Saturday, April 30, 2011


Their perceptions were not ready to register anything but the strictly indispensable. Always in motion. Always in a hurry. Travelling under the protection of a glass bell- transporting them from home to the office and isolating them from the surrounding sensorial world. Beauty sacrificed on the altar of efficiency. A sad waste of potential.
-Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle.

Beginners class followed by Competition training. There were a number of folks visiting from sister schools, including a couple of women. It was a full mat.

We drilled some of the same guard passes we've been working on this week, and a few variations of same. Two escapes from north-south. I was drilling with Liz, visiting blue belt close to my size. She has been off the mats for a while, and was complaining about her cardio and getting a little down on herself. I reassured her that it's normal to feel wiped after you've been off the mats a while, and in a couple weeks she's be back in the groove. She decided to quit while she was ahead after the first hour (after almost passing out in line). Bummer to not get a chance to live roll with her, but hopefully she will visit again.

Some King of the hill guard passes, then timed rolls with the other visiting female blue belt, Michelle. I had about 10lb on her, and with the help of that I was on top some- but we seemed pretty evenly matched. Neither of us got a tap, but we both came close a couple times.

Then Ron- Argh. He tools me so bad, and yet I can tell that he's using me to play around with some stuff and not working nearly as hard as he really could.

Lots of hard work today!

Friday, April 29, 2011


There is no need to travel to exotic places, load up on drugs, or drive one hundred miles an hour to feel alive. It is not necessary to look for particularly strong sensations, because when the five senses are awakened, every sensation is a strong one. The scent of the earth after a summer storm. The embrace of a lover. The vastness of the sky above. Small experiences that could travel through our consciousness without leaving any trace become the messengers of a beauty that cannot be measured. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

I told Rodrigo that JB has signed up for the May Revolution, and will be repping Gracie Barra Seattle in gi and Sleeper Athletics in no-gi. I figured it would be good to not have that take anyone by surprise. I do not expect it to cause a flurry like the one I caused in November, though. 1)I paved the way, 2)She's not technically an enrolled student anywhere at the moment so no one can technically claim current ownership of her, 3)She's a white belt, and issues of loyalty are not such a big deal at the lower ranks, 4)She's a white belt, and there are not as many team points on the line, and 5)It's not going to take anyone by surprise. I'm happy that she decided to rep both. JB also wants to train at both my schools whle she's in town this summer, which would be cool.

I have warned her that she is probably going to have to fight Alecia in gi. I think JB has a good shot of winning against Alecia in gi just as long as she stays cool and doesn't let Alecia's aggressiveness mentally intimidate her.

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle.

Ribs still feeling tender amd slightly achy, on both sides. My right shoulder still feels somewhat weak and sore with pushups. I think things are almost healed, I just need to be careful- I'm really scared about reinjuring my ribs, especially this close to a tournament.

We reviewed all four of this week's grab-the-insides-of-the-pantlegs guard passes. I was drilling with Bryan because we are both recovering cripples.

When we were told to switch partners for positional sparring, Glenn came up and grinned at both of us, and said, "Who wants me?" I replied, "I do, but don't let that get around." Carlos shuffled people around some more, though, and I ended up with Angus. I cautioned him several times to be light on my ribs; he and Bryan were both a titch heavier than I liked, but I was able to carefully frame my elbows up to protect my ribs.

One live roll, with Angus. On the bottom again. He tapped me once or twice, and I didn't get any on him, but I did get a couple of gloat-worthy escapes. Including a sweet omoplata escape that involved a headstand.

Good e-mail discussions with SK regarding positive feedback and other ways to try to eval how one is doing. Now that I'm being blatent and shameless about my lust for positive feedback, he's being good about trying to humor me. Today I got: "Note to self: tell Kitsune more often how awesome she's doing and how grateful I am to have a student like her in my class as a newbie instructor." Yowza, that's the way to pump me up!!! It's kinda stupid, but as I told him- "I'm a big fan of milking "stupid" as long as it's working!"

He suggested that it might be helpful to tape myself doing forms six months apart, and compare them- that that might help me see the improvement. That's an interesting idea (that never occurred to me). I wonder if that would work?

Later.......... Friday evening no-gi at Cindy's.

As I was stretching out, I was watching a tiny little girl of two or three, doing summersaults across the room. She did this continually for a good fifteen or twenty minutes. In another two years, Cindy is gonna have to recruit that kid.

After a while, I noticed that she had come up behind me and was mimicking each stretch that I was doing. When I tucked my hair up under my skullcap, she mimed that as well. Okay, I do not like kids, but this is kind of cute. The parents along the wall were pointing and grinning and taking pics with their cells.

Lamont is leading warmups regularly now so that Cindy has a little break between the kids' class and adult class to take care of a few things. After warmups, he had us pair up and drill armbars from guard. I drilled with Leilani. We did that for a really long time, and then things sort of devolved into each pair working on their own thing.

I reminded Leilani that there was one day left to register for the tournament under the lower price! Still no bites, but she is eager to be a good teammate and help others get ready. She mentioned that she had offered to let Alecia work throws on her. Wow, she is either pretty gutsy or pretty suicidal; I'm not sure if *I* would make that offer to Alecia! Come to find out that Leilani doesn't know what a breakfall is. Mama mia. So I taught her, and she was in as much wonder as if I'd pulled a rabbit out of a hat. I showed her a palm-heel strike versus a willow-palm on the mat to demonstrate how important it is to get that little wrist twist in there right before your hands hit the mat. Next time I get a few free minutes with her, I should review breakfalls and then throw her gently so that she can practice (hopefully) before she gets thrown by somebody else.

Timed spars. Cindy started to put me with Leilani, but Leilani begged for a break, so Cindy put me with George. Well, this is going to be a little harder. It boggles the mind the way he just sits there and lets you set up a sub, then just as you start to squeeze it on, he casually escapes. I couldn't finish any of my guillotines, kimuras or RNC's, but he finally let me finish a triangle- which I was happy about (Still weak on triangles).

Then Ranier, one of the kids. He outweighs me, so I was cautious, especially since I didn't know how much technique he has- but he didn't have a ton of technique, so I was able to go just a notch above him and let him work.

Then Cindy. She has been taking it easy since her injury early in the week, and said, "Don't hurt me!" I responded, "Don't hurt *ME*!" I asked her where she was injured, so that I could try to be careful of that area- and she said, "This part," Indicating her entire body. Okay then.

One of the things I notice more when I roll with Cindy is my slowness and pauses. I would like to work on (in particular) setting up subs faster. I have excellent control- good enough to slam a sub without REALLY slamming a sub. I think if I could get over my hesitations and commitment-phobia and habituate myself to setting up subs faster, that could really be a strength of mine.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three hundred forms

…Their minds are always hyperactive, too caught up in the unstoppable flow of thoughts to pay any attention to the ecstasy dancing in front of their noses. They don’t know what it means to live in a body that doesn’t just serve as a machine carrying the mind from one place to another. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Bellevue.

Armbar from mount, failed armbar transitioning to triangle, then failed armbar transitioning to a different armbar. I was working with some big brand new white belt, and I had to walk him through everything slow and careful (except the triangle, for some strange reason- he nailed that right off).

A little positional sparring. I told him to be very careful, since he was probably more than twice my weight. He was pretty heavy on top of me in side control, and kept trying gamely to force me into keylocks, which I was able to just barely defend. I got one tap on him (armbar).

Among the not-so-obvious perils of being a motorcyclist: if you are dropping weight for a comp and riding your motorcycle to class, you are assaulted by the scents of cooking from the restaurants along your way. The most eggregious offenders are the Romio's Pizza place on Redmond Way (garlic bread you can smell for a block and a half), The Garlic Jim's on Avondale (same scent, slightly less effective penetration... I think Romio's deliberately sets up an industrial fan right behind their stove), and some bakery on Cleveland that was emitting a pastry smell so lucious that I thought I was gonna pass out.

Evening kung fu. I was thinking it was about time to dial up the complexity of the hand strike drills, and had a couple of personal faves picked out- but then Nemesis, who was in front of me in line- picked the Tai Mantis elbow strike drill. I figured that was enough to Tai the new people's brains in knots for one night, heh heh. So I picked a simple Crane-inspired top fist out of forward stance.

After hand strike drills, we did some roundhouse kicks, then Black Crane one- and two-step defense drills against roundhouse kicks.

JM was drilling with Marcy, and instructing happily away. I'm interested to see whether having some new students in class is going to satisfy JM's tutorial drive and make her lay off *MY* case a little, or if helping the newbies is going to make her settle even more securely into her self-important (and self-appointed) TA role.

I was drilling with JoE, and after a bit, we were comfortable enough to start experimenting with the counters. Eventually he commented, "You're not shooting for my groin tonight... are you feeling okay?" Of course after that, there was a lot of groin-targeting to be done... with sound effects. "PING", "DING", "JING".....

Oftentimes, even after taking a step in, my arm was too short to palm-heel JoE in the head- so instead, I started dropping-elbow striking his leg after I trapped it, then adding a kick to the standing knee (and sometimes a zing to the groin, just to mix it up). SK walked over just in time to see me do a really great upward-hooking heel kick right into JoE's groin, and SK winced and covered his face with both hands.

