Monthly Archives: February 2011

When push comes to shove…

Anger.

Being a rather ‘emotionless’ person – as my familiy would probably describe me as, I don’t frequently experience anger. In fact, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever been truly angry during an athletic pursuit. That being said, most of my past competitive sports have been individual sports. Competitive swimming, dragonboat racing and even rowing are all competitive sports where even though there may be other teams racing against you, your greatest opponent is yourself.

Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has taught me about the human condition, about how people change, and express themselves particularly on the mat, or traditionally – dojo.

I had a rather interesting experience that really threw me into a contemplative mood last Friday.

I was at the afternoon class, one of my favourites, as the instructor doesn’t try to kill us during the warmup. He’s actually a big proponent of active stretching which is great right before a bjj class.

My friend, K was in class and being the only two girls we naturally paired up. I remember my first few classes when I first started training were with K. She taught me some valuable lessons about body positioning and staying active. I loved rolling with her because she was a little more aggressive and wasn’t afraid to bring up the intensity with me.

We were working on escapes from side mount and at one point, she had managed to pin one of my arms between our chests. I made a deliberate effort to pull my arm out, elbow first. Unfortunately I actually managed to pretty strong elbow straight to her jaw. She bit her tongue and although there wasn’t much blood, I could tell from her facial expression that it probably hurt quite a bit. I apologized immediately, as it really was an accident.

We set up for another round and she went at 100% intensity on me. She likely outweighs me by at least 30-40lbs, and is much taller and stronger than I am and I’m still unsure whether or not she took an elbow to my head deliberately or accidentally in that round. I shrugged it off and tried not to let it bother me.

She left right after class, and I didn’t get a chance to apologize again, and I’m unsure when I’ll see her in class again.

Perhaps I’m just reading into it, but was she really angry at me? And why was I so bothered by it?

I had spoken to a few friends about it, but in reality I think there’s something about pain that triggers an emotional response. I’ll admit, I don’t know what it’s like to be in that situation (yet?) It’s frustrating to think that people lash out in anger when training. I mean, that defeats the purpose of training. Learning to express and manage your emotions when you’re upset during training should be fundamental to a physical sport such as submission grappling.

 


When you can’t train…

I’m back on a series of night shifts which really means that I’ll be missing out on training until Wednesday (it’s Monday now). Even then, I’ll have to squeeze in the quick class after my third night shift in a row which is going to be rough. It’s vaguely familiar to a decision I made a few weeks ago. I came off nights, didn’t eat or sleep and showed up to wrestling class… that was *not* pretty.

I can’t wait till we move into our new gym – They’ll be adding a slew of morning and afternoon classes at our new location since it’ll be our gym space exclusively. No more setting up and taking down the mats! It’s all pretty exciting. The photos of the new space look amazing, and the new set of mats come in sometime this week!

Until then, I’m stuck with workouts/drills from home and swimming at the local pool for cardio. My night shift schedule, which is almost the entire month of March consists of coming home, sleeping and waking up midday usually around noon/1pm, working out, food, shower, errands and then back to work for the evening. It’s a pretty constant cycle that doesn’t really allow for any semblance of a social life. My free time during the night shift is spent watching competition footage and BJJ tutorial DVDs. So at least mentally I’m practicing…

Was supposed to have a good training session with R over the weekend, but we got ourselves up to some other fun activities instead! Looks like I’m in for some major ass-kicking this week though… I was even telling him I had to mentally psyche myself up to push my body to train with him. How ridiculous is that? Talk about some sort of emotional masochism.. :P

Anyway, time to set up for another workout with my new toy! I have yet to find the time to go to a shipping yard.. or some other climbing facility and purchase a climbing rope! For now, doing pull-ups and flexed arm hangs are going to have to do… pictures to come!


Active Rest

I finally took some time off to take it easy and let my body heal itself. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an awkward pattern to my workouts. I have trouble sleeping – and staying asleep if I haven’t sufficiently tired myself out during the day. I’m unsure if this self-induced insomnia is a good thing or if I’m just overtired.. Either way, it’s doing bad things for my circadian rhythm.

