Monday, November 12, 2012

Women’s Grappling Camp!

...with  Hannette Staack, Michele Nicolini, Emily Kwok, Valerie Worthington, and Sayaka Shioda. That's five, yes FIVE amazingly bad ass, black belt women. From 4 different countries, no less!

I’m on a bit of a jiu jitsu high, coming back from one of the most positive experiences I have had in jiu jitsu so far. If you are a female who’s at least half as into jiu jitsu as I am, I would highly encourage you to do whatever possible to get to one of these camps. There are so many things I loved about camp that it’s impossible to list them all, but here are a few:

1)      The opportunity to roll with dozens of colored belt females.

This is not something I get to do often, because I am the only one at my school. I do get to roll with other blue belt women in tournaments and open mats.  But before this weekend, I had never once rolled with a purple or black belt female (I had rolled with a brown belt lady only once before). There were plenty of white belt  women at camp too, with whom I also had fun, productive rolls. As someone who trains with guys 95% of the time, the chance to spar with so many women all weekend was amazing.

2)      The opportunity to get to know black belt word champions.

Sure, it was great to learn techniques from Hannette Staack and Michelle Nicolini and to play around with their signature moves. But it was also really cool to have dinners, conversations, and round table discussions with them and all the other bad asses. It’s inspiring to hear what got them into this martial art and what keeps them training at high volume and intensity day after day. It was cooler still to spend time with them socially and get to know them a little bit as regular people.

3)      Emphasis was placed on retaining  techniques. Over the course of 4 training sessions, a lot of material was presented.  We learned some open guard techniques from top and bottom that were more advanced than what I’m used to (basic positions like closed guard and half guard are my bread and butter).  So it would have been easy for me to fall into information overload. But there was so much drilling, positional sparring, and review that I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

Hannette Staack shared a great drill for enhancing motor learning of new techniques. We lined up in rows of 3, with 1 person at both ends of the mat and 1 person in the middle.  When the timer went off, the person in the middle did forward rolls until reaching the end of the mat, where she then did 3 pushups. She would then perform the target technique on the person at that end of the mat.  Then, she  would repeat the process, rolling, push-upping, and performing the technique at the other end of the mat, on her other partner. The other 2 people, while waiting for their own turns, exercised in place (performing either jumping jacks or sit-ups, depending on whether they would need to sit or stand for the technique).  I liked this drill, because it took the thought process out of drilling the techniques. It forced us to perform them quickly and while tired, which helped me to retain them.

4)      Perhaps my favorite part of camp was the question and answer session on the last day. I try to be a self-aware grappler, taking note of where I get stuck each day I roll. Indeed, I have created quite a laundry list of places where I have been running into trouble.  My instructor is great about helping me work through these spots. However, he is 6’6” and 215 lbs. So what works for him for, say, finishing kamuras on a super strong person, is not necessarily going to work for me. I was really excited to pique the brain of someone with a body type more similar to mine. I feel like most of the techniques I learned during training sessions will take some serious drilling before I will be able to incorporate them into my game.  But the details I learned from the questions I asked Emily Kwok are things specific to me, things that I should be able to use right away.

Overall, it was a supremely awesome weekend. It’s not like I expected it to be anything short of fantastic, but camp exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to go back next year! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Recongizing bull-oney

There are important barriers that we all must cross in jiu jitsu. Surviving our first roll...getting our first submission...winning our first tournament match...getting our first stripe...crossing the great Pam Barrier...bleeding on the mats for the first time...getting our first injury...getting our first belt promotion.

Crossing these milestones is met with a certain sense of pride. We earned each of these rites of passage. But there is one barrier that I crossed without much thought. Indeed, I crossed it without even realizing it - and that is developing the ability to recognize bullshit.

See, when I was brand new to BJJ, none of the techniques that I was learning worked for me (read: I hadn't spent enough time on the mats to be able to pull off anything legit). The problem, I assessed, was that my teammates had been training longer than me and therefore knew more moves than I did. What I needed to do was learn a move that nobody else knew. Then I would finally start tapping people!

So, after my first week of training, I scoured Submissions 101 and found something that I had never seen at my gym...a gogoplata from mount! NO ONE would see this coming! That meant I might actually pull it off. I tried the move on a higher belt (someone nice enough to let me get to mount in the first place) and was surprised when it did not go well.

To the untrained eye, this might seem like a viable move. But to anyone with even the slightest bullshit radar, this move is ridiculous. If you could tap somebody with this, then  you are so much better than them that you could tap them with just about anything.

But when I was brand-spanking-new, I had no bullshit radar. So I couldn't tell a legit move from complete nonsense. Of course, I would have been better off watching videos of basic mount escapes than of low percentage mount submissions. But I had the outlook of a typical, athletic newbie. I didn't like being bad at something, so I wanted to find  a way to start winning as soon as possible. And I failed. The only thing that made me better at jiu jitsu was time on the mats and sound instruction.

I don't watch a lot of instructional videos anymore, since I'm not much of a visual learner. But I'm happy to say that my bullshit radar has improved substantially since I started. When I see something that's totally out there, I can see it for what it is - nonsense.

Take these past couple of weeks, for example. A new gym was opened in the triangle, one that claimed to teach a hybrid of Brazilian jiu jitsu and judo. Upon watching a few of the instructor's videos, it became immediately clear to me that he had never trained in either.

courtesy of Boomer, from Cageside MMA

the lugnut

armbar defense

Something for my judo friends...

but what happens if the guy doesn't roll?!?

It was with watching these videos that I was pleased to discover that I now do, in fact, have a bullshit radar. These might look like valid techniques to the untrained eye, but I can tell you with confidence that shit don’t work. Of course, so can anybody else who knows a lick of Brazilian jiu jitsu. People are pretty pissed about this guy. And I can’t think of a group of people that I'd want to incite less than a gang of Brazilian jiu jitsu brown and black belts. 

One instructor in the area went as far as to propose the following: 

Billy Dowey's challenge to James Paredes

So why are people so upset? This is what Royce Gracie brown belt Roy Marsh had to say about it: 

"The reason there is so much anger is that he is clearly fraudulent in his claims. Why does this matter to us so much? It is not about him. It is about protecting the art we love so much...Our problem is that his students believe that they are learning to defend themselves with jiu jitsu and if they get into a situation and can't defend themselves, they will blame jiu jitsu, the art we love and represent, and not a fraudulent instructor. THAT is why we are so upset...To say that you have created a hybrid style out of two styles you have no real experience in is straight fraud. It's as if someone who never trained Shotokan or Tae Kwon Do then went out and claimed to teach a hybrid of those two styles and gave himself a black belt. And, in the jiu jitsu/groundfighting world, faking rank has a very serious repercussion because we are combative artists; by which I mean we have to back up our rank and be willing to explain our lineage…I have trained nearly 12 years and do not have a black belt but to the average person, James is more accomplished at this art than I am."

I am a lowly 2 stripe blue belt, but even I can see this bullshit for what it is. I am glad that the upper belts are protecting our hard-earned rank system by calling this guy out. There is a lot of nonsense out there on the internet, and that is fine. But if you try to disguise your nonsense as Brazilian jiu jitsu, you are asking for trouble.