Category Archives: women's bjj

Trusting Your (Other) Senses While Training

So during our competition team training yesterday, we went through kind of an interesting exercise: we put eye masks on (like the kind some people sleep with) and trained our preferred takedowns, some positional training and even did a couple of full sets of training.

First, it was a great lesson in creating muscle memory. During the takedown practice only one of the partners was blindfolded, and my teammate mentioned how creepy it was that I not only executed the technique correctly, but I ended up stepping in just the right way to put myself exactly in the same spot on the mat to start over again, all while blindfolded. I was weirdly proud of that, but more importantly it shows the importance of drilling a move over and over again: you should be able to trust that your body will execute the same movement regardless, so you can use more brain space on looking for opportunities, rather than obsessing over correct execution.

Second, it was a great reminder that you need more than just your sight for jiu jitsu, and there are also definitely times when it’s actually better not to use your sight. Sometimes you need to feel your opponent’s pressure, and not let your eyes trick you into thinking that they are headed in one direction when you can feel they are headed in another.

So, while you don’t have to head onto Amazon right now and order an eye mask (unless you want to- totally not here to judge) it might be beneficial sometimes to close your eyes, or rather intentionally shift your focus from what you see to what you feel- you might be surprised by what you discover.

Just some thoughts to chew on- have a great day everyone!

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A Reminder for Anyone Struggling with their BJJ Right Now

Saw this on Facebook this morning, and thought I would share it with anyone who needs it this morning:

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Now go out there and be bad at something! And hey, being happily bad at something is better than being good at something you hate, and also sometimes being bad is the start of being good at it, or sneakily becoming better at something else without you realizing it. True story.

Have a great day everyone!

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Bjj and Life- Less About Balance, and More About Counterbalance

So I’m reading the book “The One Thing” right now-

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It’s more or less about hyper prioritization and how you can’t do all the things at once, and so you should prioritize your life to do the most important things that can effect your life for the better, making the other things/goals easier to achieve.

There’s a section of the book that makes the statement that there is no such thing as “balance” in a person’s life- it’s sort of more like walking on a tight rope. If you’ve ever watched a clip of one performing, they are constantly readjusting, re-calibrating one way or the other to achieve the overall goal of balance to get to their end destination.

And I kind of agree with that sentiment: there are definitely times in my life where I am totally committed to getting ready for a tournament: extra dieting, extra training, extra time spent on the mats in order to prepare. And most importantly, I keep in mind that all of this extra time away from other responsibilities and other aspects of my life is not something that is sustainable. I know that a lot of people go through that same kind of regimen, and then express some wishful thinking about how they could train and be that focused on jiu jitsu all the time. Listen, it’s awesome that you love BJJ that much to want to put yourself through that kind of regimen, but to do that sometimes means you have to sacrifice A LOT- mainly relationships, free time to explore other interests and other responsibilities that need your attention.

And hey, some people make that jump, and they are usually those few elite that everyone else looks up to. But even if someone happens to be one of that very tiny subset, fact of the matter is that they also have responsibilities and relationships they also need to attend to. Also, the body is not really meant to sustain that kind of grind for an extended period of time, on a physical or psychological level. It’s like going on a juice cleanse with no end date- you will become physically and emotionally depleted until you burn out or possibly really hurt yourself.

This may be a better way for us to talk about how to live a life where one can still compete and give their all, and not alienate other aspects of your life. Sometimes in order to really feel like you put the work in for important tournaments, yes, you need to absolutely dive whole heartedly into training and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Ordinary effort will create ordinary results, and extraordinary effort increases your change of extraordinary results. I think very few people would argue with that. But there needs to be an effort to counterbalance- a purposeful effort to focus on the other elements of your life in order to achieve the “balance” we strive for.

Just some thoughts to chew on- have a good day, and if you can, please take a moment of silence to think about/honor those who lost their lives and were effected by the events of 9/11.

 

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Self Conscious in BJJ

Every so often someone will mention something about jiu jitsu- about training or some other secondary element, something that will imply that they are feeling self conscious and are worried about what others are thinking of them. And I can see where they are coming from- humans are pack animals that for the most part strive to get along with one another to be a part of the group, and sometimes we are worried about doing or saying things that will make us stand out from the crowd, particularly if we think it is something wrong or out of place.

I think we feel it the most when we are white belts- we barely know how to tie our belts, we get the names for things wrong all the time, we maybe turn left instead of right: it totally makes sense. The thing that you will eventually learn however is that everyone is so focused on their own journey, problems and struggle, there’s absolutely no reason you should worry about how you are doing. In the beginning everyone particularly feels a bit weird and out of place, and everyone does the occasional stupid thing. Or puts their gi pants on backwards- seriously, if I had a dollar for every time someone put on gi pants backwards, I could buy a bunch of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes… you get the idea.

Instead, appreciate that you have people who are there with you, and you are all on the struggle bus in solidarity. We are all focused on our own issues and struggles, and really our own efforts to feel a part of the group as well. As you progress in ranks you start to feel more at ease- you not only build a camaraderie with your teammates, but you do enough that one or two stupid things don’t stick out in your mind because you’ve done a thousand other things successfully so it doesn’t feel so silly or give you cause to start worrying that maybe you feel silly and out of place.

