Wednesday, December 30, 2015

One Year (almost)

I started officially training in Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu last January.

I'm not sure of the exact date, and I had received a more than adequate introduction to it from my friends long before I made it official, so I'm saying it's been "about a year."  One training buddy in particular was drilling his own material with me on a regular basis for months before, although I won't pretend I understood much of what he was doing to me, only that it was awesome and the skills I had learned in many intense years of JSD training were useless against him once we were on the ground.

I still do JSD, but roughly 4 days per week, I'm doing this now:

It's sweaty.  It's gross.  It's difficult and often painful.  It requires all of my physical and mental effort, and I leave feeling absolutely exhausted.

It's also the most fun I've ever had on a regular basis.  And it's very, very addictive.

This last year, I've trained there at least 150 hours. But between those hours actually spent in the school, on the mats, I've watched countless videos, read countless books and articles, spent countless hours with the guru and other friends discussing or drilling outside of class.  And despite all of that learning, all of that work, I still feel like I've only begun to scratch the surface of all there is to learn and master.

It's easy to see why it takes an average of 10-12 years to get a black belt in BJJ.

With one of those years behind me now, and 3 stripes on my belt, I feel like I know enough to comfortably introduce a new student to a few important concepts or moves, but I wouldn't venture beyond that.  And when I learn something new in a class or seminar, it still takes a ridiculous amount of repetition (and writing it down in my notebook) for me to retain it, let alone remember the steps and use it when free-rolling.

I've been at this long enough to develop a few habits when free-rolling, which are hopefully good habits, but will no doubt change as I learn more and expand my repertoire.  Right now, my top game consists of getting to side control or kesa gatame, going for an armbar or to mount, and then an arm triangle choke.  My bottom game is about defense and survival.  If I can get my partner in my guard, I wrap an arm, grab the opposite lapel and go for a choke or armbar.  I've given up on the triangle choke for now - it wasn't working and I just wound up getting passed.  I'll revisit it when I'm better. I've experimented with a few sweeps, but they're still clumsy and I haven't mastered the timing of them.  I'm starting to work on standing guard passes, but again, they are clumsy and ill-timed.

It all needs work, and I'm not especially patient with myself, but when I line up now, I'm in the middle of the pack, and I know I'm improving when I roll with a newer person, especially if we're close to the same size.  Of course, just about no one there IS my same size.  I'm 123 pounds, and the biggest compliment I get there right now is, "Wow, you feel really heavy tonight!" When I roll with one of the prepubescent kids and can toss him around without a care, even with his full weight on me, I know what it feels like for 90% of the adults who roll with me.  I've resigned myself to the fact that, just like at JSD, I have to work 10x harder to get the same results.  At BJJ, to make up for the fact that I am smaller and weaker, I need to be that much more technical.  I have to know it, and know it well, because I can't rely on size, muscle or athleticism.

Fortunately, I have coaches, including my wonderful GirlCoach, who understand this and are incredibly supportive and encouraging.  And there are several others (in addition to the Girl Coach) who are smaller than their usual training partners but who hold their own nonetheless. These are the people who inspire me because they show me what technique can accomplish against bigger and stronger opponents.

I still feel like a newbie, but in many ways, I've come so far in the last year.  Glad I decided to take the plunge a year ago and commit to this new challenge.  It's already changed me in so many ways, and introduced me to so many wonderful people.  I'm looking forward to the coming year.

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