Kick him when he’s down!

Sheesh. I went to training today with a fresh, positive outlook.

Jiu jitsu is a game and I was ready to play it more enthusiastically than anyone.

Had a good warmup. There are a few coloured belts there so sensei decides to stage a mini tournament, as practice. I’m paired up with a purple belt.

We square off and I shoot in, get the single leg and the takedown. Two points. There is some scrambling and stuff,  I stand up, and his spider guard is too good for me so I decide to sit down sharpish before I lose my balance.

Wham, I land weirdly on my foot, crushing it under my weight. Something goes pocky.

I hold on for the rest of the fight, wondering whether to quit and see to my throbbing foot, but decide to grit it out, Japanese-spirit stylee. I lose 11 points to 5 then crawl to the corner to inspect the damage… not good. Foot is buggered. Swollen, with a dark blotch on it. I can’t put any weight on it at all.

Training is a half an hour cycle from my house. I had to come back on the bike which was probably not a good idea either.

So now I’m nursing a mangled foot and a severely dampened spirit! When it happened there was a cloud so black it was almost visible over me. I was seriously pissed off. I really don’t need this at the moment.

Still, I managed to snap myself out of the funk and now I’m just hoping it’s not too serious and after a night of icing and shippuing this inteeeeeense pain will have subsided.

Shit burgers.

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June 22nd – Kyushu Open BJJ tournament

I’m putting the last competition behind me and looking to the next one.

It’s pretty close.

On the off chance that there are any foreigners in Kyushu who are interested in entering but can’t find the details online, here they are.

Unfortunately you need to be a member of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation of Japan to enter.

Kyushu Open Tournament 2008
Date: June 22
Venue: Kasuya Dome
Price: 5,000 yen before June 6th, 6,000 after

Entry form PDF for “Adult” class here.

I’m hoping I’ll have more luck here. This is the venue where I won my first and only gold medal, at the Ground Impact Grappling tourney last year.

BJJ May 9, and a minor crisis.

Went to BJJ last night, the first class after the competition.

Usually I feel good after a comp, win or lose. I have always felt that competing is like firing clay… you’ve been moulding and pushing and prodding, then when you compete, it hardens, and you reach a new level, then you start moulding again.

Skill-wise I felt good still, but I was feeling good before the competition and I lost, when I probably should have won.

Here the crisis starts. This may be somewhat of a disorganised rant, but try to bear with me.

Up until the competition, I felt things had been going well. Very well, in fact. I had chosen a mode of training and thinking, and it was working for me, I was improving. I was not bothered by small questions or self-doubt. Now, I have reached one of those times in training where you feel like you know nothing and you don’t know how to proceed.

The Brazilians, the world champions, all say that you should be tapping all the time in training. You should have no ego. Training is not a competition.

But if I spend all my training sessions tapping and never fighting with my partners, how will I ever develop the fighting skill, the mental toughness, the grit, that you need to succeed in BJJ? And the next question, is winning medals all that’s important to me?

I’d like to say no but there is no denying that winning is much more satisfying and confidence-boosting than losing. I can’t lie… I want to win. I want to have shiny medals hanging on my wall that my future son can point at and say “Tell me how you won those, Dad.”

I’d like to teach jiu jitsu one day. Having a few gold medals to your name helps that.

For example, last night, my coach was pwnz0r11ings me on the mat. He had a kind of uncomfortable smile on his face and after the roll told me that I needed more “mental training.” I didn’t really know what he meant, and sometimes having a coach that you can’t converse with freely can be really frustrating.

Did he mean I was mentally weak? I don’t think so. I have a reputation at training for always being ready to go for every spar when a lot of people fall back to the side.

Perhaps he meant I was not aggressive enough? That could very much be it. I am not an aggressive person at all. But according to the Brazilians, you don’t need to be aggressive, especially in training… should I be launching myself at every sparring partner with teeth bared and eyeballs bulging?

That comment really stuck with me. So for the next spar I hunted down the biggest, strongest blue belt in the room and we started sparring pretty hard. He got my back and sunk in a body triangle, then started working for a collar choke. It was hell. My body was twisted, my stomach and ribs compressed, and my gi shearing across my neck as he worked for the choke. I could only think of my coach saying that I needed mental training, so I steeled myself not to give up. I lasted for four minutes and then he managed to sink in the choke, I felt myself going all tingly and had to tap. I came out feeling battered and bruised but satisfied that I had done my best. Nobody can ask any more of me.

I’ve been racking my brains and this is what I can come up with. I should tap whenever I am in danger in training. The training part comes with recognising much earlier when danger is coming, and avoiding it. If I manage to do that, I won’t be tapping all the time. When I’m rolling with my coach, he always pauses before he submits me, as if to say “look, you left your arm/neck sticking out again”. I realise, but a second too late.

So here’s how I will be going forward. Here are the things I am sure about.

1) I need to be more “aggressive” (in quotation marks because I’m not going to be out to hurt everybody, but I am going to be the one who makes the first move; doesn’t settle for bottom; breaks grips immediately; etc etc.)

2) I can tap whenever I want, but learn afterwards what mistake I made to get tapped and try to recognise it earlier next time.

3) Feel danger coming and do something about it early.

The more I write the more I think it is about my mindset. My coach said last night, I should always be thinking of attack, and if I make a mistake or my opponent does a good move, then I should think about defense but only long enough to get back on the attack. Quite often when I am rolling I do go into defensive mode to “see what the other guy gives me”. This is my undoing, I think. Even my missus says to me “why do you always flop on your back… why do you never go on top?” And no, that is not prison lingo you perverts. Stop giggling.

