Dear White Belt:

We really do love you, you are a constant source of amusement and inspiration for us in the upper ranks. I sometimes miss the days when I was a blank slate and was not expected to know anything – the simplest thing was revolutionary.

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Me as a white belt

We love your enthusiastic nature, we don’t like your elbows so much. However, most of us went through a spazz phase as well and understand that “this too shall pass”. Don’t focus so much energy on “not being a spazz” and instead focus more on building your technique. The one will preclude the other as the lack of knowledge and muscle memory is what creates the spazz as you try desperately to do ANYTHING other than get smashed.

Let yourself be in bad positions. It’s okay. Try to relax and not panic. It’s similar to learning how to take a hit in striking – learning to keep calm and react in a proper manner plays a huge part in winning the fight/match.

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Sometimes you need to give up in order to save your training partners. For example, If I am doing a judo throw on someone who may not know how to land safely, I will try to pull up at the last second so they don’t land full force. Or I might hold the back of their head during a sweep in order to protect their neck. If someone rolls the wrong way to escape an ankle lock, let go before it snaps off. We need to take care of each other while training so that we can do this together for years to come!

If you find yourself the odd person out when it comes to sparring rounds, use this as an opportunity to study the other people who are rolling. You can learn a lot this way. Most people will go through a phase where it seems that people are avoiding rolling with them. Please know that it is usually not a personal thing (unless you ARE being a douche) – your team mates may be getting ready for an event and trying to train with people who are closer match ups for them. When in doubt, ask.

Think less about what gaps you need to fill in your Jiu Jitsu game. In the beginning you are a large gaping hole – small isolated patches of skills are not going to cover it effectively and may make you feel frustrated when trying to string things together. Think about what you already know and then build off of that. i.e. if you feel pretty comfortable with take downs, work on guard passes that stem from your usual takedown landing positions. You have plenty of time to work up a well rounded knowledge base, so don’t frustrate yourself by trying to be perfect at everything all at once.

b6c1a5ef-b702-4d0a-aa3f-2db6a666adaaIf you admire something about an upper belt’s game, ask them if they offer private lessons and can teach you what they know! I had a lot of private lessons as a white belt and still continue paying for them several times a month – it really makes a difference!

One thing I recommend is setting a goal every week/month. My first goal I set as a white belt was “no matter what, no one will be able to flatten me and make both of my shoulders touch the ground at the same time”. I spent a month on that one and it set me up to instinctively play off my side. Focus on something small and keep it to yourself – when your team mates start commenting on how tough you are getting just smile and nod knowingly.

It’s a big world of knowledge out there, with unlimited learning potential! Whether you are beasting out three a day training sessions or just coming in one morning a week, do your best! We are all in different places and phases of our lives; all we can do is the best we can with what we have. Maybe you will stick it out for life, maybe you will decide it isn’t for you after a few months. Whatever length of time you have in your Jiu Jitsu journey, make it count!

“OSS!”

Carry on regardless of pressure

  • Used to express respect or acknowledge understanding

A Word on Ladies Classes

In the last week we have done a soft launch of our new ladies only Jiu Jitsu classes. Myself and our other lady brown belt, Madison, are running two classes week to start out. This has brought about a good amount of discussion as to the validity of ladies only classes and rather than debate on social media about it, I’m going to just lay out all my thoughts here.

img_2503-1> begin rant/sermon> First off: I am not a girl power feminist. I don’t believe we are the always the victims or entitled to extra special treatment. I believe in equality – but alike and equal are not the same things. I believe that it someone holds the door open for me, it’s polite to accept the gesture but I don’t demand it. I believe that if I want something badly enough, I will find a way to make it happen. I believe that, as a whole, women are stronger than they think they are – and that we should find our way to discover that. I believe that women should train in co-ed group classes. I believe that ladies only classes are a critical part of growing a strong ladies team. I also believe that these classes are extremely important to the growth of a martial arts gym as a whole. I don’t believe that Jiu Jitsu is for everyone: I believe everyone should try it, but it’s a special kind of (mostly good) crazy that sticks with it.

Main Points (if you want to skip the prelude/sermon)

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From my first month

Jiu Jitsu is an intimidating sport to begin with for anyone. And with the majority of classes at my academy being roughly a (generous) 10:3 ratio of men and women, it is safe to call it a male dominated sport. A lone woman walking into a Jiu Jitsu class for the first time has extra layers of worry to combat. The mere offering of a ladies class makes it seem much more of an inviting environment as a whole.

After doing this for so many years I sometimes forget how intimate and vulnerable it is – and especially with how American society seems to sexualize any sort of physical contact; especially between men and women. A ladies only class helps bridge this gap – familiarizing us with the movements and terminology while easing in the concept of physical contact. After training for a little while, you understand that it’s not a sexual thing and it becomes a non-issue.

