Monday, February 8, 2010

Braulio, Bad Weather and Backaches

(2/5/10 6:00pm) Braulio Estima Seminar at Gracie Barra Huntington Beach

We have all heard the stories. Insert grizzled old man here describing the treacherous trek back and forth to school every day; uphill, both ways, in the snow, without shoes. Point being, they had it so very bad so how dare you complain about your own little inconveniences in this rather comfortable age in which we live. Well buckle in youngsters, cause I got a whopper (no not from Burger King....mmmm burgers).

On Friday night I attended a seminar put on by Braulio Estima. In case you don’t know who that is; he is an awesome BJJ competitor and won the ADCC last year. But we’ll get to him and the seminar later. I need to talk about the drive down.

I live in Palmdale California and the seminar was in Huntington Beach. According to MapQuest, to get to GBHB its 97.95 miles one way, so I am going to round to 100. It’s my story, if I want to take liberty with 2.05 miles I will.

Not only was it 100miles, it was 100miles with more than half of it on the 405. Anyone familiar with LA traffic knows that the 405 is a special little slice of hell. I refer to it as the world’s longest parking lot.

So, not only was it 100miles, it was 100 miles with more than half on the 405, and it was a Friday afternoon, when everyone and their uncle is either escaping to or away from the city.

Did I mention that it was raining? It was. So it was 100 miles, down the 405, on a Friday afternoon, in the rain. Beat that gramps! Yeah, that’s what I thought. You got nothin! MapQuest tells me that it should take 1 hour and 46 minutes. That is optimistic without the weather being a factor. So let’s do math, I left at 2:30pm and I arrived at the academy at 5:45, just before the scheduled 6:00pm start time. I will subtract 15 minutes for the quick stop I made into Jiu-Jitsu Progear and that puts my total, one way time at 3 hours. Yes, not a typo, 3 hours.

What could be worth spending 3 hours sitting in LA traffic, on the 405, on a Friday afternoon, in the rain? That’s easy, Braulio Estima. Braulio is a Gracie Barra black belt with more accolades than I can mention. Perhaps the most significant, recent, feat of his was his winning the ADCC Absolute last year. Beyond that, he is such a nice guy.

I won’t go into specifics about what we covered because I think people need to go see Braulio when they can and learn from the source. His seminar dealt with working in the guard primarily. I am always looking to fortify my guard game so this was great for me. We took good notes while there so that we would be able to remember the techniques we learned as well as the overall strategies that he gave us. Braulio has a unique way of looking at positions and submissions that I have never thought of but it makes so much sense once you hear it.

His enthusiasm for teaching and sharing his knowledge is so apparent. He genuinely enjoys helping everyone in the class learn something new. We counted 51 people on the mats and though there was zero extra mat space, he made it feel like a small group of friends. Braulio made a point to personally check up on everyone and it felt like one big private lesson.

I have to give some thanks to Professor Filipe “Jerry” Oliveira. He made us feel welcome and at home in a strange academy. He treated those of us from different academies as long time friends and was so very helpful. In fact, everyone at his academy treated us very well, so a big thank you to them.

Ok, so now the dark lining on this big shiny silver cloud. Somewhere during drilling techniques I managed to hurt my lower back. I have no idea how it happened. I was working with Dr. Evil and all of a sudden there was a little pain. That pain began to escalate and by the time we left it was horrible. I made the drive home (two hours this time) and got home at 12:30am.

I tried to get some rest but I could not get comfortable. I managed to get myself out of bed and in agony I drove to the urgent care at 5:00am. The doc there gave me a shot in the muscles in my back and sent me home with a prescription for Flexeril. All day Saturday I wrestled with the pain and tried to rest it as much as I could. Sunday was just as bad, if not worse. There were times that I thought I had broken my back it hurt so bad. I went back to the urgent care, during the Superbowl. This time they took x-rays and luckily they were clean. The doc said it could be a minor burst or slipped disk. Hopefully it’s just a pinched nerve or something. As I write this, it’s Monday and I am still in a great deal of pain. I will keep up my meds and hopefully whip this thing into submission soon. I hate how much I have been off the mats already this year and I don’t need another setback. Fingers crossed it’s just a pinched nerve or something and I can get back on the mats soon.