I am going to have to remind myself before every roll… maybe I should come up with some funky ryhme to remember.

Be first, be fast, be… um… win.

And I suppose the important thing to do at this stage is not to stress about it too much and just keep training.

It’s true though, you learn so much more from the fights you lose. If I had won that last comp, I would have kept on going without thinking. Now, I hope I can get through this period and grow.

My coach is going to America for the Mundials, and asked me to teach quite a few classes, which was a nice confidence booster. I will be teaching on Friday nights from 8p.m. to 11:30p.m. … that’s two classes each time. Quite a long night, but it will be good training for me and a good opportunity to solidify my understanding of some basics.

Any advice you guys have on the mental game and how to approach training would be much appreciated.

BJJ April 7

Regular training session.

There was only me and a purple belt, Ide-san, then a white belt turned up after a while. The BJJ classes seem to be thinning out lately, I wonder what’s going on? Shooto meanwhile seems to be absolutely packed with sweaty noobs punching the air like they were swatting flies.

I felt spectacular for the first hour or so. The white belt guy (I forget his name) is fairly skilled and while he’s not big, he has very functional strength and great balance so he’s hard to sweep. But last night I was all over him like smell on a sock. Of course that’s the way it should be, me being a blue and him being white, but it was reassuring, still. I gave Ide-san a run for his money. He has a lot going for him: judo black belt, dad strength, tree trunk legs, giant hands, purple belt, etc… I gave him some trouble at the start and even managed to pass his guard for a while. But suddenly I crashed and could barely move. I rolled with our coach and he completely destroyed me as usual and after that I just had nothing in the tank. It could have been to do with having a long weekend and drinking lots of beer on Saturday night, or not being able to sleep the night before, or whatever, I don’t know.

Why does that happen sometimes? It must be a combination of things… recent diet, sleeping patterns, recent activity, etc… But sometimes you just feel crud.

Anyway despite just wanting to crawl into the corner and drink water then die, I (with the “help” of my coach) forced myself to roll a couple more times. I basically lay there like a dead fish gasping for air, but I truly believe that will help me in the long run… from somewhere, I don’t know, I managed to dredge up the energy to fight Ide-san off for five minutes (succumbing to a collar choke at the end that had me almost off to la-la land.)

Not too spectacular or confidence inspiring a session but hey, they can’t all be fireworks.

Damien Maia – Science of Jiu Jitsu

I watched some of Damien Maia’s Science of Jiu Jitsu, which you can buy here.

It was pretty good. His explanations were sometimes a little hesitant but I think that’s because he is speaking English rather than his native language. And more power to him, very impressive. I am sure later instructionals when his English has improved will be even better.

There were a few pointers he gave about the triangle that I liked.

– He pointed out something we all know but was good to get a solid reminder. When the opponent’s elbow is close to the body (“closed” as he called it) they have power. When the elbow is brought out, like a chicken wing, it loses a lot of power (“open”.)

– A recurring theme, then, was rather than fight an opponent’s grip on your pants by grabbing at his gi on the wrist and yanking, you should instead open his elbow so that he has less power, and then kick your legs. Much easier.

– Countering the half guard pass, somewhere I find myself a lot: You are on your right side, opponent is passing to your right. You have the half guard on his right leg, he has right underhook. As he puts his weight on your body and grips your inside right pant leg to pin your leg to the floor and pass, you grip his wrist with your right hand and straightarm him. Using the straight arm gives you more stability than a bent arm. It is structurally stronger (but only in certain situations.) Maintain this grip and straight arm, then kick your right leg out and over his head. The triangle is there for you already. You can only do this when his weight is up and on you, as he is passing. If he is sitting low to the floor you don’t really have room to manouvre.

– Another triangle setup: after a failed hip bump, he moves his hand back to counterbalance, you slap on the triangle. More detail: I hip bump to my right. My right arm on the floor, hips pushing into his left side. He puts his left arm back to post out on the floor. I continue the turn until my chest is facing the floor. Then, I have space to bring my right leg out from under his arm, then spin back around and onto my back, pulling him down into the triangle.

Goal is to try these out next training session. My triangle is coming along well, so the more I can add to it, the better it will be.

ぼくのとけいわざですよ!

My comp from a few months ago

First blue belt competition. I knew I’d lose, but just wanted to guage the waters.

Result? Deep!

I lost.
No excuses, everyone was way better than me. But I had a great time. It was only my first time as blue belt, so I am not too bothered about the losses. I had a good day.

In the first fight, I only wanted to do one thing… surprise the guy. He was the favourite to win the whole comp, and instead of being timid, I wanted to really go for it. I told my team -I am going to do a surprise move at the beginning of the fight. Just watch!- Man, I could watch the first sweep again and again… 🙂 He choked me out fairly convincingly in the end though. I was seeing stars.

The second fight went a little better, I just lost position towards the end and lost points. I had been going well until then with a couple of nice sweeps. It was a good fight though and he has a lot of experience on me.

I got a good feeling for what it is like to compete at blue belt level, and I got away without any injuries, so all in all, a good day.

Started Judo.

Wednesday nights, at a local junior high school.

A couple of peeps from jiu jitsu are judo black belts and are teaching there for free. Also there is an old sensei-type dude who surprised the shit out of me by talking to me with an African-English accent! Turns out he was chief of police somewhere in Zambia for 10 years, armbarring stray elephants or something.

Judo is:
Fun
Old fashioned
Ouch
Exhausting
Different to jiu jitsu
Going to help my overall strength, fitness, and hopefully, standup skills

Judo is not:
Too difficult to grasp
For the faint-hearted
That different to jiu jitsu
Cheese