December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays From the Mats

The holidays are upon us! And in the midst of shopping for gifts and spending time with family, I'm wondering how it all affects my gym schedule. Clearly, I've got a handle on my priorities...

More newbies showed up last Thursday and I ended up with one of them. The focus was wrestling, so we pummeled and yanked each other back and forth for a while. The poor guy and his friend seemed so amazingly lost, it's funny to think that I had that same OMG WTF? HELP! expression only 2.5 months ago, and now feel like I've been there forever. I think they were a little unsure of the whole grappling girl thing at first but I was in a helpful mood so I kept yanking their arms tighter and talking them through the moves until they figured out that I was not, in fact, going to sue them if they went for a harness grip.

I stayed for gi class afterwards and Yanitza had fun practicing all sorts of painful moves on me in preparation for her first competition. I eventually got tired and meandered around with my cell phone, taking pictures and getting some great shots of Yanitza and Curly after she challenged him with some freakin' funny smack talk. He very much enjoyed getting her back for that, and C-Bear multitasked as coach, referee and commentator, which made the whole thing even more hilarious. If I had it all on video, it would be a great example of why I love my gym so much.

Went in for open mat the next day and warmed up with Rascal. It's hard to roll with him because he keeps making snarky comments and doing ridiculous impressions that break my focus and make me laugh. It's not really fair. Rolled with Christian after that, which went very well. Aside from the unrelenting kneebars, I feel like I got into a good groove with him. Jazz, one of the old school crew who I'd never seen out of a business suit, randomly decided to join in and I worked with him for a while too. We talked a bit afterwards as he showed me some leg locks. He was interested to know why I chose Ronin and if it wasn't kind of offputting training with a bunch of guys. I assured him that it was not. It'd be another story if the gym was full of loud mouth steroid-abusing jocks, but that's obviously not the case. The guys there compete but aren't hypercompetitive. They're athletes but not meatheads. So far, I haven't met a single person who hasn't been totally friendly and laid back. It's a solid community where people come to learn and to have fun, and where everyone supports each other...just a good environment to be in.

Monday night was insanely busy, there were so many people. I paired up with Buster to drill armbars and sweeps from guard (rocked one variation, sucked at another). Spaceman came late and worked in with us. Because of my dysfunctional right hand, I was having trouble with the first part of the move, so the boys tried to think up alternate methods for me. Spaceman had a few ideas, which he and Buster demonstrated and together, they helped me to figure out what worked best. It was really sweet of them to have that sort of consideration without even being asked.

Class ran well into open mat again. Rolled with LJ and did okay. He's so light, it still kind of shocks me. With Spaceman next, who tapped me out once, then Schizo, who kicked my ass up and down the mat. I spent most of the time trying to escape mount and side control, although I did get a few good moves in. After that was LJack, who let me work on passes and escapes as he usually does. Then Spaceman again to close it out, who I actually got a frustrated swear word out of after escaping an armbar, swiveling to my knees and taking him down. I hate to be a dick but that was quite satisfying. After all, I'm usually the one swearing in dismay. By the time we finished, I was an ungodly mess...sweaty, hair in all directions, clothes half twisted off. Yep, so graceful.

I skipped kickboxing again today because my left knee has been hurting. Worked on taking the back with Homeboy tonight, then drilled with Rascal and KGB. Rascal has some sort of injury and at one point, I completely forgot about the ghetto bandages on his hand and yanked one of his fingers, resulting in some very unhappy noises. He's so adorable and reminds me so much of my kid brother that I felt extra bad about that. When he recovered and we continued, I was overly careful to avoid the hand. KGB, however, was a bitch to drill the moves with and I had to go extra hard with him. He's a lot stronger and bulkier, which made it difficult to pull him to one side and get the choke. I finally succeeded after resorting to Christian's "Oh, you don't wanna lift your head? Well then fuck you, how do you like this?" approach and basically yanked his head back by pushing on his nose with my forearm. It was kind of an obnoxious thing to do but it worked, which is good to know.

Gi class was great tonight too. I paired up with Carlo to learn flying sweeps to armbars and taking the back (FYI brown belt = totally ideal training partner for scary moves). I won't lie...I was panicking at the idea of jumping up and locking my legs around someone midair. I didn't think I'd be able to jump high enough and had trouble bringing myself to try. But Carlo doesn't fuck around and started yelling "GO! DO IT NOW! DO IT!" loud enough that other people started to stare (which I assume was the point as it's damn good motivation), and I managed to get the move down just fine. Later, I rolled with Yanitza for a while (got destroyed), then C-Bear (same) and Homeboy, who I did well against and actually managed to sweep a few times. Exhausting but awesome night.

No more class until Monday now. There may be an informal open mat tomorrow if Curly decides to open the gym, but I'm supposed to spend the day wandering around with my mother for our usual Christmas tradition of looking around 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center and all that, so I may just take the next few days off and let my body rest. See you in the new year!

December 8, 2011

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Thursday night was awesome. The frustration that I felt on Tuesday when I struggled with bigger partners went away and I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy again. I nailed it today, a complete 180 from earlier in the week. Confidence soars (at least until next class when my bubble of self-satisfaction gets shattered, but we'll deal with that later).

I was feeling tired and defeated after Rascal's hour of puke-worthy conditioning work, during which I had trouble with just about everything, from pushups to pyramid kick drills. As always, the young Obi Wan was very encouraging and supportive, but it doesn't change the fact that I still feel pretty ridiculous when it comes to kickboxing. I know I just need to be patient...very patient, and committed. Patience is not my strong point but at least I've got the commitment part down. I've practically moved into this place.

I ended up with Trek for Fundamentals and Christian taught us a new sweep from half guard. I was groaning internally at first because I was skeptical of how well I'd do after my total lack of success last class, but it ended up going really, really well. I knew how much strength and resistance to expect this time, and countered it by keeping one of his arms at bay from the start (before he could get too close to my neck) while pushing my other forearm into his throat to drive him upwards and create space. I always feel bad squashing someone's esophagus but there was no other way to get out from under him, and it made it much easier to slide down and grab him around the waist. From there, I was able to secure his wrist and dive back under to sweep him with almost no effort. It felt so smooth and natural, I can't wait to try the move on someone while rolling. I think this is one sweep I might actually be able to use. I don't want to jinx myself though.

Isley and Big Boy were all over the mat tonight and kept rolling into our area. I would shoo them away, they would laugh and reset, and then a few minutes later, they'd come tumbling right back. Sigh. Schizo and KGB got all up in our space once or twice too. At one point, I swept Trek at the exact same time Schizo swept his partner and they went crashing into each other. The timing was so perfect and coordinated that it made me think of synchronized swimming: BJJ style.

Near the end of class, we switched partners and I paired up with Wardog, who I'd never met or even seen before, and it went great. Even when he upped his resistance, I managed the sweep with significant ease. We did a variation of the move later on, which Diesel supervised and which I didn't do so well with, but it didn't take away from my very happy mood. Wardog decided I was either so comfortable with the first sweep that I was subconsciously resisting the alternative, or that the second option is harder for someone with shorter arms. I think it was a combination of both.

One of the best things tonight was how complimentary both Trek and Wardog were. Both of them kept saying to me and to everyone else that I was surprisingly strong while on the offensive, and tough to get the moves on, and that it was a real workout doing the drills with me. And I was even going easy on them, so it feels good to know that at least those around my own experience level seem to consider me a worthwhile training partner now. Coupled with the fact that some of my usual partners are having more and more trouble tapping me out...honestly, this is the first time I've ever felt that accomplished in class; it really got to the point where I was picturing the South Park episode "Smug Alert."

