Girls’ Grappling Mini-Camp, RVA 2010, Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2

Sunday morning

Sunday morning started with a group breakfast and round-table discussion. (See the previous write-up for what we probably covered.) Another Crossfit workout followed. I actually convinced myself to stay away, since even the little bit the previous morning had destroyed me for most of the day. All of us who had done it on Saturday were complaining about sore quads and being tired all day. Some of them were crazy enough to do it the second day, too, though.

The first session Sunday was gi or nogi, though most of us stuck with pajamas. To warm up, we reviewed all the techniques from the day before and drilled them quickly with a partner.Then we worked some passing.

Passing open guard

First one: Get a good grip on the fabric inside their knees. Push in a little to get them pushing back, and then slam their feet straight down to the mat (so their knees are still bent). As you take their legs down, step in between their legs as far as you can with one leg while stepping past their legs on the outside with the other. Drop the inside leg for the cut-through knee pass. Works even if they sit up.

Second one: From combat base, keep your elbows in and get a grip on one the fabric of one hip. Other elbow braces inside their other leg. Come up to both feet. Foot on side without the grip steps wide, going behind their knee and stepping around and forward, so their leg is flat and stretched out to the side. Other arm is keeping pressure so their hips can’t turn. Now cut-through knee pass.

At some point, we played another game. I didn’t catch the name. Similar in setup to Queen of the Hill, but with a twist. You and your partner would be rolling (keep going if there are any submissions or sweeps or anything). Then randomly, someone from the line will run in and start attacking one or the other of you. Doesn’t matter which. If you’re not being attacked, then you go back to the line. Hilarious. And you start scouting for the person in the best position to attack — exposed back, open knee-on-belly, etc. Generally you got attacked from behind or sat on.

I believe there was also some rolling after that (there was lots of rolling throughout the weekend), and then a break for lunch.

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon was a round-table discussion, an open mat/troubleshooting session, and then more discussion. I think many of us were starting to wilt at that point, so extra sitting and talking was a good thing. (Did I mention it was hot and humid? It was hot and humid. I’d take off my gi after rolling; the top would be soaked through, and there would be standing water on my arms. It. was. hot.)

(And you can tell I was wilting? — I can’t really remember anything.)

I can’t remember if we covered any technique at the beginning of the open mat, but I do know that we got to roll a lot. I got to roll with Val again, and I asked her how they made it through a week of camp. Here it’s only two days, and I’m already so tired! She said she didn’t know, either. (In the weeklong camp, they do get half of Wednesday off. Still.) I also got to roll with Emily, and then she spent a second round going over pressure with me.

Emily had to leave early on Sunday to catch her flight home, so the open mat finished up in time to see her off. Another discussion group, then dinner in downtown Richmond. Many of us splurged on homemade carrot cake. So good!

Monday morning

Monday morning was kind of tacked on as an Open Mat for anyone who would be in town. I don’t think it was really meant to be a part of the camp, but still, lots of us showed back up. There were also several guys there — Andrew Smith, Klint, Mike, TheMikeByrd, and one or two others. And several local girls also showed up — Lo and Thea, and some I didn’t know.

Goodness, so tired! But far too stubborn and lacking in self-preservation skills, so of course I was ready to jump back in there. Got to roll with Andrew to start things off; everyone else was still sitting around and waking up and talking, and he wanted to get things moving. Seemed like a long roll. I fell in to his triangle from inverted guard, and then he showed me a triangle defense. Then someone started a timer to keep us moving between partners. Rolled with TheMikeByrd, who is far more flexible than you think he ought to be, Klint, and Matt (who I might have met before); rolled with Tori, Thea, Val (?), Anahi (?), and several other girls. I’d last rolled with Thea last summer at the first Women’s Open Mat I came to Richmond for. She’s still fast and drops a ton of pressure. (And she’s only my size!) After the round, she commented that I was so fast and she was working to keep up with me. I laughed and said that I had just been trying to keep up with her. LOL.

