Grateful

Wow. I just re-watched my matches and am overwhelmed with gratitude for my talented opponents. The reason I’m proud of my performance has much to do with the fact that everyone was so good. The opponent I had faced before and lost to, I lost to better. So much better. 

I also noticed some more things to work on and some more positives:

a) I’m not truly as active as I think I am in a bottom position. I’m good at staying safe but need to work harder and more immediately to improve my position.

b) I was so worried about getting out of closed guard after being stuck there for so much time in the last tournament that I neglected my defenses to open guards. I made all my rolling partners start with me in a tight closed guard for the past few months… :)

c) I didn’t even realize during the matches that my no-gi opponent had been going for ankle locks the whole time. Whoopsie-daisy. I thought she was reaping the leg for the sweep. Way to be present, me.

d) my inclination to stay on top usually serves me really well in a scramble.

e) I really do not give a shit about my hair in tournaments, rarely even fixing it between matches, which in combination with the bulky black mouthguard makes for sweet, sweet tournament photos. 

… …

For a little bit yesterday I suddenly got really down on my performance. The peaks and valleys post competition are normal, I suppose. The fact that I didn’t submit anyone and was submitted in my final match suddenly was the only way I could see the tournament. I’m glad I’m coming out of that feeling, because it just isn’t useful. Part of the reason I felt this way was because of social media - the girl I lost to is FB friends with me and my feed was getting barraged with an angle of our matches which made it seem much more one-sided. I started to become frustrated that it didn’t matter what really happened to anyone, and that the fact that I lost would be the only thing people would see. This is true in general of competition. Even the losers do great things, but celebrating the performance of a loser happens only very rarely. I did the right thing and unfollowed her posts so that I didn’t keep letting it color my perspective, because who has time for that. 

Today I’m back to feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished, eager to learn more and improve and in love with my art.

Got the takedown reversal which was nice, but she pulled guard as we went down, which I was seeking to avoid for reasons you’ll see here. I stayed composed in a tough situation and got out, but then temporarily forgot I had ankles at the wrong time. ;) Loss by straight ankle lock.

It makes me so happy that this picture is the thumbnail, because this might be my favorite part. In this match, I felt it was taking too long to get to the ground, so I went for a weak-ass flying arm bar in lieu of just jumping guard. After fighting from guard she stood up and I swept her. Then things got all wonky, but I survived again.

Round one of three with this opponent. At the last qualifier she got me in a triangle arm bar from her rubber guard, so I knew the goal was to avoid her guard, which I mostly did here. You can’t tell, but at the end I was fighting for an americana. 

Side note: I have some history with this person, not all so positive. She’s a great grappler, very leggy and flexible which is a challenge for anybody. Without getting into details, I definitely feel some anxiety in facing her. Which made it kind of hilarious that it was just us in the championships three times in a row.  

Good match. I’m not totally sure (on points) who would have taken this, but it was win-lose-draw anyway. I got a sweet inside leg trip that I didn’t expect to work, and realized too late that it did, so she bounced right back up. Almost had a triangle, switched to an arm bar and lost position, but scrambled to the top. Then I ended on a low note, but oh well. :)

Things to work on: get better angles to finish and attempt submissions (though I would like to note that she had my right arm trapped for the duration of the triangle attempt so I couldn’t hook the leg or grab the back of her head with both hands), going for half guard sweeps immediately upon regaining half guard from a bad spot.

My first match. I’m in the blue gi. Definitely lost this one, but I survived. She had a good spider guard, and I was proud of eventually passing it. 

Almost got a belly down armbar in transition, but I doubted whether I had it and then she used that indecision to escape. 

Things to work on (always and forever): sweeps from half guard, guard jumping defense, escapes from spider guard.

Competition Rundown

First of all, I want to acknowledge that I’ve been basically MIA from tumblr since I started my new job. I got tagged in some sweet surveys that I started to complete (thanks writersgrief and rolling-in-the-gi) but then got interrupted and couldn’t even think of questions. I’ve been in the thick of learning a new job in a new field, training for a tournament and having my best friend visit for 5 days. 

Right now, I’m being forced to slow down with an extremely sore post-tournament body. I feel like every muscle in by back, torso and hamstrings is tight and firing. I am moving around like an old person, and I secretly relish the manifestation of my hard work. 

For the first time ever, I’m going to post my tournament videos. First of all, there’s good video of each of my matches so I can present a full picture of the day, and secondly not one of my matches was boring, whether I was winning or losing.

In the end, I got a silver medal in Gi and a silver medal in no-gi. 5 total matches, 3 total opponents, round-robin, submission only. I fought the same person best out of three in intermediate no-gi, 136 pounds and under. I was quite disappointed that none of the other girls signed up who qualified in the last few months, but I had fun any way. Not one of my opponents was “easy” and they all fought for the win with very, very little stalling, which made the matches diverse, competitive and great learning experiences!