Bottom Line, if Braulio comes to an academy near you, pay the fee, make the drive and enjoy a fantastic BJJ experience with one of the most talented and nicest guys out there. He is making his way around the states so be on the lookout.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rehab, Retention and Repetition

(1/25/10 6:30pm) BJJ

One of the odd things about training in a gym that has yet to open is the fact that most every night is like open mat. For me this proved to be a very good thing as I am still nursing my shoulder and back…back to health. The pain all day had been very mild which was a welcome change. For days it has felt as though the muscles in my back had gotten shorter and like someone had shoved a small rock underneath my shoulder blade. So, to whoever it was that shoved a rock in there…..a very sarcastic Thank You!

As far as training; I found someone else who just wanted to go light and we worked on drilling a few specific techniques. Armbar from mount, a neat side control kimura set-up from Braulio’s Invisible Jiu-Jitsu, and as always I worked on my guard retention.

After enough reps we moved on to specific training. I put myself into bad situations (mostly under side control) and worked to get back to guard or to reverse completely and end up on top all the while my opponent tried to pass to mount or submit. I forced myself to try a few different escapes. In live rolling I typically rely on the upa-shrimp-up to knees and shoot for a single leg. That escape has served me well but from time to time I am against people who can greatly out-wrestle me and I typically end up losing any advantage and end up back where I started. So for this session I really tried to work on getting to half guard and getting back to full guard.

I had a great deal of success with getting back to guard and I think that now I will be more apt to do the same in live sparring when against a formidable wrestler (of which we have many). Now I am not discounting the fact that I need serious help with my wrestling. If I happen to find that one gem in the rough that is smaller than me with even less wrestling skill I end up doing well. But most of the time I end up working from a bad position. I guess that should be another goal for this year, to improve my wrestling / judo.

When I got home my shoulder started to talk to me again. I dosed up, hit the sack and this morning it feels much better. I am debating between doing jits again tonight and risk aggravating it or to just hit 24 Hour Fitness with my temporary pass and just work cardio and such to save my shoulder. Decisions decisions.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feeling Un-Awesome

Ok, so far this year has not quite gotten off to the start I wanted it to. I started out with some kind of cold that just would not go away. Then I developed a pain in my shoulder / back that just continued to get worse and worse. Once the cold subsided and my shoulder was just unbearable, I decided to go to the urgent care to make sure nothing was seriously wrong. The doc took x-rays and thankfully they looked normal. He told me it is probably a spasm underneath the shoulder blade that is causing all the muscles around it to tighten up and guard it, thereby perpetuating more pain. It’s a vicious cycle. He prescribed Vicodin and Flexeril. The Vicodin is for the pain and Flexeril to relax the muscles. Cool. A few doses of these over the next few days should do the trick.

So I got home from the doctor on Tuesday night, popped my new pills, had dinner and went off to bed. It would seem as though two prescriptions were not all I got from seeing the doctor as I awoke at 0100 racing to the bathroom to vomit. I felt horrible. Then I performed encores at 0200 and 0330. Needless to say that was a miserable night. All day Wednesday I was in agony. I alternated between the sofa and the bed all day, trying to find some relief. I tried to keep my fluids up but it just was not working. I wasn’t even able to eat but a few spoonfuls of the chicken soup my wife made me. It seems as though I picked up some kind of bug at the urgent care that wanted to see me suffer for 24 hours.

This morning I am feeling 1000% better. I still have absolutely zero energy so I know I won’t train again tonight. My shoulder is still killing me so I am planning to get some real food in me and to resume taking those meds to hopefully heal it up. If I am going to miss training it might as well be to heal up so I can get back to healthy. I have not had one single week of being totally healthy at all this year. I can’t wait for that to happen! Mentally I am ready to conquer the world, physically…not so much.

So that is the scoop for now. I am sure that by the end of this month I will be back to 100% and will be able to get back on the path to world domination.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lets Get This Party Started Right

Goal Setting (1/17/2010)

Ok, it’s the end of the second week of 2010. Really, 2010? We have only had two weeks in this New Year and already there is so much to report. It has been a busy year thus far and this is the first real chance I have had to be able to sit down and put virtual pen to virtual paper. Since this is my first post of the New Year and I have had some time to reflect I guess it is time to announce my goals to the community.

