Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Watch 16 of the best lightweight male grapplers go at it nogi Feb 25th!

I'm kind of motivated to watch the upcoming 16-man nogi invitational for 155lb-and-under on Saturday, February 25.  This takes place in NYC and is called "The Ultimate Absolute."  There's a live stream for only $10 at www.splitdraw.com and live podcast at OpenMatRadio.com. Winner gets $10,000 and there's a $1k bonus for each submission!

Look who's competing, too:

-Celso “Celsinho” Venicius
-Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles
-Ryan Hall
-Chris “West Side Strangler” Brennan
-Gianni Grippo
-Justin Rader
-JT Torres
-Denny Prokopos
-Mark Ramos
-Reilly Bodycomb
-Renan Borges
-Samuel Braga
-Ramon Flores
-Wilson Reis
-Bruno Frazatto
-Bruno Malfacine
-Mike Fowler

Monday, January 30, 2012


Some entertaining "self defense" seminar highlights, found posted on jiujitsuforums.com today...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Exercise: What makes a good coach in BJJ?

Julia Johansen posted an exercise she learned from "Magical" Ray Elbe on her blog today.  The essential question she posed to him was, what do you look for when you promote someone to blue belt?  Among other factors, the most interesting part of his answer (imho) was: "when you give someone a belt, you’re passing on YOUR lineage."

She continues:

"Then he did an exercise with me. This was taught to him by Marcos Avellan, a BJJ black belt who guest taught at Ray’s gym for a month, and which I now pass it along to you, because it’s really freaking cool. . . . [M]ake a list of everything you want in your ideal BJJ coach."

This is especially timely as I have done more and more thinking about what "quality coaching" entails.  Partially because I just switched academies, partially because of Megan's post the other day on what it takes to start a successful BJJ academy.

So here's my list--
  • excellent technique (gotta know it to be able to teach it!)
  • can teach to different types of learners effectively-- visual, aural, kinesthetic
  • kind, compassionate
  • good listening skills, observant
  • humble, self-critical
  • detail-oriented
  • patient
  • adaptable, flexible
  • dedicated
  • has competition experience
  • good judgment-- of character, of business decisions, knows when to push you and when to hold back
Next step: "Okay – now go through it and write a T next to anything that is a TRAIT (ie. dealing with personality) and an S next to anything that is a SKILL, anything that needs to be gained/learned."

But I had a hard time with this.  Some seemed "personality" oriented but I believe they can be learned behaviors also.  Hmmmm.
S            excellent technique
S             can teach to different types of learners effectively-- visual, aural, kinesthetic
T            kind, compassionate
S (T?)    good listening skills, observant
T (S?)    humble, self-critical
T           detail-oriented
T           patient
T           adaptable, flexible
T           dedicated
S           has competition experience
S&T!   good judgment-- of character, of business decisions, knows when to push, etc.

The conclusion: "Then Ray pointed at the TRAITS and said if you’re looking for a coach who is friendly, accessible, knowledgeable, understanding, etc, then promote based on that list. So someone could be a total genius at jiu jitsu at white belt, but if they’re a complete tool they will be a white belt for a VERY long time. This made so much sense to me. If I am passing on a LINEAGE to someone, they’re going to be a reflection of me. If I were a black belt, I wouldn’t give some toolbag my lineage. I would give it to people who I would be proud to attach my name to."

Well.  I like it.  And yet I find it leaves me still... reaching.  It seems to add a welcome focus on "moral character" to promotion decisions, which is great.  But still doesn't tell me anything about the "readiness" to be a new belt level.  It's a floor, perhaps, but not the ceiling-- if that makes sense.

Share your list of what makes a good coach in BJJ.....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Advice for whitebelt women on learning jiu jitsu (my "sweet spot" theory)

I saw a thread developing on Jiu Jitsu Forum today and had to add my $.02.

It started with this comment from a Renzo Gracie whitebelt with 3 stripes:

"Do women in you [sic] school drill and roll with men? or are they left to roll with only other women? I almost feel like they are in a special category and not held to the same high standards that men have to go through... I'm sure this isn't the case at most other schools just wondering if this is the case where you are at?"

Fellow lady blogger Kitsune responded very thoughtfully: 

"You can't expect a 110lb GUY to be competitive against a 240lb guy either (until the experience level is disparate enough that the small person has enough technique to kick the large person's ass). It's not about what is between your legs.

I really wish that everyone who thinks female BJJ artists are inferior could be strapped to a chair and forced to spend a morning watching a little 115lb female black belt own a gym full of big guys.

You may think we have it easy, but most of you cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to have every single person on the mat be towering over you, and have to work EVERY DAY against people who are twice your size. Not just the bruises and getting your ribs cracked, but the psychological burden of getting smeared all over the mat all the time. It is BRUTAL. The women who survive, who stick with it long enough to start getting subs on bigger men deserve mucho respect. We have to be GOOD, held to a much higher technical standard than the average, to make things work at all.

