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.