Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Babies make me sick.

Literally. My kids got me sick. The Cardinals are in the World Series (down 3-2 heading back to Boston no less) I couldn't watch fight night 30 and have been training sporadicly for the last week and a half. Bleh.
I perhaps by the end of the week I'll have something interesting to say, but right now.. not so much.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

UFC 166

Both kids were sick, so my viewing of this event was hit or miss.. Comments on the fights I saw.

K.J. Noons looked great against George Sotiropoulos. He always does when he can talk his opponent into a boxing match. But for a striker who hasn't had a KO/TKO win since 2010, not a good sign. Losses in 5 of his last 7 have him skating on very thin ice. I don't know what the issue is. K.J. has good tools when he wants to use them, he just tends to fade in and out of fights.

Aussie George, I really like him. I think he's a game guy who is eager to learn and improve, but he needs two things. His wrestling has to get better. 155 is loaded with wrestlers, and you just can't fight off your back and win consistently. His posture.. everyone knows George has bad posture, but I'm here to tell you it's terrible. It's killing his wrestling, and it's killing his punching power. He lands some flush shots, but he's so kyphotic and internally rotated that his shoulder blades don't articulate at all. So he's arm punching. His hand speed and power would improve dramatically if he'd get that fixed. I fear that he's on his way to the B leagues after 4 losses.

Sarah Kaufman is a stud. No doubt, but she will need to make sure that she evolves and keeps improving along with the rest of the field. She seemed a beat slow in the fight with Jessica Eye. Her technical adjustments in fight were effective, but she wasn't as crisp as Eye didn't seem to have an answer when Eye countered. It was a razor thin loss to a talented fighter, but a major back step for the #2 fighter in the weight class.

Jessica Eye is a known unknown. She's coming up a weight class but looked good in a close fight with Kaufman. She is not to be underestimated. She's 12-1 with a single loss to the very capable Aisling Daly in her 4th pro fight. I don't think she's got much for the Rowdy one stylisticly, but she choked out Zoila Gurgel.

Hector Lombard is back. Good grief. He straight up poleaxed Nate the great. Not much else to be learned. When he's on he's terrifying when he's off.. meh.

I think Marquardt is on his way to the WSOF. Too many losses, not enough fan support.

C.B. Dollaway is just not good enough to throw his hands up and taunt his opponent. His hands are better than they used to be, but they're not that good. His technical grappling is good. Some of the exchanges with Boetsch warmed the cockles of my mat burned grappler's heart. He needs to keep working on his hands, figure out "face punchery" and "Peruvian Necktie" does not constitute a complete submission game. It was a close fight, and I feel like the judges gave it to Boetsch for "not being a butthole."

Boetsch rights the ship after two losses. I'm not sure where that puts him. He's a little too short for the current middleweight division, but I don't think he can make the cut down to 170. So he's kind of stuck. See also Monson, Jeff.

John Dodson is a tough guy, and has real pop for a 125 pound fighter (7 of 15 wins by TKO/KO 5 of those in round 1). In a fairly thin division that could see him getting another shot at Mighty Mouse sooner rather than later.

I don't know what to make of Shawn Jordan. Starches Pat Barry then 4 months later wanders right into a Napao right hand. Considering he's got 20 total fights and only 3 have gone the distance, I have a feeling Uncle Dana will be keeping him around for a while.

Is Gonzaga back.. sorta? maybe? he's 5 of his last 6 with the one loss being a weird KO to Travis Browne as he was trying to get a single. In a thin UFC heavyweight division that makes him damn near a contender.

I worry about Diego Sanchez. Maybe he cut his tongue, maybe he was just dehydrated and tired, but he was very obviously slurring his words after the fight this weekend. The guy is just 31 and still active. If he's already showing such obvious signs of CTE that would be tragic.

DC goes to Light Heavy where he belongs, and Big Country? Well he's doing what he wants. He could be a real contender, but he insists on driving his own bus. Any Professional who has himself for a trainer has a fool for a fighter.

Cain is the man. If he can avoid Werdum's guard, and keep from walking into a big shot from Browne or Gonzaga... I don't think there's anyone who can beat him. I really like Josh Barnett, but I don't think he's got the tools to be Velasquez.

JDS? At 29 he can start a support group; along with Rich Franklin, Chael P., and a whole host of guys who were beat by the best but better than the rest.

