Jan 292013
 

Good class last night.  The school continues to grow, which is great.  Coach Bing is hustling pretty hard to build his school and I’m happy that he’s doing so.

Class yesterday had 13 people06.  I’ve been averaging 1 or 2 classes per week, which makes it very difficult to get any kind of momentum.  As a result, I’ve gained some weight and my conditioning is really bad.

We had a good warmup and went over a basic mount escape and a basic back escape, and then sparring.

What’s been really cool about having the affiliate school in Covington is that some of the guys who sort of dropped off, largely due to work and family considerations, are finding their way back into the school.  Knowing that it’s a Foster BJJ affiliate helps.  One of these wayward jitieros is a guy named Darin Zabriskie, who trained at Foster BJJ way back when the school was still in Auburn.  He’s a very thoughtful, technical guy, which makes having him back at the school a real pleasure.  But what’s really cool is that he’s a certified Muay Thai trainer and has been coaching Muay Thai after the BJJ classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Darin trained with Greg Nelson, over in the Midwest, and is a certified Muay Thai instructor under the Thai Boxing Association of America under Ajarn Chai Sirisute.  So far, the classes are pretty small, but there’s a lot of interest.  I’ve never been too interested in punching people, which is part of why I was drawn to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  But it looks like a different kind of workout and I might just have to give it a shot.

Aug 012012
 

origin-storiesA passing comment by a friend on Facebook reminded me of how I found BJJ.  I’m a superhero fan and have been for as long as I can remember.  I read comic books, watched the cartoons and loved the Christopher Reeves Superman movies almost as much as I loved Star Wars.  All of this means two things:  first, I microwaved spiders when I was little in the hopes that one would survive and become an irradiated spider which would then bite me and give me super powers… AND I love a good origin story.  In my defense, I was little and microwaves were a new invention.

I particularly enjoy the origins stories for the non-athletes with whom we all train.  BJJ is as diverse a group as I can imagine.  There are athletes and non-athletes, and it’s common to see people training from literally all walks of life.  I’ve trained with doctors, lawyers, a medical examiner, construction workers, cable guys, online web editors, teachers, and professional, full time MMA fighters.  And every one of them found BJJ in a different way.

So, what’s your origin story?  I’d love to hear it, and in return, I’ll share mine below for anyone who might be interested.

My story starts back in 1998 when I quit smoking after 14 years of the pack a day habit.  While that was undoubtedly good for me, I replaced the habit of smoking with an equally bad habit of eating, and ended up gaining a lot of weight.  This peaked in 2003, where I was somewhere in the range of 27 or 28% body fat, carrying a large gut, had high cholesterol, chronic back pain and was pre-diabetic.  In other words, I was pretty much like most of the other 32 year old guys in America.

When my kids showed a passing interest in martial arts, I thought it was great and we found our way into a small martial arts school in Kent, WA.  I trained for about three years at this school which was a mishmash of martial arts styles.  The owner of the school was a black belt in a martial arts style called Aam-Ka-Jutsu, but liked to mix in some grappling (and honestly, anything else he felt like teaching, whether he was qualified to do so or not).  I won’t go much into this school, which has long since closed.  The end result was that, in 2006, I was now 35, still grossly overweight, still had high cholesterol, still had chronic back pain and was, that’s right, still pre-diabetic.

For me, the turning point was when my kids did what kids are prone to do; they lost interest.  Fine with me.  Actually, I have to be honest.  The actual turning point for me was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever willingly done.  One of the last classes I attended at this school, the instructor had a small TV set up off to the side of the training area with the fight scene from the Matrix (video below).  It was the scene where Neo was being tested by Seraph.  Yeah.  So, I’m sure you know what happened next.  Our “martial arts” class went through and reconstructed the fight choreography.  I was embarrassed to be a part of this. We’d done some crazy stuff before, like “awareness” exercises where we would put on blind folds and throw bean bags at each other… but this was far and away the silliest.

The infamous “fight” scene from the Matrix.