Some men whine, "I've been going to class for three weeks and I can't sub anybody." Well, howdja like to go to class four times a week for a YEAR and not sub anybody. When I hit the year and a half mark, I could still count my legitimate subs on the fingers of one hand (and have fingers left over). Imagine how hard it was to keep dragging ass into class. Now it's been almost three years, and I'm just starting to get to the point where I can reliably hold my own against an average size white belt, and the point where I can actually get some subs. I can't even begin to describe how much hard work that has taken, and how much chutzpa it has taken to not give up.

Once a female BJJ artist gets to about purplish-level, it starts to even out a bit, and believe me she had to just about kill herself to get that far. The white and blue belt journeys of a female BJJ artist are hard, hard, hard, HARD. Purple and up, my observation has been the women- pound for pound- are as good as any man their level, if not better.

On a practical note- assuming there *are* any other women to roll with, yes, a decent instructor carefully picks partners for the lower-belt women... other women, and skilled colored-belt men.

It is a well-known fact that you are most likely to be injured by a white belt. Many of them do not yet know how to work safely with their partners, many of them do not know how to moderate their game for a smaller or otherwise physically limited partner, and many of them are spazzy and tend to crank subs. Just having a person in top side control can crack a rib if they're a lot bigger and not being really careful; it's happened to me. If you are half the size of the other people in your gym, rolling with white belts is pure suicide until you have enough experience to be able to protect yourself.

My teacher went out of his way to pair me up almost exclusively with skilled colored-belt men for at least the first year and a half (there were usually no other women present). If I'd been rolling with a lot of big clueless white belt guys, I would have spent most of that year and a half on the bench with injuries (if I didn't give up altogether).

That method kept my injuries to a reasonable level, but it was no walk in the park. The fact that I was working almost exclusively with much more skilled higher belts meant that for a year and a half, I got owned by everyone. They were gentle about it and taught me a lot- but owned nonetheless. None of the techniques I tried worked, because the colored belts were always three steps ahead of me. I didn't know what it felt like to roll with someone my own level or lower, someone that I might be able to actually GET something on. That was hard in its own way. Now that I finally have enough experience and technical skill to actually start getting some stuff, I have a lot of ground to make up in that area. I had to try to develop a game much differently than most male BJJ artists go about developing their game. Now I'm trying to break myself of the hesitancy to try stuff (subs and sweeps, mostly) because I've been so conditioned to think, "No sense even trying that; this brown belt will defend it easily". Now I can work with some whites who maybe *can't* defend it that easily. It is a serious reality shift. I still have a "holy crap" moment every time I try a technique and it WORKS.

So yeah, good teachers will pair the women up together, or women with good colored belts, but it's not to make it "easy" on us or to keep the standards low. It's just to try to keep us out of the hospital in the first year, till we have enough experience to take care of ourselves better.

Another thing- many techniques have to be tweaked when you're trying to do them on somebody twice your weight, or somebody whose legs are twice as long as yours. It takes a lot of experience before you can start to be able to watch the demo, try it on a partner much larger, and be able to figure out for yourself how you need to alter the technique to make it work with the size disparities. Trying to do that at white belt or early blue belt level is very frustrating- you don't know how to adapt, so you just try the technique as demo'ed and fail, and feel like you "can't do this". It makes the process so much easier if the first time you learn a new technique, you get a chance to try it AS DEMO'ED on someone your own size (ie, another girl, if you've got one) and see how it's SUPPOSED to work. After that, it's easier to try it on different sized partners and figure out the alterations. It's a lot harder to have to figure out tweaks on your own for a technique you've never seen before.

Another comment from the original poster, 
"At my school none of the girls roll with any of the guys, and are given no exposure to them. If their technique is there then they should still be able to effectively roll against a 240lb man."

This prompted my response, which I would appreciate your feedback on.

1. I wonder if you know how poorly this reflects on your school. Are you sure "none" of them roll with "any" guys? and are given "no" exposure to them? Or are you taking a whitebelt only (or mainly whitebelt) class? Do you speak from the limited experience of a whitebelt who has been training, what, 6 months? a year? or have you asked upper belts at your academy? have you asked the women at your school?

2. "effectively roll" meaning what... not be tapped? achieve and maintain positional dominance? not get injured?

3. As a petite female, I have learned to protect myself by choosing training partners carefully. I usually won't roll with a brand new whitebelt until I get to know him a little bit (meaning he's not brand new any more and I get a feel for his personality, his maturity and control, etc.) I frequently roll with men who outweigh me by 50-80lbs and occasionally I'm lucky enough to roll with guys who are 120+lbs more than me (one a blue belt, one a black belt.) I have heard the following theory attributed to several people, but Hillary Williams repeated it to me first:

"Given approximately equal experience levels, size and strength will win.

For a smaller weaker man to defeat a larger stronger man, he will need a two year technique advantage. (Of course we're talking a substantial size difference, not 10-15 lbs.)

For a WOMAN to defeat a MAN, (note, size is less relevant because even same height/weight individuals will produce a muscle-mass disparity in the man's favor) she will need a four to six year technique advantage. "

I have not found the latter to be true consistently-- on occasion, even going balls to the wall (so to speak-- not them "taking it easy on me") I have submitted a male opponent who is 20-30 lbs heavier than me (or more) who is within 1 year of me in either direction, experience-wise. But the big jump in technique advantage required reflects the greater upper-body strength of 99% of men *and* I think the better training available for men, who almost always have at least a good number of remotely-similarly sized training partners (whereas most women are stuck almost always being the smaller/weaker of a pairing.)

