Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2 Hours and 5 Rolls

(11/3/09 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing
(11/3/09 6:00pm) BJJ


Renee taught the class again tonight. And again, the "warm-ups" were rough. We started off with what I think were 50 squats before we started jogging. The warm-up period is always difficult and leaves me doubting that I will be able to push thru and finish. Particularly when we do sprints down the long sides with shuffles around the short ends. That little delight feels like it lasts for an hour and a half but I am willing to bet it is only like two minutes.

We worked some different combinations on the heavy bags tonight, which was a nice change. Over the past few weeks my left hook has been getting pretty strong and tonight we worked hooks on both sides and now my right seems to be catching up.

The end of the class was pretty mild as compared to normal. The ab work, though a lot of reps, was not too extreme and only included a handful of the normal torturous exercises. At the conclusion I went to the locker room to change and get ready for Jits.


I hit the mats just as the warm ups were hitting the to-the-wall and back phase. I looked around, saw Dr. Evil but someone was conspicuously missing. Where the hell is Neil. Ok enough of a jab at him for not showing up. I hope the Big Mac was worth it buddy!

We drilled a spider-guard pass. For this one, we gripped the pants, on the inside, shook off their foot-to-biceps control one arm at a time. You then drive one leg to the ground, never letting it go till you obtain stable side control. With the other hand you shoot under the free leg, drive your head to their thigh and reach back grabbing the belt to prevent escape. You then walk around, passing the trapt leg and establish side control. This was pretty nifty and I actually pulled it off twice in rolling. That is great for me because I typically suck at getting past spider.


My first round was with Paul, a big guy tipping the scales at 240+. Big, strong guy. I did pretty well against him. To my surprise, I was able to negate a lot of his strength. I even got to mount and threatened a choke by the end of the round.

Second round was with Dr. Evil. As always we had a see-saw battle. The first half I was in control and even caught him with a wrist lock from on top in side control. But then, I started to gas. As he later pointed out to me, this was like minute 116 of training for me so it is understandable. We finished out the round with him taking my back.

Third round was with Sarge (Ruben). Traditionally Sarge would always take my back right off the bat. This time though I did pretty well with my wrestling and even managed to win an exchange. Sarge is very strong and surviving his constant onslaught felt good.

Fourth was with Ian, our resident phenom. He would instantly trip me up with his slick spider-guard entries and I would be on defense from the start. He choked me from various positions in many different ways. At the end of the round he said something that I am going to try to remember. He said that when being attacked, you need to respond right away; when attacking, you can take your time and wait for openings. On defense I tend to wait for small mistakes or opportunities and sometimes I get too patient till I don't have anywhere to go any longer. So thanks for the advice Ian.

Fifth round was back with Paul. I was doing well again till I missed on a guard pass, got caught in an oma plata sweep attempt and rolled into the wall. Once trapt I was pretty well stacked and with his weight bearing down, I felt something in my left ribs pop. I verbally tapped and sat out the rest of that round (about a minute). The rib is just fine now, but at the time it really took my breath away.

Great night of training. I seemed to hold up pretty well with the double work-out. Just need to keep it going.

Death to the Fat Kid

No offense to any actual fat kids out there. I am not talking about you. This post is about me personally and is not intended to portray any other fat kids real or fictional.

About one year ago I wrote a post in which I talked about having lost 30 pounds (195 to 165) and that I was 15 pounds from my goal of 150 (http://grappling-with-life.blogspot.com/2008/11/changing-weight-classes.html). Since that time I have had some...challenges. I had a couple of strokes at the beginning of this year that kept me off the mats, followed by the diagnosis and surgery to repair a hole in my heart.

All in all the first half of the year was shot from an exercise perspective. I was not allowed to do anything but normal life minus exercise. That was pretty difficult for me but hey, it is what I needed to do in order to make sure I would be alright for a long time to come. So I followed doctors orders and in the process lost focus on my eating habits. Lets see, no exercise and eating too much, not a good combination. Lets just say that I backslid a bit.

I was down to around 165 last November and now I find myself at 178.4lbs a gain of 13-14 pounds. When I look at it in that perspective, 6 months of nothing and only a 14 pound gain, its not too bad. Only 2.5ish pounds a month. Needless to say I still want to reach my goal. I want to get down to my original planed weight of 150 and I am motivated to do so.

I have added a weight tracker to the right hand side of my blogs homepage. I will keep track on a weekly (at least) basis of my current weight and body fat percentage. My first post in there is:
  • Weight: 178.4
  • Body Fat %: 21.5
I am hoping that having it out there in front of me and in the eyes of everyone who reads this will help to keep me marching toward my goal. My biggest problem as of late has been my food choices. I have been eating out tooooo much and enjoying large portions of the wrong foods. I love you ice cream and I will miss spending as much time with you.

Bottom line, I need an accountability system and this is the right venue. Reporting progress or lack there of is a heck of a motivator for me. So I ask your help. Keep me honest and if you see me eating crap, call me on it. Help me kill the fat kid once and for all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kicking Off The Week On Tired Legs

(11/2/09 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing

I started this session with quite a bit of apprehension. I totally expected for my legs to barely work if they worked at all. Yesterday was the now fabled 50 mile road ride so I knew that I would just be spent.

I was surprised all day that I was not really sore at all. I had a little bit in my legs but my shoulders and arms bore the brunt of my residual soreness; what there was. I guess that ice bath really did help. Thanks interweb for all those videos of folks like Wand and Tito dunking themselves into freezing cold water after a workout. Finally something useful pulled off the idiot box (other than this blog of course).

We did basically the exact same workout as all of the sessions I attended last week. Starting off with 110 squats before we even started the normal"warm-up" phase. I started feeling it in my legs around squat #30, but I pressed on and completed the entire workout as normal.

Unlike Saturday morning, at the end of class I was able to prop myself up without collapsing into a heap on the mats. Progress. Tonight I actually felt as though I started to turn a corner and that I am in fact getting a bit fitter. It has been a long while of plateaus, road blocks and uncertainty about my heart. Now though, I think it is all starting to come together. So a big thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way to get to this point and thanks in advance for helping me to see it thru.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On the Road Again....and Again, and Again

(11/1/09) Road Cycling
*I normally don't list my cycling workouts here but this one is special.

Sunday. Normally this time of year Sundays are for sleeping in and watching football. Not this Sunday. I was up at 0600 (would have been 0700 but my phone didn’t auto update with the stupid time change) and getting ready for a ride on my road bike with my neighbor Greg. We had been talking about going mountain biking together for just about as long as I have lived there (4 years now) but as of yet had not. On Halloween evening as my wife and I were sitting outside waiting for kids, Greg and his wife were doing the same. We got to talking and he suggested a road ride and for once, I had nothing else on the docket so I eagerly said yes.

Greg said we could take a normal route of his, do an out and back. Now I already knew that Greg was in much better shape and that he would be kicking my ass on the ride. What I did not count on was just how destroyed I was from Renee’s beatings at the gym all week. When I left the gym on Saturday I could barely walk or hold my arms up due to totally fatigue. So that was the state I was in prior to this ride.

We started out at 0800. I was on my slick little road bike and Greg was plugging along on his mountain bike. All was well until we hit the first little climb on Godde hill road (it is a big, steep, up and over) and that is when all the leg work from the week hit me. Lactic acid was flowing and I could not shake it. Greg pressed on and waited for me at the ends of various sections. I was dying the entire time but I pressed on and made it. I am very proud of that ride.

Here is the box score:

  • Total Distance: 50 miles (yes really….50!)
  • Total Time: 3.5 hours
  • Total Elevation change (climbing): 3,000’
That was pretty rough. When I got home I was physically spent and sunburned. I did the old fighter ice bath trick to try and alleviate the inflammation in my legs and lower back. Basically I filled the tub with cold water and Ice and sat inside. I sat there for 3-4 minutes. Believe it or not but I think it helped. I expected to be worse for wear today and instead I feel fine…..relatively. We’ll see how I feel after tomorrow night's workout!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Earn That Candy

(10/31/09 9:30am) Fitness Kickboxing
Happy Halloween!

I decided that my costume at the gym today would be an in shape and talented BJJ practitioner. If nothing else, sometimes it helps one to perform if they simply play the part right? Well maybe it worked a little bit, the in shape part. I’ll explain why the talented BJJ player didn’t work out.

