Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stress Matters


As a newbie to the submission grappling world, I am still educating my friends on the correct pronunciation of the initials “BJJ.” Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a mouthful. Most friends and family are grateful for the more easily-pronounced acronym. “Are you doing BJJ tonight?” they ask. Here’s the problem. They stress the B. They say “BEE-jay-jay” instead of “bee-jay-JAY.” There is a big difference.
            When we say bee-jay-JAY and emphasize the final J, we bring up images of birds, people crossing the street at undesignated spots, and marijuana cigarettes. The imagery is about freedom, breaking the rules, and being independent and unconstrained by society’s norms. Say it with me: bee-jay-JAY.
However, stressing the B links the B and J: BEE-jay-jay. This brings up sexual imagery much too undignified for this blog and its refined readers. The final J is left dangling—hanging alone—no bird or illegal contraband, but maybe now a name? When people say BEE-jay-jay, I am left with an image of someone whose nickname is BJ for whatever reason best not explained: “Have you met BJ Jay? You really should!” While poor Jay may seem the life of the party, we all know at the end of the night BJ Jay is like that final, unstressed J: hanging alone, lonely and forlorn. “Are you doing BEE-jay-jay tonight?” “Frankly, it’s none of your business!”
So, please, say “no” to final dangling Jays. If you can’t get the stress right, I implore you to use the full name: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It may be a mouthful, but certainly a respectable one. Stressing the right letter will give me much less stress, as well as lift the reputations of Jays everywhere. When I go to class tomorrow night, I will not be “doing BJ Jay.” I’m certain my husband wouldn’t let me go if I were.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clergy Fight Club


Oh, so tired. I am so tired after tonight’s class. It’s a good tired. Fatigue and satisfaction. I rolled with a purple and a blue belt who had enough control to keep the pressure on but not crush me. It’s amazing how quickly my muscles can tire out. My last roll was with a companion white belt. We were both so “done” that we called it quits after a few minutes.

Before class tonight, Husband said, “I know what I’m going to talk about at Fight Club.”
            Husband has mentioned Fight Club to me before. It’s actually Clergy Fight Club, and you all probably want more of an explanation right about now. Clergy Fight Club is a slam story-telling event organized by one of Husband’s colleagues. The first rule of Clergy Fight Club is that you can’t talk about Clergy Fight Club so my understanding of it is kind of vague. I only know that ministers get up and tell stories. The clergy person who tells the best story, wins. Husband has been intrigued with this since he heard about it. He has vowed to enter the next CFC, coming up in June. His story wheels have been turning lately. Tonight it seems he has found his topic.
            “I’m going to talk about  BJJ.”
            I suppose it makes sense. The minister with a bad back can’t actually fight. But his wife attends a kind of Fight Club tri-weekly. The clergy person who cringes at the thought of a take-down is married to someone who practiced headlocks and armbars tonight. What better story to tell at Clergy Fight Club?

Tonight the pre-class chatter waxed philosophical. Can anyone ever do anything that is not self-serving? When we do a favor for someone and it makes us feel good, aren’t we benefiting? 
            Husband has been letting me go to BJJ two to three times a week. He feeds, bathes, and puts the kids to bed alone. He’s more than capable, but it’s just nicer to have a partner around. He does this all for me. He gives me this time to pursue an interest. He is being a good Husband by letting me expand my world. Or so I thought until Clergy Fight Club. Now I realize the self-serving nature of his sacrifice. I am doing the extensive, first-hand research that he can’t. I will be the subject of his slam story this June. I have a feeling it won’t stop there.
            Does this mean I have to extend my trial until June? Husband thinks I need more time to really understand jiu jitsu. I think he needs more time to develop his Clergy Fight Club story.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rolling with the Big Guys

This weekend I taught my 8-year-old son a few Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves. I showed him guard passing techniques. My 8-year old weighs 42 pounds. As I worked with him, I was afraid that a wrong move would snap his toothpick arms. I had to adjust my resistance (to Completely Yielding) in order for him to have any success. He gleefully wanted me to sweep him. I had to brace myself with my arms to avoid cracking his ribcage. All this maneuvering on my part made me wonder: How close is this to what the guys I train with feel?