The ladies in your academy may choose to drill with other women so that they can learn the techniques and not have to struggle against weight and length in addition to the unfamiliarity of the movement. They may choose to spar against other women out of fear, preference for better smells, desire to improve competition performance, or sheer ignorance that they'd be welcome to spar with the guys. Have you invited any ladies to roll?

I'll also add that I agree with everything Kitsune's said and wanted to elaborate just a bit more: Know what a sweet spot is in tennis? or racquetball? It's the place on your racquet face that "works" best. It's not on the edge, it's somewhere in the middle, and when you connect with the ball there, you know it. Or think about playing hide and seek as a kid with someone else telling you "warmer" and "colder" as you got closer and farther.

Trying things in jits, especially takedowns and sweeps, also involves a sweet spot. When you first learn a sweep, there's a range of places you can put your hands, legs, balance etc and if you picture it like a bullseye, when you're in the outer realm the technique won't work at all. The closer you get to doing it "right" (someone calling out "warmer!") the easier the technique is and the less you have to force it. As people learn sweeps, they can "fudge" a little bit and make up for having less than perfect technique with a little extra power, push, pull, whatever. They have a greater # of permutations of variations in grip, balance, positioning that will "almost" work. Men have, therefore, a larger "sweet spot" at the beginning of learning that technique. Women rarely have sufficient muscle to "force" a technique to work, therefore their sweet spot is much smaller. Sweeps simply won't work AT ALL until we get past "cool" and "warm" and very, very close to "hot." So if a guy drills a sweep 20 times with a partially resisting partner, maybe 4-8 of those reps will be in the "warmer" area, giving him 4-8 opportunities to figure out what works and be positively reinforced for being even "close." A girl with the same 20 attempts MIGHT get it ONCE in the warm-enough-to-work, much-smaller sweet spot. She has to drill it 100 times with the partially resisting partner to get the same 4-8 data points.


Your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lady grapplers in Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana

MatShark is putting on the San Antonio Open on Saturday March 3rd, and there will be an 8-lady blue/purple belt tournament, 130 lbs and under, with a cash prize of $150 & trophy; medals to 2nd and 3rd places.  Only $40 to participate, and that includes NoGi and Open divisions at no extra charge.  One nice thing, they're running it with IBJJF rules, so your lower limbs are (relatively) safe!

Check it out at MatShark.tv.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crash bang.

Well, I had to bail on class last night. This brief I'm working on initially looked like it would take about a month but the deeper I get into it, the deeper I see I need to go, so I decided it was better to stay late and get more done.

This was unfortunate, because when Idid leave the office, I was rear-ended, on the entrance ramp to the highway.  Fortunately, I'm fine, more shaken up than anything though my neck was sore and I had a headache after (my teeth snapped together so hard!)  The poor guy behind me, he was so nice about it and very apologetic.. his airbag went off if that gives you any idea of how hard he hit me.  Good thing I had my foot on the brake, it kept me from slamming into the car in front of me.  And a witness stopped, gave me her name and contact info.  I drove home-- poor car, all bashed in and messed up.  Good thing he was insured.

Aaannnd... I'm kind of bummed out today, the latest efforts at getting me knocked up were less than successful ("as always," the little voice in my head goes.)  Went to the doctor's office this morning for a blood test because-- get this-- how evil?!?!-- I had a faint positive pregnancy test on Saturday morning... I tried very very hard not to get all excited, and just cool as a cucumber tested again that night (negative) and the next morning (negative) and Sunday night (negative) and yesterday... so on and so on... ultimately, I conclude that I had a bad test and it was an evaporation line (sorry if TMI!)  As I cha-chinged the blood test on my insurance card, more proof of my nonmother status was on the way (sorry if TMI again!).  My wonderful patient sweet husband... I'm not the googly-oogly type of girl who squeals at anything to do with babies, I am more curious about what kind of imp we together could create, and how much of my mom and dad will be passed into the future generation, and how nifty it would be to make a real live person.  I hope anyway!  So, I'm torn between making some real live chocolate chip cookie dough for dinner tonight, I know, bad bad bad, and eating slow cooker pot roast and cauliflower and kale tonight which actually sounds pretty good.

Hey, if the "good" food sounds just as good or better than the "bad" food, that's steps in the right direction, right?

OK- cheater/easy pot roast:

3 lb chuck roast
1 packet each-- brown gravy mix, ranch dressing mix, and Italian dressing mix
1 onion
1 c. water

Slice the onion, cover bottom of slow cooker with slices.  Put roast on top.  Mix 3 packets with 1 cup warm water, using a fork and trying to get it well blended.  Pour over roast; cook 8 hrs on low.

I know it sounds weird, but it's oh-so-good.  And if you can wait till the next day to eat it, you can lift off any fat which comes from the meat while it's still cold from the fridge.

