Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So this was it. The last training of 2008. There were four of us on the mats today. Myself, hence the post, David (previously Dan/Dave) and Neil. Which reminds me, I forgot to mention why Neil failed to show up to train yesterday. It seems that somehow during rolling on Monday morning his toe got hurt and looks like it might have one of those pesky hairline fractures that we have all had. To use his words, yesterday it looked like he had a "sausage toe". Today the swelling had subsided enough and given way to bruising so, time to train.
We began warm-ups as normal. But today we were being led by Kazeka. Our head instructor, our coach, our general. After the "easy" part of warm-ups (where my brain malfunctioned yesterday) rather than heading to the wall for the traditional rolls, shrimps, monkeys and the like, our fearless leader had something else in store for us.
Kazeka announced that we would be doing "50/50's" meaning that the first fella would pick a type of push-up and we would do 50 of them, the next guy would pick a type of ab exercise and we would do 50 of those, then guy number three picks yet another push-up variant for 50 more reps of joy to lead us into guy number four's final 50 amorous abdominal adventures.
It went like this:
50 Standard push-ups
50 Push-ups with the hands making little diamonds
Kazeka stood there in a state of Schadenfreude, watching our bodies collapse. He asked "Was that enough or do you want to do one more round?" Being that we are not very bright and we were all feeling pretty gung ho, we said of course we want to do one more.
It went like this:
50 Kunckle push-ups
25 Kick-outs to the right 25 Kick-outs to the left
50 Side to Side push-ups
50 Banana boats (which ended up being about 70)
My arms are still like over cooked pasta as I sit here typing. I have NO upper body strength as it is, and this exercise in arm destruction was particularly brutal. But I love these days. We may all complain and cry, but really, who doesn't love to push and see just how much they can do?
Then we started training, wrecked bodies and all. Kazeka showed us wrist locks from a standing position. Starting when an opponent grabs your lapels (or shirt in a practical application) to secure the wrist with one hand, come behind the elbow with the other to apply pressure then with both hands drive that pressure into you to finish the lock.
This move was very reminiscent of my Japanese Jujutsu days. But in that training, we would have never let go of the wrist. I must admit that I have really come a long way in being able to "unlearn" what I have learned from other systems when int comes to my BJJ training. In the beginning I used to get hung up quite a bit between the way the Japanese art did things versus BJJ. Now, I have a deeper understanding of the "why" behind the "how" so it is a lot easier to just do it.
Kazeka then showed us how this wrist lock can be used from virtually any position. He showed it to us from the guard, from side control really anywhere that your opponent grabs on to you. I love this lock. Being on a quest to ever improve my guard game, this gives me yet another weapon to have at my disposal. One thing I loved when I was working with Neil from my guard on this was, if I would go for the lock and miss there was something else there.
There was an instance in going for the lock that it slipped and I had an Oma Plata. There was another time when going for it when if it failed I could have finished with a triangle. So many options. Its great to have another tool in my limited tool belt to pick from. It gives a bit of confidence that when I attempt something and it fails, not all is lost.
We worked on drilling this technique for the entire rest of the class. When we looked up it was already fifteen minutes past the scheduled end of class. David had already left. Neil and I told Kazeka, who had snuck behind the desk, that we needed to be getting on with the day. He came back to the mats, sat down and we all sat there for a few minutes having a pretty informal chat. One of those moments you typically don't get enough of with Kazeka. We sat and laughed, helped move some mats so that our new Octagon MMA cage can be properly set up by Monday, and called it a day; a year. No rolling, no epic battles. A pretty mild, relaxed day.
All and all, great way to spend the last class of the year!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Didn't sleep very well last night. BJJ on the brain. But I woke up surprisingly well rested and ready to roll. I was really focused on Jiu Jitsu this morning. Today I was prepared to let it all hang out when rolling. I was going to initiate, take chances, be loose and be aggressive. Basically, I was in a good place mentally. Lets head to class!
When I arrived at the gym, I noticed that Neil wasn't there. I figured that something must be wrong, we'll get to that later on. There were four other guys in the line up this morning plus Fritz and Carl leading us. The gym was a meat locker this morning. I like it on the cold side, so that's fine with me but its fun to watch the warm weather guys struggle.
We began warm-ups. Nothing out of the ordinary. Jogging, high knees, high heels, sideways, push ups, jumping jacks, jumping jacks to the front, jumping jacks kicking to the front, to the side, clapping under the legs, rotating wrists and ankles.......and then it happened. I realized that I couldn't see anything.
There goes my brain again, getting in the way. For those who don't know, I suffer from too many neurological conditions among them are Migraine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine) with Aura (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine_with_aura). The Aura precedes the onset of the pain phase of a migraine with delightful disturbances in vision that in my case look like geometrically formed lightening bolts across my field of view. It starts off small and gradually increases in size until it overwhelms the entire field of view. The fun part is that, you still see these lightening bolts with your eyes closed. Because its in the brain, not in the eyes.
So, I had to excuse myself from the mats, pop my rescue med (which is always in a handy container on my key chain) and sit in the cool, dark, heavy bag area with my head covered until my vision cleared up. How embarrassing. I hate it when my condition takes me away from doing things I love, but I hate it even more when it makes a spectacle of me. I don't want that kind of attention and when you tell people "I cant see" or "I'm getting a migraine" they don't understand.
When people hear the term migraine, they often think of the diluted word that is used by many to describe common headaches rather than sever clinical, neurological bombs. I am always fearful that people are lumping me into that group. That they don't understand the realities of my condition.
Anyway, there is one last training session for me in this year...I intend to make it count!!! My next post will be an account of that class. Following that post will be a recap of the year and a look at my goals for 2009!
Monday, December 29, 2008
So, being off for the week leads to some interesting opportunities. Normally I am hours into a long work day by 9:00am on a Monday, but today I was able to don my Kimono and hit the mats for BJJ class in lieu of my normal 6:00pm time slot.
Traditionally, I am not too much of a "morning athlete". The last time I attended an early class (6:00am a few months back) I was quite nauseous the entire time and had absolutely no gas. I am one of those people that just cant eat in the early morning, if I do I have a upset stomach all day long. No food before training = no energy for training; so do the math.
