Monday, July 7, 2014

Worst weekend to date..

I had a terrible weekend. First, I was cutting some zip ties. I actually thought: "this is stupid. I'm cutting toward myself, pulling too hard, and basically ignoring every tenant of knife safety." Just as I finished that thought, I cut myself. Not very big cut, but when I dabbed the blood away I could see the bone under the flap. This was 9 pm on July 3rd. If I went to the ER, I'd get seen just about the time the wound had completely healed, and charged about a grand for the privilege. So neosporin and tape it is.
And that friends and enemies is just the start of things.
Friday afternoon I started to fell pretty tired. I tried to take a nap, but the oldest boy kept me awake. My throat started to get sore, and feel swollen. My stomach started to wiggle and flip flop. I skipped dinner and went to bed after putting the kids down at 8. By the middle of the night my throat hurt so badly that every time I swallowed I woke up from the pain. Every time I'd get up to use the restroom the room would spin, and I'd have to hold on to something to keep from passing out. My stomach was an unholy mess of hunger pangs and distress. I ate 1/2 a banana. It was a torment with every swallow. It just plain hurt. By 8 am I honestly thought "If I don't see a doctor I could die from this. I have never felt this terrible." Now I have been sick before, and have thought I should go to the doctor to get this checked out, or to make sure I don't pass this around. This was different, I was bad and getting worse. Went to the doc and found out I had a fever of 102, and a pretty aggressive case of strep. I started on antibiotics, and went back to bed at 10 am. I woke at around 2-3, fever broken, and feeling only just terrible. I had some chicken soup (having eaten only 1/2 a banana and a peach in the last 24 hours). Back to sleep by 9. Sunday, I was just 'under the weather.'
My wife was great, I basically slept from Friday night to Sunday morning. She drove me to the doc and corralled the kids while I got treated. She managed the kids all day Saturday, and took them to the beach, and store by herself so that I could have some time to recover. So when the boys were in the bath, she headed off to take a shower in peace. Well, about 2 minutes after she headed downstairs our youngest pooped in the bath. I get the boys out of the tub, and a nubbin of poo must have clung to his backside and then fell on to the bathmat. He then stepped in said poo and tracked it all over the bathroom while I frantically tried to fish the turds out of the bath, excise all 547 bath toys from the tub, empty and disinfect the tub, and re-fill it so as to have a place to hold them while I cleaned and sanitized the entire bathroom floor (the bathmat went in the garbage..enough is enough). I feel better knowing that for my absence this weekend I could absorb that horror show for my wife. She did yeoman work this weekend, and probably had a more stressful, if less unpleasant weekend.

Today, I have a sore throat, and don't exactly feel my special best, but I am well down the road of back to myself.
Hopefully things will head upwards from there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dead air.

Well friends, I have been a bad blogger.
I haven't written a damn thing in 5 weeks. I have to admit the whole knee thing took the wind out of my sails a bit. I couldn't do the things I normally write about.. and that was a major bummer.. which of course made me not want to write.
If I'm honest I was borderline depressed for some of that time. Not sleeping, over eating, irritable, unmotivated..just being a total schlump.
So here we are 5 weeks later. I have trained jiu jitsu 3x in the last week. I am pretty terribly out of shape, but the knee has held up thus far. I'm being cautious, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the damn thing just might hold up.
Similarly I had a run of several very heavy posts, and I just couldn't figure out how to come up with content to follow that. How do you follow a heavy several thousand word post on misogyny with my own navel gazing about being unable to train? Particularly how does one do so without sounding ridiculous? I couldn't.. but now with some time and a better attitude, I'm back at it.
I'm going to run a few MMA/UFC posts, get back in writing mode.. and hopefully things will keep on keepin' on.
Feel free to contact me with anything you'd like discussed.
Enjoy the sunshine.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A friendly tip to medical professionals..

If you have a patient, who presents with an injury that you cannot figure out or diagnose maybe being flippant and dismissive isn't the correct tact. Perhaps a bit of humility.