 Pasta with roasted cauliflower, garlic and walnuts

Serves 4.  I actually prefer this without the pasta but if you do the pasta, this dish is best with short molded pasta, such as fusilli, campanelle, or orecchiette. The above photo is with campanelle.  Prepare the cauliflower for roasting after you put the garlic in the oven; this way, both should finish roasting at about the same time.

2 heads garlic , papery skins removed, top quarter of heads cut off and discarded
6 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
1head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1 lb pasta
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 - 3 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves , chopped
2 oz grated Parmesan (about 1 cup)
1/4 c chopped walnuts , toasted

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, place large rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Cut one 12-inch sheet of foil and spread flat on counter. Place garlic heads, cut-side up, in center of foil. Drizzle 1/2 tsp oil over each head and seal packet. Place packet on oven rack and roast until garlic is very tender, about 40 minutes. Open packet and set aside to cool.
3. While garlic is roasting, trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom. Cut head from pole to pole into 8 equal wedges. Place cauliflower in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and sugar.
4. Remove baking sheet from oven. Carefully transfer cauliflower to baking sheet and spread into even layer, placing cut sides down. Return baking sheet to oven and roast until cauliflower is well browned and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to cutting board. When cool enough to handle, chop into rough ½-inch pieces.
5. While cauliflower roasts, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins into small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic to smooth paste, then stir in red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/4 cup oil.
6. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water, and return pasta to pot. Add chopped cauliflower to pasta; stir in garlic sauce, ¼ cup pasta cooking water, parsley, and ½ cup cheese. Adjust consistency with additional cooking water and season with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately, sprinkling with remaining ½ cup cheese and toasted nuts.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Back at it again!

This applies to two things.. I started training again last night and it was heaven.

Also, my former teammate Kamal Shalorus, the "Prince of Persia," is fighting in the UFC again tonight!  He's in the undercard, fighting in the 155 lb division against a Russian fighter making his debut in the UFC.

Kamal used to train with us at Relson Gracie in Austin, but now has moved on to Santa Monica CA where he trains with Henry Akins at Dynamix MMA, and the Golden Boys Wrestling crew.  Kamal was an Olympic wrestler and says he's returning to his roots, though he still likes to "stand and bang."  Here's a nice interview with him on Fighters.com.

Check out what awesome shape he's in:

Good luck Kamal!  Fala guerra!

I'll be watching the fights, which start tonight at 5pm central, with my husband at Sam's Boat, as usual.  Come join us.

While I'm at it-- yummy Chinese lettuce wraps!


16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
1 lb cooked chicken, shredded in small pieces
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp Asian (dark) sesame oil
1/4 c hoisin sauce
2 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Asian chile pepper sauce (or to taste)
1 (8oz) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 lg. carrots, peeled and julienned or diced

Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over high heat, cook the onion in the plain (not sesame) oil, stirring frequently till golden brown and soft. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, celery and carrots, sesame oil, and cooked chicken; continue cooking about 2 minutes.

Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile chicken mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. 

This is also really yummy cold or at room temperature :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Male vs. Female

An interesting collateral follow-up to the great thread on Sherdog about the differences in how men and women train as athletes, and in jiu jitsu specifically....

From Erin Gloria Ryan today on Jezebel:

"Should Female Marines Get a Break?

A plan to make the physical requirements more difficult for aspiring female US Marines by requiring full pull-ups has been postponed indefinitely. And as it stands now, women interested in becoming lady Leathernecks must meet lower physical standards than their male counterparts. But for jobs that require brute physical strength, is it fair to give women a break? Yes, and no.

According to the Marine Corps Times, the Marines had been planning since last June to make full pull-ups necessary in order for a woman to achieve a perfect score on the Physical Fitness Test (PFT). The PFT is a test that Marines — both men and women — must pass on a semi-annual basis. It measures soldiers' ability to complete three tasks: a 3 mile run, 2 minutes during which the Marine must do as many crunches as possible, and the upper body strength test. Soldiers can earn a score of 0-100 on each of the three areas, and must earn a minimum total composite score (it varies by age) in order to meet standards.

Men and women must meet different standards in order to pass these tests. As it stands now, in order for a man to achieve a perfect score on the upper body strength portion of the PFT, he must complete 20 full pull ups, and a woman need only complete a flexed arm hang for 70 seconds. The proposed change would have still given women the option to utilize the flexed arm hang in lieu of pull ups, but flexed arm hangers would only be eligible for a maximum score of 70/100 unless they completed a pull up. One pull up would result in a score of 75 points, with five additional points awarded to women who completed each additional pull up. So, for women, a perfect score would require completing 6 full pull ups. Men, on the other hand, would still have to complete 20 pull ups in order to score 100 points. In addition, men need to run 3 miles in 18 minutes flat for a perfect score, where women have 21 minutes to do the same. Men and women are expected to perform the same number of abdominal crunches.