Fortunately, 9:00am doesn't seem to be too bad for my system. I'm used to riding my desk pretty vigorously by that time so what's a little added exertion?
It seems people are still taking holiday time off from training too. Neil and I made a pact to attend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 9:00am, this week to finish out the year strong. Besides the two of us there was one other guy I've never trained with and being that I am terrific with names, I'll venture a guess that his was Dan....or was it Dave.....whatever it was, he is one heck of a nice guy and was great to roll with.
We ran a perpetual motion drill for the entire class until it was time to roll. The drill was all about movement and it broke down like this:
Guy #1: Armbar from guard
Guy#2: Defends Armbar, stacks Guy#1, Passes to Side Control
Guy#1: Escapes side control to the knees, shooting taking Guy#2 down to Side Control
Guy#2: Escapes side control by hipping and regaining guard
Drill Repeats with Guy#2 now initiating the Armbar
We rotated among the three of us for a while until Blue Belt Carl came in to help out his brother Fritz (our Purple Belt Instructor); at which point Carl and I drilled. I love these perpetual motion drills because it really helps with the repetition that you need in BJJ.
In my never ending quest to get better at the guard, I started each exchange from the guard. Its great that everyone is always willing to let me pull when I put it out there. If I say "hey I'm working on my guard, do you mind if I pull?" I have never once had anyone disagree.
First I went with Dan/Dave and it was pretty good. I didn't pull of any of the sweeps or subs I went for but I was feeling pretty comfortable in looking for things and regaining control when my attempts failed.
Second was with Neil and his monkey-like strength. We had a pretty good roll going. Of course my guard game got sloppy and he passed like universal health care in an Obama administration. He got to mount, when I was hipping out of it he half got my back and sunk in a collar choke from the back. Thank god we drilled all those escapes a few weeks ago. I was able to weasel my shoulder in, turn into the choke and get into his guard.
Third I was with Carl who was awesome. He actually coached me into tapping him out. He showed me things as they were developing. He gave me new eyes while we were rolling. Showed me what I was missing and helped me recognize opportunities I was missing because I was too dang tired. THANKS CARL!!!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Neil and I met up for open mat on Saturday. The gym has limited hours during these holiday times so we decided to take advantage while we can. There were no normal classes on Saturday (i.e. No gi, Fitness Kickboxing) but instead open mat ran from 9:00am to 1:00pm. That's pretty awesome. Actually, I wish the open mat time was like that every week. I find that time invaluable because I really learn a lot in that environment.
Neil had said that he had wanted to learn from me so, that was interesting. Particularly because at times I feel like I don't really know anything!!! But as it turns out I had plenty of things to show him. He wanted to work primarily on sweeps from guard and on some side control escapes. Both of those are things that I always want to work on because of how practical and necessary they are.
We went over the pendulum sweep; he got that one down pretty well quickly. We also did the normal scissor sweep and thanks to my new Jiu Jitsu University book (Thank you Saulo Ribeiro) we worked on a nifty sweep from the guard that makes it easy to take your opponent's back. I love that book. It doesn't teach anything new and flashy but it sure puts the polish and perspective one things.
We reviewed different side control escapes and I helped him work on his phobia of being trapped in side control. This was good for both of us. I have always had a really strong side control so working with someone who is really wanting to learn to escape was beneficial for me in terms of positional awareness when I get it. Also, who doesn't hate being in side control? It sucks. So why not work on getting out of it whenever you can.
We did take some time and I taught Neil that choke the Doctor and I learned from Dennis during the last open mat. I was actually pulling it off pretty well this time. I like it now and I think I will be using it during rolling as situations arise.
We finished the session off with some specific drilling. Starting from guard, the other would try to pass while we would attempt to sweep, submit, retain guard or just survive. It went well. Neil did an awesome job. He tried out a nifty choke from inside my closed guard that worked surprisingly well, so we'll try that out some more and report back later.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Our head instructor Kazeka Muniz, besides being an all around bad ass, holds a black belt in Judo as well as his BJJ black belt. Not only is he belted, he's quite accomplished as a judo player. In fact, when I first started training with him (we were under the Gracie Barra banner) every Wednesday night was known by the guys as "Take-down" or "Judo" night because all we did on Wednesday were throws. Brutal, bone crushing throws.
Over time, the attendance at the Wednesday night classes started to dwindle, Kazeka was traveling to train Michael Bisping for his UFC fights, and not too many of the guys complained that they weren't being thrown on their heads any more. As a result "Judo Night" went by the wayside.
Well, last night we had a bit of a reprisal. When I got to the gym, the kids class was in full swing. And there they were, chucking each other over their shoulders like coffee farmers unloading gigantic sacks from the days harvest. I watched for a minute, the remembrance of "Judo Night" and my time spent at the Japanese Ju Jutsu school all began to flood back. I knew to take extra time in stretching out my back and preparing to RELAX.
So after a pretty intense warm-up we began the training. I think that Dr. Evil and I were probably the only guys in there who have been through Judo Night before. The rest of the class had never experienced the joys of being thrown over an opponents shoulder.
When I asked the Boss what the name of the particular throw we did was he said....."shoulder throw" and I let it go at that. When I looked up throws online, according to a couple of sites it seems that we were doing the Ippon Seoinage. Just a single shoulder throw.
The really cool thing was that I picked right up like I had been doing them the entire time. Kazeka even said "Perfect" a couple of times when he was watching me. That was pretty awesome. I''m hoping that Judo Night makes a comeback in 2009.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Dr. Evil agreed to meet me for open mat today. I really needed it. Unfortunately Neil couldn't be there because he had to attend a funeral. Sorry buddy, I'm thinking about you.
The Doc was wiped out from no gi prior to open mat and I am still fighting off the remnants of this cold. The congestion is suffocating me and the runny nose is irritating so after a few minutes it feels like we've been working for hours. That put us on pretty even footing for the session.
My goal was to work on my sweeps from the guard. Specifically, countering when an opponent attempts to pass. We began by warming up and reviewing the basics: Scissor, Pendulum, Sit-up, and the Doc showed me one that he always catches me in which is a variation of the pendulum.
