Month: March 2009

I couldn’t believe I screamed like that!

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I haven’t posted in a bit as I have been preoccupied with my JiuJitsu365 Twitter Page.

But to recap these past few weeks I have been attending class once a week on Fridays. Due to a hyperactive schedule this past month as well as battling minor injuries I decided to limit my participation until Spring Break. 

Well this Friday, after I left my office, was the official beginning of Spring Break. I headed over to Combat Athletix and everything was going well. I led the class during the stretching phase of warm-ups and drills went well. We learned self defense moves to the Full Nelson and three variations of a guard pass. My partner during the drills was a new guy, who is in law enforcement. He said the extent of his training were the basics they teach you in law enforcement. He was a big guy though (about 6’1 and 250+).

When it was time to roll, I suggested we start on our knees since it was his first time. He was pretty strong up top when we started to grapple so I decided to just get into the roll by pulling him into guard. What was funny was that he was able to immediately use the guard pass we had practiced in drill. So I shifted gears and recovered my guard. He tried one of the passes again and I decided to go for a butterfly hook so I could get the sweep. I folded in my left leg and as I did this he rested his entire body on my chicken winged leg.

A loud popping and cracking sound, along with my scream, reverberated through the room. Everything that was going on in class stopped. In terror I jumped up onto my good leg trying to see what happened. Smiley, Joe (the guy I was wrestling), Josh and someone else who I can’t remember came to my assistance. No bones were sticking out, I could still walk and had full mobility but I could feel something wasn’t right and my knee started to get warm.

I now wonder what my facial expression was because they were all trying to reassure me that everything would be okay and not to worry about it. I then began, like Caleb at the Fightworks Podcast, to think about the scream I let out. Joe, the guy I was rolling with, actually sat with me for about 10 minutes or so while I recuperated. He kept mentioning how bad he felt. I told him don’t worry about it and to make sure that he comes back. I let him know that I had been doing this since 2004 with no major injuries and that sometimes these things happen. It was ironic as I was reassuring him that all would be well and to not worry about it. 

As I write this on Sunday, I have plans to visit an Urgent Care Facility in the morning since self treatment hasn’t seemed to work. I can walk around so I ‘know’ that it shouldn’t be ‘major’ but I know that something is up.

Random Thought – My Superhero Move – The Knuckle Choke!

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I sometimes think about what is my go to move in BJJ. The technique that I can count on for success in ending a roll. It is definitely not the one I wish was my go to technique, like a flying arm-bar or a wicked triangle that I can sink from any angle. But it is a show stopper.

It is the knuckle-choke applied from the mount.

What’s great about the knuckle choke is that you can set up 75% percent of the technique before the guy even knows you are working on a submission. When applied correctly it looks as if you are creating a vice grip with your arms. I learned it from watching the above video.

After watching the video, I tapped someone with it in the next class. And the next class, and the next. I would say that I have had about a 90% tap-out rate with the technique. If I were a BJJ superhero, I probably would be known as Knuckle Choke. I didn’t ask for the skill, I just realized I had a propensity to pull it off. And if I have a guy in the mount and he’s not cooperating with my other sub attempts I can bet you I’m going for it.

“What’s in your wallet?”

BJJ Insights through Guitar Lessons

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Last month, my wife and I purchased guitars. I have had many guitars in the past, both acoustic and bass, and never learned how to play them. My wife also has a violin (that she “really wanted”) collecting dust that I bought her a few years ago. To keep from repeating this cycle my wife suggested that we take lessons. 

First, I must admit that I am the ultimate beginner and I can no longer read music even though I played instruments in middle school.

Second, how does this relate to BJJ?