I'm sure next week will bring me back down to planet Earth with a crash (or a major ass whooping from someone like KGB) but in the meantime, I'm feeling all inspired. Let me enjoy it.

December 6, 2011

New People, New Places

After much badgering from Liz and Yanitza, I went to the NYC women's open mat at Clockwork BJJ on Sunday and, although I essentially got my ass handed to me by every female grappler in the Tri-State area, including a few very tiny girls who were probably half my weight, I also landed my first genuine, well executed submissions by way of stepover armbar and americana. So I came out of the whole thing feeling quite abused but equally satisfied. Rolling with total strangers at a different venue is a great way to gauge personal progress, and considering I was the least experienced person there by a few months, I'm pretty happy with how I did, even if it was essentially 2 hours of getting knocked around. What else is new? By the way, that's me in the the back, in blue...about to get swept...yep.

Monday's usual grappling class left me feeling pretty happy too. I did a warmup roll with Schizo and then we paired up to drill triangles and arm drags/taking the back from closed guard. I'd seen the guy around so many times but for one reason or another, I'd gotten it into my head that he was totally unapproachable and never talked to him. I don't even know why; it was nothing in particular. And when we finally ended up working together, he turned out to be really, really nice, so of course I felt like a horse's ass.

I did very well with the moves that day, although I struggled a bit once the resistance levels increased. Schizo is pretty jacked, so it was a bitch and a half trying to force his arm this way and that. He wasn't douchey about it though, and I was able to get the moves eventually; it just took some extra effort. Class ran over well into open mat, so we got a hell of a workout. I kept looking at the clock, thinking holy shit, I can't do any more, is class over yet? but Christian just kept going. I rolled with Thumper first, who did what he usually does and wiped the floor with me; then with Frodo, who kept getting into mount, which was amazingly irritating. I mainly used it as a chance to work on escapes and the bridge/sweep move I learned on Sunday from one of the girls. Rolled with Spaceman after that, which went very well. It was the first time he was ever unable to tap me out and we ended up in this back-and-forth stalemate for the round. Then back to Schizo again, who was looking like death at that point (as was I). With us both running out of steam, it was a much less aggressive round than our first few rolls, but we did what we could.

On Tuesday, I partnered with Archie for another intense kickboxing class. I'm trying to rotate who I work with day-to-day, so that I don't plague any one person with my total incompetence for too long. Things haven't changed much; I'm doing all right with the kicks but still feel like a real ditz when trying to box and am having trouble keeping up with the combinations. I apologized so many times throughout the class that Archie finally threatened to punch me in the face if I said I was sorry one more time. I don't think he was kidding.

Worked with Yanitza for Fundamentals to practice high percentage sweeps from half guard, which I actually picked up on quickly and did great with. Unfortunately, those same moves became five hundred thousand times harder when attempted on the big guys. For instance, when we switched partners and I drilled the same sweep with Trek, all of the smoothness and grace I'd felt at the beginning of class went right out the window. Honestly, I think I spent more time grabbing ass than anything else. It was hard as hell to reach down and get the foot, let alone hold it there long enough to roll him over. Long legs and short arms...what a fucking combination. Trek said it would've worked perfectly on someone smaller (yipee) but with someone his size, I'll have to do more rocking back and forth until I can catch him off balance. Worked with KGB after that and had an even tougher was nearly impossible to accomplish anything while he was leaning down. Couldn't even get the first underhook without immense effort. Still, it's a huge motivator to continue focusing on and improving my technique.

Things got pretty nasty by the end with massive rivers of sweat on the mat, which had effectively turned into Christian's Wild Slip-'n-Slide about halfway through. At one point, I was shuffling on my knees towards KGB, slipped in the mess and nearly fell on my face. I can see why some people prefer to stick to gi training, although as gross as it is sometimes, I do enjoy no-gi more. That said, if having your head buried in someone else's sweaty crotch for two hours doesn't warrant one hell of a shower with fruity scented soap, I'm not entirely sure what does.

November 26, 2011

Mixed Martial Arts, Actually?

Well, I can finally say that I train MMA. Until recently, I hadn't been making use of all the classes that my gym offers. I'd only been doing Fundamentals 3 times a week (which was plenty for someone just starting out) plus open mats here and there. 2 months in, I've finally reached a point where I'm in decent enough shape to spazz my way through kickboxing before Fundamentals and/or BJJ afterwards. I've also built up to going more often and on different days of the week. So with those adjustments, I'm getting well-rounded training in all areas: standup, clinch and ground plus gi. It's important to note that I don't actually do MMA, but I am officially training MMA in hopes of someday being able to do something resembling it.


Two weeks ago, I finally stopped making excuses and hauled my ass to kickboxing. As expected, it was an awesome workout that included a death circle of abs exercises, which wasn't easy, especially since I don't have 500 packs like some others in the class do. But I was also not disabled by it for weeks afterwards like I was when I first came in. Clearly, six weeks of grappling is paying off and I'm slowly getting in shape whether I realize it or not.

This week, I got snarky with Rascal and he decided to torture us with 30 minutes of intense cardio. Unfortunately, the class also involved a lot of pushups and I suck at pushups. It's kind of incredible that anyone could suck at pushups as much as I do. Arm strength is nonexistent. It's wannabe bicep and the rest is Pillsbury Doughboy material. I was able to do maybe 5 half-assed pushups at a time before flat out collapsing (mind you, the goal was like...40), so it didn't go very well. But I will endeavor to do better next time.

Fact: I boxed during high school. Which makes my current performance in the standup classes all the more shameful. I've actually forgotten how to box. Like, completely. I feel like a total ditz when I throw a punch now, and I'm sure I don't look any better. One can only hope, for my sake and for the sake of any and all future kickboxing partners, that I get my shit together and pick up the techniques soon enough, because as of now, my attempts have been about on par with the Three Stooges. I paired up with KGB on Tuesday and he was kind enough to not punch me in the head too hard, although I'm betting that by the end of class, he wanted to. For my life, I could not get the side blocks or the ducking/twisting part down. I was having some kind of dyslexic attack and doing the exact opposite of what I should've done. Rascal says I'll get the hang of it someday.


My jiu jitsu needs a lot of work but apparently, my wrestling is getting decent. I find this amusing because I've always hated the idea of "wrestling." My younger brother was a big WWF/WCW fan as a teen and I was subjected to hours and hours of campy fake fighting performed by steroid-abusing wannabes in fruity outfits. So that is, unfortunately, what I most often associate the word with. It's kind of funny that real wrestling is now something that I enjoy so much.

Saturday, Dom ran us through a defensive drill where our only goal was to tap each other's legs. If your partner's hand so much as brushed your leg, you had to do 10 pushups. The point was to be so awesome at hopping around and getting out of the way that you could avoid the penalty. Basically, I rocked the shit out of this exercise. Homeboy got my leg once right at the start and I had to crank out a set of 10 but after that, I was the one tapping him, again and again. When we switched partners, I paired up with Southie and he had to do an epic amount of pushups. I didn't feel bad though, because Southie is huge with an amazing physique. It couldn't have been too hard on him. When we switched again and I was paired with The Kid, the poor boy was getting desperate as he'd lost so many times already. He was flailing and I lost track of how many times I tapped his leg. He did a few token pushups at first but then eventually stopped doing them altogether. Personally, I had a total blast and was smiling and feeling pretty damn smug the whole way through. The boys did not look so pleased.


When it comes to groundwork, I've greatly improved my side control technique and my use of the Shoulder of Justice. Have to say, I really enjoy using it on other people but am not at all fond of having done to me. My jaw still hurts from practicing half-guard escapes with Archie last week.