So, in short don’t sweat it, keep trying your best and realize that we’re all striving to better ourselves- and well, sometimes that means making mistakes and looking a little silly in the process.

Have a great day everyone!

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Girls in Gis Event in Philly: Sept 29th!

It’s about a month away, but the Girls in Gis organization is coming to Philly, with Valerie Worthington and Angela Vogel. Our gym is doing a team outing that day so I don’t think any of us will be able to make it, but for anyone in the area, you should go and check it out!

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Have a great day everyone!

 

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Teaching in BJJ and Removing Assumptions

Admittedly over the past couple of months I have been mainly teaching classes with more advanced students: we separate our gi classes into people who are super beginner and those who are more advanced and just due to scheduling conflicts I haven’t been able to assist in the beginner class, so the by the time they get to my world they are people who have been doing jiu jitsu for a couple of months, and while they have their struggles, by and large they sort of have a base understanding of certain principles and we build off of those.

I’m teaching that beginner class this week while we have some people out to go compete in Master Worlds, and if nothing else it’s very much a reminder that some of the things you think of as second nature after a while. How for some people not only is elbow escaping (or shrimping as some people call it) not something their body naturally does, but that even sometimes they know their right from left.

It’s a reminder that sometimes you need to stop and make sure that everyone is on the same page. It’s a bit like when you are telling your friend a story, but you never told them who the story was about, you just started using all the pronouns and expected your friend to understand exactly who and what you were talking about….and they just kind of stare at you blankly. Other people, particularly at my job do this to me all the time, actually. That’s when I will stare at the person and say, “I want you to repeat that entire story, but don’t use ANY pronouns. Go.”

Sometimes when we -higher ranks that is- are teaching, we know that people don’t have the same level of teaching, occasionally the erroneous assumption that people will know certain things will creep in without us noticing. Of course a white belt would understand why this guard is important! Of course they would know to turn left instead of right…and so on.

While it’s just human nature and there’s certainly no malice behind it, at the same time teachers need to be aware of those assumptions while on the mat, and do what they can to correct them. While some do have a bit of natural body awareness, more often than not people literally don’t know what they don’t know, with white belts having the biggest blind spot of them all. It’s our responsibility as higher ranks to expand their horizons bit by bit, showing them what’s possible and what’s necessary as they begin to learn the ropes of jiu jitsu. And the more we share that knowledge, really the better we all become: the newer student becomes more well versed in jiu jitsu, and the more experienced student understands the potential struggle that another future student could also have. There are also benefits of being the teacher instead of the student, but that’s for another time.

Have a great day everyone!

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The Appeal of IBJJF Tournaments for Women in BJJ

It was an interesting question posed on social media- they expressed frustration regarding their impression that in order to compete against more women, they had to sign up for an IBJJF tournament, which let’s be honest costs a lot of money. They person expressed frustration that they had to drive for a longer period of time and hand out more money than say going to a smaller tournament closer to home, and asked why so many women chose to sign up for IBJJF tournaments. And her question is totally reasonable: it does seem a little silly to pay over 100 dollars to drive 2 to 3 hours to wait another couple of hours to fight someone that may potentially train like, 45 minutes away from you and the two of you could have duked it out at a local tourney for 60 bucks.

There are a couple of factors that play into this: first and foremost, it’s one of the better known tournament organizations, and whether anyone likes it or not, it’s pretty much a gold standard when it comes to gi competitions, especially when it comes to their rule set. From what I can tell a number of other tournament organizations use IBJJF’s rule set as their own, so walking in you should have a good handle on what’s allowed. Some commented on this person’s question stating that IBJJF is one of the best run tournaments out there. I think when it comes to the bigger tournaments- Pans, Worlds, etc. they more or less smoothly, but there have definitely been times where they have messed: the displays shorted out, during this past Pans there was a mess up in their bracketing and scheduling software and a bunch of us who were supposed to fight on a Saturday thought our divisions were pushed up to a Friday night (we found this out after dinner 45 minutes away from the venue and the divisions were supposed to “start” in 30 minutes, so we were pretty much all freaking out to some degree until we were able to get a rep on the phone to assure us it was a mistake), there was one time where one of our girls was basically forgotten in the bull pen when her competitor didn’t show up and she was basically left there waaaaay too long- they are by no means a perfect organization, but they get it right more times than they get it wrong.

Also, from what I can tell it’s one of the first tournament organizations that really set out from just the local scene and decided to extend their reach- it’s sort of like the GoPuff of the industry: for anyone who may not be aware of what go puff may be, it’s basically a convenience store on wheels. Say it’s late at night and you suddenly fall ill and need some pepto bismal, or maybe you’ve gotten the munchies due to whatever shenanigans you’re up to and could really go for some junk food, but you’re all out! You log into the app, pick out your items and go puff will deliver those items to your door.

There are companies that are now trying to recreate that service and push into that market space, but since (as far as I know) GoPuff was the first to offer this service, so it has the brand recognition and had a chance to establish its presence as the main service. And even if they weren’t the first, IBJJF is possibly of the longest running and, to my knowledge, still expanding tournament organizations out there.