A couple weeks ago, I got fed up waiting for my knee to magically get better. I went back to the doctor, scheduled an appointment with a PT and generally did my best to be proactive in getting this thing fixed. The doc ordered a MRI, and the PT (a good friend) opined that I had damaged my meniscus, would probably need surgical intervention. Yet the MRI yielded no evidence of any tears.. nothing. Instead of prescribing more PT or some other intervention the Doctor's advise was "go back and train, if it happens again come back and see me, or go visit one of these surgeons." No further advise, no discussion of his own complete FAILING to come up with a specific diagnosis. Just a shrug and a "go fish."
Hey, thanks for nothing doc.
So here we are again. Brand new black belt, still haven't really trained in it yet, and I have no idea, no way of knowing what's wrong, or how to fix it.. or if it can be fixed. All I have a questions:
  1. Will it ever be functional? 
  2. If so, do I just need to see another doc? 
  3. Do I need surgery? 
  4. Do I just need to let it rest? If rest, how long?
  5. Is it a nerve problem? Could be.. if so then am I damaging the nerve? 
  6. Am I done with jiu jitsu? A sad possibility, but a possibility none the less.
  7. What about Judo? Maybe I can get back to Judo?
  8. Is it going to get better? Is it only going to get worse?
I'm exasperated. It is mid-May and I haven't trained hard in 6 months.
This sucks.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ozymandias, the imperminance of position and popularity.

    I met a Traveler from an antique land,
    Who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    "My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings."
    Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!
    No thing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Right now jiu jitsu is fairly popular (as martial arts go). We are at a crossroads, and as such need to remember: there is no rule of law, no decree, no divine gospel that says that jiu jitsu needs remain popular and viable.
Judo and Sambo are on the rise in MMA.  MMA itself is overwhelmingly popular, traditional jiu jitsu could easily be swallowed by the desert. Lost to the sands of time. We are it's stewards, protectors and propagators. The legacy of Rolls, and Helio, of Carlson and Carlos is in our hands. If we sell that legacy short or cheaply. If we do not change our attitudes as to whom is welcome then in a few generations we may go the way of Karate. Split into factions. Point stylists, Kenpoists, Store fronts in strip malls, or windowless basements. Everyone arguing as to who has the "real Karate." Aspects lost to history, and only pockets of the original martial intent.
Things could be even worse yet. Those who are interested in sport could leave for Judo or Sambo. Those interested in self-defense folded in to some "reality based martial art" or just off to train at an MMA school. There would be some purists; soul-rollers sweating in gis on mats laid down in a rec room or garage, but the sport would be dead, and the lineages dilute. Belts would have virtually no meaning. Jiu jitsu would be just another fringe martial art. Gone the way of it's Japanese cousin.

We are at a tipping point. This can be the high water mark before the tides begin to recede, or we can become a legitimate (if still peripheral) sport to avoid the former and encourage the latter we need to make some changes:

