs, then single leg + sprawl, and then squat jumps. (Ugh!) Justin called out, “Give me three and you’re done.” Fine, I can do three. One of the last to finish, but I did have three.

In the kickboxing class after us, 6-8 college girls showed up. Perry smartly paired them with each other and had them doing kicking and punching drills with each other while everyone else sparred. (Sometimes I think he tends to throw people in too early.) They seemed happy and giggley. Oh, dear: giggley girls…


After class, the guys who are going to the tournament this weekend were all weighing themselves because of course they’re all cutting weight. Just for fun, I jumped on when they were done.

122.6!

Holy weight loss, Batman! I might unwittingly make 119.9 for NAGA NC this weekend. This NAGA has a 119.9 class listed; VA had a note that they might split out from the two listed classes (135) and include a <119.9 if enough girls showed up, which they didn't.

Sure, it was after class, so I'd sweated out a lot, but I was still wearing some of that sweat. That might, however, explain the ickiness this week — I might not be eating enough. But I feel as if I'm eating the same, and I don't go around feeling hungry. I've been eating handfuls (!) of cashews at work, too. (Therein lies easy access to excess calories.) Late-night snacking, lotsa carbs — all those "bad" things you're not supposed to do when losing weight — and yet I'm down ~5 lbs from the last time I had the courage to peek at a scale.

Hmm, so, actually try to cut a few more pounds, or eat anything I want and not worry about it?… I do like to eat…


Reading for today:

Consistency, Leigh Peele
Insist
The Right Sparring Partner

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I got beat by a girl!

And
it
was
awesome
!!!

I got beat by quite a few girls, actually, both white and blue. (Blue belts — real girl blue belts!) Sweet!

Women’s Open Mat, Richmond BJJ. Girls came from Philly, from Northern Virginia, from Virginia Beach. Alaina Hardie even came from Toronto!

My friend lives west of Richmond, so I left about an hour and a half early to make sure I had enough time to get there. Glad I did: the Richmond high schools were having graduation today at the Siegel Center at VCU, which is right down the block from Richmond BJJ, so there were cops everywhere directing traffic, streets were closed, and there were tons of pedestrians. I kept missing seeing the school because of all the traffic and pedestrians. Drove around for about 30 minutes trying to find the school and then find parking. Finally saw it, got parked about a block away, and walked over.

There was a class from 12 – 2, before the open mat. I had really thought about going, but am also really trying to take my “June = recovery” seriously. So, I got there about 1:30 to watch the end of the class. Eric Burdo was just finishing up teaching; I met Liz and signed in as they started rolling.

I was so nervous! Silly, but I was. My hands were shaking so badly when I signed in. Most of the other girls had gone to the class and were already on the mat. As they got toward the end of class time and rolling, one of the girls, Lisa, asked if I wanted to roll.

She was strong! (They all were. And quick and had tremendous pressure! Holy moly!) Just trying to move and feel her out. Found myself in the first few rolls under side control and mount a lot. Huh. Same place I end up in my classes. Hmm. So, there must be something that I’m doing wrong — especially, probably, when starting off — that backs me up until I let myself be put under side control and mount. Very interesting…

Several rolls — maybe 5 or 6? I lost count — with more girls than I can remember. (So hot in there, though: tired so quickly. But kept going :P). Rolled with one blue, Thea, who showed me a sweep from under scarf hold — set your feet out to the open side and then do a sit-up in to them. Feet out of the way is important; otherwise, you stuff your own situp. And then she showed me a half-guard escape, and by “showed me” I mean she put more shoulder pressure in my jaw than Tim ever has. Whoa. And she was everywhere, fast and tight, and sliding through tiny openings.

Saw a lot of things in my rolling that I need to fix. Some stuff that Tim has pointed out; others, that I’d noticed. Mostly, I seem to have started assuming that I’m going to get steamrolled by the guys and have started playing very passive and really not even trying anything. Haven’t been using any pressure or intensity, because that usually gets a more severe backlash from my partners. … And yet all the girls today were rolling with pressure and intensity and intent. I wanna roll like that. And I bet they didn’t get to there by rolling like I’ve been rolling recently and only rolling up with girls.

But, oh, my goodness, so much fun. Got to talk to a lot of the girls, too. As I’ve learned many times before and learned once again, I’m not unusual; they’re all going through the same things as I am. We talked about tournaments, sandbagging, how to get and keep girls, finding gis that fit, hemp gis, and I forget what else. Lots of girl bonding stuff, which I usually don’t get to do, even outside of class. I had fun. 🙂

And I got a new gi! A black one, which is what I was missing. Chrissy Linzy had a black Lucky gi that had shrunk, so I bought it off her. Fits perfect. 😮 Won’t be able to wear it to class for a while because Justin is still enjoying his new Lucky gi‘s shiny invincibility aura. And the pants are more faded (lovely charcoal!) than the jacket, so I’ll have to start washing the jacket quite a bit to get a uniform color. By the time it’s faded, Justin’s gi may not mind the company.

