Monday, June 22, 2015


It has been a long time since I’ve written. There are, of course, lots of reasons for that…but its mostly that I’m lazy, not a naturally gifted writer, and I haven’t had a helluva lot to say. It was a bit easier in the beginning, when every class was a new revelation. Now, however, my progress is much more plodding.

So, a few months ago I got promoted to blue belt. I knew it was coming, but it was still a great feeling. My promotion was two days before my two year BJJ anniversary. As I expected, nothing really changed. The same people who beat my ass before still do. We don’t have a lot of white belts in our school, but I’ve noticed a slight uptick in their intensity. I’m still a very lazy jiu jitsuer, so I tend to be defensive. I still get newb-smashed by the big, strong white belts. I still have a very hard time actually getting submissions.

Over the last few months, I’ve been having a flare up of my fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, so I haven’t been going to class as much. I’ve also put on weight. I’m back up to 180 lbs. I am still averaging twice a week, but its been hard to find the strength to go. 

So, that’s kinda been the situation the last couple of months.

I’ve also gotten some new gear. My favorite gi has been my 93 Brand Goose. After a little over a year of fairly heavy use, it was definitely showing its age. Its collar was fraying pretty badly, explosing the rubber core beneath it. It had also faded from a beautiful, dark, steel gray to a very light, almost white, shade. So, I decided that with my promotion to blue belt, I’d invest in a good gi.

I decided on the Oss Rebel gi. Ya know, the star wars one. I love star wars.  It is a super nice product, but I found that it is a bit too large, even after shrinking it down. I feel a bit frumpy rolling in it, but it is well built, and absolutely gorgeous. I would highly recommend it, but watch the sizing. You might want to order a size lower. 

I also ordered a Killer Bees gi material belt. For the price, it is an awesome product. It’s tough, and it stays tied. I was, of course, given a belt when I got promoted, but it was a bit too big, and didn’t shrink much when I washed it. The killer bees belt did shrink, but I bought a size larger to account for that. I wash my belt religiously, so I read into the shrinkage on it. After a few washes and dries, I’d say that there was 10-15% shrinkage, which is pretty significant. 

So that brings me to the present. Last month, I was out of class for a few weeks, due to my annual military commitments. When I got back, I have felt horrible. That said, I think I’ve actually been rolling better. At least a few times, I’ve come into the gym and dominated people who usually make me look like a child rolling with his father. On one particular open mat session, I submitted our senior purple belt a couple of times. Of course, he submitted me way more. Afterwards, he pulled me aside and said something along the lines of “I want you to know that those submissions were real. You set them up, I didn’t give them to you, and I defended them. They were well done.” 

And then, I went back to rolling like a white belt at my very next class. 

Last weekend we had a seminar from the school that we’re affiliated with. These seminars are always really good, and we learn a lot. The black belt who holds them usually brings a couple of his senior students, in this case two purple belts, and they focus on basic stuff. This seminar was really good, because our black belt, Darin, also came. Darin is weird in that he doesn’t want anything to do with ranking people up, running a school, or any politics. He just wants to come in, teach a couple classes a week, and stay sharp. He has a very, very tactical mind, and his approach is much different than the other black belt. 

Anyways,  we reviewed mount retention techniques and went into a few attack sequences. We always do active drills after the main seminar portion. So, we start with three people on the mat, their partners start in a position. Once the conditions of the drill are met (sweep, pass, submit, escape, etc.) a new partner comes in. The person on the mat stays for a full five minute round with fresh people cycling in. We do this over several positions. The black belts use this as a way to evaluate people.
At the end of the day, I got a stripe on my blue belt…though I don’t really feel like I deserve it. Several people didn’t get any promotion, so I felt kinda like I’d cheated them. I know its silly, I just feel like I’ve been missing so much class, and my skills are still really hit or miss.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Well, shit.

I competed for the very first time this weekend, and it didn't go well for me.

It was a very small, local tournament that was ran by a TKD/BJJ school. They did a good job at keeping things running on time, but the lack of competitors probably had something to do with that. Regardless, they did a good job, and are super nice guys. I like it because it had a very open ruleset. Pretty much the only illegal move was heelhooks in the gi. This would eventually be a problem for me.

