I don't train to be better than you. I train to be better than me.

I don't train to be better than you. I train to be better than me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Learning to be at home with "losing"

I noticed last Saturday that I am doing something wrong. I noticed that over these past few weeks I have started to focus on winning, rather than training. During a roll, I could feel pride start creeping in when I am in a bad position, and then I find myself forgetting about position, and forgetting about the game- and that is when I start hunting for submissions. It's sloppy, and it isn't improving my game- it's just "winning". So what exactly do I win there? Nothing. In fact, I am losing out because I am spending my class time training improper technique.

This week I am focusing on position, and I am focusing on technique. I decided for myself that if I can get positioning right then it is ok to proceed- but if the position is bad and I can't get where I want to go- I'm gonna lose. When I lose I'm gonna be humble because I will learn more in failure from trying to work position correctly than I would from a sloppy success.

Tuesday was my first night working this way. I "lost" on all 3 rolls- but that is ok. I noticed something- when you submit your training partner is always more interested in helping you work out the mistake you made.

We are working on Knee on Belly this week (my favorite) this time the work is from the bottom- how to escape knee on belly. We also got a new attack, but it was designed more like preventative medicine- "Here is an attack an opponent could try from knee on belly- this is what you want to avoid". The escape works well- although every encounter with knee on belly reminds me that I need more core strength. Basically the escape is to get both elbows past the knee, then hip out while blocking with the hands. after the escape start looking to replace guard- maybe even a sweep if they are off balance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Having come so far, but not really gotten that far- and being OK with that.

I celebrated one year on the mat last week. It felt good to finally have found something that I am still as more interested in after a year than day one. I have been tested. Dealing with hurting my arm was a bummer, I didn't enjoy my ear swelling up and having my best friend and training partner drop out for 6 months has taken 'buddy" aspect out of it- but still week after week I am showing up to train, and I am getting better. I'm making new friends, and developing even more respect for my training partners, Coaches, and Professors during each class.

I have a year into the Gentle Art- but that really doesn't mean much in the scheme of training in BJJ. Training in this martial art isn't something you ever really "finish", so there is no finishing chute over the horizon like there is for a runner. You make your goals short term- learn the movements, practice practice practice- get better- then suddenly a coach throws a variation at you that changes everything- it could be a grab, or a placement of leverage for a sweep and suddenly it's a whole new series of options added to your lexicon. One class can literally result in 10 new permutations to your game.

I have mentioned before in this blog that I was never really a "fighter". I was more of a negotiator, and I think that may actually help me in a way since being cool and methodical in approach seems to trump aggressive during a roll. Don't get me wrong- aggressive is good too- you don't want to get caught over thinking or watching the paint dry. BJJ has helped me tap some of that aggression as well- but in a controlled environment where it can be channeled to my benefit.

When I try to explain BJJ to my Dad I can tell he is wondering what the hell I am doing- 35yrs old, going to classes to learn fighting every other night when I have a family at home... All I can say is that this is making me a better father, and a better husband. I am not sure he "gets it"- how a martial art can do that, but really it is constructive- this is a positive channel through which the aggressive urge can flow without putting oneself at odds with society.

All I can think is that in some way we are all pre-wired for combat. Somewhere deep inside we all need to experience battle- for some guys it is debating issues or arguing over the internet, for others it may manifest itself as starting fights when they are drunk. Somehow I feel like this is the middle. BJJ is physically using skill to impose your will. We train to learn how to prevail in combat, but it is also sport, so we play by the rules. We treat each other with respect, and behave like sportsmen. It's not personal, and it isn't life or death but the combat is very "real" and genuine. For 5 minutes you are focused and pushing to win- in a controlled environment and within the rules that keep us safe from each other.

I go home tired. Sometimes I go home proud that I learned something new, or got something right. Sometimes I go home introspective- replaying a mistake and trying to reason my way through it- but when I get home I am that husband, and that father. Having just channeled that aggression I am now totally free to read stories to my daughter, and talk to my wife. I have very little inner tension so the time i spend with them is the highest it can be.