I arrived at the gym right at 0930 (class start time) but not to worry, Renee was just getting there as well. There were 5 of us in the beginning (this too would change by the end). We started out by doing the warm-ups. Renee’s class is a bit different from the others. His warm-ups are so very brutal and are a good mix of cardio and strength (two things I do not possess) and leave you broken before the real fun even begins.

Being a Saturday morning, we did circuits right after the warm-ups. This weeks slice of hell consisted of the following five stations of purgatory:

  • Cable Rows: 70lbs
  • Triceps Extensions: 20lbs
  • Alternating Dumbell Presses: 25lbs
  • Lat Pulldowns: 70lbs
  • Hanging Leg Raises: My own fat

We did three sets. We did 1 minute on each station with 30 seconds rest in-between. That equals a lot of weight moved in a very short period of time. During the first round, one of the group wrestled with asthma and tapped out due to MPH. the rest of us kept on, keeping the five stations.

After the circuits we went back to the mats and put in our ab work. We did the same exercises as normal with counts of at least 50 on each. Some of them we doubled up on and hit 100. I cant remember all we did, I think I have already repressed that memory, but trust me when I say it was yet another ring in the inferno.

When all was said and done and we were allowed to go toward the light (Carol Anne) I could not even lift myself off the mats. As I was sitting, holding myself up with my arms, they were acting like jackhammers, shaking uncontrollably. Now that’s a good time!!! The BJJ part didn't work out because nobody showed up for open mat. At least not in the time I was willing to wait. Oh well, I'll break out that costume again next week!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Been a While, I'll Have a Double

(10/28/09 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing
(10/28/09 6:00pm) BJJ

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been attending a number of kickboxing classes and had not posted anything about them. Well, last nights (as well as Monday's) are worth reporting on. Monday (10/26/09) Renee was at the helm. Normally when Renee runs a class, it is safe to assume that first; it is going to be brutal and second it is going to be different than we are used to.

Well, he did not deviate from his normal form in either of these sessions. I have thrown the term "destroyed" around before and I truly feel like I have not done it justice after going thru these two workouts. The warm-ups were harder than a typical entire session. We kept a relentless pace and he made us perform sooo many reps of sooo many different exercises. Every part of by body hurts. Here is a brief example, when we were at the "cool down" phase of the workout; the section wherein we decimate our abs, there were 12 of us in the class. Renee would count off 10 reps for us then pass the counting to the person on the end. Once done the next person counts off 10 and so on, and so on. Yes, that is 130 reps of each ab exercise in rapid succession. Here is a list of what I can remember:
  • Crunches 130
  • Planks 130 (counting)
  • Planks with Right Leg up 130 (counting)
  • Planks with Left Leg up 130 (counting)
  • Side Planks 130 (counting)
  • Ceiling Touches 130
  • Knee Slides 130
  • Long Arm Crunches 130
  • Raised Leg Toe Touches 130
  • Obliques 130
  • Flutter Kicks 70
  • And many, many more!

Basically total devastation twice this week. Looking forward to doing it again tonight!


It had been a long time since I have been on the mats. But since I got thru two brutal cardio sessions with no chest pain, I figured it would be safe. I took my sweet time putting away my gloves and wraps before changing into my gi. I made sure that the BJJ warm-ups were done before joining the class. It quickly became a bit of a nostalgic night as myself, Tank, Kemo, Fritz, Dr. Evil, both Alex's and Neil were all on the mats. It felt like old times. I drilled technique with Neil and the Doc worked in with us until Tank hit the mats.

We worked on spider guard passes. Particularly we learned the "bullfighter" or "matador" pass. Where, controlling the knees you fake out your intentions by moving their knees either side before exploding around to one side, dropping your near shoulder into their chest. Fritz also showed us a number of ways to pass if they are defending. Including a nifty knee on belly kinda version.

For the rolling portion we did the Submit, Sweep or Pass drills. This was my first bit of "rolling" in quite a while so while I never did get a pass, I had a few shining moments in that black sea of frustration. On my go with Kemo I actually broke his guard, almost passed, got swept but kept him from establishing position, shot for a single, he took my back, I rolled him off and almost drove to side control before he was able to sweep me. All the while I could hear Fritz coaching me and that was awesome. Knowing he was watching and wanting me to achieve means a lot.

My other moment was with Iron Man. I got out of his guard and found myself in his spider, just as we had drilled. I knew he was expecting the Matador so I faked it and tried that Sakuraba style Cartwheel pass. I didn't quite make it and ended up right where I started but at least I got a good laugh from the sidelines. Ian was laughing his ass off and that made me laugh a bit too. I said "at least I tried it huh?". At that moment class was over and we did the cool down. Good times.

Bottom line, I am back in action. No chest pain to report on either Monday or last night. So I will keep charging on and getting better.

BTW: I am so very, very, very sore today.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guess Who is Back

Ok, Ok. I have been a horrible blogger as of late. I will try to quickly sum up my reasons for not posting anything for a while and attempt to not whine in the process. If at any point this post begins to take on a whining, complaining tone, please reach thru your screen and slap me. Not to hard though please I have a meeting this morning.

So, my blog has undergone quite a metamorphosis. I have covered a wide range of topics. The blog started out as a training log and a place for me to vent my frustrations with the things that keep me from training, namely work. Then earlier this year when I had stroke number 5, it became a log of my journey to get healed. I documented my hospitalization wherein I learned that I had a PFO (hole in my heart). I chronicled my search for the right doctor to fix the issue, taking me from UCLA and finally to Cedars Sinai where I had my surgery on April 24th. I wrote about my procedure and recovery, my frustrations in being out of action for about six months of this year and finally I told the tale of my return to the mats. Very long story short, it’s been quite a year.

Last week my blog turned one year old. The one thing that strikes me as particularly funny is the fact that it has in many ways come full circle. Now it’s not my heart or a stroke keeping me off the mats but the same things I wrote about in my blogs inception. And frankly, isn’t that better? I think so. I am healthy. For the first time I am now living without the constant fear of migraines or of suffering another stroke. I had felt like a ticking time bomb over the past three years and now I feel as though I have permission to be optimistic, to live without limits. That is a pretty cool thing and I don’t take it for granted.

So here we are. I mentioned full circle, well here it is. Over the past month and change I have been working odd and inconvenient shifts in support of a special project at work. This has meant sometimes working from 10pm to 7 am or from 6pm to 4am or even 3 pm to 1am. You get the point; I’ve been all over the place.

I have not been totally inactive during this time. I have been taking a number of the conditioning kickboxing classes when possible and I have been at open mat on a few Saturdays, so not a total slouch. I did have a little scare though. Over the past few weeks I would occasionally get a slight chest pain during some of the more exertive moments of the conditioning classes when sudden bursts of strength and speed were required. Those pains would last throughout the remainder of the class and sometimes persist thereafter for a while. You can see why I had been hesitant to re-join BJJ lately as it is entirely moments of exertion of strength and speed.

So I contacted my wonderful Doctors and they assured me that all is well. I have my 6 month post-surgery checkup at the end of November so if anything is wrong we will find out for sure. Until then I will continue to try and get / stay in shape and listen to my body while doing so. Basically I am back, I plan to post like a madman and keep everyone updated.

Thanks to everyone who dropped me a line to make sure I was doing well because of my conspicuous absence in posting. I really do appreciate everyone’s concern. So now, you can get sick of me because I will be back to posting all the time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

(Un)restful Saturday

(8/15/09 9:30am) Fitness Kickboxing

Ok here was the plan. I was going to hit the 9:30am kickboxing class. This would get out at 10:30 so I could rest up a bit, change and hit the 11:00 BJJ class and stay for open mat at 12:00 if I were feeling good and there were people to train with.

Here is what happened. I showed up a bit early and sat in the truck waiting for someone to come along and open the gym. Just before 9:30 Renee showed up walking like he was 105 years old (threw his back out). There was a bit of banter and then we were doing our normal warm-ups without having wrapped our hands. "We are going to do something different" Renee muttered as we warmed up for what felt like forever.

After the warm ups we headed to the weight area to perform some circuits. Here is the order of things.

Circuit #1:
  1. Straight punches with dumbbell (1 minute)
  2. Rest (30 seconds)
  3. Uppercuts with dumbbell (1 minute)
  4. Rest (30 seconds)
  5. Hooks with dumbbell (1 minute)
  6. Rest (30 seconds)
  7. Push-ups (1 minute)

We rested for another 30 seconds and began the circuit again 2 more times. After the third go round we moved on to the next circuit.

