I Quit BJJ….For 1 Day

This isn't easy for me to write.

Everyone says that on your journey to black belt you will probably experience at least one major injury. This is the injury that will not only test your body, but will test your spirit. I know that sounds a bit grandiose but I'm realizing how true it is.

Two months ago I had my knee go out during a pretty routine exchange. I had just stood up to avoid my instructor's dangerous butterfly guard when my knee popped 3 times during a knee reap. That's when the opponent, in this case from the ground, whips their leg over yours in order to collapses you back to the ground. This is countered either by removing their reaping leg, spinning out in the direction of their reap, or pointing your knee out and standing strong to avoid the inevitable heel hook opportunity. Well I opted for the 3rd option. Feeling good about the strength of my body, I had been doing P90X and have never felt stronger, I stood my ground and drove my knee outward while driving my foot to the ground insuring he couldn't get a hold of my heel to get the tap, the submission. There was so much force just from the reap that when he was able to rock my foot off the ground my knee (the weakest part of the structure) twisted and I felt 3 pops as I fell to the ground. He immediately released the hold and came to my aid while the sound of my knee made those around us stop their own grappling to see what happened. I felt a cold shiver fill me and strangely a hot flash too as I knew something major had just happened. I leapt up to me feet pretending to be okay, actually I didn't feel much pain since my adrenaline was pumping so much, but I could feel the frightening sensation of instability in my right knee as I struggled to stay upright. I walked it off and my instructor laid on the mat trying to shake off the unsettling feeling of actually feeling the full effectiveness of BJJ. I tried to ease his mind by making light of the situation but inside I was trembling thinking of all the rehab and time off I was now facing.

I spent the next 2 months in a sort of depressed haze filling my time and energy drawing and watching Gilmore girls. Don't laugh, it's surprisingly comforting in times of distress. ūüėČ Well after such a long time off I was out of shape but my knee seemed about ready for at least a little bit of testing. So I went to class only to have to pop again during a routine back step during open gym. My knee swelled up and I had to sit out the rest of class. I was devastated and imagined all the time off was for nothing. I had messed my knee up and now I was back to square one. How long would it really take to be back to 100%? Six months said another instructor who had the same injury. I went home crushed realizing that it's probably better if I just quit BJJ for now. Who's was I kidding, I had felt my passion for the art dwindling and now more than ever was the best time for me to hang up the gi. So with a heavy heart, thinking of the 11 years I put into it, I emailed my instructors to tell them the news.

I spent the next day in a strange place. For the first time in 11 years I didn't have the pressure of BJJ on my mind. It's like this constant pull making you want to eat healthy, stay fit and flexible, and thinking of new ways to improve your game. All that was left was this palpable void. Yes for the first time in over a decade I was faced with the same void that haunts us all. I'm going to write a whole piece on 'the void' but for now I'll just say I realized this void is responsible for either destroying or inspiring each and every person. I could see why some people, in order to deal with this void, turn to alcohol, drugs, consumption, Crossfit. ūüėČ Just kidding my Crossfit friends..kind of. In my case it was Jiu Jitsu. Without it I lacked a major driving force in my life. Besides family, friends, students, guitar, yoga, art, and Buffy, Jiu Jitsu/martial arts has been one of my main pillars, one of my main reasons for being alive. Call it cowardice, but I found myself running back to the 'gentle art.' I decided to fight through this damn knee injury and continue my journey to black belt.

To my surprise, after making this decision I woke to find that my knee was already feeling much better. I didn't take three steps back but perhaps only one or two. With a good knee brace and this new determination I believe I can get back to the mats sooner than later. Thanks for reading everyone and thanks to my instructors and girlfriend for putting up with my drama. ūüėČ -Mike

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I Want To Quit Jiu Jitsu*

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My brain is an asshole sometimes, and by sometimes I mean almost every time I roll.

