Chasing Challenges

I have been out with a knee injury for the past several months.

It has sucked pretty badly.

I saw all my friends training and competing in events. While I was happy and excited for them, I had sub-feelings of envy and frustration that I tried my best to shove when issuing congratulations or encouragement to people. It’s not their fault that I was sitting out and I didn’t want my feelings to color their experiences. I have had some of my experiences soured in the past by other people doing just that. I won’t be that person.

I’m super happy to announce that my Dr was not horrified at the thought of me returning to competition next month! So I have been cautiously training this past week – getting back into shape sucks. I’m up 8 lbs from my normal competition weight and my cardio sucks so badly that I can’t sit down after class because I know I might not get back up for hours.

I love it.

During the time off I have been planning out my approach to this next season and doing a lot of searching for my own motivation. I took it back to my day 1 roots and realized that my motivation has remained the same – I’m chasing the challenge. This is why I got into Jiu Jitsu. I was overweight and unhealthy – but was bored to tears just working out at the gym because there were no concrete hard goals. I remembered how much I enjoyed doing TaeKwonDo and Hapkido as a teen and decided to find something similar to push myself with.

It was pretty hard. And there are so many layers of difficulty! Once I could make it through class all the way without nearly passing out – I decided to try a competition. I won 1 out of 4 matches and got hooked. I made measurable progress and worked my way up to a silver in both the European Championships and the Pans. Just as I started to get comfortable and see an end goal come closer (gold at one of those events), an awesome thing happened!

I was promoted to my next belt rank and started all over at the bottom of the divisions – losing most of my first matches (badly) and scrambling for improvement once again. I went through the “blue belt blues” – trying to readjust my mentality to focus on long term improvement while dealing with the bubble pop of going from the “top white belt” to “bottom blue belt”. This is where I really started branching out to compete in different countries around the world in order to test myself in as many different ways as possible. With each test, I learned a little bit more about myself and became better.

Again, just as I reached the level of comfort, I was promoted once again to my current belt rank (purple). This time, however, I anticipated the bubble pop and did not let it get me down. It is just a period of mental adjustment to a new level of intensity and goals. The main difference I’ve noticed is that people take me a lot more seriously as a purple belt than as a white or blue belt.

So here I am in my purple belt phase. I wouldn’t be able to summarize it properly until it has past and I am looking back at it. But I’m going to enjoy it and milk the entire experience for as much as I can get out of it.

It’s all just practice for my black belt anyhow – so it’s okay to try things out and mess up. The failures aren’t as bad as I think they are, and the successes aren’t as glorious either. They are rungs on the ladder of improvement.

So now that I’m back into active training, my first order of business is to get my cardio back so that I can train effectively. I’m still at a high risk for re-injury so I am being very cautious who I train with and how. I also need to drop back down to competition weight, which shouldn’t be too hard now that I’m cleared to train again.

During the time off to heal, I focused on my mental game and also on building my own personal business. Now I have a strong foundation to work from and I can’t wait to see what I can do! I’ll be testing myself once more at the Master Worlds next month in Vegas – it’s going to be awesome!

A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Grip Strength

I’ve read quite a few articles lately about how to strengthen your grip for Gi Jiu Jitsu. We all know about Gi pull ups and the various tools and gadgets that are designed to increase the strength of your hands and arms. Most of these articles have been well written and full of some good info which I will definitely apply to my routine! This is meant as a supplement to the articles already written.
Side note: training partner profiles will continue. There was a death in the family and I have been sidetracked.

IMG_0101.JPGphoto by Janet Wohler – used with permission

One of the fun things about being a massage therapist, is the opportunity for continuing education. I often times will take a course on something completely off the wall, but usually stick with subjects related to sports massage. In a recent class I learned some rather interesting things about how trigger points in the muscle tissue influence the movement of the body to a much greater degree than I was aware. This knowledge actually saved my own iron grip!

From the first time I stepped on the mat, the guys always commented about how strong my grips were. I chalked it up to doing hours of deep tissue massage every day as well as a bulldog mentality that got me into a lot of trouble sometimes…

Shortly after receiving my blue belt, I felt like my grip was starting to weaken. It weakened to the point that I started using different techniques that were less grip dependent. It continued until toward the end of 2013 the doctor informed me that I had torn a pronator and supinator in my right arm (think inside lapel cross choke muscles). It was an overuse injury that thankfully healed quickly on its own. However, even with the rest I couldn’t seem to recover my grip strength.

Six months later, I had THE MOMENT. Sitting in that class about trigger point therapy, I realized what was wrong and how to fix it. I learned in this class that pain is NOT the first sign of a problem – weakness is. Before you feel any pain or restriction, you first loose 50% or more of the strength and use of that muscle.