To get the full perspective, some calculations were in order. Forty-two pounds is about 40% of my body weight. Mathematically, I would have to spar with a 265 pound person for him to have the same feeling. Some of the guys at my gym are definitely over 200, but I don’t think anyone weighs in at 265.
So, what exactly is the Big Guy* perspective? How do they feel sparring with someone much smaller? Are they worried about breaking something?
If you are a Big Guy, have ever been a Big Guy, or have spoken to a Big Guy, I would love to hear your thoughts!


* Usage of guy here is non-gender specific, not limited only to males, nor meaning those grotesquely dressed, as my dictionary identifies to be British slang. The dictionary also says that to give the guy to is British slang for escaping someone. So of course, my next question is for all you UK readers: Have you ever given the guy to a BJJ opponent, or do you just escape?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Push Up Showdown!

I missed class tonight because Husband is teaching. I ate oatmeal chocolate chip cookies instead. Many cookies. No, I will not tell you the number. The ancient Romans believed that precise knowledge gave one power. One of my favorite Roman poets, Catullus (previously quoted in I Love and I Hate), wanted to scramble up the kisses he gives his girlfriend so that onlookers would not be able to cast the evil eye on them.

cum milia multa fecerimus
conturbabimus, illa ne sciamus
aut ne quis malus invidere possit
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.        Catullus V

When we’ve made many thousand [kisses]
we will mix them all up, so we won’t know them
or so that some bad person can’t hex [us]
since he knows there are so many kisses.
           
Pretty much you could substitute “cookies” for “kisses” and that’s how I feel. Imagine the hexing that could go on if you all knew my secret cookie amount? I can’t let that happen.

Some of you know the on-going saga of my husband and my push ups. Well, last night, we finally did it. We had a Push Up Off. After his disparaging comments about my push up technique, I have been working hard to go “nose to the ground.” I was ready.
Saulo was not available to judge, so I hand-picked my two boys for the job. Husband dropped to the ground. The boys counted. 4-Year-Old didn’t know that he was counting something and just kept rolling numbers on by. I had to focus on the real count, which turned out to be: 26.
I was pretty sure I could beat that, but it was going to be tough. I got in push-up position and focused on my form. Nose to the ground, I said to myself. I completed 15, 20. I started to slow down. 30. Whew! I stood up.
            “You could do more,” Husband said.
            “I wanted to be fair and keep your pace.” But he was right. I did another 10.
            “I would be dizzy if I did more,” Husband admitted, beaming. “Good job!”
            If I know Husband, while he is indeed proud that his wife beat him in push ups, he will be practicing. He likes to do that. On Wii, he plays when I’m not around to secretly beat my high score.
I am taking a chance letting out the exact number of push ups I did last night. I think it’s essential to our story. No good can come of knowing how many cookies I ate today. But hopefully this story can inspire ladies everywhere to topple their men at push ups. Many of you probably already do. Perhaps we could start a Push Up Revolution! Even if I don’t win, maybe I can burn off some of those thousands of cookies with a few extra reps.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I Chose Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I have set a goal to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu until the end of March. March, when the birds and butterflies make their way home. When the buds and the sky open up and bring forth all their radiance. When I will once again be able to hit the pavement running with renewed energy and pretend that winter doesn’t exist for me, at least for another eight months.

There are many reasons I decided to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. During the winter, my running decreases . . . a lot! I’ll be honest. I get a little bit of hibernation fat. My Mediterranean blood thinks these New England winters mean I should eat my weight in carbs, grease, and chocolate and then find a cave to sleep in for three months. After the snowstorm last week, I’m starting to think that’s not such a bad idea. (I’ve already done the eating part!)  Husband built a snow fort in my back yard that’s whispering “Come! Sleep!” to me. It’s very private. The kids are too interested in Wii Super Mario Brothers to even look twice at the fort, so that  makes it even more enticing.