This is magnified for many women who have been survivors of abuse – be it sexual, physical, or emotional. I know many who try to use Jiu Jitsu as a form of exposure therapy to help combat their PTSD: to feel safe and in control of themselves again. The beginning phases of learning Jiu Jitsu – getting dominated and smashed for an hour or more at a time – is a hot zone for panic attacks, flashbacks, and other trauma related reflexes. This is not something she may ever want to voice to her team mates, she might just disappear without a word. Having a ladies only class available can create a sense of therapeutic safety for these individuals.

img_2862-1On the lighter side: it can be super refreshing to just have a break from the testosterone. I worry that I might begin growing a beard from all the man sweat that has been soaked into my system. Ladies tend to be much more social in the Jiu Jitsu community than are the men – call us pack animals if you will. Even though most of my main training partners are men, I always find it refreshing to spend quality time with other Jiu Jitsu ladies.

IMG_3351For personal or religious reasons, some individuals do not train with members of the other gender. For the men, this isn’t that big of an obstacle since they can easily train an entire class only partnering with other men. I have several wonderful team mates who do not roll with me and respectfully bow instead of shaking hands – I just return the gesture and carry on. For women, since there are fewer of us (sometimes one or none in a group class), co-ed classes classes may not be a consistent viable option. However with a good ladies only class, these individuals can have the opportunity to train as well if they wish.

For Beginners Only?

IMG_1300I don’t believe that a ladies only class should consist of only beginners who are passing through a way station to the co-ed class. I want my class to be a place where we can grow together and then go out and destroy the guys with our awesome powers of angles and leverage. I want to keep it applicable for both the day one beginner, and the long time veteran.

To the men who have supported this new class and program – thank you for seeing the big picture! To the women who are invested in helping it to grow – you are the reasons we do this.

Current Class Times:

Fridays @ 12:30 with Madison

Sundays @9:30 with Nicholle

After we move to the new facility we will probably shift the Sunday class to later in the day since we will have our own room and fewer things to schedule around.

Active/Passive Aggressive Ego

Training Jiu Jitsu exposes a lot of our inner ego to those around us. It comes out in various way depending on what is buried in our psyche.

The classic version we have of an ego issue in Jiu Jitsu is of the new meat head who goes ham and tries to hurt people, avoids people who can beat him, and freaks out if he gets caught in anything. I consider this to be the active aggressive ego – and I think most people start out with a little bit of this in their system. It’s natural to try to protect yourself from failure or looking incompetent. The sincere student will train and improve, learning that failure is the path to improvement. The rest… well they generally don’t stick around too long

The more passive aggressive mat ego comes out as you start progressing more. This is the person known as “the coacher” during rolls. It is the responsibility of the upper level student to help the lower level improve, but while keeping the proper mindset. Meaning: is the mid-roll instruction being made to help the person improve, or to make the information giver feel better/take a break/etc? Giving instruction mid-roll stops the flow of the match, and sparring time is not instruction time (at least not at our school). I make it a rule for myself that I don’t coach someone I am rolling with unless they are brand spanking new or are visibly frustrated. I have no problems fielding questions after class, but I leave the mid-roll coaching to the actual class instructor.

The trap I catch myself in is not seeking out enough higher level belts who can beat the tar out of me when sparring. I have spent so many years just getting beat on that sometimes it’s nice to just have some fun and turn the tables on someone less experienced than I am. And that is a privilege that I have earned! I just need to make sure that it is not all fun and games and I am still working on learning through failure – that got me this far, and it seems to be working!

I’m sure there are plenty more forms of ego on the mat, and honestly, it’s good to have a healthy ego! Without one you would have no sense of purpose or driving force to improve – so it all comes back to balance. Is that ego acting for your best interest or is it hindering you? This is a hard question to ask yourself and no one but yourself can distinguish the answer. I have a history of self-sabotage and I am ready to be done and over with it! It just takes constant double checking to make sure everything is lined up in the direction it needs to go.

I have a busy year coming up and I need to make sure that my training is on point! I have a few minor boo boos that are annoying me, but I have time for them to heal up before the new year starts. Check out my Upcoming Travel and Events page to see! It’s all going to be super exciting! This was more of a brain dump writing session for me today. If you made it to the end, I applaud you!

 

 

Rolling with Kryptonite

IMG_0675.JPGEveryone has them. Those team mates or opponents who seem to be your anti-Jiu Jitsu. The ones whose strengths perfectly match the weak points in your game.

They are frustrating, annoying, and my favorite people to train with.

While I may feel like nothing is being accomplished, and everything I’m trying to do is being shut down, it’s helping me learn much more quickly than if I were just breezing through a roll!

Having my normal tricks being shut down forces me to think creatively, step outside my box, and broaden my horizons. It teaches me patience, and keeps me from getting too big of an ego (girls have ego too!)