As the Open Mat continued, girls were having to leave, and exhaustion was forcing the rest of us to sit around and talk. But it made for a good transition from all girls to rolling with boys again. I talked to Chrissy in here, too, and mentioned my three epiphanies. She reads my blog (Hi, Chrissy!), and said that, yeah, I probably am training too much. Also, she reminded me that I do have a real, full-time grown-up job (oh, right).

I went back for lunch, shower, and a long nap before driving home. Missed class that night, but I think I more than made up for it during the weekend.

So, that’s the end of camp. It was so much fun, and I would definitely encourage any girls to go to either a full camp or a mini camp. (By the way, they’re talking about having more mini camps around the country.) Training with such a range of girls for such an extended period of time really gives you a good look at where your jiu-jitsu is and where it can go.

Girls’ Grappling Mini-Camp, RVA 2010, Part 2

Part 1, here.

Saturday afternoon

The afternoon session started with a round-table discussion. During the whole weekend, there was a paper circulating, on which we could write any questions or discussion topics. There were several round-table discussions throughout the weekend, plus random discussions over meals, during sessions, and all in-between, and threads that trailed off, intertwined, and picked back up again, so I’ll try to remember everything that was talked about all at one time.

Crying in jiu-jitsu. Yes, we opened with everyone’s favorite topic. Main point I heard were that it happens to nearly everyone, either on the mats (we all agreed being locked in the bathroom is the best place) or on the way home. Val also mentioned that it sometimes might actually be good for the guys to see that what they’re doing is reducing you to tears, especially if you already have the reputation as a “tough chick,” because if what they’re doing is too much for you, then it’s too much. Maybe nothing else will get through to them.

How to ask guys to take the intensity down. Related, what to do about guys who are cranking and muscling everything. One girl, Susan, is tall — close to 6 feet tall. But only about 140 lbs. She asked about how to deal with guys who see her height and assume they need to go a lot harder with her; she wants to ask them to tone it down without being a wimp. The conversation swirled around, ending up with the cranking and muscling crowd, which is where most of us have more experience. The general answer for that group was, first, to avoid rolling with them and even tell them that you won’t roll with them, and, second, if you can’t avoid them, to either tap early — even way, way early — or to make fun of them for ripping a little girl’s arms off or even to tap and walk away. Also, if a boy needs to be beat on for misbehaving, he needs to be verbally told why this is happening to him, else he’s likely to think that *this* is how jiu-jitsu is supposed to be, and will try to go this hard next time and will propagate this style of training.

Warmups and cooldowns. Emily talked some about warmups, about doing reflex and reaction movements that get you loose and alert without making you tired. We briefly discussed the lack of upper body strength in women and the focus in most BJJ warmups on upper body movements. (Gah!) Rosie and Maggie talked a bit about dynamic stretches to warm up, and Maggie led us through some stretching to cool down.

Women’s classes. I know we talked about this, and I even wrote down several questions about them, but I don’t remember what we said. Doh. Of course, the topic I was interested in is what I can’t remember…

Chiropractors, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy. A guy (I don’t know who) offered to come in and be available to give massages during parts of the camp. So of course we talked about the benefits of massages. 😛 We also talked about finding good and trustworthy chiropractors, etc., who could help us get better, stay healthy, and continue training. (And girls mentioned their chiropractors who tsked at them for the contortions they put their spine through. I’m glad mine trains, too.)

Owning your training. This popped up everywhere. Val’s big on the phrase. How much you train, who you train with, how intensely you train, how much you rest. Everything. This is you we’re talking about; be in charge of you.

Cutting weight. Especially differences between men and women when it comes to cutting, and about cutting weight at the last minute vs. dieting down. Jen Flannery told about a girl she’d seen at some competitions who looked like Death before her matches and usually did horribly; Ashley piped up that she’d actually nicknamed that girl “Death.” Val told us that she never cuts weight, not even 2 lbs.

Promotions. We talked about girls getting promoted too early and about whether set promotion times or random promotions were better (no consensus, really — everyone who didn’t get promoted beats on you anyway. Meh.). We did talk about how it’s probably better to hold a girl back a little since she will have to contend with all the boys coming after her.