  1. We need a legitimate, non-profit, governing body. One with a diverse and representative board of directors. It can not be 4 members of the Gracie clan, 2 Machados, and 2 token "others." It needs to be a mix with a nod to the family, and the history of the martial art, but representing ALL jiu jitsu players in the U.S.. Instructors, family guys, MMA fighters, competitors, women, everyone. These need to be elected positions, and cannot be controlled by any one affiliation.
  2. With this there needs to be constraints put on Affiliations. There needs to be rules as to what the affiliations can dictate to the instructor/owner, and what they can not. There needs to be a grievance system within the governing body for instructors to file against their affiliation. I have seen some horrible contracts for affiliates where they can strip an instructor of their school and livelihood without recourse. The enforceability of the contract is dubious, but still. There should be some recourse within the sport itself.
  3. The governing body would sponsor all visas into the U.S. for instructors. Sponsorship by the affiliations gives them too much sway over people's lives. Yes this is a massive pain in the ass for the governing body, but I don't see it working any other way.. feel free to comment with better ideas.
  4. Sexual harassment hotline. If a fairly new white belt gets harassed (or worse yet assaulted) by an instructor, s/he should have an impartial number to call. She shouldn't have to call a company representative for the affiliation. Too much money at stake. I'm not saying anyone would play "Three card monty" with inappropriate instructors or worse ignore allegations, but I am saying that some people in this world would.. if there is money to be made it is always better to remove that incentive.
  5. Fix the rules. Not just dictated from the top, but really work on shifting the rules and how they are made. Put together committees in a transparent open forum. Create a mission statement for what competition jiu jitsu should be. Use smaller tournaments as trials for the rules sets, publish findings. Survey, get feedback. Set official dates for rules changes well in advance. The current model where the IBJJF just announces changes in rules less than a month from worlds is laughable. 
  6. Stop forcing competitors to compete under "registered associations." If I have a black belt, under a legitimate second degree black belt, I should be able to compete. If I'm from Joe's jitsu, then I should be able to put down "other" and my points don't count towards the team totals. There is no reason for this rule, it needs to go.
  7. Do away with the belt registration fees. This stinks of McDojo-ism. We should take our cues  any other legitimate sport. You register, you pay a yearly fee. That's that. Spread the costs across everyone and it becomes a fairly nominal fee. Then the governing body can take on some of the insurance costs which gives the instructors incentive to make membership requisite for training. It becomes very easy.
  8. Stop trying to look like Judo. The refs in jackets, the square mats. Blue or White gis only. Stop. This the U.S. people are used to refs in striped shirts. Stop making these poor refs crawl around, or shift sweaty competitors in a hot gym in a jacket. Let people wear whatever they want as far as gi color. I am a plain white gi guy. Seriously. I have 1 blue gi, because mine tore years ago and my instructor only had blue left. I like that classic look, but let the players play. If you're paying players and issuing uniforms then you can dictate. Till then as long as the gi doesn't give an unfair advantage, let the kids play.
  9. This one is for instructors in general. Stop with the belt inflation. I have seen adults wearing orange belts, belts with horizontal stripes? STOP! if you want to bump the number of stripes to 10, be my guest, but stop with the TKD belts. It completely screws up everyone's understanding of where they are. If you add orange and green belts, and I don't. Our students have no idea what means what. Is my 2 stripe white belt your orange belt? What about one of my blue belts and one of your green belts? It's ridiculous. At least if you use 10 stripes and I use the traditional 4 the white belts still know they're white belts, and the blue belts know they're approximately the same.. and so on.
  10. This is for everyone. Be a representative. Black, white, blue, purple or brown belt, represent jiu jitsu. Don't pull immature pranks and throw the video up on YouTube. When you write an opinion piece, write like you are trying to educate the person in question. Go easy on the ad hominems and insults. It doesn't help your case. The easiest way to kill our martial art/sport is to be a staggering jackass and make sure everyone knows you're a part of it. On line, in person, in competition, represent jiu jitsu well. If you're in, don't be a jackass, and if you're a jackass go do something else.
We have to be careful that our personal interests don't dilute or kill this thing. When I'm old.. older.. I want my jiu jitsu black belt to still mean something. I don't want to explain that it was a martial art you don't see much any more because of a bunch of sexual predators ran everyone off. I don't want it to be something my grandkids get to wear after a few summers because someone figured out they could make a few bucks. Right now that belt has weight. I want it to keep that weight, but I also want anyone to feel welcome on the mats. Jiu jitsu is not for everyone, but it can be for anyone. Everyone is welcome to try, not everyone will get there. That is what makes it great. I think that is worth fighting for.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Not just boys fun, sexual harassment and jiu jitsu

Ladies, and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades, friends; we need to make a change.
Last week something terrible came to light. A 35+ year old black belt instructor was arrested for sex with a 14 year old student. What's worse is it came to light if not in my own house, in my neighborhood for sure. I hate it. I hate that it happened at all. In particular I hate that the predator was someone I'd met, someone our community has gone out of the way to assist when he was in dire straights financially and his actions has people I consider friends and family doubting each other, doubting themselves.. there is no going back. We have to move forward.
Georgette did an outstanding piece on how to handle rape in our community. I won't re-reap that ground. I will say that we have a bigger problem, and I'm going to try to take this one on. It's nuanced, so that makes it difficult. Sexual Harassment within our community has to stop.
I can hear the eye-rolls and groans from dudes all over the internet.
I don't care, here's the deal. This thing does not belong to you. It does not belong to the Gracie family, it belongs to the world. The women who want in are just as valuable as anyone else. If you ruin jiu jitsu for someone because of what you'd like to do with your private parts, you're a horrible person. You are not welcome in my world.
So how do we fix this?