There’s another Open Mat, co-ed, tomorrow afternoon at Revolution BJJ. Since I now have a clean gi to wear ;), I’m gonna go there before heading home.

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Pop! Goes the Elbow

But first, fun from work:

One of our managers has been out for two weeks on a business school trip. So he missed the premier of Star Trek. He came back this morning, and we all assumed he’d seen it, so we started talking about it since one of the other guys had finally gotten around to seeing it this weekend. This manager was trying to cover his ears and pretend he didn’t hear.

There were lots of meetings for him today to catch up on everything from the last two weeks, and I guess in one they started talking about the “team building exercise” they’ve been trying to plan for months. (Hiking and bowling were rejected on various grounds. Naptime was also rejected. Pooh.) Anyway, they came out of one meeting and announced the team building exercise: we’re all going to see Star Trek. Today. Right after lunch. Most of us had already seen it, but it was worth seeing again.

So, a company-paid trip out to see Star Trek. I think we’ve found our team building exercise…


A beautiful 3-day weekend. The weather held out, though it was overcast most of the time. Lots of family came in. The guys got their golf in while the ladies went shopping. Today: rain. Pleh.

The academy was hot. Turns out that we do have air conditioning (I guess I just never noticed last year), but it wasn’t on all weekend and no one was there, so the building is hot. Put your gi on and it feels like a sauna.

Small class, nine of us plus Tim. Rolling to warm up. Started with Tim. He caught me lots. Then on the wall for shoot-n-sprawl, down and back. Don’t know how many trips.

Sat out the next roll because Tim did, too, which gave an odd number. Then on the wall for alligators, I think, down and back.

Next roll with Clifton. You’d think that with so many days off I’d be full of energy, but no. Winded and tired before we even started. Defending lots. Tried to set up a few sweeps, but couldn’t get quite in position. He had pressure on my ribs lots, and those still hurt bunches. On the wall for squat jumps down, lunges back.

Next with Adam. I think. Or Adam then Clifton. Don’t remember. Defense is my friend. He tried a little of everything and made me work out of it. On the wall for 20 knees-to-chest, alligator down, 20 knees-to-chest, alligator back.

Last roll with a guy who I normally don’t mind rolling with. (It was him or a newer smashy guy, and Tim put me with this guy.) Right off he jerked my feet out from under me while pushing me backwards; Tim told me not to lose my balance. Defense. Did get a sweep — not sure what I did; no particular technique, just thought of controlling same-side arm and leg and bridging toward the trapped arm, and it surprisingly worked — and landed in side control. Even got to mount but couldn’t control it; got bridged over and back under side control. Tried for the single leg, but couldn’t reach his leg; tried for the switch, and was almost out, and then got wrapped up and dumped over. He grabbed both sleeves and jerked me in to an armbar; I grabbed my bicep and tried to stack, but he got my leg and swept me over. Tried the escape Justin showed after class the other night, but couldn’t turn my shoulders and so couldn’t turn in. Went for the hitchhiker escape, but again couldn’t turn my shoulders at all. And then he jerked and twisted my arm, which got the OMGwhatdidyoujustdo tap. Would’ve had to tap without that. Couldn’t move my elbow. That’s the one I dislocated, so there’s lots of scar tissue to tear. Lovely. Stubborn girl, though, so I wanted to continue, keeping that arm tight up to my chest. Tried to reach with it a few times and immediately snatched it back. Should’ve stuck it in my belt to keep from reaching at all. I don’t think he was thinking, because he grabbed that arm and started trying to work an americano on it. Thankfully, Tim called time before he worked it away from my body.

He apologized after, and I know he didn’t mean to hurt me. I probably should have tapped sooner, too. I hate being such a wimp and sissy. They need to work stuff, I need to work stuff, and neither of us can do it because I’m so annoyingly fragile. Ugh, I hate it. I feel some of the guys not using their weight even in side control; they lean back and give me space so I can “escape.” Even when I’m tired and sloppy, I still magically get out, and I know it’s not my technique. They’re going easy on me. And I don’t like it.

Icing now; ibuprofen in the wings.

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All in the hips

So good to be back. Business trip up to New Jersey for 3 days. No jits. Lots of time in the car. Not a lot of sleep; wasn’t my bed, wasn’t my pillow. Bleh. Got in around 11 last night; showered & in bed by 11:30; slept in until 10:45 this morning.