JoE came up with a nice Dragony throw that used the momentum from my own kick to "encourage" me toward the ground.

A few reps of Five Animals. I noticed that JM was doing a different stance than I was during one technique. Instead of just assuming she was right and I was wrong, and changing my own technique, I asked SK, "Is the left leg supposed to be straight or bent here?" My version turned out to be correct.

There was some discussion of one other technique- I forget the name, something about an ape and a cup. There are three versions of this- the "nice way", the "not-so-nice" way, and the "REALLY not nice way". The latter involves thrusting your supported thumbs through the opponent's throat. I suggested that this would be much more effective if one allowed one's thumbnails to grow out and then filed them into points. Marcy stared at me for a long time. I grinned back at her. Stick around, girl, you'll get used to hearing that sort of thing from me.

SK and I were discussing Tai Chi in the car, and he asked me why I seemed content with half a dozen-ish forms in 7-ish years studying under CK in that MA, yet I was always agitating for more forms in Kung Fu (even though I have some 20 forms in five years). I reminded him that I have not asked for any new material since Hurricane Hands- a year and a half. Before that, though, I had always been whining for more new material.

I first referenced the Gummerson quote that I had sent to him and also posted here recently- about the idea that students get a "high rate of return" on their work while they are first learning a new form. It keeps their interest, it's instant gratification, and once you get the form to about 80% perfection, subsequent gains in skill on that material come much more slowly and need much more effort to achieve.

I also mentioned that CK had told me from the beginning of my time with her that it is common in her Tai Chi tradition to only get one form and work on it for three years. I knew from the outset that I had no hope of squeezing any new material out of her. SK commented, "Note to self.... nurture low expectations."

No, that wasn't quite the whole of it either...... My next thought was, "There's a competitiveness- I see other people learning new forms, and I want to learn new forms too." SK opined that he knows people with twice as many forms as I, who aren't nearly as "far along". Thank you. But you just hit on it: Not being able to evaluate how I'm doing, the number of forms becomes one of the few tangible ways to measure progress. I can't feel secure/content with my progress saying, "I have one form, and I'm incredible at it"; so I grope for security/contentment with "Muah ha ha, I can do THREE HUNDRED FORMS, so I'm the shizz."

(pic- Alecia (in blue))

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday lunchtime

The martial arts are one of the methods that can teach the body to reawaken the sleepy senses. Those smart enough not to put them back to sleep at the end of the training see their everyday life filling up with magic. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

S-O-R-E with a side dish of TIRED. I took an epsom salt bath and skipped evening class. Cuticles getting ripped up (one infected a bit). We haven't been doing an excessive amount of lapel-wrangling this week, but I guess five classes in three days still leave you with dog-eared fingers. Will have to tape them for the rest of the week.

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle. There was a new girl there- Dolly. I knew as soon as I watched her walk across the gym that she has previous MA experience (As a kid- karate- she was mystified when I told her she still has The Walk). Carlos put her with me for drills. She was clueless, but started catching on with help, and seemed intrigued. I hope she'll come back.

Escape from side control (I am so clumsy at this technique), two escapes from turtle (slightly better). Some positional sparring from side control and turtle.

Timed rolls with Marc and then Angus. Nobody got a tap, but they were good rolls. I'm usually not stuck on the bottom all the time with Marc; that's one of the reasons I enjoy rolling with him. Angus, I'm usually on the bottom and getting moderately steamrollered. I asked him today to go light on my ribs, and he seemed to be accomodating- either he was going pretty easy or I was On- I was still on the bottom quite a bit, but he didn't tap me out today.

(pic- Bianca (in lavender))

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I got to roll with Rodrigo today!

Those who have never approached their bodies as temples have no idea of what they are missing. The frog at the bottom of the well sees only a fraction of light and believes it to be the whole sky. The same happens to those who have lost the address of their bodies.
-Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Bellevue.

Prof Carlos mentioned to me that it has been a long time since we rolled together, and threatened- "As soon as your reebs are healed." I'm gonna be darn careful to keep my wrists away from him!!

We drilled a variation on the "seatbelt" guard pass. In this version, your legs are sprawled out and you're up on your toes, and- as Rodrigo cautioned me- I need to remember to keep my hips sunk down to the mat. Your hands are crossed on the opponent's chest, you're pushing hir knees up her nose, and your arms are more around the knee area than the hips (as in the true "seatbelt" technique).

After we'd drilled that part for a while, Rodrigo wanted us to explore how we thought we should proceed into the actual pass. We (collectively) must have been doing a halfway decent job, as he let us experiment for quite a while instead of stopping us three minutes in and demo'ing what he was really fishing for. It was interesting to try different things, tweak them, discuss them, try something else. I was working with Kelly, so I didn't have my partner ordering me around for a change, and it didn't feel like a dominance struggle- we were just able to try stuff and give each other feedback on what hurt more. (ha ha)

She's doing pretty well; in fact seemed more skilled with the guard pass than I was, but kept asking for reassurance that she was doing okay. She got flustered when I started to resist a bit; and I had to tell her several times that that didn't mean she was doing something wrong- it meant that she was doing great and that was why I was starting to resist a bit and challenge her more. Wow, imagine that.... a new girl feeling insecure about her performance on the mat. Welcome to my world, Kelly- hang in there.

Notes on the pass itself- it worked better when I grabbed the back waistband of the opponent's pants and stacked hir with it. A forearm across the throat was also "EXTRA INCENTIVE" (Cindy used that term last night, and I really like that). For some reason I kept wanting to lift up in the instances where I didn't get past the legs immediately- I think Animal Brain was wanting to try to go AROUND them, but experimentation showed that as soon as I lifted up, that just gave the opponent more room to get legs in there and turn body and start doing all sorts of other things that were bad for me. Keeping the weight down on the person keeps hir pinned there and you can take your time to work your way around- there is no need for panicky rushing.

It was funny to watch Prof Carlos gritting his teeth and curling his toes while he was acting as Rodrigo's demo dummy.... Rodrigo is on the small side, but you could tell his pressure hurt.

Spars with a blue belt guy whose name I forget, and Ben. I was very frustrated today. On the bottom the whole time, just doing small motions to fend off the chokes. Ben was chill and methodical, but I could sense the other guy- like Alecia- getting frustrated with my passive defensive stalling. I am seeing that this tactic- which I am not deliberately doing to be a douchebag, honest- I'm just falling into it out of sheer desperation, as it seems the only way to stop getting tapped every two seconds- is frustrating people to the point that they are responding by getting meaner and going harder on me. When they can't get the tap with technique, they just resort to muscle- and that is driving me crazy with anger and frustration.

After that guy finally got the tap on me, when we restarted, he (as Leslie calls it) Captain Cavemanned out. It took me by surprise- *YOU* just got the tap, dude, I'm the one who should be all ticked off (and I was)... but he started going really fast and hard, and picked me up from standing and did something that was half a split hair from qualifying as a slam.

Ben, as I said, was chill and methodical, but he still resorted to muscle when his technique didn't get the tap.

I got in my car, put the seat back and put my coat over my face, and wept and wept with frustration and despair.


Stubbornness or masochism, take your pick. As much as I want to just crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head after a training session like that, I think the despair just sorta sinks into your bones and marinates there. What have you really got to lose by getting right back on the mat a few hours later? The worst than can happen is you get a second dose of pwn and a second crying jag... but maybe you'll do better..... and then you can end the day feeling a little less like crap.

Thus: evening BJJ at Gracie Seattle. Hostility Boy was there. What are you doing here? I want to stick a GPS on the undercarriage of that guy's car so that I can know which school he's at and go to the OTHER one. But Cornelia was there, and John, and Vanessa (whom I haven't seen in a long time). Unfortunately I didn't get to work with either of the ladies tonight, but I grabbed John for drills. I always enjoy working with John. (Hostility Boy tried to grab John, but I grabbed him first! So Nyaa!)

Apparently Cornelia and Vanessa mostly come to the Seattle school on weeknights... whereas if I drive all the way into the city on a weeknight, it's usually to go to Cindy's. It would be nice to be able to do more, but I really try to get to the occasional one. There is a different population in different classes... of course there are the other class-surfers who may show up anywhere, but sometimes you get to meet and work with totally different people. I like to try to have at least a nodding acquaintance with as many students as possible, especially the female ones- and of course, working with different people is a good thing. Also- Rodrigo is usually in Seattle in the evenings.

Same techniques as this afternoon. I like that, as it gives me a chance to really look at details. I am also more relaxed when I'm not frantically trying to impress unfamiliar technique steps onto my brain.

One additional pass, starting from the same grab-the-insides-of-the-knees beginning. Thrust one knee to the floor and wrap your arm around the other, up by your shoulder. Crawl over the flattened leg, hug opponent's head and far shoulder along with that still-trapped leg, fall on your hip, and pass- controlling opponent's bottom leg with your shin to avoid the half-guard.

These stacking guard passes are not very nice on my nearly-healed ribs.... I am sore. But they seem to be holding up reasonably well.

Timed spars- a small 4 stripe white belt that I've never seen before. I didn't do that great, but better than I did this afternoon. I don't think either of us got a tap.

Then Rodrigo (!!!!) I was so excited. Two whole years, and I don't think I've ever rolled with Rodrigo even once! It's hard to eval how I did, since he was of course modulating his own game to my level. He told me I did well, though.