Armed with that little nugget, I decided to put it to the test and called up my old Neuromuscular Trigger Point Therapy instructor for a therapy session devoted to my forearms. The 3 days before, I tested my consecutive gi pull up count and got to the grand total count of 6 before my hands gave out.

After a two hour session of release work (and many tears shed!) my arms felt brand new! I rested for three days in order to let my body adjust to the new feeling in my fingers before I attempted the gi pull up max out again. I made it to 11 and it was my shoulders, not my arms that gave out.

I highly recommend having access to a good Neuromuscular Therapist (NMT)! Quite often those aches and pains you feel coming off the mats can be resolved (or healing time shortened) by quickly releasing associated trigger points. If you want to find a good NMT, try a Google search for “neuromuscular therapy in (your city)” and call or email the therapist about what work you are needing.

On that note: I think I’m almost due for a session myself…

Brain? Check! Body? Not So Much

I have finally managed to nail down the exact reason for the anxiety I have been having during competitions this year! You know that feeling you get when you almost crash your car and die? I live in that “jolt” for every tournament – for a week or two before the tournament even. Yea… I know I need to chill.

Then, of course, I get into this lovely spiral of stressing over the fact that I can’t relax. Sounds really productive huh?

This is not normal for me. I’m usually the one who bounces through the day letting everything roll off my back. Hakuna Matata anyone? The last time I felt like that though was at the European Championship in January. What was my secret?

I’m a goofball.

That wasn’t a joke – that’s seriously the root of the problem. I’m a huge goofball but ever since competing at the European Championship I’ve been trying to take everything so seriously. Without my goofball antics to keep me out of my own head, I just ferment inside like a pressure cooker until the stress becomes debilitating.

I thought I should be more serious if I’m going to be a serious competitor… Forget that! I put this to the test for the last 2 tournaments and the results are in!

Chicago Open:
I wasn’t even sure if I was going to compete or not at this one. I tore a muscle in my right forearm that week and hadn’t been able to really use it much in class. I was working at this tournament and had already booked the hotel so I went anyhow. I got to wear one of the black shirts and work at the podium, as well as occasionally helping out with the inexperienced ring coordinators. Good times!

About 10 mins before my division was to be called, I decided to just go for it – and I had no time to freak out, I’d been busy all day! Ended up taking gold in my division and bronze in the open. My bracket for the open was really weird. There were 5 of us, and I had the extra match – so three on my side, two on the other. I won my first match then learned that a girl on the other side of the bracket had to bow out, giving her opponent a straight shot into the finals. I fought the second girl on my side of the bracket lost by advantage.

So since there were only 4 of us, I got third place alongside the gal I beat in my first match. Confused? I was. Also, the lady who got the straight shot into the finals was team mates with the one I lost my second match to – and she made her bow out to her in the finals… So she got the gold without a single match. That was a sucky messed up draw methinks. Oh well! Apparently once the bracket is drawn up and printed, the officials can only cross names off and aren’t allowed to move things around. For gold I’d have had to beat 3 fresh opponents in a 4 person division. Would have been pretty cool though!

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Synopsis: Being unable to post with my right arm made me give up two sweep points in the open which I lost on (annoying!) but with no time to fester and freak out, so it was the most relaxed I remember being at a tournament in quite a while!

Abu Dhabi Pro Trials
I stayed with a friend in Brooklyn the day before competing and he is the one who helped me pinpoint my mental problem. I was wigging out so badly the day before competing (my bday no less!). He got me out of my head enough for me to finally realize how badly I was festering in there. For the rest of the day and into the next I was in fine form, just being a nut – and had no stress.

My brain was finally balanced for the tournament, but unfortunately, my body wasn’t quite there. While applying a choke in my first match, my arm tore more… A truly unpleasant sensation for sure! I froze and she passed my guard. I put up a fight the best I could but every nerve ending was on fire and my right arm was completely useless. So I lost on points. Sucked because she told me afterward that the choke was very tight – too bad my arm couldn’t have waited a few more seconds!

Anyhow, it’s still just a muscle tear and the doc says it should heal with a week of rest. Feels kinda weird, I didn’t go to the gym at all yesterday… I just read in bed all day. Today is the same thing. I’ll have to go in tomorrow since I have massage clients – but no training until Monday. Then I’ll have a week to take off my Gi and get my flow for No Gi Worlds. Yay!

2013 No Gi Pan Ams

Well that was a whirlwind! I’m going to write about this whole trip in two separate posts.

Part 1: 2013 No Gi Pan Ams

This was my first big tournament as a new blue belt and wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into.

If you read my previous two blog posts, you would know that I have been struggling a lot with anxiety over the last several competitions. It was honestly getting to such a debilitating state where I needed to constantly distract myself in order to keep from hyperventilating.

About a week out from this tournament, I started not even being able to sleep – and hard training on no sleep is NOT a good combo!

