Being A Good Partner

By the time I moved to BETA Academy, there were only 3 of us regulars left at my old academy. We all made the move together to BETA, but only two of us have been able to regularly take class together, due to work schedules. It’s been wonderful to have somebody I already know training with me at a new academy. I’m painfully shy, and the idea of getting to know 20+ new people all at once was very intimidating. Having that familiar face around really made the difference. I think without her there, I would have quit jiu jitsu – I’m just that painfully shy, and on top of that…

I’m by far and away the heaviest of the girls training at BETA. I’m also very short. This makes me a difficult training partner in the best of circumstances. I don’t know what I would have done without my ‘old’ training partner there to keep working with me. She’s been training with me from day one, and she is incredibly fit – she can actually muscle my weight around.  She is patient with how out of shape I am, and is never anything but encouraging.  I always learn something new when I’m working with her, and I always push myself a little bit harder to keep up. I try to give good feedback as we drill, like saying that the pressure isn’t painful enough (heh), or that it feels like if I do ‘this move’ I could escape… I’m only a white belt and I don’t know much, but I do want to help her. Despite that,  I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m holding her back when she keeps using me as a drilling partner instead of one of the lighter, quicker girls. I may be benefiting, but I worry she is not.

Last night after class, as we drove back home my training partner told me that she is very happy to be my training partner. I was actually floored – here I was thinking I was a nuisance to her, and she was happy to keep working with me. It really meant a lot to me to hear that. It makes me want to work harder, too, to be the best training partner I can be for her so that as we both progress we can keep training together.

Have you told your training partners how happy you are to work with them lately?


White Belt Chronicles

We were drilling a sequence in class today of starting a long range pass, the opponent blocks, and you transition to a second pass. The pass starts by pulling down the opponent’s leg and sprawling over into side control. They block as you start to pull down by bringing up the other leg across your body. You then trap the leg between your arm and knee and do a leg drag and complete by passing to the other side and into side control.

As as we were working it, my partner and I discussed the block with the coach and she gave us the go-ahead to play around with it a little to see what other blocks we could come up with. This resulted in about ten minutes of “well that is how NOT to try to block…” hilarity (But also good to know!). Finally my partner went inverted on one attempt, but I had managed to trap her leg under me and thus force her out of it and she started to turtle.

I saw the opportunity to take her back, and went for it. “Aha!” I thought, “I am recognizing openings!” Oh hubris. I got my grips in. I tried to get my hips lined up… And fell off, to the side.

…Just as the coach walked back over to check on us.

She had to ask who was supposed to be doing the pass, and when I allowed that it was me, we all had a good laugh.

After class she made sure to show me how to keep the back instead of sliding off.

Ana Lowry Seminar

As I previously mentioned, our gym has been super lucky to have brown belt Ana Lowry teaching us for the month of January.  She has been running the evening BJJ fundamentals classes, and taking the lead on the Sunday women’s open mats.  Yesterday she put on a seminar open to everyone. It was about 2.5 hours of amazing Jiu Jitsu lessons. Ana kept apologizing for talking a lot, but if you were listening to her, she had some incredible words of wisdom*.

One of the messages that really stuck out is that Jiu Jitsu is for EVERYONE. Ana discussed how the trend in BJJ, like in other sports, has been towards male domination, especially big hulking muscular men. She discussed how it is changing the sport, and how important it is to realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. BJJ should be constantly evolving as new moves are developed, and those moves should be able to be modified for anyone to use. Ana emphasized that Jiu Jitsu is all about technique – anyone should be able to use it with proper training, and use it effectively against opponents of any size.

To help this lesson hit home at the end of the seminar we lined up in two rows, facing each other. One side was ‘passive’, allowing the other side to complete a sequence of moves on them (from standing to tapping). We had about 18 people or so left at that point (technically the seminar had run over so some people had to leave), and looking around the room, there was an incredible range. Tall, short, average height, under-weight, over-weight, average-weight, muscular, acrobatic, limber… you name it, we had it in that room. The ‘active’ side would run their sequence on the person opposite them, and then the entire line would shift down one, so you faced a new partner. As you went down the row doing your sequence, you got to experience first hand how each technique will require modifications depending on the body type of your opponent. It also shows how much technique actually just WORKS.

Ana also spoke specifically about women’s BJJ, and how it is under-developed in the sport, and how she wants to change that.  She also gave us some lessons on how to use our flexibility to our advantage when working our techniques. What I really liked most was that she told us ladies that any time we are rolling with a guy and using our technique properly, we should consider it a ‘win’ when the only thing they can do to escape is out-muscle us. Sometimes when you roll, you get tapped out for technique, but sometimes it’s because someone is using bad Jiu Jitsu. Gone inverted, got hooks and grips, and the guy just smashes you? You’ve won – he couldn’t escape your technique, so relied on brute force, which is not only bad for your training, but also bad for his (or hers, not to be sexist).  At the end of the day, we are training to learn Jiu Jitsu, not how to out-muscle someone. So if you aren’t using your Jiu Jitsu techniques, then why are you training? You’re only hurting yourself and your partner.

If you ever have an opportunity to train with Ana, I cannot recommend it enough. Just by focusing on some very basic fundamentals, I could already feel a huge change for the better in my game. Ana is currently doing private and semi-private lessons at BETA Academy in DC if you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity before she returns to Brazil. She is on Facebook if you want to schedule!

*I did my best to be true to Ana’s words here, but any misrepresentations are my own, not hers.

Visiting Brown Belt Ana Lowry and MAGG

Yesterday was a big BJJ day for me. I actually haven’t been doing BJJ since about Thanksgiving; my holidays get crazy trying to squeeze in as much family time as possible, and I can’t keep a schedule at that point to save my life. So I took December off and I finally came home and started up with jiu jitsu again yesterday. It was an exciting day for me, because I was jumping back in with not one but two events.