Open mat then.... I asked Z for a roll, and we rolled for a long time without anyone getting a tap. He's really good. I don't know how he got this good in three weeks. And it's not just a lot of crap he found on Youtube; he has skills such as a solid base that the Newbie Youtube Warriors usually lack till they have some significant mat time. It seemed like I ought to be able to sweep him easily, because he's pretty small (close to my size), but I think I only got one clean one. He is really good at sweeping me. I thought I had him once when I slapped on a guillotine and jumped guard, but he defended. The next time I got the guillotine, I tried to finish it from standing. Hostility Boy was standing on the wall exhorting me to jump guard, and I finally yelled back at him, "I TRIED that last time, and it didn't work!" I couldn't seem to finish it from standing, though, so finally I tried again to jump guard and finish it from there. Didn't work that time either, durnit. That's one of my higher-percentage moves. How did this guy get so good so fast???!? Finally, FINALLY, I managed to tap him with a keylock. Yay! It doesn't happen very often for me, but I *love* it when I roll with somebody for a really really long time with noboody tapping, and then *I* finally get the tap.

I have a lot of fun rolling with Z, but I think he's going to zoom right out of my league pretty quickly! I told him that he's going to be a scary blue belt. I had said that to Ron as well, in his early days, and I was right!

I'm glad I went to class tonight; I feel better about my work tonight than I did this afternoon. I should try in the future to do a second class when I have a putrid one early in the day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Please share your thoughts: Getting technique corrections from more junior students

I posted the following on Submissions 101 and Jiu jitsu Forums, so if you're on one of those, please respond there in order to contribute to what I hope will be a helpful group discussion. If you're not on one of those forums, please help me out and respond here. Thanks.

Okay, this is a given, so let's not even debate this part:

If someone gives you a technique correction in class- even if that person lags you in seniority/rank- it is the practical and evolved response to incorporate that advice and be glad/grateful for the opportunity to improve your game.

That said.....

Let's say that a hypothetical person is observing that s/he is getting what seems to be a large number of corrections from what seems to be a large number of more junior students.

Let's say that a hypothetical person is is not as evolved as they wish they were, and experiences a defensive/irritated emotional reaction to this.

Let's say that this hypothetical person is very insecure about hir own skills, and feels that the defensive/irritated emotional reaction is feeding into the insecurity and vice versa.

Just curious about other people's experiences/views on the topic.

Do more junior students give you corrections in class? How often does this happen, and is it just one (or a few) certain people, or is it a lot of different people?

When this happens, how do you feel about it?

If it bothers you, how do you handle it?

Do you give corrections to students more senior than yourself? Do you think this is okay? Why or why not? If you do give corrections, do you do it to *any* senior student, or only certain ones? Why?

Does it necessarily follow that if you are getting a lot of corrections from more junior students, that is hard evidence that your jiu jitsu sucks? How do you know?

Any other thoughts?

Monday evening

The energy is always there within reach. It is a fire that doesn’t always burn in the open, but under the skin the coals are always lit. Anyone sensitive enough can feel the vibration. As soon as you enter a room, right away you perceive who is an individual from head to toe and who has never listened to the voice of the body. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Monday evening gi at Cindy's. I wore my "Black Forest" gi with the alternate pants. It matches well, altho I am just not happy with the fit of these pants. Oh well, they will serve. I wore my gi without the belt tonight.

Gi chokes! I like gi chokes. Then failed gi chokes transitioning to armbars.

Keylocks from mount. Cindy asked me why I stick my foot out sideways. I honestly had no idea, so I tried pulling it in- and my animal-brain cried, "Stop! You'll get rolled!" Okay, so that's why. Cindy wants me to transition to a lower mount and get hooks in instead. I am so used to sticking that foot out that it was really hard to try to deprogram that while I was doing the drill.

Then failed keylocks transitioning to armbars.

I was drilling with Alecia. I did not ask her to be careful on my ribs today, but I made sure to always have my elbows braced overtop of my rib cage before she mounted.

Spars with Miko, Daniel, and (oooh) Leah. On the bottom most of the time with all three. Neither of the boys tapped me out, and I came very close to tapping Daniel twice- but couldn't quite finish.

Leah- I told myself, Do not approach her the same way you approached her last week, because obviously that does not work. Try something different. This resulted in me spending considerable time dancing around her trying to decide how to come in. You can't just plunge in on those long, long legs... you have to either neutralize them or go around them.

Although I spent most of the time on the bottom, and I had to tap once, I did slightly better than last time.

Being aware of how irritated and self-flagellating I tend to get when people that I outrank give me corrections, I'm really noticing lately how often this is happening, and from how many different people. I'm wondering if this is normal. Does everyone gets lots of corrections from more junior students? Does everyone just brush it off, or is it common to get annoyed and feel stupid when this happens? Do people notice THEMSELVES giving corrections to more senior students? I'm wondering if I'm receiving a disproportionate amount of this behavior- and if so, why. How much is this responsible for my MA inferiority complex? This might be something worth polling the forums about.

(pic- Carlos)

The Micro-arm defense

Because of the physical nature of martial arts, we can’t lie to ourselves. There is no need for somebody to tell us whether we are moving mechanically or are truly present. When you are there, you know it. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Monday lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle.

Prof Carlos seemed very focussed on working off that Easter candy. He drove us hard- it was like a competition class (which it wasn't specifically supposed to be). Lots of fast, hard drills. Conditioning, a little positional sparring. I couldn't stay for open mat after; I was wiped out.

I did a short match with Bree at one point; was in bottom half guard almost the entire time. She commented, "Good half-guard... You've been training with Bryan!" Heh. After she got her leg out for a millisecond and I immediately latched back onto it, I crowed, "Nope- Mine!!!" and she started laughing. She said,"You're the only person who always makes me laugh WHILE we're rolling," "That can be construed as insulting, you know." She finally managed to tap me with a choke. I was irritated with myself. She is another person who has only been training half as long as I, and I really feel I ought to be- if not beating- at least holding my own against..... and I am frustrated that she taps me and I never tap her.

Short match with Tony, a smallish blue belt. I was imprisoned in his closed guard, and he tried mightily for almost the entire match to use muscle to force my arms into position for either an armbar or a triangle. I couldn't do much against him, but I'm grimly satisfied that I successfully defended. I had to keep shifting angles and bracing my hands/wrists/elbows against other parts of my body so that he couldn't lever them into place with strength. Some of those defenses took a little thinking out. Finally I said (half jokingly, half serious), "Just let me out, huh?" He did, and I passed, and got in top side control (Ha!!!)

I also escaped armbar attempts by both of them, by virtue of the "Micro-arm" defense. That works sometimes against people that I don't fight very often- they forget that they'll need to adjust their technique for the extreme shortness of my arm.

Carlos called me out on having "ballerina toes" during one drill- dang, I wish I could break that habit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday evening Kung Fu

Being one hundred percent present here and now is the talent of a true martial artist. Through the practice of martial arts, we can learn to feel this presence, call upon it, cultivate it, make it a part of ourselves. When we can enter this dimension at will, it becomes possible to have free access to an enormous source of power. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Sunday evening Kung Fu.

Punch and Jab, aka "Arrow Hand". I've practiced this a bunch (I had to), but there are two minor corrections from the way I was repping it.

1)Right after you wipe the attacker's arm off and bounce that same hand up into a palm-heel to the face, that hand does an across-the-chest parry underneath the right punch that you're doing next. It does not chamber.

2) As you do the hammer-fist with your right hand, the left does not chamber. It stays out front, low.

Although I will need to work on those adjustments, I must say I was happy to not be stumbling over the form in class. The practice paid off. I was even happier when I saw the next piece of the form.

Turn east and do a little skip so that your left foot is now where your right one was. At the same time, do a right ball-of-the-foot snap kick east. At the same time, left hand palm-heels head level to east. At the same time, right arm does a rising block at head level. Yeah, there's a lot going on. Too much going on. This form (heck, this entire style) is whacked out. You are never just doing something- you're doing six things at once. When it takes an entire paragraph to describe ONE move, there's too much going on!

After that bizarre spasm, you set the foot back down into another north-facing horse stance, hammer fist right hand at head level to east (NOT to north- this is the same opponent that you just directed the previous sequence at). The left elbow stays horizontal to chest level, but do *NOT* hunch the shoulder! The lower arm below the elbow ONLY drops to parry across the chest simultaneous to the hammer fist strike.

After some reps, I noted that it made more sense to my mental process if I turned the blade hand in that last parry into a Mantis claw. So I went ahead and did it, albeit subtle-like, because it had been presented as a blade hand. About five minutes later, JoE commented to SK, "I keep wanting to do a Mantis claw here!" SK then showed us the next move of the form- that blade hand turns into- yup- a Mantis claw in the next sequence. Ha. I love it when that happens.

"My brain is sizzling. Can we take a break?"

Apps. Not of *THAT*, thank Gods- it's going to take a zillion reps before I want to even think about trying that with a partner. We worked the same wrist-release app that we'd done last week, up to the right punch. I was drilling with JM, and my right punch was landing with exquisite precision right in the side of her neck. After about twelve of these, she abruptly added a pak sau that deflected the fist with a sharp cracking sound. We both froze and started wide-eyed at each other. I just about died laughing.