So you have a recognizable, long running tournament with a clearly established and well known rule set- that frankly you know top competitors compete in, and are motivated to do so now because of the points system they recently implemented as a qualifier for some of their larger tournaments…. it’s no wonder that women tend to gravitate toward those tournaments. It would be nice to see more women in local tournaments, but really I’m happy to see women competing anywhere, and if that’s at an IBJJF tournament, so be it.

Will there be a change? Honestly, probably not. There are a good deal of tournament organizations out there, but unless they can find a way to top IBJJF’s popularity in the market- maybe by specifically reaching out to women? It will probably remain the same.

If there’s another tournament organization that you would love to see take off, please by all means let me know. Otherwise, have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

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Friendly Reminder: Cut Your Nails When Training in BJJ

And really in general, but especially make sure to keep them short for the sport. Just mentioning this because while training with someone I received approximately 2 inch cut from someone’s nails while rolling last night.

I spoke with the person after class (it was an honest oversight, it happens) but for anyone else our there who needs a reminder, please cut your nails- both fingers and toes.

Please and thank you.

Have a great day everyone!

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Tips for Competing in a BJJ Tournament

While there are a number of people who read this blog and don’t do jiu jitsu, there are some, and maybe a few of them have thought about competing in the near future. This is by no means a complete list, but here are a couple of tips and things to keep in mind if you are thinking about competing:

  1. Get there on time– This is sort of obvious, but take a look at travel times, and take into account the possibility of traffic. I’m not saying get to the tournament 8 hours early, but if you are headed to say NAGA’s Battle at the Beach, which takes place in a New Jersey beach town, maybe add a little time in case you get stuck in beach traffic. You’ll also probably want to warm up beforehand, so I would say show up at minimum an hour or so beforehand.
  2. Make sure you have the right gear– if you’re not sure, see if the tournament has rules on the kind of gi that you can wear, belt, if you need to wear a rashguard reflecting your rank if you’re doing no gi, etc.
  3. Bring some snacks, water, possibly a yoga mat– It’s going to be a long day, so unless you want to roll the dice with the food and drink provided at the venue (which can range anything from a full meal to some hastily made PB&J sandwiches), you’ll probably want to bring your own snacks and drinks.  And if you’re looking to stretch somewhere before competing, it may not be a bad idea to bring a yoga mat so you can plop down somewhere and loosen up.
  4. Warm up– Related to the previous point, you should warm up. Stretch, jog, jump rope, do something to loosen you up before competing.
  5. Make sure you know the rule set– again a gimme, but don’t assume that all tournament organizations run with the same rule set. Some run their matches for different lengths of time, some allow certain submissions that others won’t, and so on.
  6. Keep an eye on the progression of the tournament and check on how they are going to call you to compete–  A lot- not all, but a lot of- tournaments will simply designate one, maybe two tables to a division and then corral the division by the table(s). If that’s the case, keep an ear out for your name, and/or just keep an eye on the general progress of the tournament. There are some tournaments that progress by rank from small sized competitors to larger sized competitors. So, if you’re a smallish blue belt and you’re watching some larger white belts on the mat, start to pay attention because you may be called soon.
  7. Breathe, and have fun!– No matter the outcome, you’re going out there and doing the thing! You’re facing your anxieties and stepping out on the mat. It may feel super stressful leading up to your matches, but afterwords you’ll feel accomplished, and can walk away knowing that you did your best!

Those are some tips for competing that I can think of off the top of my head- hopefully this is helpful to someone out there if they are thinking of competing in the near future.

Have a great day everyone!

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Fighting the Right Fight in Jiu Jitsu

It happens to all of us at some point: in the puzzle/human chess game that we call jiu jitsu, we sometimes find ourselves trying to execute on something that either just isn’t there, or focus on trying to do something that isn’t giving us the desired results.

We struggle, trying to put the wrong pieces of the puzzle together in an attempt to make something work- we try to fight the wrong fight, essentially.

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This can be super clear/obvious at lower ranks: the first example that comes to mind is when someone tries to break closed guard in the beginning. A lot of people have some…interesting ideas about what to do in closed guard. Some of them make sense, some of them, not so much. But it boils down to what they are considering the threat and what they are trying to neutralize.

This becomes less obvious as you advance in rank, because the road to success seems a little more open, and the options leading to a successful sweep or submission are- or at least appear to be- more numerous and potentially viable options. And while of course we should make an attempt and try our best, we should be careful though and not waste all of our energy on trying to stick a round peg into a square hole. Sometimes techniques don’t work because we need to get better at executing them, and sometimes techniques don’t work because we need to get better at understanding the right timing and opportunity for them.

Of course, it’s hard to tell that at first, but over time you should take the occasional second if you are struggling to think “Is this the fight I should be focusing on right now?” the answer can certainly be yes, but once in a while the answer may be no and that’s when it’s time to change strategies. It will take time to understand those situations, but if you are able to catch them, it should lead to more productive training sessions.

That’s all for now- have a great day everyone!

 

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