Circuit #2

  1. Hanging leg raises (1 minute)
  2. Rest (30 seconds)
  3. Cable rows (1 minute)
  4. Rest (30 seconds)
  5. Triceps extensions (1 minute)
  6. Rest (30 seconds)
  7. Lat pull-downs (1 minute)

As with the previous circuit, we did this one three times. Again we rested for another 30 seconds after the last set and then it was time for another burst of cardio. A few sets of sprints and shuffles were followed by a bevy of ab exercises.

When we finally finished up and were doing the cool-down stretches, I was sitting in the middle of lake Jay just wiped out. I looked up outside of the cage and saw one of my good friends watching from outside. I whispered "what time is it?" and the response shocked me. It was already after 11:00. By the time all was said and done it was just about 11:30. Yeah, that's right two hours of weights, cardio and other various levels of hell. I love it!

The only problem was I was tooo worn out to partake in BJJ, that was half over and I could not even think about open mat. I had nothing left to give. My shoulders were burning with lactic acid and it was all I could do to drive home. What a way to start a Saturday!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Same Work Outs; Different Ways

(8/13/09 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing
(8/13/09 6:00pm) Open Mat

Tonight Renee led the class so it was a bit different. It’s good to change it up now and then so that makes three different class leaders and I like that. They all have a different style and that helps keep you from getting comfortable. We did many things that I’ve never done before and I look forward to actually being somewhat sore over the next few days! Wow, I need help.

There was no BJJ class tonight because a couple of our guys were supposed to fight in the King of the Cage event. One of them is still fighting but the other one had a cut above his eye and the commission would not let him fight. I’ll provide updates on outcomes tomorrow.

So we had an open mat session and I just did a couple of very, very, very long rolls. I went against a really big guy who said he weighed in at 200. How do I put this delicately…..LIAR! Big, over 200# Liar! Maybe he was embarrassed to admit his real weight, maybe he didn’t know, maybe where he’s from has a different gravitational pull making his equivalent mass “lighter” there or maybe he just lied. No matter the reason, I know that if my good buddy Neil clocks in at about 220 and this guy is bigger; I’m guessing he weighs more than Neil. Call it a hunch.

Anyway, we rolled for probably a good 12-15 minutes. Of course against someone like him I was in total survival mode most of the time. I was able to sweep and get to dominant position a few times. But as per usual as soon as I got into good position he proceeded to use his “200#’s” worth of strength and just pick me up and move me to suit his needs. I am quite proud at how well I did. I was controlling my breathing and remaining so very calm during the entire exchange.

I’ve said it before and here I go again, I think all the time away from the mats has helped my “game”. Not that I have a game, it’s more a random scramble with a couple of moments of brilliance sprinkled in occasionally. But I have a much better mind and feel for what I am doing now. I don’t get mat anxiety any more, I am feeling good.

Open (mat) Your Mind: Teach and Learn

(8/8/09 12:00pm) Open Mat

I’ve talked before about just how much I love open mat time. Its my time. My time to work on anything that I feel I need to. Time to work with friends I don’t get to see that often (cause they rarely get to class anymore…Neil). It’s also a much more relaxed atmosphere that works well for me. My brain tends to learn the best in that kind of environment. When you can experiment without fear of getting killed, and are free to swap ideas and moves, that just clicks.

As you might have gathered from my allusion above, my buddy Neil made a special guest appearance. Ok enough bagging on him for now. As I was waiting for Neil to show up, I started talking to a new guy named Jason. I didn’t recognize him (due to a fresh shave he said) but I had worked with him on his very first night just a couple of weeks ago. He mistook the schedule and thought that class began at 12 when in actuality it ends at 12 and then becomes open mat. So I invited him to work in with Neil and I.

I’m glad I did. It was good for Neil and I to teach someone many of the things we have learned and in return we relearned some of the details we had lost. We showed him many of the good ol basics, including armbar from the mount, how to apply good pressure from half guard, side control and mount. That was especially fun. I love demonstrating the very difficult to understand concept of getting “heavy”. It made me feel quite good that here was something that I have totally gotten thru my training that people find very difficult to describe let alone pull off in the beginning of their training.

We did a few rolling sessions and some positional drills. We did a round robin style bit of rolls in which one guy would start in guard, half guard, side control or mount. The winner stayed on the mats and a fresh guy rotated in. This is the kind of training I love to do. I felt that my movement was very good. Neil was monkey strong and I struggled against him only pulling off one Americana.

Poor Jason on the other hand was tapping like Gregory Hines (you know, if the tap dancing legend were still alive and all). I know he learned a lot during the experience. It was good for me to be able to feel free and attempt some submissions I rarely go for, so thanks Jason. I know before long, he’ll start to find his game and I’ll have trouble rolling against him.

Sharing the Pain

(8/5/09 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing

Good session. I didn’t have nearly as much energy as last night. I guess that’s to be expected because last night was just crazy and the body needs some regeneration time. Unlike last night, there was no contemplation of doing the double. I had just enough to survive the one session.

The class was like most. A lot of sweat, a lot of punches, a lot of leg and ab work and a lot of gratification when it was all over. One of the more notable aspects was having my co-worker and cube mate Derick in the class for the first time along with a few other familiar faces. It was fun to watch some of the pain I had gone thru in previous sessions showing up on his face. Good job Derick, proud of you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First Real Rolls Since My Last Stroke

(8/4/09 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing
(8/4/09 6:00pm) BJJ

That's right, another double. Another chance to prove to myself that I am getting better by the day. Another chance to put the memories of strokes and heart problems far behind. Don't get me wrong, I will never forget those things, I wont forget that they helped shape me into who I am today. But I need to move on from them, find out who I am now without them and whenever I can, help others struggling with the same problems.

Kickboxing was the normal, @$$ kicking good time. I actually felt really good all they way thru and at the end was confident that I could press on to BJJ and do well. I ran to the back, changed into my gi and hit the BJJ warm-ups just after they started. I powered thru them the best I could though my body was still a wreck from Kickboxing.

The drills we did focused on sweeps when your opponent is standing to pass your guard. We did quite a few good ones including one that sends the guy flying overhead and allows you to roll to mount. I have done this one before but it was the first time I had "learned" it. It was good to see what I did right and more importantly what I did wrong.

This was my first session of real rolling. Not limiting myself, not holding back. It was awesome. First I went against George who is a good 3 or 4 stripe white belt. He is about my same size. We had a back and forth battle with no submissions. We traded good position a number of times and when we ended I was actually in mount. Not too bad for a first roll back.

Next I went against Sarge. He always owns me. 4 stripes and a lot of strength. I only got tapped a few times and I was actually able to sweep a couple of times. So again for me, this soon back, that's a win.

The last roll was with a newer guy whose name I don't remember. He is very tall and luckily for me very easy to take down and control. I was able to shoot in for singles and doubles at will and get to side control right away. The times I landed in half guard I just used shoulder pressure to his jaw to open up the pass to mount. I don't want to go over each and every short roll so I'll just list what I caught him in.
  • Americana
  • Ezekiel
  • Ezekiel
  • Armbar
  • Americana
  • Ezekiel

I'm pretty sure that's it. It was a great session to have my first real roll since being back. The really cool thing was that I had to wait for him to catch his breath between rolls. That made me feel like I am making progress.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One More Mile Marker

(7/29/09 6:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing

I left work with plenty of time to spare but somehow I still ended up being a little bit late to the class. I was still wrapping my hands when the rest of the group started warming up. In actuallity I didnt miss that much at all but at the time it felt like time was flying by. I joined up the group and still got PLENTY of the warm-up.

When it was time to get to the bags I convienently got one right under the A/C duct. Go figure, wonder how I ended up there? Anyway, it provided some relief to offset the ambient temperature in the gym and all the body heat I was generating. A little relief anyway.

We didnt go straight into heavy-bag combinations, instead we kept the gloves off for a while and worked a lot of kicks. Leg kicks, push kicks and side kicks were the chosen ones, with various one legged squats inbetween.

We then worked punch combinations and alternated them with a trillion different push-up variations.

Nearing the end, we did some speed drills that had us running to a bag, performing a set of combinations, running back to the start, performing an assortment of ab exercises and doing it all over again.

I felt pretty good during the session. I made a conscious effort to not miss any reps, and while I did not suceed at that goal, I was vastly better than I had been previously. So I consider that a win.