Back to the hibernation fat. That all used to disappear with the crocuses in the spring. A few blissful runs in the sun, and voila! Summer Shark Girl was ready for action! But lately . . . Shark Girl’s winter reserves have been lingering so far into the summer that they’re still there the next fall!
Shark Girl also realized that her winter doldrums were less prominent last year during a home renovation project. If I distract myself, I can pretend winter is not even happening! In an effort to be efficient (which I think I am, but then spend hours surfing aimlessly on the Internet, only to come up for air wondering, What was I looking for?), I put my two goals together. I needed to find an exercise to distract myself through this winter.  I could join a gym, but that’s just so gymmy. And while I’m sure some of the gym characters could distract me, in the end I ran the risk of being more depressed.
My sons recently started tae kwon do. Maybe I could join them? That would be really efficient. It would take no extra time out of my life. I already have to sit through their class.
I studied their class. It’s great for them. Their instructor focuses on discipline. They say, “Yes, sir.” They do push ups when they act out. Believe me. My boys need that. But me? That’s just not what I need right now. I have spent the greater part of my life disciplining myself and I don’t want to give away that authority right now. Plus, as I watched the workout, I never saw much of a sweat going on. But what about kick boxing? Or another form of martial art? I started researching martial arts to find out if there was one that would meet my needs. Everything pointed to BJJ. As a small woman, it seemed the most practical. All sources said it was an amazing workout. And finally, people described it as being difficult. So, I thought, a good distraction!

Tonight I played Wii with my boys for the first time since the summer. We each chose a game to play. Mine was Wii Fit. Secretly I wanted to weigh in and see if jiu jitsu has kept up its side of the bargain as far as my winter insulation is concerned. I do not own a scale and haven’t stepped foot on one since the summer. We all weighed in tonight and here are the Wii stats for those concerned:
4-Year Old: +1.8 pounds
8-Year Old: +2.2 pounds
Shark Girl: +.9 pounds

I rejoice in this number! January and less than a pound gained in winter weight! My mind wanders self-indulgent: perhaps this is all in my new, Arnold biceps from those push ups? What a great fantasy—that I have added almost a half a pound to each biceps!
Then Husband steps on the balance board. Husband, whose running has decreased, but hasn’t picked up any substitute. Husband weighs in at: -.4 pounds?? What? It’s not that I’m not happy for him. I really am. But, jees! First the disrespect on my push ups and now he’s beat my winter weight struggle without even trying? There’s only so much a Shark Girl can take.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not obsessed with my weight. If I were, my diet would consist of a lot less refined sugar and much more fruits and vegetables. I am no stranger to multiple slices of pizza, heaping teaspoons of sugar and cream in my coffee, and I made those oatmeal chocolate chip cookies last night just to eat the dough. Rather, I would call myself attentive to my weight. And maybe a little competitive. I set a goal, damn it!

When March comes, and those butterflies return, perhaps I will still be doing the butterfly sweep, as well. Part of me wants to see what happens when I ramp up my running with the jits. Another part wonders if next year come December, BJJ will be familiar, and not enough of a distraction to get me through a second winter. Maybe then you will find me writing a new blog. But I’m not sure what it would be about. There’s an edge to BJJ that suits me. I hope it doesn’t go away.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Roll in the . . . Snowstorm?


Details of my latest roll:

My partner had me pinned. I bumped up until I could wiggle my knee underneath. I didn’t have enough leverage to move him, so I put my forearm under his chin and pushed. The choke made him back off, enough for me to get him in my guard. I whirled to my knees. He grabbed around my waist in a bear hug. I twisted him over and got the mount. I grabbed his arm, rotated, then . . . armbar!

And that’s how I got out of bed Wednesday morning. Jiu jitsu is useful.