Then we added the parry, second wrist release, pull off-balance, and hammer-fist to head.

Had some problems with the second wrist release. First it seemed that my right elbow was flying up too high, but after I'd fixed that, I was still having issues. I could get her grip off my wrist just fine, but the way I wanted to do it- the way I'd been practicing/visualizing it- that wrist turn and pull was one fluid full-body motion that also incorporated the left arm doing a violent pull-apart and yanking the opponent down and to the north, hard. The fact that you're also turning your body to the north further serves to pull that overbalancing opponent over your right knee (just in case s/he wasn't already doing a nosedive to the mat). At least that was my Grand Plan. I found to my annoyance that it was necessary to use all of my faculties just to achieve the wrist release. This meant that all the rest of that stuff was step two- which took longer and also had a lot less full-bodied momentum and power. We monkeyed with it for quite a while, and the apps worked- we just couldn't incorporate the maneuver into a single violent motion. Without that violent motion, I was unable to get the opponent bent over to my satisfaction, and unable to use my knee as a stumbling block. I complained that if I was trying to do this to someone taller (like Nemesis), I wouldn't even be able to REACH the back of the skull with my hammer fist. SK suggested that if I found I coudn't reach that target, alter the technique to instead do an elbow strike to the arm that I was immobilizing, just above the elbow.

Note- don't cheat the turning of your wrist right after that second wrist release. It is the turning of your wrist that turns the OPPONENT'S arm over and prevents hir from being able to easily reach you to strike back at you. It also helps to overbalance hir.

Sparring. I made a mental note to try to stay focussed on my centerline. I seem to do much better most of the time when I visualize myself sort of like the sharply-pointed prow of a ship- driving through the waves and shucking them matter-of-factly off to either side of that unassailable front-center point. As soon as I start trying to fool with White-Craney centrifugal crap, or try to get too creative, I think that's when things start to go to Purgatory in a small woven container. Solid grounded stance, look for openings, all attacks coming straight from the center and driving in on that line like machine-gun fire.

Me attacking Nemesis. SK kept having to stop us because we couldn't seem to prevent ourselves from speeding up. After several stops, he said in exasperation, "Inserting long pauses in between lightning attacks does not constitute going slow!" He also made us back off and come in again instead of me stalking after Nemesis with my chi sau sticky Snake hands constantly bridging all over his arms like I enjoy doing. Darn. I can't do that to SK, but against the others I'm really liking that. It also leads very nicely into Snake strikes to the throat, which has become probably my most common attack in live sparring.

Nemesis grabbed me by the hair three times. Grrrr.

JM attacking me. Again I begged off trying to spar in a single style. Because I didn't have to try to focus on that, one of the things I was able to do was experiment with some non-traditional ready/guard stances.

I did one technique that resolved itself very smoothly into a rear choke, and SK exclaimed, "Ooooh! Python! That was awesome. Can you recreate that?!? " "Heck no."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday evening

In martial arts, everything begins with the body. First, one gets acquainted with it, and slowly becomes intimate with it. The body is transformed into the best ally of the spirit. Then spirit and body become one. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

Friday evening no-gi at Cindy's.

I tend to be pretty tired if I've gone to Friday lunchtime at Gracie's, and it's hard to drag my carcass in for round two. Today I was self-disciplined. The warmups were a trial, though. Alecia even commented on how spacey I looked.

Cindy was injured, so she had George teach us a takedown. I like this one. You start with a behind-the-neck grip and an elbow grip. Pull opponent down. When opponent reacts by posturing up, snake the neck-grip hand around until the crook of your elbow is behind hir neck. At the same time, yank down on hir other arm. Ideally you want to be driving down toward the floor with that hand that went around the neck- like spiking a football. It was a little tricky for me, since I have to reach *UP* to get my arm around most people's necks. The yank on the opposite arm is critical for me. As is the turning of the opponent to destroy hir balance. You are corkscrewing the opponent down toward the floor and landing on top in scarf. I was drilling with Rodrigo (not Rodrigo from Gracie's, this is a different Rodrigo), and I was relieved that he was gentle with his landings. Takedowns ending in scarf- especially with someone considerably heavier than I- could be very very very bad news for my tender ribs.

We followed this up by having the bottom person do the scarf reversal that we drilled earlier this week, and then escape from the headlock.

Then Cindy left, leaving Alecia in charge. We went straight to rolling. I had been waffling about rolling at all tonight, after my travesty on Wednesday. Maybe a little break is in order, I was thinking. But I couldn't really justify driving all the way into the city on a weeknight to drill one technique and then leave... so, what the hell.

Krystal. I did okay positionally, but couldn't finish a sub. Came close a few times. If we'd been in gi, I could have finished a couple of armbars- but without the aid of being able to grab my own lapel to pin the hand, I wasn't as effective. I tried to grab my own shoulder instead, which sorta worked, but not nearly as well. I was not able to pry her locked hands apart that way.

Somebody had brought in a new guy, medium-sized. Alecia left him on the bench for the first round and put him with George for the second round. She and I were both on the bench for the second round, and she asked me if I thought it would be safe to put the new guy with Rodrigo. Since it was a BRAND new guy, and we didn't know whether he was a Spazzy Asshole (tm), and there was no teacher present, I said that if it were me, I'd just leave him with George- who is experienced enough and skilled enough to not get hurt nor hurt the new guy. I went to the bathroom, and when I got back, Alecia and George were discussing the matter and they put him with *ME*. Uhhhh... we're not sure we should put him with Rodrigo, so we're going to put him with the 133lb retarded old bag with the popped rib???!? Since George had just finished rolling with him, presumably this meant that he was vouching that the guy was okay. At least I hoped so. I was like, "well, uhhh, okay, as long as he goes light." I looked him in the eye and said solemnly, "Go light on me." For whatever that was worth, since the guy seemed to have a dicey grasp on English and I might have just as well told him to pass the horseradish. Oh well.... if he was nuts, I was going to tap (and maybe scream) immediately and extricate myself.

He was gentle with me; in fact, to my surprise, I tapped him four times. Twice with RNC's, once with an armbar, and once with a keylock. I would have quit subbing him after two taps- like I said yesterday, I don't think it's cool to pwn newbies- but I wasn't going 100% either, just setting things up methodically, and I honestly wasn't expecting to get the tap. Afterward, I thanked him for not crushing me (hope he understood me).

So then Alecia went with him, and then I felt bad. I knew Alecia would go rough and have no problem with the pwn'ing, and I don't really think it's polite to take a new guy on his very first night and have him owned by two small girls one right after the other... especially when he's chivalrous enough to not use his superior weight and strength against us. If I'd known Alecia was gonna go with him next, I would have dialed my own game down even more and let him sit on top for a while. I hope his self-esteem is healthy enough that he'll want to come back after that! Sigh.

Then me and Alecia. I reminded her to be careful of my rib, and she was like, "Are you sure you want to roll with me at all?" Sure, as long as you don't crush a ton of weight on my rib cage in side control or scarf. We ended up spending the majority of the roll with her in inverted guard and me squooshing her on top. It was not a fruitful position for me.... I couldn't get any subs from where I was, and wasn't having any luck trying to transition to a better position... but hey, look Ma, not in bottom half guard! I felt like as soon as I did something dramatic, she was going to sub me, so I kind of stalled there. She seemed (again) unhappy and frustrated with me when time ran out. Sorry, I know, I'm not very happy either.... but at this point I am beginning to transition from "Just Trying To Survive Against You" into "Just Trying To Spend a Little Time In a Decent Controlling Position Against You". Once I feel halfway secure on *that* level, maybe I can venture into being a little more of an interesting/useful partner for you. I'm working on it. Chica did not tap me out, and I didn't spend the entire match kissing the mat- and I'm personally just really happy with that much at this stage of the journey.

I didn't get put with Leah tonight. Alecia is scarier than Leah, though. I wonder if part of the reason Leah is tromping me so bad is just that I haven't worked with her in a long time, and I don't know her game, or what parts of my game are effective against her. Maybe I will do better after I get used to working with her again.

Friday lunchtime

When we have worked hard and succeed at something, we should be allowed to smell the roses. They key is to recognize that the beauty of those roses lies in their transience. It is drifting away even as we inhale. We enjoy the win fully while taking a deep breath, then we exhale, note the lesson learned, and move onto the next adventure. –Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle.

I wore the "Black Forest" gi for the first time. Once I was under the florescents at the gym, I was bummed to see how glaringly the pants don't match. I'll try wearing the jacket with the alternate pair of pants next time. Carlos looked me up and down, and asked what color I was going to be wearing NEXT week. I told him that this was the end of it, because I have run out of gi's (with the exception of my unbleached cotton Atama, which I do not plan to dye). He suggested red. I responded that red hair with a red gi was way too much red.

Rodrigo (who was looking markedly healthier today, although still slightly run down) was happy to see me too. He tried to kick my knee out, then gave me a hug. Between my rib-out absences and the fact that I've mostly been going to the Bellevue branch lately, I have seen very little of Rodrigo for the past few weeks. I told him about my injury, and he told me that he has had the exact same injury- which has been troubling him for a year. Expensive as it was, I'm glad I actually got mine treated; it sounds like it's the gift that keeps on giving if you try to ignore it. Rodrigo wanted to know if I was going to be okay for the May Revolution, and I said yes.