The drills went well, we were both a bit drained for our own reasons. Toward the end of the session I asked the doc to just start trying to pass me and I would work to attempt sweeps, retain guard or submit. Basically, I wanted to be able to put some of these techniques to use in a "live" environment. Surprisingly, it went very well. Even when I didn't get the sweep I was able to come out on top in the scrambles that ensued. I remembered the Kimura option when your opponent defends the sit-up by posting forward, and I actually pulled it off!
Dennis, a strong blue belt showed us a vicious choke to pull off starting from the knees, standing or in a scramble. I don't even know how to explain it, and no one had a name for it, but this thing was brutal. Basically it involves snatching the head, shooting your own head and arm under, rolling yourself and your opponent over and ending up with a heck of a choke that resembles a clock-choke. We worked on this for about 15 minutes or so, until we were both hurt in one way or another, then went back to sweeps.
We were probably going at 80% or so, not for lack of trying, he was exhausted and I congested. Hopefully by Monday, I'll have lungs as clear as my mind and a body as strong as my willpower. Hey, I was pretty sick, I have to hope for small advances.
I think my next post will focus on my "GOALS" for 2009. I don't make resolutions, I have a systematic method for goal setting, so look for that to come. I'll be counting on all of you to help keep me accountable for attaining them.
Friday, December 19, 2008
This week, he came and he came to dominate. This dude was cold. No matter what I did, there he was. No matter what trick I tried to pull, he had a counter. Cool and calculating.
Now I never roll with emotion, never with fire and anger. But when I finally started to I could feel him melting underneath me for a moment. But alas, he was too massive, I was mounted in what seemed a blanket of white. The pressure was too much; I had to TAP.
That's right folks...SNOW, in the middle of the desert. Not just snow, a bunch of snow. I've lived here for, well, too long now and I've never seen it like this. Needless to say, we are not well equipped to deal with such conditions in California's high desert so getting to work let alone training is questionable. But hey, we only get a good snow day once a decade or so; might as well enjoy it.
Monday, December 15, 2008
This book is amazing. I'm a very visual learner and the level of detail they put into each principal and technique are astounding. I have a number of other books from various Gracie's and other superstars; while I by no means wish to disparage their work, this book is just head and shoulders over them. In my humble opinion anyway.
The content of the book is laid out in a logical progression from white to black belt and focuses on the foundational strategies at each belt level, rather than just technique. I understand that the Ribeiro's created this to be used as a textbook to accompany their school's on the mat instruction and I think that is just brilliant. That is something I have long wished for, and when I participated in Japanese Ju Jutsu, we did something similar.
Anyway I cant wait to be over this head cold, or whatever it is. Sniffles and sore throats are the worst things in the world (at least at the moment).
So at some point during the week, I get this text message from Dr. Evil which basically read "My kid wont be able to go to the Metallica concert with me on Friday night, do you want to go?". It took all of 45 seconds for that to process thru my internal mental computer.
Being a lifelong metalhead, its a shameful admission that I must make here to explain why this is such a big deal. I have never seen Metallica in concert before. I survived Jr. High and High School buried deeply in Master of Puppets and And Justice for All. Being a fan for so long and never seeing the band in concert when I live this close to LA is inexcusable. And today, while I have probably the most eclectic musical taste of anyone I know, I still consider myself a huge fan even after that dark time of disappointment called the 90's and early 0's in which the boys in the band gave us nothing worth listening to.
Now, how is this BJJ relevant? Why does it belong in my blog? Well, first off I think that of any this was a good reason to miss training on a Friday night. Secondly, how often do we really get to know the folks we roll with away from the mats? I know many of you out there might have a different experience than I do, but for me its pretty much; go to the gym, see the guys, catch up, roll, laugh a bit, go home....repeat.
Being able to hang out with a teammate outside of the gym was an interesting adventure. Interestingly, we only talked about BJJ for maybe a combined total of 15-20 minutes. Not too bad. Here's proof that BJJ can bring folks together with common interests and they don't have to only have BJJ to talk about.
One last note on relevance; what better to listen to when getting ready to train? Ok that might be a stretch, but hey the show was awesome. So thanks to the Doc, see you on the mats.
Here are the show Details:
Citizens Business Bank Arena
Here's the set list (A good mix of old and new):
That Was Just Your Life
The End Of The Line
Ride The Lightning
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Broken, Beat And Scarred
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
All Nightmare Long
The Day That Never Comes
Master Of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
- - - - - - - -
Stone Cold Crazy
Seek and Destroy
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
So I hit the mats again last night after my substantial bit of time off as of late. It was good to be back in the mix again. The old saying, you don't know how much you miss something till its gone, always seems to hold true.
Its so funny, back in the early and mid 90's when I was heavily involved with Tae Kwon Do I used to believe, as I'm sure many do, that BJJ was a sport full of cocky, arrogant, disrespectful brutes who didn't deserve the title of martial artist. I know that this misperception is false at its core and is often perpetuated by those with a vested interest in the "traditional" martial arts.
Over my last year of training, I have come to find that the people I train with are by far the nicest, most humble, selfless and respectful folks I have ever dealt with in any sport. These people truly become a family. When I returned last night, there were so many warm welcomes and people asking "where you been?" after only a week or two; compare that to the times in TKD when I could miss months without anyone noticing, unless of course I missed a payment!
So, training started off as always, with one notable exception. Kazeka was leading class from the beginning. It has been a long while since I have had an entire class lead by him. Normally he'll have Fritz warm us up or take over some aspect of the class, but not this one.
Warm ups with Kazeka can either be extraordinarily brutal or feel almost easy. Last night was an almost easy feeling with some difficult movements added in. A lot of handstand walks and other balance oriented movements.
Drilling focused on defending chokes from the rear when your opponent has his hooks in. The first one dealt with taking advantage of that cardinal sin, when the opponent crosses his ankles. I have actually used this one before actually "learning" it. I didn't make my opponent tap, but it did allow me to reverse to his guard.
We then learned rolling your opponent onto their back, plant your head on the mat, work your shoulder into the choke to nullify it and defend their opportunity to take mount. I felt that once that shoulder was in between the choke, I had a wide open path to start an escape and was able to scramble to side control most of the time if not half guard.
Rolling was awesome. I went with the Doc first, we had a good back and forth, I got to his guard, he swept to mount, I swept to his guard, passed to half, in the scramble got his back, then he turned out, more scramble, he got my back, and stalemate till time was called.
