Dragon's Tale

Just another female BJJ enthusiast

Something a little different!

So some friends of mine run a fabulous online magazine called Modern Ink Magazine. It is wonderful and I think everyone should take a look. Their new format is ground breaking! It is formated so that people can take in their loads of content in small doses at a time and be able to pin and share each individual article. It is AMAZING!

What’s more incredible is that I submitted some of my writing to them and one of my poems was published in their newest issue! 🙂 Please take a look and feel free to leave comments and/or feedback!

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What a weekend…

So my husband, coach and another friend decided to compete at a tournament in Charlotte, NC this past weekend. Rumor had it that it was a pretty large event and another friend had said it was a good competition when he went several years back. I hate to say that we were sorely and miserably disappointed. 😦

As mentioned before, I have been struggling with competing and so I chose not to participate at this event…that and the women’s weight classes were 139 and below and 140 and above. 🙂 My husband has been training consistently for several months now and worked hard on getting his weight where he needed it. Unfortunately, I was not able to get off work in time to make weigh-ins on Friday evening. He ended up having to cut the last couple of pounds Friday night and weighing-in early Saturday morning before the tournament.

Now, I will say, I was rather proud of my hubby and myself for our level of planning for this trip and competition. We even packed extra food and things to have on hand while we were at the tournament in case it lasted a little longer than we expected. On their website they presented the schedule for the event. Based on this, we thought my coach would start competing pretty early in the day…around 11 or 12 at the latest. So much for that! I’m really not sure what the glitches were but the children’s divisions were on first and lasted the better part of the whole day. My coach competed in the Masters n0-gi division. That division didn’t start until almost a quarter to three. This event was scheduled to start at 10:00am “sharp.”

My husband had planned on competing in no-gi and gi. He ended up only doing no-gi. We didn’t end up leaving the tournament until almost 6 pm. He was much too tired and frustrated to feel up to competing any more. It was a really terrible experience and I don’t think we will be going back. On the upside, my coach placed first in his division and did great! 🙂 My husband won his first match but lost his second. And none of us are exactly sure how it happened…but he didn’t end up placing in his division. We really have no idea how his division was bracketed…there really was no rhyme or reason for it all. We all thought he should have had one last match for third place. Oh, well. Regardless, I was very proud of him! And our friend placed third in his no-gi division. All three of them did great and I am proud of my team…as usual! 🙂

So during the day we had plenty of time to kill. I decided to watch the women’s division while we waited. I didn’t get to see much of the no-gi but did get to see some of the gi. There were only four girls who competed in the blue belt division and about six or eight in the white belt. It is such a different experience watching these matches when I am not competing. I was not quite as intimidated this time…not to say that I wasn’t at all, just less intimidated. 🙂

At least that experience is behind us…and we have learned from it! The next tournament some teammates and my husband are wanting to compete in is the Lutador in Marietta, GA. I am considering competing at this event. The women’s weight class isn’t great, but is probably the best I will see at 129.9 and under. Still plenty of time for me to make a decision. I am so apprehensive because now I will be competing as a blue belt…and this tournament only has a blue belt and above division. Eek!

Gi or No-Gi?

Trained BJJ last Thursday and last night. More work on the Russian Tie and Butterfly Guard. I am starting to feel a little more comfortable with take downs and take down defense because I have been doing more of it. I have learned more about falling correctly and that has also helped. It is easier when working with another female just because it is less weight falling on top of me. 🙂 I am enjoying learning more about Butterfly Guard and am working to incorporate it into my rolling. Kickboxing went pretty well last night but I have been gone too long! I felt bad for my partner because I felt like I was failing her miserably! Hopefully it will start to come back to me as I continue to go to class. It was a HUGE class and it’s so nice to see that! Yay for Pinnacle-MMA!

So in the past six months or so, I have really been focused on working in the gi. My husband and I had a conversation about this the other day and he asked me why I liked gi more than no-gi. It really got me thinking about this. I know that both are important to develop a good well-rounded game in jiu-jitsu but I do like gi better. I explained to my husband that I think training in a gi requires better technique…I don’t say this to mean that no-gi has no technique. No-gi tends to be faster paced and and strength seems to be helpful. During my time training no-gi I noticed that my technique could be a little sloppy but I could still finish the move. With the faster pace that no-gi is, it seems it would be difficult to focus too much on technique or else your opponent will just run circles around you.

As I was thinking about this, I read a discussion board on Sherdog. It seems many people agree with my point about gi being a more technical game. I also read that some think that gi helps build defensive game and no-gi builds offensive game. I can see that perspective. Many times in class I feel like while I am trying to be offensive I am also constantly aware of being defensive. I don’t recall thinking like this in no-gi. No-gi always seemed like such a get ’em kind of mindset. Obviously if someone is training to fight in a cage or is more focused on MMA, no-gi is imperative.

