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.