In many fields where strength matters, it looks like ladies get a break. In order to pass the physical standards test at most fire departments, for example, female candidates are required to carry less weight over a shorter distance than that of their male counterparts. Police department standards vary as well. Last year, a group of rejected female candidates to the Chicago Fire Department sued after failing the physical test, claiming gender discrimination when it was too difficult. Even in the Marine Corps' Combat Fitness Test (CFT), women are given more time to complete a series of battle-simulating tasks than the men.

The rationale behind different physical standards for men and women is the same logic behind the separation of the genders on the field of sport: simple biology. Fiber for fiber, female muscle mass is just as strong as male muscle mass, but men still have 40 to 50 lbs more muscle mass than women and less fat. When it comes to building brute strength, women are often at a hormonal disadvantage to men as well; we've got estrogen in spades, but male bodies produce much more muscle-building testosterone. Of course, this in no way means that every woman is physically weaker than every man or that they're incapable of amazing feats of physical strength. But generally speaking, men tend to be more prone to bar bending He-Man-ery. Which tends to translate better to strength-based achievement.

Women are already barred from the most physically intense jobs within the Marines. There's no such thing as an infantrywoman, and ladies aren't allowed to work in artillery or on aquatic tractors. Because of the elite unit's ridiculously high requirements for upper body strength and speed, women aren't even allowed to try out for some of the most elite military teams. In other words, separations already exist within the military that address physical differences between men and women. And further limiting women's involvement in the Marines — or in any strength-based job — might prove detrimental to units themselves.

Opponents of physically unequal standard for men and women in careers that essentially rely on physical strength point out that while a test can accomodate a woman, a fire does not care if you're a lady, and the weight of a falling wall will not adjust itself accordingly. And if men are overall more capable soldiers than women, then lowering standards to include ladies in more roles that rely on strength is actually doing the military a disservice by possibly putting them at a disadvantage to forces with gender blind testing. Sure, a woman should be allowed to do anything she wants — if she can meet the physical standards of the job.

And this makes quite a bit of sense. If my building were on fire and I were passed out under a collapsed beam, I don't care if the person who rescues me is a man or a woman; just get me the fuck out of there. But on the other hand, is it possible that there are traits that put women at an advantage that aren't measured by existing Physical Fitness Tests? Sure, there's no overcoming biology, but sometimes, biology (or socialization) works out to women's advantage. And that can benefit teams as a whole.

According to a 2003 report called Hiring & Retaining More Women: The Advantages to Law Enforcement Agencies, women may not possess the biceps of their male counterparts, but they make up for it in interpersonal skills.
Research conducted both in the United States and internationally clearly demonstrates that women officers rely on a style of policing that uses less physical force, are better at defusing and de-escalating potentially violent confrontations with citizens, and are less likely to become involved in problems with use of excessive force. Additionally, women officers often possess better communication skills than their male counterparts and are better able to facilitate the cooperation and trust required to implement a community policing model.
Being a Marine is not the same as being a police officer, but traits that the report says women possess — such as better communication skills, de-escalating skills, and less trigger-happiness — could translate to an advantage on the battlefield, or at least better PR. Would female Marines be as likely to pee on the corpses of slain enemy combatants? Maybe. At the very least, it's a little trickier for a lady to pee standing up.

In addition to personality traits that would enhance a police force or military unit, women's physiques may offer some advantages for combat. Our smaller size and lighter weight means we're more portable and can fit into smaller spaces. Our stretchy connective tissue means we're more flexible. And research suggests that higher levels of estrogen help ladies' muscles recover from exercise more quickly than men, and that we're uniquely suited to extreme endurance activities, like ultra-marathons or childbirth. This means less recovery time, and that ladies can endure more pain for longer. All advantages in extreme situations that can offer a complement to the brute strength advantage that biology tends to afford men.

But we don't test aspiring Marines for their ability to squeeze into a tiny space, hold an uncomfortable position for an extended period of time, or keep going for hours with minimal recovery time. The Marine PFT and CFT tests don't screen for every possible trait that could make a good soldier.

We don't need higher standards for female firefighters, Marines, or law enforcement officers. But these jobs would be well-served to measure physical attributes at which women excel in order to better understand how women contribute to the team as a whole.

And that's an idea worth saluting."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Make it snappy.

I hate how stuff seems to pile up all at once.  I promised to finish the whole pile as it then existed over Christmas break, but failed (was delighted to spend time with family, so I'm not really wishing I'd have prioritized any differently.)  So yes I still have reviews to do.  Tatami gi, B12 instructional, Emily Kwok's Bigger Stronger Opponent instructional, Drysdale's new nogi instructional.  I know.

But work is ... yes, nutty busy.  Deadlines abound.  Not training much at all lately-- had a minor abdominal surgery at the beginning of the month in the pursuit of a homegrown baby, so I'm just working out at the "regular" gym for the moment.  Did attend the quality Womens Grapple Camp last weekend in San Antonio, though.  I didn't think I'd roll at all but woops, I forgot, and so I rolled.  A lot.  None of my stitches bust loose so it was win-win.

Aside from working and still teaching kids' class and working out and cooking more and watching Downton Abbey on Sunday nights, yep.. that's about it. 

