Category Archives: motivation


A week ago on a rainy day, I sprained my ankle on my way to work. I should have gone home because I almost broke my other foot that same day. X-rays and CT scans later, I have a few small longitudinal lesions on my tendons which is disabling my ability to bend my toes. I decided to tough it out last Friday and head with R to the gym to start training again.

I think I lasted all of 10 minutes into the warm up when I jammed my toes horribly and had to get a bag of ice to calm down the re-aggravated injury. Needless to say, I didn’t start training that day. I stayed to watch the class but it made me even more frustrated knowing that it’s difficult for me to learn without actually putting my body through the paces. Class was attacking from the turtle position and the resulting clock choke. R promised to drill this with me at home when the foot starts to behave itself.

Saturday was a local BJJ tournament hosted by our gym. R spent the day refereeing on one of the mats and I brought the pup along to watch the competitions. It was exciting to see old friends and teammates compete and do extremely well on the mats! It just made me realize how much I seem to have fallen behind in my own training.


I have just under one month to get back into it and hopefully register for my very first tournament! I would have been officially training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for eight months at that point and want to get used to that ‘OhmygodI’msonervousIneedtothrowup’ feeling. I’m told you don’t really get used to it per-say. It’s more that your body is accustomed to the adrenaline and doesn’t think it’s nausea. Superb.

I’m on a goal to drop weight and train hard for the next 5 weeks.

Here we go, wish me luck!

Training for Longevity

R trains at a different gym than I do, and I have much respect for his head instructor. I was listening to the Fightworks Podcast (It’s free! Go download it!) the other day on an interview with him and he was talking about ‘training for longevity.’

I knew it wasn’t the first time I had heard that expression. When a visiting black belt came to give a seminar at our school a few weeks back. I know that I plan on training for a long time and being riddled with little injuries here and there makes me frustrated. I’m sitting here blogging with a tweaked knee and sore ribs.

Even before I began to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I was a bit of a klutz. Now, little things on the mat seem to get the better of me. For example, I was rolling with T in class earlier this week when he did a simple sweep and I landed at an awkward angle on my right knee. I felt a jarring pain instantly and grimaced with disappointment. I was looking forward to staying after class for open mat and working on the test requirements, and I knew this would force me to sit out for the rest of the day. I left right after class to avoid being asked to roll and explain my cause.

However, I’m sitting here blogging after a second class earlier today where I wore my knee brace and grumbled under my breath as settling into mount brought discomfort to my knees. Of course, we’re working on mount escapes this week.

I can’t help but think that in the long run, I won’t be worried about all these little tweaks as they tend to be inevitable in a sport that’s so physical. Keeping my eye on training for the long-term, I’m learning to sit out when it’s appropriate and take a break when my body needs it. It also means that my training and progress might be a little slower than I want  since I tend to go full tilt when I commit to learning something new. If I want to avoid more injuries, it means being more deliberate with my movements and more aware of my body. Especially when I’m injured.

A weekly update!


3 weeks until I leave for NYC, and with 5 days lost in Chicago for a work-related trip, time is flying by! I’ve only made 2-3 classes/week these past few weeks. Because I’ll be away for almost 2 weeks from May – June, I’ve picked up lots of overtime at work which subsequently leaves less time to train. :( On the other hand, R has concocted some stupidly crazy cardio workouts to push me through. I don’t usually quote him, but here’s his idea of a ‘fun’ workout.

A deck of 52 cards… the goal is to work up to the point where we can complete the deck of cards at the end of the workout as the final cardio “push”. For example: After a good hour of technique, dri…lling, sprints etc. we would break out the deck of cards. Hearts would be burpees, diamonds would be burpees, clubs would be crunches, spades would be triangles. Final goal to work up to – the entire deck completed without rest between sets.Shuffle the deck thoroughly – if you get an ace you would do 11 of that exercise, J/K/Q you would do 10 and then just follow the numbers from 10 – 2.For example; if the following 4 cards came up: Ace of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds, 3 of clubs, King of spades – that would be 21 burpees, 3 triangles and 10 crunches.

If we were to make it through the whole deck of cards that would be a total of 190 burpees, 95 triangles and 95 crunches – all completed without rest.

This is a slightly modified version of a routine I stole from an old boxing coach. Mine is better (or more evil) depending on your point of view.

I don’t think we’d make it through the whole deck on the first go of course, but it would be a cool thing to work towards. I figure if we’re able to sail through that at the end of the main part of the workout we’re in pretty good shape.