During Monday's class, I rolled with Rascal to warm up, which I thought would be a lot more intense given his drill sergeant approach to kickboxing, but he turned out to be a really good, laid back partner. It was kind of jarring. No, it was totally jarring to hear him talking in such a quiet voice and being so nice. I wanted to ask him WTF he did with the real Rascal. Later, I rolled with Spaceman for the first time in a while. In round one, I did a nice takedown but he caught me in a guillotine on the way down, and I ended up in a bad enough position that I pretty much choked myself out while attempting to stack him. I was entirely on the defensive the whole way through, with no chance to attempt anything but escapes, but except for the first round, it took him a lot longer to pass guard and sub me than on previous occasions, so I'm happy enough with that.

Thursday's Fundamentals focused on headlocks, which sucked for me because that's something I can't do until these damn stitches come out. Instead, I rolled with Yanitza a few times and got my butt kicked, as usual. Rolled with Curly once and that was downright ridiculous. Dude had a busted shoulder and I still couldn't do anything to him. Couldn't even pass his guard. It was not a good night for the ol' ego. After coming up with as many excuses as possible to head home instead of joining the gi class (I'm knee calf hurts...I haven't been getting enough sleep...I only have one gi so I wouldn't be able to wash it before Sunday's open mat...), I eventually ended up totally pussing out and took off. Liz wasn't buying any of it and kept giving me looks that said I've got your number, you lazy bum. But in spite of her pep talks and my genuine wish to join in, I just didn't have another hour or two of workout left in me that night.

On my way out, I stopped in the lobby to look up something on my phone, which was going so slow I thought I might start bashing it against the wall (fuck you, iphone), when Rascal and Curly came down and invited me to hit McDonald's with them. I've actually sworn off Mickey D's ever since I got severe bouts of food poisoning at two separate locations, but I joined them anyway and just hung out while they ate. Yes, I've become that girl...the one who has a salad with nonfat dressing while everyone else is devouring bacon cheeseburgers. Then again, everyone else is probably not trying to lose 20 lbs, so screw them. It was still fun just hanging out and listening to the boys bullshit and do impressions of Brazilians and Italians and panhandlers and fuck knows what else. Pure entertainment, those two, I'm telling you.

Today, at long last, I forced myself to go for Rocky's Saturday morning hour of hell, which kicked my ass seven ways from Sunday. Grappling is just dandy for working certain muscles but I need to do more conditioning work to build up overall strength and endurance so that people (Yanitza, for example) can't go around grabbing my fucking arm fat. Ironman came in for open mat today, so I rolled with him for a while and ended up a sweaty, hyperventilating mess. Passing that guy's guard remains an impossible task. I did a good job and got around the legs twice but the rest of my attempts were an epic failure. Still, the two times that I did succeed were pretty cool. I even got his back at one point but the man must have a neck of steel because I tried to choke him out for two minutes straight and nothing happened. I was sure that everything was in the right place but I guess something was off. I did manage a successful armbar though, with him giving some really good advice on how to pull the arm through when the person's locking up.

Anyway, it's been a great experience branching out from Fundamentals. It's given me the chance to train with a lot of new people, to try out new things, and to exercise brand new muscles that are now aching but not screaming bloody murder like they did on my very first day. I hope to keep this routine going strong and to continue improving in all areas, because I like how I feel right now and I can't stand to lose that momentum. We all know what happens when I fall off the wagon...lazy ass couch potato extraordinaire. And I damn sure don't want that to happen again. I'm finally starting to feel hopeful about fitting back into my xx-small t-shirts in another few months.

November 18, 2011

Rolling Under the Influence

So...apparently, people from my gym read this blog. Lots of them. I was not aware of that. I came to the realization last night at Christian's birthday party, when 90% of the guys I was talking to started referencing things I've written about and trying to guess whose nickname refers to who. It was kind of funny and kind of WTF because I had no idea so many of these dudes - yes you, lurkers, you know who you are - had found the link, presumably through Facebook, let alone read through it and were following it. I mean seriously...stalk much? It's making me reconsider an upcoming post that features a photo of me in my pink fleece froggie jammies.

It was a good night though. A little crazy, a lot of fun and kind of surreal to see everyone outside of the usual gym setting. I got to the bar around 10 pm, was only going to stay for an hour or so, and ended up leaving a little after 3 am. Luckily, I was in a responsible enough mood to space out my drinks because I get very friendly when I'm drunk and I didn't think that grappling partners were an appropriate crowd to unleash my wilder side on, so I spent the night in a happy, chilled out zone. The same cannot be said for some others, but that's another story. I'll just say that it was damn amusing and I enjoyed getting to know some people that I'd only worked with once or twice before. For example, I've discovered that Krypton is as much of a cat person as I am and we spent an unhealthy amount of time swapping pictures of the furry little critters and discussing how cool it is that they are natural BJJ practitioners (ever seen cats grapple?...'nuff said). Got to know C-Bear much better too, talked with him a lot, then Diesel and Curly, who has finally gotten his hair under control. He seems very zen about the whole thing.

I actually went to the party last night already feeling tired. Thanksgiving dinner plus leftovers left me in that sluggish OMG I'm fat again! state of mind and I tried to make up for it by going to a light open mat earlier in the afternoon. Ziggy summed up my feelings perfectly by informing me before we rolled that he was basically sweating butter. Weren't we all. I hadn't even planned on rolling because I've got 4 stitches in my head and, until they come out next Tuesday, I need to be really careful. As a result, I was just going to work on muay thai kicks and do cardio work, but Christian said that it was not healthy for me to stand around playing with inanimate objects all afternoon and had me roll with a few different people until we all felt too lazy to continue and called it a day.

Having not gotten home until 4:15 in the morning, and then going to bed an hour or two after that, I woke up this morning around half past noon and was a total wreck, mildly hungover and exhausted. I considered staying home, but after binging for the last few days and not exercising as much, I felt obligated to try to redeem myself and off I went, half-asleep, to open mat.

I'm really glad I did. Almost everyone else was equally hungover but it was a solid 2-hour workout that made me feel much better than I would've just lounging around at home like a fucking beached whale. Big Boy and The Kid came in and worked together all afternoon, doing various exercises and drills for the duration, which was cute. It's like they've put together their own little kiddie boot camp. Meanwhile, I spent most of the time trying to improve my guard passing skills. I rolled with Buzz first, who really helped me to get a better handle on passing the butterfly guard, then with LJack, who let me drill standing guard passes with Christian coaching from the sidelines. I'm telling you, that little guy is damn hard to get past. His feet are literally everywhere you turn.

While taking a break, I watched Krypton and Curly roll, which was really fascinating. I love the flow that more experienced grapplers have, where the game moves smoothly and looks so coordinated. I hope to reach that point someday and feel that while it's a damn long ways off, I'm moving in the right direction. I eventually interrupted the dynamic duo to roll with Big Boy and it went really well. I felt a definite change today, like I'm rolling with much more purpose now, keeping an eye open for specific moves to try, and developing the ability to adapt and slip from one position to another along the way with greater ease. I'm sure it'll still be months before I can roll with any sort of real flow, but whether it's because I finally learned how to go to mount or all of the guard passing practice or escapes drilled in the last two weeks, or I just got into some sort of zone, I really did feel a distinct difference today. I wasn't able to submit him but he only tapped me once and it took a long while for him to get there. I think at this point we know a lot of the same stuff and have kind of evened out, so we just...rolled. Back and forth, alternating offense and defense, a really fun, even game. It was very inspiring to feel like it's actually possible for me to do something other than flounder aimlessly. I need to hold onto that feeling and try to get to that place again next time.

