Monday, April 14, 2014

Faxia Preta

My instructor and I are friends. We've both been dealing with injuries. Last week I dropped him a text to see how his neck was going. He replied:
"...How's the knee? You should come to class on Saturday. Andrew is going to be there... Gunna be a good day I think.. "
I thought that was a bit weird. I wasn't going to come because my knee was a total mess, but when the instructor says you should come to class; you come to class. We lined up and Micah awarded belts to 7 people (1 purple, 2 brown, and 4 black including myself). I really had no idea. The "Andrew is going to be there" (Drew is a black belt from our school who moved down to Portland recently) Threw me completely off the scent. I figured Brian was getting promoted (he did) and I was just being subtly informed so I could be there for him.
The four of us promoted to black belt range from 6.5 to 9 years on the mats. I could not be more proud to wear my lineage and to share the same promotion date as the other 3 gentlemen. The whole thing is completely surreal. I keep saying it to myself: I am a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black belt.
It feels like a lie. It is the dunning-kruger effect. I joked with Brian who was promoted moments ahead of me "I don't know what Micah is talking about; in my head you and I are still blue belts, and Paul and Ian (long time black belts) are still purple belts."
It's so strange how our self perception fixes in a point where we are most comfortable. I know empirically that I am good on the mats, but I also know all the times my guard gets passed, and all the times I've been tapped. I know all of my weaknesses and will never be satisfied. Maybe I'll never feel like how I think a black belt should. Honestly, I kind of hope I never do.
I have to say, this was never one of my goals. Which is not to say I don't appreciate the honor as bestowed upon me, and also not to say that I did not know that I would continue to train until and well after being awarded my black belt. Your goals should be things you have control over, and belt promotion is far outside of what I can control. That makes it a terrible goal.
Good goals are things like:
Train X number of times per week.
Improve my guard.
Work the Rodolfo pass in sparring every time I train.
Only collar chokes on white and blue belts.
These are goals that I can choose to accomplish. Belt promotions are nebulous and subjective. They are at your instructor's discretion. Conversely if you just train hard, and pay attention, belts will come. If you worry about belts, you end up doing silly stuff that does not improve your jiu jitsu. Train like you've already got a black belt and it will come.
My own insecurities aside, I have been promoted. Now I need to get healthy and train.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thoughts on Metamoris 3

The Dean Lister vs. Babalu match was weird. Seemed like neither guy was aggressively going for the win. Could that have been a bit of a 'work?' I doubt it, but it was weird.

Props to Kevin Casey and Keenan Cornelius for taking the match in stride.
I couldn't believe at the time that Cornelius gave up dominant position to attack a leg, but it worked out for him. That guy is on a completely different level.

Clark Gracie did an outstanding job of avoiding the berimbolo, but never gained the advantage off of it. That is the breathtaking beauty of the Mendes brother's games; they never relent. Constant pressure from all positions.

Eddie Bravo clearly did his homework. He was prepared, he had a game-plan, he was fit and ready. I was very impressed by his performance. There are a lot of things one can criticize about his teaching methods, and his vision for the dissemination of the art of jiu jitsu, but one would be hard pressed to criticize him as a competitor.

Part of me, the jiu jitsu pureist part, thinks that Royler should have tapped. Blasphemy? probably, but hear me out. Royler's leg was caught. He had no way to excise his leg from that calf slicer (I refuse to use the 10th Planet jargon I think it obscures rather than illuminates). If the letter of the rules had been heeded Royler's leg would still be caught in that thing. As a teacher of jiu jitsu he has to understand when caught in a submission even if damage isn't eminent you should tap. Enduring a submission is not the same as escaping it. As a competitor I understand why he didn't.
I don't like the calf slicer for that reason, it doesn't (always) do enough damage. If you refuse to tap to a choke, you go to sleep. If you refuse to tap to an armlock you have to keep competing (and protecting your neck) with one fewer arms, similarly with leg locks. These techniques there is a factor of attrition (Tis only a flesh wound!!) I always assume my opponent will be tough. Will have a high pain threshold. I am loathe to commit my body so completely in a submission that my opponent could just endure.
I am conflicted about the whole thing.. so I guess it's a draw.