I awoke peacefully to the softly falling snow. I had turned off my alarm the night before because school was canceled. Not to worry. My 8-year old made sure I did not catch up on my sleep. He was in our bed at six, begging me to make the snowman pancakes and bacon I promised the night before. Husband wanted a few more minutes of a warm wife. Oldest Son was throwing my glasses at me. Husband was putting his arms around me. Oldest Son made sharp movements with bony elbows and knees. Husband pulled the covers up high over our heads. Oldest Son grabbed my arm and dragged. Finally, it just wasn’t worth it. I would get up and fulfill my motherly obligations. Husband playfully pinned me. “Use your jiu jitsu!” You know the rest.
            “Are you surprised that I could do that?” I asked Husband.
            “Took you longer than I thought,” he replied.

Unfortunately, class was canceled Wednesday night because of our twenty-six inches of snow. But I got one roll in.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Night and the Forty Push Ups

Last Wednesday night we started out with our usual cals. Our instructor had us do one push up for every year we’ve been alive. “You’re kidding me!” I called out, as the oldest (and smallest and weakest) person in the class. “You can take a break between them,” he replied. Hell, no. I did my 40. I huffed and breathed and groaned through the last five. But I did ‘em. Take that, 20-year olds! Then we did 100 crunches and 30 hip-ups. We finished with hip escapes across the room; for the first time my hip escapes felt correct. 
           We drilled rear chokes and escapes. I felt focused and successful. It turns out my short stature helped me to twist out of the rear choke. Less upper body to travel through the seatbelt. When it came time to roll, we didn't entirely “free roll,” but focused on the techniques. For half the time, one person was the attacker and the other person the escapee and then we switched. Most of my partners were white belts so we rolled hard, but it was manageable, directed, and fun. I even got an unexpected arm bar!

On Wednesday, it felt like the three things I’ve been trying to focus on in my jiu jitsu practice finally, perhaps fleetingly, came together.
           First, I’ve been working hard to leave the ego at the door. What does it matter if I suck? Or if I have to be walked through the move seven more times? Hey! I’m an old lady! I get credit just for being there.
           Second, my new mantra is Breathe on the bottom. (I would have chosen Fear is the mind killer, but Frank Herbert's got that copyrighted.) I’m a 106(ish?)-pound woman wrestling with 150-pound men. I’m going to be on the bottom. It’s going to suck. But freaking out isn’t going to change anything. I need to take deep breaths and think about my escape.
           And finally, I have been taking slidey’s advice (from my new boyfriend Saulo) to heart. “Your partner must be your best friend.” As I remind myself of this, it makes it easy to laugh at myself and congratulate my partner.

When I got home from class, Husband was playing computer Scrabble. “I did 40 push ups tonight!” I boasted.
“You did not. I don’t think I could do 40 push ups. Let me see you do 40 push ups now.”
“Uh-uh. I already did them. I’ll do a couple as an example.” [I dropped to the floor and handily completed two or three.]
“You’re not going all the way down to the floor,” he commented. I assume that was the jealousy talking.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Not Quitting

I had fun with Wednesday night’s class. Which is good, because I came home Monday night feeling like maybe March would be it for me.

Monday wasn’t a bad experience. Monday was bland. Everything was over my head. Nothing clicked. I didn’t get enough practice to make it click because of the pairings. By the time I got any real exercise, class was over.

Until Monday night I felt I would continue jiu jitsu past March. I don’t like to quit. Sometimes I stay in things too long, even though I no longer enjoy them. On the way home I tried to work out my feelings: Am I “not quitting” jiu jitsu, or am I developing a practice that is meaningful to me? There’s no shame in saying, “I tried it for four months. I learned a lot. Had some good times. Some hard times. Some awkward times. Now let’s move on to something else.”
          Then I thought, Not every run I have is excellent. Sometimes every step feels like I am planting cement shoes into the pavement. Then there are times when I soar. (As much as one can when breaking a 10-minute mile is a victory!) Was Monday just a blah night? Will I soar another time? Where will I find myself in March?
***
Wednesday night’s wrap up to follow. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Accidental Junk Grab

I’m calling this post The Accidental Junk Grab. At least I thought it was junk. I know it was accidental. Most of my jiu jitsu moves are.