After another break, I rolled with Krypton for a good while and, except for trying to watch out for my head, the dude showed no mercy. He's huge, his technique is solid, his guard passes are not to be fucked with, and I was totally destroyed. It was an incredibly fun challenge though, and I always love working with new people. I'd like to roll with him again once these annoying stitches come out. At one point, I tried a North South choke and did a pretty good spin but forgot to clear his arm first. He said it was a really good transition though, and that I'm doing very well with applying pressure from the top. Near the end, he helped me to drill armbars from mount and other submissions from side control that Christian gave me a quick tutorial on, building on some of the moves that Dom showed me last month, such as turning a stepover armbar into a sneaky kimura. I left covered in bruises but feeling physically back on track and highly motivated by my super slow but definite sense of progress.

November 11, 2011

Week in Review

Thursday wasn't nearly as tiring as the previous class but it was very informative. I did a warm-up roll with Archie, who I actually did pretty well against. I almost got his back and nearly subbed him a few times and, since he's also fairly new, it's the first time in a while that I didn't get completely dominated and was actually on the offensive for much of the time. Basically, it was a nice, even roll.

Then, Yanitza joined in for no-gi again and once class got started, I drilled various escapes from mount with her, which was great because that's how people are most often killing me. I know I won't be able to use the escapes on everyone, but at least I have some moves to think about and attempt now instead of just giving up, lying there and waiting to be armbarred. I was actually feeling pretty good by the end and would've joined the gi class but I hadn't washed mine yet. Instead, I spent half an hour in a one-on-one session with Isley, working on a bunch of different takedowns.

On Friday evening, I thought I'd see what was going on for open mat. I rolled with Christian to start, which turned into a very useful lesson on passing guard. Then I rolled with Curly for a while, who helped me to further practice guard passes and armbars, and reminded me that smaller people (like me) need to have awesome technique when rolling with bigger partners (almost everyone else) because I can't hurt them or power through moves the way they can do to me. Basically, I need to stop flailing and trying to sort of do everything all at once, instead focusing on what I want to do in any given moment, then doing it step by step, with increasing speed and skill as I go. He helped me to practice a bit more, subbed me a few times and then we took a break.

There was another surprise promotion today and, since I didn't have my gi with me, I got to whip the guy with his own white belt, which was fun. Then I spent the rest of the time alternating between training with different people and practicing my muay thai kicks. Rolling with LJack was an absolute bitch; he's just impossible, although I did manage to do some decent mount escapes, putting into practice what I'd learned the night before. I really need to learn some of his little people tricks down the line because he makes it look so easy dominating larger opponents. He destroyed the two new blue belts just for funsies. Every time I looked over, he was pretty much sitting on their heads. Near the end, while I was doing another round of solo kickboxing against the wall, Krypton came over, picked up a kick shield and offered to drill with me, which ended up being so much more fun. I still need a lot of practice but by the end, I was really happy with how I was doing.

Of course, today I feel like I've been beaten up by a yeti. Three days of 2-3 hours of gym in a row is a bit much for someone still trying to get in shape. I was already feeling pained going into this afternoon's class and after an hour of drilling takedowns with Isley and Curly, the state of my knees and arms wasn't getting any better. Curly's another one of those great training partners because in addition to squishing me like a bug, he stops to help me out along the way. Rather than running through the same takedowns over and over, he had me take it a step further and actually pull him over to go for the submission, giving me tips on how to take the back and how to get the most effective RNC by punching my arm through so that it's super tight against the throat. It was really helpful stuff to work on so hopefully I can put it to use next class.

After that, I stayed for another hour to train with Dom, first on kickboxing drills and then on armbars to triangles, doing it over and over (and over) until I had zero energy left. I was ready to collapse and he just kept saying "switch feet and kick, again!" or, with the submissions,"okay, just five more times, go!" My body is a total wreck now but at least I'm feeling much more comfortable with the muay thai stuff plus the two submissions, and I may even be able to use one of them against a fellow beginner next time. We'll see how that goes on Tuesday.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I plan to do little more than take a long, hot bath for my sore muscles, ice my many bruises and watch my Blue Planet DVDs.

November 9, 2011

Ice Packs are a Girl's Best Friend

I got squashed last night. Like a bug. Annihilated by multiple people over the course of 3 hours. If this keeps up, my ass is going to be in shape much sooner than I thought. I keep trying to tussle with the bigger and/or stronger guys and they just trounce me without trying, every time. I must have a bit of a masochistic streak because I keep coming back for more abuse.

While the kickboxing class was wrapping up, I warmed up by rolling with KGB for 15 minutes. And when I say "warmed up," I mean that I nearly died from exhaustion while he barely worked up a sweat. When we began, he got me into a guillotine or triangle or something in the first 10 seconds. It happened so fast, I literally have no clue what kind of choke it was. All I know is that I attempted a takedown and was suddenly tapping for dear life. 10 seconds. If that's not pathetic, I don't know what is. But we reset, kept going and I just kept on trying (and failing, but that's okay). It was an amazing workout but damn...guys like him, it's like grappling with a brick wall. I don't know enough techniques yet to be effective against someone that much stronger. I kept trying to do an armbar or, hell, anything at all and if you've ever been 147 lbs trying to pull someone's arm down when their arms are, like, 2-3 times the size of yours, and they're pulling in the opposite direction, you know what I'm talking about. I need a hell of a lot more practice to be able to counter the difference in strength even somewhat effectively.

Also, I can drill techniques over and over but when it comes to rolling, I get overwhelmed and forget everything. By the time I remember how to do a particular move, I'm already being subbed. Trek, Carlo and a bunch of other guys I couldn't see properly while upside down came over and stood around to watch and call out advice, but I still got my ass kicked over and over. The newbies in for their trial class were watching us with a measure of WTF? They seemed to be trying to understand if guys beating up girls was commonplace there. I think they eventually figured out that, awkward positions and pained expressions aside, I was having a lot of fun.

The no-gi class was really busy today. There were three or four people who came in for a trial plus more of the regulars than usual, and Christian worked us extra hard. Yanitza decided to once again brave the sweaty mosh pit that is no-gi training and join in, which was a good thing considering we were primarily working on side control escapes and butterfly sweeps and I had enough trouble pulling off the move even with her being smaller. I can just imagine how well it would've gone if I'd paired up with one of my usual partners.

Since I was running on a total of 7 hours of sleep for the previous 3 nights, the smart thing would've been to go home after Fundamentals. Unfortunately, I'd finally caved and bought a gi the day before, a nice looking dark blue Fuji with a crispy white belt, and I thought it would be a shame to not put it to use right away. So insanity set in and I stayed for the 2 hour sports BJJ class that followed. All things considered, the choice was probably a mistake. I went home feeling like a total wreck, not to mention somewhat ill, but I'm glad I did it anyway. I alternated between drilling with Liz and Yanitza, and then we spent what seemed like an eternity rolling. I don't know how long each set was, but Christian went into drill sergeant mode as we switched from one partner to another, and there were virtually no breaks. I did kind of sneak out for one round and collapsed with my water bottle for a bit. If that makes me a pansy, so be it. I was fucking tired.

After Yanitza, I rolled with Killer, who is another one of those brick-wall types. Big, really strong, crushed me into Reese's pieces...the usual. I think he actually enjoys trying to kill me...payback for all of those triangles I practiced on him a few weeks ago, no doubt. I almost had to tap a few times just because he's so heavy that I either couldn't breathe or was being squeezed so hard, I thought things might start going crunch. Seriously. But I do love the challenge of rolling with guys like him and KGB, even if it's basically just asking for pain.