Writing out my thoughts in the previous posts really helped a lot. I process things well if I write through them.

The key point that helped in this competition was: remembering how much work I have actually put in – and that I deserve to be competing. The other thing that helped was banishing negative thoughts. Every time a negative thought sneaked into my head, I would shove it out and speak three positives.

The Venue

I felt really good going into my first match! I was a bit sad that I had the by into the semifinals (only 6 in my division!), but figured I could make up for it in the open.

I ended my first match via RNC with a very short time to spare. She tried blitzing me from the start – and man was she strong! I kept her in closed guard because I was concerned she would just smash my open guard – I’m not that confident in my No Gi skills at this point.

She got warned and penalized twice for face palming me – her fingers were up my nose at one point and I ended up with a shiner the next day from that.

I’m going to be working on my omoplata from guard. I had the set up a few times but never went for it. More drilling needed!

That match put me into the finals where I quickly tapped although I’m not entirely sure what happened (my videographer was unable to work my camera). I ended up at the medic corner getting my neck evaluated and iced – along with a recommendation that I abstain from the open. Boo!

All in all, I’m pleased because I handled my nerves well and did not stress out nearly as badly!

On the Podium – my semi-finals opponent didn’t show for her medal 😦

Making Weight
I’ve got a whole huge essay in my drafts folder on this subject, just haven’t figured out the best time to upload it. So consider this a sneak peek!

Hungry!

For this competition, I got my weight down to the lowest I think it has ever been in my adult life! I ended up weighing in at 135 on the official scale.

Slight spoiler for part 2… But I got some advice that really confirmed what I’ve been feeling (but not wanting to face)… And I’m gonna work my way down to featherweight instead of competing lightweight. The reason mainly being my body frame size – I always feel like a midget when competing.

Coach thinks I could make it down in time for No Gi Pan Ams. He thinks I can do it since I “eat like a fat kid” normally. I can change my division until Oct 26, so I I can get down within 4 lbs by then, I’ll do it. That’s 8 lbs in 3 weeks. Can I do it? Yes. Will it be tough? Probably…

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Lloyd Irvin Mixed Martial Arts Academy – Coming Soon!

I Really Am Fragile…

No, I didn’t break myself again!

I don’t think people really understand how easily I am broken sometimes though…

I have a pretty severe case of hypermobility in almost all of my joints – elbows being the only exceptions. This is quite hazardous for me really. It doesn’t mean that I am just “really flexible” like many seem to think.

Basically, it means that the ligaments holding my joints together are too loose. Ligaments are not meant to be stretched, but mine constantly are because of the looseness in them. Loose ligaments means that it takes VERY little pressure to sublux (minorly dislocate) my poor overworked joints. In other words, I’m a chiropractor’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, I know of no supplements or treatments that actually reverse this condition.

So I’m always having to be on guard and extremely careful when sparring. Shoot! I dislocated my hip while dodging Disneyland crowds with my small nephew on my shoulders and I’ve had my acl sprained just from a leg drag.

Injury Prevention
This is critical for me if I am to continue competing at the level that I desire to!

First: the docs have all told me the same thing. I need to strengthen all the muscles surrounding my major joints (so basically, everything!) muscles will fatigue eventually, but they can help pick up the slack from my ligaments and help stabilize my joints. Putting on muscle may put me up a weight class, but if I’m healthy, I’m down for it!

Second: regular professional care. I have regular massage bodywork done, and in addition have an amazing structural integrationist whom I see as often as possible. I also have the worlds greatest chiropractor, who happens to train as well!

Third: this may sound odd, but I stretch. A lot. But it’s very specific stretching. If I have a muscle that tends to pull more strongly on one side of a joint than the antagonists on the other side do, that’s just a recipe for disaster! So I work to keep everything as balanced as possible.
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I’m gonna close with what I told my grandma when she was worrying about me getting hurt. “I may get hurt at some point. But the amount of joy and fulfillment I get out of pushing myself and learning every day… It’s worth it.”

New Belt and New Training

Promotions
The Four Promotees!

Well, I’ve had a few days to let the promotion sink in, and I’ve come to a conclusion: It doesn’t really make a difference. No magical powers bestowed or sudden increase in technique, or any hulk-like capabilities. I still consider black belts to be magical, but blue seems to just be a matter of fact thing.

That being said, It is AWESOME! It’s nice to know that after a year and a half of butt busting, I’m no longer recognized as an entry level beginner – I’ve got a little validation in my life!