An aside on the Rousimar Palhares deal. I'm a submissions guy. I like watching good grapplers, and Palhares is a great grappler. I don't like him though. He violates the most sacred rule of submission: if you don't have to injure the other person, DON'T.
Toquinio has 4 times been cited in MMA for holding submissions past the point of submission. He's done it in grappling. He's not a good person, and no one should have to put their career on the line in order to fight him.
As an aside to the aside, I personally think the heel hook should be illegal in MMA. There is too much danger to the knee (which is far less forgiving than a elbow or shoulder), and there is no way to improve position on it, and it is often used to stonewall a guard player or passer. It's a 'hail mary' that prevents good grapplers from working.
Finally there is no pain response to the heel hook until it is too late. Your knee doesn't "hurt" till it pops. In the heat of battle, a pro fighter is not going to be aware enough to tap before it hurts, and having guys get their knees blown out all the time makes no sense to the business of MMA.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Be aware, get better.

Video the first:

Sometimes I forget that my analytical nature is not the norm. For me each throw of each round of each drill of each practice is assessed and analyzed. Over and over. This one compared to that one that one to the next.
Each rep is assessed while I'm doing it. Each drill is assessed while we move on to the next, and each practice is gone over and over while I'm driving home, while eating, and even while showering after practice. We have a glass shower stall in our new bathroom, and I find myself diagramming Judo throws and jiu-jitsu principles in the steam on the glass.
This is the way to get better. To be an impartial coach standing outside of your body. Let your body do, and constantly crunch the data and feedback that comes to you. This creates a bit of a dichotomy. You have to be valueless. You are not a bad person because you missed that throw. Don't beat yourself up, keep fighting.
You also have to be harsh. Good enough isn't good enough. If you execute just above the level of someone below your level you will never catch those who are currently above you. That sweep might have worked on Joe or Jane Bluebelt, but won't cut it against Professor Black. Tighten that shit up.
Travis is a solid competitor in BJJ and a monster on the Judo mat. I heartily encourage you to check out what he has to say on other subjects.

This second video.. well that's different.
It's a great metaphor from a terrible source.

I have to say Dennis Prager is gawdawful, but lets not linger on the terrible source and lets move on to the correct metaphor. We fixate on things that we lack, and we get selective blindness for the things we do well.
Have a crazy good top game, but weak off your back? Seems like the world is peopled with tough guard players. Just as the world seems hirsute to a bald man, our flaws seem to be singularly our own. While our strengths seem to be available for a couple of boxtops.
The message in this video is flawed however (not surprising considering the source), We should not overlook our flaws, merely turn a blind eye to our proverbial missing tiles, but to change the topography of the roof and paint in the room to allow that tile to fade in. To fit in a much greater whole. Hell sometimes with a little effort you can just go to the damn store room and put a tile in that empty space. Takes some effort and humility, but generally speaking it is worth doing. Being self aware starts with understanding these games our brains play to placate our ego. As they say in those meetings "the first step is admitting you have a problem."
So admit it. Have the strength to harshly examine the things you want to do well, and make changes. That is how one achieves mastery. To avoid this mindfulness is to struggle mightily and fail. One end of this spectrum is how you get People like Ciao Terra, BJ Penn and Felicia Oh who earned their jiu-jitsu black belts in 3, 3, and 4 years respectively. The other end of the spectrum you get that one guy at your gym who has been a blue belt for 6 years and never listens to anyone, and becomes this measuring stick for everyone who gets their blue belt.
In short.. be mindful, don't be that guy.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him.

Look man, You can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him.
-Sidney Dean

You can listen to Sidney Dean, but you can't hear him.
Last week I busted a plateu. Sub 200 lbs.. it's an arbitrary number, but we humans like nice round numbers.So I threw a status up on the ole bookface saying something about it. A friend who is looking to drop a weightclass or so for a BJJ tourney coming up asked in a comment how I dropped down. So I replied

"(Name) Some small changes. I started drinking smoothies for breakfast and being very deliberate about making that last until 1 pm. I've been carb cycling a bit, and being mindful when I eat. Intentionally small bites, eating slower, delaying 'seconds' for at least 10 - 15 minutes to be sure that's what I want. No sugar, less fruit. Nothing earth shattering."

So of course what does everyone focus on? Carb cycling? the de facto intermittent fasting that I've tricked myself into? Maybe the behavioral changes?

Hells to the no.

everyone gloms on to the smoothies.

Good goddamn grief!

At first I was pissed. Why does everyone grab hold of the easiest part of this whole process and attribute the success to that. The smoothie is just a vehicle. I could have done the same thing with a plate of eggs.. I'd look like an anorexic weirdo taking small bites of eggs every little while from 7:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. and they'd get cold and gross after about 30 minutes but I could do that.
Then I thought about it.. who's fault is it?
That doesn't look so difficult.