When the class ended, there was a surprise promotion as Christian announced that Curly had been bumped up to blue belt and we all got to line up and whip the shit out of him as he walked and then crawled back and forth once across the mats...shirtless. It looked painful. I felt somewhat unqualified to join in considering I'd just bought my gi the night before, but I figured I'd honor tradition and gave him a good slap or two with my brand new white belt as he went by. Fun night. It's always nice to see people rewarded for their hard work.

I went home afterwards, took a long shower and then strapped 5 different cold packs to various parts of my arms and legs. I used to hate the feeling of icing bruises and joints but it's become an unavoidable part of my life. I've come to embrace's the only way to ensure that I'm somewhat recovered enough to do the next class two days later.

November 5, 2011

Lazy Saturdays

I love Saturday classes because they're so laid back and relaxed. Tuesdays and Thursdays are more intense; very enjoyable and very productive but you basically get the hour to drill hard, learn the moves and then pack it up when the gi class begins (or join the gi class if you so desire). On Saturdays, things have a very different feel because there's not much else going on and it's directly followed by an afternoon of open mat, which is a definite plus.

Dom taught today's class on flower sweeps to submissions, which I really enjoyed. I paired up with Thumper, who got it on the first try while I got all mixed up about what the fuck to do with my legs. By the third attempt, I had it down though. I wasn't confident that I'd be able to roll him over but with the right set up, it's not hard at all. From there, we drilled armbars and rear naked chokes, attempting (with moderate success) to not kick each other in the face and/or other sensitive parts along the way. When Dom had us put on the resistance towards the end, it took me a lot longer to sweep my partner. When I finally did, he would lock his arms in place, making it impossible for me to get the armbar, so I kept resorting to the choke.

After class, I rolled with Diesel, an advanced blue belt who went so easy on me that I had to tackle him and make like a wild child just to get him to start fighting back a bit. He started to get more serious after I nearly subbed him with a North South choke and then proceeded to return the favor a few times before I got tired and took a break. I rolled with Big Boy next, for a long while, and we had a blast. It was an exhausting but enjoyable round, basically just playing around and struggling to pass guard (I did unusually well with maintaining control from the bottom today and putting thought into techniques to apply from that position). I attempted armbars and triangles a few times but couldn't get them quite right, and my efforts at accomplishing a flower sweep didn't work at all. Anyway, BB and I went for one round after another until I completely wore myself down. He wanted to keep going so I felt bad but I just don't have the same level of endurance yet.

After a short break, I rolled with LJack for a bit (couldn't even get past his guard, we'll leave it at that), then Dom gave me a quick 101 on muay thai kicks, which I practiced for a while on my own. Curly, a more advanced white belt, noticed me kicking the wall like a crazy person and came over to assist before I broke a foot. Based on Dom's overview and with Curly's additional help, I finally started to get the hang of it. It seems I'm running out of excuses to avoid rejoining the standup classes now...kickboxing and painful conditioning work, here I come. Maybe.

November 3, 2011

Two Points For...

Training continues to be great. There was a sudden blizzard on Saturday so I wasn't sure if anyone would even be there and almost didn't go. I'm glad I did though, because I learned a lot of good things to do when trying to stave off attacks from open guard. I'm especially fond of the one where someone's trying to underhook you, you shrimp, kick the leg up, around and back in, and they have to start again. Later on, I kept doing that to Big Boy and Homeboy, and they were getting very frustrated. I've also finally gotten to the point where I'm passing guard more consistently and slightly less flaily-like, so Christian gave me props for that, which made me happy.

During open mat, I got a good ass whooping from Thumper, who I sorely underestimated because he's not as bulky as most of the other guys. But he kept getting side control and mount, and tapping me out time after time. I tried an armbar (hadn't officially learned it yet, was just imitating Youtube) and ended up getting the leg movements reversed. He used the opportunity to armbar me back, but gave me points for trying. I did manage to tap him once though, with a North South Choke, which was awesome. Dom was thrilled when I told him about that.

Tonight...well, I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Christian was off so Isley led a takedowns class and I paired up with Spaceman. I wasn't entirely successful with the rolling neck crank but we went slowly for safety reasons and I almost got it after hurting him once or twice (oops). Ironically, one thing I need to work on is not worrying about hurting people so much. I know it's kind of ridiculous that I'm the smaller person working with bigger guys and yet I catch myself thinking omg I don't want to break them!! especially since they spend most of their time crushing me. But I get concerned that I'll be too aggressive (at least when drilling, I don't care as much when I roll), do something wrong and hurt someone as a result of extreme incompetence. All I'm saying is, it's a damn good thing that everyone there seems to protect their junk with titanium cups...

With Christian out, the gi class turned into open mat and I rolled with Isley for a while. He took it easy and basically let me play, not trying too hard but enough to make it difficult for a newbie. He set me up a bunch of times to use the techniques we've been working on in the last few classes and I did some of them decently, although a few times I flat out gave him the submission. After that (I was already damn tired at this point), brown belt Carlo set a timer and told people to pair up for 30-minute rolls. I was like hah, glad I'm not in that class until he decided that gi or no gi, I was his first partner. Ah shit.

I was definitely on the verge of throwing up after that round. I've never been so tired, and he was barely even trying. It was essentially cat and mouse, and every time we finished, he'd swivel to his knees and say "again." I spent half the time feeling like a total spazz. I miserably failed my attempted americana but on the upside, I finally learned how to do a proper armbar from closed guard (he had me practice it a bunch of times from both sides and then set me up to try it while rolling) and made improvements to some other techniques, so it was worth the subsequent nausea.

When the timer went off, I collapsed into a chair and sat there pitifully with a 2-day-old water bottle pressed against my forehead like a cold compress. Liz started laughing at me because the damn bottle had been sitting in my bag at the gym for a while and was, at best, lukewarm. She pushed me to roll with her and Yanitza but I was ready to pass out and it took a long while of sitting around and talking with them and LJack before I felt somewhat recovered. Later, I did manage to roll with them briefly but being at the end of my tether, I couldn't put up half the fight I'd done earlier with other opponents, so around 10 pm I finally gave up and called it a night. And, in spite of the screaming muscles and brand new leopard-like bruise patterns, it was a great night.

October 27, 2011

I Look Like Camouflage Patchwork

Today was brutal. I got to the gym at 6:45 and left at 10:15. I've never spent 3.5 consecutive hours at a gym before. To say "I'm utterly exhausted and feeling like a wreck" would be a terrible understatement. It's more like "what's going on? where am I?" right now.

The weather tonight was pretty awful (cold, icy rain) so not many people were there. I asked Killer, who I'd seen once or twice but never worked with, if he wanted to roll to warm up. 15 minutes later I was thinking do I really need a whole class now? That was enough for one night! The guy is big with strong holds that don't allow you to move at all (of course this is all relative to me; I'm sure more experienced grapplers and/or guys his own size don't have this problem) and, although he was impressed by how aggressive I was, he still kicked my ass up and down the mat. It was a massive effort trying to hold my own, but hey...I want to get in shape, right? What better way than desperately trying to not get utterly destroyed? A few times, I managed a successful takedown by flipping him backwards. Unfortunately, that was normally as far as I got. I'd fling myself down and try to pass but somewhere along the way he'd use his legs to get me into a head lock or flip me over and then that was the end of it. I was hyperventilating and dripping from head to foot by the time we finished and drained my water bottle in one go. Great experience.

When the no-gi class began, there were just 6 of us. After some coordination warmups, Christian turned it into a Q&A, letting us request techniques to work on independently. Homeboy, the smaller guy from Saturday's class, was there again and I paired up with him to practice escapes from side control. The moves are easy enough in theory but freakin hard to accomplish when someone's pushing down hard with their arms locked around you. I managed to do them effectively enough by the end but whether or not they'll work during an actual match is another story.

