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

So Close!

The Countdown is ON!

At this time next week, I will be on my way to California for the IBJJF Pan Championship tournament! I’m right on track with my weight, have energy for days, and am really looking forward to closing out a division with my team mate, Katie! There will be a live stream available for all the matches, so when I get my details I will make sure to share them.

This will be my 6th time competing at the Pans. My goal is to compete in the adult divisions all the way through at least one year as a black belt. When I competed in Atlanta I had one of the girls react in shock to the fact I was in the adult division. I suppose 32 seems old to a 19/20ish year old!

 

Abu Dhabi

Today I got my plane ticket to the Abu Dhabi World Pro booked. This has been a Jiu Jitsu bucket list item for years – and I decided to just do it. Maximus Kimonos has been awesome enough to supply me with a white gi for use – along with some cool no gi stuff. Give them a look-see and mention my name to get a 10% discount. I can say the gi is super comfy and very light weight!

I’m not yet sure which of two possible days I would be competing at the World Pro. My flight gets me in too late for day before weigh ins the first day, but in time for the same morning weigh ins. Of course if I compete the second day I will be all good for the day before weigh ins. Lodging and my flight to NYC still need to be arranged, but one thing at a time!

Team Training, Pans, and Abu Dhabi


This weekend we had our annual team training session! Hundreds of people were in attendance, 40-something black belts, and 30+ women!

Ladies Crew
With Omar Post-Promotion
With Ann-Marie Burnitt
The highlight of the day for me, was getting to see my friend Omar receive his black belt. I’ve learned a lot of my guard game from him over the years and he has been sneaking his training in around med school.

During the rolling portion of the day, I spent most of the time sparring with our out-of-state black belts and then getting attacked by our kids. Little flying squirrels of fury! It’s great being a part of the group! Team training also marks one year since I was given my purple belt by coach!

The Pans Championship is just around the corner and I am very excited to be going out there once again! I’ve had to change up my diet the past few weeks in order to work my way back down to the light weight division. I spent the last year in the middle weight division but I am ready to be light again. The Abu Dhabi World Pro is coming up as well, and I registered for the 62 kg division. I found a super good deal for a flight to Dubai and will be able to purchase it once my income tax rebate comes through.

The Training/Work

Currently what I am doing is heading to the gym early, getting an extra hour of drilling work or cardio in before taking our morning training class. After class I have about 10 minutes to get off the mat and on my way to work. I work the afternoon and get off just in time for the evening sparring class. I have also started helping out with the intro class held just after the sparring class. The intro class is very good because when I’m asked questions, it forces me think about the principles behind the movements.

After this week is over, my hours are dropping substantially at work. I am not looking forward to the drop in pay, but on the bright side, I will have all day Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to get extra training sessions in. I have started teaching private lessons periodically as well, so that will leave more time to expand my availability for that!

The Musings

My instructor has told me that, at this point in my Jiu Jitsu journey, I have a solid foundation of basics without too many gaping holes in my game. Now it’s just a matter of practice, fine tuning, and mat time. Taking that to heart, I have been observing my own rolling sessions in the gym. Winning in the gym isn’t the goal – betterment is. So I am watching my training partners to see what they are doing that is giving me trouble. If I know what it is they are doing to shut down my game, I should be able to figure out how to adjust for it. If I can’t figure it out, I bring the problem to my instructor and he shows me a simple adjustment that fixes it.

That being said, I’m ready to bring on the competition. What I have to do is take what I have been doing and learning, light the fire under it, and bring the heat.

Training Partner Profiles – Categories

I’m starting a series of Training Partner Profiles where I’ll go over the types of training partners I run into at the gym, and how I work with them to achieve benefit for both of us! I’m going to start off explaining how I categorize everyone I roll with. These categories are fluid and I mentally move people around in them as I observe changes in behavior and training habits.

And yes, I know I am not the perfect training partner. If you ask 100 people who I have rolled with where they would classify me, I’m sure the results would put me into every category. It seems cold and calculating I suppose to assign people a category, but that’s how my brain works.

Category Definition:Moral-Question

Golden List: Ideal training partners!
I perk up when I see these special people in class. It could be the prospect of a good toe to toe battle, learning a new trick, or the smack talk during a roll; but they are the people I gravitate toward when partners are chosen.