“How did I get stuck in side control again? This guy is half my size and I can’t seem to do anything. I could be at home right now watching Netflix instead of feeling like this! Oh shit he’s got my back, I can’t tap¬†to this guy, maybe I’ll fake an asthma attack. The instructor is watching and I’m looking terrible. I’ve been training for almost a decade, why do I still feel like a white belt¬†so much? Maybe I’m not made for this. ¬†I want to quit Jiu Jitsu!”¬†-my brain’s typical¬†assholery¬†¬†¬†

The truth is, it’s not just me who feels this way¬†when things aren’t going well¬†on the mats. It’s common for these negative thoughts to plague most of us. What I’ve come to realize however is that these doubts, not my opponents, are¬†the REAL HURDLES of the¬†Jiu Jitsu journey. They’re the very same thoughts that cause a large percentage of practitioners to hang up their belts, sometimes after only a few weeks. Many people, especially beginners, just can’t deal with it. I mean what other sport or activity do you experience this¬†much personal negative feedback in such a short amount of time? It’s deflating and can be quite humiliating. (Ever make that gargling sound just before tapping to a choke?)

The Good News:

I’ve learned that no matter how severe these voices are, you just shake it off and get back on that wild horse, even though you’re sure to get bucked off again and again. I recall getting heel hooked 12 times in one open gym session. Bam, another one….tap! Clap hands, go again. Tap, shit! Clap hands, TAP…Son of a bitch!!! (I wasn’t swearing out loud, just to myself.;) I left class with two thoughts:¬†1. I suck at heel hook defense and 2. but I never gave up. Never giving up meant that the next time he and I rolled I was able to stave off a few of his attacks because I had figured out a fraction of his game. That’s often the exchange, great personal shame for a fraction of knowledge. My training parters are a great example of this philosophy too. They roll, they all tap, and at the end of class they shake hands, smile and move on with their day only to come back to the next class and do it all again. The ones who keep coming back are beginning to tap less and less. It’s both motivating and terrifying for me to see. (Terrifying because I have to face these monsters)

So yes, your brain is going to do its best to trip you up but just remember to always tack on that little asterisk at the end of a¬†negative statement declaring:¬†“*but I will come back again and again until I finally overcome!” You can thank me when you get your black belt, hopefully I’ll have mine by then too. ūüôā

Drilling Meditations

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For the past month I’ve been focusing on strictly drilling guard passing and defense. ¬†Guard passing is that position that you know you need to work on but never really seem to. ¬†(kinda like takedowns) But I decided enough is enough and it’s time to bring my weaknesses into the light. ¬†So in open gym I find some willing chap who’s not opposed to a lot of repetition and we take turns passing each other’s guards. ¬†So far I’ve learned a few things that I should have already known. ¬†Things such as:

-Angle a bit when approaching from sitting to avoid the easy leg swing (drag) pass.  

-If you feel the opponent is passing, get out of that angle and square up to make both sides equally unpassable.  

-Tripod sweep is always there. ¬†If you go to DLR guard, don’t just stall but push and pull to unbalance your partner. ¬†

-Every time you sweep from the guard watch out that your feet/legs/heels aren’t in danger. (I got double ankle locked when I pulled off a double ankle grab sweep…it was kind of embarrassing.) ¬†

-Closed guard is great but don’t rest too long. ¬†Keep them guessing with different pressures and grips. ¬†I seem to get the hip bump sweep and its options quite a bit on good nights. ¬†

-You can always lift the opponent into the air if they get too close.  This will freak them out.  

-Don’t forget that there are some sweeps and submissions that can be performed as they try to pass.

-And finally remember to realize when you’ve failed and get into a good defensive posture asap. ¬†I’m slowly learning how to invert as an emergency resort. ¬†More on this in later posts. ¬†

When it comes to passing I’m getting my custom game happening. ¬†Really it’s just having 3 options from combat base and 2 from standing. ¬†I’m landing passes more and more mostly because I’m understanding what needs to be blocked and how to keep the pressure on. ¬†I was getting trapped in the knee shield guard but with some help from my instructor and some other sources I think I have that licked. ¬†I’ll let you know if I nail it next time. ¬†See ya. ¬†