Videos to come.

Eskrima

Today I had a casual first lesson in eskrima taught by my friend Andy, who has been doing it for nearly a decade now. We learned some basic footwork, basic strikes and three blocks. By the end we were able to drill the three in tandem. Nothing like swinging a stick around to make you feel like a bona fide ninja.

It was really challenging, as he anticipated, for me to adopt the right foot forward stance since all my stand up is more boxing/kickboxing oriented where you hide your bigger weapon (cross) behind your jab, instead of having your power side forward. Maybe it will help me be more comfortable switching stances.

I really enjoyed it though. The footwork, slips, and bob and weave can all be easily related back to kickboxing techniques that I already do and it never hurts to find new ways of thinking about it. The other foreign part to me was the idea of my knuckle placement in relation to the “blade” (since we use round sticks, the blade stays in line with my knuckles and I must re-orient my hand depending on which strike I’m attempting).

We met up in a public park surround by hula hoopers and frisbee throwers and got a few odd looks. It’s hard to remember that people think of martial arts as dweeby and I think they’re just so bad ass. So while I’m learning moves which mimic disemboweling someone they just see someone preparing for an epic cosplay battle in the woods (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The Mental Game

I just want to spend a minute appreciating what I witnessed this weekend. 

I travelled to see a teammate fight this weekend. Two days before that she and her long-term girlfriend broke up. No doubt she was distracted, but my coach was dedicated to keeping her focussed. She went out there ready to go and dominated the first two rounds. She then spent much of the third round defending a RNC, but she had done enough to win the fight. I was really worried for her in that bad position in the third round because I was thinking about her mental state. I worried she would give up mentally because of what she was going through. And she didn’t look like herself when she was defending it, not moving like she usually does and reversing the position. 

Come to find out that she had her fibula broken while being taken down in the third. So her lack of movement had (most likely) little to do with her mental state and more to do with the inability to post on that leg while trying to escape the hooks. Not to mention, I’m not sure she could have kept going if they had stood up. So she just hand fought and stayed safe and survived the round. 

It just goes to show how important mental strength is to combat arts - her win was 30% skills and 70% mental this time. She had every reason to give herself an excuse to lose. As Sonnen says, losing is always the easiest option. We all would have understood. Especially given the broken leg. There are very few people who would have succeeded at the professional level in these circumstances. I’m proud to have seen it and to get to be part of it in my own small way.

You win this round, running.

I promise this is not going to become a running blog. 

But I made myself go for a run tonight even though the last one made me want to cry. Cry twice, even. Once because the pain in my side was so severe and twice because I saw it is a failure and didn’t enjoy myself at all. 

It is worth noting that my husband is training for an ultra marathon right now. He can run for hours. Faster than me. And I wasn’t able to see how my body was going to carry past two miles. So that in itself will make a person like me compare myself and want to give up.

He is loaded with good advice and has been nonjudgmental with my varying success in running. Today before I went he just kept reiterating to take it slow, walk when I needed to, and to be very focussed on moving my feet and be aware of how the heat was affecting me (90 degrees today).

I walked briskly to warm up for a few blocks and then began to run. I was feeling incredibly good - a nice, even pace and no side splits until my turnaround point about a mile in. Just as I got to the turnaround the cramps in my diaphragm started.

"No big deal," I thought. It was time to walk a little bit anyway. so I walked a  block and a half and turned around intending to run the rest of the way back for a total of two miles. The cramps, which subsided while walking, started up immediately and sharply. I fought through it for two blocks and then had to start walking again. This is where a little black cloud started to hover above me and I considered again that maybe I am just not a runner. It was the downhill portion and I couldn’t even muster one foot in front of another as each jarring step intensified the pain in my side. Walked two more blocks until the pain was managed and then with no faith at all told myself I would run again at the next intersection.

I started running slow and steady, exhaling in long slow streams and inhaling deeply but not sharply, until suddenly I found a rhythm and my body felt warm (not from the heat, but from the inside somehow…). When I got to my block where I could have turned and headed home, I didn’t want to because I was feeling so calm and rhythmic. I added 10 blocks roundtrip to my run and wound up at home feeling as though I still had steam and still felt good. In contrast, my last two runs were shorter and absolute murder until I stumbled to my door and was so thankful it was over.

It reminds me of the age old complaint about people new to jiu jitsu feeling that they should be able to “beat” those who have been doing it longer because they are bigger and stronger or just have that kind of mentality. It is always so frustrating because it feels like they aren’t respecting the enormous amount of work that goes into training religiously for a few years. Like, I didn’t just walk in here able to beat anyone. I put in my time, and you have to, too. It strikes me that running is the same - to compare myself to my husband who has been training his ass off for a couple of years to get to the point he is now is a useless thing to do. There simply is no comparison. I must have respect for the training runners put into their craft. I hope I’m finally getting that.