Monday, 15 September 2008

I can see clearly now..

I’ve just had a pretty good weekend as things go. Saturday was an impromptu training session – just me, Dean T and Rick. We spent the time looking at one of the sweeps that we trained on Tuesday, but also the whole principle of inviting weight and re-directing and following weight. Dean also coached us to make it a training opportunity for both people – one practicing sensitivity and technique, the other just practicing movement and momentum.

I can’t quite remember what prompted the next part of the session, but I was struggling with one particular movement in trying to make our practice flow – that is kind of a backward roll – legs coming up and over the head to roll backwards. Having seen so many other people doing this, it’s an invaluable movement, but to me, there seemed to be two things stopping me executing. The first is a lack of core strength and the second, my perceived lack of flexibility in my lower back.

Dean took some time to coach me through the movement, using Rick as an “anchor”. With the right pointers I made pretty rapid progress with this movement, then, once I’d pretty much got it, Dean encouraged me to hold the position on my shoulders rather than follow right the way through. Once there, sort of just hovering over Rick, there were so many possibilities – I had controls with my arms, but was also able to use my legs and feet to block things – it was like a whole new world opened up. Being in such positions, I had Rick covered which forced him into various moves in his attempts to escape, which invariably gave me far more ammunition than had I simply followed the move through to the far more static mount, cross side or knee on stomach positions. It was amazing – on two separate practices I rolled effortlessly into a triangle and then an omoplata – positions I know but rarely, if ever, execute. It all just “happened” and I pretty much felt like I was doing nothing except waiting and moving with the energy created by my opponent. This is how Jiu Jitsu is meant to feel! I would never have thought that someone like me (I mean my level of competence, my size and restricted back movement) would ever be able to accomplish this sort of stuff! Before, I’d felt pretty much resigned to my “game” being using my weight, securing certain positions and then constructing opportunities for a few techniques which I know work for me. This was like coming up for air.

This was achieved with some great coaching from Dean – pointers at just the right moments, but far more important, encouragement which constantly raised my confidence to give things a try, reinforcement when things went well and the push to go “once more” each time to really drive home the feeling of success. It was also due to having Rick help me as my training partner – sympathetic and guiding in his own movements to give me the conditions I needed. Thanks to both of you.

I hope I’m right, but this feels like it could be the start of a new chapter in my training. I hope I can keep this feeling going – this style of training. I’m going to say now (easier said than done) that I know I’m about to enter a phase of making loads of mistakes and probably getting tapped every five seconds by less sympathetic training partners, but that’s OK. That kind of fits with how the BJJ learning curve seems to go anyway. Steep curves, drops, up again, plateaus, then another rise and so on…

So roll on training – I want more of this…I just hope I can get some consistency in keeping this going from one session to the next.

Yesterday (Sunday), I had my second Yoga class. More of the same stuff as last week, but focussing on different postures and mainly work around the shoulder area. This was bad news as my left shoulder has been a little “crunchy” of late and my trapezius muscle on that side feels pretty tight or like a nerve is trapped or something. Still, I gave it a go – tried the headstand (without success!) and the shoulder stand (which I just about did). Once again, I was surprised by how hard holding these poses works you – loads of muscle groups come into play and I worked up quite a sweat! I was keen to give everything a try and, with hindsight, I put myself under a lot of pressure to do things that, after only two sessions, I’d probably not be able to do after several. Even as I thought this I knew I was wrong to think this way, but seeing people around me, some many years older than me, some a lot less strong etc., doing things that I was not able to do made me even more “pushy” with myself. The teacher very kindly said to me afterwards “You’re game, but we just need to build up gently” – a kind way of saying don’t run before you can walk. I already knew she was right. So, I’m going to take my time, build up slowly and build my confidence. There were people there that have been doing Yoga for a while who were only just doing the headstand fully for the first time – why should I expect to do it on my second lesson?! Like I said in my last post about Yoga, I see this as a long term practice so have just got to take it slowly and as it comes.

It brought me back to thinking about this weekend’s progress in Jiu Jitsu. I’ve been training three and a half years or so now. In yoga, I’m like I was when I started BJJ – all enthusiasm and frantic tapping – metaphorically speaking. It’s taken a few years to get this far – and really that’s no distance at all, but I have made progress and am doing things I would never have thought possible even a few weeks back let alone a few years. You’ve just got to practice, keep applying and then when your body and mind are ready, things just “click”. You just have to trust in the process.

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