Well, for the first time in a very long time I am starting something with no prior knowledge. I have put my total faith in the instructor as many BJJ students do when they come to an academy. It really makes you realize how important the instructor is in the process. I have also -re-realized the importance of not going to fast and learning the basics. My guitar instructor, Tommy, purposely made us focus on learning to play comfortably on two strings in the first lesson. Two weeks later in the second lesson, he had us playing songs such as “Ode to Joy,” “My Country Tis of Thee,” “Take me out to the Ballgame,” “The Flinstones” and more. Sometimes a third string is called for but we can handle it because we became comfortable with the first two. 

He also told us to practice only 15 minutes a day for the first two weeks. Last session he moved us up to 20. Without his guidance I am quite sure our guitar career would have ended almost as soon as it began. Our first night we tried to learn from some DVDs and we spent an hour and a half fooling around and ended up frustrated. Tommy instead taught us basic moves and is stringing together combinations in the form of simple songs.

I can also see the benefits of almost daily practice. Since my wife doesn’t read my blog I can tell you this. Out of the two weeks I missed only three days. She missed a little more. Although we both were prepared I could see the difference. My playing was a little sharper and I was able to go faster. When he introduced the songs to us I picked them up quite easily. She struggled a bit. (This morning before work she was practicing the guitar so it’s on!)

In BJJ it is often hard to tell if you have gotten better since the last time you rolled, because the guys who beat you last week will probably beat you again this week and vice versa. Plus we may not always have an opportunity to use that sweep we’ve been working on. However, my improvement on the guitar clearly demonstrated how practice in between sessions helps.

Having an instructor also ramps up the accountability. For me BJJ is in my blood so I will practice techniques by myself until the cows come home, but a guitar is something I think would be cool to know how to do. Therefore, having someone there to monitor and guide my progress is a plus. It correlates to BJJ because even though I am self-motivated I feel an obligation to improve and know my instructor is monitoring my progress as well.

I know I maybe stretching the bounds of BJJ talk by blurbing about my guitar lessons. But I really saw how important the instructor, learning the basics and training at sensible regular intervals are to growth.

“What am I doing wrong?” And you better know!

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Yesterday was the first time I could train last week. I went in feeling pretty good and I came out feeling great. I had a meeting to go to so I had time for only one roll after the warmups and drilling.

During class we worked on a variation of Kosoto Gari (throw) and three variations of a guard pass. Plus, a couple of things happened in class that had never happened to me. First, Smiley asked me to lead the stretches during warmup. Second, the guys and gal in class looked at me for direction during the drilling session. And it wasn’t a do you know how to do this? It was more like; “What am I doing wrong?” or “Are we doing this right?” I was expected to know. The funniest thing about it is that it was the first time I had witnessed the guard passes as well. Further, Smiley used me to demonstrate the techniques so I didn’t actually see all of them demonstrated (Even though I did practice them).

When I use to partner with Karl (blue belt) as a white belt I used to treat him the same way. I knew, sometimes, it might have been his first time seeing a technique but I figured that his overall knowledge would allow him to figure it out before I could. I have always wondered how the higher belts become so technically proficient and are able to teach with such seeming ease. I now know part of that equation is expectation and increased responsibility assigned by the instructor. In my career as a professor I know the process, but it’s difficult for me to recognize that as a student in BJJ.

Nephew Quits: But in negotiations to return

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My youngest nephew quit both BJJ and the Kenpo Karate classes. I was shocked. About three weeks ago during sparring in their Kenpo class, he was kicked in the head by one of his classmates. They had on headgear but he was pretty shook up by it. I was not present that night but my brother told me he cried and sat out for the rest of the night. I thought that was all but apparently that was too much for him. He is 9 years old. 

On the morning of my BJJ test, my brother arrived with only one of the guys and said that the youngest had quit. I’m thinking, quit what. He quit everything. I had always noticed that he wasn’t giving his all but I just assumed that he just didn’t like to exercise. I guess the blow gave him an excuse to quit. His father said his mother doesn’t want him to force him to attend. I am his uncle so I can’t either. Although I don’t think he should be allowed to quit cold turkey. I think it may set a precedent. They usually spar (Kenpo) on Thursdays so he could even attend the Tuesday classes where they train katas, kicks and punches.