White List: Good training partners for a good roll!
The majority of people are in this category. These are the people with whom I don’t feel any hesitation to bump fists with. The vast majority of my team mates are a part of this list.

Gray List: Okay to drill and roll with defensively.
The big thing that is involved here is usually the almighty Ego. They will roll nice until I start trying to attack and then they go into “hulk smash” mode (not in a good way!) – usually resulting in sprained fingers, bruised ribs, etc. This could also be a newer person who doesn’t know the proper way to move resulting in me having to pay close attention to keep both of us safe.
I can still have a good roll with them if I focus on defensive tactics only. I’m not at a size or skill level where I can help beat the ego out of them, so I will use this opportunity to practice my survival skills.

Black List: Do not roll with under any circumstances. Use caution with drilling.
This is usually a very short list and usually just a transitory placement. These are the people whom I feel will injure me beyond having a sore spot or a bruise the next morning. My first year of training I suffered many injuries that were due to rolling with people I should not have. It is very rare this is due to any maliciousness or ill intent! Most often I think it is due to a lack of experience and poor body control.

Over the next few posts, I will go over:

The Big New White Belt

Your Twin

The Spaz

The Upper Belt

The Lower Belt

The Judoka or Wrestler

The One Trick Kid

I will likely add more, this is just what I have in my head at this very moment!

The Patch Dilemma

I really don’t like patches on my gi. Maybe it’s because I like to fly under the radar and be invisible, but I just don’t like them. Growing up, I preferred to wear black, long sleeved Tshirts with no markings on them – and I still prefer darker less noticeable clothing.

However, there are a lot of people who have invested in me and in my training. I want people to know who has helped me with my achievements I have reached so far! So here are the patches I currently have on my competition Gis, along with why.

Team Patches

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Firstly, I always wear my coach’s patch on my back. My coach, Shawn Hammonds, has taught me since the first day I stepped on the mat and I fully intend to some day receive my black belt from him.
I have only have one TAC Team affiliation patch that I swiped from the office and I currently have it on the front of a white competition gi. I’ve moved it between a couple different gis and really need to get some more if I ever make it to Philly again!

 

Sponsor Patches

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I have been proud to represent and support Raijin Fight Wear since I was just a two stripe white belt! I was brand new then, and so were they. They seemed different than all the other start up companies in their designs, quality, and vision for the future and I wanted to be a part of their growth! Some days when I need a little extra push, knowing they are backing me up has been just what I needed! I always will be wearing their patch, rashguard, and/or super secret still-in-development Gi. “Respect All. Fear None.”

 

“Just Because” Patches

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All of the photographers I have had opportunity to meet during events are just amazing! I always try to support by buying photos whenever I can. I won a photo package offered by Mike Calimbas and I just decided I would keep his patches on my comp Gis because of his awesomeness!

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Girl-Jitsu has been an amazing supporter for ladies Jiu Jitsu and I really want to see them grow over the next few years!

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Scar Tissue MMA makes an appearance as well. They are a local company that has been growing and has been very supportive of my school as a whole, even helping out with fundraisers and designing a team gi for us.

1st Ladies Open Mat

Our Lovely Ladies
Our Lovely Ladies

Well we just got done with my first Ladies Open Mat hosted at my gym!

I was hoping for more people to show up, but it ended up being about right I think. We had 6 total, which was enough to get some decent rolling in, but without overwhelming me with the need for organization.

We started out with some light warm ups and then asked each person to show a favorite move or two of theirs for us to drill. After about 30-45 mins we moved on to sparring some rounds. There were varying levels of experience, and I was so happy how awesome everyone was! My big concern was keeping this a non-competitive environment, where we could just have fun and learn from one another – and I didn’t need to worry a bit! Everyone was so cool and there to just have fun, experience, and learn!

Rachel is fine tuning our triangles
Rachel is fine tuning our triangles

I stink at marketing and promotion, but I’m hoping that I can get word out better for the next time around! I’m tentatively saying either August 10, or 24th for our next meet up – depends on availability at the gym.

For anyone who is wanting to stay updated on Facebook, I have put together a group for keeping people updated. Here is a link to it, feel free to join! https://www.facebook.com/groups/407696842682321/

My Clark Gracie Pose
My Clark Gracie Pose