 

So, the kids turned their attention to other things, and I was now liberated to find something that would suit me better.  But what?  At this school, my favorite part of the training was the grappling classes.  I had no idea what other styles were out there.  So, I cracked a beer one evening and did what anyone in 2006 would do.  I googled martial arts and started doing some research on the internet.  I started by looking for a Judo club in my area.  I knew just a little about Judo, and thought that this would fit the bill.  Truthfully, it probably would have.  I’ve never trained in Judo specifically, but I have a lot of respect for the art.

But that’s when I stumbled upon Bullshido.com in June, 2006.  Now, Bullshido is almost like barely controlled chaos.  I was fascinated.  I learned new vocabulary words, like “McDojo.”  More importantly, I learned that EVERY SINGLE problem I had with my previous school was common.  The mandatory belt testings, the fees, the questionable practices, the entire thing.  I also discovered that there was a style of martial arts that was all about grappling, and that it was everything that my previous school wasn’t.  No belt testings, no additional fees… no shenanigans.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I read through that site for most of the night and then I started looking for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in my area.

I found Foster Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which was just a few minutes from my house, and actually vetted the school on Bullshido.  I won’t lie.  I had to work up some courage.  This was way outside my comfort zone.  It took months for me to actually go into the school and check it out.  Like most things, the concerns were completely baseless.  James was huge, but friendly and soft spoken and I ended up starting my training just a few days later, in November, 2006.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  I started this blog just a few weeks later, and have found that whenever I need some inspiration, I can go back and read some of my early posts.  I won’t ever be a world champion (or a superhero), but I have come a long way.  I’m not the same person I was in 2006, and I owe a lot of that to Coach Foster, all of the quality upper belts he’s trained (and who have in turn trained me) and the sport/art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Fast forward to present day, where I train primarily with Bing Crook, a brown belt under James Foster, but I remain a part of the Foster BJJ family at Phantom BJJ in Covington, WA.

So that’s it.  That’s my origin story.  Not quite the Amazing Spider Man (although I’m still holding out hope that I’ll stumble upon an irradiated spider some day).  That’s how an overweight, out of shape, 30-something year old who had never really participated in any organized sport in his life found his way into the combat sport of BJJ.

May 062012
 
gray gi

I completed a couple of projects. The batik is for me.

I’m also offering a custom dye service for $60 for a limited time with your supplied gi, or $150 for a high quality pearl weave gi custom dyed in your choice of color. The gi I offer is the same as the dark green gi below.

Check out all the options at my store.

Mar 192012
 

Congratulations to both Coach Bing and Kenji. Bing had a couple of great matches and earned a silver medal. Kenji, only a little more than three months of BJJ under his white belt, won a great first match. He lost his second one on points, but time ran out with him in solid control of his opponent’s back and working a choke.

Class tonight was fun. We worked basics, basics, basics. Opening a closed guard and the fundamental knee slide pass to either side. With so many white belts at the school, it’s been really good for me to go back and revisit the basics.

Video below is Kenji in his first match. We worked opening the closed guard and talked a little about posture at today’s class, because it looks to me like he had a little trouble with a strong opponent who was locking him down.

Bing’s first match against Brock Doyle, a tough brown belt from Gracie Barra.

And Bing’s second match against Trevor Prangley. I don’t know how big Trevor Prangley is, but he’s stout. Fun match to watch.

Feb 082012
 

funReally fun class tonight.  Small group.  Nine, including me.  with several white belts.   I covered class with Scott Y. tonight.  Bingo had to fulfill his civic duty.

After warm-ups, we worked a couple of basic techniques.  I showed the guys a sweep I like, the basic tripod sweep.  The following video is very similar to how I was taught.  First, I want to say that while I’m outlining some key differences below, I’m not suggesting that he is wrong and I’m right.  There are a billion minor variations, and I’m sure I could pick up details from people better than me.

There are a couple of key differences.  One of the things I brought up and Scott helped demonstrate is that when you get into open guard, whether it’s spider guard, de la riva or whatever, it’s really about creating openings through transitions.  You’re seldom going to move neatly from closed guard to spider guard to hitting this sweep.  Life just doesn’t work like that… at least not for me. 

Unless he’s giving me the ankle by driving a knee in, I tend to pull the ankle in with a de la riva guard, and then switch just as I hit the sweep.  It gives me a much better angle, I believe, to get the sweep to work. 