The road to full recovery and to get some gains is a long one. But I finally feel that I am at least in a car on that road and I'm making progress. Every session takes me to a new mile marker. Since this road has no end, and therefore never stops.....neither will I.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unfitness Kickboxing

(7/28/09 6:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing

Unlike the hot box of last week, the ac was on and so was I….at least for a few minutes. Right off the bat I was feeling good. Fast and strong. But when I began to taper off, the curve was dramatic. I felt at times like my lungs were the size of thimbles and my muscles were made of play dough. I completed the class but I made some observations that I will follow in the future. Some of these are pretty simple and mockable so have fun:

  • Get hydrated beforehand and get hydrated all day
  • Do Not eat the Super Nachos from Chronic Taco at any time before heading to the gym
  • Do not over caffeinate before a work-out. For me the two DO NOT mix.
At least I learned something and got in a killer work-out. More to come.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

S-A-T-U-R-D-AY Jits

(7/25/09 11:00am) BJJ
(7/25/09 12:00pm) Open Mat

It’s been quite a while since I have attended a Saturday session. These are typically more laid back (even by BJJ standards) and consist of a lot of rolling. Since I was not quite to the ready to roll stage, I relied on the fact there was a new guy there who I could coach during the session.

Josh was heading up class on this Saturday morning, it’s a first time I have been in a class that he has led. Its funny when I think of the fact that I was a student at the gym before he was and now he is teaching me. I guess that really illustrates all of the time I have had to be away from the mats due to my various head/heart/health problems. He got his blue belt while I was gone and has really grown into it. Its funny, but I have zero resentment and nothing but pride for what he has done.

The familiarity that Josh has with all of us lead to an even more relaxed Saturday class. We did a normal warm up and then we drilled the basics. Which I’ve said before and wait for it……I’m saying it again….I love drilling the basics. That is where Jiu-Jitsu lives. In the basics. We drilled:

  • Armbar from the guard
  • Triangle from the guard
  • Triangle from failed Armbar
  • And a bit o’ Omoplata

I worked with the brand new guy, who was considerably larger than I am (as is typical). We drilled the positions while I taught him all kinds of other tidbits at the same time. It was frustrating in that his base kept collapsing while we were drilling so I had to improvise; but it was good because his base kept collapsing so I had to improvise.

After our drills we did a bit of king of the mat with a twist. The guy out on the mat, on his back; the others would try to pass while he tried to sweep or submit. The twist was that win or lose the guy stayed out there for 5 or 3 minutes. I love this kind of drilling.
I had a few good passes and I had both a sweep and a submission so very successful day for me.

Open Mat

During the open mat session I worked with the new guy a bit more and then got schooled by Jerry on Spider Guard. Luckily while I was getting schooled I was getting schooled. He taught me quite a bit I was doing wrong. I worked spider guard on John immediately after and pulled off a beautiful sweep. I do so enjoy learning during open mat. I can’t wait to get to more of them. Unfortunately I have a class for work this weekend so I will have to wait till the next.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot

(7/21/09 5:00pm 105 Degrees) Fitness Kickboxing

I will never again (at least in the near future) complain about the inadequate air conditioning at the gym.

I arrived at the gym with every intention of doing the double (kickboxing and BJJ) yet again. I was psyched up and ready. Until I set foot in the gym. You see, I am a big wuss. I can handle all kinds of physical torture. Any of us who partake in BJJ know about enduring almost unbearable circumstances. But there is one bit of torture I cannot handle…..heat.

You see, when the air conditioners were installed in our facility, the electrician installed controls that operate on some kind of morse code that can only be translated by occupants of the fifth dimension. Seriously, who selected those? When the staff has to call another electrician to help turn on the air, there is a problem.

So, when I got to the gym it was already hot outside and inside it was like an oven. One big stagnant oven. I went to the locker-room, changed into my shorts and t-shirt; luckily that translated into a bit of relief. I went and sat down against the wall in the heavy bag area to wrap my hands. After just a few minutes of doing that, I stood up and was already pouring out sweat. This will be a long class.

We started and for the first 40 minutes we pressed on with no air. There were moments when I swore I was taking place in some kind of vision quest ritual or something. I was expecting my spirit guide in the form of a talking yak to show me the way to inner peace. No such luck. Just sweat and effort.

Finally with time ticking down, my spirit guide yak came thru and turned on the air. As proud I am of the work I put in, I began a feeble migration to the area of the bag cage wherein the air actually hits. I let the frosty breeze hit me and for a split second it was good. But there was still work to be done. We finished, I changed and went home.

As I said, I had every intention of hitting BJJ right after, but that session of “Bikram” kickboxing wiped me out.

Double your Pleasure.....Double your Pain

(7/20/09 5:00pm 101 Degrees) Fitness Kickboxing
(7/20/09 6:00pm 101 Degrees) BJJ

I’m trying to be very cognizant of how my body is handling training and I don’t want to start over training but I did the double again last night and actually felt pretty good. I figure that I’ll do this a couple of times a week, but not every session.

When I pulled up to the gym, our giant garage door that is right behind the cage was wide open. That was not a good omen. I knew in my heart that the door being open like that meant that it was so hot in the building and the air conditioning was so inadequate that they had to open up the door. This should be fun.

I changed into my shorts and rash guard which I topped off with my newly acquired “10 Things you should know about Chuck Norris” T-shirt. I headed out to the mats took a seat behind the heavy bags and began wrapping my hands. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again; I love that little moment of Zen, taking a few moments to relax and focus on getting myself ready for what is to come.

On this particular day Josh was leading our class. Josh is a very young guy who just made his professional MMA debut in a bout in Mexico over the weekend. He lost his match but considering he had 5 hours notice, I say he’s pretty game for stepping up and taking it. I’ll post more on his fight as I get details.

I remember when Josh joined the gym, he has come a very long way since. His pacing of the class and the way he switches between cardio and strength exercises is fantastic. It is amazing how much better I felt today. I felt stronger and like I could go for a much longer time than before. I suffered much less MPH in this session than in the two last week. Even now, a day later, I am feeling pretty good. Only a bit of soreness persists.

It is incredible how vertical my recovery curve has been. I am waiting for the bubble to burst when I hit the inevitable plateau and stop making quick gains. But for the moment I’ll keep on enjoying the feeling of getting in shape rather quickly. I was a heaping mass of pathetic mess at the end of the session but it was a smaller heap than the more recent sessions.


Right after we concluded I went back into the locker-room and changed into my gi. Thank god this time I packed my new Koral light weight, last week when I did the double I was wearing my Gameness Pearl; world of difference. I took a few moments to wipe all the excess sweat off, get hydrated and then I headed to the mats.

Like last time, the warm-ups were almost to the half-way point. I joined in and was pretty mediocre. I didn’t have much juice left after the conditioning session and I didn’t want to fail pathetically during training so I took it a bit easy.

Fritz hurt his back earlier in the day so he turned the class over to Will, a 4 stripe blue belt who recently joined us from AV Jiu Jitsu. I’ve met Will a few times but this was the first time I had actually been in a class with him.

We started with a few mount escapes. The first was an upa to break their posture which allows you to grab an arm and pull off the basic, first night, upa escape. The second was an upa to create space so that you can turn immediately onto your side, get your elbow in-between his knee and you and use that to get to half guard.

Then we worked on some half guard sweeps. We did the old school wherein you get to half guard, sink yourself very deep, grab their foot, switch up your legs and drive to your knees. I have not done that particular escape in a very long time and I am happy to report that it sunk in much better this time and I actually almost pulled it off in rolling, more on that in a minute.

We worked on another sweep that you pull off if they whizzer your underhook. Instead of reaching for the toe, you shoot your hand thru the gap between their thigh and calf, unlock your guard, and shift your hips under theirs. This sweep, when done right, is very easy and the 235 pound guy I was working with felt like a feather pillow when I got my hips right.

When it came time to roll, knowing that I am nearing the end of my medication run and that I have been feeling better, I decided to test the waters and see how I was doing. I started a light roll with the same guy with whom I was drilling. I’m sitting at 175 right now and he’s the aforementioned 235, so I gave up a good 60 pounds. Still, I did pretty darn well. We started from my guard a couple of times and I put up a pretty good fight for the shape I’m in. We also started from the knees a couple of times. I tapped to an armbar once and to pure exhaustion another time.

I changed partners after two sessions and rolled with a new guy whose name I can’t remember. He’s a really nice guy, about my weight and a lot taller. We started from my guard and I did very well. I got an omoplata sweep and I also locked in a triangle at one point. My legs were so wasted from the conditioning class that I could not manage to finish it. I had it locked up but I had no strength to squeeze. I count that as a success though. Like I said, I’m getting better every day.