I think that for me, gi is also just more comfortable. Perhaps this then is a bad idea for me to only continue training gi. I know I am a more detail oriented person who focuses on technique. I like the slower pace of gi and the ability I have to plan and think during rolling. I also think that for my size and strength gi tends to be more comfortable. Strength is helpful in both but I feel like with technique being more essential to gi I can rely more on my technique to help overcome strength and size deficits. Tell me what you think…

The age old argument

So I was back in kickboxing class last night! It was actually great being back in there. It is still definitely not my strong suit or anything but it was nice to add that back in to my routine.

Went to BJJ class Thursday night and worked on the Russian Tie and butterfly guard passes. I wasn’t feeling so hot so I didn’t go to class Saturday morning. 😦 I started back in my 5-3-1 weight training routine this past Sunday…and I am sore like whoa!

It is great having this new schedule because it allows me to go to class on a different night than usual and now I have another female in BJJ. It’s great to be training with Jenn again. It’s been FOREVER! It was refreshing to be training with another female again. There is still a size differential but it is definitely a different experience rolling and working with a female than a male.

Speaking of this…there has been a lot of debate recently on various blogs about the topic of women, men, BJJ, strength, and training. Sherdog recently started a discussion about strength in women’s grappling. As a woman, and a particularly petite one at that, this is something I think about and struggle with regularly. It was an interesting discussion board to read. Hillary Williams commented several times on this thread and had some important and relevant points. It was somewhat surprising to me to see the response she got from other people, and by this I mean both men and women.

Let me start out by saying that I am strongly against demeaning women in any way or the belief that women are somehow inferior to men. With that said…I think that many women on this thread became very defensive when discussing the differences in how women and men train in an attempt to combat these ideas. No where in Hillary Williams’ posts did I even glean the idea that women are not as good or talented in BJJ. Her main point is that no matter how much we may dislike it, men and women are just different…and at an even more basic level that individuals are different. There was a person on there posting about how when women step on the mat they should just act like a man and be expected to be treated like a man. What an interesting idea? I understand that BJJ is a sport generally dominated by males but what says that all should have to somehow adhere to the standard of “a man.” I’m not even exactly sure what this person means by “act like a man”…how do we define this exactly? I think it’s naive to think all people learn the same and should be treated exactly the same. I don’t think to say women train differently than men means that women are not as good as men. It seemed to me that on this discussion board the women seem to want to avoid being thought of as a woman, or treated different because they are women, and the men seem to think women should just man up…

There is also another very important aspect to be explored which is the difference in social impact on men and women. Hillary makes the point about how boys and girls are treated differently when they are young. As someone holding a Masters in Social Work who has studied these issues, I recognize this to be very true. Boys are generally raised to be “strong” and masculine. They are encouraged to engage in physical sports, usually some sort of contact sport, while girls are encouraged to engage in more individualistic activities such as gymnastics. This is not to say all children or families follow this mentality but that many, if not most. This is a key factor when thinking of how men and women train differently. I know this was something I struggled with, and continue to struggle with, today. I don’t really want to be thought of as “one of the guys” but I don’t want to be “that girl.” So where does that leave me? I am just trying to get comfortable with being me, a woman who trains jiu-jitsu.

I recognize that as a small woman there are just some areas in which I will be deficient based solely on my size. I don’t say this to put myself down…I hopefully learn how to adjust my game to adapt to this. I will never be able to out muscle a 200 lbs man…especially not a 200 lbs man who does jiu-jitsu. Many people say that BJJ is for the smaller guys…really I think, it’s for the smaller guy who knows BJJ and his opponent doesn’t. Perhaps it’s my own shortcomings, but I have difficulty rolling with white belt men who are twice my size (of course, I am a new blue belt also!). I think men and women both have unique styles when it come to jiu-jitsu and I don’t think one is right and the other wrong. I think it’s merely a way in which we all attempt to adjust. I think it can be a disadvantage for women to only have men to train with and visa versa…which is why I am glad to be training with another female again. All I can say is that I see Hillary’s point of view and it seems to be a perspective shared by many other women in BJJ. What do you think??

Happy New Year!

First off, Happy New Year everyone!!! 🙂 The end of the year was pretty crazy in our house but we enjoyed the holidays and spending time with friends and family.

