I found Kelly Starrett’s blog about a year ago when I started to get back into strength training and I was having some anterior hip issues. Long story short, his blog is a gold mine for those that are interested increasing their mobility, preventing injury and, in general, learning about how and why the body moves the way it does. Every second month or so I fall into the MWod rabbit hole for a few hours, watching video after video. Most times it’s because I have a stiff shoulder or wonky ankle that I’m looking for ways to rehab, but after the first couple of videos, I’m generally just watching because 1) I find anatomy and bio-mechanics interesting, and 2) I like listening to people who are experts in their field speak about their areas of expertise. Most of his stuff is crossfit centered, but there are a few that talk about MMA specific issues. Until recently, I hadn’t seen him specifically talk about combative sport in any great detail. Continue reading
Unbelievably, we’re coming up on the 6 month mark since starting BJJ. It’s funny to think that at this point last year, BJJ was nowhere near our radar, but now it’s become a pretty central organizing principle in our lives. Oldest son starts soccer soon? How can we still get to train twice a week. Maui vacation coming up? Are there any schools we can get a training session in at while there. Thinking about moving closer to downtown to reduce the commute times? Must also factor in commute to BJJ school. From the technical growth aspect, well… I can at least say that I’m certainly “better” than when I started. But, there is so much to learn and so far to go in every position and/or situation that each class feels like a new undertaking. We’re also coming up on grading, which means there’s some traditional curriculum that we’re working through.
In the midst of a busy domestic schedule, I staged a heroic BJJ comeback from a
life-threatening thumb boo-boo injury. I was worried that this was going to derail any momentum I had built up, but with some creative taping and rapid learning of alternative grips, I was back at it 6 days later. The momentum I mentioned isn’t really so much momentum, it’s more of a feeling that I had reached a point with BJJ where I was more at ease with the learning curve. Techniques and their dozens of details still are a challenge at first, but I think what’s mostly left me is the fear of the unknown. Am I doing some unspoken thing wrong? Should I be learning this faster? What if I don’t do this or that right? I feel like I’ve got a better view of the landscape and even though that landscape is vast and challenging, that knowledge has in a way made my current classes mentally easier. By this I mean, I have so far to go in every conceivable direction that I can even if a class sees me struggle with drilling and getting crushed in rolling, all I need is one lesson learned and I’m better than I was yesterday. Continue reading
The last couple of days have been a lesson in just how important some things are that we take for granted. Coffee mugs, door knobs, cell phones, frying pans… it’s a long list of things that become very unwieldy when you’re down 50% of your thumbs. One aspect that I’ve liked about BJJ from the start is the relatively low instance of serious injuries from training. Now, accidents happen in any undertaking, but little bumps and strains don’t bother me too much. Up until this week, I’ve avoided any injuries of the more serious nature; the kind that limits your training and starts to affect your daily life. Things like getting your thumb caught during at poor attempt at a balloon sweep. Frustrating and annoying is what it comes down to; I’ve just reached a point where things make more sense and I felt like there was some progress being made.
We had worked through some grip breaking and other self defense standing escapes/counters and were working on a balloon sweep when someone grabs both your lapels. Step back, control the back of their elbows, lift a foot to their hip while you sit down, use their momentum to leverage them up and over. I was too tentative, not because I was worried about hurting myself but because I was worried I was going to dump my partner on his head in a awkward fashion. About three or four reps in, he was going over in a weird way and I adjusted my arm out to…, I don’t know, catch him? Ultimately my fault and my responsibility. It is after all, my thumb that was hanging out there. A lot of his weight landed on my thumb and before I could slip my elbow out from underneath. I heard/felt some gross crunching sounds. Tried to work the next drill, which was top control from mount, but by then my thumb was throbbing and screaming at the slightest brush. Time to take a week off and come back Tuesday (with the thumb taped in a sloth-hand position, I think). The lesson learned: arms in, thumbs in.