One thing that I think is pretty funny; I think my game has improved since I have been out. Physically I am still a wreck but my movement is better (when I can move) and my understanding has increased. I am really looking forward to getting in better shape and seeing how that translates to overall improvement. If I can translate this new understanding into action with a body that cooperates, I’m very optimistic.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Make it a Double.....

(7/16/09 5:00pm 105 Degrees) Fitness Kickboxing
(7/16/09 6:00pm 105 Degrees) BJJ

One of my post-surgery, post-heart problem recovery goals was to be able to take on our Fitness Kickboxing class and to then dive right into the Jits class immediately afterward.

Goal accomplished.

All day Thursday I was super sore from the Tuesday night conditioning session. I was suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in a pretty major way. I could barely walk up the set of stairs leading to my desk. When it came time to leave work, my brain was engaged in a bitter wrestling match. Should I go to the 5:00 Kickboxing class, even though I am sore that my soreness is sore, even though I know that it will help me to feel better; or should I just head home, soak my body in near-boiling water and hope that tomorrow is a more mobile day? And besides, its over 100 degrees outside, which means the gym will be somewhere in the high 90's.

I actually started driving toward home. I got quite far before I took a deep breath, unwadded my panties, turned the car around and set a trajectory toward the gym. I told myself, "just go for conditioning and take it easy if you need to". You see the funny part about that is I can NEVER seem to take it easy but I was still able to convince myself of it.

I got to the gym a bit early so I was able to change, get some water and wrap my hands in peace. I really needed that short bit of time to recharge my batteries and to stretch most of my tension away.

And then it began. The session on Tuesday was very leg heavy and that was where the majority of my pain was living. Ironically (in the Alanis Morisette way and not the literal way) I was feeling much stronger and in better shape than I had since my return. Don't get me wrong, I was still dying but I felt like I was dying just a bit less. I performed each exercise and combination with everything I had and by the end I was shaking and covered with sweat.

In the locker room I began to dry off and pack up to head home. I then had another moment of pause. I felt really good despite being half dead. I LOVE Jiu Jitsu, I figured that even a class in which I would totally suck, it would still be good for me. So I took off my t-shirt and peeled on my rashguard. I managed to get my gi on and get out to the mats.

We have a standing rule that if you participate in the conditioning class then you do not have to engage in the BJJ warm-ups. Most of you know about BJJ warm-ups and I'm sure I've written about our special little brand of hell in the past. When I got to the mats the warm-ups were at about the half-way point, just before the shrimping, monkeys and other exercises that take you back and forth across the mats. I decided, if I am going to die, it may as well be face down on the mats; so I joined in.

After the warm-ups completed we started drills. There were not a whole lot of long time guys there so Fritz had us work on a perpetual motion drill that involved: lapel choke from the mount, upa escape, lapel choke from the guard, guard pass to side control, pass from side control to mount....and continue in that order. I love drilling like this. Any chance to work on the fundamentals and drill them repeatedly is welcome by me. One thing that was kind of funny was the fact that even though I had already punished myslef in the conditioning class, I seemed to have more fuel than the guy I was working with. I think things are getting better.

When it came time to roll, I stuck to my commitment of not rolling till I am off my post-surgery meds. I saw Howard in the class (gigantic, yet athletic blue belt). Howard and I worked with each other once since I've been back and he knows my condition and how to roll without it killing me. I asked him if he wanted to go and before we could, Fritz asked me to work with the brand new, first night kid named Aldo. I love rolling but at the same time I LOVE teaching someone new about our art.

I taught Aldo the lapel choke and showed him how to apply it kneeling, from the guard and from the mount. Once he had it I started our very own perpetual motion drill similar to the one we were doing in class (while he was relegated to the side of the mat practicing the good ol' UPA). As he got more and more comfortable I started upping the resistance and introducing him to the principals of head and hip control, hip movement and energy conservation. At one point I was defending, with him in mount, using just my hips and movement. What a great session. I left the gym so spent yet so exhilarated.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The spirit is willing but…….

(7/14/2009 5:00pm) Fitness Kickboxing

For the better part of this year I did not exercise for the fear that it could kill me. Now whenever I do, I am certain that it Will kill me. Last night I participated in another session of Fitness Kickboxing and am suffering the afterglow.

Now, let me describe the agony that is our Fitness Kickboxing. When most people hear the term “Fitness Kickboxing” their minds envision some kind of work-out as one would find at a run of the mill fitness chain, like the ones that are open 24 Hours, and focus on Fitness, yes like some kind of 24 Hour Fitness type place. I assure you, it is not like that.

Distinction number 1. Heavy bags. Real heavy bags. Muay Thai style, super tall heavy bags that will laugh at you if you offend them with anything less than full power.

Distinction number 2. Did I mention the full power thing? Combination after combination all thrown with vicious intent at an opponent that does not get tired nor does it seem phased against any onslaught.

Distinction number 3. Bodyweight exercises. Lots and lots of body weight exercises. Burpees and Lunges and push-ups, oh my. The irony of bodyweight exercises is that they seem much harder now that I’m out of shape and a bit heavier than I was the last time I did them; go figure.

Distinction number 4. Cardio. Ok, so those other programs are all about cardio, but I doubt they have the same nauseating combination of all of the events I have described to this point in addition to a symphony of cardio work that builds to a crescendo throughout the hour long class, never plateauing, just steadily building to the peak before allowing you to crumble in a soggy mass on the mats.

There was a time in the fairly recent past where I could complete this workout and then go smoothly into BJJ class (skipping the warm-ups of course). Well, I am not there yet. I had every intention of doing so last night but by the time the hour was finished, so was I. Shaky legs could barely carry me back to the locker room to retrieve my bag, my keys and my dignity.

Now I cannot forget to mention that yesterday the temperature here in the lovely high desert topped out at around 101°? Now the gym is approximately 4,000 ft2 and the swamp cooler we have does not quite cool the entire space. In all honesty, it only cools that little square directly underneath it. The heavy bag area is not directly underneath it. Not even close. A cinderblock building with a tin roof tends to get a bit warm under the desert sun, as does everyone inside.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not whining. Really, I’m not. I am relishing the fact that I am able to do this again. I may be way out of shape compared to where I was before my last round of strokes and heart surgery but I am alive and able to begin rebuilding. I know each hellish session I endure gets me closer to where I was before, which gets me closer to being better than I have ever been. I love that today, as I type this, I am in sheer agony. My legs scream with every movement, my shoulders are tense, my shins are covered with welts and my pinky knuckles are even bruised. Each of those little nuisances are small trophies that I have EARNED on my way back. Being out of shape is a terrible state to be in. Luckily, I’m just visiting.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Daytime Jits

(7/9/09 BJJ 12:00)

I was able to sneak out of work a bit early today and hit the noon BJJ session. First time for that.

Good training. We drilled some guard retention / recovery and in one we ended with a triangle. Very slick.

When it came time to roll, I helped the one brand new guy work on his side control escapes, leaving the one other guy in class to roll with our instructor Fritz.

My cardio and strength are still suffering, but each session gets me a little closer. As Team Quest says, "Pain is merely weakness leaving the body". Hope so!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't Get Frustrated

I knew it would be like this. I knew it would be hard. But dang.

I haven't done any rolling as of late, the last week or so, but I have been doing some other stuff in an attempt to regain some of the cardio I lost over the last six months of dormancy. One of my other loves is cycling. I ride both mountain and road. With the Tour de France going on it seemed as good a time as any to do a couple of rides. Cycling can be great for building up cardio over long and sustained loads. While it does not always translate into the same shape we need for BJJ, with our short bursts of maximum effort, it is still helpful.

I did a nice 15 mile ride on Monday that just killed me. In my previous shape I would have had no problem but now that I am in rebuilding mode it was quite challenging. There was one hill in particular that almost made me pop. It is a relatively short distance and is very steep. I have conquered this hill before with shortness of breath and satisfaction the only end result at the top. This time however I made it 7/8 of the way before clipping out of my pedals, sitting on a short cement wall, and waiting for the nausea to pass. This little hill kicked my.....padded cycling shorts.

Last night I went to the gym and did our conditioning kickboxing class. This class is ALWAYS brutal but last night it was even more so in my state. My body knew what to do, but it just couldn't do it. There was one point during the workout when I forgot my positive mindset that it will all get better and frustration set in. Throwing powerless strikes imprecisely is not fun. I finished the workout damp and exhausted, but I finished. One down......