Kazeka had me sit out the next round.
The last round I went against a brand new wrestler kid with three classes in. I went nice and easy, took him to his guard, passed to mount in seconds, let him upa me over to my guard (cause I wanted to work on my sweeps). I pulled off a pendulum first, got to mount, threatened the collar choke, let him escape again, next I did a scissor sweep, started working for an armbar, lost my own balance, in the scramble I just pulled guard, and actually pulled off a sit-up sweep. I’ve NEVER gotten that one before. I just never have the explosiveness or the timing. So big surprise.
Pretty good night. I’m a bit sore, needless to say, since I haven’t trained in weeks but it was good to be back on the mats with the mindset that I can do what I can do and I wont stress about how much or how little that might be this time of year.
Monday, December 8, 2008
With the stressful year end schedule at work, combined with the normal abnormalities that this time of year brings, I figured that I deserved a little bit of slack. I knew going into this week that a normal rest/recovery schedule would not be possible and that if I threw training into the mix I might just end up on my butt by the end.
I resigned myself to the fact that at this time of year there are many times when total control is a luxury that I cannot afford. Isn't that something that BJJ teaches us anyway? To learn to pull when pushed; to roll with the flow until we find that optimal situation? So, this week I hung up my Kimono, put the focus on the other aspects of my life. My wife and I even went to a concert to see her favorite band. We didn't get home till about 1:30am on Tuesday night so just imagine how difficult that would have been to get virtually no sleep, work a full day and then go train. Rather than add to the mental stress, I allowed myself to take the time off.
And the result of this week away? Well, we'll see. I'll be back on the mats tonight. I'm sure that my cardio will suffer and that rolling will be much more difficult than when I was last on the mats but I can assure you that I will be excited to be back. I miss the gym when I'm away, but that's not to say that I don't enjoy myself outside of there either. Oh, that elusive balance.
The rest of this month I'm sure will prove just as problematic for me from a training perspective. I will probably be luck to squeeze in one or two sessions this week and next, and that's it, the year is virtually over. So when I hit the mats tonight and every time "this year" I will do so with the mindset that I am doing the best I can with the circumstances I am in, Sure I would like to roll more or make more gains before the new year but I will be content to remember that I am doing something love in spite of the impositions that life is making along the way.
Wish me luck tonight!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Last week was a challenging one to say the least. Between the news from my neurologist and the hectic pace at work we had to keep up in order to ensure a holiday could in fact take place, no training at all was able to commence. Anyone who knows me, knows that this is problematic as my general mood and my subsequent performance upon returning suffer.
Luckily, my co-worker and open mat partner Neil told me that he heard open mat would go on as scheduled in spite of the holidays. At least that's what the guys behind the desk had told him. But we'll get to that. So after copious amounts of Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos and all the other good stuff that comes with good ol' American style Thanksgiving, it was good to have a light bit of rolling on Saturday to look forward to.
After texting back and forth Neil, Dr. Evil and I were all committed and eager to attend Open Mat. Side note: what's the deal with texting? I understand chicks do it, and I can only assume its because they really don't want to talk to each other. But when guys use it, even though I'm guilty at times, I just don't get it. At least there's no, LOL, TTFN and all that garbage. With my friends the only acronym we use is MPH, when we're bailing from training.
So I arrive at the gym about ten minutes early. I decided to sit in the truck, listen to the radio, finish my coffee and wait for Neil and the Doc to show up. As I sat there, I received a text from the doc which basically said "MPH" and he's not showing. That's cool, we've all been there, at least Neil's coming.
He showed up and we headed inside. The front of the gym was dark. Light and banging noise greeted us from deep in the back. We pensively walked in foot by foot, then Angel emerged no doubt surprised to see us. "Dudes, were closed today" he said. Neil, immediately said "But Tom said...."; and Tom overhearing this reacted with...."Yeah, I was misinformed" , which in Tom speak means "Sorry guys, my mistake, I hope I didn't inconvenience you too much".
So we left. Walking past the wide, open, mats; longing to be rolled upon. Outside we stood. Still suffering from tryptophan poisoning, yet feeling dejected. Sure, we could have left there and sought other ways to work out, but of course that didn't happen. There is always the next week to conquer!
Went to see "Four Christmases" this weekend. Besides being rather unfunny, it calls MMA "Human Cockfighting" two or three times and the portrayal of the redneck fighter (the normally funny Jon Favreau) would have been better served by actually performing a Triangle rather than the absurd maneuver he applies in the film. Come on Hollywood, do better.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
For those who don’t personally know me, which is pretty much everyone who reads this blog, there is another dimension to life that I have dealt with off the mats. I have suffered with migraine headaches for most of my life. They began to occur at about the age of thirteen and they continue today.
My condition is referred to as Migraine with aura, because immediately preceding the pain, I experience a disturbance in my field of vision that is still there even with my eyes closed. This aura is caused when a part of the brain shuts down because the neurotransmitter levels are so out of whack it just needs to reset. Over the course of thirty to forty-five minutes my vision returns to normal and the pain slowly fades in.
Luckily there are now medications that help to abort the migraine, provided I am able to take it immediately at the first sign of aura. When the medication works (about 80% of the time) by the time my vision clears, I am left with a really bad headache and not a full blown migraine. A vast improvement!
On September 21, 2006 however my condition took an interesting turn and my migraine presented in a wholly different way.
It was a Friday morning, I was getting ready to drive down to Anaheim for the graduation ceremony for my MBA. This was to be a great day. All my hard work was paying off. As I was getting ready, printing maps on the Internet, my wife asked me how I wanted my eggs cooked……I couldn’t answer her.
Something was terribly wrong, I could think of the words, but when I tried to speak it was gibberish. When I tried to write, it was a scribble. This was the day I was to receive my Masters Degree and I could not communicate. It was absolutely terrifying.
In short I experienced a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) in which blood is cut off from a section of the brain for a just a short amount of time. TIA is normally caused by a blood clot traveling thru the system and getting caught up briefly in one place where it blocks the flow momentarily. In my case, it was the spasms in the brain caused by my Migraine condition that actually pinched off the blood vessels.