I have to say that I was truly baffled by the reaction to this match by the members of the Gracie family (in all of their representative forms). I understand they have a vested interest in the "Gracie brand" and that Royler was representing that brand on the mats, but the match happened. Anyone with a basic understanding of grappling can see that Eddie Bravo controlled the match. Why malign Bravo? People paid to watch those matches, they were successful. It was good for grappling/jiu jitsu. People paid to watch a Jean-Jacques Machado student compete with one of the sons of Helio Gracie. Is there a need for a multi-media blitz of obfuscation and attack? (in an information age where such spin only makes the spinner look foolish) I don't think so. And yet you have Ralek speaking/tweeting about how disrespectful Bravo was, and you have the comically biased photo feature put out by Graciemag. I don't understand it. Probably never will.

The event itself was great.
I hope you enjoyed it as well.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Reinjured and sick.

Popped my knee out again on Tuesday.
I don't have a plan just yet.
I'm going to lift and get in some real deal bullet-proof shape and see what's what from there. It was feeling really good and stable right up till it popped again. I think I just need to take some time off the mats. Which is what it FEELS like I've been doing, but I've been trying to game the system and she don't wanna play nice. So here we are.

Got sick as a dog this weekend. Three day weekend, down with the flu the entire time; I am straight up winning the internets this week.
The cold is on the wane, both kids had it all weekend. Which is super awesome because the only thing better than a pounding head full of mucus is a screaming toddler AND a pounding head full of mucus.. extra bonus points for a cranky 3 year old trying to drill you in the head with a lego sword because he is the hero and you are the bad guy.. I was the worst bad guy ever, too sick even to "Muhahahaha" properly. Mostly I just laid there and tried to protect my throbbing cranium.

 This video has nothing to do with nothing, I just like it.
Oh and I got some new ink a couple weeks ago.. that was pretty awesome actually.
I had set my sights on being out of the woods once the tattoo healed (seemed an appropriate timeline) Apparently my leg has other ideas.. maybe never. I don't know. I guess we'll see.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I am 39 years old today.
One year removed from "old" standing on the precipice of obsolescence I humbly submit the following 39 thoughts:

Life is too short to read bad books. If you are reading a novel and 1/3 of the way through it is terrible, put it down. Non-fiction gets a bit of a pass as there is learning to be gleaned.

Read people you agree with for pleasure, read people you disagree with for edification.

Understand why you admire whom you admire. It shows your true values.

The things you've always been interested in learning, learn them. Start today.

Take care of your body. You are it, and it is you.

Exercise should be fun. (Re)learn to play.

Having children will reaffirm everything you know about yourself. Some of these lessons will be unpleasant.

No one has the capacity to make you more angry or bring you greater joy than your own children.

Pay attention to your breathing.

Everything you think you know or are good at, there is someone better. Keep practicing, learning, expanding.

Don't excuse the things you can't do because of the number of years you've existed. Too many or too few, doesn't matter. Your abilities are yours to manipulate.

Don't know or don't care where you're going? any road will get you there.

What are your goals? What are the steps to those goals? what are your actions? do they line up?
Amend 'I can't' with a 'yet' or by admitting that you don't want to do that thing enough to get it done.

It is acceptable to say "I'd like to do that, but it's not worth the effort."

Stand on the shoulders of the giants in your areas of interest. People have done the things to which you aspire, find out who they are and figure out how they've done it.

Start at the beginning. If you aspire to be a world class powerlifter, but can't do a push-up start there. Do not start with a world class plan for a novice.

When seeking instruction, let people know what you know. However, don't presume your expertise in a tangentially related subject makes you any less of a novice.

Stay the course longer than you think, but when it's time to change let go completely. I see this all the time with programming. People either hop from plan to plan every two weeks, or do the same thing regardless of progress.

Be honest where it counts. Particularly with yourself. I know people who are outwardly honest to a fault. They wield their 'honest opinions' like a cudgel, but constantly lie to themselves. Start by being honest with yourself.

The internet as we know it has created a strange issue. We gain access to a level of information unfathomable to our grandparents, we also get access to bad ideas unscrutinized. Often this comes from people, experts in one field, postulating outside of their own garden. Look closely for agenda, and take the time to read refutations honestly.

Make friends with your critics. Don't confuse disagree with dislike. The inverse is also true.

Don't confuse ad hominem attacks with criticism. Critics will have refutations, not insults.

All specialists sacrifice something to their specialty, no generalist will come close to the ability of a specialist in their discipline of choice. Weigh the merits of each.