I am very excited that a new jiu jitsu school is opening officially tomorrow night.  I hope I'll be happy there, and I hope I'll find my passion for jiu jitsu again.  A moderate passion (can't do seven days a week for the foreseeable future) but passion nonetheless.  I was starting to feel like class was a chore.  That's no good.  Change... is good.

Thanks for sticking with me despite my slow posting habits these days. 

Monday, January 09, 2012

A slew of healthy food...

After eating nonstop all through the holidays (thanks to the fabulous cooking at my inlaws' house plus all the great food in Vegas) I returned determined to "be good."  And so far I have been, mostly.  Lost 3 pounds since December 31, even though I have only trained once and gone to the gym once.  My new year's resolutions included the vow to eat 5 vegetables a day... sometimes I cheat by eating 5 servings a day instead of 5 different vegetables, but it's a start.  Anyway, here's some of the yummy things I've been making lately.

Italian Grain Soup

1/3 cup whole grain bulgur wheat
1/3 cup barley
1/4 cup lentils (I used green and yellow but whatever you have is fine)
1/4 cup split peas (I don't care for these much but needed to use up what I had)
4 slices bacon, sliced into pieces 1" wide.
28 oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano (or plain, and add your own spices)
1/2 yellow or sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
garlic powder, salt, pepper
2-3 cups chicken stock

1. Sort lentils to remove any stones.  Rinse in colander with running water.
2. Boil 3 cups water in large pot or chef's pan.  Add grains, return to boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, 25 min or until tender.  Do not add salt (adding salt at the beginning makes your lentils stay tough.)
3.  Drain grains in colander and set aside.  Return pan to med-high heat and fry bacon until fat begins to render but meat is still uncooked.  Add chopped onion and rosemary, lower heat to medium, and stir frequently, cooking until onions and bacon are browning but not hard and crunchy.
4.  Stir in canned tomatoes and cooked grains.  Add chicken stock to desired consistency (some like it more brothy, some like it thicker like a stew.  The photo above was pretty stew-like and thick; I used just 1.5 cups of stock.)  Heat over medium heat and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste.

Pork Chop with Tomato, Onion and Feta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 pork loin chops, 1 inch thick, brined for 30 min in solution of 1.5 qts water and 6 Tbsp salt
salt, black pepper, garlic powder to taste
1/2 pint red grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 pint yellow grape tomatoes, halved (or can just use all red.)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until golden brown. Set aside.
2.  Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Season pork chops with pepper and garlic powder, and place in the skillet. Cook over med low heat to desired doneness. Set aside and keep warm on plate tented with foil.
3.  Heat remaining oil in the skillet. Return onions to skillet, and stir in tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Cook and stir about 3 minutes, until tomatoes are tender.  Stir in balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Top chops with the onion and tomato mixture, and sprinkle with feta cheese to serve. 
Italian Style Swiss Chard (sorry, didn't take a picture.)
1 bunch Swiss chard (feeds two people.  It cooks down a lot!)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1.  Wash the Swiss chard leaf by leaf, and cut into 1 inch strips. Separate the thick and tough stalk sections from the upper leafy strips. Bring the water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in a large saucepan.
2.  Cook the stalk sections in the salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the leafy strips and cook until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are fork tender, about 2 more minutes. Drain and set aside.
3.  Heat the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Add the drained Swiss chard, cook and stir for 2 minutes; season with salt to taste. 
Killer Kale Salad (again sorry no photo)

Red kale (green kale works too) washed and sliced into 1/2" wide strips
Baby spinach, washed
Chopped bell pepper (I like the yellow version in this)
Sprouts-- any variety, I used radish and broccoli
Dried cranberries

Dressing:  shake together till blended, in a dressing cruet or jar--
2-3 Tbsp habanero pepper jelly, melted in microwave 15-30 seconds
2-3 Tbsp whole grain or brown mustard
a glug or two of white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
salt/pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp olive oil

Hope your make-weight and healthy-eating plans are going well! :)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

How to: Launder a Fresh Smelling Gi (and it's not bleach!)

 Made a discovery just before Christmas that I gotta share.

100% natural homemade laundry soap, made by a firefighter in Maryland who sells her stuff on Etsy, that smells oh-so-good and costs the same or cheaper than commercially made laundry detergent.

She makes her own cocoa butter soap bars (which you can also buy on her Etsy site) and allows them to dry outside in the sun for about 1 week before grinding them up. Then she adds baking soda, borax and soda ash (aka washing soda) and mixes it all together with pure scented oil. It is free of harsh chemicals, detergents, and petroleum products that store-bought products are mostly comprised of.

I tried three of her fragrances and can't decide which one I like best so far.  (I tried the apricot-chamomile-tangerine-orange... the vanilla-walnut... and the "fresh snow" which is a clean, laundry-ish, otherwise-indescribable fresh scent. She included a sample of Monkey Farts too-- which is described as pineapple/banana/grape/cherry/bubble gum/vanilla.)  The scent is strong enough to last on a gi through a class and into open mat.  I have a front-loading, HE (high efficiency) washer and this works great in it because it's very low sudsing.  I use 2 Tbsp of soap per load because I like the fresh scent to be relatively strong and I want to be double-sure things are clean.  You're supposed to use a tablespoon for a front loader, or two for a top loader.