I don’t know if this free feeling I have is due to the belt, or the fact that Worlds are done and over with – and I don’t have to be too serious anymore. At any rate, I am having a blast! My first roll as a new blue belt was on Tuesday morning. I went with my white belt buddy who has a “little” bit of size/weight on me. He’s really cool to roll with though – I’m on his hit list, but he says tapping me doesn’t count if he uses muscle. Highlight of the roll was choking him with my new (still tied) belt, from side control bottom. I also got a wrist lock in there too. Thankfully he was fairly good-natured about it! He could squash me like a bug if he chose to…

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My car has been on the fritz so I have been riding my awesome pink bike to the gym in the mornings lately. It’s a nice 3 miles each way up and down hills, so I feel fairly warmed up by the time I arrive. The guys are calling it the “Pee Wee Herman” bike – and I think it looks awesome in the front office!
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Due to my doctor’s nudging, I have started a weight training routing, geared toward building muscle and stabilizing my major joints.

So far it’s working great! After just 2 weeks, I have visible biceps and no more grinding sensations in my shoulders! Yay! I’ve had chronic shoulder instability for years… amazing how easily that is resolving when I stop ignoring it.

I do gain muscle very easily so it’s very possible I may end up in the middle weight class instead of light. I’m okay with that though. If I’m feeling healthy and strong, I have no problems.

Worlds Preparation – I’m Freaking Stressed!

So I’m gonna admit it. I’m stressed out over Worlds.

I’m trying to show a calm demeanor, anyone who asks “are you nervous?”, receives a shrug and “nah” response from me.

Yea, I lie.

During the day, I’m training and working hard – so I don’t really have time to worry. But at night… Well, i am writing this at 1 AM.

So I’m going to go through everything I’m nervous about, and hopefully talk myself down enough to sleep.

1. I’ve gotta get everything organized for the trip! Got so much to do and not enough time!
– there is plenty of time, and I have a list. Everything is already taken care of actually. Plane, housing, transportation, etc.

2. Making weight!
– I stress every time over this. Sometimes it’s even more stressful than worrying about my matches! But I’ve never NOT made weight. Closest I’ve come is 1.5lbs under. I’m already several under – if I avoid pigging out on pizza in the next few days I’ll be just fine.

3. My shoulder is torn up. Really bad biceps tendinitis is making quite a few shoulder motions excruciating. Doc told me I need 4-6 weeks of rest. It’s making training difficult.
– ok, a legit worry. Doc doesn’t seem to think I’m in danger of it tearing in half though. I’ll have time to rest after, and I’ve proven in the past that pain actually helps me focus and do better in matches.

Oddly enough, none of my worry is about how I’ll do in my matches. I’ve put in my time, and I don’t know of anything I could do to be more ready. I’ve been giving everyone at my gym more trouble than I ever have before. I’ve drilled my moves until I catch myself trying to strangle my poor dog in his sleep.

It is ON!

Banned From the Mats Again

X-pass count: 950

Got a good 120 reps of X-pass with Javi at 10, then got busy with sparring. Coach split us up and put Javi with another purple belt, Kenny.

8 minute rounds!

Chad brought down two of his kids to 10 am class. The older one was probably 12-13 and the younger about 8. Older kid was pretty strong and apparently unused to attacking a seated guard (butt scooters unite!). I went with the younger one next – kid is a beast! Fast and really good technique, had to really work my guard technique and not use any muscle power. Now I know how the guys feel rolling with me!

I sat a round as I was left with a newer white belt – and I’m under decree to avoid unless coach gives the okay. I snagged Beastmaster for the last round. He has been out for a few weeks, but has remained my favorite white belts to roll with. Spent most of the time working on maintaining my guard and trying to sweep.

At 11:30 I paired off with Javi again for drilling a sneaky choke from side control. It took several tries before I started to get it, then it was all good. Then roll time!

Javi is one of our most solid purple belts with a solid Judo background. I’ve learned to keep my hips forward and not lean when starting standing with him. He pulled guard and swept me after grip fighting a bit, he didn’t roll hard with me – nice and smooth. Need to work on my base when standing!

Rolled again with Beastmaster. I just went into leech mode guard on him – effective!

Sat the last round, then went off to visit the chiro.

I asked him to take a look at my left knee – it has been a bit weird feeling lately, painful with some movements. He did a few tests of my ligaments and deduced a minor sprain – probably ACL. I’ve also got all kinds of muscle binding around the knee, trying to stabilize it. He did some soft tissue work in my calf that made me laugh hysterically with tears running down my face (yes, my reaction to extreme pain is to laugh. Yes, I know I’m a freak.)

I told coach and he ordered me off the mats until at least Monday. I’m actually relieved. Yea it sucks to not roll, but even I’ll admit I “may” have overdone it a bit the last month. I believe that most injuries spring from ignoring the warning signs your body is flashing at you, and I need to practice what I preach, as a professional body worker, BEFORE I blow out my knee.

The doc told me that I need to start doing some weight training to stabilize my legs. “Your body just doesn’t meet your ambition levels yet.” So strengthen it is! Plus I booked a 2 hour roofing session for myself next thursday before my next chirp appointment. Gonna get a major reconstruction done on my legs!