The gi class, which is usually overflowing, also only had a few people tonight so it sort of turned into an open mat and I stayed for a couple more hours to roll with Killer and practice triangles, armbars and simple sweeps from guard (failed miserably at all of them). Liz helped me out a lot with understanding a basic triangle from closed guard but my legs seem to be defective (or rather too short or not yet flexible enough) to finish the move properly. She was very patient in explaining and demonstrating but even once I understood what I was supposed to do, I couldn't seem to make my legs lock the right way, or get my body to move out to the side properly. Christian gave me a few additional tips, told me to stop stressing if I couldn't magically do everything after only taking BJJ for a few weeks, and noted some specific things for me to practice. Later on, I think I finally did it right one time, although that sort of move definitely favors those with longer legs.

So...great time tonight. Great workout. The only downside? I'm sore as hell right now and covered with so many bruises that I look like I'm sporting fatigues. Didn't even notice until I got home, looked in the mirror and was all Holy shit! I was feeling a little paranoid until I googled "BJJ bruises" and was treated to countless photos of grapplers with the same leopard-like look, so I stopped panicking and applied a few truckloads of ice. It's better now.

October 22, 2011

Takedowns and Rolling Again

Today's class was much busier than last weekend and there was a guy who was actually around my size, so we worked on takedowns together. It was quite different from the usual grappling classes and good stuff to learn. I had trouble with a few of the moves, mainly because my right quad was tightening up and hurting, but I suffered through it and got a few of the other techniques down well enough for Isley to yell out a compliment at one point.

When the hour was up, I decided to hang around for open mat and, you know...actually try to participate this time. First, I caught Dom and had him give me a little get-rollin' 101 to get a better idea of how to begin a roll without tackling like a drunken tiger. He imparted a few gems that were very useful and then told me to get some defensive tips from Christian, who proceeded to give me a better idea of what to do when on your back.

I stalked around the mat for a bit and when I saw that Big Boy's partner had gotten up to leave, I went for it. BB seemed happy enough to roll with me, even though it was only my second time. He started out light so that I could figure out what I was doing and made it tougher as we went along. He got me down a bunch of times but I did manage to get him into a couple of chokes from behind (when I say "get" I mean he pretty much gave me the opening intentionally, to let me practice) and Christian came by and helped me to tighten up my Rear Naked Choke.

There were two highlights of my roll with BB. The first was when I managed to catch him off guard with one of the takedowns we'd just learned in Isley's class, got him into side control and then applied the submission we learned last Saturday with Dom. When Dom saw what I was doing, he got all excited and started yelling "Oh, son, she's about to fuck you up! You better watch out!" It was hilarious. BB tried to get out but I got an arm under his neck, successfully did the spin around to push my head into his side, dropped to my stomach and squeezed. It took a while because my elbow wasn't tight enough and I had to adjust a few times but by the time I got the tap, it seemed like everyone in the fucking room had stopped to watch. Of course, BB had been going very easy on me beforehand, which was probably the only reason I was able to get the takedown in the first place. But it was still a wonderful experience to have all that encouragement and to see a set through in a way that didn't involve getting immediately squashed.

The second highlight was when I was attempting to get side control and was struggling to maintain the offensive. Without even thinking about it, I suddenly switched my legs and kicked one over BB's head in another move that we'd learned last week. Holding onto one of his arms, with the other one disabled and my heel pushing into his neck, he was stuck. Dom saw this and I got another "Oh shit! Good job!" from across the room. Unfortunately, BB knew what I was doing and bent one arm under his back so that I couldnt easily get to it. He was also way too strong for me to move his other arm to get the kimura that way. Christian told me how to slide a hand under his elbow and pull up, forcing him to tap or release the arm, but I was having trouble applying the pressure properly. Meanwhile, BB had some trouble escaping my leg-neck-whatever hold and we ended up in a bit of a stalemate for what seemed like a few solid minutes. That may not sound like much but when you're exerting every ounce of strength you've got, it's a damn long time. Eventually, I got tired and he managed to flip me over, but it was a really good round and I was proud of myself for the effort.

I was also exhausted at that point, so I thanked him for the great practice and took a much needed water break. After a little while, Ironman asked me if I wanted to roll. Now, I can only describe this guy as the Energizer Bunny on PCP. He literally has no off button. It's pretty fantastic to watch him go, because he just rolls balls to the wall with one person after another and never takes a break of his own accord. I wish I had that level of endurance, it's seriously fucking incredible. I warned him that I didn't know shit and probably wouldn't be useful for training so he offered to let me practice passing guard. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Every time I thought I'd gotten in and gotten a leg or a hold on his torso, he caught me off balance and flipped me over. Clearly, balance is something that I really need to work on because I get caught off guard and flipped very easily. I finally passed once at the end and got side control but I think he might've let me just to cut me a break. It was really good practice though.

October 20, 2011

A Real Rolling Experience

Today was the first time that I rolled. For real. As in, not just learning and practicing a few specific moves with basic resistance but rolling properly and actually going for the submission. Getting a few standalone moves down is, I've learned, completely different from trying to roll and apply them while you're being dominated every which way. I got a taste of that on Tuesday but wow, today I got completely whipped by three different people.

There were only six of us in the no-gi class today and I ended up with Spaceman again. Yanitza was sitting on the mat next to us and attempted to coach me from the sidelines, with my partner helping out as well. They both offered some great advice but I can't say that I was able to do much with it considering how fucking fast the guy moves and how little practice I've had with this sort of thing. I tried to give him enough resistance to be a good training partner but not knowing anything more than try to keep the knees up and get your legs around him I'm not sure I gave him much to work with.

Spaceman kicked my butt a few times before noticing that one of my big toes was blistered and bleeding, and we stopped so that I could tape it up. Before we could start again, Christian had him switch to work with one of the guys who had more experience and asked Yanitza to help me out. I felt bad because she'd just finished the kickboxing class and was going to do the gi class afterwards...the no-gi hour is usually her break in between the two so I had to figure she was completely exhausted. She was a really good sport though and worked with me for the rest of class, patiently showing me a few options for breaking out of closed guard (which I eventually managed at half-speed and with a bit of flailing) and rolled with me a bunch of times so that I could get a feel for it. I had a great time and learned a bunch of things to not do.

The hour went by fast. When it was over, Yanitza went to change into her gi and I sat down and talked with Liz a bit, who's now a purple belt and has won and/or done well in various competitions. She offered to roll with me before her class started, to give me some extra practice, and promptly destroyed me. I'm guessing she wasn't even trying, but that girl knows her shit and...well, I don't know shit, so it was great to work with her and to get that experience, even if it primarily involved a face full of sweaty mat.

When the gi class began, I thanked Liz and pounced on Isley, who worked with me for a while longer, which was really nice of him considering he was neither working nor taking a class at the time and was probably still recovering from his neck injury. He showed and practiced quite a few moves with me, including how to get a choke from behind and various defensive and offensive basics.

All in all, it was a really good evening. I was there for almost an hour longer than expected and even though I got killed, I feel like I learned a lot from it. Plus, it's good motivation to keep practicing!

Side note: unlike the other day, rolling with both Yanitza and Liz was great. I didn't feel awkward with them at all, so I'm thinking my discomfort over working with Britgirl was due more to her total lack of aggression than the fact that she was another female (as predicted, she never came back). I'm glad to have that sorted out because for a few days, I was feeling like a hypocritical douchebag.

October 18, 2011

The Big and Little Dogs

Just got home and am feeling so invigorated. I smell like a monstrous combination of man sweat, old cologne and gym funk and I couldn't be in a better mood. Something was different today. Five classes in and it's like I finally found my groove. Do I still have tons of catching up to do? Duh. Do I know everybody yet? Course not. But my confidence has magically gone way up.

