January 19, 2012

Reese On a Roll

After four straight days of intensive training, my body desperately needed a break so I skipped Friday's open mat and went for an low key wrestling class on Saturday. Rolled with Dom afterwards and got it on camera, which I later watched a whole bunch of times to see where I'm going wrong. Looking at it, there are so many bad decisions going on and there are an equal number of things that I should be doing but am not thinking about in the moment. So it's good to reflect on my many incompetencies with a visual aid. Also, the 15 - 20 lbs I still need to lose? Yep, that really needs to go. Like, asap.

Monday was intense. Did a warmup roll with Thumper, who pulled some awesome sweeps on me, then paired up with him for takedowns. Later, we drilled by hand fighting round robin style. Went with Thumper first, then Curly, Lostboy and Schizo, who I didn't have much luck with but then again, he's been wrestling for a long time so it's understandable that he'd be good at, like...wrestling. Near the end of class, I switched to Lostboy for upside down D'arce chokes, which I did quite well with although he struggled a bit and did more neck cranking than anything else.

Class was followed by a great open mat. Rolled with Thumper for a few rounds and did better, then Lostboy and got a genuine submission - a rare occurrence for me - by way of stepover armbar, which is turning out to be one of my favorite moves, and then Jersey, which didn't go so well...darn blue belts. To wrap it up, I beat up The Kid a bit which in retrospect wasn't very nice. The poor guy spent 4 minutes stuck on the bottom and then bailed after I got an americana, even though we still had nearly 2 minutes left on the clock. Oops. Next time I'll try not to be such a dick.

Kickboxing was expectedly brutal...pure cardio work start to finish. KGB made it look annoyingly easy, of course. If the five billion and one pushups and situps fazed him, he damn sure didn't show it. I was right next to him, so it looked extra bad whenever I had to stop and recover. After class, I rolled with him for a while and although I basically spent 99.9% of the time trying to bridge and shrimp out of mount, side control and fuck knows what else (eventually got tapped out by RNC), the near-six-minute round was a marked improvement from the very first time we rolled two and a half months ago, where I got choked out in literally 10 seconds. Lasting for 6 minutes, even if most of it was spent flailing around on the bottom, means that I'm learning something (such as how to get to and hold half guard, even if I generally fail at doing anything else from there).

Phyiscal therapy ran over so I got to gi class half an hour late yesterday and tried to get my stretching done quickly while others paired up for warmups. I didn't get away with it for long though. Carlo finally noticed, asked what the fuck I was doing and said to find a friend and get to work. I partnered with Jacks, a blue belt who had also come late, to drill armbars from different positions (knee on belly, side control and from the back, all ending up in same place for the submission). It was fantastic stuff to learn, a great set of moves and I got them down pretty fast. Now, if only I could think clearly enough to use them in the moment instead of forgetting everything halfway through...

Rolled with Thumper for a long while after class. Trek watched us as he did his own exercises nearby, offering commentary here and there such as "Don't accept that, Reese! Take him out!" It was a really good round except for a brief moment where I ducked down at an awkward angle and got stabbed just between the eyelid and eyebrow with his toenail. I looked in the mirror later and realized how lucky I'd been. Another inch lower and I might've had a serious eye injury.

I attempted to take a break after that but Carlo called me over for the next round and damn, he's intense. I still remember being a wreck the first time I ever rolled with him, and now that I have a vague sense of what I'm doing, he pushes me even more. He was chuckling a lot this time, which is never a good sign. When Carlo does his maniacal chuckle, it means one of two things: either you're about to get royally fucked up or you're missing a great submission that's right in your face. He taught me the hitchhiker escape from armbar and had me practice it over and over from different sides. Really, there's no room to breathe with him; it's just one move after another and before you can even think about resetting, he throws out some other move and is like "What are you doing? LET'S GO!" I learn so much from him every time though; it's awesome.