Luckily, the effects of TIA are generally temporary. And in this case, I was just fine by the end of the weekend. I am now on medication to try to keep Migraine and TIA at bay but I have had a total of 5 TIA’s (none of the subsequent being as bad as the first) because the understanding behind the why and how of such neurological conditions remains largely a mystery.
When I saw my neurologist again for a follow-up on Monday afternoon, I received a piece of news from him that, while not surprising, still gave me a moment of pause. I had always had some quirky ticks. I spoke to the Doc about these things and he casually said, “Well, yeah…you have Tourette’s” like it was something that I should have already known as a fact. He explained how I have a very mild case and he also explained that there is a substantial link between Migraine and Tourette Syndrome.
As I said, I had always kind of suspected, but it still caught me off guard. When I asked him about my BJJ training specifically (something I had never done), his advice was to take things easily, not to allow myself to get overly exerted and to tap quickly on blood chokes.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Now it took some time for me to finally settle in and download his XML file of recommended Blogs but once I did, I was hooked. Every day when I open up Google Reader, I have access to a world of my peers; like minded individuals who share the same struggles as I across each corner of the globe.
It was inevitable that I would begin to submit my own words to this world, and to my pleasant surprise I found my humble little Blog being accepted into Caleb's XML along with all of the others I read and anticipate. We share our struggles, we share our strengths; your insights have helped me along my journey and I hope to do the same one day.
If anyone would like to nominate this small project of mine for "The Fightworks Podcast Blog of the Year" I have included the link below. This is a very new blog and I harbor no illusions of receiving a nomination and I know the league of competition that is out there; because I am a fan.
Here is the Link
BJJ Blog of the Year 2008 Contest
Monday, November 17, 2008
Its been a while since I've had a Monday night come and I've been able to get to class unabated. Finally, it happened. After the rather disappointing week I had just concluded, I really need to start this one off well. One thing that was helping to keep my spirits up was the fact that I was bringing in some new blood to the academy that night.
John, a guy from work, who had recently transferred in from Florida attended the 6:00 class tonight. He had about seven months experience at a Rickson affiliated school in Florida so he is not completely new to the sport. I'm happy to bring him and happy to have another office monkey with whom to talk about my other world.
Warm ups were the same as always. But this time I survived and felt no ill-effects. I don't know what happened to me on Thursday of last week but it seems to be out of my system now.
Technique focused on my old friend the pendulum sweep. I like this sweep because it has actually worked for me. I am not effective at sleeve control, so when I pull it off situationally I tend to control a cross lapel or an underhook, but isn't that the essence of BJJ, to adapt the techniques to suit your particular strengths?
We did guard pass / submit-sweep drills for our rolling portion. I passed the guard on my first attempt. Did very well actually. Then I decided to work on my spider guard with a considerably larger opponent. I did pretty well and kept a stalemate for a long time till he finally broke thru. After a few more rounds, and of course getting caught in a triangle, I passed again by stacking on a failed armbar attempt.
All in all great night. My co-worker was relegated to Upa's but had a great time. He told me that he needs a while to bring his conditioning back, and I know we can all relate to that!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This week seems to fit right into the theme of this Blog. My school has BJJ class at 6:00 - 7:00 on M,W,F and then at 7:00-8:00 on T, Th. Because I get up so early for work and don't get much sleep as it is, I like to do the 6:00 classes and get home. So most weeks, my plan is to attend the M,W,F classes and to augment my BJJ training on those days with one of the fitness kickboxing or wrestling classes at 6:00 on Tuesday or Thursday. At least that's the plan.
For the last couple of months, I have been involved in an after-hours training class at work that is supposed to take place on Tuesday afternoon from 4:00-6:00, thereby taking that day out of my rotation. That I can live with.
What is bothersome is the fact that, because there are only about 5 people in the class, and it is very informal there have been many occasions, including this week, wherein because of the instructor's scheduling conflicts the class has been moved to Mondays or Wednesdays. This week it was Wednesday.
Monday (11/10/2008) I had a meeting late in the afternoon that kept me in the office too late to make it to the gym. Tuesday, similar story. We are working through many issues that typically arise in the Aerospace industry at a typical year end plus numerous other special case scenarios that are guaranteed to make the next few weeks interesting. Wednesday we had our class that ran its full time all the way to 6:00, so three days down, and no training!!!
Thursday came about and I made the decision that even though I never attend the 7:00 class, it is better than the alternative of no training for the week! I packed my gi, and made sure that nothing would inhibit my getting to class.
Class started, there were only about 8 of us. We did a normal warm-up but I was feeling more drained than normal. Fritz (our Purple Belt) was teaching that night, I could tell he was tired. Right after warm ups, he just had us start rolling rather than drilling a technique.
My first roll was with Ruben, a very strong guy with good technique. I did relatively well with him, I was working on my guard preservation and recovery. I was able to work some of the proper half-guard positioning we had recently learned but Ruben proved very adept at countering and passing.
After my roll with Ruben, I was just about spent. I began rolling with a pretty new guy that I don't know yet. I had a pretty easy time with him and went light. Then I began to feel it. My stomach began to turn. I was not feeling well at all. I lost all my gas at once and felt my insides rising. It affected me to the point that this new kid nearly took my back and in the process got to mount. At that moment I knew the end was near. I laid on a basic Upa sweep, got into his guard. Told him "we are done", and ran off the mats toward the locker room.
It was not the first time I've lost it in training, but it was one of the more frustrating. Having been out of training all week and to have it end like that was just demoralizing. I'm taking Friday off, I'll do a strength and conditioning workout at home to recover.
Back to the mats on Monday!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
At the beginning of this year, I began a journey. As I describe below, I was losing a battle with my weight. Thanks to BJJ, I have turned the tide and no longer feel defined by my belly. The following post was originally submitted back in March 2008 on ProElite.com. I entered it in the Type in or TapouT writing contest for a chance to get published in TapouT magazine (hence the MMA emphasis). To my surprise, I placed third nationally losing out ultimately to someone who was able to interview a pro fighter.
Since I wrote this original post, I have maintained the weight loss. Which I am very pleased about. It has been 8 months and I am at about 163-165 depending on the day. I feel that I'm at a decent weight but I could still stand to shed that last little bit. That's why I decided to post this now. I'm setting a goal to see what I can do if I rededicate myself from here to year end. I have been in a maintenance mode, which has been very easy, so stepping it up to hit the goal should be attainable. Especially with a very public accountability system, like weekly updates here.