Longevity in BJJ. This discussion got me thinking about how much I train. Alaina and Val talked about times their bodies broke down on them from too much training, and about what they’ve done to fix that. Emily chimed in that taking time off isn’t bad: “jiu-jitsu isn’t going anywhere.”

I’m sure there was more, but I can’t remember it all right now. I know I did feel better after listening to the discussions because I felt like I was normal — everyone else seemed to have some of the same experiences; it’s not just me being crazy (well, not entirely).

Tossing this out — one thing I was surprised about was the average age of the girls at camp. I guess I’ve always had this idea that I was in the “old” category and that most girls would be younger than me, but actually quite a few (possibly the majority or even almost all of the campers) were 30+. Huh.

Saturday afternoon’s session was nogi. We ran over into a little bit because the round-table discussion was going so well. (I would have liked more of it, too. I like to sit and absorb it all.)

Emily led us in a warmup. More game-type drills.

  • Slapping the mat when she clapped her hands.
  • Weaving — first person in line stops on the mat; second person runs a little ahead and stops; third person weaves between them, then stops ahead of the second; etc.; until the last person is darting between a long snakey line of people standing — and then the first person darts, through, too, and everyone follows, to continue the game.
  • Fast feet — first person sits on the mat, legs spread in a “V”; second person steps to the outside of the near leg, then between the legs, then to the outside of the far leg [did that make any sense at all? It’s like the drills the football players do for agility with tires or ropes on the ground…], and then sits next to the first person, legs spread in a “V”; third person does the same dance over both their legs and sits; continue until the first person jumps up and joins to keep it going.
  • Leapfrog, with everyone crouching perpendicular to the jumpers, which meant you needed to keep your head tucked (which I am bad about, lol), else you’d get clocked when they jumped.
  • Double-leg jumps with everyone turtled up. (I couldn’t do this well because of my toe; I just ran around to hold my place the first time, and the second time, did a hurdle jump.)

The point of these, she explained later, was for reflexes and reaction time, while keeping you continually moving. At the end of the warmup, you were warm and alert, but not tired. All too often, I’m exhausted by our warmup, which is usually mostly conditioning.

Nogi started with escaping the head and arm choke. (I think. Not sure.) I know we did move on to a side control escape and sweep.

Side-control escape and sweep
Under side control, don’t just plant your feet and bridge up. First, bring your knees up and then explosively drive down and bridge. Instead of just turning onto your side and using both arms to frame out, as you bridge, drive your bottom elbow underneath your body so that arm can now be a wedge to keep you from being flattened. Now take your top leg and insert a butterfly hook inside their nearest leg. As they drive forward to flatten you out, trap their outside arm and lift with that hook to sweep them. Come up to side control.

I think there was something else, but I can’t remember. I need to find a balance between taking zero notes, as I did here, and taking way too many, as I’ve done at other seminars. Balance…

We drilled for a while, and then went into Queen of the Hill. I almost sat out because of my toe (and this is exactly what caused the injury in the first place), but then Val had the brilliant idea to ask my partners to let me start from bottom each time. Everyone was cool with that, so I did get to participate. I think there was some rolling after that before we headed off to dinner. Dinner was supposed to have a discussion component, too, but everyone was already brain- and body-dead by then.

Girls’ Grappling Mini-Camp, RVA 2010, Part 1

I took my camera, my video camera, my notebook, and my computer, and fully intended to record absolutely everything. But very quickly I found I needed all my attention to focus and to do, so the secretarial duties were abandoned. Now to see what this brain retained…


I got the Karate College schedule late Thursday night. Both Renzo and Matt Serra were scheduled for Friday morning. Sweet! But, since I didn’t have the schedule before, I hadn’t planned to go and still needed to pack for Grapple Camp. If I’d known earlier, I’d’ve packed most things the night I was home nursing my toe. Instead, I spent the morning packing and then drove over later in the morning while they were still teaching. Unfortunately, Matt had issues with his flight and couldn’t make it, but Renzo, Paul Creighton, and Bob Gracie were there, so I got to hang out with them for a little while.