Recap of 2009:

January started off like I had hoped and expected. There was a lot of BJJ going on until I went back to work and then naturally it began to curtail as the grind resumed. Still, I was optimistic and feeling improvements for the first time in a long time. It might just be a good year.

Then in February I suffered two strokes within 24 hours. Those were strokes 4 and 5 respectively in my relatively short life. To my friends under 30, shut up. I’m still young…ish. Anyway, these strokes landed me in the hospital and shaped the rest of my year.

While in the hospital, I was diagnosed with a PFO, a hole in my heart that allows small clots, less oxygenated blood and other nasties to circumvent the normal filtering process and loop straight to my brain. Yeah, it’s as crappy as it sounds. Well at the end of April I had heart surgery. I was free to return to action in the gym around July. Needless to say, six months of NOTHING really took a toll.

I spent many a night in the fitness kickboxing class to rebuild cardio and strength. That was a long, tedious and sometimes frustrating process. I felt a great sense of accomplishment after each session and now I am so very glad I did it. I can really feel the difference and I know it has helped me to lay a foundation for this year.

I did do more and more BJJ toward the end of the year and I even got my second stripe. Finally. I have been training off and on since October 2007 and I am a two stripe white belt. I am not complaining, just stating the fact. During all that time I have had strokes and other medical problems keep me off the mats for long periods of time. I am so very optimistic that 2010 represents the first year ever in which I will have no substantial interruptions in training so I can get where I should be.

So with all the off the mat stuff in mind, lets take a look at the goals I set for 2009 and assess where I have made progress and where I have not. My comments as of now are in blue following the asterisks.

2009 Goals:
  • Become a better BJJ player (Easy one eh?) *I think I did this one despite the odds
  • Train more consistently *This one was impossible because of all my medical drama
  • Attend minimum of 3 classes/week *As was this one
  • Attend Open Mat more frequently (it rocks) *I did attend more sessions when I could
  • Improve my guard game *This I fear was a point of regression
  • Make the Triangle my go-to submission *Also one I was unable to work on
  • Improve my conditioning *After 6 months off the mats and then 6 months of work; I feel that I am now better than ever
  • Fitness kickboxing classes *I did a ton of these to recover and rebuild my cardio. It worked
  • More cycling (Mountain / Road) *Only made it on a few road rides and NO mountain rides
  • • Keep my head in the “right” place *I think the time off helped my mental game. I don’t freeze nearly as bad anymore.
  • Get more photos during training *Not a single one
  • Write more *I did write more, most though was chronicling my heart condition and surgery
So now that last year is over and all the medical stories have gone by the wayside I can take a look forward. I didn’t want to overanalyze my goals for this year I just want to take it as it comes and enjoy being able to train and train hard. So, with all that in mind, here are my goals for this year.

2010 Goals:

  • Continue to Work on my Guard
  • Work Hard Enough to Deserve Promotions
    • Third Stripe
    • Forth Stripe
    • Blue Belt
  • Train BJJ 3 Times/week (Minimum of 156 Sessions in 2010)
  • Strength and Conditioning 4 Times / Week (Minimum of 208 Sessions in 2010)
  • Visit and Train at 4 Other BJJ Schools
  • Write More; 2 Posts / Week (Minimum of 104 Posts in 2010)
I think this is a doable list. In fact, I hope to add to it as the year progresses. Since this will be my first uninterrupted year of training, I don’t want to create a laundry list of unattainable items nor do I want to box myself in with a gaggle of restrictive goals. This is BJJ, we are supposed to be able to just flow right?

Now, keep me honest community. Hold me to the fire and help me attain these goals, help me to grow as a BJJ player and help me to grow this fantastic endeavor that has us all in its spell.

*PS: My original Professor, Kazeka Muniz is opening a new gym in Palmdale and I have left Fight Factory to train with him. The new facility will be as amazing as his instruction. So, if you ever find yourself in Palmdale California, stop by Premium Fitness and take a look.