Classes have been very technical-based all weekend. We drilled a variety of different takedowns on Sunday and because Monday was a holiday, they hosted a two hour gi choking seminar instead of usual classes. I barely worked up a sweat in either class so I’m looking forward to training with R this weekend and getting my heart rate up.

I’m thinking of going to the gym and hitting up a good workout today with some good cardio and a strong leg/back workout today. If there’s one thing I’m lacking it’s the back strength to maintain and perform pull-ups. I’ve finally installed the hard points in the loft, now to go and purchase a 14′ climbing rope for the rope climb I’m going to install in the loft. Yes, I live in an pretty awesome space.

//

The workout was rough, and didn’t go as smoothly as planned. I was feeling tired after the first 30 minutes on the elliptical, and quit early and headed over to the free weights for some dead lifts. I paced myself through the lifts and my lower back started to spasm on the back extensions so I finished up the last of the back workouts and called it a day. Overall it felt pretty good to lift some weights again even though I was more tired than usual.

Not really looking forward to working nights again. March is a killer month for me as I hit the part of the work schedule that has very few day shifts and plenty of nights. Looks like I’ll be sleeping through most of March!


The Rant.

I dragged myself back to class last night even though I was still feeling my workout from Monday night.

I hadn’t eaten all day since my bowl of oatmeal that morning for breakfast since I was pretty swamped at work. I decided to take a quick nap at home instead of eating (bad idea in retrospect) and ran off to the gym.

It was the gi class first, and I was surprised to see all the new people in class on an early Wednesday night. Actually, I think more than 40% of the class was new – which is awesome! I took a quick glance into the class and spotted B – and made my way over to line up with her. We were the only two girls in the class, and seeing as she’s an experienced Japanese Jiu Jitsu practitioner, I love rolling with her. She kicks my butt on a pretty regular basis and I learn a lot every single time I get a chance to roll with her. Our instructor, K took us through our warmup and drills and I was feeling pretty good. We focused on bear hug escapes and attacking from mount. We both had done the class before, so it was a good review while we joked around after the class.

K was teaching the second no-gi class and our class size instantly doubled! Drats. Space is still a bit of an issue until we move into our new gym (hopefully) in March! Same warmup, same drills, and this time I was pretty gassed. I was breathing hard and chugging water by the second round, and since B had stayed for the second class too, I went to pair up with her again…

 Since the class was larger, and we still had the same amount of new students, K decided it would be a good idea to split up the more experienced students with the new students. There were quite a few more girls, and since we were an uneven number, I was sent to pair up with a relatively new guy, around my size. Oh boy.

rant

Someone should explain this to everyone who comes in. I may be new, but just because you’re some hot shot who thinks it *might* be embarrassing to be tapped out by a girl DOES NOT give you permission to try to muscle me around the mats. We started off by pummeling, and honestly it was me trying to gain underhooks while he shoved me around the mat. I was frustrated, irritated and just didn’t have the patience for his shit.

Look, I work hard in the gym because I love the feeling it gives me. I’m stronger than most girls, but I’m here to learn, not to prove myself that I can handle rolling with the guys. I’m not afraid to learn from you guys because I know you’re naturally better athletes than us females. Still, I deserve respect for coming and working my ass off in class, just as hard as you do, and not have to put up with you going 110% on every single drill. Next time you pull stupid shit like that, I’m going to choke your ass out.

/rant

I knew that my skill wouldn’t hold up to the fact that I was pretty tired already. So, while K was going over the takedown we were about to drill, I tapped B and asked her if I could switch partners with her. I figured: “Fine, if you want to be taught a lesson about what it’s like to roll with a girl, you can deal with B, she’ll show you.” I didn’t swap to ‘hide’ behind my friend, I knew that I wasn’t a good partner for this hot-headed kid, and it would likely end in some sort of injury.

From what I heard from B was that she barely worked up a sweat to defend against the less experienced kid. She told him that she could easily use both her experience in skill and her strength and it wouldn’t help either of them to leran anything in class. He instantly dialed down the intensity after that. Hopefully he’ll approach rolling with a girl in a different manner next time he shows up in class. 

