It has now been roughly a year since I first started training. So time to assess the situation I think. First lets break it down into simply what I have gained and lost from a result of training.
My grappling ability has certainly improved, I am actually having trouble trying to quantify it. Current me could kick the crap out of old me in under 30 seconds, blind folded, legs tied and starting under mount. Lets also pretend old me weighs around 100kg's and likes to hit the weights. Thats how sizable the difference is.
I have lost 10kg's of weight and my pulse has dropped by over 10BPM. I have the fitness and strength I never thought was in my reach. I also look much more healthy, with a fair bit of podge removed and some muscle added.
I have made many new great friends that I enjoy spending time with outside of training. Just feeling like Im a part of the club is a great feeling.
Now the cost. Training has cost me money, time, blood and bath tubs full of sweat. I have small calluses forming on my fingers, the occasional painful joint, regular bruises and friction burns. A few small hard or swollen bits on my ear that have formed, not very noticeable though. Despite the aches and pains though, a year on and Im still in love with this art. It has become a big part of my life, that is never far from my mind. And the great part is, Im still a white belt! Ive still got this huge journey in front of me. And I'm in no rush.
At one point I focused on training to attain the next perceived level (blue belt). But now it doesnt bother me at all, I just want to get better and improve my Jiu jitsu game. I dont want to improve to win competitions I want to win competitions to improve!.
I think improvement is abit of a funny thing. Your constantly looking for it but its always there, gradual and consistent. Even when trying to get past a plateau, it is all part of the process. I feel that the learning process in Jiu jitsu is a high curve, with the greatest gains in the beginning and coming quickly. Improvements take steadily longer but according to the curve model for comparatively less reward, which I feel isnt true. I have often seen and experienced how a very small adjustment (a small improvement) can lead to significant results. So whilst a curve I feel there are many bumps, plateau's, possible dips and steep rises which are unique to the individual. Heres an example, your often taking peoples backs but you keep getting foot locked due to crossing your feet. Stop crossing your feet, BOOM greatly reduced amount of footlocks.
I also agree with the bullseye model of BJJ (thats my own name for it). Where you start with a massive circle, with layers down to a small bullseye. Each layer represents a belt level of skill. The first layer is obviously the biggest (white) and the layers get smaller till the last layer which is the smallest (black). The size of each layer represents skill, knowledge, ability etc. Its abit overly general but the reason why I like this model is because it shows that everything you need to know is shown to you at the white belt level. You then improve upon and internalise these as you improve which carries you through the belt levels. The adjustments and honing aspects get smaller and smaller. This is also why I think BJJ is a bad spectator sport for the uninitiated, its hard to appreciate it without knowing what they are doing. The greatest example of this I can find is watching Roger Gracie's fights. Everything he does is stuff you will probably learn in your first week.
Ill probably end up posting another one of these next year when I realise Ive been talking bollocks. So onto recent classes.
Last couple have been good, Ive been trying to focus on guard passing and control from the top. Recently Ive felt abit stagnant, but I know this is a common thing and all you can do is persevere. I am finding myself holding half guard alot recently as well, which is good and bad. Good because I desperately need to improve it, bad because it is often a precursor to defeat for me. However my eye for sweeps from that position is starting to develop which feels nice. And I am able to hold it for longer. But it still needs alot of work.
Unfortunately Ive had to miss a few sessions recently due to train trouble, which is not helping to get out of this slump. But the jiu jitsu gods are kind and through their prophet Slideyfoot (link on sidebar) they have delivered me this very usefull new resource. Beginning BJJ . The most useful being a free E-book available on the site. Written by Stephan Kesting from grapplearts.com. The book is VERY useful and alot of effort has gone into it. I highly recommend it, the fact that its free blows my mind. I think one of the reasons I like it is because of Stephens style of writing. He breaks it all down very logically and systematically in a way that really makes sense to me.