After warmups, we did several sets of single- and double-leg takedown setups. A little trouble with left and right again for me- otherwise okay. Then three different guard passes using either one or two pantleg grips on the insides of the knees. These were new to me, and a little awkward. I was drilling with Angus, who is helpful. He tends to go a bit too rough and heavy, so I have to ask him to ease up a tad. Then a little positional sparring from spider guard.

Carlos used the word "butt" while explaining technique today, which made me laugh. For almost a year now, whenever he's had to make reference to the rear end, he's struggled because the only English word he knew for it was "ass"- which he also knew was not really proper to say on the mat. It's been a running source of amusement. I guess somebody finally taught him "butt". Hee hee.

Timed spars with Z and then Bryan. Z is a small-sized no-stripe white belt that I've never worked with before. About two minutes in, I said, "Okay, you know too much to be a no-stripe white belt- where have you trained before?" He insisted he hasn't; that he's just "been here a lot" since he joined up. Well, he's pretty good. We had a competitive roll. He tapped me once, I didn't get him at all. He almost tapped me a second time with an awesome wrapped-up twisty gi choke, but I launched a kamikaze summersault to try to get the pressure off my neck- I wasn't sure it would work, but it did. He was also doing the torso-squeezing body-triangle thing, which I once more refused to tap to. I got him three (3!) times with the grab-yer-ankles and dump-ya-on-yer-butt move.

Bryan- well, it went much the way it usually goes with Bryan. He tapped me out a couple of times, but spent much of the roll trying to choke me in various creative ways. My focus was getting some body part or other turned or wedged in just a hair enough to allow me to block him from getting full leverage for the choke. If he couldn't get full leverage, he'd hold it for a while, and make a few adjustments, and then move on to try something else if I didn't tap. I don't think I tapped to any of his chokes today. Not that I deserve any medals for lying under his front mount while he maneuvered around and squeezed my throat for ten minutes, but hey- it's something. Especially against Bryan. I informed him that I would have a headache with his name on it for the rest of the afternoon.

I wanted to spar with Bree, but she is injured AGAIN. She threw her back out- by- wait for it- cleaning the toilet.

The spandex Nike swim cap is working well for controlling my hair. It's not noticably hotter/more annoying than the headgear itself. I need a second one for when I have more than one class in a day- but I'm scared to go back to the Sports Authority, because it's going to be really really hard to walk out of there without another couple of new rashies and sports bras. I love the ones I got on my last trip in, but they were pricey!

Another thing- I am up to 133lb, and I need to lose four pounds (preferrably six) before the Revolution on May 21. Ugh. Chicken and Egg Purgatory, here I come again.

SK wants to schedule a get-together with CN and work on Dragon stuff. This quarter is supposed to be Mantis and Dragon quarter. SK doesn't know much Dragon material, and he also considers it one of his weakest styles. The people in the intermediate group know Little Red Dragon, so we can always work on apps out of that- but this is the fourth annual round of Little Red Dragon review for several of us.... it would be nice to have something fresh to play with. SK invited me to come to the Dragon session too, and I'm not sure if I should go or not. CN and SK are lightning-learners, and I would slow their process down a lot.

I sent an e-mail to CC to see if I can get a session with him; he will surely have some Dragony tidbits that he could show me, to take back to the group.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back to Black Crane

Problems set in if the performer has a brittle dependence on the safety of absolute perfection. -Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Thursday evening Kung Fu.

Two rounds of hand strike drills. SK remarked that my ridge hand strikes look much improved. Goodie. I have been trying to keep the strike more direct and prevent my elbows from flying up too much.

Then some one-step Black Crane self-defense drills, with partners. First with SK. He made a few suggestions, but I seemed mostly okay. At one point he threw a totally different strike at me and I reacted instinctually; then he threw the same strike a second time, and I was so worried about what I was SUPPOSED to be doing that I flubbed it. After that, I tried to just relax and do what seemed to make sense..... rather than trying to compute what was coming in, run it through a mental index of what I felt was expected of me, choose the correct response, and execute it- which was taking way too long anyway. Even when I came up with the correct action, it was hesitant and clumsy because I was thinking about it too much and second-guessing myself.

Note to self- don't hunch the shoulder while doing the low rear Black Crane blocks. Also, keep that elbow up. Most of the movement is below the elbow, and the elbow itself should be pointed toward the opponent.

SK asked Marcy how she was doing with this, and she paused for a long moment before replying, "Noninstinctual movements." I stated, "That pretty much sums up Crane."

Then with RM. It was amusing to watch him do Crane and compare his movements to those of his eerily similar bro (who is a Crane stylist). RM seems to be clicking well with Crane so far. I also had opportunity to remark that Smartaleck runs in his family.

After we were done working Black Crane, SK made mention of the forearm bruises and aches that always accompany this material, and asked the new students how they were doing with that. Then he checked in with me on how my injuries were doing, and then we all looked next at Nemesis- who never bruises and feels no pain. He said brightly, "I'm fine!" and we all cracked up.

SK specifically called on me to answer a couple of questions in class tonight, and he also used me for a demo once- which are both unusual. I no longer bother to try to volunteer answers to questions in class, because JM always tramples over everyone to answer them first. When I complained to SK that JM was inappropriately taking over the class, one of my annoyances I did *not* bring up is that he always uses her for the demos. In most MA classes I have been in, the teacher uses the most senior student for demos. When DD taught, he always used CN; when CN taught, he always used SK; now that SK is teaching, he ought to be using Nemesis (or- my preference- cycle through and use ALL the students), but he always uses JM. When you can tell that he's getting ready to demo something, she just steps right up there like that's her job, rather than waiting to be motioned to. This time, when she stepped right up there, he motioned to me instead- and she had to step back again. I managed to keep a straight face, but inwardly my eyebrows were climbing and I wanted to chuckle. I wonder if that was some sort of fluke, or if he figured that out for himself and decided to change that up a little. That would be nice. Time will tell, I guess. I also noticed tonight that one time, she started to challenge/question something SK said and then halfway through the sentence, stopped herself and said, "Sorry". He indicated for her to continue, but again- maybe a sign of good change. We'll see if it continues or not.

We did a few reps of the Five Animals form, with people dropping out at whichever point they have learned up to- those of us who know the whole thing finished it. I haven't repped this one in a while, and I was chagrined to accidentally do a piece of the form on the mirror side, the first time we went through. Oops. On the positive side, though, it's good that I feel that comfortable with the techniques off both sides, since that was my aim in the first place.

SK wants me to work on an assignment- come up with a set of basic one-step Southern Tiger self-defense drills similar to this list of Black Crane ones. I can use any Southern Tiger ready stance(s), I can pick things out of existing drills and forms or I can make stuff up, I can also ask for help from my other teachers if I want to. I think I can do that... I feel fairly comfortable that I can take a given situation and come up with a simple and classical "Southern Tiger" response to it. Leopard, too, if I feel like playing with that. (unlike Crane, Tiger and Leopard make SENSE!) Just as long as he's not thinking of making me teach these drills to the class.

I have been doing little mini-sessions of repping Spear Hand all week, and it's getting there. It is definitely taking more reps to memorize than even I am used to having to do... all those toe turns and little swirly finger flourishes. But it's coming along. While SK is teaching us this form, I am determined to not walk into a Sunday class and be stumbling over the previous week's piece. My breathing is still way too Tigery, and I've almost gotten well enough over the "what comes next" hurdle to start focussing on the breathing.

Thursday lunchtime

Nothing says, "Please don't rape me" like multiple jacketed hollowpoints. -John Fogh

Lunchtime BJJ at Bracie Bellevue. Shawn was teaching- Rodrigo apparently has the Plague... I told you he looked sick on Tuesday!

John walked in and said, "I'm ready for you today!" He had spent some time yesterday working escapes from top half guard because I had frustrated him the other day. I didn't get to test him out today, but hopefully soon.

We drilled the "seatbelt" guard pass (JB's favorite!), and another one where you grab the opponent's pantlegs at inside of knee and bottom cuff, pin to mat, and pass to "bottom cuff" side.

Being the last kid picked for the kickball team was a good thing today, it got me paired up with Shawn.

A little positional sparring from open guard. Yay, something I'm fairly good at. Shawn is nice to work with- he lets me get enough positions to have fun with it and not feel like a total loser. I almost got a clock choke on him, but my arm was about 2 in. too short to reach the lapel I was straining for.

Then some white belt guy I didn't know- I think I did okay against him.

I have been thinking about how frustrated I had gotten after rolling with Leah in last night's class, and wondering if I would have been better off trying to get it together and continue instead of bailing. I was supposed to roll with Leilani next.

Aside from the fact that I was feeling like I wasn't worthy to breathe the air in the gym at that moment, I don't want to roll with a new person right after I get smashed like that.

It's not really that I'm afraid I'll turn around and smash the new person in turn- I have more self-control than that (although I do occasionally fantasize about it). However, itis important to me that I always approach rolling with a new person in a considerate manner. I want to let them get a few things, and work on whatever they need to work on. I have *NEVER* just *USED* a new person in a selfish way to run a clinic or to soothe my wounded ego, and I don't want to be like that. I hate it when I feel like someone has USED me in that way. I guess that at a moment like that, it's just difficult to get my mind off my self-centered frustration and get back into that "considerate partner" mode.