While I was manning the merchandise table so Paul could get a break, Chrissy texted me to let me know that there would be training at 4:30 if I could make it there in time. Sweet again! So when Renzo finished his last seminar at 1, I hung around for a few minutes more and then split for Richmond. However, I’d forgotten that Radford is an extra 15 minutes south, but I’d planned my departure for the cutting-it-close time from my own house, which, combined with vehicles overheating and slowing down traffice because the shoulders were closed from construction, meant that I got there about 15 minutes late. Chrissy, Alaina, Val, and Klint were already rolling, and Mike was waiting.

Once I got changed and ready and started trying to limber up (three straight hours in the car!), they switched up partners and set the timer for 5-minute rounds (I think). Got to roll with Val first. That was fun. She let me flail around ineffectually for a minute or two before effortlessly taking my back and choking me. I want to feel like that some day, where it’s just “Oh, hey, yeah, so we’re doing some jiu-jitsu and I’m just gonna float around here and then drop OMG pressure!” *snort* I am amused when people can easily control me like that, where I seem to do their bidding, where slight movements put me in really really bad spots. I think I’m amused mostly because I see the possibility of one day being like that.

Then with… er… everyone else, in some order. A lot of the same, actually, where no one seemed to have much trouble getting me to do whatever they wanted. Klint did some Jedi-mind-tricking and Force-levitating stuff. Mike as usual was really excited to show me something, though I don’t remember what it was. (Rats. I do have vague recollections of possibly working it during the weekend, though. — Wait, I remembered: half guard to omoplata, going underneath. Justin and Will had worked this on me last week.) Also don’t remember what Alaina did to me. Remember small bits of practicing my “mean crossface” on Chrissy, from on top in half guard, and her commenting that it was indeed mean (yay! and “Sorry!”).

We girls piled back to Chrissy’s house to get clean and presentable, and then met quite a few of the other campers at a Japanese steakhouse. Tori was there, and I didn’t have to crash my car into hers to talk to her, lol. Dinner was the start of meeting people who I only knew before by their online personas, including Val (though our first meeting was actually me getting choked earlier, lol), Susan, and Ashley (Girls in Gis).


Saturday started bright and early at 8:30 a.m. with a Crossfit class run by Val. I, of course, am too stubborn to believe that I might need to sit out from something like this, so I taped the heck out of my toe and jumped right in. The class started with Val showing some Crossfit movements and discussing some of the philosophy behind Crossfit and why she does it (which, of course, only makes you want to do it more).

Then we did two WODs. The first was a Tabata (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off; 4 minutes total) of jump squats. I did have to do regular squats as the toe was still unhappy about having to push off of anything. Val is relentless as she calls out the time, but she also manages to convince you that you can in fact continue, even when your legs are burning. Second WOD was 21-15-9 of dip press (?) and situps, for time. For the first, hold dumbbells at shoulder level; drop your level a little bit and then explode up, catching the weights at the top. The trick is to use your legs, not your arms. Since it was the first day and we were all eager, about half of us did the Crossfit workouts.

Emily started off the first gi session with a jogging warmup that involved “getting to know you” games — find someone with a different haircut than you & ask them why they came to camp; find someone of a different belt color & ask them one interesting fact about themselves; make a group of 5 (our group of four shamelessly pinched Susan away from her group of 4, causing them to run and steal two more from another) — and some relay races. Warm, happy, talking, laughing, cheering: a good start.

Then Val and Emily wanted to roll with everyone at camp between the two of them. We rolled amongst ourselves, too. There were 22 campers that morning, though I think we ended up with an extra round or two. 3- or 4-minute rounds. I got to roll with Tori then for the first time ever. Chrissy also paid me back for my mean crossface from yesterday with an inescapable mount, lol. Also with Ashley, the purple belt from Texas who runs Girls in Gis — that was awesome. She’s quick and precise and persistent. Lots of rolling with lots of girls; don’t remember a whole lot. I was trying sometimes to work getting to deep half, that deep half sweep Will showed me last Saturday, and the half-passed position and sweep.

(P.S. Richmond is very humid. Walking outside felt like pressing through a viscous wall of air. Bleh. Inside wasn’t too much cooler. All weekend we were hot and soggy.)