When I walked in today, it was the first time I didn't have that imaginary audience everyone's-watching-me feeling. I said hi to some folks I'd seen around, talked quite a bit with people I've gotten to know and then when class started, for the first time since day one, I had no trouble. No staring blankly trying to figure out what the fuck everyone else was doing and how the fuck they were doing it. No struggling to keep up with the warmups. No overwhelming HUH?? feeling when Christian demonstrated the move. No requests for extra help because I was totally lost. I just...did it. Not perfectly, but as well as any other beginner. The biggest sign that I'm feeling more at home is that instead of hanging back when the class was told to pair up, waiting for whoever was unlucky enough to be left over and stuck with the newbie, I turned straight to the guy next to me, who I'd never seen before, and said "let's go." Ambitious, perhaps, but I was finally in that zen I can totally do this shit too place.

IT. WAS. AWESOME. It only took a couple of tries and I felt like I'd gotten the move down enough to at least work it properly. Also, for the first time, I got a feel for how intense it'll be to roll with someone. Not that we were all-out sparring but in the first four classes, I was so busy going step-by-step, trying to figure out what body part went where, that resistance was pretty minimal since the focus was on getting the basic motions down. This class, both partners were required to start from a certain position and work with a certain move, but to really put the pressure on and resist, respectively. The first time we did this, I got my ass handed to me. I think it took KGB about 5 seconds to go from open guard to side control (and that's probably being generous). I didn't even know what hit me until after the fact. One second he was at my feet, the next he was at my neck with my arms and legs going in all different directions. The second time around, I was more prepared and was able to put up some pretty decent resistance, even getting him into closed guard at one point. He increasingly challenged me, helped me to fix my mistakes and gave me no special treatment, so I'll definitely be adding him to my mental list of "good partners for training."

Later on, Christian paired me up with LJ, who is the only guy I've seen so far that isn't, well...big. He's about my size, in fact. Short and thin, although more advanced so he could undoutedly kick the ass of any super-sized beginner. Funny enough, practicing on him was harder simply because he wasn't big and I'd gotten used to working with larger guys where I wasn't worried (too much) about hurting them. LJ felt so small in comparison that I spent half the time feeling paranoid that I was going to break every one of his ribs. He had to keep telling me to crank up the pressure and I finally got the hang of it but man, I can see how some guys might worry about rolling with girls. It's a little unsettling digging your shoulder into someone's lower torso when there isn't a thick wall of muscle in between you and their internal organs. It took me a few tries to get over that. I've also got this ongoing worry that my movements are sometimes spastic (in a punch-you-accidentally-in-the-face-as-I-go-for-side-control sort of way) but LJ assured me that this was not the case.

After ten minutes, we switched once more and I partnered with Spaceman again. As before, drilling with him was great because he doesn't assume that I'll break in half, makes me work for the pass, gives helpful pointers when I'm fucking up and makes encouraging comments when I get it right. Anyway, it was a fantastic class, by far the most fun I've had yet and the best I've felt afterwards. Aside from the fact that there are tons of splotchy red patches (ie. broken blood vessels) covering my upper arms and making me look like a recovering junkie, it just keeps getting better.

October 15, 2011

Learning Submissions

After convincing me to come for the weekend takedowns class today, it turns out Isley hurt his neck and will be out for a week or so. Instead, we got a grappling class taught by another part-time instructor, Dominick. It was a slow day so there were only 4 of us there and two of the guys were more advanced, which meant that Dom focused his attention on me and my partner, Big Boy. It was as good as getting a private lessson.

With Dom's patient instruction, I learned my first few submissions. The first was an americana from side control, then a few armbar variations from different positions, one of which involved kicking a foot over the other person's head, twisting the hips around and pushing arms in all kinds of directions. Let's just say that wasn't me at my most graceful. Plus, BB apparently has extremely flexible arms/elbows and even Dom had a hard time getting him to tap. Then again, BB doesn't have the most flexible legs and struggled with the second move, which we had a good laugh about. Dom helped us both to address our individual strengths and weaknesses, and I think we both got a lot out of it.

The other sub was some sort of guillotine choke from side control that involved this fast spinning motion, which I successfully accomplished one time by the end of class and brutally destroyed every other time. If I can learn to get it right though, I'm sure it'll be an awesome move to have and one that most of the guys in the usual Fundamentals class won't know since many of them don't seem to come on the weekends.

When class was over, I stayed for half an hour or so to watch some of the more advanced guys roll during open mat. I would've liked to practice a bit more but most of them were jumping right in and going all out. Not having any real rolling experience, I didn't want to hold anyone back and I was feeling too shy to ask. When I'm given a partner, I have no problem being aggressive. But recruiting one, especially on their own time, is something I still haven't gotten comfortable with. I figure I can try that sort of thing later on when I know a little more.

October 13, 2011

Sweeps and Passes

Another great day. I've been arriving at the gym 15-20 minutes early so that I can watch the end of the kickboxing and take my time settling in. It's also nice to catch others and talk a bit before class starts. I figure the more people I get to know, the less I'll feel like the new kid.

There was actually another girl there today, a young English woman around my age. I made an effort to introduce myself and told her how much I liked the place so far. When kickboxing ended, I got to stretching and Britgirl followed me, which I didn't mind. But after a few minutes, I moved to the far end of the room and only later realized that she may have taken it the wrong way. I prefer being near the wall when I do a stretch that involves the butt being up in the air, so that I don't feel like I'm shoving my ass into everyone's face, but she seemed a bit put off that I'd suddenly switched locations. Oops.

Class started shortly after that. To be totally honest, I was glad when Britgirl ended up paired with Isley, one of the part-time wrestling instructors. Since I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, I really didn't want to be put with someone who knew even less. Of course, I've still been too shy to stalk my own training partners without an invitation or instructor intervention so I was left the odd girl out. Christian asked one of the blue belts to train with me instead, which turned out to be great. Blue was looking a little panicked when he realized that the first warmup we were doing involved lying on your back, placing your feet onto the other person's hips and kicking them up into the air like a spastic leg press. He seemed to be searching the room for someone my own size and I don't blame him. I wasn't entirely confident that I wouldn't send him crashing down into the wall or hell, right on top of me. To make matters worse, I have a birth defect and my right thumb is half the size it should be and doesn't bend. As a result, my right fist doesn't close properly. So not only was I a girl with much less weight to throw around, I was a lighter girl who could only hold on to one wrist.

Christian, however, is not interested in silly things like size difference or dysfunctional body parts. He swung by, asked WTF we were waiting for and told me that if Jean Jacques Machado could do it, I had no excuse. If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what does. I yanked Blue up into the air and held him up successfully for about ten seconds. It's really amazing what you can do with a couple of well-placed feet on the hips.

After that, we practiced tripod sweeps and passes. The sweeps I did fine on. The first part of the pass I did fine on. But when it came time for the tripod pass, I really struggled at first. I mean, it's like doing a fucking pushup with your head. Have you ever done a pushup with your head? It's not easy and it took me a long while to get right, although I finally managed a half-assed semi-successful attempt by the end of class. Did I mention this shit is really exhausting? At one point, I asked Blue to demonstrate the move on me, just to see how he did it. MISTAKE. This guy isn't one of the biggest in class but he is pretty buff. He did the pass once and I was thinking holy shit, did my spleen and kidneys just rupture? If someone puts that kind of pressure on me on the regular, I'll probably be tapping out before they even finish the pass. Sad...