If you haven’t had the chance, read this by BjjGrrl.wordpress.com – She kicks ass and pretty much addresses all the major issues of Do’s and Don’t’s for beginners to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Including a great section about ‘Rolling with Girls’. Enjoy!


The Endorphin Rush

The hardest thing about being consistent with training is overcoming some of the injuries/stiffness I’m experiencing.

I’ve been going to about 6-7 classes/week and I’m starting to feel the toll it’s taking on my body. My exercise tolerance has improved by leaps and bounds, and attending back-to-back classes are a breeze. I’m finding it easy to surpass, and keep up with the warmups and drills in class. I’m pushing my body at a rate with which I’m happy with.

However, the next morning after I feel like I’m as stiff as a board. I’m running for hot showers twice a day just to try to get my muscles to relax, and spend a good hour stretching after the hot shower. I’m not sure if my body just isn’t recouperating fast enough or if I’m just feeling the effects of my age. (Who am I kidding, I’m still in my mid-twenties!) I’ve been extremely grateful for friends who are willing to give me a brief back rub, or finding time to mooch off my parents’ massage therapist for an hour or two.

My strongest incentive to train, is the amazing feeling after I’ve pushed my body through class. R compares it to being as ‘high as a kite’ and he couldn’t be more concise. I can feel my heartbeat in my fingertips and I could just stand there and listen to it pound in my ears. It’s an amazing to relish in the feeling of being ‘human.’

I went to train with R at his gym, and I felt like running a marathon after Monday’s no-gi class. I think I was so excited and bubbly that I was talking a mile a minute the whole way to the pub. It didn’t matter than I crashed after my pint of ‘Omg I’m so HAPPY!’ beer with some friends.

I was going to train yesterday (Tuesday), but decided against it when I could consciously feel every muscle in my body throbbing with a dull ache. I still felt motivated, but think my addiction/desire to train needs to be tempered a bit. Does anyone have any suggestions? Home remedies? More rest?

I’ve been getting at least seven hours of sleep a night – thank god. I think I would collapse otherwise. It’ll be interesting to see how well I hold up once the work hours switch back to night shifts again.

I’m heading back for two more classes tonight. I can’t wait till I feel like flying afterwards… :)


On injuries.

As a child, I’ve always been very accident-prone. In fact, I think it was a fairly known fact that my family thought I was a bit of a klutz. Even growing up, I think my propensity towards ‘individual’ sports such as competitive swimming and paddling helped to solidify those theories.

I’ve got poor hand-eye coordination when it comes to spherical objects – seriously. Please don’t throw a ball at me. I’m not sure what I would do. I might duck, but I also might try some sort of heroic dive to catch it (and thus, hurt myself by falling.)

Anyway, training in BJJ is one of those things that I figured it would be fairly difficult for me to injure myself. I mean, I’m surrounded by padded mats all the time, right? :) Naturally, my theory proved me wrong. Aside from the recurring mat burn on my knees, feet and ‘knuckles of my toes’, I’ve managed to re-aggravate some old injuries. I sprained my left ankle as a teenager playing basketball and now I re-sprain the same ankle every single summer – sometimes more than once per summer season. Last week I stumbled during the warmup and tweaked that same ankle.

I’ve also got an old knee injury that hurt after training last week. I’ve been wearing my knee brace when I can, but also working on some leg exercises to strengthen my knees. I’ve got a poor family history of bad knees and knee replacement surgeries. I’d like to keep my biological knees for as long as possible.

I’m trying to be deliberate with my movements, and take things slow during training while I work on the fundamentals. Rolling with R has really helped with this. The goal during our sessions is for me to be aware of body positioning and move with purpose. They tend to be really slow, and when I move too quickly I tend to injure myself.