I know that it is a process, I know that it takes time. I know that I wont get back to my normal, mediocre level of BJJ over night. But that doesn't prevent me from getting frustrated. I have plenty of will just no ability. So, right now I am relishing in the soreness of last nights workout because I know that it is putting me one step closer. One itsy bitsy tiny step.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Third Time's the Darce

BJJ (6/17/2009 6:00pm)

Back on the mats again. Tonight was my third night back since returning from my surgery and that whole ordeal. I felt terrific. I survived the warm-ups with only the jumping push-ups being passed over.

Drills tonight revolved around learning the Darce choke. I have seen this one performed many a time but this was my first opportunity to learn it. After a bit of awkward fumbling my training partner for the night and I started to get it down pretty well.

When it came time to roll, I stuck to the plan and started to sit out. It wasn't until one of the other guys got hurt that I started. I got the left-behind partner of the guy who had to limp off the mats, told him I can't really roll but I can work technique. He said he wanted to work on guard passes, so that is how we started. My Guard Was Awesome tonight. Probably one of the best guard nights ever. Not only was I happy to be doing well, I was also glad that I was able to help this other guy with something he needed to improve.

I swept a few times, didn't really go for submissions because I was trying to help him learn. I was able to control his grips and posture, off-balance him at will, and just generally look like I knew what I was doing. Good night.

Next I rolled at "50%" with Kim. He has always been tough for me. He was going immediately to spider guard, which always gives me trouble, but I did well. Twice I was able to pass, and as in the earlier session my guard was solid. I didn't submit, but I did not get submitted either.

For my third night back, pretty awesome. I am just taking it a day at a time, knowing that it is a journey.


So I'm finally back in action and here I am not updating this blog. Shame on me. Perhaps I need more stuff to complain about in order to make me write. Or perhaps I have just been too darn busy letting life get in the way again. Or maybe, when I have time to write, I use it for catching up on rest instead.

Whatever the reason, here I am. Writing now and that is what matters. What do I have to say? Since my last post I have done quite a bit and some of it is even Jiu Jitsu related. Some of it is just the same ol' stuff, some of it is…..the MUNDIALS!!!

I know I have missed the appropriate window for reporting on the Mundials and by now everyone knows what I do, Roger is a cyborg. I attended both Saturday and Sunday during which time I ran around snapping photos for that friend to us all, Caleb from The Fightworks Podcast. Upon arrival he dispatched me with the still camera and Bruce with the video camera and off we went. Despite some technical difficulties, I was still able to get some great shots. One of my photos that made the website was the culmination of semi-strategic positioning and a whole bunch of luck. On Sunday Dr. Evil and I were sitting among the boisterous Alliance team and when Sergio Moraes beat "Finfou" and leapt up into the Alliance camp, froze time, and allowed me to snap this shot.

The photo appeared on the FWPC and I'm just glad that I was able to help Caleb out and give him a decent shot. Yes, that bald head at the bottom is Fabio Gurgel.

On Sunday morning there was also the chance to get together with Caleb and other members of The Mighty 600,000. We had a great time sitting around, talking Jiu Jitsu and pretty much expecting Roger to win it all, as he did. I am happy to announce that my good friend Dr. Evil was able to make it down. Here is a shot of us, with Caleb, at the coffee get together before Sunday's action.

Dr. Evil is the one on the left who looks like Dr. Evil, I'm in the center and Caleb is on the right. Good times guys, thanks a lot. Stay tuned, more Jiu Jitsu content to come. I'm finally back to the mats and anxious to make improvements and let everyone know how its going!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Light" Rolling

BJJ (6/3/2009 6:00Pm)

On Wednesday I went back for more. Like a crackhead who's been in rehab for 5 months, I could not resist getting back to my drug of choice just as soon as I could. This is only my second class back and I did them on consecutive days. What did I say about being a crackhead?

I was really feeling my out of shapedness during the warm-ups. Unlike the previous day when I actually felt pretty well, this time I was a pile of goo (only less firm). By the end I was melting. The lack of cardio is difficult to deal with but I did not expect the total loss in functional strength. I know both will come back with time so I am actively working on not getting frustrated, so far so....ok.

After the warm-ups Fritz yelled "get some water, put your mouthpieces in" which means its time to roll. Luckily Mike was also suffering from a bad case of MPH having hurt his toe a few days before. Since neither of us were able to actually roll, we worked together. We started by working some technique from my guard until he said "lets just go super light and see how we do". That was easy for him to say but so hard for me to do.

We did a "light roll" for the rest of the class with me needing to pause every so often to catch my breath. I only managed one guard pass, one sweep and one submission (ezekiel choke). I had never felt that spent after training. I was glad that we were slightly pushing and that I was able to keep my heart working the entire time. I knew that with every session I would be improving and I would never feel this bad again.

Taking Thursday off, training Friday then its off to the Mundials (as a spectator) for Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good to be Home

Full circle. Well, this Jiu-Jitsu, maybe its full Triangle! Either way, after 4 Months and 23 days or; 143 days or; 20 weeks or; 3432 hours or; 205,920 minutes or; 12,355,200 seconds, however you count it I made it back to the mats. But who’s counting?

Of course, going into the class I had a bit of apprehension and trepidation. I was worried about how well my heart has actually healed; I was concerned about overdoing it right off the bat. I had an irrational fear in my head that I had forgotten everything. I was nervous that I would be completely and totally out of shape (well some fears do come true).

Packing up my gym bag and getting ready to head to class brought back a familiar feeling. Making the drive to the gym I could not believe that my long, involuntary vacation had come to an end.

Now, since I have been out I have made it a point to stop in now and then. To catch up with the guys, provide status reports on my heart and just to soak up the atmosphere. This time, I arrived with my bag in hand and I was ready to go.

The warm-ups were just as brutal as I remembered. Surprisingly the only one I could not make it thru was our traditional end of warm-up surfer. Other than that I managed to get thru everything else. Now, I didn’t look very good and I was sloppy and slow; but I made it thru.

We drilled standing guard passes, which was a perfect refresher for me. I drilled with Neil and Kris who both made it a point to be there with me on my first night back. Dr. Evil stopped by too but was not able to train as he just had his wisdom teeth pulled and is dealing with that madness. Thanks for the support guys.

When it was time to roll, I stuck to my commitment to not rush back to rolling so I helped a guy who was there for the first time. Upa’ville here we come. Helping him learn the upa escapes was also beneficial for me because it allowed me to ease right back into the rhythm and work on some fundamentals and positions.

What a great night. I am horribly out of shape and have a long way to go to get back to “normal” but I made it thru and did pretty well. I’M BACK!!! I want to thank everyone for your support and well-wishes during this tumultuous time. This community we have is phenomenal I am proud to be part of it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tiny Bubbles.....

Wednesday, 27 May was my one month follow-up appointment to see how the PFO closure was healing, to make sure the device is working as it should and to find out whats next. I was hoping for good news, what I got was so much more.

I showed up to the fifth floor of the south tower at Cedars Sinai about an hour and a half early. I guess that I was feeling excited and apprehensive at the same time. Before seeing the Doctor I was having an echocardiogram with bubble study. Basically, it is a normal echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) but at one point they inject a bunch of saline bubbles into a vein and watch them flood into the right atrium. If the surgery worked as it was supposed to, all of the bubbles would stay in the right atrium and not shoot across into the left thru the newly closed PFO.

I have become somewhat used to having echos done now. I know what images they are going to grab and typically in what order. I even know how to stay comfortable in the awkward positions. So I knew when it was over and time for the bubbles. A nurse had already come in before the test and installed an IV line in my arm but for the actual injection of the bubbles the technician called the Fellow who was on duty.

The tech had a pretty picture of my left and right atria on the screen (the right one appears on the left of the screen.....go figure). And in coordination with the fellow, the bubbles were injected rapidly. On the screen the right atrium started to show up bright white as the bubbles rushed in. The left atrium was remarkably empty. Neither myself, the tech nor the Fellow could see any bubbles pass thru the PFO. The surgery worked as it should have.

With a new sense of relief I left the echo lab and made my way to the Doctor's office. I felt like a kid running home to see a parent with a good report card (not that I have ever known THAT feeling). I couldn't wait to hear what Dr. Kar would say. Most of my apprehensiveness had now been replaced with pure excitement.