It’s for sure a frustrating thing and I’m writing this after spending an hour rolling nonstop with one of my krypton it’s team mates. I caught myself getting frustrated several times for not being able to stop the same sweep several times in a row. It required me to pause for a moment, breathe, and figure out what I was doing to give up the sweep, and adjust accordingly. Oh, and then get swept in a different direction. Ha!

The fast track isn’t easy. It’s hard on your body and may threaten to crush your spirit. The question is, will you accept the grind? Will you take the heat? If you persevere and don’t give in to frustration you will come out strong and awesome.

Now I’m gonna go home and watch Netflix with a fresh batch of henna in my hair!

Circuits, Weight Classes, and… Mexico?

Well I introduced the ladies in my Saturday morning class to circuit training today! We started off with just a three minute circuit with three minutes to recover in between – we will eventually work it up to a five minute circuit with a minute rest in between.

Today we drilled loop chokes from half guard. Our position this week has been guard, but one of my ladies has sore ribs and a bum wrist – so we worked around it!

Mexico City Training Camp:

I just registered for a training camp in Mexico City with Mackenzie Dern and Sophia Drysdale. It will be at the end of July, and I am EXTREMELY excited for it already! Get your registration in now to reserve a spot!

Ladies Jiu Jitsu Training Camp

Weight Classes:

In other news, I talked with my coach yesterday about my weight cut. He decided he wants me to stick with light weight instead of continuing my drop to feather weight. Not gonna lie, I’m kind of happy about that!

Size wise, I fit in the feather division better. Problem being, my doc says I have very dense muscle, so I weigh a lot more than I look. I’d have to lose a substantial amount of muscle to make featherweight, and that isn’t safe for me because of my hypermobility.

Meaning: I’m currently 132, so coach wants me back up to 137-138. I’m not just gonna fluff up though. I’m sticking with eating really clean, upping my caloric intake, and adding more strength training into my routine. I will confess, I’m going out for Italian food tomorrow for dinner with friends – but i’ll burn through that in no time flat!

See what Tournaments I’ll be at next! I love to meet people!

Lloyd Irvin Mixed Martial Arts Academy

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Last week I had the awesome opportunity to train with the crew at Team Lloyd Irvin HQ just outside of DC! Best two days of training ever!

Day 1

10:00 am I got to enjoy my first ever wrestling class! Warm up of jogging, sprints, shots, and… Cartwheels. I haven’t even attempted a cartwheel since I flunked out of gymnastics at the age of 8 (for not being able to do a cartwheel!) I had momentum and went for it though, and was actually able to do it! Yea!
Next up we did sprawls/shots on command while just moving around in stance. I was informed that if I went out of my stance it’d be 25 push-ups… I asked “what’s my stance?” And saw the instructor take a step back to “basics” and showed me proper wrestling stance – which I then stayed in!
We did takedown drills for probably 45 mins – which I needed desperately! My arm drag is already showing improvement! The rest of the 90 min class was technique drilling, and I got a REALLY awesome takedown from it which I have already hit a few times live!

11:30 am Jiu Jitsu time! Warm ups, then pairing off to do positional drilling. I liked the format of each person getting a set amount of time to drill before switching – as opposed to keeping count, which I’m not that great at. (I get lost after 2!)
After drilling guard passing a few times, Master Lloyd emphasized the importance of blocking the hip, post-pass, for at least 4 seconds before moving on. Then he had us all line up on the wall while he called out pairs to move to the center of the mat and attempt to pass and stabilize position. Good times!
After this, he started pairing us off to roll. I have no idea how long the rounds were, but they were longer that I normally do. Again, awesome!
Time really flew by fast, and before I knew it, it was 2:00 pm and class was over!

Went out to grab a bite and then was dropped off at my hotel to nap for a couple of hours.

7:00 pm Sarj picked me up from my hotel and dropped me off for the evening class times. More drilling, more sparring – until it was 10:00 pm and I was dropped back off again! I slept REALLY well that night!

Day 2

11:30 more Jiu Jitsu! They had MMA sparring at 10 that morning, and I haven’t learned enough Muay Thai to be of any use in that class whatsoever – so I slept in a bit!

6:00 pm Nijah teaches a ladies “Cage Fitness” class and I asked to watch so as to get some ideas for our ladies program. It seems to have a completely different approach and feel than our ladies classes – I am going to see about integrating some ideas, or even talking with coach about a totally new program!

8:30 last Jiu Jitsu class! Again, more drilling and rolling! When we finished, I said all my goodbyes and dragged myself back to bed to prepare for my trip home early the next morning.

I just thrive off pushing myself, so I had an amazing time! I’ve never had a chance to roll with any high ranking ladies before, and getting to roll with Sijara and Nyjah was the highlight of the experience. Also, the effort everyone puts into their training very inspiring as well – there is a reason why they are as good as they are. It’s called hard work!

