Two Years… Time Flies!

 Today, June 10, marks my two year anniversary of receiving my blue belt from my instructor, Shawn Hammonds. It’s making me feel really reflective on the past several years. I was trying to think of what I want to share on this momentous occasion, and I decided to share something that has been on my mind for a while now.

The Blues:

The blue belt blues are real. After my first year as a blue belt I really just started feeling stagnant and stuck in a rut. I’ve actually felt like my technique has gotten worse and that I overall just suck and want to go back to being a white belt again. It has come across in my competition as well as I have been feeling outmatched a lot more in the second year of my blue belt.

Logically, I know that I don’t suck. I am just growing and my mind is starting to open to possibilities. It’s kind of like being a new white belt again who is at the “I understand what I need to do, but I can’t make my body respond quickly enough to follow through.” It’s irritating because I can see where I can spin underneath someone and clamber onto their back like a spider monkey, but I can’t seem to execute it quickly enough in order to finish the move.

What Saved Me:

I understand completely why a lot of people fade away once they reach their blue belt. I realized about 6 months ago that I had to decide if I was going to quit, or push on. I decided I have put too much energy and effort into training for me to quit because I was frustrated. I also recognize that I would need to change something and gain a new perspective in order to get out of the rut I was in.

I went for a weight class change. I’ve competed as a light weight (141.5 lbs) for the previous years and decided I would make the drop to feather weight (129 lbs). It was tough, but I did it, and it re-energized and re-focused me! I am a former chunky kid and that was the lightest I have ever been since puberty hit.

In The Meanwhile:

So now I still feel kind of like I am crawling out of the rut, but I can feel that I am making forward movement and that is enough to keep me going. I know my time will come when I break through and hit my stride. And it will be glorious to behold!

Right now I am making plans to go compete in the IBJJF New York Open next month. I can’t wait! It feels like forever since I have gotten to do a gi and no gi competition and it is gonna be great fun!

In Summary…

I’ve been neglecting my writing as of late because I’ve been focusing all of my energy on getting ready for Pan Ams. It’s officially one week away so I’m going to summarize what has gone on the last few weeks.

San Francisco Open

My flight left at 5 pm and was supposed to get in at 11:00 Saturday night, but my connecting flight got delayed at the gate for about 2 hours due to weather conditions. I finally got in just after 1 am and got picked up from the airport by a friend. Got to sleep from 2:00 am until 6:30 am because I had to be at the venue at 8:00 since I was working the event.

Honestly, I felt like poop about an hour in. I had been sick and not able to keep any food in my system for about 3 days – if it were a local tournament that I hadn’t already bought a plane ticket for, I probably would have pulled out of it. But hey, once I’ve put money on something – I’m gonna do it.

I had a division of six, needing three wins for gold.

My first match was a great fight! She pulled guard first so I got to work my passing game – which judging by the video needs some work. I made it past and got points, but it wasn’t pretty looking at all… Kind of like a fish flopping around out of the water really. I ended up winning by points, not able to finish the triangle I had her in before time was called.

My second opponent didn’t make weight so that put me into the finals.

That first match took my last bit of energy. I stepped off the mat and noticed my hands and feet were blotched purple. That’s the first time I’ve ever prayed for more recovery time than required. I got my wish since I had to wait for the other side of the bracket to finish up then give my opponent her appropriate wait time as well.

Finals match: I started off well. Up on points, but then made a mistake, and got triangled. So ended up with a silver in my division. I was actually fairly happy with that. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. If I can do that well when feeling that bad, imagine how I’ll do at Pans when I’m healthy!

The Open:

I started feeling progressively worse during the course of the day, I think my b12 shot was wearing off, so I was very close to dropping out of the open. About 30 mins before, I thought to myself:

“I came all this way, and have put in my time for this. I can choose to push when I wanna quit, or I can trust in the training I have had up until this point to carry me.”

So yea, I did the open.

I can’t remember exactly how many of us there were, but I think we had 6-8. I won my first match against a very tall girl by straight ankle lock. I was pretty happy that I remembered a sweep my coach had shown me on Friday. I wasn’t able to finish it, but it gave me the ankle lock set up.

I kinda fell over after that match, but it was able to recover in time for my semi match. Great match and loved the battle! I lost in the end, but was still happy since I lost to a friend who went on to win gold. Bittersweet ya know.

Nashville NAGA (Jan 22)

I decided at the very last minute to compete at the Nashville NAGA. Coach told me to enter the expert division. I did the no gi division first and here is the video

There were only two of us in No Gi unfortunately. But I got my first belt!

I did have a different opponent for Gi, but she pulled out after my No Gi match. They moved me back down to the intermediate level with the rest of the blue belts for the Gi divisions. I got more tired than I’d like to admit, but I managed to pull off another gold.

We had 6 ladies competing from our school that day and brought home 5 golds, one silver, and one bronze. Shannon won double gold in the white belt fly weight Gi and No Gi divisions with 5 matches total. It was a good day!

Outro:

That’s the highlights for the last few weeks. I’ll probably crawl out of my meditative hole before Pans to post on my competition preparation – but might not. I really have to keep my mind clutter free right now.

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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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.

Jiu Jitsu Birthday!

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Well, I got my blue belt today. I’m sure I’ll come up with something awesome and inspiring to post tomorrow… But after getting tag teamed in the big circle by this crew – I’m a bit tired.

I didn’t post an update about Worlds, because I’m unhappy with how it went down and didn’t know how to post without making it a rant. I’ll figure that one out eventually!

Anyhow, I’ll be breaking the new belt in at the IBJJF Atlanta Open in August. So excited!

Now… Sleeeeeeeeep!

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