I believe in validating and owning one's emotions... in some situations, you *HAVE* to put it on the shelf and do what you need to do, and hopefully get back to it later.... but if it's really overwhelming, I feel like I want to just step back and take a little time to acknowledge the feelings. The sort of situation I had last night, though- it's not a good note to end a training session on. Maybe next time, it would be worth the experiment to try to get a grip, put the frustration on the shelf and go ahead and roll with the new person. Just to see how that goes, and if I feel better or worse (or the same) at the end of the night.

(pic- Alecia (blue) and Cornelia (white))

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday evening

(Being in a) Hard Zone demands a cooperative world for you to function.
A man wants to walk across the land, but the earth is covered with thorns. He has two options- one is to pave his road, to tame all of nature into compliance. The other is to make sandals. Making sandals is the internal solution. Like the Soft Zone, it does not base success on a submissive world. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Tonight the excruciatingly delicate spun-glass primrose of my BJJ ego was shattered into a million agonizing shards by the toxic bowling ball that is Leah.

Really, it's not her- it's me. She subbed me several times in two minutes without seeming to work very hard. She trained at Gracie's for a year, took a year off, and has just started sporadically training again; meanwhile I have been busting my buns 3X plus every week the whole time, and I feel like I ought to be- if not beating her- at least holding my own. I got really frustrated, to the embarrassing point that everybody noticed. Dan was really nice about coming over to try to buck me up. But I had to call it a night after that. It was definitely one of those days where I had the "No matter how long and hard you work, you are just *NEVER* going to stop sucking this bad" tape on endless loop in my head.

One of the hardest things for me to deal with is that I am technically at the front of the rank line here much of the time, and it's like an acid splash on my self-esteem every time I have to line up before and after class at the head of a row of people every one of whom can effortlessly kick my ass (and spent the intervening time between lineups doing so). It's a mortifying joke, and I burn with shame. It's almost as bad at Gracie's; there are usually at least a few people ahead of me there... thank God we're not being forced to line up by rank order in kung fu any more. I don't think I could stand it.

Anyway, before that farce took place, we drilled escapes from side control some more- which is good since I need more work on that. Still need to get my shoulder hunched up higher upon attaining the underhook. Also need to get to the knees faster and smoother- still a bit slow and clumsy. Additionally I'm still having some hesitation over which underhook to go for- there's that left/right confusion again- but we drilled it enough today that I'm hoping to be a bit more confident on that now.

At the last class, I sustained a mild rib injury to the side OPPOSITE by "rib out"- and almost the exact same situation, although so far it appears to not be as dire (Thank you Lord). No radiating nerve pain, and I was able to do army crawls today with just a small amount of pain from either side. I'm feeling gun shy about rib injuries now, though... Every time someone makes a move toward side control, I hunch up reflexively with a Black Crane elbow/knee guard frame-up goin' on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guillotine meltdown

After making an error, it is so easy to cling to the emotional comfort state of what was, but there is also that unsettling sense that things have changed for the worse. The clear thinker is suddenly at war with himself, and flow is lost. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Bellevue.

Carlos seems to have his Happy Thoughts back this week, fortunately. Rodrigo, on the other hand, looked like something the cat dragged in- pale and ragged. I think he's sick.

Double-leg to guillotine to arm-over-the-shoulder defense and takedown. I did one or two guillotines on Kelly, and then she suddenly started to cry.

"Are you okay? Did I hurt you?" "I'm okay, I'm okay..." continuing to cry. Okay, emotional meltdown triggered by guillotine. I'm cool with this. Give her a minute to pull herself together, then ask if she's okay to continue, assure her that she doesn't have to do these if it's too much. Carlos came over to see what was going on; I said, "She's okay, just give her a minute" "She's NOT okay, ees crying." Surely he knows me well enough to know that I wasn't roughhousing her. She obviously didn't want to have an encounter session about it at the moment, so I got rid of him, and she pulled it together enough to continue. I went light and made sure she got to do the attacks on me first.

Escape from headlock by pulling the elbow to the mat and then turning belly-down to take the back. Then some positional sparring from headlock. Switch partners. Now I had John, who was going a little bit hard and heavy (especially for my rib), but not so much that I had to ask him to lighten up.

Timed roll with Dave. He tapped me in about ten seconds with an armbar. Sigh. Restart... he tapped me in about twenty seconds with a leglock. What is it with everybody wanting to leglock me lately? After that one, I ramped it up a bit, and was able to be a little more competitive- but I am no match for Dave!

Then John again, and this time I did ask him to be a little light on my rib. I couldn't do a whole lot against him, but I did confine him in my half guard for most of the roll.

Carlos tried to talk to Kelly again before she left, but she still did not want to talk. Before I left, he sat on the wall with me and we had a language-challenged conversation in which he told me (I think) that she has broken down crying in class five times. I tried to tell him that she might have had something bad happen to her in the past, and that he shouldn't push her too hard if she doesn't want to talk about it. He feels that he should push because needs to know what is going on when someone is crying on his mat- that is his responsibility. I can see that in a way... he knows I wouldn't have been roughhousing her, but if she'd been drilling with some new white belt, he wouldn't know if he needed to rip that guy a new one for being too rough. I just hope he doesn't push her enough that she won't want to come back. Whatever it is, if she keeps coming back after breaking down on the mat five times, she's already being pretty brave to keep facing it.

(pic- Bianca (in the lavender))

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rolling with Jiu-jiu!

When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.

Monday gi night at Cindy's, with Julia!

Lamont told me that the chocolate gi looks like suede. Nice! He and Leilani were the first people (other than online) to actually like my brown gi.

While we were waiting for the kids to finish up, Cindy had me do two matches with Lina. She showed decent aggression in standup (did a masterful guard pull on me once), but was hesitant about trying subs on me. With some encouragement and coaching from Cindy, she finally applied an acceptable armbar. It's nice to hear the kids cheering for each other from the bench. Cindy is trying to encourage a strong team mentality in them.

I'm almost certain I heard a few small pitiful moaning sounds from Julia's direction during the warmups.... and we didn't even have to do Dead Bugs! It was a light warmup! I guess we have to cut her a little slack, though, seeing as she has done (IIRC) eleven classes in the last seven days!

We drilled escapes from bottom side control. Although I have seen all of these before, I continue to not be very skilled at getting out of bottom side control.

Julia giggled all the way through Cindy's "This isn't mean" speech. "If you're pushing on the side of his face and it hurts, all he needs to do is move his face! If he doesn't, and it keeps hurting, that's his fault and not yours." Julia then gave me grief for apologizing every time I had to grind the sharp side of my forearm bone into her face (usually pulling her hair as well).

I wish we'd had a little more time to do live rolling, but unfortunately the capoeira class was following us and we had to vacate the mat. She let me take her back a couple of times first, though.

It's fun bringing visitors into my gym. Everybody wants to come visit us, 'cause we're AWESOME.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday evening

We live in an attention-deficit culture. We are bombarded with more and more information… the constant supply of stimulus has the potential to turn us into addicts, always hungering for something new and prefabricated to keep us entertained. When nothing exciting is going on, we might get bored, distracted, separated from the moment. So we look for new entertainment…If caught in these rhythms, we are like current-bound surface fish, floating along a two-dimensional world without any sense for the gorgeous abyss below. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

An hour of Competition Class at Gracie Seattle. I was having some contact lens issues, and didn't get on the mat in time for warmups, so I did pushups on the cement. They still hurt some, but I can do them- as long as I do them slow. After about thirty, though, I started to seriously flag. My right shoulder feels weak.

We drilled a gi choke from guard. Grab the tail of opponent's gi jacket and wrap it around the back of hir neck, then pass it to your other hand (thumb up grip). If you've got it nice and tight, it already hurts- and there are a couple of ways to finish, either by grabbing a handful of gi at the shoulder blade or by using the lapel. If the opponent tries to push your arm past when you go for the cross grip, you can switch to an armbar. It doesn't take much; Angela and I found that even if your grips and technique were phenomenally sloppy, we still wanted to tap almost immediately because that fist in the side of your neck hurts so bad. I really enjoy wrapping people up in their gi's!

On to Kung fu.

A few reps of Bung Bo Kuen, a few reps of the piece of Punch-and-Jab that we have so far.

Next piece of the form: You are facing west in left-foot-forward hill climbing stance, right fist extended and left palm against inside of right elbow. Straighten your right hand out and step back with your left foot while you lower the right hand and "wipe" the left hand down the arm. Then left hand bounces back up to palm-heel the chin. Right hand is chambering at waist. Make sure to turn the toe in; as you are now in a right-foot-forward hill climbing stance. Right forward punch, left hand chambers.

Use left hand to reach under right wrist, then a violent pull-apart motion with both arms- right chambers at waist, left is fisted near left hip with elbow slightly bent.

Now a quarter turn to your left (you are now facing north again) as left arm chambers and right arm draws up to ear, then hammer-fist to north at shoulder level.

