Saturday, 19 July 2008

There's always someone bigger...

I'm going to go a bit back to front with this blog entry and start with today's events. Today I went to the dubiously named Brighton "Grab and Pull" tournament - the first tournament organised by Brighton BJJ. I only really decided to enter about a week or so ago so no real expectations. I went along with Si and we met up with the guys from Carlson's which made for a great day out and as always, the guys made us more than welcome.

Although the day started later than published, the fights ran smoothly and quickly. There were a few mix-ups with fight weights, but the organisers remained flexible and in good humour which helped make a really relaxed atmosphere. I'm full of admiration for the organisers - I reckon I'd have flipped with all that stress so credit where it's due.

As with the Southern Open I was entered into the Super Super Heavyweight category (100.5kg +). After a long wait (about 4 hours) I was finally called. I really enjoyed my first fight. I was initially taken by surprise as my opponent jumped guard, but I dealt with it OK, quickly postured up, broke his guard and passed to secure cross-side. I then moved straight to mount and just secured that position, bringing weight and getting a nice high mount. I was just weighing up my options and resisting bridges and an Ezekiel choke seemed the best option so that's what I went for - sunk it in and stuck it on and got the tap - all lasted about 2 minutes. I felt I had good control the whole way through. Really nice guy though and enjoyed chatting to him before our match.

My second fight was a different story. The guy I was fighting was 122kg - that's 19 and a bit stone so I was giving away over two stone - and he was solid with it. He got some sort of sweep pretty quick and took mount very quickly too. That suited me - I stayed tight and was just looking to secure an upa, but he was clearly experienced and wise to this. As Si later pointed out, my mistake was that I stayed too flat on my back, preventing any decent disruption. Eventually, a combination of bad choices on my part and shepherding on his, he moved me to take an armbar which was successful. All over. That's the way it goes - sooner or later you always meet someone bigger, faster etc etc - different draws may have led to a different result, but that's the way it goes. It all meant I took bronze - again - that's OK. A medal's a medal. Just starting to think that losing weight might be a good idea for more than health reasons!

Si had a good first fight, took a decent takedown and then controlled everything as he always does, ending the fight with an armbar - great result. His second fight was against the eventual winner - a guy that had already shown some great Judo in his first fight and continued in his bout with Si, opening his scoring with a great ippon seoinagi. From there on, SI was always chasing the points. Si had the guy in guard and controlled him there for a long while always threatening to pull off one of his trademark cross collar chokes, but it just never quite happened. Eventually the guy passed and took a choke using his own gi. mathematics once again conspired to give Si a well deserved bronze. I get the sense that Si felt a little disappointed, but it was a good outing for him and there's always far too many variables in a tournament to worry about what could/should have been. Another good day out. I even met a nice parking attendant who bent the rules to avoid inconvenience. Once in a while something restores your faith in people.

Onto the last few weeks of training - usual story, Mondays and wednesdays at Rickson's, Fridays at Carlson's. All the usual drills really except that Dean T's sessions have been revelations - every lesson I've come away with a little gem. The ones that stand out are the relaxation required when applying chokes - I did one so well that I didn't even think I was doing anything. The other major thing was Dean helping me with my escape from cross side. I don't find bridge escapes easy due to my poor lower back mobility, so Dean showed me an escape using your legs to move your body to the side, slide the lower knee in to block the abdomen then project the free leg away to sweep your opponent over - really liked this and will work well for me - just need to drill it. The key with the leg movement is to engage the core of your body so that your legs connect up through your torso - realy obvious, but the penny dropped that previously I've just been waving my legs around - just a lack of understanding on my part. This also means that I really need to work up some core strength. After a good demonstration by Dean, I think I'm going to make an effort with an old Yoga video - I reckon this will benefit in sorts of ways.

Dean also spent some time with me rolling at the end of one session - in the way that he likes to roll - just playing really, working the movement and just "sensing". I really enjoyed this - it was imply fun but I could feel a whole lot more than I normally would - it's this "pronounced" form of training that gradually hones the sensitivity that allows the purity of Jiu Jitsu to prevail. Sure, I'm a long way from that , but it's really where I want to be in the way that I roll. It's what it's all really about. I'm really loving the training at the moment and finish every session with the same buzz that I had when I first it!

Rick has also helped me with some escapes from a common position at Carlson's - the head crush either from under mount or sometimes when holding guard. It was clear I've just been doing everything wrong - when holding guard I need to release guard, trap arms and work sweeps. Under Mount, instead of going for Upas that aren't there I need to be shrimping out. So I've been shown - cheers Rick...and thank you from my neck too!

One other breakthrough to mention happened during a light session with just me and Si one Wednesday. We just went through standing up in guard - trying to prefect this technique over and over. I finally made a few minor adjustments, the main one being to drive my stand from my foot position (like a sprint start), rather than awkwardly squatting to standing position...bit by bit, things just get better.