Tried to take another break but Liz offered to teach me omoplatas, which was fun although good luck to me trying to remember all of those damn steps. Had a good round with C-Bear next and ended by going a few rounds with Trek. I'd drilled with him before but we'd never actually sparred, so I wasn't sure how I'd do. It ended up being a great round, though...one of those rare occasions where I actually felt like I knew what I was doing. A whole group was watching us and C-Bear and the others started cheering with shit like "Whoa, look at that!" and "Yeah, punish him, Reese!" Curly said afterwards that I was like a little wild animal all over him. Trek and I finished by going over kimuras and then I saw that Liz, Krypton and Carlo had some sort of boot camp in progress on the sidelines. I made the mistake of walking over and got peer pressured into joining them for a final set of painful abs work, although by the time Carlo demanded 100 pushups, I called it a night.

Kickboxing was mostly round robin sparring today. I'm still having trouble with blocking but am doing slightly better with punches and combos. Sadly, my momentum was interrupted at the start of gi class when I jacked up my upper arm/shoulder by falling on it hard during a sweep...twice in a row. The first time hurt but wasn't debilitating. The second time jarred the bone and sent lightning bolts of pain through my arm, leaving it tingling to the fingertips. I had already been putting a lot of strain on it between the kickboxing and pushups, so that was sort of the final straw and my body went into fuck you mode. Carlo came over to do his physical therapisty thing and determined that it was not, in fact, a life threatening injury. His advice was to just "ice the shit out of it for a week."

Since I didn't want to risk further strain, I sat out to ice the shoulder and tried to learn by observing the rest of the class. My arm eventually felt good enough to do some light stuff so I worked with Liz, who was also sitting out for the moment, wondering whether or not she'd just broken her thumb, and she helped me practice back escapes and then s-mount armbars, going at like .05 % so that neither of us fucked ourselves up further. Near the end of open mat, I was meandering around aimlessly when Krypton rolled over from a few feet away (literally just came tumbling head over heels) and went for inverted guard, so I ran with it. A little voice in back of head was saying Dont do it! Stay away from the big dudes or you'll mess up your shoulder even more! but I ignored the stupid little voice and am glad I did because it was a nice, fun roll and more importantly, I managed some really good stuff...like my first ever successful armbar from closed guard (as in, in the moment, not just drilling). I set up the armbar and in response, Krypton stood up to try to get out. Granted, he wasn't going too hard but still...I had to put in the effort to make it work, without time to think about it, and for once it actually did work. I also got my first ever sweep on him. Even in the past when he wasn't resisting at all, I was unable to sweep him because I didnt get the technique right. Tonight, something just clicked and I did. It was pretty damn thrilling.

I'm off to Charleston for the weekend, which means total inactivity for the next three days and that's probably a good thing. Even without the shoulder problems, I've been training extra hard lately and do need the rest. It'll be good to take a short break before starting again on Monday.

January 12, 2012

I Can Haz Groove Back?

I've been training nonstop lately and am feeling so good, physically and mentally. We spent Monday working on knee-on-belly transitions (having trouble with those...not quite acrobatic enough yet) and kneebars, which I enjoyed. The guy I paired up with was big, which doesn't usually bother me except that some of the moves required sitting on the other person's stomach or chest, full weight, and it really fucking hurt. So towards the end of class, we split up and he worked in with another pair of big dudes while I joined Frodo and Yanitza. I think it was far more beneficial to both of us that way. Stayed for open mat and rolled with everyone, including Ironman, who did the usual leaning back casually with his head in his hands and kicking me across the mat every time I tried to pass his guard. At one point, I did pass and even got to mount. Unfortunately, I was so proud of myself that I completely forgot what to do from there and he eventually just sat up and threw me off again. Dammit.

On a positive note, I haven't been completely sucking at kickboxing, which is a great change from the norm. I'm not doing well per se, but neither am I make a total moron of myself, so I consider it a win, even if the conditioning work still makes me want to cry. Went for my first Wednesday class yesterday, for Carlo's gi session. Jumped Curly from behind while he was in the middle of a tough love speech to a new kid and got a little warmup roll in. I hadn't worked with him recently and was very happy to hear him say with some level of surprise "oh, look at you getting all good and shit!" Paired up with Liz for class to do armbars from all kinds of places. I had no idea you could armbar the hell out of someone when they stood up in closed guard...must try that sometime.