I put the smoothie thing first, and in the longest sentence in the paragraph. I've put the emphasis there, aaaaand because it's the softball of the bunch it's very easy for people to read:

Smoothies, uncomfortable stuff. Something I don't know what it means, and stuff I should be doing but don't want to. More of the same, more, and even more. Hard stuff, something I don't recognize as being an issue. Nothing earth shattering.

Change is hard, dietary change is extra super hard. We have evolved to feel like we are starving well and truly to death even under a small calorie deficit. It is in our nature to avoid these feelings of discomfort.

In coaching, particularly when communicating difficult or uncomfortable things with athletes. We need to pay attention to where we put the emphasis, and where the athlete will try to put the emphasis. Most people will immediately grab hold of the "Hey! I can do that" point from the long list, and then proceed to ignore the more difficult points.

I noticed this in particular listening to podcasts. Robb Wolf has an excellent podcast with hundreds of episodes, and people continue to ask the same questions. They keep looking for loopholes in the same things: I want to be lean, healthy, and perform at a high level, but I want to eat sugar, dairy, and/or grains all the while. Even though I have repeatedly had fat gain, health issues, or simply aren't performing while eating these things.
A big share of the blame goes to the fitness industry. 6 minute abzz, put 50 lbs on your bench in 2 weeks! Train like a UFC fighter (and we'll imply that you'll look like one too, but you probably won't) They use already fit people to advertise things that they've never used at worst. Or at best will take someone who has good potential but is out of shape. They will completely overhaul their lifestyle, change their sleep, change their diet, get them exercising like crazy and throw a little abzz blaster 5000 in there too and show the before and after. "Here's what the abzz blaster 5000 did for me."

This chicanery has given people the impression that you can be lean, and perform and be
comfortable. If this were true then there would be no fat people. The truth is that fat loss is uncomfortable. It's possible, but it's uncomfortable. Performance training is uncomfortable. To be in condition you need to suffer. To be strong you need to embrace the grind. If someone puts forward a system to get you where you want to go you can't pick and choose parts and bits. Generally speaking the worst, most uncomfortable part is probably the part you need to embrace. Pareto's principle at play.

And NO it doesn't matter how busy you are, or how many kids you have, or how much you really "need" sugar in your diet. You cannot negotiate your way to your goals. Your body doesn't give a rat's patoot about your excuses or negotiations. It understands hormones and energy balance. If your goals are really to be lean, strong, and fit then make them a priority. If your priorities don't match your goals, you won't achieve them. If someone who has been where you are looking to go gives you advice on how to get there, then listen. Listen with intent. Try to tease out every detail. Don't avoid the uncomfortable stuff. That's the road to success.


Edited for a grammar mistake.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Waxing nostalgic.

Something about the return of fall always makes me nostalgic. The fact that today is the anniversary of the first day I set foot in a jiu-jitsu school, and this Sunday marks the anniversary of the first class I took. It's funny reading my own writing and words. You can almost sense the overwhelmed attempt to put it all in context. To explain is to understand, and I was struggling at both. Now I am so comfortable with the concepts and mechanics I tried to describe that my first fumbling attempts are almost quaint. That was six years, two kids, a condo, and a house ago. I sold my old truck and bought a sensible compact car that saves on gas. I went from vegetarian to paleo. So much of my life has happened in those 6 years, and much of it either happened or was discussed on those mats. The school has changed too. People come and go. There are people you think are integral to the function of the school who move on and the place is never the same. The school has moved once. The head instructor is the same guy. He's a pillar around which we all revolve.
A jiu-jitsu mat is a microcosm of life. We all have our struggle, we all try to eek out our space and understand how things work.
One of the best decisions I've made was to go and visit that class. To take note of the quality of the people there. Without that first step, none of the rest of it is possible.
If you're pondering taking up something.. anything.. just go and check it out. If you've checked it out, then go try it, and if you enjoy it keep enjoying it. Life is too short to hesitate.

Right now I'm a 3 stripe brown belt. Some day I'll be a black belt. The day doesn't matter because at this point it's inevitable. I'm going to keep training till I'm physically unable; it is part of who I am.

Weighed in at 198 last night after training. Haven't been this light in.. I don't actually know how long. I might have hit this low when I was rowing, but I doubt it. If not then, then college would be the last time. I've still got a little ways to go, but I feel great.