A little while after my last post, my husband and I attended a seminar taught by Samuel Braga. It was a fabulous seminar and I learned a TON! He did a lot of instruction on basic spider guard, some De la Riva guard and X guard. I was excited to get further instruction on working more open guards. We stayed after the seminar for some open mat rolling. It was definitely an adjustment rolling with new people. I was, as usual, the only female there. I was so apprehensive and anxious before the seminar because I have never been to another gym before. All my insecurities were coming out in full force. In the end, it was a great experience and my anxiety was really unnecessary.

Toward the end of December, my training was not as consistent as I would have liked but hopefully getting that back on track now. My coach has started a new training schedule and it seems to be popular. There are a lot more gi classes and so my husband and I were very excited for that! 🙂 He and I have also decided to try and get back into kickboxing. I’m not quite as excited for that but really I’m sure I’ll enjoy it once I start doing it regularly again.

As far as my healthy eating habits and all…I was doing very well through the month of November and December and started seeing some results. It was definitely more difficult over the holidays but I didn’t indulge too much. 🙂 I am back on track now and hoping to be in the best shape of my life this year!!!!

Hard work does pay off!

It has been a BIG week for me!!!! I trained Tuesday, Thursday and today.

So Thursday we continued working drills with constant movement and so partners were flowing from one position to another. After drilling I rolled with my husband twice, my coach, one of the brown belts at our gym, and two other white belts. I noticed that my coach was really going hard with me and even told my husband during our last roll something like put it on me. When we were lined up at the end of class my coach promoted me to a BLUE BELT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

I cannot even begin to put into words how awesome this was (and still it) and how much it means. I have worked hard for nearly two years and I am finally now a blue belt! It was surreal. I definitely did the “girl” thing and cried. Apparently my coach had planned to promote me about two weeks ago but I was not in class. Knowing that it was coming up, my husband went and ordered the Atama blue belt (the one I wanted) so my coach could give me that when he did promote me. I’m still not sure that it has really hit me yet but I am very excited for what is ahead.

I could not have gotten to this point with out the help of so many people. Obviously my coach…he is an amazing coach. He always pushes me to work hard but is also very supportive. My husband has been a wonderful supporter and constant motivator. His encouragement of my training has often times kept me going even when I thought I really couldn’t do it. He is my biggest cheerleader! 🙂 The Kaos team is definitely another group that has helped me reach this goal. My teammates are there day in and day out, not only to train for themselves but also to train with and for their teammates. All of these people have been so patient with me and my progress in this sport. I honestly didn’t know if I would make it to this point! It’s crazy. I appreciate each and everyone of you! Thanks!

So today was my first day of training as a blue belt. It was noticeably different for me. I could tell my mindset has changed since Thursday night. Lately my husband has been talking to me about getting into what he calls “warrior mode.” He was not saying that I was not being aggressive but maybe not being aggressive enough. I noticed that I turned into “warrior mode” today while I was rolling. I think that this promotion has reassured me that I do have skills and that my technique is up to par (for my level). This was maybe the little push I needed to have more confidence in myself and believe in my skills and technique. I am so looking forward to what awaits now that I have reached this milestone. 🙂

A picture of my coach and me wearing my new blue belt! 🙂

Where have I been??

I swear I have not just stopped training all together! 🙂 The amount I have been training has gone down some but I am working to get that back up again. I have found some vices and distractions on the internet and I have not been very disciplined about my posting… 😦 One new vice on the internet has been Pinterest…anyone heard of it?! 🙂 ADDICTING!

I have been trying to improve my eating habits and, to assist with this, I signed up for an account on Livestrong in an attempt to track my calorie intake. It works very well, I must say. Still not doing as well as I would like (I am a sucker for some good food…) but I am improving. My at home training with conditioning and strength training has been spotty (at best) but I am working to improve this as well. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m not really trying to lose any weight but just tone up my “softer” areas. 🙂

My husband and I have been busy these last couple of months with multiple trips for family weddings and so it has made training consistently a little difficult. I also did have a bout with a sore wrist for a few weeks, which did not do much to help with my training schedule. I did make it last week on Tuesday and Saturday. Both were great classes. Saturday was a little bit exciting because I was introduced to the De la Riva guard. That’s definitely going to take some getting used to.

I had a recent discussion with my coach about tournaments and competing. I was supposed to compete at NAGA Nashville a couple of weeks ago and it turned out it was the same weekend as my husband’s cousin’s wedding. But that really got me to thinking about whether competing is something I want to do right now. I am having very mixed feelings on the subject. A large part of my hesitancy is due to my lack of confidence (this I know) and also probably in part due to losing my only two matches. I feel so intimidated by the women who compete and I don’t want to be “that girl” who competes and competes and never is able to secure a win. A part of me feels like competing is an important part of developing and progressing in this sport so it’s definitely a bit of a conflict.