We were practicing north-south. I reached up over and behind my head to push my opponent’s hips back and try to escape. Just one thing. I missed the hips. Now, I’m not convinced I caught junk. It may have been those loose folds of the gi. Yeah, that was probably it.

I did my homework before I started bjj. I read enough to know that, at some point, you’re gonna catch someone’s junk, male or female. And I mean that in all forms of the word. I was lucky enough to have a leisurely Sunday morning with the New York Times Magazine. (The Crossword? Love it. I’m even into the Kenkens.) Ben Zimmer, who writes On Language proposed that junk be the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year for 2010. He liked its versatility. Its original meaning was a piece of old cable, and then it morphed to mean garbage, stuff of low quality, drugs, and more recently its use for, well, someone’s junk.

My partners have been catching my junk, if we use the word to refer to my low quality jiu jitsu moves. I have been catching their junk, when they’re really good, man. Tonight, I may have—may have—caught that other kind of junk. But, again, probably loose folds.

Zimmer spends some time on the history of junk. Interestingly, one of its first appearances was in a 1996 post on an on-line wrestling forum, referring to a “junk grab.” It seems grapplers have been grabbing junk for at least 15 years! I have read both men and women grapplers who discuss the awkwardness of an ill-placed hand. I know I am not alone. Now I might have the American Dialect Society on my side.

I came home tonight and told Husband, “My next post is going to be called The Accidental Junk Grab!”
            "'Underwear’ is fine. I don’t know about ‘junk.’”
            “Do you really not want me to talk about ‘junk’?”
            “Let me think about it.”

Well, I thought about it. If they can print junk in the New York Times Magazine, then I think I can print junk on my blog, too.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome, New Year! (or, "The Frilly Underwear Post")

I was not sure if I would make it this far in my bjj career. Six weeks! Of course, I have not been to class since Monday. Instead, I spent the holiday trolling for frilly underwear. I was advised that “one good frilly underwear post” could solve my Husband problem. So here goes.
Sometimes a girl can feel, well, manly when she spends her free time ground grappling. Can I get an “Amen!” if you know what I mean? Measuring success in a possible broken limb and risking various skin infections and bruises is not typically the domain of the feminine. I’m okay with that. I don’t wear make-up. You could say that I am “in touch” with my masculine side, that I’m “comfortable in my femininity.” (You could also say that I was the only girl in my high school’s Dungeons & Dragons club, however that would be embarrassing, and I would have to deny it.) But something about bjj makes me come home and want to put on my panties—yes, panties—the frilliest ones I have. And [gasp!] sometimes I wear a little lace surprise underneath my gi. I may be in a white, bleached robo-uniform, but underneath, it’s all Chantilly and bows, baby. A little piece of my femininity in hiding while I work on my arm bars. Is it that, being “one of the guys,” I need to remind myself that I’m still a girl? I am preparing for combat, not baking cookies. (I make a mean oatmeal chocolate chip, but that’s another story. . . .)
I considered doing a daily picture, a “frilly underwear of the day,” if you will. Wouldn’t that be exciting? Think of the increased blog traffic from people searching for randy pictures! You can all thank slidey, who reminded me that “less is more” and things once posted on the Internet are difficult to remove. I am also restrained by the fact that the scariest movies don’t show the horror happening, they leave it to your imagination. Once put down in words or pictures the emotion becomes quantifiable and thereby less horrific. For the same reason I will not be showing you my underwear. You can let your imaginations run wild. But it’s the best JC Penney has to offer, folks. Chew on that. In the meantime, I will revel in mixing gender stereotypes. It’s really a lot of fun.
Sparring partner update: my faux pas friend is quite wonderful. He choked me on Monday and said, “I owed you that!” I’m guessing we’re good.
New gi update: Loved my new Fenom gi. So did my classmates. They all wanted one, too. I had to break the news that it was “ladies only.”