I don’t want to fight Chuck Liddell or Tito Ortiz. Wanderlei and Shogun would kill me. What the hell am I doing? These were perhaps some of the most motivating thoughts I have ever had.
Now the reality is that I will never be in a position where facing off against the premier light heavyweights in the world is possible, but imagining that it could happen has helped me to reach some substantial personal goals, on my way to even more.
Near the end of 2007, I was sitting in my house one morning during the Christmas break. Like many Americans, I was on the couch shoveling copious amounts of fatty, calorie loaded foods down my gullet. In a moment of feeling particularly lethargic I decided to fish the scale out of my bathroom cabinet and see just where I stood.
To put things into perspective, I am thirty two years old and stand 5’7”. I used to compete in Tae Kwon Do tournaments and was generally in great shape. The last decade or so has seen me working in jobs that are less than physical. Years of working in a stressful industry, getting no exercise, and gorging myself on the worst possible foods had culminated in a belly could shade groundhogs and prevent
spring from coming in on time.
I plopped myself on the scale and beheld a number that at first made me think the scale was broken or out of calibration. It has been years since I was actively participating in Tae Kwon Do and walked around in the 150 range, but I can’t possibly be that much heavier, can I?
That dastardly digital display read 195. “I’m only 5’7” and I’m almost 200 pounds”. Shit. When did this happen? I used to be in shape, I used to be thin and healthy. When did I turn into this? Why didn’t I see what was happening and why didn’t I do anything to stop it?
Being a rabid MMA fan for years, I found myself immediately putting my girth in perspective. I thought about the fact that if I were to be dropped into the octagon right at that moment, I would have to face someone like Chuck Liddell or Tito Ortiz. I would weigh in at light heavyweight and be forced to go up against guys that are well over six feet tall and in incredible shape. Those guys exemplify what 200 pounds should look like, not me.
From that moment on I decided to make the commitment to get down to 150 pounds so I could face off against guys like KenFlo, BJ and Spencer Fisher without cutting weight and with notice, I could cut down to the realm of Uriah Faber. The ass whooping would be no less violent or humiliating but at least the guys would be
in relative proportion to me.
I had signed up as a member at the Gracie Barra school in my area two months earlier in October but had not gone in 2 months because I was out of shape and embarrassed at how hard it was for me to get through the warm-ups let alone the entire session. I knew that any plan to get back in shape would have to include things that I love, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA.
I sat myself down and made a plan. First I looked at my diet and cut out all of the crap. I dedicated myself to breaking my Dr. Pepper addiction and abandoning all the “foods” that had gotten me where I was. I began to focus on lean proteins and fresh fruits and veggies.
With my diet under control, I thought about how I could ensure that I was getting the exercise I needed. I formulated a plan to have my gi clean and ready to go daily so no matter how late I got off of work, I could still make it to the gym and get my butt kicked.
I purchased a new home gym system for strength training and to augment my Jiu-Jitsu and MMA workouts. In my weight room I put up photos of Chuck, Tito, Shogun and Wanderlei. Being able to see these guys as I worked out helped me to keep my goals visualized and to remind me that the faster I got myself out of their weight class, the better. The beginning of the year came quickly, and I felt that I was ready for the challenge.
Monday, January 7 2007 was my official starting day. A quick check on the scale in the morning confirmed that I was still a light heavyweight at 190 pounds. I began eating the way I had planned and got myself to the gym for my first Jiu-Jitsu session in more than two months. I was terrified.
Kazeka Muniz, my Gracie Barra head instructor is a phenomenal trainer who has recently worked with and cornered fighters like Michael Bisping. As it turned out Kazeka was away working with professional fighters, getting them ready for fights. But the school is world class and every instructor is amazing. That first night back was brutal and I thought I wouldn’t make it through a few times.
When it was over, I was so excited on the way home. I knew that I would hurt like hell the next day but that pain meant I was closer to my goal. Since that first night back, I have not missed more than two nights in a row and have received my first promotional stripe.
I started losing weight at a good pace. I weigh myself every Monday and by the 21st of January I had reached a milestone, 185. That day I changed the pictures on my wall. I was now a middleweight. I hung pictures of Rich Franklin, Dean Lister and Anderson Silva. And who wants to fight Anderson Silva when their out of shape? Great motivation.
I continued doing things they way I have been and on February 25th I reached Welterweight. Changing the wall yet again to reflect my new weight class, GSP, Matt Hughes and Matt Serra became my new training partners. With a new focus and a noticeably changing body, I pressed on.
It is now early March and I am down to 165. I am ten pounds away from light weight and 15 away from my goal. I have started searching for my last round of photos to help me reach my 150 pound goal. Knowing that I can achieve my goals when I set my mind to it, create a plan and persevere has done wonders for me. I have added another goal to the list. I want to begin competing in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and I know now that I can do it. My overall health has improved, my cardio ability is off the charts compared to when I started and most importantly, I am having a great time.
I give all the thanks to my trainers and teammates at Gracie Barra and to the MMA fighters who have adorned my wall to keep my focused on what I was doing. My wife Sheri has also been an unbelievable source of inspiration and support, without her I probably would have slipped in my diet or skipped a class here and there. She keeps me honest and is helping to keep me healthy. I’ll report again when I hit 150.
Wish me Luck!
*P.S. to avoid confusion KnuckleUp West Coast used to be Gracie Barra SoCal
I've mentioned before about how rolling with Dr. Evil brings out the best in me for some reason. Well, I've noticed that this is a good thing and a bad thing.
During the open mat session I described below a similar phenomenon occurred that tends to arise when the Doc and I train together. Even when drilling a technique, if one of us is feeling too much space or an opportunity to escape, we'll take it. We both learn this way. The person executing the technique learns what they are doing wrong and where to tighten up and the escapee, learns how to keep their wits about them and look for opportunities.
Now on its face, this is just fine. But the Dr. and I don't stop there. We tend to let that escape move to a counter then another, then another and so on. Next thing you know its a full blown roll. All the while, this could be happening when neither of us are wearing mouthguards, because we are only drilling technique and not rolling.