The rest of my life has been really inconsiderate lately and thus I’ve got behind on a few things. I’ve been working out again. Only twice a week, but have a program in place in advance of Maui in May. I’ve managed to get four classes plus an open mat over the last few weeks, but that’s eaten up pretty much all of my spare time remaining. That being said, I’ve felt like I’ve made some progress in BJJ in the last few weeks. I’m much more relaxed during sparring and feel like I can defend myself more consistently than a month ago. One specific way I sense the improvement is I can remember techniques or concepts from drills and instruction and actually attempt them in sparring. Yeah, I know. Crazy. Typically, classes went:
- warm up (tired by the end),
- drilling (confusing and awkward but made some sense),
- then sparring (randomly flail around under a barrage of attacks that seem to be coming from all angles)
Lately, the drilling has made some improvement, but the application of techniques from class during sparring is what has stood out for me. I’ve got a better feel for which positions and angles are dangerous when defending, and have started to see opportunities for attacks or positional advances. I’ve taken people’s back a few times (on purpose!), and tried a few attacks in certain positions that didn’t seem available before. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve got this BJJ thing licked, just… I’m a much better brand of bad than previous. Continue reading
We watched a documentary last night after BJJ called “Happy“. It’s a look at what it means to be happy, it’s importance to individuals and communities and the science behind how it all works. I definitely recommend it, as it gives some perspective on those universal questions like “what the hell am I doing?” and “why am I doing this?”.
Anyway, there are lots of interesting bits about things like the role of dopamine or the Hedonic treadmill, but relative to BJJ there was a section that looked at the high correlation between regular physical activity and happiness. Specifically, physical activities (i.e. sports) that allow a person to enter “flow“. There’s lots to be said about flow, it’s an idea that resonates with everyone. We all have experienced it and have the same feeling about it: it’s awesome. During this section (which featured an old surfer… I can’t wait to surf again in two months, here’s one of my fav surf videos), we looked at each other and smiled, saying the same thing at the same time: “man, that’s BJJ”. The mental and physical stimulation during BJJ is probably the number one thing we’ve enjoyed about BJJ so far. It’s really great, too, that this state of enjoyment is so accessible right from the beginning when we still generally suck at the art.
Anyway, class was good, too. Repeat of the previous classes’ “headlock in guard” drills, adding taking the back from “elbow on throat”. Continue reading
After my last break due to illness I had a brief (thankfully) stomach flu that wiped away another week of BJJ. I was only really (violently) ill for about 8 hours, but it took a few more days to feel close to normal. I tried to go to open mat on the weekend, but at the end of my first roll, even though it was a warm up/light roll, the nausea meter spiked and I didn’t feel much like entertaining the possibility of puking on the mats. Anyway, a few days later and my stomach situation was much more stable and predictable. This was my first prolonged break from BJJ and I have to say; I really missed it. My wife and I have been remarking constantly that we’re still surprised how much we’re enjoying this. Not that we were pessimistic about it, but it is still going better than we could have hoped for.
This class featured more standing self-defense grip breaking and a transition to armbar from closed guard. Continue reading
I was sick last week and as a result had about a 10 day break between BJJ sessions. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from something that’s ongoing. They say a break is as good as a change, probably due to the fresh look it provides. Sometimes a break comes at the wrong time and lose momentum you’ve built up and you struggle to get back in sync. My break was neither, and other than feeling physically tired during class (laying down for the better part of 4 days straight will do that) I felt pretty good, all things considered. We started with some self defense themed grip breaks (holding the wrist), then some wrist and elbow locks and ended with an escape from back control. Continue reading
Round 2 of the (hopefully) ongoing Edmonton women’s open mat series has been announced. Here’s the link to our gym’s website for more detailed information, along with the link to the Facebook event page.
And, here’s a link to the recap of the first even, which was a huge success by all accounts. My wife had a great time and is really looking forward to the next one.