It comes in a little paper sack with a wee wooden scoop that is just about one tablespoon.  I transferred it to a tupperware container because one of my sacks sprung a small leak during shipping.  She charges $7.49 a pound for the soap, and shipping is $5.95 each (or, if you order 3 lbs at once, she'll ship them all for the cost of one.)

I found that using about 2 Tbsp per load (I liked the smell!) I got 43-45 loads out of one package of soap.  You should get the same "coverage" if you have a top loader.  That's $.17 per load, or if you figure in the shipping and buy 3 pounds, it's $.22 per load.  Tide liquid laundry detergent with 24 loads was $5.54 today at my grocery store, on sale, which is $.23 a load.  I guess it's not a huge savings, but I like the smell, first of all... and the fact that it's ordinary ingredients, not petrochemicals, and it's supporting a small business-owner (a woman and a firefighter, on top of that.)

I did a test run with some white bathtowels to guesstimate the cleaning capacity.  Unbeknownst to my husband, I rubbed yellow mustard into two, grape juice into a second pair, and spaghetti sauce on the third pair.   One load of one each was washed with Tide in warm water, and one load was washed with just one tablespoon of her homemade soap and warm water.  All towels came out clean except (cough) for a faint pink spot on the grape juice towels.  (I bleached them.)  Assuming my husband doesn't read this blog, I should be fine.  Assuming you don't spill grape juice on your white gi, you should also be fine with one tablespoon of the soap.

I did some research on homemade laundry soap for this post, of course.  Some people with hard water complain about soap residue (but that is a problem with hard water, no matter what kind of soap you use.)  Some people with septic systems say that soap flakes clog up the system-- but this looks more fine and powdery, so I don't know what to tell you.  I don't have septic, but if you do, please share what you know. A series of questions and answers on the subject of homemade laundry soap and septic systems here indicated this wouldn't harm a septic system...

I read about it here, on the Prairie Homestead blog, where the author made a liquid/gel version, and on about five hundred other sites.  Pretty much everyone uses the same recipe, except this version adds baking soda too.  I think this may help with the pH of the water and it's a common laundry additive.

I love the variety of scents this gal offers.  I found the apricot-chamomile-tangerine one to be soft and less citrusy... the vanilla-walnut is creamy, nutty and not overly sweet... and the fresh snow is very typically laundry-ish.  Some others I plan on trying..

AUTUMN HARVEST (LIMITED EDITION) ~ hints of cranberry & autumn citrus fruits. It's the scent of fall & the crunch of fallen leaves.
BABY BEE ~ Scented in Peaches, Coconut, Bergamot, Oranges, & Lemons.
BUTT NAKED ~ Sweet smelling, has fresh apples perfectly harmonized with refreshing melons & juicy pears.
IRELAND JADE CLOVER ~ wonderful ozony blend of clover, green grass, with hints of fresh cut wisteria. Refreshing!
LIME CUPCAKE with VANILLA CREAM FROSTING ~ Persian lime and lemon zests topped off with vanilla cream!
OATMEAL, MILK, HONEY ~ Perfect blending of the 3 scents Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey.
PUMPKIN CRUNCH CAKE (Limited Edition) ~ Pumpkin pie filling, yellow cake, pecans & spices.
SOAPY CLEAN ~ Clean, unisex scent that smells just like its name. Neutral smell like you've just taken a shower.
YUZU ~ Japanese grapefruit with a peachy, strawberry scent.

 Now I'm hungry :)

Anyway, thought I'd share.  I'm off the mats for a bit... doing some minor medical procedures in the pursuit of fertility, plus caught a cold.  I hope I am over both by next weekend, because I'm doing the Women's Grapple Camp in San Antonio with Emily Kwok and Val Worthington!  I'd hate to have to just sit and watch but if that's what I gotta do, I will.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Advice on how not to get hurt?

I have a girlfriend who trains in an area without a lot of BJJ options.  She just sent me this message and I hope you can help her with her decision.

"This year I've made a resolution to figure out how to get hurt less often in BJJ or quit training. As an example, in December I got my ribs popped and then ended the month with a concussion from a knee to the back of the head. It's starting to get to the point of being just too dangerous to continue training.

So what I would like to know is, do you have any experience (or know of any lady who does) with how to get hurt less often?"

I will say that she's at a gym affiliated with a quality program (it's not a TKD school by far) and her coach, from what she's described, sounds like a good guy, with a reputable black belt.

Suggestions welcome!!!

Tangentially related-- Hillary Williams writes in a Sherdog thread about technique vs. strength, and men vs. women in jiu jitsu:

"The actual strength capability, if it can be mildly quantifiable, is as Mcrow so graciously reminded us: 145 pound guy =/= 145 pound girl as far as muscle composition. I don't really need to touch on that part.

However, *how* women use the strength we have is also interesting and needs to be touched on. It explains why little male grapplers are still not quite comparable to female grapplers. I'm not going to go on feminist babble, but I will mention some gender differences that everyone knows but know one really thinks about.