At Dr. Kar's office the wait felt intolerable. It wasn't very long but I was dying to get in to see him. Asma came and took me to the room and went over how I was doing. She asked if I had received her reply to my email that told me basically no increased physical activity until at least a month after surgery. I said I did receive it and we laughed that I knew the answer to the question before I had asked it....guilty.

Dr. Kar came in and was as excited as he is every time I have seen him. He asked how I was feeling and I told him that I was fantastic. He read the echo report and told me that the doctor who read the results had seen a couple of tiny bubbles make it into the left atrium. Dr. Kar told me not to worry about that because first off I had, in his words, "a Huge PFO"; and secondly at the end of six months enough scar tissue should grow over the device so that no bubbles would come thru. But for now, the size and relative amount that passed thru were nothing at all to be concerned about.

Then when the appointment was drawing to a close I asked about my activity level; about what I could or could not do. In one of those moments where one's words were not specifically chosen but they are exactly right he said "you can do anything". How inspiring is that? That's right, I have NO LIMITATIONS now. I committed that upon my return to the mats (probably Tuesday, 2 June) I would take it slowly and not roll for a month or so. The Doctor told me to come see him again at the six month mark and sent me on my way.

I cant begin to describe my appreciation for Dr. Kar, Asma, and the entire team who got me thru this. When one hears that they have a hole in their heart the level of fear is paralyzing. They made it so easy to deal with and as I saw with my own eyes, they fixed it.

When I return to the mats next week, it will have been after about five months off. I last trained on Saturday, 10, January. 2009 will go down as a year where I lost half of it to a couple of strokes, the discovery of a hole in my heart, surgery and finally a mid-year triumphant return.

Stay posted, the return of Jiu Jitsu content is imminent!!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dinner with the Mighty 6(00,000)

A big thanks to Caleb from The Fightworks Podcast for arranging the first "BJJ Dinner with the Family" on Tuesday 19 May down in Beautiful San Diego http://thefightworkspodcast.com/2009/05/16/bjj-dinner-with-the-family/ .

This was a great opportunity for me to take a short drive (three hours each way) and enjoy the company of and conversation with others who love my sport. We had some great discussions on current topics and everyone at the table helped me to gain some perspective on the situation at my own gym.

Now, there were only six of us there so the running joke was that each of us represented 100,000 listeners. I look forward to being able to do this on a more regular basis.

Thanks again Caleb, thanks to everyone who was there. Hopefully we can all share a roll one day!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Month

Healing Milestone:
Well here we are. It has been one month (30 days) since my PFO closure operation. In many ways it feels like just a few days have passed and in others it feels like it has been so long. This is the first significant milestone in my recovery. This coming Wednesday (27 May) I have my follow-up where the doctors will take a look with an echocardiogram to make sure things are healing as they should. I will make sure to post my results as soon as I hear them.

PFO Migraine Stroke Group:
While I am on the subject of my PFO. Someone who read my blog pointed me in the direction of a new PFO Migraine Stroke group on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=106434738635 . The group is still small but hopefully it will grow to help people like me who are struggling with the same problem.

Random News:
I am hoping to start a separate blog for just my medical adventures so that when I return to the mats I can return this one back to its Jiu Jitsu focus while still continuing to write about PFO, Stroke and Migraine. I feel that these are issues that are just not discussed enough and It is my mission to help educate, inspire and guide people struggling with the problems that inhibited me for so long. Keep your eyes open for that new blog as my return to the mats draws near. Also, keep your fingers crossed for me as I go into my appointment on Wednesday, optimism is high.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Impatient Patient

Recovery Day: 19

As the title suggests, I can be a bit difficult at times. Most of the time, when it counts, I can be the picture of patience. I can outlast most people even in the most arduous of circumstances. I think that on the whole I have been pretty darn good in dealing with this impossible situation over the last three years; especially in the last six months when it became exponentially worse and kept me from doing many of the things I love.

So, now it has been about 6 months since I have hit the mats. Part of the reason I have been able to keep pressing forward without going completely mental is the fact that I had an enemy to fight. I had suffered a number of small strokes with at least two of them leaving their autographs visible only via MRI. I was suffering with numbness down my right arm and focusing on getting better and finding answers helped to keep me preoccupied and my mind off training.

On 9 March when I had two strokes within 24 hours and found myself in the hospital with a diagnosed problem, a PFO (hole in my heart) I suddenly had a new mission. Time to get it fixed. Once I get that bad boy all patched, all is good. Its back to action. I got my PFO fixed on 24 April 2009, just 43 short days after it was discovered.

Now I have no more battle. No more fight. I am feeling fantastic. There is however a long way between feeling and being. It has only been 19 days since my surgery. This foreign object that has been lodged into my heart has not had much time to settle in and begin get covered over by scar tissue. I am in that precarious spot between feeling awesome and being awesome.

I feel like I could jump right back into what I used to do, or at least back into SOMETHING, but as one of my doctors just confirmed for me....I can't. I am not supposed to do ANYTHING physically exhertive for at least one month following the surgery. Now that makes total sense in my head, but now that I am fighting no other battles and I don't have that to keep me preoccupied or worried, I am dying to get back in action.

I go back to see the Doctor for my one month follow-up on 27 May. At that appointment they will do an echocardiogram and inject some bubbles into my heart so they can see if the hole is sealed properly. Hopefully I will also get the green light to begin to gradually step-up my physical activity level. Cross your collective fingers for me!

Side note: Grappling with Life in Seattle
I am going to Seattle this weekend. My wife and I are taking a short vacation for no good reason other than we need one. We will be the stereotypical tourists doing all the tourist things but we will also be seeing my BELOVED BOSTON RED SOX trample the Mariners at Safeco Field on Friday night. If there are any must see BJJ tourist spots in Seattle, please send me a note!!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Today is my Birthday. Well, not exactly. You won't find any note of it on my driver's license. Its not on my passport; nor is it on my birth certificate. So, as far as any "official" body is concerned technically today is just any other day, but symbolically.....today I am one week old.

The card I carry in my pocket provided by NMT (the company that manufactured the device used to plug the hole in my heart) lists the model number, serial number, lot number and the date....April 24th 2009. One week ago today. So the way I see it today deserves a bit of celebration.

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while, especially those of you who have read this since before I KNEW I HAD A HOLE IN MY HEART (that still freaks me out sometimes) will know that nostalgia is not my strong suit. I wrote about how new years resolutions tend to go by the wayside (http://grappling-with-life.blogspot.com/2009/01/goals-for-2009.html) and that I would rather make goals. So needless to say, I am finding myself struggling to find the proper perspective on this second chance at a normal life.

I don't want to be one of those whacked out people who suddenly sells off all their possessions, moves to a cave and contemplates their navel for the rest of eternity. On the other hand I don't want to be unappreciative either. This is a rather profound event in my life that very likely has saved my life. I feel a great responsibility to get things right, I feel like I need to be a voice for these issues. I feel like I need to be the best me I can be.

It fills my heart to know that this little blog has begun to help already. Some of you may have noticed the "For more information" contact bar that I added off to the right hand side. Shortly after my post about finding my PFO and adding that contact link, two people with conditions mirroring mine contacted me. Both of them had suffered strokes (one of them multiple times like myself), both of them had PFO's recently found and like me both of them were looking for answers. Because of this little blog, I was able to help. One of the two had their PFO closed TODAY by the very same doctor who did mine one week ago!!! I cannot express how good it makes me feel to know that I was able to help someone while on my own path to wellness.

This person never did BJJ, had never read my blog before. I was stumbled upon simply because they were googling the things I had written about. I know they will read this so when they do, I want them to know that I am so happy that they are also on the road to recovery and they better enjoy the journey....Happy Birthday!!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

That Part of my Life is Over!!! The PFO is Closed!!!

Friday was the big day. PFO closure surgery at Cedars Sinai. My wife and I got to Cedars before 0500 in the morning. They told us to be there by 0600 but we did not want to risk being late given the fact that we had to travel south on the 405 freeway on a weekday. Upon our arrival we knew that this experience would be dramatically different than any other medical procedure either of us had ever had.

The staff working the front desk of the south tower that early Friday morning were as welcoming and accommodating as you would expect to find professional concierges in high end hotels. I signed in and upon their urging took a seat in the well appointed waiting room. We waited for about ten minutes until one of the ladies from the front desk called my name along with the name of another guest. As I rose to my feet she came to me instead of me going to the desk. I was assuming that I needed to fill out some of the requisite paperwork; instead she proceeded to walk my wife and I along with the other party to the elevators and all the way to our destination, the 6th floor.

