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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Need Motivation? Embarrass Yourself.

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(Please excuse me while I throw a little pity party up in here.)

Up comes an ambitious-looking lad, one full belt rank below mine. “Hey guys!, anyone feel like rolling with me?” He was practically bursting at the seams of his double-weaved gi to get at the upper belts¬†and I knew he was looking to test his best skills against us.¬†“Go get him!” my friend said half-joking.¬†Right away I could feel that this guy¬†was thirsty for blood. He started on his feet attempting to pass my guard when¬†I mistakenly left my foot out too far. He grabbed it and fell back -I should have had at least one grip on him- and the footlock war was on. I brought my free¬†foot into the party hoping to pry the other out¬†but he grabbed both and somehow crossed them on me. Next thing I knew I felt tremendous pressure on one of my shins so I¬†sat up in a last ditch effort to escape. It was too late, he had it locked in tight. I swear I could sense my belt turning white as I tapped.

What went wrong? First off, I want to say that the kid did everything right and he deserves all the credit for this. His skill was impressive¬†and he moved aggressively yet skillfully,¬†but at the same time I was very upset with my¬†own performance. I know I’m going to tap (a million more times in life) but in my heart I knew that I didn’t do my best in that moment. I also realized that not being in top physical condition was keeping me from going all out when I had to. This became apparent during my next few rolls.

My new rolling partner¬†was the same rank as me but he was flowing and moving without breaking a sweat. He got me twice and I was able to catch him once, but from the physical side you’d think I had just run a marathon and he had just been on the beach sippin’ a mojito.¬†My body felt drained of all energy so it began rebelling. “MOVE LEG!” I would scream in my mind, but it disobeyed me. “GET ON TOP!” but I stayed on bottom. This results in getting dominated a lot¬†and when I do get submissions¬†they’re often what I refer to as “lazy subs” such as heel hooks and footlocks.

The¬†drive home was a mess of self-talk, near tears, and sore legs. Questions often haunt a BJJ practitioner: “Will I ever get great or will it always be a struggle?” “How can I look to get my next belt if I’m getting submitted by lower belts?” “Should I just take up Tai Chi?”¬†Giving¬†up always sounds appealing minutes after you’ve had a bad day at the gym but for us “BJJ lifers” it’s never an option.¬†I hate to admit it but getting embarrassed is quite the motivator for me. Does it work for you too? Let me know. As for now I’ll be ramping up my conditioning, eating better, and spending more time tweaking my technique so this happens less and less. Thanks for checking in. ūüôā -Mike

Cycling For Better Jits

CYCLING

Alright, what do you do when you have a month off of work and all the time in the world to do whatever? Besides more Jiu Jitsu (of course) I picked up on an old/new hobby, biking! Cycling? Not sure which is right but riding around on two wheels has taught me some amazing things that directly affected my grappling game. Of course you benefit from pedaling with stronger legs, that much I expected, but I also noticed two other unexpected benefits.

First off, I learned how my body manages breathing during active states. I used to think the key was controlling my¬†breath and making sure I¬†took measured ins and outs. I gave this¬†a try during one of my early rides and noticed how winded I became, almost gasping for air in a short time. It then occurred to me that my¬†body is intelligent enough to know how much¬†air it needs at any given moment¬†and that by trying to control it myself I was adding a “middle-man” to the equation. It’s not needed, at least in my case. Now if you have a habit of holding your breath during rolls I do suggest you take note and learn to let go, but don’t do any more than that. Try it and see, you’ll notice your breathing will take over for you and you can get back to worrying about everything else, like getting choked slammed by the white belt. ūüėČ

Take it from a guy who has had maybe three¬†cross collar choke submissions in 8 years, it is NOT one of my main weapons. However, in the last two open gyms I had a total that matched my 8-year-high. Yep, three cross collar chokes in two sessions. Could holding onto handlebar grips really increase hand and wrist strength that much? Apparently, and surprisingly so! My bike has the normal grips but also some vertical handles that I use half the time. I’m sure using both have been beneficial in some way. Again, I didn’t consciously try and exercise my grips while riding, I just rode the bike and it happened on its own.

And before I end this short¬†blog (I gotta get back to my X-Files marathon) I WILL¬†talk about leg strength, you just have to when it comes to biking. My legs are far from resembling the tree trunks possessed by Marcelo Garcia, but my leg endurance has gotten insane. I’m able to defend guard, threaten submissions, and squat during guard passing, with much less leg exhaustion. There’s nothing I dislike more than going for a triangle only to have the opponent escape, leaving me¬†with two lactic acid-filled dead weights dangling from my¬†torso. It’s an ongoing struggle but I can already tell, after only a month into this biking experiment, that my game has improved from it. Please leave a comment on how biking has helped, or hasn’t helped, your game. I’m interested in everyone’s results. See ya!