Men are taught to be boisterous, aggressive, courageous etc. from a young age. They help dad build things, play sports or games with other kids, and use their bodies as tools very young. This allows them to develop a very instinctive sense of using their bodies effectively because they learn naturally. In many male sports, an "attack" gameplay is the norm: movements that involve leaving one's space and aggressively confronting an object or another player. Women, however, are gracefully emphasized. Almost no girls are put into contact sports; volleyball, soccer, gymnastics are common. These all teach grace, movement within a bounded area, and reacting to intrusions in that space.

When you watch women in combat sports, there is a similar pattern that emerges. When men start Jiu Jitsu, they are familiarized with the idea of combat their entire lives from being males and are generally pretty stoked about it. They really want to be fighters. They'll not know one bit what a guard pass is but they will flop, flail, and attack as best they can. They'll be generally aggressive about the learning process itself and will decide their own style of game down the line. Women are almost all apprehensive at first. I'll jump on a 2000 pound animal that's never had a human on its back with no fear, but I know I was terrified the first time I did BJJ. They're out of their element, almost none have ever done anything full contact before (most girls don't "wrassle" with dad or friends, either). Their Jiu Jitsu, initially, is often more reserved, unsure of goals or objectives (many don't have the UFC/MMA familiarity with even seeing the ground movements like many men today do), and are more reactive to movements that invade their space rather than attack outside it. Part of this has to do with our disadvantage of effect use of our body as a whole: We are stronger the more compact we are, and reaching outside this space leaves us exposed and vulnerable.

As we're learning BJJ, girls understand--at least subconsciously--that what we're doing isn't "normal" for girls. We kind of compensate by emphasizing the technical aspect of Jiu Jitsu, which can be manipulated to appear graceful and thus socially okay for a girl to do. Girls are slightly more naturally flexible (the majority of the difference is early emphasis of stretching in female exercise) and so we end up doing very flexible, flowing games that react to the aggressive male attacks that we encounter in the gym. We become sneaky, we learn to be quick and agile, to move around you rather than through you.

Tangent: That ISN'T to say women are more technical, or that the game produced is more technical. I hate that phrase, actually. Who's to say that a black belt doing berimbolo and tornado and rolling around on their head is more "technical" than the person who does the most basic scissor sweep? If both the techniques were effective in their objective, they are technical. Just because something is simple, does not mean it is not technical.

Because women rarely train with other women, quite often our reactive game works well for us. We defend all the time; men can't stand 'losing' to girls, so most of our rolls are defense rather than expansion. I have seen MANY female students (and I have done this myself) abandon certain techniques in the gym because they were simply not effective against big guys. If you don't have female training partners, like me, you end up with parts of your game (that could be vital against equally sized opponents) given up on due to frustration.

This can lead to a lapse in a girl's offensive Jiu Jitsu. When men try to "not use strength," it's a catastrophe. Don't worry boys, it's not your fault, it's just impossible for you to roll like a female would. Even if you're trying to "not use strength" (stupid idea to begin with), your body shape, size, and weight is a challenge in itself. When we run into situations where we're finally with someone going balls to the wall to beat us, we're confused and unprepared. The more you compete and do Jiu Jitsu, the more you can taper your training and prepare yourself, but I don't know a girl in BJJ that didn't say her first tournament was a shock. Men are used to aggressive rolls, winning some and losing some, and have a much easier time of it.

That being said, I think the "technique beats strength all the time" boolsheet that is fed to women as a BJJ pitch is absurd. Women are taught that "if you just focus on technique, technique, technique, it'll all work out." It also implies that strength and technique are mutually exclusive, as if strength is a bad thing. If strength was such a bad thing or not important we wouldn't have damn near every one of our top athletes looking like fitness models and doing S&C daily/weekly. Technique is the effective and efficient use of strength as much as an armbar is. If I can use my shoulder and weight distribution in a way that I can hold down a 190 pound brown belt, I'd consider that some pretty damn technical shoulder pressure. Women think they're aren't as strong, or that they'll never be able to match their male partner's strength, so they don't even attempt to access their own potential."

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Happy new year and all that!

So happy to be back home, sleeping in my own bed!  But husband and I had a fantastic two weeks visiting his parents, aunt/uncle, and extended family in Vegas. 

Too much eating of course... but I did get some training in at Drysdale's gym, which helped a teeny bit.  Many thanks to James, Aaron and Sonny for helping me feel welcome and teaching some great classes.  I worked on a transition from butterfly to single leg X guard, two sweeps from there, the berimbolo, and the ninja roll among other things.  At least I got moving.

Today, back at the office and phew, back in the gym too.  My crossfit-esque class kicked my butt at lunch and I am determined to attend consistently 5 days a week.  It will take a serious effort to lose all the extra breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks I accumulated.  *sigh*

Hope you had a great new years with loved ones and are already back on the mats.  I have a couple more reviews coming up-- the Tatami basic gi, Emily Kwok and Stephan Kesting's new series on fighting a bigger stronger opponent, and Drysdale's new nogi instructional too.

Welcome home :)