My wait in the 6th floor lobby was not very long. The registration agent at the desk told me that they would probably be calling me back at about 0615; guess what time they called me back....0615. I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate punctuality and respect for the patients time when in a hospital setting. Having that one thing to count on makes all the difference when one is facing stressful situations.

When they took me back to the prep area, the professionalism continued. This is a well-oiled machine that does not compromise. I will spare everyone all of the details of the prep work they performed with two exceptions: First, there are no clothes under that gown; and Second, the part of you they prepare for the Catheter to be inserted so they can get up to the heart is not in the "leg" like they say....think a bit higher...that's all I will say. If you want any deeper insights please just use the link to the right and email me.

The procedure was simply amazing. I was AWAKE the entire time. After a few minutes the nurses mildly sedated me to take the edge off but I never became less lucid. My thoughts might have been a bit slower but I was still able to be conversant with the surgical team as well as watch the four monitors that showed the surgery progressing. Dr. Kar showed me the Starflex device before he sent it up and into my heart. Simply amazing, and big. He exclaimed upon seeing my PFO on the screen that I had a "Huge" PFO. I replied back that size matters and the surgical team had a bit of a chuckle.

While they were testing atrial chamber pressure using did begin getting a migraine. Dr. Kar told me that this was a relatively common occurrence, that the bubbles traveling thru the PFO and into the brain can cause migraine. They were able to give me medicine intravenously that aborted the migraine as the aura faded. The only downside to me was not being able to see the end of the procedure. There was never a point during the procedure that I felt any discomfort. When Dr. Kar was injecting the contrast dye and anaesthetic into my leg, I felt the needle and the bit of pain from that but nothing else.

I must give a great deal of thanks to everyone who was in the room. All of the doctors and nurses who worked on me during the procedure were so professional, caring and accommodating. Of course I have already raved about Dr. Kar in my previous post. This time I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Broder as well. Dr. Broder was very friendly and took the time to make sure I understood what was going on. He also acted as my discharge doctor and helped me clear up an issue with my incompetent local pharmacy. Big thanks to Dr. Broder for that. I also met a Dr. Dublin (I hope the spelling is correct), he was in his words "low on the totem pole" with the team but I could tell that given time he will be an outstanding choice for this procedure. Dr. Dublin came into the pre-op room and spent some time with my wife and I explaining how things would go and then after the procedure he went out to the waiting room to tell her that everything went well and brought her back to see me.

They wheeled me back into an ICU / Cardiac Step-Down center where I got my own private room. I had to lie pretty much flat on my back for 6 hours before I was allowed to sit up. Then after a couple more hours a doctor came to remove the sutures from my "leg". They put on a compression bandage and that was it. The only pain was a bit of stinging when the doctor wiped alcohol on the sutures. I had a gaping hole in my leg and a foreign object in my heart, but I was feeling good and in no pain. How cool is that?

I camped out in the room until morning when they did an echocardiogram to make sure the device was in place and holding tight. Then Dr. Broder came in at 10:00 when he said he would, and released me. We headed for home, stopping off to get some real food outside the confines of the hospital.

It's been a couple of days now and I still feel fantastic. I am moving around like I always have. Today I took off the bandages and though the bruising looks bad, the actual incision is pretty minor and I don't think there will be much of a scar. I am on Plavix for three months and asprin for at least six. I am allowed to begin moderate exercise again within the next week or two. I will be allowed to resume BJJ after the three month mark. Sooner if they determine that scar tissue is growing over the device fast enough.

A big bit of thanks to everyone for your support and well wishes. This has been a very long three years of two strokes and three TIA's, heart problems and not having any answers. I am so happy that it seems all of that should be behind me now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The First Day of the Rest of...Cedar Sinai Rocks!!!

I saw Dr. Kar at Cedars on Wednesday, 15 April. What a different experience than I had at UCLA. First off, I cannot say enough about how welcoming and accommodating Dr. Kar and his staff were.

My wife and I were first greeted by Dr. Kar's P.A. Asma because he had scrubbed into a procedure earlier in the day and was still assisting. Asma sat down with us and listened as we recounted my journey of the last three years. We detailed each stroke that I have had from the first one in 2006 all the way up to the two in one day that I just suffered back on 9 March.

We told her about the PFO that they had found while I was in the hospital and that while we were terrified to learn that I had a hole in my heart, we were exhilarated to learn that there might be a permanent solution. Then the story shifted to detailing my experience at UCLA and how the esteemed doctor there had only offered me entrance into a trial, and how self serving that seemed. A "miss-trial" she asked, and with that remark, we decided just how much we liked her already.

She told us that with my mix of symptoms and history, that doctors certainly should recommend closure. She told us that Dr. Kar would more than likely want the same thing, just as soon as he finishes up with the procedure. Asma told us to go downstairs, have some coffee or something to eat and come back up at our leisure and the doctor should be back by then. So we did.

Upon our return to the offices, Asma took us into the exam room again and right behind her Dr. Kar entered. My nerves were already a mess. I had been anticipating this appointment for weeks now, and after the glimmer of good news Asma had given us just an hour before this meeting, I was extraordinarily nervous. What if we were this far and he decided not to do it, what if for whatever reason I am not a good candidate, what if....its just another trial.

After just a few moments with Dr. Kar, filling him in on my history, all of my fears were laid to rest. He was amazing. Finally someone understood. He listened to our concerns and addressed each one. He then described the procedure in detail, told me how perfect my case is for trials, and then told me that he was not going to twist my arm to join his because as he jokingly put it I "had earned it".

He is going to perform my surgery using the Starflex device which is getting FDA approval next week. I will be one of the first people to receive this device without having to be in a trial. He has used it in a great many procedures already, for clinical trials of the device. This is the newest and the best device and is perfect for my PFO. Once this device is implanted it will start to become a part of me. Scar tissue and heart muscle will grow around it, making it invisible in months.

My surgery is going to take place on Friday, 24 April at Cedars Sinai. That is right, basically one week from now. I will go in Friday and be home on Saturday. I will be back at work on Monday and back to full activity within weeks. Back to the mats within........NOT TOO MUCH LONGER!!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Moment of Gratitude

I know its true for myself, and I'd venture to say its true for many out there, that we all tend to get wrapped up in ourselves from time to time. Bloggers especially can fall into this trap. Lets face it, we talk about ourselves a lot. I try to make it a point to let people know that I appreciate them regularly, but as I said its hard sometimes.

When I was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, everyone knew I wasn't dying or anything. For all intents and purposes it was routine...for me. I had suffered yet another TIA (mini-stroke) and though this was the first hospitalization, it certainly was not my first rodeo. What was amazing to me was the fact that even though I was fine, and everyone knew that...people showed up. I get a little choked up just putting that on paper. It blows me away that someone would willingly go into a hospital when they don't have to, in order to see someone who is doing well and ready to get the heck out of there.

As you can see by reading my past few posts, I learned some pretty shocking and difficult news about my heart while I was in the hospital, and with the love and support of my wife plus the support of everyone who came to see me or called or texted me, I knew I had a deep bench to call upon during difficult times.

I am eternally grateful to Caleb from The Fightworks Podcast. Without him, well there would be no Fightworks Podcast first off. Secondly, he is the reason I started this silly little blog to begin with. Last year when he posted his list of blogs he reads and the instructions on how to view them in google reader I followed his advice. That introduced me to this wonderful community we have. Before then I never knew just how many others shared my passion. I came to love checking reader daily, to see what was going on in the lives of Gringa, 365, Slidey, Steve, Valerie, Farts and countless others. This was the perfect outlet for someone like me.

Caleb was kind enough to include me in his listing late last year and now that he has posted his revised "Blogs I read" list / file, I find myself on there again. I really am grateful for that. Because anyone who has read my blog lately has found pretty much zero Jiu Jitsu content as I have been off the mats since mid to late January. So, a big THANK YOU Caleb. I'm so glad you are out there. Below is the link to Caleb's post which has the OPML file and instructions to upload and use Google Reader.


Or if you are more tech savvy than I, here is the OMPL file itself:

Download the OPML File of BJJ Blogs Here

Also, I am so thankful to everyone who reads this blog. Those of you who left me comments after my first post out of the hospital, I want you to know I truly appreciate it. You guys are the reason I love this sport so much. From the outside it can look so imposing and even hostile, but once you are inside it, the only word to describe it is...family. Thank you all for being a part of mine.