Thursday, 13 March 2008

It's a dog's life...

It’s been a while since my last post, so I’m not even going to try and give a full recount of each session. I’m back to some semblance of health and I can hear in both ears again (they still pop quite a bit – the doc said it can be up to six months to return to normal!), although I did have some weird 24/48 hour thing last week that stopped me training on Wednesday. I woke up in the early hours of Wednesday (I say woke up – it was that weird sort of half sleep), convinced that I’d been drugged by someone and I span off into this whole convoluted fantasy about who did it and how. Suffice to say I woke up Wednesday morning not feeling 100%. Apart from that though, I’m feeling OK now and enjoying getting some regularity back in to my gym visits and feeling good when training.

It’s been a weird few weeks. Apart from the various ailments (which now thankfully seem to be over), I’ve been feeling really stressed about work – no doubt this has had an impact on my health in one way or another, and, to be really honest, I’ve been more than a bit depressed about the whole work/life agenda. It’s all the usual stuff – underpaid, overworked, undervalued…just gets a bit hard to take at times. Anyway, at least there’s always Jiu Jitsu. Dean’s sessions of late have been as much about mindset as anything else and you know what? They have a real impact on stress – even if only for a few hours a couple of times a week, I’m able to be with friends who are honest, I can forget work and all the bad stuff and meditate on very immediate things. It’s great and this is why Jiu Jitsu will always be more than just wrestling with a bunch of sweaty guys in pyjamas. It’s a great distraction and matters to me on a personal level that work never has, and I have to say, can’t see that it ever will. The other really good thing is that, because the guys are honest and open, we talk about these things and I know I’m not alone in this…and that in itself is hugely useful in lifting the cloud which can sometimes make you feel like you’re the only person in your situation.

So, a quick summary of the last few weeks’ training. Dean T’s sessions have continued much in the vein of recent weeks – more of the sensitivity/weight/balance drills, and a few reminders of some of the escape techniques previously covered. Mondays have been varied – on one, Big Dean was uncharacteristically ill, but Dean T trained with me and Si – we just did a round robin of rolling and it was all done in the spirit of recent weeks’s training so was really good to try and operate in the way that we were shown. I’m under no illusion that Dean had a myriad of options to tap me out , but allowed things to flow and gave me a few clues to help things along which was great – I got so much more from that than just being stuck and tapping every five seconds. Another Monday, the two new guys from a few weeks showed up again, which was good. Big Dean took us through breaking guard, as always in good technical detail. The rolling was good and this time I stayed a lot more in control and just played my own game to much better effect. Big Dean gave me another round robin of opponents in two minute bursts, but I gassed real quick and can only put that down to recent illness….maybe even not eating so well (ie. Skipping meals and not drinking enough) of late too (all stress related again!).

Last night, considering Dean T was taking the session, was a pretty low turnout, just me, Si, Dean and Ian (AKA “Monkey”). This was a really good session for me as Dean spent around half the time purely chatting with me about the weight/balance philosophy, Jiu Jitsu being “in the moment” and rolling with me in a very loose way so that I could feel first hand how it is meant to be. It was great to be given this attention and there really is no substitute for feeling how it should be done. As we progressed, I tried to replicate what I was feeling, often with little result as I pushed too hard, over compensated or thought too much. I did execute it a couple of times and I can only say that when I did, it just happened, I wasn’t trying to make anything happen, or thinking ahead about what might, I just reacted in the moment to where Dean put himself. On the receiving end, I can only describe as feeling like you’re constantly in a middle place – held in a sort of limbo. If you try and regain your starting position, you’re damned, if you force to go where you wanted, you’re damned, so instead, you sit in this middle ground, held, not really sure where to go or what to do for the best. It’s really funny because as it happens you know immediately that you’re in trouble and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I’ve noticed lately that Dean T seems to be working his way around each of the guys giving quality 1:1 time with each of us, really wanting us to understand and embrace what he’s trying to communicate and achieve with his Jiu Jitsu. It’s great, and I really value the time taken and the chance to train in this way. A picture speaks a thousand words – look at photos from our club and guys are focussed on what’s going on, brows furrowed trying to grasp the fine detail and philosophy. A look at many other clubs’ websites and there are lots of pictures of guys looking shattered and sweaty (but admittedly happy – BJJ will do that to you wherever you train!). We are studying the “gentle method” – Jiu Jitsu as it was intended to be. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the hard training too, but know that this is the stuff that separates good from outstanding. This is why it’s worth the time and patience trying to acquire this approach.

With ying comes yang and so to balance out the sublime, as always there’s the ridiculous. This week we were discussing “Crufts” of all things - Dean has a couple of beautiful Akitas – great looking dogs, huge fluffy monsters. Dean’s brought them to training a couple of times and they sit as good as gold at the edge of the mats waiting for the session to end. It can be a bit disconcerting to be reversed from some position to find yourself eye to eye with a panting Akita, but they’re very good natured and often just shuffle off somewhere else. For Dog lovers (and I include myself in that – I own a wonderful Border Collie called “Paddy”), Crufts is a huge event taking in 5 halls at the NEC (nearly 20 Acres worth), over 150,000 visitors over the four days and around 23,000 dogs entered in various events and shows. I have to admit, I have never considered this question until it was asked last night – but what happens to all the dog muck? Imagine that?! That’s somebody’s job for four days a year!!! And there was me thinking that my job was shit!