Apps of that first new piece: the opponent is Mantis-claw-gripping your extended wrist and then Z-locking you. The straightening of the hand and stepping back neutralizes the Z-lock, then you "wipe" the opponent's hand off and palm-heel hir. I have always had a little trouble with the Z-lock; it seems like my hand is too small to comfortably get the correct grip on the opponent's hand. I also want to push everything too high, for some reason. (When I do that, it turns into a different armlock- still works, but not what we were supposed to be drilling.) I repped it on SK till it was working acceptably.

When you are on the recieving end of a Z-lock, it makes you want to go to one knee. I found that if you go to the ground and roll, you can roll out of the Z-lock and come out of the roll in position to thrust kick up into your opponent's groin. In the meantime, though, you are within range of whatever knee strikes and kicks S/HE wants to throw at you.

I used to think Z-lock would be a useful thing to try in BJJ, but you'd really have to have the person immobilized so that they couldn't roll out of it.

A little sparring. Each of us in turn against SK. DD wanted us to spar in one specific animal style- which I begged off from; I'm having quite enough trouble without that extra complication thrown in. With everyone watching, I was again very stiff and anxious.

(pic- Carlos (in white) at the PanAms)

Friday, April 15, 2011


Preston and I missed half the class because Google Maps sucks. After Google Maps sent me miles down the down from where he was, we next tried to meet up at a Rite Aid. BAD IDEA. We joke around here about there being a Starbucks on literally every corner, but by gosh, if you need a RITE AID, you won't have to look far. I never realized how many of them there are. At the first one I found, I was walking around the parking lot talking to him on the phone, and he was supposedly walking around the parking lot as well... but the only other person there was an elderly Asian guy. I thought, "He has been posting bogus pics," but it turned out to be the WRONG Rite Aid. I hit two more of them before I finally found Preston.

So, we were phenomenally late to class and missed the whole class, but at least we got some time to roll... and Cindy let Lamont lock up so that we could stay a little later.

I am happy to report that Preston is not a Spazzy Asshole. The guys seemed to enjoy rolling with him, and wanted to know when he'd be back! He did, however, tap me out left, right, backwards and upside down with all the fun stuff he was practicing up at Ari's. I was just blogging the other day about how it's hard to fight newbies because they do things you don't expect... this was the same, only with skill. It was hard to defend because I never knew what he was setting up. He'd get me in a position, and it was like, "Okay, I can figure out how to get out of here" ... but as soon as I move a limb to do so, I'm placing myself into a submission that I didn't even suspect was there. It was wild. He taught me one trick which I hope I can remember long enough to try it on somebody!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday evening

The next phase of my martial growth would involve turning the large into the small. My understanding of this process is to touch the essence (for example, highly refined and deeply internalized body mechanics or FEELING) of a technique, and then to incrementally condense the external manifestation of the technique while keeping true to its essence. Over time, expansiveness decreases while potency increases. I call this method “Making smaller circles”. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Thursday evening kung fu. Small class- no JM, no Nemesis.

Hand strike drills. We only did one round of these, and they didn't seem to hurt much. We'll see what I feel like in the morning. A round of kick drills.

Then we repped the first few moves of the Five Animals form, and worked apps with partners. Although my technique needed a little tweaking, it is interesting to watch the new people trying to do it, and realizing that as clueless as I still feel at times, *that* level of newbie cluelessness is far in my rearview mirror. In particular, the general sqeamishness of a newbie when it comes to getting right up against your opponent and becoming one.

Instead of sparring tonight, we paired up each newbie with a more senior student and did a one-step strike to be parried or blocked. I attacked RM and then got attacked by Marcy. A couple of people on the forums and blogs this week have mentioned fighting new people and how it can be tricker than fighting experienced people, just because the new people do things you don't expect. I got a lot of that from Marcy. Once again I do poorly against multi-level combo attacks, and I was also doing pretty poorly against her kicking attacks. I kept advancing on her so that I could quickly move inside the range of her kicks, and she kept backing away (there's that newbie don't-get-too-close thing again).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Players tend to get attached to fancy techniques and fail to recognize that subtle internalization and refinement is much more important than the quantity of what is learned…. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle. Kind of a small class today. Carlos (Not Professor Carlos or little Carlos, but the OTHER Carlos) has been blue belted.

On my way in, I had my back cracked again. All of my symptoms (at rest) are down to a "2", even the right arm numbness.

Warmups. Carlos has new pushups- after each one, you place one hand over your ear... alternating. I can do them, but slow- they hurt a bit on the right side.

Bullfight guard pass. Carlos watched me do one, then stopped the whole class and had me demo it on him. He grabbed my ankles and dumped me on my butt. Okay, I see. Need to get the feet back further.

Also, perpetual things I need to work on with this- grab below the knees, not above. Make sure the arms are straight and drive the opponent's legs forcefully to the floor. Don't swing too wide on the way around.

Then a similar pass where instead of grabbing the pantlegs, you use a crossover motion to slap the knee to one side and slide in for a KOB. I had **SO** much trouble with this. It was another left/right "I can't remember which hand to use first" situation. Carlos came over and was walking me through it, and both the guys I was drilling with (we were in a threesome) were trying to direct me as well, and the more I messed it up, the more I freaked out. I would try it on the right, Carlos would go, "No, no- other hand first" So I'd mentally fix that OTHER hand foremost in my brain and go to try it again, and he'd say, "Other side, other side!" So I'd try to do it on the left side and get the wrong hand again, because I was focussed on what I needed to do for the RIGHT side. He is really insistant that you alternate sides during drills, which just ties my brain in knots when I can't even do the technique correctly on ONE side. We did this for what seemed like an eon, with me getting more and more frustrated and embarrassed, and of course the more distressed I got, the worse I performed.

Carlos did not seem to be in a better mood today than he was last night; and he was picking on me and pressuring me kind of rough today. Besides putting me through the ringer on that pass and using me for a what-not-to-do-demo on the Bullfight, he also gave me more grief about how- if I am able to do some positional sparring and live rolling- I ought to be able to do those alligators. It's like he feels I'm challenging his expertise on what can and cannot be done on a popped rib.... I'm as perplexed as he is that I can shrimp and be (moderately) KOB'ed and even do some sprawls at this point, but the alligators still really hurt. It doesn't make sense, but them's the facts. I certainly don't want to challenge his expertise, but I also don't like feeling as if he won't take my word for what hurts too much to do or not- it's almost as if he's accusing me of exaggerating my pain in order to shirk warmups that I don't like, and I don't appreciate that at all. Every "rib out" injury is not equal; as this one has proven, they manifest in different ways. No matter how many times you've had a rib out, you can't definitively tell somebody else that you are understanding their own injury experience better than they are.

I told Carlos that us old folk don't bounce back as quickly as he did (He brags about being back on the mat at almost normal capacity a mere two weeks after that bad rib injury of his). He then wanted to know how old I was, and I told him I turn 39 tomorrow. He was astonished (Yeah, I get that a lot), and then I got to hear about his mom- who is 11 years older than me, a Judo black belt who gets up and runs ten miles every morning. Later on, Bryan made some disparaging remark about me being 39, and I reminded him firmly that I am not 39 until tomorrow. He informed me that he was rounding up.

So, a little KOB positional training, then a live roll with Bryan and one with a white belt guy whose name I forget. They were both nice to my rib. Bryan steamrollered me as usual, but praised my choke defense. He wristlocked me on the right, then casually rolled us 360 degrees, put me into the same position on the opposite side, and wristlocked me on the left. I called him a vulgar name.

The other guy, I was on the bottom most of the time. He couldn't get out of my half guard, and because I was being a little conservative with the core movements, I wasn't trying too strenuously to get out. A couple of times, he rolled us over and essentially reversed himself. Once after he did that, he sort of laughed and said, "I was getting tired of being on top." Ha ha. That would have been the perfect moment to choke the shit out of him, and I tried... got pretty close a number of times, but didn't manage to finish him. Dang.


Evening no-gi at Cindy's. Some of the warmups hurt- army crawls, bear crawls, cartwheels, plank walks- but I was able to get through them, albeit slowly.

I noticed a list of techniques written on a whiteboard leaning against the wall. On the opposite side of the board was written, "Be nice to your partner!!!!" I turned away chuckling at that, and Cindy saw me, and called, "I put that on there just for you!"

Positional flow drill. Then taking turns reversing each other from scarf hold. Positonal sparring from scarf hold and then from headlock. Then a little live rolling. With Leilani, Kristal, Daniel and Alecia. Everybody was mostly nice to my rib.

I actually got a pendulum sweep on Daniel. I don't know which of us was more surprised. We both started laughing.

I was in bottom half guard almost the whole time with Daniel and Alecia. Alecia eventually took my back and got me in a body triangle. It wasn't on my injured ribs, or I would have had to tap immediately. As it was, that's one of those things that I do not like to tap to. If they're choking me and/or bow-and-arrowing my spine at the same time, I have no choice but to tap- but she was just squeezing, and I do not tap to torso-squeezing because I feel it is a bit of a cheesy move.

Well, she had it on good and tight, and sistah has some seriously muscular thighs. I could barely get small sips of air in- and yeah, it hurt. I couldn't get out, but I had ahold of her wrist so that she couldn't choke me. I thought I would have to wait till she changed position and then make my break. I became very still, and focussed on trying to moderate my micro-breathing.