Just a girl in a man’s (BJJ) world

So yesterday, I was reading a post written by Allie the Clear Belt that featured a video of an interview with Kyra Gracie. It was very inspirational (both the video and the post). Allie asked the women who do jiu-jitsu, “What has been the hardest part for you practicing Jiu-Jitsu? What advantages have you noticed, as a woman training in this sport?” I read Allie’s response and it really resonated with me. But I think the most difficult aspect for me is not the desire to prove myself but rather the feeling that I HAVE to prove myself to someone. I would say that this is a new thing for me but, unfortunately, I think this is rather a pattern in my life. In some ways I think it can be healthy because I know I work hard due to this need to prove myself. On the other hand, this is what causes me to psych myself out.

This need to prove myself has probably played a pivotal role in my losses and my inability to just flow when rolling in class. I understand that I was still relatively new to this sport when I competed the first time but I think that I set far to high expectations for myself. I think in some small part of my mind I thought I HAD to win my matches to show others that I can really do this…that I am not wasting my time with training. I’m not sure why my own validation and growth in this sport isn’t enough. Like Allie, I guess it is just my own insecurities that I am trying to overcome. I’ve even noticed that I roll differently with different people. With my husband, I tend to be more comfortable (much of the time). I guess this is because I don’t feel (all the time) like he is critiquing me and so I can be a bit more aggressive. But with other guys, I often feel self-conscious and maybe even a bit timid. Funny how even though I need to prove myself, I struggle to actually face them head-on. What a way to defeat myself before I even start! With girls in the gym (though it has been a while) I tend to feel frustration at my lack of ability to “beat” them because I “must!” It’s all pretty ridiculous, I realize…

The wonderful thing about Pinnacle-MMA is that the people there are supportive and encouraging. I can’t think of a single person who has been discouraging of me and my training or anything like that. They always seem eager to help me improve. So my need to prove myself is really about me and no one else. Sometimes I think my insecurities can seem rather grandiose and narcissistic. I am in no way special enough that others really care whether I suck or not. Scratch that…it’s not that they don’t care but rather that others really aren’t focused on me and my skills. This description is not all that different than that of adolescent egocentrism. Wow…do I sound completely crazy yet? 🙂 I say all this to say that I don’t actually think that people are “watching” me or that I am the center of the universe but that I am just an insecure girl in a man’s (BJJ) world.

As for advantages, I do think at times others underestimate me. A new guy at the gym asked my husband last night if I ever “really” beat him. But is this really underestimating me or simply taking note of size and skill? Not sure. I have noticed that if I get a really good…and I mean REALLY good position on someone, it can be tough for them to unhinge me. I have especially noticed this with the Ezekiel choke from mount, a rear naked choke and/or a triangle. The trouble is that I have to find a way to get myself in these awesome positions…easier said than done. 😦 I wonder, to those of you who read my blog (male or female)…how might you answer these questions posed by Allie the Clear Belt?

As for training last night, we started class on our feet working take downs. We then worked in pairs, rotating, to work take downs but more flowing than really taking down. Take downs…yet another ongoing struggle. Then we white belts worked on armbars from guard and triangles. I got to roll with my husband twice, a brown belt and my coach. As I rolled with my coach, I got total tunnel vision with an omoplata and totally missed an easy triangle…it took a while for me to notice then execute. My insecurities and anxiety went up, of course, when I was rolling with my husband and my coach was watching. I new he was watching because he would give me directions from time to time…this seems to make me more flustered (somehow) than I already was. Cue rolling eyes.

I finally bit the bullet today! My husband and I set up a good workout schedule to incorporate strength training, conditioning, BJJ class, and rolling some at home. We also discussed healthy eating habits and decided on how I might do that. It’s not that I’m trying to lose a bunch of weight but I’ve definitely noticed a decrease in my metabolism (look out for 25 ladies…) and so I need to kind of lose some of the softer parts of me. Or rather tone up those softer areas. Let’s hope all this change helps (and that I can survive…) *haha* 🙂

Well, so much for that!

Last Thursday I went to BJJ class. We started class again on our feet working take downs. Then we did some live take downs. I am by no means actually taking down anyone in the gym but I do think I am getting a little braver and improving just the slightest! 🙂 It’s still extremely anxiety provoking but I am learning to just move past it a little. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to cut my fingernails back and stabbed one of the guys right on the lip and cut it…oops! Sorry!

Then we moved on to our drills. Our coach noticed that some of our basic skills were lacking precise technique and so we drilled armbar from guard and triangle from guard. It is nice to go back to basics and really refine the move. Then we did some specific training where one person was in someone’s guard and had to pass and the other was trying to sweep or submit. This type of rolling is helpful because it helps me to focus and be less all over the place.