Next was some technique. What was cool here was that Val would show something and then Emily would add to it, or vice-versa. I should be able to remember most of these since we also drilled them as part of the warmup the next day…

Started with grip-breaking and grip-fighting techniques. Which way to grab, which way to turn. A few rounds of grip fighting.

Taking the back. Bow-and-arrow choke from there.
I think we started this one from them being on their side and you at their back. Maybe. Bottom hand goes under their head, top hand comes under their top arm and in front of their face; grab the bottom hand. Lift them up first, to get them completely on their side. Top leg pivots to be parallel to their back. Now drag them over to take their back.

Choke: Top hand reaches back for the near lapel; pull it out and rotate it inward. Other hand now grabs, with the flat part of the lapel going neatly down the center of your hand; much tighter grip. Let them fall toward the gripping hand, kicking the leg out of the way and using the free hand to grab their pants.

Half-guard pass using the head.
In top half, underhook the far arm and overhook the near arm. Place your head on the mat next to their head on the near side. Now look around and up, toward where the top of their head is pointing. This drives your head into them and moves their head out of line with their spine. Now pass. (This is the same principle that Adam’s been working with me in half-guard pressure, but I think this may work better for me based on the relative size of partners.)

Head and arm choke. Head and arm choke escape.
(I think the choke may have been in the afternoon. Escape probably definitely was. Maybe.)

Choke: From side control, use your head to root around their armpit and control their arm. (Truffles!) Knee-on-belly switch to the far side, or mount then dismount. Set the choke in at about 60% intensity, so you can keep a constant pressure without burning out your arms. Now think, “Finish,” and wait for the tap. They pointed out that this choke is a slow choke and that people will try to fight it for a while, so you may have to wait for a little while until they concede. The thinking also helps you settle down and put pressure on them, rather than relying on your arms to squeeze it out. (The alternate and tournament-appropriate phrase is “Die, b****, die.”)

Escape: As they’re switching across, answer the phone to buy some space. You need to separate your near shoulder from your neck. Next bring your inside knee up toward your nose and shoot both hands out to grab behind your knee. Kick forward with that knee while hipping away from them to release the pressure and create space. You can often come up to take their back from there.

We might have had some open mat time before lunch, but I can’t remember for sure. If we did, I rolled.

Break for lunch. The poor man at the wrap shop — he had just sent his helper home, and then 10 or more of us walked in.

To be continued….

Girls’ Grappling Mini-Camp Summary

It’s late Monday night. I’m back from Girls’ Grappling Camp, and I’m tired, sore, bruised, and oh-so-happy. I was without internet all weekend, which was probably good because it meant I could go to sleep instead of writing — but it means I didn’t do much writing. So for tonight, I’ll just summarize the weekend and will write more later.

I learned 3 important things this weekend (that I can currently articulate):

  1. I am a blue belt. I had been told before, and that color has been around my waist for 9 months, but I had never seen it consistently enough before. I saw it all through this weekend, from an early-bird Friday night rolling session all the way through dying at the Open Mat on Monday morning. I’m a blue belt. And quite happy to be here. I also had several people verbally reaffirm that or tell me that I had improved a lot since the last time they rolled with me, and I was able to take that as the compliment it was meant as without the little voice in my head chiming in with negative comments.
  2. I’ve been training with the extremes at my gym, which is probably where most of my recent frustration comes from. I train with 11-year-old, 90-lb Theresa and then with purples, browns, and a black who all outweigh me by 30-60 lbs and who don’t go easy on me. So with the former everything is too easy and I can’t practice much, and with the latter everything is hard and progress is invisible. Training with girls near my size (10 lbs < me < 30 lbs, mostly) and from white through black showed me that I do know jiu-jitsu & can actually do it and reminded me that training is fun. Many rolls were accompanied by giggles.
  3. I’m probably training too much. 9x/week, with some of those being doubles (rolling before class and then doing all of class) and some being 2-3 hours mostly of hard rolling, is quite possibly too much for me to handle. Rest is my friend. Jiu-jitsu isn’t going anywhere. I have some thinking to do and some talking to Tim. I do love to train and would rather do that than almost anything else, but I also need to be smart and not self-destructive.