I’ve visited other schools before, and always felt some level of awkwardness walking in the door. This felt like visiting my hometown and seeing those awesome family members that I’ve missed! Thank you everyone!

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I Almost Tapped Who!?

Well yesterday I received a bit of a chiding for just “horsing around” when rolling. And I realized, it was perfectly deserved. I’m getting ready for the Chicago Open, coming up in just 3 weeks, and I just hadn’t flipped that switch to killer mode yet.

I made up for it today.

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Yea. That was me. A little creepy and reaaaaally twisted.

I’ve started getting into foot lock battles with one of our white belts (hi Andrew!) We go for it, then we both pause and compare our “catches.” Toe hold beats straight ankle lock, heel hook beats everything. No pressure is ever applied, we just acknowledge whose leg/foot would break first, let go, and move on. It’s a fun game!

I did really turn up my aggressiveness today at our sparring class thanks to counterpart “Nichole”. Since I am “Nicholle”, together we are “Team N Squared”. After gi class I decided to do the no gi class.

No Gi class was fun! Worked some knee on belly options then rolled a bit. Class was led by one of our purple belts – who, aside from coach, probably has had the biggest influence on my game thus far. I rolled a couple rounds with him and got a surprise triangle that he “almost” tapped to. I think I may have a permanent indentation of the back of his neck in my left calf muscle! Almost, but not quite… He showed me after class what I could have done to finish it. Next time!

Man it was a full day! Here was my schedule:
8:30 am – bike to gym
9:00 am – Muy Thai private lesson (1hr)
10:30 am – 60 min deep tissue massage
11:30 am – Advanced Gi class (1hr)
1:30 pm – circuits (30 mins)
3:00 pm – 90 min deep tissue massage
5:00 pm – Gi Sparring (1hr)
6:00 pm – No Gi class (1hr)
8:00 pm – bike home and write this up on my iPhone using my impressive array of finger muscles!

Tomorrow will be lighter. Here’s my plan so far:
9:30 am – bike to gym
10:00 am – open mat sparring (60-90 mins)
11:30 am – advanced Gi class
2:00 pm – 60 min massage
5:00 pm – sparring (1hr)
6:00 pm – ladies BJJ (1hr)
7:30 ish pm – lock up gym and bike home

Since it’s a lighter day, I’ll probably bring my dog, Dante, with me. He rides in my backpack and is very well behaved. During class he sits on a chair and watches, otherwise he’s hanging up front and mooching attention off of everyone.

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Teaching Jiu Jitsu, and Next Big Goal

I didn’t get too much training in today. We have a fight camp going on for several of my team mates who are fighting next month – and I’m not much help for them I’m afraid. They need someone durable who can make them work hard. I am, however, an excellent time keeper when necessary!

I didn’t take the morning Gi class either… I saw just 4, very large, pretty new, white belts. Told coach “I think I’ll just let the boys play.” He looked, laughed, and agreed. So I just heckled from the sidelines – it’s an important job!

I did roll a bit with two people who showed up at 5. Got the blood flowing and felt better. Odd how my day feels incomplete without choking someone with my foot!

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Coach asked me to teach the 6 pm ladies class and then lock up the gym for him. The position we are working on this week has been side control bottom, so I taught the basic bridge-hip escape-reguard, then an underhook back take. Then we got a little fancy with an inverted triangle from the bottom.

It really feels good that my coach trusts me enough to give me that responsibility! I also love it because I feel like I finally get to give back a bit of what has been poured into me for the last two years!

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Next Goal:
It has been decided that my next big tournament will be the No Gi Pan American Championships. It is on September 28 and is in New York. Thankfully I have an awesome friend who I will get to stay with while I’m there
shameless plug:Visit his website for some amazingly orchestrated musical art!

In preparation for this, I’m going to compete at the IBJJF Chicago Open on August 17 and 18. I will get a chance to compete both in Gi, and No Gi divisions there.

My blue belt goal is to compete at ADCC. It is a major competition held in Abu Dhabi for which you have to win a qualifier at some point during the year. For ladies, they group white and blue belts together in one category, then purple, brown, and black together in another. In order to qualify, I will have to win my category weight division, and also the absolute division (no weight class).

I have a feeling this next year is going to be exciting indeed!

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Responsibility!?

Ladies

Well it has just been decided that I will be our Friday night instructor for our Ladies Jiu Jitsu class! We have a very new ladies program and it has been off to a great start in the last few months! I’m just amazed at how quickly everyone is learning, and how much fun everyone is having as well!

I have already started a blog/webpage for our ladies program at http://www.nashvilleladiesbjj.com – and we are planning to host a monthly ladies open mat. Our first one will be July 6th.

We are currently having a ladies team patch designed… and it is gonna be awesome!