The funny thing is, the Doc and I are probably two of the least aggressive guys in the gym. We don't go after each other with aggression, we both acknowledge that we bring out the best technique in each other. We just need to learn to control that excitement and keep it from growing to a crescendo like we do now. Its rare to find a really good training partner who is like minded, so self control is so much more important when you do.
We left that mat on Saturday, we were both bleeding from one or two places. I had a bruised cheekbone from an inadvertent punch in the face (he was reaching for the lapel and MMA instinct took over). Walking out of the gym we were both smiling saying "thanks so much for coming today, I wasn't going to come if you didn't". What other sport in the world can make you look forward to that?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
As things would have it, this week I was also relegated to just training on Monday evening and on Saturday Open Mat. Needless to say this is not nearly enough! At the office I am in the middle of a mandatory, non-mandatory (if that makes any sense) after hours training course that takes place after hours. This class normally takes place on Tuesdays but as luck would have it, this week it was moved to Wednesday, one of my primary BJJ nights.
When I got to open Mat, the gym was empty. There was nobody there except for Playboy and Angel behind the desk. Thats it. I was fearful that the place was closed down for improvements or maybe the MMA cage had finally come in and was being installed. Nope, it was just a nice Saturday morning that must have kept everyone in their other lives. Before I had arrived, Dr. Evil had texted me to let me know that he was running late so I thought that I would have to wait for a while to work out.
Luckily, there was a brand new guy at the gym named Darren(sp?) he had shown up to watch the open mat session while I was warming up aimlessly, waiting for the Doc to arrive, I told Angel to find Darren a Kimono so I could show him some of the day 1 basics. I started with Upas, showing him that all familiar escape we all learn. We did a perpetual motion drill that had him escaping from my mount rolling into my guard where I would get to practice my scissor or pendulum sweep to get back to mount...and repeat.
When Dr. Evil arrived we worked with Darren on basic cross collar chokes and the Americana. The Doc also showed me a side control armbar and Kimura transition that is very similar to a knee on belly we learned a few weeks ago.
This was great. It really helped me to remember the basics and teaching them to someone is always the best way to learn. I told Darren to really resist the best he could when it was my turn to sweep. Even though he did not know "BJJ" he knows he doesn't want to be hurled over. I really learned a lot about my own technique and what works for me during this time.
We did some very light game oriented "rolling". I hesitate to call it rolling but for lack of a better word, that's what I'll go with. I started on my back with Darren in the mount his goal was to try to get the cross collar choke or Americana while my objective obviously was to escape & preferably submit.
Now Darren is a giant compared to me. He's probably at least 6' tall, extraordinarily strong with great big hands. I am not. The amazing thing about BJJ is how it neutralizes these differences when we hit the ground. While I am smaller and weaker, my little bit of technique led me to victory in every situation. I really needed this reinforcement that I have improved after some of the frustration I've had lately.
This was great session even though there were only three of us on the mats. I hope Darren keeps on coming.
Monday, November 3, 2008
One of the major issues I have been working thru is my mat anxiety. I love to roll, I love learning things, even when I’m getting my butt kicked and I don’t do anything right. When I’m going I’m willing to keep going until I’ll puke. My problem is that I have such anxiety about rolling beforehand. I’ll get nervous all day worrying about it to the point that when it comes, I get stuck in my head and I know it limits my performance.
I have been using many tools common in sports psychology to help me to overcome this problem. Today, rather than fixate on the prospect of free rolling and the potential to get dominated I set my mind to focus on a specific goal and an overall strategy instead.
During last week's open mat session, I tried a triangle set-up that seemed to work pretty well for me. I decided that I would make it a goal to at least attempt this same triangle in a "live" situation. I also committed to focus on a strategy of working on my guard game, focusing on sharpening my sweeps, hip movement and opponent posture control. Every time my mind started to wander into that obsessive and nervous place I pulled it back and focused on my strategy and goal for the night instead.
We drilled half guard sweeps and I can finally say that I am starting to become a bit more comfortable in half guard. I am able to really crunch into a tight ball so I find that I can be pretty elusive and hard to deal with in that position.
We did round robin Pass / Sweep or Submit drills. To my delight, Fritz called me to start on my back, which never happens. As luck would have it, Dr. Evil was my first opponent. Instead of being nervous like normal, I was focused on executing the strategy and obtaining the goal that I had set earlier in the day.
As soon as we started I executed my game plan and set-up the triangle as I had seen in my head. Before I knew it I had it locked in and was using my left hand to break the Doc's base. During the scramble, I was able to use the triangle as a sweep and finish from the mount. This was not just a victory on the mat but a victory in my own mind.
Don't worry about the Dr., he got his revenge a couple of rounds later by sweeping me like I was a bag of feathers making me look like I had no guard passing skills whatsoever!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
We had a good session. I was able to show Neil some sweeps I know and that helped me to understand them better myself. We worked a little from every position and just sharpened skills in general. The Dr. showed us an armbar transition for when the scissor sweep fails that was pretty nifty.
This Saturday the guys from Unbreakable Mouthpieces were at the gym taking dental impressions for their professional mouthguards. They were offering a discount for all of the students at KnuckleUp. Since I've already had a minor tooth chip and gone through the hassle of getting it fixed I figured that it might be a good idea. The only downside was that it took away from some of my open mat time.
Recently the host, Caleb, put out a call to listeners for stories about how Jiu Jitsu helps us while away from the mats. He wanted people to call in and leave a message, but anyone who knows me knows that making phone calls during the day is nearly impossible for me so I sent him an e-mail instead. To my delight Caleb posted my e-mail to his website as an example of what he was looking for from listeners. Here is the link:
Here is the full text of the post:
I understand that if one thinks long and hard enough they can weave a metaphor relating anything to anything, but I believe the following is true from what I have observed. It may be cliché but that is only because it is true.
I work in the aerospace industry here in Southern California. The industry as a whole can be a very competitive and at times cutthroat environment.
BJJ has taught me to seek and secure position first. In business I see. all too often, colleagues make moves prematurely when they were not in the proper position to do so. I’m not speaking necessarily of position in the sense of job title or rank but more in a state of overall preparedness or mindset.
