Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Open Mat, Open Mind

Open Mat (10/25/08 12:00pm)

After a full week of e-mailing back and forth Neil, Dr. Evil, and I met up at the open mat session on Saturday. We all had things we wanted to work on and it is just nice t0 be able to train with guys that you know you like and who are willing to help you learn.

I always enjoy training with Dr. Evil, for some reason he and I always seem pretty well matched, even though he ends up winning. Since Neil attends the 6:00am class I never have gotten to attend a class with him so it was great to be able to train with him too.

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.
Saturdays just feel very different than normal days. Much more relaxed. I feel like I learn more in a setting like that than I do in a normal class in some ways.

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.
On the extremely cool side, these are custom, pro-grade mouthguards which means they can put any kind of design on them. Of course I chose the Fleur-de-lis and my last name to celebrate my heritage! When I was trying to tell the guys what I wanted, they were confused and one of them finally said "oh...the St. Pierre symbol" yeah, that's it.
Here's their website:
Here is my draft design:

My Post on the Fightworks Podcast

Part of my weekly BJJ regimen is listening to the Fightworks Podcast. Its an Internet radio show that is all about BJJ and related issues.

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

Back to Earth

BJJ (10/22/08 6:00pm)

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.

Not So Epic

BJJ (Monday 10/20/08 6:00pm)

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

My Epic Night

BJJ (10/13/08 6:00pm)

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:


Scissor sweep
Pendulum sweep
Double ankle grab sweep
Oma plata sweep
Arm bar to sweep

And now for the submissions:

Arm triangle
Triangle Choke!
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

Number One

One of the most frustrating things about training BJJ for me is the fact that I love it. I sense the irony detectors going off, and for good reason. I’m not trying to be overly clever but here is the conundrum.

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.