To wrap up the class, each pair joined up with another pair - for us it was Isley and Britgirl - and did a sort of round robin where all four of us practiced the moves on the other three and then swapped. I'd generally figured out what I was doing at that point and didn't embarrass myself too much. Britgirl, however, seemed uncomfortable and kind of giggly. Trying the move on her also felt really awkward when my turn came. Apparently, I don't mind rock-hard pecs smashing my chest but with two sets of boobs, I literally had no idea what to do with the damn things. I don't care about the close contact but from a purely physical standpoint, I found it really uncomfortable. Maybe it's different in a gi and maybe it just depends on the size of the girl's "girls" but for whatever reason, that was my least favorite round. I found working with the guys much easier.

When the hour was over, I talked with Spaceman and Yanitza for a while and a few other guys introduced themselves to me, which was nice. I'm slowly starting to feel less lost and out of place here. On my way out, I saw Britgirl talking to Christian but her overly polite look and excessive nodding, I have a feeling she won't be back. I'm not sure martial arts are turning out to be her thing...pilates seems more suitable for someone like her, but I guess we'll see next week. Isley convinced me to swing by for his Saturday takedowns class, so I'm looking forward to that.

October 11, 2011

Second Class

Whoo just came back from my second class and yep...I love grappling! Totally love it. So much more than kickboxing, although that is a great workout. But BJJ had me sweating pretty hard today too. It's a lot of work but very enjoyable, even though the sheer volume of complicated stuff there is to learn is totally overwhelming.

It does make a real difference who you're training with though. I ended up with a bigger, bulkier, younger, newer guy this week, who seemed a bit uncomfortable grappling with a girl. I could tell that he wasn't working the moves on me the same as he would've with another guy. Even though I told him a few times to crank it up, he seemed to be trying way too hard to be careful. Halfway through the class they switched it up and the instructor said to find someone in the same size range, which I'm betting was a relief for him. Of course, I was the last one to pair up and the only one left at that point was Trek, one of the biggest guys at the gym. Luckily, he was happy enough to be partnered with me since he was actually recovering from a bruised rib and didn't particularly need 200+ lbs pushing down on him.

For the last part of class, Spaceman - from last week - offered to work with me again, which surprised me because one would think he'd want to train with someone who knows more than a fucking leg lock. But I loved working with him because he didn't treat me any differently as a girl and had no qualms about getting into full contact, using his weight (I swear the first guy was using his hands to hold himself up the whole time; he seemed to think I might be uncomfortable with getting too close and/or that I'd break in half) and actually making me work to get the move down, helping me when I didn't do it right. I definitely need to find more guys in the class like him, who pick up on things quickly and who are going to seriously push me to get it right as well. But everyone at this place is very friendly and supportive, and makes it fun regardless of how much you do (or, in my case, don't) know.

October 4, 2011

Day One

Well, I went back for my first MMA classes today. Due to an injury, I haven't worked out properly in months, so an hour of kickboxing nearly killed me. I was ready to cry five minutes into the warmup. Seriously. But there's no denying that it was the single best workout I've ever had. A few more classes like that and I'll drop the 20 lbs in no time. It was extremely intense but damn effective. Yanitza, the one other girl in the kickboxing class, was kind enough to partner with me and patiently helped me through my flailing and hyperventilating, which was a great thing to have as a first-timer. Then, in spite of initial apprehension, I did an hour of BJJ. I'd never really gotten the hype but it looked fun tumbling around so I figured I'd give it a try. Wasn't expecting much.

Turns out, I love it. And I actually did much better at that than at kickboxing, which really surprised me. I'd assumed it would be the other way around considering I used to box in high school, but it was the exact opposite. I was lost with the standup work yet the instructors seemed to think I did decently with grappling. Being the only girl in the no-gi class, plus the only total newbie, my main fear was that I'd make an absolute idiot of myself but I picked up on it much faster than expected and had a total blast. It took a minute (or ten) to figure out what the hell they were telling me to do sometimes but once I got it, I really went for it.

Bottom line, kickboxing is a great workout but for sheer personal enjoyment, BJJ has definitely won me over. Apparently, rolling around in ridiculous positions with a bunch of big sweaty people is so much more fun than it looks (or sounds, for that matter). By the time the class was over, I was all like...MOAR!! I signed up right afterwards (my hand was shaking so much from the workout that I could barely sign the form...yeah, I'm that out of shape) and am going to start from next week with the fundamentals class for a month or so, 3 times a week. Once I've got more experience, I can come to the other classes as often as I want, both gi and no-gi. I'm thinking I'll try to do kickboxing once a week (build up to 2's a really brutal class, all these muscles I didn't even know existed are on fire) and try to do grappling 4-5 times a week.

Side note: Browsing the old interwebs, I'd seen so many discussions making a huge deal about guys and girls training together, and I don't get the drama. I had no problems with WTF is she doing here? looks or people acting like I was made of glass. The guy I was paired up with wasn't holding back on me the way I thought he might, or worrying about girl parts and cooties and whatnot. We were both there to learn and were focused on that. It was great. I think the moment I decided I was totally in was when the instructor working with me went off on a tangent to teach me a move that he seemed to think I was half-doing by accident. In truth, I was just bracing an arm against my partner's shoulder to lessen the weight on the neck. He's got a strong hold and while it wasn't tap-inducing, I did feel the need to try and lighten the pressure a bit at times.

Anyway, the instructor thought I was trying to do something far more thought out and decided to teach me the proper way to do it. I couldn't quite understand what he wanted me to do to finish the move, and then the other instructor came over to see what we were doing and was like "you wanna do this, and like this, YES! YES!! GOOD JOB!" and I just felt that enthusiasm and really got into it. Plus I don't know who I'll end up with next class (I'm sure most people don't want the newbie...I know I probably wouldn't as a fellow beginner) but the guy that got stuck with me was very cool about it. I thought he might find it frustrating or too easy getting partnered with someone smaller and totally lost, but he didn't act put out when I forgot to do something, just reminded me real quick and we kept going, and was very encouraging when I got stuff right, especially since he was learning too. So that sort of attitude from the boys (and girl) there definitely made a HUGE difference to me. Good experience. Good people. Next week can't come fast enough!

October 3, 2011

Finding a Gym

So...I've decided to join a Mixed Martial Arts gym. I've been thinking about this for a while now and finally, after much procrastination and whining to myself about the effort, settled on a place in Midtown that's gotten good reviews and seems to be the only true "full service" MMA school/training facility in NYC (at least that caters seriously to adults rather than being a more traditional, family-oriented school). At 27 years old, 5'4 and 149 lbs, no one thinks that I look "overweight" but I don't feel healthy or in shape and that needs to change. I want to reach 130 lbs and I want to be physically fit like I was back in high school when I was captain of all the varsity teams. Doing something interactive like MMA seems like it would be so much more motivating than trying to convince myself to get up from the computer and haul ass to the gym to work alone with a bunch of machines.

In my quest to find the "right" place to train, I came across aforementioned gym and stopped by there earlier this evening to check the place out, see what kind of vibe I got from it. I walked into the room and was greeted by the sight of god knows how many huge, sweaty guys, grunting and rolling around on the mats all red in the face. My first internal response was: RUN!! There's no way they'll take you seriously; you're just going to look stupid! They'll laugh you out of this fucking place! How could you ever think you'd fit in here??

Luckily, before I turned and walked right back out, the owner and head instructor came over and introduced himself, talked with me for a while and convinced me to return tomorrow night for a free trial during the Fundamentals class. He said if I show up an hour early, I can join in the kickboxing class too, which is great since that's what I primarily expect to be doing. So I'll be coming back tomorrow evening and we'll see how it goes then, and whether or not I feel like this is the right place for me. At this point, seeing BJJ up close and personal (I'm telling you, it didn't seem half as intense on video), I'm thinking I'll try it once and then probably stick to kickboxing.