Saturday, 12 January 2008

Absolutely Fabulous!

So, a new year. I hope everyone reading this had a great Christmas break and I wish you lots of success over the coming year.

I had a pretty good break – two weeks off work, just spending time with my family. It was great this year as my kids are now old enough to go in for the full Santa/Christmas experience so it was a fun time. We even had snow whilst we were in the North East – a decent amount too so the kids even got their first dose of proper winter. I didn’t do a whole lot of training over the break – I managed a few very good gym sessions and I was set up to train with another club whilst I was up in the North East, but that fell apart due to a breakdown in communications – shame that, but no-one’s fault.

I managed to avoid the worst of the seasonal excesses, but am more pleased that I managed to avoid the many illnesses and colds that seemed to be doing the rounds. I put it down to more or less overdosing on fizzy Vitamin C & Zinc tablets. Placebo, or real, I don’t care – I’m just pleased I’ve stayed well.

Anyway, with the new year in full swing, I went along to training on Monday, knowing that it would be just me, Big Dean and Si as usual, half expecting that we would be discussing how we were going to wind things down. More on that in a moment.

We decided to just roll – blow out a few cobwebs, and it was great to be back on the mat and in the company of friends – especially as Monday had been my first day back at work and I was feeling less than enthusiastic about life. I was trying hard to work on some decent escapes and my main objective was to just keep moving...and it worked. Si commented on this so it was good to know it was noticeable and I even managed to replace guard from under mount a couple of times – really pleased with that. I got tapped as usual, but felt that I gave a good account of myself and was moving with a bit of purpose so was pretty pleased.

The major event of the evening was when Dean Taylor showed up. It was really good to see him. He looks well and relaxed We spoke about how we were unsure of what was happening to the club, Dean (T) said that he was looking to train again (as his back allows) and there was a general consensus that everyone wanted to try and keep things going if possible. Dean said that he would train when he could and hoped that may attract a few of the old faces back to the club, which it undoubtedly will. It may even attract a few new members. This will be great from a number of viewpoints. Firstly, it will mean that there is more money going into the pot than just that which Me, Si, and Dean have been paying for the last 9 months. Secondly, it will mean that we have got someone with superior skill and knowledge to coach/teach again (which will help the Blue Belts develop)and lastly, I hope it will mean that everyone can just get on with what’s important – i.e. enjoying training together. So, with this news, we take our first tentative steps to getting things going again. I don’t say this with any huge expectation, for fear of disappointment, but it would be great to see things get a bit of life back into them. We’ll see – fingers crossed.

Wednesday night – well, what a turn up – literally. There were 7 of us – count ‘em, SEVEN! Me, Big Dean, Si, Mike, Rick, Craig and Dean Taylor. It was so good to see a good number, good to see Rick and Craig again and better still to see Dean back and teaching. I heard him say that he’s looking to train around 3 times a month, which will be just great. We started off with Big Dean, at my request, showing how to pass around the butterfly guard. The key factor here was connecting to the opponent and pinning one of his feet to the floor – this prevents him getting a hook in which is always the thing that stops me passing round – so simple…if you know it.

Dean T showed a slight variance in this, bring one knee up to create even further space to prevent the hook but also made the point that defence needs to be more proactive – defending one’s own space which will cause the opponent to overstretch or off balance himself in his attempts to get close. Dean said that, due to his back he’s been working on Jiu Jitsu principles and making them work so that he has to do the least possible to affect his opponent.

What followed was a masterclass in sensitivity and simply making your opponent his own worst enemy. Fascinating to watch, even amusing at times, as Dean managed to have people falling all over the place with only the merest of touches. I felt it myself – as I moved to take up grips on Dean, he’d positioned himself in such a way that I was immediately off balance – had I persisted with my forward aggression, I would have been on my back in no time. It’s so simple, but really difficult to explain – it’s just something you have to experience and then try and replicate for yourself. The only thing I can try and liken it to is imagining that you have a sphere of energy that you are trying to stop your opponent penetrating – you do this with a light frame using arms and legs depending where you are. As the person moves to you, you just have to try and maintain this sphere, yet yield to the attack and then re-direct it at the appropriate time. I’m by no means proficient at it, but I gave it a go and was surprised by the results, even though I was still pushing at times.

It’s this stuff that Dean T teaches so well, and makes the difference to the Jiu Jitsu that we practice and that I’ve experience elsewhere. It’s this subtlety and sensitivity that threads between the positions and techniques and enables them to happen – it’s the glue, the DNA of Jiu Jitsu if you like – and it all flows from Rickson. It’s why you hear comments like this from guys like
Paulo Filho: 'I've never seen Jiu-Jitsu like that in my life! …no one ever did to me what Rickson Gracie has done during training these last days.” (Source)

I think that this rejuvenated input from Dean T, combined with the coaching on the techniques and positions that I’m getting, will be the next leap in my progression and couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I think I know (even if I can’t always execute!) enough of the basics for this stuff to have an impact for me now. I suspect that, great as it was, I may not have been in a position to identify how what Dean was teaching us back when I started could be used as I was too concerned with positions and techniques. I feel like now I can see how it is going to fit into the other stuff and make it all work so much better. It remains to be seen how competently I can do this, but right now, I feel like a new door has been opened – the room is dark, but what I can see looks pretty interesting.

From this revelation, we sunk swiftly back into the depths of tabloid obsession discussing the various merits of Girls Aloud, including, to my dismay, details of which one’s going out with who. It was like everyone had turned gay and was reading “Heat” or “Hello” or “Yowzers Weekly!” or something. Next week, we will be mostly discussing “A New Year, a new You: how to make colour work for you in 2008!”. Christ, just what BJJ needs to enhance it’s reputation as the gayest martial art ever created!

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