I took Jiu-jitsu University and a notebook with me and was planning on really tackling this analysis. Instead, I had to get up too early and stumble around to meetings. At the hotel at night, I just wanted to sleep. I’ll get there, eventually…


Perry/our academy is hosting a kickboxing tournament next weekend, so some of the local kids are starting to show up for training with us. (Which, in some ways, is really funny — you train all year somewhere else, but when you need real instruction before a tournament, you come to us…) Quite a few of them showed up for BJJ tonight, and then did the kickboxing class afterward. I think one or more of them has entered one of the MMA matches at the tournament. Rather interesting how many of my guys didn’t want to mix in and roll with them. I definitely stayed away.

Rolling to warm up. Started with Will. I think we were moving pretty good. My hips were moving, at least. It was nuts: creating angles, catching angles, chasing when he tried to pass my guard. Hitchhiker escape at one point, and a bump sweep, too. Still under side control and mount a lot, though I think I escaped a few times on my own.

Then with TKD Mike. Hips not moving quite as well, though still decent; caught under side control and mount, and once in back mount, though I seem to recall actually getting out.

Scott next. He was agressively working his butterfly guard, and I had a hard time passing. Did get around a few times, though he could easily reverse me and take it again.

Drilling was armbar from guard and then the basic knee-through guard break and pass, mostly because the visiting kids were doing them all wrong. (And one of them had been “instructing” his partner [another one of their group] during their roll about how to do an armbar from guard, which was completely and terribly wrong.) Good to review, though. My armbars felt better than usual; I think my hips were getting higher and around better.

One more roll, twice as long as the previous ones. Rolled with Stephen. Doing okay still. Hips moving. Took his back for a few seconds; somehow found mount a time or two also. Actually hit the elevator sweep, too.

A few of the guys started doing some padwork after class. I hung around and did one real pullup (hands over) and 2 chinups (hands under). Arms toasted, though. Then did a few sets of front squats with the Oly bar and then one set of front squat/push press.


Crazy view spike this weekend from a forum post on Sherdog asking “How come women don’t like BJJ?” (Thanks, slidey=) Basically the guy was saying that because he didn’t see a lot of girls training BJJ, that girls must not like BJJ. Which, I think, is making a judgment and isn’t really the right question. Those of us who do it love it, and when you have a base of girls training, more will join. So it’s not that girls don’t like BJJ; we do, once we start it. So, rather, it’s that there’s a barrier to getting girls to start BJJ and stick with it.

(And besides, we could ask why so many guys don’t show up to class when invited or come to a class or two and then leave. Why don’t all guys do BJJ, either? I don’t know the statistics on how many guys start and then quit because they “didn’t like it” for some reason, but I think it might be quite high. [And I’m curious what their reasons might be. Why start? Why stop?])

There were good answers about the contact level and sweat and other things that would throw off most girls from most sports, not just jiu-jitsu specifically. I think the answer for most girls is that they don’t start or stick with jiu-jitsu because there aren’t other girls doing it. Not just because it’s hard to be the only girl (though it sometimes is), but also because we girls like a supporting community when we do something.

That can be other girls and that can be the guys. We want to feel that we’re safe in what we’re doing and that someone is keeping an eye on us and our partners. We don’t want to feel as if we’re everyone’s grappling dummy, but we also don’t want everyone to treat us with kid gloves. We want to be included, none of this “boys vs. girls” stuff, and yet we want you to remember that we are girls and we are different from boys. (Yes, we want it all.) And we want to have friends.

I’m the only girl on my team. On days when I think I’ll never come back because I’m so angry, upset, or frustrated, I come back anyway because of my guys. They’re my friends. They’re superamazing and awesome. From the beginning, they worked with me and included me and made me feel as if this was a place I wanted to be and these were people I wanted to be around. They look out for me in class, they make me do crazy things after class, and they make me eat more than I should. I’m still a girl, but I’m also part of the team.

So if your school is having a hard time retaining women, don’t immediately blame it all on the women not being able to handle it or not liking BJJ — check out the team dynamic. You may be giving off a vibe that turns women off. (That might also impact your dating life, too… Oops, now I’m meddling!…)

Or maybe I’m just different. Maybe I’m oblivious to lots of things that turn off other girls. I do admit I’m not very good at being a girl most days, and I didn’t have too many female friends growing up. I’ve seen several guys come through our school who, if the entire team were composed of guys like them, I don’t think I would have stayed. Something about them — some vibe, some creepiness factor, some something — that I just didn’t want to be around.

Anyway, rambling now. But I still don’t think it’s a matter of women “not liking” BJJ or close-contact sports; I think it’s more the personnel involved.


I started to continue rambling on, and then my post length more than doubled, so apparently I have quite a bit to say on the subject. (Or I’m just verbose, which is also possible.) So I made a new page called “Women” to hold any further musings on women and jiu-jitsu.

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