I’ve seen very competent people throughout the industry self destruct at key moments because they were not in the proper position. They might have been in the right place; they had passed to side control for instance, but they were sloppy and consequentially, they were the one to get swept or submitted.
I have learned this lesson all too well, on and off the mats. Seek and establish position first. In business, be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves or for when you can make them happen. It may take years of attempts to pass the proverbial guard in a situation at the office but when it happens, you had better be prepared to get and secure the position.
Of course the next lesson is to seek the submission. I don’t mean this in the 1987 “Wall Street” corporate raider sense. But in business, just like on the mats, there must be an objective to what one is doing or what is the point? If a business functions as a lazy grappler and only plays defense, sure it may avoid chokes or submissions but it will certainly lose in the end.
Once position is gained, that is the time to use all of that preparation to attain the desired end. On the mats it’s a choke or a joint lock, while in business its fighting for a new contract or a promotion or insert desired outcome here.
But I think overwhelmingly the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from BJJ that has proven to be the most practical in my career is knowing when to let a move go. As grapplers we are all guilty of pride and at times we have all held on to a submission attempt that we didn’t quite have for too long. While a small percentage of the time, against inexperienced opponents, we succeed; most of the time doing so is to our detriment. Again, I have been guilty in my own career of clinging to pet projects that were destined to be failures for far too long. BJJ has taught me to know when an attempt is not working and when it is time to switch to another attack.
BJJ has done so much for me in so many other ways but without writing an entire book, it would be impossible to expound on all of them. BJJ has made me lose weight, gain focus and find myself; all while in the company of great people, what more could one ask for?
Thanks for the exposure Caleb!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Did anyone feel a sudden decrease in air pressure last night? In the gym, windows were cracking, ears were popping, people were passing out from asphyxia, even light started to disappear never to be seen again. Why? Because I was sucking. Bad. What a horrible night. My new BJJ nickname should be black hole. Even I couldn't escape my own suck. I was so bad I made week-old sushi look good.
My first roll was with a guy who is bigger and much stronger. Gorilla strong. I was on defense from the start. I managed to get to half guard from his mount and at one point coach was yelling at me pretty intensely. He kept pointing out how I was doing everything wrong, and by his voice and the words he chose I could tell he was pretty frustrated. But I think the most embarrassing thing was the fact that he was calling me by the wrong name. Since my head was buried, he thought I was someone else.
Second roll was with a guy who I always do well with. Decent roll, no real complaint.
Third. I finally got a taste of Coach's wrath. From across the room, he grabs this new guy, with a Mohawk, a gi top, and gym shorts; points at me and says you will go with that guy now. I figure, great he sees that I’m sucking and he knows I cant hang so he’s sending me a newb because I’m tired and having a bad night. Awesome. Way to go Jay.
Then the roll began.
And it became apparent that Coach was not being kind to me. This guy was an animal. Freakin wrestler. And a good one. He had my back in seconds. I was defending a rear naked for minutes. Thankfully he had no technical skill and I managed to get back to his guard. The only satisfaction I had was when I managed to stack pass him, unintentionally hurting him in the process (he's not too limber yet).
All in all, pretty frustrating night.
It has been too long since I've been able to train with any consistancy. It felt good to get back on the mats tonight. I have to admit, all day long I was nerveous about getting back to class and how I would fare.
Coach was back from Europe and was in rare form. He is always intense but tonight he seemed extra agitated. Either way, it was good to have him back in the gym. Training focused on shifting from full guard to a version of butterfly and a sweep from there. It was the first time I've seen butterfly taught in the gym so I was excited to be learning it.
When it came time to roll, I went with Ruben first. He certianly hasnt lost any strength since I've been off the mats. He is always so powerful. He tapped me with a ezekel choke a couple of minutes in but that was it. The rest of the time, I was scrambling and playing defense, but against Ruben, I consider that a win.
The next roll was with a guy whose name I can't remember. He is a very good wrestler. Man, mat rust is horrible. Cardio is ok but I feel like I have no strength, or speed, or technique. Epic night this was not.
Hopefully, things are returning to normal. I plan to be back on the mat this Wednesday. We'll see; the best laid plans and all.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
It was like a lightning strike, or perhaps something more special. A singular shining moment in which the grappler I know I can be finally started to peek out through the one that I am. This was a night that made me almost want to hang up my belt, though it is white with only one stripe, because I felt like it will probably be a very long time, if ever, till I have another like it.
It was October 13 2008. I had not been able to train as much as I would like to because of work (hence the new blog) and because on September 19, my Father-in-Law passed away. My wife had served for the past couple of years as his primary care giver, and they had grown closer than ever in that time. I like to think that my success in training this night was due to my dedicating it to him. Before I took the mat that night I was thinking of him because this was my first time back since his passing. So silently I said “This one’s for you Al”
That night, I had the best night of my BJJ career to date. Below is the list of everything I pulled off:
Double ankle grab sweep
Oma plata sweep
Arm bar to sweep
And now for the submissions:
Gi Choke from Mount
Rear Naked Choke!
It was awesome. All that and I didn't even feel that good. Being in my 30’s and a pencil pusher who doesn’t get to train nearly enough, any time away from the gym takes its toll when I get back on the mats. I hardly ever pull of a submission and these were not against chumps, these were against good guys that I train with all the time. And as far as sweeps go forget it; I never even go for sweeps. I actually played offense and had a good ol' time. I like to think that my epic night was my father-in-law’s way of thanking me and saying goodbye. Thanks Al, I miss you.
Monday, October 20, 2008
BJJ is a difficult, demanding sport. In order to make any significant progress, one must spend time on the mats. Ironic point number one, many good schools are expensive thus requiring their adult, paying, members to dedicate themselves equally to their chosen professions.
I have reached a point in my career wherein I am often at the office much longer than the requisite number of hours daily; sometimes at the end of those days the computer comes home with me to continue working. This is just the nature of my industry. I have made a good living for my wife and I even if it means we only see one another for a couple of hours a day during the week. Which, needless to say, is not nearly enough time!
Throw my BJJ addiction into this mix and you can begin to understand my frustration. Hence, Grappling with Life. I plan to use this space to record insights that I gain from my training, to vent on occasion when life gets in the way and to hopefully keep myself centered.