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! 


  1. Can't believe you got this up so fast!! lol. You're a hard worker on and off the mats. Can't wait until next time Kim! Much love...emily

  2. I KNEW you would have a blast at camp! I'm so glad you went!!