The older you get, the less you can specialize.

The younger you are the less you should specialize.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, NRL, MLB, UFC probably aren't going to call.  And that's ok.

There is no "friend zone." In spite of what movies and TV may have told you, persistence in the face of overwhelming disinterest is not attractive.

Ask him/her out in an easy non-confrontational way "hey, would you like to go out sometime? here's my number" and then let it go. You don't need validation from someone else, get your own life, you'll be more interesting to people you find attractive if you have stories to tell.

It has to be acceptable to not be an expert in everything.

Take the long view. Training, learning, sport.. think in terms of a career not a workout, paper, or match. or even a block, class, or season.

Find one food you really like and perfect a recipe for it. Study and deconstruct it. Make it your signature.

If you play a sport competitively,  play a pick up game at a different position. You'll learn something.

We've always done it this way, is not a valid reason for choosing a methodology.

People who say 'always' and 'never' are generally wrong.

Learn how to swim, change a tire, cut off the water to your house, the basics of survival, and the workings of an internal combustion engine.

Don't go into the wilds without a knife, first aid kit, fire starting materials, metal container and 1 more layer of clothing than you think you will need at the very least. If you live somewhere cold, or dry you may need more than that.

Try to be nice.

Be mindful, understand why you feel what you feel, let go of the things that you're not doing in the current moment. Take notes, and use reminders to help you let go of things not in the present moment.

Here's to another year.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Park bench, bus stop, and mindset in training jiu jitsu.

Dan John has a sort of parable that he uses when discussing physical preparation for sport. Training days can either be like sitting on a park bench, or at a bus stop (he says 'bus bench' but that sounds odd to me. So I am amending to bus stop.. same concept). When one sits at a bus stop one expects, nay demands, punctuality and measurable results. The bus should be here at 4:31 if it arrives at 4:36 it is an outrage! I want results on schedule so that I may move to the next level/bus stop/destination. Results must meet expectation or feelings get involved.
On the park bench, there is no expectation of 'on time.' You're there as long as you're there, and if you get the ducks fed, or see some nubile young things running by in tight clothes that aides in the experience, but the experience lasts for as long as it lasts.
We generally enjoy the park bench, and almost never enjoy the bus stop. 

There are two lessons jiu jitsu players can learn from this parable.
First, new players need to learn that training is the goal. That one can only be where one is, and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. We are at a bus stop with no timetable, so you might as well enjoy the scenery. Jiu jitsu is a learned activity. It requires both feel and innovation. Neither of which can be hurried. So train and train and enjoy the training. Roll as if you are on a park bench, not fervently, impatiently awaiting a bus that may not turn up. That is to say, work your rolls. Follow your partners into the dark deep water where you're uncomfortable. Make the unfamiliar familiar. The Gracie brothers use the phrase "keep it playful." I think this is an oversimplification. It implies not to take the studious aspects of jiu jitsu seriously. It also implies that training 'hard' isn't playful. One of my most valued training partners and I go after each other. We do our best to break down each others strategies and test our abilities. He is the litmus test for my game, and to me that is the ultimate in "park bench" rolling. I see exactly where I am, and thoroughly get to know my current surroundings. However, it does not feel playful. I'm being tested, and with this gentleman in particular I fail the test to one degree or another (he outranks me and taps me nearly every time we roll). The model of a park bench is more complete.

The second way this parable works is one should have a few "bus stop rolls." Particularly with lower belts, one should go in with specific things to work on. I want to work xyz sweep, and only submit with this sequence. Then have the fortitude to stick to those constraints. If you are honest, you will get a result. The bus will be on time or not. If it is, great. Move on. If not, you now know where the weakness in that part of your game is, fix it. One should understand that this is an unnatural state. It isn't an indicator of where your game is or your value as a human. For that you take it back to your park bench. Where you roll and flow and be yourself. Keep in the moment and enjoy the place you're at.
Within jiu jitsu there is a third location: competition roll. That is only 'A' game stuff. Where you set yourself to only roll in your strong areas, and circumvent your weaknesses. These rolls should only be used for times before competition (when a teammate gets a new belt or similar 'wood shed' moments). If you're not competing then you should rarely find yourself in this mindset. It's stunting, you don't grow as fast if you're only rolling comfortably.


Tony Gentilcore goes into depth on how this applies in the gym.