November 26, 2011

Mixed Martial Arts, Actually?

Well, I can finally say that I train MMA. Until recently, I hadn't been making use of all the classes that my gym offers. I'd only been doing Fundamentals 3 times a week (which was plenty for someone just starting out) plus open mats here and there. 2 months in, I've finally reached a point where I'm in decent enough shape to spazz my way through kickboxing before Fundamentals and/or BJJ afterwards. I've also built up to going more often and on different days of the week. So with those adjustments, I'm getting well-rounded training in all areas: standup, clinch and ground plus gi. It's important to note that I don't actually do MMA, but I am officially training MMA in hopes of someday being able to do something resembling it.


Two weeks ago, I finally stopped making excuses and hauled my ass to kickboxing. As expected, it was an awesome workout that included a death circle of abs exercises, which wasn't easy, especially since I don't have 500 packs like some others in the class do. But I was also not disabled by it for weeks afterwards like I was when I first came in. Clearly, six weeks of grappling is paying off and I'm slowly getting in shape whether I realize it or not.

This week, I got snarky with Rascal and he decided to torture us with 30 minutes of intense cardio. Unfortunately, the class also involved a lot of pushups and I suck at pushups. It's kind of incredible that anyone could suck at pushups as much as I do. Arm strength is nonexistent. It's wannabe bicep and the rest is Pillsbury Doughboy material. I was able to do maybe 5 half-assed pushups at a time before flat out collapsing (mind you, the goal was like...40), so it didn't go very well. But I will endeavor to do better next time.

Fact: I boxed during high school. Which makes my current performance in the standup classes all the more shameful. I've actually forgotten how to box. Like, completely. I feel like a total ditz when I throw a punch now, and I'm sure I don't look any better. One can only hope, for my sake and for the sake of any and all future kickboxing partners, that I get my shit together and pick up the techniques soon enough, because as of now, my attempts have been about on par with the Three Stooges. I paired up with KGB on Tuesday and he was kind enough to not punch me in the head too hard, although I'm betting that by the end of class, he wanted to. For my life, I could not get the side blocks or the ducking/twisting part down. I was having some kind of dyslexic attack and doing the exact opposite of what I should've done. Rascal says I'll get the hang of it someday.


My jiu jitsu needs a lot of work but apparently, my wrestling is getting decent. I find this amusing because I've always hated the idea of "wrestling." My younger brother was a big WWF/WCW fan as a teen and I was subjected to hours and hours of campy fake fighting performed by steroid-abusing wannabes in fruity outfits. So that is, unfortunately, what I most often associate the word with. It's kind of funny that real wrestling is now something that I enjoy so much.

Saturday, Dom ran us through a defensive drill where our only goal was to tap each other's legs. If your partner's hand so much as brushed your leg, you had to do 10 pushups. The point was to be so awesome at hopping around and getting out of the way that you could avoid the penalty. Basically, I rocked the shit out of this exercise. Homeboy got my leg once right at the start and I had to crank out a set of 10 but after that, I was the one tapping him, again and again. When we switched partners, I paired up with Southie and he had to do an epic amount of pushups. I didn't feel bad though, because Southie is huge with an amazing physique. It couldn't have been too hard on him. When we switched again and I was paired with The Kid, the poor boy was getting desperate as he'd lost so many times already. He was flailing and I lost track of how many times I tapped his leg. He did a few token pushups at first but then eventually stopped doing them altogether. Personally, I had a total blast and was smiling and feeling pretty damn smug the whole way through. The boys did not look so pleased.


When it comes to groundwork, I've greatly improved my side control technique and my use of the Shoulder of Justice. Have to say, I really enjoy using it on other people but am not at all fond of having done to me. My jaw still hurts from practicing half-guard escapes with Archie last week.

During Monday's class, I rolled with Rascal to warm up, which I thought would be a lot more intense given his drill sergeant approach to kickboxing, but he turned out to be a really good, laid back partner. It was kind of jarring. No, it was totally jarring to hear him talking in such a quiet voice and being so nice. I wanted to ask him WTF he did with the real Rascal. Later, I rolled with Spaceman for the first time in a while. In round one, I did a nice takedown but he caught me in a guillotine on the way down, and I ended up in a bad enough position that I pretty much choked myself out while attempting to stack him. I was entirely on the defensive the whole way through, with no chance to attempt anything but escapes, but except for the first round, it took him a lot longer to pass guard and sub me than on previous occasions, so I'm happy enough with that.