First the instructors. 
  • You can't date students. Sorry, you should not. If they're your student you shouldn't be dating, and if you're dating they should be studying under someone else. If you're both adults they can train at your school, but rank should come from elsewhere.
  • You are the captain of the ship. You need to be an example in the academy and in the world. Your behavior should be exemplary, and if you getting laid is more important than bringing women into the sport (and students into your school) your priorities are garbage.
  • No benefit of the doubt. If a student is behaving in a way that is inappropriate you let them know in no uncertain terms that behavior is not going to be tolerated. If they say anything other than "I understand, I'm sorry." they're gone.  
  •  No safe haven. Someone gets booted from a school for inappropriate behavior it should be made known they're done. They're not welcome in jiu jitsu, anywhere.
  • Communicate. If you boot someone, let other instructors know. Keep your eyes on things, and talk to your upper belts. I'm not saying you should let the rumor mill dictate your actions, but you should hear what's going on.
  • Changing is important. Locker rooms matter. Individual changing rooms are ideal, gendered are ok, one big barracks style changing room can be problematic. Make the bathroom, or your office, somewhere clean and private available to new students. Let them know they have options.
  • If it doesn't seem right ask questions. It's hard for students to point out something wrong with another instructor, keep an eye on your peers. In the situation with Mr. Oliveira there were a number of instructors who interacted with both him and the girl. If someone had asked some pointed questions and ignored his prestige and rank, she might have been spared years of abuse. Don't find yourself asking years later "could I have prevented this." 
  • Write up a sexual harassment policy and post it in your academy. Select someone in your association (outside your academy) to be a neutral sounding board. Post their number. If someone is harassed they should be able to talk to you, and if they're uncomfortable they should be able to call Professor Blah from North blahty blah jiu jitsu and feel confidant that their voice will be heard. If you need help with this, email me.
  • Organize. We need to put together regional boards. Neutral bodies that hear complaints (if there are any) about instructors. In most sports this would be handled by the governing body. Since jiu jitsu doesn't have a governing body as much as a tournament organizing body we must do it ourselves.
For the higher ranked students:
  • Keep your eyes open, and your mouth open as well. Watch people's behavior. Is there a guy that none of the women will train with? If he doesn't wash his gi, that's one thing.. but it could be something more insidious. Talk to any student that looks uncomfortable, then talk to the instructor. 
  •  24/7 many instructors don't spend time outside the academy with students. If you're hanging out with folks from the school, keep your standards high. A person who is a jerk in the club is a jerk, no matter how good their guard.
  • Be loud. Be vocal that you will not tolerate people using their sexual desires to run people off. Post Georgette's article to social media. If you teach classes, speak out against harassment. When your instructor posts a harassment policy vocally support it. 
  • Hard line. This is the hard one. Keep a hard eye on your instructor. If they're a part of the problem, then you have to hold them accountable. Talk to them, I've been through 4 different company's and 3 volunteer organization's sexual harassment training courses. An instructor who has been running their own business for 15 years may not understand. Send them to this article. Have them email me. Ultimately you have to consider if you want to fly their flag, sucks but this has to be fixed from the top down.
  • You are a leader. Lead. Touch base with female students you have a rapport with, make sure they are happy and comfortable at your school. If someone (male or female) stops turning up all of the sudden or suddenly changes class times, do you know why? Find out. 
  • Make people comfortable. This is your home, welcome folks into your home. If you're an upper belt you should be evolved past the posturing of the lower ranks. Be welcoming. 
For all students:
  • Take it outside. If you're interested in someone within the academy, don't hit on  them in the house. Treat it the way you would someone you work with. Ask them to coffee, talk some jiu jitsu and then ask very openly if they'd like go on a date some time. Not "hang out" but date. Be clear but not pushy. If the answer is no, assume the answer will forever and ever be no.
  •  It's not funny. If you think of a really funny sexualized joke, ask would I put my mother in place of the person I'm joking with? If the answer is no then think really hard about with whom you are joking. What is the power dynamic like? Do you outrank them? Do you outnumber them? would they make this joke about you? Then keep it to yourself.
  • It's not just the final frontier. Give people space. If your academy doesn't have gendered or individual changing rooms, give anyone who seems uncomfortable the option of changing alone.
  • Don't put up with it. Do what you think is needed, but don't allow the jackasses to take over our sport. Don't let jiu jitsu miss out on a great person because a terrible person was there first.
Look, I'm no idiot. Jiu jitsu puts people in some pretty awkward positions, and creates a level of intimacy that few other activities engender. People are going to make errors in judgement. If we as a community say in a loud and unified voice "Not ok, not welcome here." We will create a culture where errors in judgement don't become pervasive attitudes, because that is what invites predators in our midst.
Jiu jitsu can be the martial art where the weaker can defend themselves from the strong, or we can be the martial art where we teach people to hold someone down and do whatever they'd like. Every time you let a student or a peer harass someone that is a potential rapist you're teaching to hold someone down. Is that the legacy you want for our sport? Measure your convenience against that, a few jokes, the freedom to hit on that hot girl or guy. If you don't value our legacy more than that, you're beyond helping.