We got there early and weighed in. I was at 175 lbs. It was a round robin tournament, so the weight classes were just brackets of four guys closest in weight. This was also not good for me, since I was the smallest guy in the division, and the heaviest was 200 lbs.

My first match was against the guy closest to weight to me. He was a tall guy (i'm short), and was skilled. We started off with both of us trying to get some take downs, with neither person getting the advantage. I pulled open guard, and nearly got a sweep. He tried to pass and I got my closed guard. I held him in closed guard for a few minutes, trying to set up submissions. I worked for an armbar, but it wasn't very tight and he had long arms. He escaped and passed to halfguard. He passed to mount, but I nearly immediately reversed him. That's all I really remember. We jockied for position for awhile, and at one point I took his back. I didn't get points because he blocked my hook. He won by 2 points or something.

My second match was short. It was against the big guy. We started off, and I grabbed his lapel and yanked. He didn't fuckin' budge. That's when I decided to pull guard. I broke his posture quickly, but he grabbed my lapel and started trying to cross collar choke me. That wasn't a problem. I was going to work for an armbar, but he switched to a can-opener. I pealed his hands off, and he kept going for the can-opener. The second or third time, I felt a popping in my lower back, and my neck started burning. He went for it again, and I tapped.

My final match I really should have won. I started with a really good take down, and he caught me in half-guard, but I got too high up and he swept me. I got him in guard and worked for chokes. Again, I went for an armbar and that allowed him to pass. We rolled around a bunch, and he won by one point. I couldn't be as mobile as I wanted, because my back was really fucking hurting.

My coach told me that I really beat myself on this competition, and I agree. I hate competing, and I didn't want to be there. I'm somewhat embarrassed that I didn't win any matches, but I also learned a lot. Its hard not to be disappointed, so I won't even try.

I wasn't really prepared for the intensity of the matches. They came at me much harder than I went at them. After one six minute match, I felt like I'd rolled for hours. My hands were shaking and I felt sick.

If I compete again, I'll have to get my head in it. I simply wasn't in shape, mentally or physically. I was definitely the most out of shape person there, and honestly that isn't a good feeling. I'll just have to work harder, and then decide if competing is right for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Scent (and slight bullying)

Last week, I trained 5 days, and it felt good. This week, I have the flu.

One day last week, a couple of things happened. The first, I got complimented on how well I was controlling the back. I actually put a purple belt to sleep with a bow and arrow when we were doing back drills. The second was that I participated in some light bullying.

There is a guy in our gym who comes to train once or twice a month. He started roughly the same time as me, but I'm much more consistent. Last week, he came in. We were doing positional sparring, specifically from the back. I started in his back, and he immediately started to defend by grabbing my thumb.

I calmly told him that he should rely on small joint manipulation to defend that position. He immediately used his overly long fingernails on my hand. No serious damage was done, but he did draw blood. At the sight of my blood, I got pissed off and moved into a very painful bow and arrow. I consciously got the lapel onto his chin just to make it a little more painful. This dude has been warned about his fingernails before, and I got really pissed off that he wanted to use them as a weapon.

I know that these defenses are acts of desperation and a lack of skill, but I still got really pissed.

During open rolling, he again used his fingernails against me. This time he was trying to open my guard, and dug his fingernails into my abdomen. I've never armbarred somebody that hard before. By then, I was just pissed off. I tapped the guy like 6 times in five minutes.

Afterwards, I talked to our main instructor, a purple belt, about the incident. He said he noticed the fingernails and talked to him about it too. I apologized for being rough on the guy, saying that I hope that my actions didn't cost us a student. The purple belt told me he didn't care if that guy left, because he's a huge douche.

Then we started talking about how easy it was for me to dominate this guy. I told him its easy for me to lose sight of my own progress, because I don't train with other white belts a lot. He told me that he actually considers me a blue belt, we're just waiting on the next rank evaluation in February. He said he wished he could promote me sooner, but that's not how our association works.

He then told me that he can tell I've "caught the scent" of being a blue belt, and that its shown in my motivation and skill level. I've definitely gotten better, and I'm definitely more excited than I have been in a while. He told me he wanted me to compete before I got promoted, so I registered for a local tournament later this month. It looks like they're going to combine the white and blue belt divisions, so I'm a little nervous. Still, I'm excited to put it out there.

My wife and I are also expecting our second child this year! So big changes in 2015