For example, I asked R to roll with me after a noon class at our gym last week and he patiently obliged. We started off well, and fresh from my class, I was practicing the stack pass with fairly good memory. He started to come forward and attack me with a kimura to my left arm and for some odd reason I panicked and brought my head to my left shoulder to ‘protect’ it. Which would have been fine except that as R leaned back to complete the submission, momentum pulled me forward and I tried to roll forward. I heard this sickening string of cracks and felt my neck pulled in an awkward direction. I rolled out and brought my hands up to protect my neck (R had thankfully let go when I cried out at that point). My neck felt weird, with a twinge of pain but thankfully it was nothing serious. I know he felt horrible since he was visiting my gym, and he thought that he hurt me. I think I was more startled by the sound and the awkward feeling rather than the roll itself. I convinced him I was fine and we kept going. Which ended up being a great segue into how to protect your arm from the kimura.

In the end, I’m learning to protect my body instinctively, but also work harder so that I’m not so prone to injury in the future. This is also why one of my goals this year is to be able to do a handstand (without the assistance of a wall or another person!) I believe that being able to do a handstand will help me with body awareness and balance which then becomes practical when I rely on my body to defend and position itself naturally.

 

 


Goals for 2011

I wrote these goals down in the beginning of January, and thought that it would be a good idea to post them here as well. Seeing as it’s already February, I have to say that all the goals are coming along nicely.

1. Consistently work on my cardio to be able to attend 5 BJJ classes a week (I’m at 4/week currently)
2. Be able to climb the rope, with just my arms – no legs!
3. Be able to do at least 10 pull ups.. (I can currently do 3)
4. Do a handstand! (This is more difficult for me than you think)
5. Begin to compete in both gi and no-gi tournaments
6. Climb the CN Tower, and shave 10 minutes off my previous time.
7. Maintain my current weight. ( I currently weigh in at around 130lbs.)

1. I’ve been almost going to 7 classes a week (if you count back-to-back classes of gi and no-gi as two classes) On average, I’m training almost 2 hrs/day which is far exceeding my goal! We’ll see how long I can keep this up. I realize that I need to temper my training (read: addiction) a little since I’m starting to skin my knees, toes and feet on a fairly regular basis. I also went out and bought a pair of capris to hopefully save my knees from the repetitive mat burn.

2. I’m having my friend come and install the climbing rope at my loft next weekend – super excited. I’ve got 14′ ceilings, and plenty of room to start working on climbing.

3. I’m still stuck at 3 pull-ups, but doing more extended flexed arm hangs. I think I’ve put on some weight and thus making it more difficult to lift more bodyweight. I’ve also gained some strength so it seems to be all balancing out without any significant improvement.

4. Step 1: Learn to tumble properly. Going to work on this on Sunday during training. I have a fear of rolling over.

5. We move into a new gym facility in March, and I’ll have to see how well my training is going by then, and hopefully start to join in with some of the competition classes if my head instructor thinks I’m ready.

6.  Scratch this one. My knees don’t take any sort of impact well anymore. No stair-climbing for me.

7. Okay, so I have a problem with scales. Or I perhaps I should say I can’t find a freaking scale that’s correct. I’ve weighed myself on 4 different scales at different locations and they all fluctuate in reading my weight!! So, I’ve decided to take the average. I currently weigh 135 lbs and starting to panic a little. I’ve put on more muscle mass than I thought and in return I’ve lost about 3 inches (1 inch each from my hips/waist/chest.) I’m concluding that although my body is exchanging the fat for muscle mass, it means I weigh.. more. I’m sure once I lose the rest of the fat and get leaner I’ll cut back down to 130 lbs. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a proper scale too.


The Gun Show

“It must be the addiction, the madness of consummation…”

I swung by  a neighboring BJJ gym in Toronto today and was burned for 2 hours. I don’t recall the last time my hands were shaking so hard from a workout – but the best part was that I was high as a kite for 3 hours afterwards! Here’s a brief synopsis of my visit.

It’s actually a much larger gym than it appears from the outside. In fact, I lived around the corner from this particular gym for a year before I moved to the other end of the city. The women’s change-room was clean, and had shower stalls, benches and lockers that were neat and tidy. I can’t imagine how cramped the male change room is, considering our mid-day class had about 35 people, of which 2 were females (myself and another girl). I suppose there’s always a little apprehension about attending a new class and I was seriously thankful that many of the drills I had done with R in the past.