First, my academy brought in female Brown Belt Ana Lowry to run the women’s open mat we have every Sunday. What better way to come back to BJJ class? She was really great, showing us some new warm-ups to do, including one move using a wall that I couldn’t seem to do to save my life. I blame the wall for being so slippery under my feet, and not how out of shape I am. You better watch out wall – I’ll get you next time!

She also gave us a great review of the fundamental concepts of BJJ. I liked hearing everything again – it really helps drive some things home. Among the things she taught us was how she spent a lot of time not using her hands as she was first learning. She trained with guys who had grips on her sleeves that she wasn’t strong enough to break, so she learned to do things without her hands. She demonstrated some of her matrix moves for us, and it was very impressive!

The one thing that really really struck with me was how she demonstrated standing when playing a top game – she is crouched super low to the ground, keeping her elbows tucked practically inside her knees. She demonstrated how incredible effective this is too – it gives her amazing ability to keep feet off of her hips, both by blocking access in the first place and then by giving her the ability to knock them off with both elbows and knees. I cannot say enough how much this is going to change my game. She gave us the next 15 minutes to play around with it, and it was just shocking the immediate improvement I saw. I’m short at 5’1″, and so I’m always struggling to keep bottom players from getting their legs on me. This was just an instant solution for me, and something I had never thought of doing. It eliminates the need for the pure strength of dragging a leg off you once they get it on, by just using your elbow to slide it off or rotating your knee out to remove your hip. I am so excited to start using this more in my game, I can’t even say.

It sounds like she may be coming back for leading a few more classes while she visits DC, and I can’t wait to learn more!

After the open mat at BETA it was time to head over to the Yamasaki Academy in Rockville, where they were hosting the Mid-Atlantic Grappling Girls monthly open mat. It had been running for a few hours before I could get there, but I still managed to get an hour in! This month the girls chose a cause closer-to-home to receive some donations – DC SAFE, a women’s shelter in the district. As I have a friend that works there, the converging of my interests was too strong, and I had to make sure I got over to the event before it ended. I also got the bonus of seeing my friend try jiu jitsu for the first time, and watching her catch the bug. I tried to give her the heavy sell to come to my gym, and I think she may try the free trial along with her husband! SUPER  PUMPED!

I was impressed with the sheer number of women at both events – we had over 15 at BETA, and turns out there was an incredible 36 at MAGG. I saw everything from white belt to brown belt, which is really encouraging. It gives me hope I can make it to a higher belt someday!

Now if you’ll excuse me, my body has some complaints about jumping in with 3 hours of BJJ after nothing for over a month. Time for a hot bath…

Control Drills (and Colitis)

My class attendance was a little intermittent the last few weeks what with one obligation and another, but I’m back on schedule and should have no conflicts until Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to some regular training!

Last night’s class was great – we started with some flow-rolling to warm up, and I liked it a lot more than running around the room. What better way to warm up for some BJJ than to actually DO some BJJ? The class was fairly small, with about 12 people and everyone seemed to be feeling the same chill vibe, so it was a great relaxed atmosphere all night. We drilled a bread cutter choke with transitioning through north-south. I love the way the coach shows us the move a few times, let’s us work it, then calls us back in to add details layer by layer. It really helps me get a feel for the move – why it might not seem to work perfectly right until you add just that one detail like a knee to hold the head down so you can get your grip. Plus that way I don’t have to try to remember everything perfectly the first time. Get the basic movement down, then add to that until it works. LOVING IT.

We’ve also started to do some king-of-the-hill situational drills which are a lot of fun, and give you the opportunity to work with the entire class. Last night was side control. 4 people start on their backs, and 4 start by putting them in side control. Everyone else lines up on the wall to wait to rotate in. The job of the person on the bottom was to get out of side control. If you put the other person in half-guard, closed-guard or anything other than being under their control, you won and moved to the top position for the next round with a new person. If the person on top was able to submit you or gain the mount, they won and stayed in on top (for up to three rounds). I never got to stay in, but I put up a good fight – I actually only rotated in twice because I was able to hold off people for so long. Even got a compliment for having a good defense while being in side control (even though he did finally manage to get the mount grrrr). I’m still terrible at my side control escape though – I just can’t get the initial shrimp right to get my knee in. I need to practice that 1000 more times…

Sadly my colitis has been acting up this week, so I had to run off the mat at the end of class instead of getting to roll some more. We always end class with flow rolling for a few rounds, but I didn’t get in a single one. I haven’t told the new academy about the colitis, and I’m not even sure how I would bring it up if I wanted to! It’s not great mat conversation, heh. Hopefully I’ll get it under control within the next few weeks and it won’t get in my way too much. This is the first time I’ve had to abandon the mat to deal with it, and it was kind of sad for me.

Enough whining! The women’s group meets Sunday and I plan to be there!

BETA Academy Grapplethon

Hi readers!

My new gym, BETA Academy, is hosting a Grapplethon on Saturday, October 19th to help raise money for the Network for Victim Recovery of DC!

Specific information can be found here, at the FirstGiving website (also where you can make a donation!):

There are raffles and prizes throughout the day, including a Meerkatsu designed t-shirt with a $40 donation, and Origin Gis. Workshops will be held throughout the day, and a DJ will also be in attendance for part of the event. For the ladies, the The Mid Atlantic Grappling Girls (MAGG) will be taking grappling from 1:30 to 3:30pm if any of you ladies are looking to make new female friends.


BETA Academy Grapplethon

Hope to see some of you there!