Rolled with Spaceman for a few rounds during open mat, starting from standing and working our takedowns. I caught him in a guillotine the first time, held it for a bit but then lost my balance and he ended up on top, eventually passing and getting an arm triangle choke. Did fine with defense overall but didn't have much luck with offense or escapes tonight. His pressure was really on and I could barely move. C-Bear was sitting on the mat next to us and started up with his funny boxing commentator thing, but I ended up getting so confused and distracted that I flat out gave my partner the next submission and had to tell my enthusiastic "coach" to shut it.

Rolled with Krypton next and lasted 20 seconds longer than last time before he crushed me, which I feel is a great improvement. After some initial abuse, he did let me work my moves and although sweep efforts were futile, I got some great practice at holding half guard, trying to take the back and trying to pass. It took a very long time and every ounce of energy my arms had, but I finally got a successful choke. He also spent some time giving me pointers on improving my Shoulder of Justice and using it to escape half guard, which I felt really good about by the time we finished.

Wrapped up by rolling with Wardog. I was transitioning pretty fluidly and was able to make use of Krypton's earlier crossfacing tips, which got me out of half guard and into side control really fast a whole bunch of times. I was cursing myself at one point when he remembered the moves we'd learned on Monday (mount to gift wrap) and caught me in that annoying death hold. Fortunately, he blanked out on what to do next and I was able to escape and turn it back on him.

Tonight...wow. I didn't think I'd be able to do it but I managed to stay for all three classes...4.5 hours in all. Liz led gi class today and to "warm up," she ran us through a series of unusual exercises, including a few rounds of dodgeball during which I got repeatedly smashed in the face in spite of the "no head shots" rule. The first culprit was Trek, who beaned me at high velocity from across the room. Seeing as he's one of the biggest guys at the gym and throws like a speeding mack truck, he felt really bad and kept apologizing, even though I repeatedly said it was fine. Sure, it hurt like hell for 20 minutes and I was wondering how black my eye would eventually turn, but I grew up getting kicked in the face with soccer cleats as a star goalkeeper so really, life goes on. Unfortunately, rogue dodgeballs just started to find me after that. I got hit in the face multiple times, including once when I was hiding behind a pillar and the fucking ball bounced off the wall and smacked into my nose. LJack nearly fell over in a fit of laughter at that point and I have to admit, even though it was pretty damn painful the whole thing was so WTF that it was also pretty damn funny.

When class ended, a bunch of us hung around for another hour and a half. I took a break, did some cell phone photography (Liz kindly offered to take a few pictures of me getting choked out or armbarred) and then rolled with Spike. And when I say "rolled" I mean "attempted to do something, anything at all, and failed." Took another break to record Yanitza and Curly's weekly showdown, then trained with Krypton for a long while. Ended up having a really good round with him and was able to use the crossface-from-half-guard escape a few times too. Afterwards, he gave me some new tips on stepping in to get the pass and I have to say, so far the guy's advice has consistently ended up working really well for me against other people, so I take all the suggestions I can get.

Side note: I've finally encountered my first spazz. This kid is small but still gets crazy, trying to power out of everything. He flails around like a dying bug instead of making a conscious effort to learn the techniques. As a result, he tends to body slam people, which is not appreciated, and, instead of properly applying chokes, violently drives his forearm into people's throats. He seems to think he can step onto the mats and magically kick ass because he's seen some Youtube videos and taken 2-3 classes. Still, everyone's being very patient, telling him politely but firmly to chill out and take time to learn the techniques, so he's got plenty of support and will likely shape up soon.

January 5, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

1) Stop saying Oh shit, I'm sorry! or variations thereupon. Remember that everyone is there to learn. Constant apologies for utter incompetence, smacks to the face, accidental junk grabs and so on are unnecessary. As Trek so eloquently put it, "If you kick me in the eye or smash the groin, unintentionally - or especially intentionally - you should be sorry. Definitely be sorry if it's intentional. Otherwise, don't be." Apparently, I'm too nice. This is news to me. I'm usually an insensitive, mildly sociopathic asshole. Must work on finding a happy balance.

2) Stop belittling my own progression. When I do something right or pick up a move fast, stop assuming that I just got lucky, that it was especially easy, or that my partner let me do it. Sometimes that's the case, but lately I've been doing fairly well all on my own.

3) Remember that some moves will work great and some will not, depending on technique, partner, mood and other factors. It's not a life-destroying setback if I get one move or variation down but am not immediately successful with another.

4) Stop destroying partners during drills. Just because they're big doesn't mean they don't need time to learn the move too. Goal: go a full session without Christian saying "Go easy, you're just practicing here! Control the blood lust!"

5) Learn how to block properly so that people stop punching me in the face.

6) Successfully make it through one set of pyramid kicks.

7) Successfully make it through one set of pyramid kicks without looking like an idiot.


As you can see, it's a brand new year...3 months in and I'm still having a blast. Admittedly, I lost my groove a bit after the last update what with the binge eating and laziness that goes along with the holiday season. Only hit the gym once over the following week and a half, and the one day I went in, I just wasn't feeling it. Headache, lack of motivation, the list goes on. Thankfully, I got my couch potato ass moving again this week and finally seem to be back on track.

Class started late on Monday. When I walked in, it looked like open mat: post-holiday warzone style...everyone was trying to burn off their sins from the previous week. Yanitza had shown up for her first Monday, so I rolled with her a while. Note for future: her thighs of death are not to be trifled with. For a smaller person, she can seriously crack some ribs. I must learn her tricks. Actually, most of the small people around here have killer thighs, like Brickling and Frodo. I guess being shorter and lighter means they've found ways to compensate. I'm trying to study and learn from them all.

Skipped kickboxing on Tuesday but Fundamentals was good. Worked with KGB on maintaining mount, applying submissions and transitioning to triangle arm chokes and back control. I did decently, even though my legs weren't long enough to sprawl effectively at times. Drilled the moves later with Wardog, who kicked my ass a bit - an unfortunate change from our last time together when I did so well and he was the one struggling. Of course, we were both tired by then and he was completely throwing his weight around. He even admitted that he was using pure strength and virtually no skill at that point. He called it the "fat man technique." Not that he's actually fat, but he was feeling like a bit of a doughboy after the break as well. I can relate.

I had a bit of a panic attack when I got home later and realized that my left ear was warm, hurting and visibly swollen, but after seeing a doctor, I was told that it was bruised, hardly cauliflower ear, and to just take some advil and chill out. Did I mention that I suffer from mild hypochondria? In my defense though, I spent all evening getting the fuck squeezed out of my head by two very strong guys, so better safe than sorry.

Throbbing ears aside, tonight was incredibly fun as well. I finally hauled ass in for kickboxing and Rascal's torture circle of abs exercises was refreshing after nearly two weeks off. Although I felt really stupid, as usual, I did slightly better with blocking today. Very slightly. Started out drilling basic combinations with Diesel, then moved into sparring...extremely light sparring, in my case, lest I got bashed in the head because I kept catching opponents' hands like a cat instead of swatting and blocking properly. Oh well. Sparred with Diesel first, then Spaceman, who went harder and challenged me a bit. God, did I feel like a moron throwing up the wrong hands at all the wrong times. I quickly gave up on even trying to block the kicks and just focused on the blows coming at my head. Sparred with The Kid next, who was nice but who didn't seem to want to throw any kicks, and then wrapped it up with Big Boy, who made me dizzy circling around so much but did help me get into a groove with blocking punches. Ended the class with a series of pyramid kicks, also with Big Boy, at which I predictably failed miserably. Rascal makes it look annoyingly easy but kicking that fast, that many times...holy shit. I vow right now to be more consistent with those classes because I hate feeling so lost.

Fundamentals went much better, of course. We continued our theme from Tuesday and I paired up with Wardog to do more mount transitions and submissions. I love the guy but he can be a bit of a spazz to roll with because he really works the pure strength angle. He also decided not to wear a cup tonight...he finally informed me of this right when I had my head trapped near his crotch while doing armbars, because he didn't want to get elbowed in the balls. Thanks, buddy.

Near the end of class, we switched it up and I drilled with Killer for a while. Got his back at one point just as Christian was passing, and was told that I'd have gotten points for it in a competition. Killer, of course, decided that vengeance was absolutely necessary and threw out some surprise moves the following round to get my back. He muscled his way into a rear naked choke and said "so...we've established that this means points, right?" Smug bastard. We had fun with that though.

All in all, it's good to be back to my routine of healthy eating and regular exercise. I felt so out of sorts without my gym time over the holiday break...let's not do that again.