Did I mention I love burpees?…

Our big grapple party is this weekend as well! I’m spending the day cleaning the loft and giving the mats a good cleaning before our friends come over! It’s looking like it’ll be a great mix of friends from both gyms!

My new Fenom Gi also arrived a few days ago! I’ve already washed and sent the Kimono through the dryer once to shrink it slightly. The Fenom A1 gi is a little larger than my Red Star A1, but a more detailed review will be coming once I’ve run it through a few classes! On my first attempt at trying it on, it’s incredibly soft weave was definitely noticeable!

A Black Belt is…

A white belt that never gives up.

The first time I saw this quote scribbled on a whiteboard in R’s gym, I smiled to myself not knowing the implications this quote truly has.

I finally finished my last night shift this week and after a quick power nap, I grumbled as I reached over and tried to hit the snooze button on my phone. The pup was already trying to crawl into bed with me so I knew it was time to get up.

I spent about 15 minutes rolling around in bed contemplating whether I needed more sleep or if I should pack my bag and head off to the gym to train. It’s times like these that I have to overcome that self-doubt that I can ‘always train later’, or even ‘I’ll make up for it tomorrow.’ Instead of giving myself excuses I’ve found it’s best just to pre-pack my bag and don’t think about ‘why I should go’, but rather, ‘what am I going to learn today? What do I want to work on?’ Overcoming some of the struggles I’ve always had with confidence, dedication, emotional stability and mental focus are just a few of the things that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu help me to improve on.  The idea of never giving up is something I struggle with. In many aspects of my hobbies, I’ve always excelled in the initial excitement and passion. It’s the diligence that I lack. The very idea of not giving up scares me a little because I see the very few dedicated BJJ practitioners that move up in rank with each belt. The numbers thin out significantly for a variety of reasons. I don’t plan on being one of them.

Recovery phase complete!

I had to inadvertently take a recovery week as I was working insane hours last week at the hospital. I was away from the gym for an ENTIRE WEEK. It seems almost impossible to believe! Good thing R came over last week and trained a few hours with me. We mostly worked on technical points for my stripe test this weekend. Holy $hit.. that’s this weekend.

Considering I’ve never tested before, I’m a little (read: very) nervous about the whole event. Long blog post to come after the whole event perspires!

I have to say though, even with most of my injuries on their way to full recovery, I feel stronger, faster, and well rested. I tried to measure my resting heart rate last night and I’m around 55bpm again! Win! My heart is happier – I think.

I went to class last night and met up with N and we drilled attacks from guard and single leg takedowns. It was actually a great class to practice the cross collar choke and scissor sweep which are both on the stripe test this weekend.

Time to hit up the gym!

Another slow start

March has been a really slow start thus far. I had to miss out on training the whole week last week because I was working night shifts. There’s nothing that puts a damper on my mood than being sleep deprived, and being deprived of a sport I’m learning to love.

R made up for a lacklustre week in training by putting me through my paces twice last week. We trained on Thursday and threw another quick workout yesterday (Sunday). In addition, I also had the chance to roll with some friends at a big grappling event on Saturday night. So, I did get my grappling fix in this past weekend!

I had a bit of a discouraging morning on Sunday though. I came out of the shower and was slightly puzzled by the image in the mirror. I can’t say that I’m happy with the rate of improvement thus far. I haven’t lost any weight (still at a steady 130lbs) but the fat isn’t being converted to muscle fast enough. I think I over-estimate the amount of caloric intake my body really needs. I’ve been training consistently for about two months now and June is approaching faster than I anticipated. I’m not particularly vain about my looks, and I’m feeling pretty well-rested and healthy these days. It helps when I’m sleeping consistently of course, but the occasional naps are still a fairly regular occurrence. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I have to stop everything I’m doing and lie down for 15-30min in the mid afternoon every day just to keep at a healthy functioning level well into the evenings.

There’s stripe testing at the new gym at the end of the month, so that’s even more incentive to get going on the increased fitness regime. I’ve upped the cardio by putting in at least 1km swims in the mornings three times a week before BJJ class on days that there aren’t two classes back-to-back. I went this morning with a good friend who lives in my building and practically felt like dying after the first 700 meters. It’s really quite sad considering I swam competitively for 7 years of my life.  But nobody needs to know that… right? :P

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.



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. ;)


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