Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jiu jitsu goal setting

One of my favorite things about the New Year is all the goal setting. Everyone is making resolutions of some sort, from the ubiquitous "lose 10 lbs" to "stop biting my nails" to "expand my banana label collection."

(Yes, it's an actual thing. Collectors even have their own convention!).    

I have always been an obsessive goal-setter and goal-chaser. So I embrace this time of year like goth kids do Halloween. I'm in my element.  And for about a month or so - until resolutions fade, gym memberships get cancelled, and folks go slack with their bananas - everyone else is in my element along with me.

That makes this a perfect time to set jiu jitsu goals, but whether or not you share these goals is up to you. Research has found that people are actually less likely to accomplish their goals when they share them with other people. This is surprising to me, because social support is important for just about everything. But it is theorized that when you share a goal with others, you experience a false sense of accomplishment. This temporary rise in self-esteem from talking about your goal makes you less likely to go out and do the work to make it happen. There is also the Debbie Downer factor. What is ambitious to you might sound crazy to others. Debbie Downers can talk you out of your goal, before you have begun to try.

That's one reason I'm not going to post my goals here, although if you know me well enough to ask me in person, I will probably tell you. The other reason is that my goals, from a scientific standpoint, are pretty lousy. See, as a speech pathologist, I'm a goal writing machine at work. I write IEP and Medicaid goals on an almost daily basis. I know that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). Vague goals like "train more" or "get better at half guard" are not very useful because they are not measurable. It's better to pick something specific and to give yourself a deadline."Win X tournament" is also not a good goal because it relies on an outcome, not performance. Your level of competition (and thus your potential for winning) is just not something you can control.

I find jiu jitsu goals to be very difficult to set, because performance and progress are hard to objectively measure. If you are training consistently and mindfully - with good coaches and training partners - I guarantee you that you are getting better. But so is everyone else, so that progress is hard to gauge or sometimes even notice.

Have you given any thought to what you want to accomplish on the mats this year? What are your resolutions? Feel free to ignore research and share them here!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why I prefer grappling to striking

I'll be honest. One of the things I like best about Brazilian jiu jitsu is that I don't get punched in the face. I wouldn't say that I always look pretty when I go to work in the morning (with gi burn, occasional cauliflower ear, mat hair, and oddly placed bruises), but for the most part, my face remains intact. I like that!

**To say that BJJ does not include striking is not quite true. BJJ is at its heart, a self-defense system. And if you train at a pure, Gracie jiu jitsu school, you will train self defense techniques, including striking defense. **

But as a whole, BJJ is a grappling art. That's why I love it. There are many reasons that I, personally, prefer grappling to striking. Here are a few:

It offers greater longevity. My ultimate goal in jiu jitsu is to follow in the steps of grandmaster Helio Gracie by training into my 90s. If all goes as planned, I will not get too old to grapple until I am actually dead. Striking, however, does not offer the same longevity. Getting hit in the head is a young person's sport. It is damaging to the body and eventually, you just get too old for it.

- I feel comfortable going hard.  I have many training partners who I feel comfortable rolling very hard with. I feel comfortable with them going hard against me, because I know that they value my safety and well-being. They will not injury me to get a tap, will not beast something when the technique is not there, and will not hold me in shitty, painful  spot for no reason. And they can expect the same from me. I can also expect them to tap when I catch them in something, and not make me choose between letting go of a submission and, say, breaking their arm. And vice versa.

Striking, however, is a different story. For me to feel comfortable striking at 100% with someone, it would have to be a fair match-up (ideally, someone of my same size, gender, skill level, and level of athleticism). That narrows my scope of training partners substantially, but I don't want to be somebody's punching bag anymore than I want him or her to be mine.

- I can handle myself against new people.  In jiu jitsu, I can handle myself against the new guys. Lots of people will try to kill you on their first day. Usually they are just spazzes who don't know how to  move on the mat yet. I know I was that way when I was brand new, so I don't judge. Other times, dudes on their first week get tired of "being the nail" and look to me, as a female, as someone who they should be able to tap. Either way, I can handle myself against these new folks. I'm more than happy to beat them up for a round or two when needed.

In striking, however, guys like these will always be dangerous. If a diesel, 250 lb guy, tired of getting beat up, hits me as hard as he can - this is not a safe situation for me, regardless of my striking skill level. One clean hit would be all it would take to do damage.

- Grappling has a safe word. Tap. Say it, and the pain stops immediately. Or if you are proactive about it, you can say it before the pain even starts, saving your joints some wear and tear. It is acceptable and encouraged to tap early and often. Stay safe and be healthy to roll another day!

There is no such safe word in striking, however. Tapping to strikes is looked at as pure bitchassness. There really is no way to make the pain stop in striking, except to knock the other guy out so he will stop hitting you.

In summary, grappling rules!!!