I still had to laugh a little when the head instructor came up to me during the drills, and told me it was okay to do pushups on my knees… I wasn’t doing the Hindu pushups (rotator cuff issues) and did my standard wide stance pushups, on my feet/hands.

After the drills and warmup, we worked on passing the half-guard. I naturally went to pair up with the other female and we jumped right into it. She was smaller and faster than I was, which was great practice for me! I felt bad that she had trouble passing my half-guard, but I’m still learning to dial down/up the force accordingly depending on my partner. We sparred a bit afterwards and I managed to take an arm bar submission for one of our rounds. I finally feel like I’m picking up on working on trigger drills with R. It’s a small victory, but it means that putting in this extra training is working!

I got to roll with R, and we’ve finally figured out a way to roll that helps me think on my feet, figuratively. He coaches me while we actively roll, to help me be aware of openings and gaps. I’m feel like I’m gaining a little more confidence, and a little less hesitant when I want to attack. I also had the chance to roll with a senior blue belt from the club. He was great at giving pointers, and I really appreciated the way he rolled with me as a complete beginner. Afterwards, I found out that he joked my arms were bigger than his, and he was surprised at my strength… which I suppose is a compliment? I’ve always had a larger upper-body, and put weight on my back/shoulders/chest fairly easily. I blame all the years of competitive swimming and dragonboat racing!

By my third or fourth match, I was having trouble opening my water bottle, so I took a break to watch R roll with some of the senior belts in the class. It was – for lack of a better word – inspiring!

I jumped in for a couple more matches before we called it quits to the class. I was thankful to change, get home, eat and shower! My heart was still racing when we left. Even though I was wearing a tank top under my down jacket – I was sweating the whole way home!

I was so pumped on endorphins the entire way home, I was still bouncing around the loft during my meal. In fact, I was so high.. I went back for more. I went to my evening no-gi class at my gym! Call it an ‘obsession’ if you will, but there’s something about getting my heart rate up and the anticipation of getting on the mats. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for more practice in the evening.

We worked on taking the back from guard, and one of my favourite partners – N was there, so we naturally paired up. She’s smaller than I am, but faster and a little more advanced. As fun as the class was, I could really feel the effects of the earlier class on me. I was wiped after the first few drills and powered through the rest of class, even though my form was sloppy. It was one of the more entertaining instructors (who likes to play reggae music while we roll!) So, it made for a pretty fun class!

What a crazy day. I’m wiped. Time for bed!


A (De-)Motivational Tool

I remember the first time I was ever yelled at by a coach. I was training  with our club’s swim team at the pool, and was probably around age 7 or 8. I had been swimming almost before I could walk, and my grade school routine included swimming twice a day. Once before school, and once after. 

I distinctly remember hanging on the edge, trying to catch my breath, and thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore’ as they we watched the pace clock’s colourful arrows tell us when the next swimmer was to start. My coach’s booming voice (though he was just a senior in high school) yelled across the pool: “You’re not tired, keep going!”

I shook my head vehemently as I clung to the side of the pool. He came over, picked me up by my armpits and planted me on my feet as I barely registered being pulled out of the water. Standing on the deck, I stared at my feet, embarassed that I was singled out amongst the other kids.

“Do you want to be here?” He asked.

I nodded quickly.

“Then get in and swim.”

And with that comment he picked me back up and dropped me in the pool.

I remember the frustration, the heat in my face, but most of all, the renewed vigour with which I swam that morning.

I can’t say that it was probably the best way to treat a child, or that the experience didn’t change me. However, I know that every athlete, every individual has their own ways of being motivated by their coaches. There was something about the tone of disappointment, and the way you were spoken to, that they believed you could do better  – that was what motivated me.

Some things never change.

I went to my first beginner wrestling class this morning after all the ‘hype’ I had heard from rest of my team. The wrestling instructor had an impressive resume, and his style of teaching was tough, brash, and you could always count on him for a good workout.

