Friday, December 30, 2011

The good and the bad

A couple of good things:

1) A few weeks ago, the Jiu Jitsu ladies of NC had it's first ladies' open mat. It was well-attended at a lot of fun!

2) Mask and I did a little redecorating to our guest bedroom. What do you think?



3)  I've gotten absolutely hooked on Bikram yoga. My teammate Jeff piqued my interest - he's been going for years and he's as bendy as Gumby, but with stubbier legs and a healthier complexion. In fact, his back and hips are so bendy that once he gets me in side control, it's really hard for me to get out. And he shrimps as well as any crustacean I've met.

Now, I've tried yoga before and I wasn't a fan. To me, it seemed like a workout for people who didn't actually want to work out - some deep breathing, some stretching, a little meditating and wa la! Workout complete. What's more, most yoga schools have a no talking during class rule, and to be perfectly honest, I have a hard time shutting up for that long.

But Bikram is a little different. It is 90 minutes of deep stretches and body weight strength exercises (all at 105 degrees F and 40% humidity). Needless-to-say, you get your heart rate up. You sweat so much that the popsicles that they give you after class taste like fruity rods of frozen heaven. Plus, this type of yoga bypasses the spiritual mumbo jumbo that was always a turnoff for me. It's basically just a long, hard workout, targeting flexibility, strength, and balance. I do have to shut my yap, but some of the poses take so much concentration that I see the necessity of it.

Now, I have a lot of respect for how long it takes to truly develop a skill. I've been doing yoga for about a month, which is nothing. Like jiu jitsu, I'm quite sure it takes many, many years to get good at yoga. So, I think of it as a long term investment for my jiu jitsu. As a total and utter novice, I thought it would take at least a year of yoga before I would notice any real difference in my rolling.

But I was wrong! I was pretty shocked to notice a difference on the mats after only a couple of weeks. I'm still, of course, one of the clumsier, greener people in yoga class. But at jiu jitsu...

- I am throwing triangles a little easier
- I'm having an easier time inserting the 2nd hook after taking someone's back
- I'm able to get a little lower to the ground when working on wrestling takedowns
- When I am in bad spots, I'm able to shrimp more effectively to get back to half guard.
It's not a huge difference by any means, but I feel like I'm moving a little freer in all these spots.

I think the reason I felt improvement so quickly is because my flexibility was so deficient to begin with. (If an in-shape swimmer starts running, he might not notice much of a difference in his cardio. But if an utter coach potato begins a running program, there's a good chance he will soon be breathing easier when he climbs stairs. I think the same applies to flexibility). Thousands of miles of swimming has left me pretty unbalanced, with hypermobile shoulders and elbows, but with legs as stiff and crunchy as uncooked noodles.

Flexibility is strength, I have been told. And I'm starting to believe it. While no amount of strength training will get me to out-muscle a 220 lb man,  being more flexible can give me another type of advantage in scrambles.

But this brings me to the bad...

I landed weird after a light Judo trip and felt a sharp, hot pain in my knee. While I was able to get up a few min later, I had swelling and reduced range of motion in my knee for days afterward. I tried to hobble through it, but ended up taking a week off of rolling. I went back to rolling the next week, but since I couldn't kneel to pass a guard, I had to always start from bottom (which ended up being to my benefit, since I got to practice the butterfly and half guard sweeps that we drilled that week).

As much as I like yoga, I think it is the real culprit behind my bum knee, since I pushed my joints really, really hard the night before I hurt myself. I'm going to continue to get my "om"on, but I will be a little more cautious in the future. I don't think they know how dangerous it is to say "it's supposed to hurt" to a jiu jitsu person!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grapplemania XIII

A few things made me proud this tournament:

1) My school had 6 first time competitors, including my hubby Jason Mask. There's nothing quite like stepping on tournament mats for the first time - it wasn't that long ago that I did it myself, so I remember what it's like. My new teammates all had great attitudes and put everything they had on the mats.

2) My training partner Jeff Shaw had the tournament of his life - at least so far (I have full confidence that there are even more impressive tournaments in his future). He entered all 8 divisions that he was eligible to enter, the first time that anyone has ever done so in US Grappling history. In the absolute divisions, he went against guys who weighed more than a "Jeff and a half" and still managed to take home 7 medals.

3) Team Royce Gracie really banded together. The head instructors from my school were unable to make it, but I was never without coaching, support, and some Royce Gracie bad-ass in my corner (big thanks to Drew Culbreth, Roy Marsh, Mary Holmes, Brandon Brown, Hameed Sanders, and Timber Clayton for coaching me).

4) For the first time EVER, I didn't pull guard a single time during the tournament. This has been my goal for several tournaments in a row, and finally I was successful. Take-downs have always been my weakness and a source of intimidation for me. Finally, I'm starting to feel more comfortable on my feet!

5) There was a HUGE female turnout...including 6 blue belt women!

It is often said that you will learn as much from a tournament as from a whole month of training. Well, this has never really been true for me. I typically pick up a detail or two directly relevant to my game, but to say that it's worth a whole month of training is a stretch. Until this weekend.

I leaned a TON!

And it's probably because I didn't have the tournament of my life. While I had some terrific no gi matches, I had some terrifically educational gi matches. I made a lot of mistakes. I wasn't aware of just how many until I came home and watched the videos (and read the comments from my coaches). I've come to the conclusion that small differences in skill level are more evident in gi than no gi. In  no gi, I can't really tell the difference between low and high level blue belts. In gi, however, it is clear that 2 and 3 stripe blue belts have more tools than I have. And that's to be expected - many have have their blue belts for longer than I've been training.

Also, in no gi, there's a little more room for hulk smash. In gi, on the other hand, weaknesses in technique are amplified. A  lot of where I went wrong was when I "got greedy" and tried to rush, when I should have been more patient and methodical.  I ended up getting 2 gold medals no gi, and a silver and bronze in gi.

Oh, if you don't recognize that gi on  me, it's because it belongs to Jeff. I was a big dope and packed 2 pairs of gi bottoms for the tournament and zero gi tops. Jeff, however, had prepared for the tournament in all ways, including packing an extra gi. Thanks for lending me the gi mojo!