Another key difference is that I tend to be more underneath my opponent… not quite as stretched out. 

Finally, as I hit the sweep to the same side as the video above, I hook with my right foot behind my opponent’s knee instead of down low at his ankle.  That foot isn’t really lifting as much as it’s just blocking, and it’s going to be a lot harder for my opponent to just step over my hook if I’m up under his knee.

One thing I like about this video that’s also different is that he comes up behind his opponent in side control.  For whatever reason, as I ride my opponent up on the sweep, I tend to end up in a knee slide over into side control on the other side.  I don’t think it matters.  Just different.

Anyway, that’s a sweep I was taught early in my BJJ career, and I still use it all the time. 

Scott showed a slight variation to a straight armlock from side control when your opponent has his far side arm out of position around your head.  The key difference is, typically as you trap that arm and pop up to knee on belly, the opponent turns into you to relieve some of the pressure on his elbow.  That can make or break the armlock.  In this variation, you keep the arm trapped using your head and arm, and with the other hand reach down and turn his head away from you, pinning it with your knee.

Not a friendly technique, but as the head goes, so goes the body.  Forcing your opponent to turn away from you creates the proper angle to finish the technique.  Good stuff from Scott.

While I’m in no way looking or presuming to teach the guys much, I have to admit that the pressure of showing some technique on occasion is forcing me to up my game.  I joke with the guys that I’ve already shown them my repertoire of three moves, but the truth is, it’s good for my development to really think critically about what I know and what I’m comfortable sharing with the team.  It’s the cattle prod that’s forcing me to kind of up my game a bit and I’m confident that it will make me better. 

I’m pretty sore after class, but again, as with Monday’s class, I didn’t over work tonight and even though I’m still at about maybe 80% recovery after the pneumonia, I’m leaving class pumped up and anxious for the next class.  I feel like I did when I first started training… fully addicted. 

Feb 082012
 

Had a great time at class on Monday. I made it through the entire class, but took it a little easy during sparring. While I’m over the pneumonia for the most part, there’s a lingering cough that the doc said might last for up to a month. And while my wind just isn’t there, the thing that’s killing me is this persistent fatigue. It’s like I’m tired all the time. But better every day. Don’t get me wrong. Every day I wake up, I feel better than the day before. I’d say I’m at about 80% now, which is awesome. I’m ready to get back in and train at least three days per week again.

But I felt really good after class, and am looking forward to getting back on the mats tonight. Woke up yesterday sore, but ready to go.

One of our old buddies, Owen, showed up yesterday. He’s been out of the State for work for the last several months, but was up just for the day. Got to roll with him and remembered just how big he was. At one point, he passed my guard and was just grinding with shoulder pressure in side control. He’s a big dude… like Thor. I could totally see him jumping over the side of a Viking long ship with axe in hand, ready to plunder and pillage some small village off the coast of Ireland. Or maybe not.

I have three gis ordered and am looking forward to making them different colors. While I’m going to leave the detailed reviews to Meerkatsu, I’ll post a short review of each with some pictures once I get them. I have high hopes for them both.


I’m also working to put together a website for my modest venture into small business ownership. “Dye, Steve. Dye!” is coming together. While I’m still working on getting the gallery put together of my projects and such, you can get more information at http://www.stevebjj.com/store.

Feb 022012
 

kellygreen2I made it to class last night and felt… okay.   Last week, by the time Friday rolled around, I finally admitted to myself that I was getting worse, not better.  I was planning on going to the doctor on Saturday if I didn’t feel better, but Friday morning, when I began coughing up a charming combination of phlegm and blood, I figured I’d probably better get some help.

Sure enough, I was diagnosed with pneumonia, given a stern look or two by the doctor, and a couple of prescriptions.  By Friday evening, I was already feeling better. 

kellygreen1Bing had some personal business to take care of, so we worked some basics. I showed a simple scissor sweep along with a couple of variations, including the elevator sweep. Nothing fancy, but we have several white belts, and I figure that you can’t get enough of the basics. I also talked a little about the “dead angle.”