I had come off a night shift and hadn’t slept yet, since class was fairly early on a Sunday morning.  I figured I could use the extra workout and even hit the morning BJJ class right before wrestling. In retrospect, going to back-to-back classes on no sleep and no food (I don’t eat on night shifts, since my stomach is sensitive.) wasn’t really a good idea.

The BJJ class was good, it was a review of back control and back escapes with RNC and collar chokes we had worked on the previous week. I saw one of the regular girls in class, and headed towards her when I noticed we had a new girl in (her first week – yay!) and grabbed us as a group of three. I even had a chance to roll with one of the larger guys in class, and worked on positional sparring near the end of class. This was great because it provided a real challenge to a few things I had been practicing.  Note to self: Guys vs. Girls post for the future.

T hen, on to beginner wrestling. I ran back to the change room to pull off my gi and get into a rash guard and some shorts. When I got back, we had already started pummeling. I was paired with the new girl and I did my best to try to explain some of the drills (but what do I know?! I’m a total newb too.) I loved the format of the class, it was pretty much the same way ‘R’ worked me over in our one-on-one classes. Lots of positional drilling interspersed with circuit training of push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, sprawls…anything to get our heart rates up.  

I know better than to take things personally in-class. Everything is an opportunity to learn and grow. But even with that mantra, it wears me down when everything I do is insulted, over and over again. The whole class felt like a series of  ‘this is how you F#$@!’d up.’  I attempted to pay close attention to one thing, and quickly forgot everything else. Hell, I couldn’t even sprawl correctly. I had to reset my brain, and quickly pushed out one circuit of pushups and situps, grabbed a drink of water and thought to myself: “How badly do I want to be here right now?'”

R works me way harder when we train, and tells me I can do better, so why do I feel like shit? Oh right, I haven’t eaten or slept, suck it up and stick through it. I wasn’t looking for an excuse to leave, I was looking for reasons to stay.

So, I did.

I had a moment of self-pity afterwards, though the best thing I heard from R all day was “Don’t worry, when I’m done with you, you won’t need sleep to beat the boys.”

That’s right, I’m gonna be a fighting machine. ;)


Just another Friday.

After a brief break last week with the Lunar New Year falling on Thursday, it was nice to have a day off to eat, drink and relax. Unfortunately, trying to get back into training afterwards was rough as my body hasn’t been cooperating lately.

I’m going to be training at another BJJ gym in the city next week to accompany a friend. I’ve heard some of the crazy workouts they do…this should be interesting.

I’ve acquired a fat lip and a bruised forehead to add to my list of battle scars – yes! My partner for friday’s noon class was a 6’2″ 200lb gorilla.. Or at least he felt like one with his giant arms and muscling me around. He’s a regular with our lunch time crew, and after the first hip bump I reminded myself that I need to protect my head and neck. I almost gave myself whiplash from the impact.. Ugh.

I know it’s good practice to roll with people of different sizes, but this wasn’t the best opportunity. It came time for positional sparring, trying to defend while he was in mount was a bit of a joke. He kept attacking my arms for an Americana, and I was fairly useless for that half of the class. When someone’s constantly trying to muscle you into submissions, you really can’t do anything. The more frustrating part was that when it was my turn, he would bear hug me.  I asked ‘R’ to teach me how to defend against against him. Next time , he’s got an armbar with his name on it.

Training with ‘R’ on Friday night was easier than usual in terms of cardio, but my hips flexors were so tight they were giving up on me by the second set of burpees. I felt like I was hitting the technical drills well, but got a failing grade in muscle endurance. I’m not sure why I felt so drained. The rest of the workout seemed to fly by and I worked up a good sweat. I even joked that he didn’t work me as hard as before, though I think I might be regretting that comment the next time we get together…

I finally had a chance to sleep in and roll around in bed this morning! I can’t remember the last time I slept in. The pup didn’t even bother me and drag me out of bed for her morning walk.. double win. It’s almost like she knew I needed the extra sleep. Now I’m feeling charged and ready to go again.


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