I got to roll with several different people that night and really enjoyed it. I like rolling with colored belts because I usually receive helpful hints. At one point, the guy who’s lip I busted was doing move to try and flip me. I didn’t realize what he was doing and resisted thus causing me to tweak my neck a bit. He told me it was payback for his lip…oops! 🙂 My neck is fine, though. I rolled with another guy and while I do appreciate helpful hints from time to time, I don’t need a play by play. I don’t say this to mean that I’m perfect and get things right every time…that is SO not true! But I do think I know basics and the condescending step-by-step instruction is unnecessary. I don’t think he means to be condescending but that’s just how it seems to me.

Well, that night I realized something… 😦 I have known the date of the NAGA tournament for some time but for some reason it did not click with me that it is the same weekend as my husband’s cousin’s wedding…in Minnesota! 😦 I am so bummed that I am not competing in NAGA Nashville. I was starting to feel better about competing and then, NOPE! On the other hand…it has to be said that I am a little bit relieved because I was still extremely nervous and scared to be competing against some of the women I saw at NAGA Atlanta. My plan is to continue training as though I am competing and just trying to improve my techniques…and maybe even improve my take downs!!

Tuesday night was BJJ class again. We started class with take downs…this is becoming a ritual apparently. I started out working on them but my ankle had been pretty sore and I had to sit out. Then we drilled armbars from guard. I was really trying to focus on being precise and technical. We then did some more specific training. I rolled with one of the purple belts at the gym and was getting frustrated because I was not getting anywhere. After my roll, my husband told me I needed to lead with my hips more rather than the top half of my body and to stand more when trying to pass someone’s guard. These tips really helped and I felt better about my next couple of rolls.

So much for NAGA Nashville but I’m sure there will be another tournament coming up. But for now, I am just trying to work hard in the gym and improve my game!

Be aggressive! Be, be aggressive!

So it was back to the gym last Tuesday night for BJJ class. We started class working on some take downs…my least favorite!! 😦 I just cannot seem to get past my anxiety about take downs and I don’t know why. I think a part of me is afraid of getting hurt myself and another part of me is afraid I might hurt the other person. I am very tentative when working on take downs and I know I might improve if I just gave myself over to it but it’s just so difficult. We then worked on mount escape. Working on these foundational techniques have helped to remind me to move my hips more. Then I rolled with my husband and a couple of other guys from the gym.

I was back in BJJ class on Thursday night. My coach started teaching a new technique this night. We started class working on take downs again. I was still very nervous but did a little better. Then we worked on a couple of different chokes. I admit, I am a little choke biased. I am not sure exactly why that is but I definitely like submitting by choke. I was rolling with one of the guys and he had me in side control and I was attempting to escape. My coach stopped us and told me that while what I was working on was decent he thought another move might be better. So he showed me how to get my butterfly hooks in from where we were. I haven’t really worked much with the butterfly guard so this was brand new. I definitely plan on working on this more. 🙂

Last night was yet another night in the gym. We started class by working take downs again…my favorite! 🙂 After drilling it some we did some live take downs with the guys in class. I was very nervous and thought for sure I was going to get smashed…I didn’t. It really wasn’t too bad and I did my best to fight hard against getting taken down but, of course, I did. Doing this will probably really help me work on take downs and take down defense and help with the upcoming tournament but I really do hate admitting that. I rolled with my husband, another white belt and a purple belt…and got schooled, as usual! 🙂

I definitely feel like my confidence has decreased recently and I think it’s noticeable. I’m not sure why other than losing my first tournament and that no-gi match but those have been a while. I’m not sure why it’s just now affecting my game. My husband told me he noticed that maybe I’m not as aggressive as I was when I was preparing for my other two matches. I have to agree. I just don’t know how to get it back. The other thing he and I noticed is that I am having trouble reacting to things. I think I get tunnel vision and only see what it is I am trying to do and don’t see what my opponent is doing…not good. Not sure why I am doing this but it has to stop! Anyway…it’s back to the gym again tomorrow night.

I am so incredibly nervous for the NAGA tournament. I can’t seem to get a handle on my nerves right now. I am so scared of doing horribly or just losing AGAIN! I know that losing only helps improve your game but I just really want to be able to show something for all this work and sweat. Maybe I’m asking for too much and just need to do work. I’m just so intimidated by what I saw when I was at NAGA Atlanta. Those girls do not look like girls I want to mess with… 😦 Only about 2 months left…better get on it! I just have to keep reminding myself…Be aggressive! Be, be aggressive! 😉

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