Trains screwed me over Friday so went out with some friends and had a couple beers. To make up for having to miss Tuesday I decided to goto both Saturday classes. The early class is focused at new students with some self defense emphasis alongside the crucial basics. It was fun though and I got plenty out of it. All the other usual suspects started turning up for the next session and it was only 5-10 minutes or so before we started that. The warm up was alot more rigorous and Andy inflicted a new exercise on us. Sitting down with legs off the ground you had to shimmy on your ass to the other end of the room, JUST using your ass. Each shimmy moves you like an inch. And we had to do it twice, I resorted to using my feet on more than one occasion. The beers started making their effects known, could tell I needed to be careful. But I also had some foul smelling wind, which is not ideal for grappling.
The class focused on sparring and was very tough. Each time I came off and joined the que I was feeling very tired and woozy. Not nearly as bad as my last hang over training session but my cardio took a big dive. Half guard came up often but I could hold it and was working for sweeps. Need ALOT of refinement on the sweeps though, as currently I am just relying on shifting below them and then rolling when I feel there base is weak. Played around with open guard abit more but couldnt really do it much with hence the rise in half guard. One of my sparring fights went on for an age. I really like sparring this guy as he thinks about every move he makes, no unnecessary movements and is very hard to catch in submissions. Passing felt very good though, I normally always do some sort of stack pass. Which is probably why I find myself in triangles more than any other sub. That day I was mixing it up by also passing through the middle, which I previously didnt like because it very often led to their half guard. Which isnt so bad, just extra effort. However I was doing abit of knee riding and was keeping their legs and hips pinned, so felt more solid.
Terry managed a beauty of an armbar attempt of me I defended by the skin of my teeth. He had side control and went to north south, but he transitioned fluidly from their to my other side and to the armbar. Took me by complete surprise, I had to then flip myself over onto my stomach and then defended by stacking and pulling it out. Definitely want to practise that transition maneuver.
Sparred Ryan who has an MMA fight coming up very soon, so wanted to focus on him. We decided to work on his side control game (we went no gi as well). He was focusing alot on trapping my with his legs and then working a submission. Managed to escape once or twice and he managed to sub me a few times as well. Ive only ever caught Ryan once and that was with a guillotine, his a little lighter than me but very athletic and rapid. But hangover BJJ nirvana beamed once again. He went from side control to north south but my shoulders didnt feel completely pinned, so I tried something Ive been dieing to reproduce. I rolled back (think a backwards roll) tucking my head out. As I did this I went from under north south to having rear mount. I landed quite high up so had to work my hooks in abit and as he worked to escape he left an arm in. So I put in a triangle with my legs, I reverse triangle of sorts I guess. Andy then reminded me to hook his leg and pull it in to further put pressure on him. I couldnt get his arm properly across his neck though, so when he tapped it was 60% neck crank 40% choke. That backwards roll is my new morale busting move.
Had some good rolls with the big guys, a really cool one where I was defending omoplata's for a while. And caught a knee to the head and a cut lip, I accidentally caught him as well. In fact lots of people seemed to get kneed or banged up in some way that day. That fight went back and forth alot where I would half get a sweep or escape but just couldnt finish. Lots of fun jumping around.
Felt very good after that session, definitely feel like Ive come out of that slump. Despite not getting as many subs or sweeps some of the guys gave me some really nice compliments on my guard passing and movement. Which is what I really want to work on. Thanks for the kind words guys it does really mean alot to me.
Talking of kind words slideyfoot has nominated me for the Fightworks podcast BJJ blog of the year. Thanks alot man! really made my day. So if you like my stuff vote for me there when it starts. Or if not vote for the other guys like slideyfoot or pesadelo, all top notch!.
I have also signed up to fight in the up coming Hereford comp on the 7th of Dec. Which is very soon, but we have a few guys going and itll be a fun small comp.
In other news:
The amazing Renzo Gracie legacy documentary is out here
UFC 91 was a jiu jitsu love fest (this is good) - Vids here
Last man standing is still awesome! - Clicky
I need to make a new banner
If you agree or disagree with any of the stuff Ive written leave a comment. Always happy to learn more from feedback.