Thursday's Fundamentals focused on headlocks, which sucked for me because that's something I can't do until these damn stitches come out. Instead, I rolled with Yanitza a few times and got my butt kicked, as usual. Rolled with Curly once and that was downright ridiculous. Dude had a busted shoulder and I still couldn't do anything to him. Couldn't even pass his guard. It was not a good night for the ol' ego. After coming up with as many excuses as possible to head home instead of joining the gi class (I'm knee calf hurts...I haven't been getting enough sleep...I only have one gi so I wouldn't be able to wash it before Sunday's open mat...), I eventually ended up totally pussing out and took off. Liz wasn't buying any of it and kept giving me looks that said I've got your number, you lazy bum. But in spite of her pep talks and my genuine wish to join in, I just didn't have another hour or two of workout left in me that night.

On my way out, I stopped in the lobby to look up something on my phone, which was going so slow I thought I might start bashing it against the wall (fuck you, iphone), when Rascal and Curly came down and invited me to hit McDonald's with them. I've actually sworn off Mickey D's ever since I got severe bouts of food poisoning at two separate locations, but I joined them anyway and just hung out while they ate. Yes, I've become that girl...the one who has a salad with nonfat dressing while everyone else is devouring bacon cheeseburgers. Then again, everyone else is probably not trying to lose 20 lbs, so screw them. It was still fun just hanging out and listening to the boys bullshit and do impressions of Brazilians and Italians and panhandlers and fuck knows what else. Pure entertainment, those two, I'm telling you.

Today, at long last, I forced myself to go for Rocky's Saturday morning hour of hell, which kicked my ass seven ways from Sunday. Grappling is just dandy for working certain muscles but I need to do more conditioning work to build up overall strength and endurance so that people (Yanitza, for example) can't go around grabbing my fucking arm fat. Ironman came in for open mat today, so I rolled with him for a while and ended up a sweaty, hyperventilating mess. Passing that guy's guard remains an impossible task. I did a good job and got around the legs twice but the rest of my attempts were an epic failure. Still, the two times that I did succeed were pretty cool. I even got his back at one point but the man must have a neck of steel because I tried to choke him out for two minutes straight and nothing happened. I was sure that everything was in the right place but I guess something was off. I did manage a successful armbar though, with him giving some really good advice on how to pull the arm through when the person's locking up.

Anyway, it's been a great experience branching out from Fundamentals. It's given me the chance to train with a lot of new people, to try out new things, and to exercise brand new muscles that are now aching but not screaming bloody murder like they did on my very first day. I hope to keep this routine going strong and to continue improving in all areas, because I like how I feel right now and I can't stand to lose that momentum. We all know what happens when I fall off the wagon...lazy ass couch potato extraordinaire. And I damn sure don't want that to happen again. I'm finally starting to feel hopeful about fitting back into my xx-small t-shirts in another few months.

November 18, 2011

Rolling Under the Influence

So...apparently, people from my gym read this blog. Lots of them. I was not aware of that. I came to the realization last night at Christian's birthday party, when 90% of the guys I was talking to started referencing things I've written about and trying to guess whose nickname refers to who. It was kind of funny and kind of WTF because I had no idea so many of these dudes - yes you, lurkers, you know who you are - had found the link, presumably through Facebook, let alone read through it and were following it. I mean seriously...stalk much? It's making me reconsider an upcoming post that features a photo of me in my pink fleece froggie jammies.

It was a good night though. A little crazy, a lot of fun and kind of surreal to see everyone outside of the usual gym setting. I got to the bar around 10 pm, was only going to stay for an hour or so, and ended up leaving a little after 3 am. Luckily, I was in a responsible enough mood to space out my drinks because I get very friendly when I'm drunk and I didn't think that grappling partners were an appropriate crowd to unleash my wilder side on, so I spent the night in a happy, chilled out zone. The same cannot be said for some others, but that's another story. I'll just say that it was damn amusing and I enjoyed getting to know some people that I'd only worked with once or twice before. For example, I've discovered that Krypton is as much of a cat person as I am and we spent an unhealthy amount of time swapping pictures of the furry little critters and discussing how cool it is that they are natural BJJ practitioners (ever seen cats grapple?...'nuff said). Got to know C-Bear much better too, talked with him a lot, then Diesel and Curly, who has finally gotten his hair under control. He seems very zen about the whole thing.

I actually went to the party last night already feeling tired. Thanksgiving dinner plus leftovers left me in that sluggish OMG I'm fat again! state of mind and I tried to make up for it by going to a light open mat earlier in the afternoon. Ziggy summed up my feelings perfectly by informing me before we rolled that he was basically sweating butter. Weren't we all. I hadn't even planned on rolling because I've got 4 stitches in my head and, until they come out next Tuesday, I need to be really careful. As a result, I was just going to work on muay thai kicks and do cardio work, but Christian said that it was not healthy for me to stand around playing with inanimate objects all afternoon and had me roll with a few different people until we all felt too lazy to continue and called it a day.

Having not gotten home until 4:15 in the morning, and then going to bed an hour or two after that, I woke up this morning around half past noon and was a total wreck, mildly hungover and exhausted. I considered staying home, but after binging for the last few days and not exercising as much, I felt obligated to try to redeem myself and off I went, half-asleep, to open mat.

I'm really glad I did. Almost everyone else was equally hungover but it was a solid 2-hour workout that made me feel much better than I would've just lounging around at home like a fucking beached whale. Big Boy and The Kid came in and worked together all afternoon, doing various exercises and drills for the duration, which was cute. It's like they've put together their own little kiddie boot camp. Meanwhile, I spent most of the time trying to improve my guard passing skills. I rolled with Buzz first, who really helped me to get a better handle on passing the butterfly guard, then with LJack, who let me drill standing guard passes with Christian coaching from the sidelines. I'm telling you, that little guy is damn hard to get past. His feet are literally everywhere you turn.

While taking a break, I watched Krypton and Curly roll, which was really fascinating. I love the flow that more experienced grapplers have, where the game moves smoothly and looks so coordinated. I hope to reach that point someday and feel that while it's a damn long ways off, I'm moving in the right direction. I eventually interrupted the dynamic duo to roll with Big Boy and it went really well. I felt a definite change today, like I'm rolling with much more purpose now, keeping an eye open for specific moves to try, and developing the ability to adapt and slip from one position to another along the way with greater ease. I'm sure it'll still be months before I can roll with any sort of real flow, but whether it's because I finally learned how to go to mount or all of the guard passing practice or escapes drilled in the last two weeks, or I just got into some sort of zone, I really did feel a distinct difference today. I wasn't able to submit him but he only tapped me once and it took a long while for him to get there. I think at this point we know a lot of the same stuff and have kind of evened out, so we just...rolled. Back and forth, alternating offense and defense, a really fun, even game. It was very inspiring to feel like it's actually possible for me to do something other than flounder aimlessly. I need to hold onto that feeling and try to get to that place again next time.

After another break, I rolled with Krypton for a good while and, except for trying to watch out for my head, the dude showed no mercy. He's huge, his technique is solid, his guard passes are not to be fucked with, and I was totally destroyed. It was an incredibly fun challenge though, and I always love working with new people. I'd like to roll with him again once these annoying stitches come out. At one point, I tried a North South choke and did a pretty good spin but forgot to clear his arm first. He said it was a really good transition though, and that I'm doing very well with applying pressure from the top. Near the end, he helped me to drill armbars from mount and other submissions from side control that Christian gave me a quick tutorial on, building on some of the moves that Dom showed me last month, such as turning a stepover armbar into a sneaky kimura. I left covered in bruises but feeling physically back on track and highly motivated by my super slow but definite sense of progress.

November 11, 2011

Week in Review

Thursday wasn't nearly as tiring as the previous class but it was very informative. I did a warm-up roll with Archie, who I actually did pretty well against. I almost got his back and nearly subbed him a few times and, since he's also fairly new, it's the first time in a while that I didn't get completely dominated and was actually on the offensive for much of the time. Basically, it was a nice, even roll.

Then, Yanitza joined in for no-gi again and once class got started, I drilled various escapes from mount with her, which was great because that's how people are most often killing me. I know I won't be able to use the escapes on everyone, but at least I have some moves to think about and attempt now instead of just giving up, lying there and waiting to be armbarred. I was actually feeling pretty good by the end and would've joined the gi class but I hadn't washed mine yet. Instead, I spent half an hour in a one-on-one session with Isley, working on a bunch of different takedowns.

On Friday evening, I thought I'd see what was going on for open mat. I rolled with Christian to start, which turned into a very useful lesson on passing guard. Then I rolled with Curly for a while, who helped me to further practice guard passes and armbars, and reminded me that smaller people (like me) need to have awesome technique when rolling with bigger partners (almost everyone else) because I can't hurt them or power through moves the way they can do to me. Basically, I need to stop flailing and trying to sort of do everything all at once, instead focusing on what I want to do in any given moment, then doing it step by step, with increasing speed and skill as I go. He helped me to practice a bit more, subbed me a few times and then we took a break.

There was another surprise promotion today and, since I didn't have my gi with me, I got to whip the guy with his own white belt, which was fun. Then I spent the rest of the time alternating between training with different people and practicing my muay thai kicks. Rolling with LJack was an absolute bitch; he's just impossible, although I did manage to do some decent mount escapes, putting into practice what I'd learned the night before. I really need to learn some of his little people tricks down the line because he makes it look so easy dominating larger opponents. He destroyed the two new blue belts just for funsies. Every time I looked over, he was pretty much sitting on their heads. Near the end, while I was doing another round of solo kickboxing against the wall, Krypton came over, picked up a kick shield and offered to drill with me, which ended up being so much more fun. I still need a lot of practice but by the end, I was really happy with how I was doing.

Of course, today I feel like I've been beaten up by a yeti. Three days of 2-3 hours of gym in a row is a bit much for someone still trying to get in shape. I was already feeling pained going into this afternoon's class and after an hour of drilling takedowns with Isley and Curly, the state of my knees and arms wasn't getting any better. Curly's another one of those great training partners because in addition to squishing me like a bug, he stops to help me out along the way. Rather than running through the same takedowns over and over, he had me take it a step further and actually pull him over to go for the submission, giving me tips on how to take the back and how to get the most effective RNC by punching my arm through so that it's super tight against the throat. It was really helpful stuff to work on so hopefully I can put it to use next class.

After that, I stayed for another hour to train with Dom, first on kickboxing drills and then on armbars to triangles, doing it over and over (and over) until I had zero energy left. I was ready to collapse and he just kept saying "switch feet and kick, again!" or, with the submissions,"okay, just five more times, go!" My body is a total wreck now but at least I'm feeling much more comfortable with the muay thai stuff plus the two submissions, and I may even be able to use one of them against a fellow beginner next time. We'll see how that goes on Tuesday.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I plan to do little more than take a long, hot bath for my sore muscles, ice my many bruises and watch my Blue Planet DVDs.

November 9, 2011

Ice Packs are a Girl's Best Friend

I got squashed last night. Like a bug. Annihilated by multiple people over the course of 3 hours. If this keeps up, my ass is going to be in shape much sooner than I thought. I keep trying to tussle with the bigger and/or stronger guys and they just trounce me without trying, every time. I must have a bit of a masochistic streak because I keep coming back for more abuse.

While the kickboxing class was wrapping up, I warmed up by rolling with KGB for 15 minutes. And when I say "warmed up," I mean that I nearly died from exhaustion while he barely worked up a sweat. When we began, he got me into a guillotine or triangle or something in the first 10 seconds. It happened so fast, I literally have no clue what kind of choke it was. All I know is that I attempted a takedown and was suddenly tapping for dear life. 10 seconds. If that's not pathetic, I don't know what is. But we reset, kept going and I just kept on trying (and failing, but that's okay). It was an amazing workout but damn...guys like him, it's like grappling with a brick wall. I don't know enough techniques yet to be effective against someone that much stronger. I kept trying to do an armbar or, hell, anything at all and if you've ever been 147 lbs trying to pull someone's arm down when their arms are, like, 2-3 times the size of yours, and they're pulling in the opposite direction, you know what I'm talking about. I need a hell of a lot more practice to be able to counter the difference in strength even somewhat effectively.

Also, I can drill techniques over and over but when it comes to rolling, I get overwhelmed and forget everything. By the time I remember how to do a particular move, I'm already being subbed. Trek, Carlo and a bunch of other guys I couldn't see properly while upside down came over and stood around to watch and call out advice, but I still got my ass kicked over and over. The newbies in for their trial class were watching us with a measure of WTF? They seemed to be trying to understand if guys beating up girls was commonplace there. I think they eventually figured out that, awkward positions and pained expressions aside, I was having a lot of fun.

The no-gi class was really busy today. There were three or four people who came in for a trial plus more of the regulars than usual, and Christian worked us extra hard. Yanitza decided to once again brave the sweaty mosh pit that is no-gi training and join in, which was a good thing considering we were primarily working on side control escapes and butterfly sweeps and I had enough trouble pulling off the move even with her being smaller. I can just imagine how well it would've gone if I'd paired up with one of my usual partners.

Since I was running on a total of 7 hours of sleep for the previous 3 nights, the smart thing would've been to go home after Fundamentals. Unfortunately, I'd finally caved and bought a gi the day before, a nice looking dark blue Fuji with a crispy white belt, and I thought it would be a shame to not put it to use right away. So insanity set in and I stayed for the 2 hour sports BJJ class that followed. All things considered, the choice was probably a mistake. I went home feeling like a total wreck, not to mention somewhat ill, but I'm glad I did it anyway. I alternated between drilling with Liz and Yanitza, and then we spent what seemed like an eternity rolling. I don't know how long each set was, but Christian went into drill sergeant mode as we switched from one partner to another, and there were virtually no breaks. I did kind of sneak out for one round and collapsed with my water bottle for a bit. If that makes me a pansy, so be it. I was fucking tired.

After Yanitza, I rolled with Killer, who is another one of those brick-wall types. Big, really strong, crushed me into Reese's pieces...the usual. I think he actually enjoys trying to kill me...payback for all of those triangles I practiced on him a few weeks ago, no doubt. I almost had to tap a few times just because he's so heavy that I either couldn't breathe or was being squeezed so hard, I thought things might start going crunch. Seriously. But I do love the challenge of rolling with guys like him and KGB, even if it's basically just asking for pain.

When the class ended, there was a surprise promotion as Christian announced that Curly had been bumped up to blue belt and we all got to line up and whip the shit out of him as he walked and then crawled back and forth once across the mats...shirtless. It looked painful. I felt somewhat unqualified to join in considering I'd just bought my gi the night before, but I figured I'd honor tradition and gave him a good slap or two with my brand new white belt as he went by. Fun night. It's always nice to see people rewarded for their hard work.

I went home afterwards, took a long shower and then strapped 5 different cold packs to various parts of my arms and legs. I used to hate the feeling of icing bruises and joints but it's become an unavoidable part of my life. I've come to embrace's the only way to ensure that I'm somewhat recovered enough to do the next class two days later.

November 5, 2011

Lazy Saturdays

I love Saturday classes because they're so laid back and relaxed. Tuesdays and Thursdays are more intense; very enjoyable and very productive but you basically get the hour to drill hard, learn the moves and then pack it up when the gi class begins (or join the gi class if you so desire). On Saturdays, things have a very different feel because there's not much else going on and it's directly followed by an afternoon of open mat, which is a definite plus.

Dom taught today's class on flower sweeps to submissions, which I really enjoyed. I paired up with Thumper, who got it on the first try while I got all mixed up about what the fuck to do with my legs. By the third attempt, I had it down though. I wasn't confident that I'd be able to roll him over but with the right set up, it's not hard at all. From there, we drilled armbars and rear naked chokes, attempting (with moderate success) to not kick each other in the face and/or other sensitive parts along the way. When Dom had us put on the resistance towards the end, it took me a lot longer to sweep my partner. When I finally did, he would lock his arms in place, making it impossible for me to get the armbar, so I kept resorting to the choke.

After class, I rolled with Diesel, an advanced blue belt who went so easy on me that I had to tackle him and make like a wild child just to get him to start fighting back a bit. He started to get more serious after I nearly subbed him with a North South choke and then proceeded to return the favor a few times before I got tired and took a break. I rolled with Big Boy next, for a long while, and we had a blast. It was an exhausting but enjoyable round, basically just playing around and struggling to pass guard (I did unusually well with maintaining control from the bottom today and putting thought into techniques to apply from that position). I attempted armbars and triangles a few times but couldn't get them quite right, and my efforts at accomplishing a flower sweep didn't work at all. Anyway, BB and I went for one round after another until I completely wore myself down. He wanted to keep going so I felt bad but I just don't have the same level of endurance yet.

After a short break, I rolled with LJack for a bit (couldn't even get past his guard, we'll leave it at that), then Dom gave me a quick 101 on muay thai kicks, which I practiced for a while on my own. Curly, a more advanced white belt, noticed me kicking the wall like a crazy person and came over to assist before I broke a foot. Based on Dom's overview and with Curly's additional help, I finally started to get the hang of it. It seems I'm running out of excuses to avoid rejoining the standup classes now...kickboxing and painful conditioning work, here I come. Maybe.

November 3, 2011

Two Points For...

Training continues to be great. There was a sudden blizzard on Saturday so I wasn't sure if anyone would even be there and almost didn't go. I'm glad I did though, because I learned a lot of good things to do when trying to stave off attacks from open guard. I'm especially fond of the one where someone's trying to underhook you, you shrimp, kick the leg up, around and back in, and they have to start again. Later on, I kept doing that to Big Boy and Homeboy, and they were getting very frustrated. I've also finally gotten to the point where I'm passing guard more consistently and slightly less flaily-like, so Christian gave me props for that, which made me happy.

During open mat, I got a good ass whooping from Thumper, who I sorely underestimated because he's not as bulky as most of the other guys. But he kept getting side control and mount, and tapping me out time after time. I tried an armbar (hadn't officially learned it yet, was just imitating Youtube) and ended up getting the leg movements reversed. He used the opportunity to armbar me back, but gave me points for trying. I did manage to tap him once though, with a North South Choke, which was awesome. Dom was thrilled when I told him about that.

Tonight...well, I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Christian was off so Isley led a takedowns class and I paired up with Spaceman. I wasn't entirely successful with the rolling neck crank but we went slowly for safety reasons and I almost got it after hurting him once or twice (oops). Ironically, one thing I need to work on is not worrying about hurting people so much. I know it's kind of ridiculous that I'm the smaller person working with bigger guys and yet I catch myself thinking omg I don't want to break them!! especially since they spend most of their time crushing me. But I get concerned that I'll be too aggressive (at least when drilling, I don't care as much when I roll), do something wrong and hurt someone as a result of extreme incompetence. All I'm saying is, it's a damn good thing that everyone there seems to protect their junk with titanium cups...

With Christian out, the gi class turned into open mat and I rolled with Isley for a while. He took it easy and basically let me play, not trying too hard but enough to make it difficult for a newbie. He set me up a bunch of times to use the techniques we've been working on in the last few classes and I did some of them decently, although a few times I flat out gave him the submission. After that (I was already damn tired at this point), brown belt Carlo set a timer and told people to pair up for 30-minute rolls. I was like hah, glad I'm not in that class until he decided that gi or no gi, I was his first partner. Ah shit.

I was definitely on the verge of throwing up after that round. I've never been so tired, and he was barely even trying. It was essentially cat and mouse, and every time we finished, he'd swivel to his knees and say "again." I spent half the time feeling like a total spazz. I miserably failed my attempted americana but on the upside, I finally learned how to do a proper armbar from closed guard (he had me practice it a bunch of times from both sides and then set me up to try it while rolling) and made improvements to some other techniques, so it was worth the subsequent nausea.

When the timer went off, I collapsed into a chair and sat there pitifully with a 2-day-old water bottle pressed against my forehead like a cold compress. Liz started laughing at me because the damn bottle had been sitting in my bag at the gym for a while and was, at best, lukewarm. She pushed me to roll with her and Yanitza but I was ready to pass out and it took a long while of sitting around and talking with them and LJack before I felt somewhat recovered. Later, I did manage to roll with them briefly but being at the end of my tether, I couldn't put up half the fight I'd done earlier with other opponents, so around 10 pm I finally gave up and called it a night. And, in spite of the screaming muscles and brand new leopard-like bruise patterns, it was a great night.