He doesn’t have to go to BJJ.

I do know that during the time he would normally be in class he is not allowed to watch TV, play video games, etc. He has perform some type of work. He complained to his mother that he could have gone to Karate instead. So maybe he will come back.

First night back as Blue: Threats and Neck Cranks

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Bear with me everyone as I process this experience (Blue belt promo) for my memories later on. Tuesday was my first night back since the belt change. Admittedly, I felt a little different. I don’t know how though. Of course there were congratulations when I walked in and throughout class but there was also something else.

I overheard a White belt, who will rename nameless, say to one of our Purple belts, “I am going to test that Blue belt out.” I was shrimping at the time and believe it was in jest. But, I figure this is similar to the feeling of having a target on your back. I also had a new guy purple belt, who I just met that night, say something about not taking it easy on me.

I really enjoyed the drill as we worked on a self-defense throw, first from our knees, then standing. Then we worked on the scissors sweep, a 5 step mount escape and a flow drill combining the scissor sweep and mount escape. Last, we drilled the baseball choke. I have seen people pull it off on videos and I have watched a couple of demo videos but that was my first time drilling it. It’s a sweet move, but our instructor let us know that if it doesn’t work you can end up trapped under your opponent.

I rolled with a new Blue belt to our club (whose name I forgot). He pulled out the spider guard on me. I was able to defend but we spent most of the time with me in his guard and him trying to pull me into him with my sleeves. Then I rolled with the White Belt who ‘threatened me.’ I was able to keep dominant position and eventually gained the mount for the tapout.

Next, I rolled with the new Purple Belt. He has a game slightly similar to our instructor but he is about half the size. Since he had a similar game I knew a few of his plans ahead of time and was able to jump to step 3 in the process of me getting tapped out. He tapped me out with the same neck crank that Smiley uses. My mission is to never get tapped with that submission again and to tap early if I even think it is that submission. The guy is much smaller than I am so it just reminds me of the effectiveness of BJJ. Finally, I rolled with Juan (who practices just about every discipline in the academy). I was able to gain positional dominance but he is crafty in escaping positions.

All in all, I have come a long way but have even farther to go.

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How far is that from a Black Belt?

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Mom: How was your weekend?

JJ365: Good! All went well. Oh, yeah, I was promoted to Blue Belt this weekend.

Mom: Oooh, Congratulations! How’s your shoulder?

JJ365: Thanks!  It’s fine.

Mom: Are you still going to the doctor? You should still get it checked out.

JJ365: I’m feeling fine. I may have it looked at when I get a check up. (No plans for a check up./Just trying to change the subject)

Mom: (to father off phone: He was promoted to Blue belt this weekend.)  Your father says good job!

JJ365: Tell him I said thanks!

Mom: Ok. —  So how far is that from a Black Belt?

JJ365: Uh, um about 4 or 5 years.

Mom: Oh.. (slight disappointment in voice)

And there goes the scenario for many conversations I’ve had about my practice of BJJ over the years. Many of my relatives and friends do not understand why I would go someplace where someone would, as I have heard it described, “beat on me.” Or as my mother-in-law says “Karate class.”

Is Bakari still taking that Karate?

Tell your mom I am not taking Karate.

Or when my father-in-law found out that I was still practicing BJJ after all these years, (he was talking to my wife on the phone) he asked what belt I was.

When my wife told him I was a white belt (at the time) I heard a noticeable pause on the phone and then he changed the subject. If I wasn’t present I’m sure the conversation would have gone something like this:

Father in Law (F-I-L): He has been taking BJJ for four years and is still a white belt?

Wife: (fumbling over response) Uh, well he used to take no-gi and now he’s taking it with the gi.

F-I-L: No-gi, gi? (quickly changing the subject) Uh, Okay.

My wife even calls it Judo sometimes but I forgive her because we were an item during my Judo days and I used to scoop her up from her dorm when I would leave practice.