Everything's relative and belts aren't everything, but I've set out my goals and they remain intact. It takes many people only a couple of years to go from white to blue. By the time I hopefully get there, I will have been a white belt for four years, partly due to economics, but the results I get at tournaments and when rolling tell me I am where I should be. I want nothing more than to feel that any grades I earn came at the right time and that I am the best white belt I can be...still lots of work to do and I'm loving every second.

Speak to you again soon. I'm off to bed to sleep off this adrenaline headache.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Cracking backs and cup cakes...

Wow! Time moves so fast - almost a month since my last post, which was kind of impromptu so I guess it's ages since I last posted properly.
It's going to be hard to recount the specifics so I'll just give an overview of what's been going on.

Training's been pretty consistent over the last couple of months - Mondays and Wednesdays with Dean T and the guys, Fridays at Carlson's in Tonbridge.

Mondays have been "beginners'" nights with Nuri still coming, a new guy Dave (3rd Dan in Kyokushin looking for a ground game) and his wife Toyah - both nice folk and a good addition to our numbers. On top of this, Dean has mentioned a couple of other potential noobs so numbers, on mondays at least are looking good - in fact, at this rate, we're going to struggle for room. The sessions have been covering all the basic positions and techniques as per the syllabus, which is great for the new people, but I've also found it invaluable - always great to go back to the basics and round off the rough edges that bad habits, misunderstanding and sometimes laziness create. I've developed a much better understanding of holding posture in guard, standing in guard, escaping from cross side amongst a whole host of other things.

At the end of these sessions we roll semi-competitively and I'm pleased with how I'm doing, even against some of the established guys - more than holding my own so progress is steady but upwards.

Wednesdays are generally for the guys that have been training a bit longer and there's far more emphasis on the sensitivity and movement stuff we've been doing with Dean T. This mix works great for me as I'm regularly practising the techniques and positions that fall on to the end of the movement we're practising.

Fridays are still the open mat session at Carlson's and I've been really enjoying the training there. It's tough to maintain "Jiu" the whole time down there with the way the guys roll, but I've had good successes with affecting guys' balance and posture and working my basics. Sure, I've been caught a couple of times, but that's cool - if you open yourself up in an effort to try new things that's going to happen...I'll sharpen up and gradually it'll happen less often.

There have also been a couple of low key sessions - one wednesday session with just me and Si, and Sunday morning just gone with just me, Big Dean and Si. All we did was go over some of the bits and pieces that we've done in the last few weeks. Working bits over and over, trying to maintain base and posture etc. These sessions really help, just to revise and solidify what's been going on - otherwise, it's so easy to let one week move into the next and forget the finer details that make all the difference.

I feel, with all the training and excellent pointers from Dean T, that I'm really making progress. I'm coming up for three years doing BJJ now and a few weeks back got a huge fillip to my confidence. Dean T was talking about people's progress and also saying how hard it was being so remote from Rickson's HQ. It means that we have a lot of guys who remain blue belts and white belts and should, by any other standard, be a belt above. Dean rolled through the guys that have trained a while and amongst many deserving others, pinned me as blue belt level. This was just great - for Dean to say this meant a lot for me and puts me in great shape for my trip to LA. Certainly my experiences against guys from elsewhere (NY, Carlson's etc) would suggest to me that I am at early blue belt level, but I don't like to set myself up like that - the fact is I'm still wearing a white belt so that's what I am. Great to hear though!

On other fronts, the gym has taken a bit of a backseat the last couple of weeks - just seem to run out of time at the moment and have also been feeling pretty tired. The whole work situation is quite exhausting at the moment, but I won't go into that right now - those that need to know what's going on, know ;P. I did manage a couple of sessions last week and was pleased that none of my gains had been lost so the BJJ has more than kept things ticking over.

I've just gotten back from another short break at Butlins again (wow - almost a year since the last one) and I had a great time with the wife and kids - real knackered right now and unlikely to make it to training tonight.

Before I go, a couple of thank yous. Thanks to Big Dean for "cracking" my back a couple of weeks back. For about three months now, I've felt a tension in my upper back, just between the shoulder blades. When I used to go to the Osteopath, the "cracking" used to be my favourite part. Dean kindly obliged me and the relief I've felt has been great - and it didn't cost £40 either! Cheers mate, Genius!

Thanks also to Simon for inviting me to a gathering of his, a couple of weeks back. It was his daughter's first birthday and I enjoyed a really nice afternoon round at Si's eating great authentic Italian grub (his in-laws are Italian) and shooting the breeze. I was also able to see a copy of Antoni's fight - wow...his fitness shone through in the end and the hits he was putting in as the fight closed looked like a scene from a Rocky movie. Credit to his opponent - he took some big, big shots, but took ages to finaly hit the floor.

Finally, photgraphic evidence of the softer side to MMA and Jiu Jitsu. Here's Dean tucking into his favourite pre-training snack - a pink, dolly mixture topped cup-cake - ah, bless: