June 26, 2012

King of the Hill

After much consideration, I've decided that I'm most definitely not a fan of "King of the Hill," which we often close out the Wednesday night class with. Why? Well, because I seem to be the only white belt in that class right now, which means that I last about 5-10 seconds before some blue, purple or brown belt flips me onto my head and boots me to the back of the line. Again and again.

Aside from the normally pitiful finish to the night, Wednesdays are still among my favorites. Last week, I ended up doing a warmup roll with Spike which, considering he's the biggest guy at the gym, was not so much a "warmup" as a OMG, can't breathe, so tired...wait, we still have a whole class left?! kind of roll. Afterwards, Carlo brought everyone together to demonstrate the first technique, which involved this complicated flipping and rolling of your partner straight over your face. When we broke to practice the move, Spike came over all motivated and enthusiastic, saying "Okay, let's do it!" I gave him the look - you know, the bitch, u out ur damn mind?! look - and paired up with Liz instead. Spike looked all let down that his warmup buddy had abandoned him, but considering I had enough trouble pulling off the move on Liz, it was indisputably the best decision for us both.

Speaking of which, it's like...raining X chromosomes here at Ronin lately. Where the hell are all of these women suddenly coming from? Besides me and Liz, there is now badass Kung Fu Xena and two new girls who joined the Fundamentals class, and others have been dropping by for kickboxing and weekend sessions here and there. I mean, at this rate we're really taking over the gym. Xena has officially become my favorite partner for standup work and if she decided to grapple, I think she'd be a great person to train jiu jitsu with as well. She's not sure about the whole slip-n'-slide sweating rivers of nastiness all over each other thing though. I'm still trying to convince her.

BJJ champ Felipe Costa came in to teach jiu jitsu all last week and sadly, I missed the first two days because I had to get more of that disgusting allergy testing done. I made up for it by working extra hard and staying super late on Wednesday, although it was hard to find space since the mats were so packed. I worked with Liz for most of the class, during which Felipe taught us a few new tricks. We closed out the class by rolling, so I had a few intense rounds with The Kid and Birdie (I'm so used to working with more experienced grapplers that it's always slightly disconcerting when I remember I'm actually up against someone newer for a change and need to stop abusing them), and then a slower flow roll with Diesel, which was a welcome relief.

As we bowed out, Brickling got promoted to blue belt (yay) and then almost everyone stayed for open mat, going one lengthy round after another, nonstop, until I thought my lungs were going to explode from the strain of breathing so hard. I went another round with The Kid and then took on KGB, who managed to tap me out with an americana right at the end, but I played very well against him otherwise. I still can't get over how much of a change I feel rolling with him now as opposed to a few months ago. To finish, I finally got to go a round with Trek for the first time in ages. He's great about working hard on his technique instead of resorting to powering through moves like some other big guys do. I got to play offense for the most part and although he swept me a few times, it was a pretty even game and I actually surprised him with a successful kimura from half guard...thank you Liz for making me practice the move during warmups earlier that evening!

On Thursday, we had an in-house blue belt tournament with snacks, soda, pizza, alcohol and lots of good-natured competitive spirit. Everyone was betting on the same two people to win but I told them it would be Diesel and LJack who came out on top and guess what...I was right. Diesel came over afterwards and asked if he'd made me a rich lady. Don't I wish. Considering the odds, if I'd bet actual money, I would've cleaned house! Next time I'll know better.

Side note: I was rolling with Frodo the other day, flipped up and totally landed on his junk. Luckily, he was wearing a good cup so there wasn't too much screaming. Honestly, I can't believe there are so many guys who grapple without wearing titanium. It seems reckless when doing a sport that involves so much close contact in and around the groin area. Not that I go out of my way to kick between the legs or anything but clearly, accidents do happen...

June 14, 2012

I Can Haz Groove Back (again)?

Oh lawdy, I've been reborn! After nearly a month of spiraling into sin, I've had almost a month of good, hard training to balance it out and am once more feeling great and on the road to healthy lifestyle salvation.

I've also been doing a lot more conditioning work lately since, as much as I love grappling and as much as it makes me sweat, the standup stuff kicks your ass into shape like nothing else. Saturday morning kickboxing has become a routine for me now. It's a smaller, more informal class than the weekday sessions but just as intense. Once, when Dom was teaching, I partnered up with a tall, lanky youngster that I've decided to call Kicker. The reason for this is that he decided - I'm still not clear on why - that he did not care to wear shin pads like everyone else, and spent the whole class kicking the same spot on my thigh with his bony shins...quite hard. I didn't want to be one of those whiny partners that bitches and moans about being too rough, but after a while it really started to hurt and I started to get irritated. So I began kicking him extra hard in return. He's a nice kid and we get along just fine, but I have some anger management issues and very low patience levels so I'm guessing we both went home with giant black and blue patches covering our legs that day. In retrospect, I probably could've handled it better, but what's the point of doing MMA if you can't get a little violent sometimes?

Last week was one of those lazy mornings and only two other students came. Jazz, presumably not wanting to inflict my epic levels of incompetence on either Archie or Kicker, paired them up together and took on the task of working with me, which was almost as good as getting a private lesson. He pushed me like a boot camp sergeant to work extra hard, focusing purely on developing my technique, which is often nonexistent. After 45 minutes, my punches were getting more technical and less flaily, and felt a bit more solid. I was even starting to get that warm fuzzy feeling one experiences when it seems like you're finally doing something right. Then came a bit of live sparring and it all fell apart. Once he realized what a particular disaster I was, Jazz started from scratch to teach me some basic defense, which was a big help although I still left with my ears hurting from failing to block too many times. On the upside, Xena is coming in once or twice a week now, which is nice considering she's 1) a much more experienced kickboxer than me and 2) actually in my weight class, so I don't stumble halfway across the gym every time she throws a kick.

Jiu Jitsu is continuing to go well. I've developed more of an appreciation for gi training now. The grips still piss me off since I can't do half of them with my right hand, but I try to mix and match gi and no-gi approaches to certain moves, which helps. There are a ton - and I mean a freakin ton - of new people coming in lately. It's funny how quickly you get used to introducing yourself in the most ridiculous positions. Like oops, sorry, didn't mean to grab that! Let me just get my arm around here and through the legs and...hi! I'm Reese! What's your name? Been training long? But it's great to be training with so many hard-working and enthusiastic people of all different levels. See picture above: me in the middle, in the back, in blue, in mount, beating up on brand newbie for a change.

After Fundamentals this week, I was trying to leave but Liz convinced me to stay for the start of the late class and do a "light warmup roll" with her, "just until Carlo's ready." I should've known not to trust either of them. Liz took the opportunity to kick my ass up and down the mat, enjoying herself way too much as she threw on one ridiculous submission after another, with Carlo sitting a few feet away, enjoying the show as he slowly ate an energy bar. Every time Liz started cranking my arm in this or that direction, I would call out asking if he was ready to take over yet. He just smiled and shrugged, and kept fucking eating. I think he's still bitter that I never gave him a proper nickname.

Best night ever: Christian, after seeing a bunch of updates on Facebook about my love for Backstreet Boys and NKOTB, decided to loop the same three Backstreet songs for an entire class, much to the dismay of everyone else. While I was rocking out to "Larger Than Life" over and over...and over...the boys looked like they were ready to have some kind of group meltdown. I have to say, it just doesn't get better than watching a bunch of badass tough guys kickboxing to "I Want It That Way" and "The One." It really doesn't. Frodo was the only one who wasn't tearing his hair out and that's because he was too busy laughing. Doubled over, nearly in tears, he was so entertained by the fact that I like old school boybands so much that he's still joking with me about it a month later.

June 1, 2012

The Return of Reese

So...I'm back! From my unofficial hiatus. It was totally unintentional but I only made it to the gym a few times last month. First, I lost a week due to skin allergy testing that resulted in me not being allowed to sweat lest all the disgusting chemicals plastered to my back mixed together into a toxic mess. Then I had some major projects to finish up for work and was so stressed out that I couldn't even conceive of taking an hour or two to train, even with the gym being just 15 minutes away. And then...well, okay, I admit it. I GOT LAZY. There, I said it. I got out of my routine and became an unmotivated couch potato, only hitting the gym four times in the space of 3-4 weeks. It was like a flashback to my past life...and it was totally unacceptable. NEVER AGAIN.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. As of two weeks ago, I got my lazy ass back on track and have picked up my routine again. Of course, every muscle in my body atrophied during this stupid month of sin and I feel like a total fatass for the moment, so I'm building back up to where I was a month before. It sucks. People...if you're ever thinking of taking time off from training and you don't have the luxury of an excuse involving broken bones or surgically altered body parts, don't do it! It's not worth the misery, regret and total shame!

Anyway, it feels great to be back on the mats and working my ass off once more. There are a lot of new faces lately and there's even a new chick in the mix who beat me up during kickboxing today, so I should have some fun new stories soon. Thanks for bearing with me during this embarrassing time and man, it's good to be blogging again. I had no idea everyone at the gym was so fucking concerned by my lack of updates but rest easy, guys, it's business as usual from here on out.

April 4, 2012

Six Months and Counting

Last Monday, class was running into open mat as usual. Christian had me jump in to drill escapes from mount with The Kid and even though I only caught the last 10 minutes, I was able to work up a sweat. When class ended, Brickling came over and seemed oddly determined to roll with me. I'm not sure why...maybe because I finally gave him a nickname here. At any rate, roll we did, for a damn long time. I'm not sure how much he gets out of it though, since he's insanely strong for such a short guy and has a wrestling background. He just kept tapping me out while I swore incessantly, but we had a good time.

On Wednesday, Liz warmed us up and it was brutal. I recommended that she stop torturing us and become a military drill sergeant instead. She seemed quite happy with the idea and promptly ordered what felt like a hundred more pushups. The class itself was a great lesson on armbars...from closed guard, then partner standing, then working flower sweeps if the armbar fails. I love Carlo's style of instruction and Wednesday night always has a particularly good crowd. I've felt a lot more competent with armbars since then; even if they don't always work, I think I'm executing them much better now. I also love working with Liz because one, she really knows her shit and two, we have similar sarcastic personalities. When you can make obnoxious, inappropriate jokes with your partner when something goes wrong...bonus. Stayed to roll for another hour when class was over, beginning with Scruffy who just kicked my ass up and down the mats without mercy. I did get an americana and an arm triangle choke on him at the end, but at least one of those was him feeling bad and giving me a win.

I wasn't going to stay for the late class on Thursday but Christian tricked me into it by telling me to "go defeat Diesel." I rolled lightly with Diesel for a while but it eventually turned into a warmup by stopping for short intervals of pushups, burpees, armbar swings, and before I knew it the class had started. So sneaky. I love working with Diesel though. He tends to roll slowly and precisely, favoring this calm, laid back flow style that allows you time to think about what you're doing and to consider the moves you might be able to try. Curly joined us once instruction began and the three of us worked together on rolling back attacks. I really enjoyed the first version from mount (let them catch your ankle, then swing a leg around and roll over your shoulder, taking them with you), but couldn't for my life get the other two variations right. Christian said that size and strength shouldn't matter,so I was clearly doing it wrong because both boys felt too damn heavy. I'll focus on the first version for now.

Wrapped up class by rolling with Shyguy, who I'd only drilled with twice before and had never actually sparred with (I used to think he was uncomfortable training with women but maybe that's because the first time we worked together was only my second time and now that he's seen me there for 6 months it's all good), then with Brickling and KGB. It occurred to me that night that I need to start practicing each technique for a while after class to burn it into my brain before I go. I sometimes rush to learn moves instead of internalizing the best form of execution before building up to speed.

Rolled with Dom for open mat over the weekend, then attempted to roll with Catman - I was so incompetent with him that it turned into more of a private lesson on standing guard passes - and ended the day by going up against Spike. I've noticed lately that by the time Saturday comes, I'm feeling extremely lazy and low energy, and don't end up being all that productive on the mats. I need to start motivating myself to put in a bit more effort on the weekends, like I did when I first began. Of course, at that time I was only going 3 days rather than 4-6 times a week.

Monday, however, was the best open mat I've had in a while, and the most productive. Admittedly, I often take lengthy breaks. I roll, I get tired, I chill for a long time like a beached whale, then I roll again, then chill again...and sometimes it makes me feel lazy. Not this week. I came, stretched out and rolled with one person after another for an hour and a half with very few breaks. It was goddamn refreshing. I warmed up with Krypton, who was not fucking around that night, and spent most of the time desperately trying to escape back control. With Curly next, who went harder on me than usual, which I expected after giving him such hell during our last roll. He tapped me out a bunch but I did get him in an arm triangle choke once and executed it quickly and efficiently. Went a few rounds with KGB next and it was the best I've done against him yet. He did submit me a few times but rather than spending the rest of the time just floundering on the bottom, I did much better at defense, got a successful hip bump, held mount really well for a while and almost got a keylock on him. It was a much more equal roll than usual and even if I still technically got my ass kicked...progress!

Spaceman finally returned to the mats and we got to roll for the first time in three months. It was awesome. I was expecting to do a bit better since I've had so much more time on the mats recently, but I made some dumbass mistakes and walked into a couple of chokes and an armbar, so he deserved the wins. That said, I did get an americana on him...had to work like hell for it too, no freebies there, so I really earned it. I rarely feel that way about my submissions.

Tonight we worked spider guard sweeps, which I'm not a real fan of due to trouble with the grips, but it was a fun class and a very intense workout. We started off with what was supposed to be a "light roll" and ended up being a lengthy and utterly exhausting few rounds instead. I paired up with blue belt Rex, who I'd seen around but never talked to before, and we quickly tired ourselves out. During open mat, I rolled with fellow white belt Tigger, who is new to Ronin but must've studied BJJ elsewhere. I've only started seeing him around recently but he certainly knows what he's doing and, although it was a fairly even back-and-forth match, he did manage to armbar me twice. Finished by facing off with Scruffy and gave him a run for his money this time, finally catching him in a fairly well executed armbar from guard, which he was actually fighting against, so I damn sure earned that one too.

On a side note, The Kid is currently pretending to not speak to me because I refused to roll with him since he jacked up my arm, and now he's a little offended. It seems that he went home the day it happened, immediately forgot all about it, and now can't understand why I feel the need to be careful. I'll see what I can do to make him feel less left out until my arm has fully recovered.

March 25, 2012

The 28th Year

I turned 28 at the beginning of this month and for the first time in years, I'm down to 137 lbs and fitting into clothes that I'd given up all hope on long ago. It's an amazing feeling and I'm more inspired now than ever to keep at it.

A few weeks ago, I went to Rocky's weekend conditioning class, which I normally avoid because it makes me want to throw up (a few people actually have in the past...seriously, into the trash can near the door...one of them twice in an hour). Personally, I haven't built up the proper endurance to survive it yet and it nearly killed me. I was also thoroughly shamed at one point when we lined up for a drill that the other women (there are two ladies who come in just for the conditioning class once a week) made look so easy, and one of these chicks is a total stick. I was watching them do it and thinking to myself pfft...I'll make them look silly. But when my turn came, I couldn't do it. AT ALL. Everyone was extremely encouraging though, and I eventually made it through the class with a lot of bitching, moaning and a sacrilegious amount of swearing.

Feeling slightly less disastrous when it comes to kickboxing, although still very self-conscious about my lack of standup skills. Curly paired up with me the other day and I did end up getting the combinations down without feeling as lost as I normally do. For the first time in ages, I didn't sit anything out due to injury and was able to keep up with everyone else. I started to fall apart near the end (Christian always wraps up the last 10 minutes with a second wave of brutal conditioning work) but Curly kept yelling at me to stay with it and not give up, and I somehow made it.

Later in the week, I rolled with Krypton for the first time in a few weeks and he said he noticed a real difference. I got a great pass at one point by twisting my hips and maneuvering around the side, and I don't know which one of us was more surprised. I also did very well at holding mount and got props for landing an unexpected North South choke. At one point, Krypton used the size difference to just step over into mount, paused for a second, shook his head and went "oh that was just cheap" and then reset, which cracked me up. After six months, he's still one of my favorite people to work with. Unfortunately, I went a few rounds with The Kid next and, after wrecking him for 20 minutes, finally went easier to let him play offense. Mistake. He got overly excited about an Americana while my other arm was trapped and had apparently never heard of verbally tapping out. I had to yell it six times before he stopped, at which point I was in a lot of pain.

I decided months ago that if I stayed home every time I was hurting, I'd never get to work out, so I've been logging mat hours 4-5 times a week regardless of any injuries. I did a warmup roll a few days after The Kid tried to detach my shoulder and the jacked up arm started to feel like lead almost immediately, becoming heavy and achy before the class even began. I worked in with Jazz and Scruffy and did my best to keep up but by the time we finished, the arm was too tired to even lift a near-empty water bottle without shaking.

Had a lot of work to do this Monday so I couldn't stay for long, but I did manage to swing by and get in thirty solid minutes with Rits and Birdy. Rits has become a good friend of mine outside of the gym but in spite of talking constantly, we haven't actually trained together since I first began, so it was nice to roll with him for once. Birdy is part of Big Boy's kiddie club, so although he's strong, he's both young and less experienced, which is a combination that I don't often get. I had to keep reminding myself to play nice and let him, you know, do something instead of just submitting him again and again. I'm not going to say that it wasn't satisfying to work my offense and beat up on someone else for a change, but next time I'll aim for more of a balance and less blatant douchebaggery.

Wednesday was a great class on breaking and passing the De la Riva. Carlo yelled at me a few times to stop being so nice to Trek and to push down harder and "try to break his fucking ribs," but I otherwise did well with the moves. Of course, I strained my ass again in the process but what can you do. Rascal was in one of his moods during kickboxing last night and he completely destroyed us with conditioning work, so there was extra suffering involved. At one point, however, he did yell out encouragement that he's finally starting to notice a tricep or two. For the last part of the class, he had everyone take turns beating up one kid for his birthday, and by everyone, I mean everyone except for me because I'm still too much of a pussball to spar. Fundamentals was solid as well and I learned a few awesome sweeps with Wardog that I can't wait to try live. My left shoulder is still feeling a bit weak but much better these days, and I should be fully recovered soon enough. Can't wait to see what the next few months bring!

February 11, 2012

In Which I Become a Badass

Well...not really, but at least I'm moving in the right direction. In the grand scheme of things, I still know nothing. I'm a total newb. And I still spend half the time feeling like WTF am I doing? But the other half of the time, I'm slowly learning in a way that's becoming more noticeable to me on an individual level. I think I'm more aware of my own improvements now instead of only recognizing the flaws (and believe me, those are endless). People are also challenging me more now and adjusting their game, which I'm assuming is a good sign. At one point, I rolled with Isley after class and tapped him out in about 30 seconds by way of RNC. He got up, looked around, said "Jesus, I hope no one saw that" and then went extra hard on me afterwards. I was pretty thrilled.

Last week was the bi-monthly women's open mat at Clockwork. I was tired and almost skipped it, but I'm so glad I went. Although I got trounced by a couple of purple belts, the same whites and blues who had wiped the mat with me just two months before were really struggling this time. I spent most of the time on the offensive, got a few submissions and pulled off a number of what my partners referred to as "totally epic escapes." It's hard to gauge your own progress when you roll with the same people (particularly of the more experienced and/or larger variety), so I was excited to be in a different setting and to notice such a significant difference in my own game.

Back at Ronin, I've come to love Wednesday night gi class. Unfortunately, Carlo insists on people using their full weight to make the person on the bottom miserable. That was all fine and well when I was practicing on Rascal, but when it came time for his turn, the whole heavier person sitting on your ribs thing was not quite as thrilling. When he started, I asked him to please try not to break anything, which he found funny, laughed at and then proceeded to try to break everything. The class concluded with a round robin set of 6 minute rolls with no breaks, and I nearly fucking died. I went with Carlo first, which was utterly exhausting, then Lucky, who I did well against, and then Krypton, which pretty much did me in...and then I realized we were only halfway done. Rolled with Liz next, who used the time to practice a number of painful submissions, crushing every muscle in my body and tapping me out again and again at record speed. Damn little maniac. Thumper was next (our roll was somewhat half-assed because I could barely move at that point), and then closed it out with Rascal. After lying around like roadkill for a while, I joined Liz, Carlo and Krypton for their weekly conditioning work. I wasn't going to, but Krypton gleefully discovered that he could peer pressure me into it by insisting that if I didn't join them, he'd have to sit out too. So I gave in and suffered through a whole bunch of painful abs exercises. I was wrecked by the time I got home but it was a good night.

Last Monday, I stayed late and finished by rolling with Jazz. Jazz is kind of a giant, so it was a bit like David and Goliath but without the inspirational ending. At one point, he pulled off the most outrageous mount escape I've ever seen, doing some sort of yoga ninja move to flip over on top, essentially ending up sitting on my head. WHAT THE FREAKIN HELL. I missed Saturday's wrestling class but did make it in for open mat. Jen Flannery and Ryan Hall from 50/50 had stopped in for the afternoon, and holy shit, Jen is amazing. She's so tiny, weighs about as much as a feather and just devastates her partners. I was completely transfixed by her roll with Diesel...it looked like she was just floating on top of him and no matter what he did, she was always in control. It was pretty spectacular.

Later, I rolled with Wardog and did quite well in spite of his consistent use of raw strength. Isley got on his case for that and eventually banished him and took over to roll with me. Schizo offered to go a couple rounds with me afterwards, which was an epic workout. The main problem with him is that I take too long to figure out what I should be doing in any given position. By the time I make a decision, he's already got his full weight down and once that happens, it's over because the guy is a fucking tank. I have to work on getting into good defensive positions before it becomes impossible to move. I actually did much better when I rolled with him today. He subbed me once or twice with triangles but aside from that, I did well with maintaining defense, getting to half guard and even managing a couple of sweeps. Krypton was watching and came over at the end to remind me to get the underhook and to get deeper for the sweep, so I practiced that a few times with Schizo and found it so much easier to flip him over. I'll have to keep that in mind and try again next time.

Highlight of the week: I had an absolutely amazing 20 minute roll with Homeboy. It had to be the most exhausting match I've ever had. He's been out lately and I've been coming so often that we've very much evened out. Neither one of us was holding back, so it was a fantastic chance to test myself. I got 3 submissions (arm triangle choke, stepover armbar and RNC) and he got two or three as well. We rolled all over the mat...it was so fluid and so cool. I had a bit of an epiphany, like oh wow, THIS is what rolling should be like! Everything seemed to slow down and I was able to focus on one thing at a time. When we finished, my arms felt like lead and I basically passed out, chilling against the wall with Rits for half the night. By the time the gym was nearly empty, and I was ready to give up and head home, Christian demanded that either Isley or I roll with Buzz. Isley mumbled some sort of zoned out reply (he seemed even more wrecked than I was), so I took up the offer and I'm really glad that I did. It was good to get one more match in and I got a lot of practice with passing guard (got a tripod pass once, which elicited a pained grunt, followed by "good job").

Unfortunately, during this week's gi class, I did a light warmup roll with Lucky and somehow strained what I refer to as an ass muscle but what must be my right hamstring. Of course, the moment I referred to it as an ass muscle, it became an ongoing joke. Liz and Carlo couldn't stop spouting off pervy comments and snarky retorts. I wasn't sure that I'd be able to participate in the class, given the debilitating pain when twisting in certain directions, but luckily, we were doing an easygoing taking-the-back lesson so I worked with Liz, used minimal lower body movement and had fun learning my first collar choke.

January 19, 2012

Reese On a Roll

After four straight days of intensive training, my body desperately needed a break so I skipped Friday's open mat and went for an low key wrestling class on Saturday. Rolled with Dom afterwards and got it on camera, which I later watched a whole bunch of times to see where I'm going wrong. Looking at it, there are so many bad decisions going on and there are an equal number of things that I should be doing but am not thinking about in the moment. So it's good to reflect on my many incompetencies with a visual aid. Also, the 15 - 20 lbs I still need to lose? Yep, that really needs to go. Like, asap.

Monday was intense. Did a warmup roll with Thumper, who pulled some awesome sweeps on me, then paired up with him for takedowns. Later, we drilled by hand fighting round robin style. Went with Thumper first, then Curly, Lostboy and Schizo, who I didn't have much luck with but then again, he's been wrestling for a long time so it's understandable that he'd be good at, like...wrestling. Near the end of class, I switched to Lostboy for upside down D'arce chokes, which I did quite well with although he struggled a bit and did more neck cranking than anything else.

Class was followed by a great open mat. Rolled with Thumper for a few rounds and did better, then Lostboy and got a genuine submission - a rare occurrence for me - by way of stepover armbar, which is turning out to be one of my favorite moves, and then Jersey, which didn't go so well...darn blue belts. To wrap it up, I beat up The Kid a bit which in retrospect wasn't very nice. The poor guy spent 4 minutes stuck on the bottom and then bailed after I got an americana, even though we still had nearly 2 minutes left on the clock. Oops. Next time I'll try not to be such a dick.

Kickboxing was expectedly brutal...pure cardio work start to finish. KGB made it look annoyingly easy, of course. If the five billion and one pushups and situps fazed him, he damn sure didn't show it. I was right next to him, so it looked extra bad whenever I had to stop and recover. After class, I rolled with him for a while and although I basically spent 99.9% of the time trying to bridge and shrimp out of mount, side control and fuck knows what else (eventually got tapped out by RNC), the near-six-minute round was a marked improvement from the very first time we rolled two and a half months ago, where I got choked out in literally 10 seconds. Lasting for 6 minutes, even if most of it was spent flailing around on the bottom, means that I'm learning something (such as how to get to and hold half guard, even if I generally fail at doing anything else from there).

Phyiscal therapy ran over so I got to gi class half an hour late yesterday and tried to get my stretching done quickly while others paired up for warmups. I didn't get away with it for long though. Carlo finally noticed, asked what the fuck I was doing and said to find a friend and get to work. I partnered with Jacks, a blue belt who had also come late, to drill armbars from different positions (knee on belly, side control and from the back, all ending up in same place for the submission). It was fantastic stuff to learn, a great set of moves and I got them down pretty fast. Now, if only I could think clearly enough to use them in the moment instead of forgetting everything halfway through...

Rolled with Thumper for a long while after class. Trek watched us as he did his own exercises nearby, offering commentary here and there such as "Don't accept that, Reese! Take him out!" It was a really good round except for a brief moment where I ducked down at an awkward angle and got stabbed just between the eyelid and eyebrow with his toenail. I looked in the mirror later and realized how lucky I'd been. Another inch lower and I might've had a serious eye injury.

I attempted to take a break after that but Carlo called me over for the next round and damn, he's intense. I still remember being a wreck the first time I ever rolled with him, and now that I have a vague sense of what I'm doing, he pushes me even more. He was chuckling a lot this time, which is never a good sign. When Carlo does his maniacal chuckle, it means one of two things: either you're about to get royally fucked up or you're missing a great submission that's right in your face. He taught me the hitchhiker escape from armbar and had me practice it over and over from different sides. Really, there's no room to breathe with him; it's just one move after another and before you can even think about resetting, he throws out some other move and is like "What are you doing? LET'S GO!" I learn so much from him every time though; it's awesome.

Tried to take another break but Liz offered to teach me omoplatas, which was fun although good luck to me trying to remember all of those damn steps. Had a good round with C-Bear next and ended by going a few rounds with Trek. I'd drilled with him before but we'd never actually sparred, so I wasn't sure how I'd do. It ended up being a great round, though...one of those rare occasions where I actually felt like I knew what I was doing. A whole group was watching us and C-Bear and the others started cheering with shit like "Whoa, look at that!" and "Yeah, punish him, Reese!" Curly said afterwards that I was like a little wild animal all over him. Trek and I finished by going over kimuras and then I saw that Liz, Krypton and Carlo had some sort of boot camp in progress on the sidelines. I made the mistake of walking over and got peer pressured into joining them for a final set of painful abs work, although by the time Carlo demanded 100 pushups, I called it a night.

Kickboxing was mostly round robin sparring today. I'm still having trouble with blocking but am doing slightly better with punches and combos. Sadly, my momentum was interrupted at the start of gi class when I jacked up my upper arm/shoulder by falling on it hard during a sweep...twice in a row. The first time hurt but wasn't debilitating. The second time jarred the bone and sent lightning bolts of pain through my arm, leaving it tingling to the fingertips. I had already been putting a lot of strain on it between the kickboxing and pushups, so that was sort of the final straw and my body went into fuck you mode. Carlo came over to do his physical therapisty thing and determined that it was not, in fact, a life threatening injury. His advice was to just "ice the shit out of it for a week."

Since I didn't want to risk further strain, I sat out to ice the shoulder and tried to learn by observing the rest of the class. My arm eventually felt good enough to do some light stuff so I worked with Liz, who was also sitting out for the moment, wondering whether or not she'd just broken her thumb, and she helped me practice back escapes and then s-mount armbars, going at like .05 % so that neither of us fucked ourselves up further. Near the end of open mat, I was meandering around aimlessly when Krypton rolled over from a few feet away (literally just came tumbling head over heels) and went for inverted guard, so I ran with it. A little voice in back of head was saying Dont do it! Stay away from the big dudes or you'll mess up your shoulder even more! but I ignored the stupid little voice and am glad I did because it was a nice, fun roll and more importantly, I managed some really good stuff...like my first ever successful armbar from closed guard (as in, in the moment, not just drilling). I set up the armbar and in response, Krypton stood up to try to get out. Granted, he wasn't going too hard but still...I had to put in the effort to make it work, without time to think about it, and for once it actually did work. I also got my first ever sweep on him. Even in the past when he wasn't resisting at all, I was unable to sweep him because I didnt get the technique right. Tonight, something just clicked and I did. It was pretty damn thrilling.

I'm off to Charleston for the weekend, which means total inactivity for the next three days and that's probably a good thing. Even without the shoulder problems, I've been training extra hard lately and do need the rest. It'll be good to take a short break before starting again on Monday.

January 12, 2012

I Can Haz Groove Back?

I've been training nonstop lately and am feeling so good, physically and mentally. We spent Monday working on knee-on-belly transitions (having trouble with those...not quite acrobatic enough yet) and kneebars, which I enjoyed. The guy I paired up with was big, which doesn't usually bother me except that some of the moves required sitting on the other person's stomach or chest, full weight, and it really fucking hurt. So towards the end of class, we split up and he worked in with another pair of big dudes while I joined Frodo and Yanitza. I think it was far more beneficial to both of us that way. Stayed for open mat and rolled with everyone, including Ironman, who did the usual leaning back casually with his head in his hands and kicking me across the mat every time I tried to pass his guard. At one point, I did pass and even got to mount. Unfortunately, I was so proud of myself that I completely forgot what to do from there and he eventually just sat up and threw me off again. Dammit.

On a positive note, I haven't been completely sucking at kickboxing, which is a great change from the norm. I'm not doing well per se, but neither am I make a total moron of myself, so I consider it a win, even if the conditioning work still makes me want to cry. Went for my first Wednesday class yesterday, for Carlo's gi session. Jumped Curly from behind while he was in the middle of a tough love speech to a new kid and got a little warmup roll in. I hadn't worked with him recently and was very happy to hear him say with some level of surprise "oh, look at you getting all good and shit!" Paired up with Liz for class to do armbars from all kinds of places. I had no idea you could armbar the hell out of someone when they stood up in closed guard...must try that sometime.

Rolled with Spaceman for a few rounds during open mat, starting from standing and working our takedowns. I caught him in a guillotine the first time, held it for a bit but then lost my balance and he ended up on top, eventually passing and getting an arm triangle choke. Did fine with defense overall but didn't have much luck with offense or escapes tonight. His pressure was really on and I could barely move. C-Bear was sitting on the mat next to us and started up with his funny boxing commentator thing, but I ended up getting so confused and distracted that I flat out gave my partner the next submission and had to tell my enthusiastic "coach" to shut it.

Rolled with Krypton next and lasted 20 seconds longer than last time before he crushed me, which I feel is a great improvement. After some initial abuse, he did let me work my moves and although sweep efforts were futile, I got some great practice at holding half guard, trying to take the back and trying to pass. It took a very long time and every ounce of energy my arms had, but I finally got a successful choke. He also spent some time giving me pointers on improving my Shoulder of Justice and using it to escape half guard, which I felt really good about by the time we finished.

Wrapped up by rolling with Wardog. I was transitioning pretty fluidly and was able to make use of Krypton's earlier crossfacing tips, which got me out of half guard and into side control really fast a whole bunch of times. I was cursing myself at one point when he remembered the moves we'd learned on Monday (mount to gift wrap) and caught me in that annoying death hold. Fortunately, he blanked out on what to do next and I was able to escape and turn it back on him.

Tonight...wow. I didn't think I'd be able to do it but I managed to stay for all three classes...4.5 hours in all. Liz led gi class today and to "warm up," she ran us through a series of unusual exercises, including a few rounds of dodgeball during which I got repeatedly smashed in the face in spite of the "no head shots" rule. The first culprit was Trek, who beaned me at high velocity from across the room. Seeing as he's one of the biggest guys at the gym and throws like a speeding mack truck, he felt really bad and kept apologizing, even though I repeatedly said it was fine. Sure, it hurt like hell for 20 minutes and I was wondering how black my eye would eventually turn, but I grew up getting kicked in the face with soccer cleats as a star goalkeeper so really, life goes on. Unfortunately, rogue dodgeballs just started to find me after that. I got hit in the face multiple times, including once when I was hiding behind a pillar and the fucking ball bounced off the wall and smacked into my nose. LJack nearly fell over in a fit of laughter at that point and I have to admit, even though it was pretty damn painful the whole thing was so WTF that it was also pretty damn funny.

When class ended, a bunch of us hung around for another hour and a half. I took a break, did some cell phone photography (Liz kindly offered to take a few pictures of me getting choked out or armbarred) and then rolled with Spike. And when I say "rolled" I mean "attempted to do something, anything at all, and failed." Took another break to record Yanitza and Curly's weekly showdown, then trained with Krypton for a long while. Ended up having a really good round with him and was able to use the crossface-from-half-guard escape a few times too. Afterwards, he gave me some new tips on stepping in to get the pass and I have to say, so far the guy's advice has consistently ended up working really well for me against other people, so I take all the suggestions I can get.

Side note: I've finally encountered my first spazz. This kid is small but still gets crazy, trying to power out of everything. He flails around like a dying bug instead of making a conscious effort to learn the techniques. As a result, he tends to body slam people, which is not appreciated, and, instead of properly applying chokes, violently drives his forearm into people's throats. He seems to think he can step onto the mats and magically kick ass because he's seen some Youtube videos and taken 2-3 classes. Still, everyone's being very patient, telling him politely but firmly to chill out and take time to learn the techniques, so he's got plenty of support and will likely shape up soon.

January 5, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

1) Stop saying Oh shit, I'm sorry! or variations thereupon. Remember that everyone is there to learn. Constant apologies for utter incompetence, smacks to the face, accidental junk grabs and so on are unnecessary. As Trek so eloquently put it, "If you kick me in the eye or smash the groin, unintentionally - or especially intentionally - you should be sorry. Definitely be sorry if it's intentional. Otherwise, don't be." Apparently, I'm too nice. This is news to me. I'm usually an insensitive, mildly sociopathic asshole. Must work on finding a happy balance.

2) Stop belittling my own progression. When I do something right or pick up a move fast, stop assuming that I just got lucky, that it was especially easy, or that my partner let me do it. Sometimes that's the case, but lately I've been doing fairly well all on my own.

3) Remember that some moves will work great and some will not, depending on technique, partner, mood and other factors. It's not a life-destroying setback if I get one move or variation down but am not immediately successful with another.

4) Stop destroying partners during drills. Just because they're big doesn't mean they don't need time to learn the move too. Goal: go a full session without Christian saying "Go easy, you're just practicing here! Control the blood lust!"

5) Learn how to block properly so that people stop punching me in the face.

6) Successfully make it through one set of pyramid kicks.

7) Successfully make it through one set of pyramid kicks without looking like an idiot.


As you can see, it's a brand new year...3 months in and I'm still having a blast. Admittedly, I lost my groove a bit after the last update what with the binge eating and laziness that goes along with the holiday season. Only hit the gym once over the following week and a half, and the one day I went in, I just wasn't feeling it. Headache, lack of motivation, the list goes on. Thankfully, I got my couch potato ass moving again this week and finally seem to be back on track.

Class started late on Monday. When I walked in, it looked like open mat: post-holiday warzone style...everyone was trying to burn off their sins from the previous week. Yanitza had shown up for her first Monday, so I rolled with her a while. Note for future: her thighs of death are not to be trifled with. For a smaller person, she can seriously crack some ribs. I must learn her tricks. Actually, most of the small people around here have killer thighs, like Brickling and Frodo. I guess being shorter and lighter means they've found ways to compensate. I'm trying to study and learn from them all.

Skipped kickboxing on Tuesday but Fundamentals was good. Worked with KGB on maintaining mount, applying submissions and transitioning to triangle arm chokes and back control. I did decently, even though my legs weren't long enough to sprawl effectively at times. Drilled the moves later with Wardog, who kicked my ass a bit - an unfortunate change from our last time together when I did so well and he was the one struggling. Of course, we were both tired by then and he was completely throwing his weight around. He even admitted that he was using pure strength and virtually no skill at that point. He called it the "fat man technique." Not that he's actually fat, but he was feeling like a bit of a doughboy after the break as well. I can relate.

I had a bit of a panic attack when I got home later and realized that my left ear was warm, hurting and visibly swollen, but after seeing a doctor, I was told that it was bruised, hardly cauliflower ear, and to just take some advil and chill out. Did I mention that I suffer from mild hypochondria? In my defense though, I spent all evening getting the fuck squeezed out of my head by two very strong guys, so better safe than sorry.

Throbbing ears aside, tonight was incredibly fun as well. I finally hauled ass in for kickboxing and Rascal's torture circle of abs exercises was refreshing after nearly two weeks off. Although I felt really stupid, as usual, I did slightly better with blocking today. Very slightly. Started out drilling basic combinations with Diesel, then moved into sparring...extremely light sparring, in my case, lest I got bashed in the head because I kept catching opponents' hands like a cat instead of swatting and blocking properly. Oh well. Sparred with Diesel first, then Spaceman, who went harder and challenged me a bit. God, did I feel like a moron throwing up the wrong hands at all the wrong times. I quickly gave up on even trying to block the kicks and just focused on the blows coming at my head. Sparred with The Kid next, who was nice but who didn't seem to want to throw any kicks, and then wrapped it up with Big Boy, who made me dizzy circling around so much but did help me get into a groove with blocking punches. Ended the class with a series of pyramid kicks, also with Big Boy, at which I predictably failed miserably. Rascal makes it look annoyingly easy but kicking that fast, that many times...holy shit. I vow right now to be more consistent with those classes because I hate feeling so lost.

Fundamentals went much better, of course. We continued our theme from Tuesday and I paired up with Wardog to do more mount transitions and submissions. I love the guy but he can be a bit of a spazz to roll with because he really works the pure strength angle. He also decided not to wear a cup tonight...he finally informed me of this right when I had my head trapped near his crotch while doing armbars, because he didn't want to get elbowed in the balls. Thanks, buddy.

Near the end of class, we switched it up and I drilled with Killer for a while. Got his back at one point just as Christian was passing, and was told that I'd have gotten points for it in a competition. Killer, of course, decided that vengeance was absolutely necessary and threw out some surprise moves the following round to get my back. He muscled his way into a rear naked choke and said "so...we've established that this means points, right?" Smug bastard. We had fun with that though.

All in all, it's good to be back to my routine of healthy eating and regular exercise. I felt so out of sorts without my gym time over the holiday break...let's not do that again.