Well, the minutes ticked by, and we just lay there....until it became apparent that she was planning to just keep squeezing me and wait me out. I would have been willing to play her waiting game, except that she had access to oxygen while we waited, and I didn't... and I didn't know how much time was left on the clock. Furthermore, she was squeezing me so hard that I could literally taste lunch trying to make an encore appearance in the back of my throat. It was only a matter of time- and not much- before I had to either tap, puke, or lose consciousness, and I didn't really like any of those choices. So I death-gripped her shoulder to the mat, held my breath, did my best to close my throat, and started slowly, laboriously inching my way through a body twist until our position had shifted from her on my back to me in her closed guard. I was so proud of myself. I glanced up, and the mirror wall was right in front of my face. My lips matched the royal blue nylon straps of my headgear.

I exclaimed to Alecia, "OmiGod! Look how blue my lips are!" She did not seem amused. I don't think she was very happy with my escape (if you can even call it that; as I was in her closed guard). So I yelled across the mat to Leilani, who was on the bench- "Hey! Look how blue my lips are!!" She stared, and her eyes got big and round. Yeah, that's more the reaction I was fishing for. It would have been fun to follow up my near-death experience by passing Alecia's guard, but time ran out just then.

Alecia also tapped me out once with a leglock. I continue to get very irritated at being tapped with those. Sigh.

STOMP is holding auditions. SSSSSSSSSSIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH. I could *SO* do that. If only I wasn't so slow to learn/memorize choreography. That would be the most fun *ever*.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When professor ees not happy, nobody ees happy

In all athletic disciplines, it is the internal work that makes the physical mat time click, but it is easy to lose touch with this reality in the middle of the grind. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

I skipped lunchtime class today so that I could get my taxes done. That acidic charred scent on the wind is my brain combusting.

Evening BJJ at Gracie Bellevue. I had trouble with the warmup pushups, so I didn't attempt the alligators or army crawls. When I got the stink eye from Carlos, I reminded him about my rib injury. He informed me that he could still do these exercises when *he* had a rib out- and that it's good to move and work the injured rib. I'm sure he has no idea how old I am, and maybe someday he'll grok that a 38-year-old doesn't bounce back from these sorts of things with quite the same gleeful and reckless elasticity as a (professional athlete) 26-year-old. And I'm all for moving and working it- that's why I'm here- but not to the point of being in agony tomorrow. I am glad that he has high expectations for me and that he pushes me- that's helpful for me- but I hope he's not going to think too much the less of me for being firm about eschewing the alligators.

He was driving us kind of hard tonight... Mina was there for the first little while (then she vanished); he was hard on us last time she was here too.... I was thinking that maybe he's trying to impress her with what hardcore badasses we all are around here. But by the end of the class, he apologized to us all and said that he was in a bad mood, missing his family, having some trouble in his family, and sorry that he was taking it out on us. When Professor ees not happy, nobody ees happy. How true it is.

We skipped the standup "self-defense" technique we usually begin with because there were way too many students crowded on the mat tonight to do any standup safely. We drilled a basic guard break, stand up, reach behind you to pry the ankles apart, then pass. I was drilling with Irina, who does not hestitate to correct me if I get a detail wrong (good thing I'm used to THAT, huh? Chuckle). I was having some problems getting the ankles apart, and she was giving a titch too much resistance.

At one point, Carlos demonstrated the technique again and asked us (standing with both his unguarded ankles way too close to the opponent's reach) "Theese all right?" No, I knew- especially as we had JUST been discussing that takedown on Jiujitsu Forums. Most people roboted back "YES SIR" except for one brave soul who hollered, "No!" I didn't say anything. We all had to do fifty pushups, except for that one guy. Mercy. I did some slow, careful ones. Not fifty of them. I should be more assertive when I know I'm right- in here, at least, where I'm not all mousified by the presence of JM.

Positional sparring from closed guard. First for the top person- try to pass, bottom person give minimal resistance by way of spider, butterfly, or half guard. Then for the bottom person- try to sweep, top person give minimal resistance. Carlos specified that the higher-ranking person start on top for the sweep portion- but Irina just lay there and looked at me, and said that she didn't know any sweeps. Well, scissor sweep a LITTLE. I told her to just try that one, and she couldn't get through it. It needed more help than I could verbally give her from the top, especially with the language barrier. So I told her to get on top, and hoped that Carlos wouldn't notice that we weren't exactly following his instructions. I walked her through the scissor sweep several times, and Carlos came over to suggest that I 1)make sure I have my knee positioned firmly enough in her shoulder so that she couldn't push it down and put her weight down on me, and 2)place my bottom foot on the opponent's knee to push it back, especially if I couldn't get her tipped right away. Then when we switched places, she was able to do the scissor sweep several times.

I had enough energy by the time we finished to contemplate staying for the advanced class, but I decided that between my rib and Carlos being on one of his drive-em-hard moods, it might be best to quit while I was ahead.

Monday, April 11, 2011


If even for the blink of an eye you can control two of the other guy’s limbs with one of yours, either with angle or timing or some sort of clinch, then the opponent is in grave danger. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

I'm relieved to say that after a tortuous Friday, by the second half of Saturday the pain from my my injury was easing up. After a long day at work on my feet today, it was flaring again a bit- but nothing on a par with Friday. I hope the worst is behind me.

Having a really hard time getting the energy up today. Tired and dragging and grumpy. I think a lot of small stressors are just ganging up on me right now.

An hour of competition training at Gracie Seattle. Cornelia was there- wearing a blue belt!!!! Shiny! She and Lindsey both teased me about the pink baby-blanket gi.

I had to skimp/skip a bunch of the warmups because of my rib.

We drilled an escape from half guard using the tail of the gi to wrap up one of your opponent's arms. After you get out, one of the most interesting options is to use that same gi tail to choke your opponent.

When I got to Kung fu, my moderately foul mood was not improved by being informed that the piece of Punch and Jab that we'd learned- and that I had actually PRACTICED for a decent stretch- had been tampered with by DD and now it was all different. I have to unlearn a bunch of stuff and then relearn the new way.

The turn to the side now has a high parry with the back of the right forearm, culminating with a back-of-the-hand thwack to the side of the opponent's head. It's Monkeyish. the left hand parry remains the same, but it's now up by your cheek.

Lunge and drop is the same, but now we are to have the toe of the stretched-out foot turned in. The foot is sliding between the opponent's feet and then doing a body-drop style jarring motion to break the stance. The right arm is straight, you're using your left hand to catch under the opponent's elbow.

Come up in a hill-climbing stance, do the same punch/kick/knife-hand, but then fall back into another hill-climbing stance. This involves turning the toe immediately before the kick and turning it BACK immediately after.

Several reps of that, a few reps on SK. I asked him if it was okay for me to be hyperextending and prying on his bad arm, and he said to go for it... but a few reps later he admitted it was a bit much, and we had to stop.

A few reps of the opening sequence of Bung Bo Kuen- up to the throw. Then working apps of the throw with JM. I let her throw me first. It's a White Dragon-ish throw in that you're twisting the opponent's head around and taking away hir balance until s/he sorta has to throw HIRSELF in order to avoid a broken neck. Especially the way JM does it. I recall the last few times we were working on those White Dragon throws, and she has a real knack for them. Likewise this. She threw me till I started developing a mild headache. Rib did okay, though- there was only one throw that I landed right on the injury, and that one hurt some- but I came through okay.

Then it was my turn. Before she could tell me I was doing it wrong, I said, "I was given a different version." If I'm going to do that, I'd just better be able to cowboy up a good app with enough confidence to knock her down on the first try. Which I succeeded in, this time. Good for me. It worked so well that after several reps, I started trying to explore some other ideas for apps. As soon as I started messing around with some different grips, she began to try to school me thanks, sweetie... so I just switched back to my first app and threw her some more. I need to remember that if I want someone to let me experiment, this is not the partner to do that with.

Sparring. Between my low-energy state and the mild headache, I was not thrilled with the idea of sparring- especially with everyone (including DD) watching. Well, I needn't have worried about DD, as he vanished into a back room before my turn came up. Oh, I also found out that JaE is now going over to DD's place for private lessons (sometimes sharing SK's session before Sunday class, sometimes by himself). Looks like now that we're not seeing much of CN, DD has selected a new pet to replace him.... skipping over several more senior students. I don't know why I am still having an emotional reaction to DD disappointing me with the same behaviors he has been disappointing me with for years now.... but I am. Is some part of me still hoping/expecting him to show up one day and be the teacher I wanted him to be? Now that we have hard evidence that we are not just being kept waiting/held back for an extraordinary length of time for no apparent reason- that we have now been actually PASSED OVER- hopefully that concept can just be given a decent burial. Which would be easier if he would just stay out of here. I don't know why he bothers to pop in from time to time- mostly to huddle with his pet students- when he has his own little select subclass over at his house anyway. Well, at least he didn't pick JM for his new pet. That woulda been a hard lump to swallow indeed.

So, sparring SK- slowly, him attacking. I felt very stiff and nervous. It must have been obvious, because he told me three times to chill out and calm down. He came at me a few times with different-level combo attacks, including the one we'd been going over on Thursday... I had to ask for do-overs on all of those, and on some of the kicking attacks as well. In retrospect, I should have asked him to slow down even more so that I had plenty of time to react instead of getting flustered.