My energy level remains very low and I’ve still got a cough, but I’m feeling so much better.  I just feel like I’m dragging through the day, but I guess it takes a while to get over pneumonia.  I’m just thankful that I’m on the mend and able to get to class, and I’m looking forward to Friday. 

I was really pleased that Brandon was at class last night.  I was able to give him his newly dyed gi and he really seemed pleased.  In the second picture, I made the mistake of looking directly at it.  While it’s not quite as bright as Bing’s Orange Crush, it’s pretty bright. 

Also, after giving it a lot of thought, I’m going to offer my services if anyone is interested in having a gi dyed by me.  While I think that the process of dying a gi is very accessible, I get there are people who want a unique color, but who aren’t interested in DIY. 

The price is something that I gave a lot of thought to, and I’m going to charge $80 for a single colored gi.  Considering the cost of materials, shipping and the time involved with hand dying each gi, one at a time, I think this is a very fair price. 

I’m in the process of putting some actual policies together on a website so that everything is very clear.  But the way I look at it, I’ll help you with information for free. I have made a lot of information available, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to give it a shot.  But, I’m also available to do it for you, if you’d like to pay for the service.  It’s something I enjoy, and I have done enough of them now that I’m confident that I can make your gi look really good.  I’ll also be working on some hand dyed gi patches and shirts using batik.  More to come on this in the near future. 

Jan 152012
 

http://www.dailypilot.com/news/tn-dpt-0114-blackbelt-20120113,0,1768188.story

After practicing jiu-jitsu for 15 years, Gene Pace is awarded with highest common belt in Brazilian martial arts.”

This is such a terrific story. Not only does this demonstrate once and for all that if you train smart and listen to your body, BJJ is a legitimate life sport.

And whether the author of this article knows it or not, she articulates in just a few sentences several of the 10 Commandments of BJJ:

“He’s Mr. Consistency. He never misses a class, not ever,” said Buckels, who holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu, as well as kru in Muay Thai kickboxing.

In those 15 years, before Pace, Buckels had only awarded one other jiu-jitsu black belt, and it was to another instructor.

“The best way to describe Gene is that he just executes what you teach him to do,” Buckels said. “If you show him a move, he will go after that move.”

Gene Pace earned his black belt in BJJ by being consistent. He trained twice a week and never missed a class.

He earned it by being fearless. When his instructor shows him a move, he “goes after that move.”

He earned it by being patient and he earned it by being humble. The general estimate for earning a black belt in BJJ is 10 years, which is already a very long time compared to most other styles of martial arts. He earned it in 15 years. This epitomizes for me what I’ve said before. I’d rather train for the rest of my life as a purple belt than get my black belt tomorrow and have to give BJJ up forever.

BJJ is a life long journey and a true life sport. Stories like this just make my day.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this really makes me look forward to class tomorrow!

Jan 102012
 

Bing Crook opened up Phantom BJJ, his Foster BJJ affiliate school, in Maple Valley a few months ago and it’s been excellent training consistently again.  As of right now, he only has two classes per week, but he’s working on adding a third, which would be AWESOME.

As it stands, technically, I’m starting to get my groove back… a little.  I was pretty much out for an entire year, from October 2010 to October 2011.   As I said, I didn’t exactly drop out completely, but I was extremely sporadic and as a result, I surely slipped somewhat in technique and definitely took several steps back with regards to conditioning.

The cold, hard truth is that I’m once again overweight.  A year of beer and Pick Quick burgers (best in the area and, sorry guys, but better than In and Out) and I was a solid 210 lbs in October.   The good news is that, while my cardio is still terrible and I’m making slow progress there, exercise and diet go hand in hand.  What I mean is that when I’m active, I want to eat better because I want to be able to exercise more.  It’s a positive cycle, and as of this morning, I weighed 201.5 lbs.  I’m going to work hard over the next few months to get back to my relatively stable weight of 180 – 185 lbs.  I felt good when I was there, and that’s where I need to be.   I’m on track to lose a healthy 3 or so lbs per month, which is great.

James Foster came out to the school yesterday and trained with us.  It was really good to see him, and I”m going to try and get down to Kent at least one day each week.  I’d like to get back to training 3 or 4 days per week.