Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Leverage and the Fate Gods

Now, occasionally, through the fog of sweat, adrenaline, ripped-out-leg-hair, eye pokes, testicle shots and gi burn, I will actually learn something on the mats! Every now and then, I will have one of those enlightening moments where you understand something fundamental about a certain aspect of jiujitsu, whether its part of your game, why you can never pull off that x guard sweep or why you keep getting those nasty red, circular rash spots when you don’t shower after training (duh!). I was lucky enough to have one of these moments during class this evening, and thankfully it wasn’t about staph or ring worm!

We recently covered a deep half guard sweep combination which I used to use a lot as a white belt. Over the past few months I have been trying to work as much De La Riva as possible, as I feel it very comfortable in this position and it fills an important gap in my game plan. However, while my De La Riva game is coming along nicely, I have found myself struggling in what I used to count as my strong guard, namely the deep half guard.

This led me to take a step back and assess the situation. Several nights spent tossing and turning, with uncomfortable dreams involving Ricardo De La Riva, Jeff Glover and Raphael Mendes (yes, insert gay joke here – very funny), I realized that I would need to revisit some of my old techniques to bring them up to par.

With some wise words of wisdom from Fabio Gurgel resounding in my head, I decided to focus on working on my closed guard. When Fabio came out to Alliance Bahrain, he discussed the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities of the closed guard before moving to your favourite open guard. Now, many of us at that time were really working on our open guard games, whether it was De La Riva, Spider guard, or Ali Seena’s particular brand of guard torture, and were always quick to jump straight to these positions when sparring.

Well, it seems this post has gone on quite the tangent! Anyway, back to my main point for the evening; leverage. Continuing on my plan to work on techniques which used to work well for me but have slipped to the wayside, one technique we recently went over was the deep half guard. Back in the UK, this used to be my go-to position, and I used to relentlessly fight for the deep half guard, much to the dismay of my sparring partners who had had enough of me kneeing them in the balls during my sweep attempts. So for the past week I have been attempting to work my closed guard game, and if things don’t go to plan and my guard is threatened, I will go to the deep half guard instead of the De La Riva. As usual, the more you use a particular position the better you will get at it, I have been having a rising success rate with one particular deep half guard sweep. And this evening, an opportunity presented itself to utilize this move! So off I went - fight for the under hook on one side, shoot the other arm under your opponent, move hips to opposite side, sneak in a quick ball buster, etc. But as I attempted the sweep, my opponent resisted and put all their weight on one arm, the other being stuck between us. As I was hanging there with my head upside down and various thoughts on the hygiene clenliness of my opponents groin guard (who wears these things for BJJ anyway?) running through my head, I had my enlightening moment!

In crystal clear clarity, I realized that my opponent’s weight was distributed between his one leg and his one straight arm. With my foot mere inches from his cursed arm, I simply gave his arm a little kick, and he toppled like an obese red neck trucker after 50 beers and a spare ribs eating competition! And in that moment, I truly understood the ins and outs of this particular sweep I was using. Once I understood this, it was easy to predict where an opponent might be able resist and stop my sweeps, therefore providing me an opportunity to think of a counter strategy.

Now I know this is quite a simple lesson, but there is more here than meets the eye. I feel every now and again the Fate Gods will give you that little push which is the beginning of a BJJ growth spurt. Everyone knows training isn’t linear, and many of us will go through plateaus before experiencing a sudden improvement in our game. And I think this might just have been one of those moments!


Monday, 26 April 2010

Finding Happiness

Well it has been a while! I am in the process of getting this blog going again and will hopefully be posting regularly. While this topic has nothing to do with BJJ, it has been at the center of my musings of late and I feel by writing my thoughts down it will help me solidify my own impressions and maybe also help a few others who may find themselves in a similar predicament.

Even when I chose my degree subject, it was due to a lack of any other interests and a lack of assertiveness on my part. While I enjoyed certain aspects of Business Management such as Marketing and Economics, it is not something I am terribly passionate about. Now, this was all good and well while still at university where if you study for a couple hours a day you can achieve quite an impressive result when compared to the input! I was quite proud of my ability to work for 2-3 hours a day and obtain the same grades as my friends, whose nail biting, hair pulling antics caused them much stress as they signed their every waking hour away to the dreaded library. So during this period of my life, I didn’t really mind reading, learning and studying the various aspects of Business Management as it was fun to gain new insights and understandings. It also meant I had alot of free time to focus on my training and really develop my jiujitsu.

Now let’s fast forward to when I had actually finished university and had a few months of having fun enjoying the UK summer behind me. Once again I let the forces that be choose my path for me instead of taking hold of my own destiny and implementing a strategy that would take me to where I wanted to be. I decided to 'get a job' as it seemed the right thing to do, and besides, everyone else was trying to find jobs! So off I went like a good little Muppet and sent out my CVs with accompanying cover letters to all the worth while organizations I could think of. Luckily, one of them actually hired me and before I knew it I had entered the corporate world and the controversial rat race. Now, was this the path I really wanted for myself? Sitting behind a desk looking at a computer screen for 8+ hours a day?

I can argue and say that yes, you are signing away the majority of your day to doing something that is not particularly interesting, but you are getting some nice shiny gold coins out of it. And don’t forget about the benefits - health, dental, etc. Oh and they even threw in a transport allowance! How kind, how kind. But ever since I started working, I have felt myself being dragged (with much kicking and screaming on my part, much to my family and friends annoyances) in a direction I am not completely content with. Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life? Do I want to be like everyone else, doing something they don’t mind, or in many cases outright hate, just to put some money in the bank? There must be other kinds of work or industries which are capable of igniting my passion and allow me to be the black sheep of the hoard and actually enjoy what I do for a living?

My indecisiveness in choosing my degree and when looking for a job led me down the 'it seemed the right thing to do' path. However, if I was to really question myself and think if this was the direction I wanted to go in, the answer would be an astonishing no! Now I can’t say what that illuminating path would be if I was given the opportunity to pursue my very own yellow brick road, but the last six months have taught me that this particular one isn't going to take me where I want to go.

My research into this slightly soul exploring topic led me to see individuals on both extremes of the equation. There are those who have thrown fortune to the wind and cut up their evil bank cards, burnt their identity documents, sold all their earthly possessions and said 'fuck it' as they walked off towards the sunset with a home made Br'er rabbit style back pack swinging from their shoulder. While a very romantic idea, I am not too sure as to the success rate of this concept. I mean its all good and well if you plan on becoming a Buddist monk, Yogic adept, mountain hermit or desert nomad (although you will need some greenbacks to maintain your nice Range Rover for this last career path). However, you are much more likely to end up crazy, alone and as bear food, like the unfortunate Timothy Treadwell, if you decide on taking this slightly be-crazed approach to living your life.

Then on the other extreme, we have those who feel the need to store every single one of their copper pennies in their mattress and guard their reserves with an Ebenezer Scrooge like consistency (yes Scrooge does have a first name). The mere suggestion of spending some of their savings will result in a moon directed howl as the individual in question bursts out of their clothing in a dramatic explosion of newly developed animalistic hair and sinewy muscle, their angry retort muffled by those long fangs and a toxic cloud of rotting bad breath.

Obviously these examples lie on the outer edges of our bell shaped curve of normalcy, with the majority of us falling somewhere in between Timothy 'bear food' Treadwell and Ebenezer Scrooge's antics. However, it really is up to us to decide which qualities from these two role models we wish to emulate, and finding a balance which you are happy with will contribute to your ability to live a happy life.

After attempting to invoke the mystical Inca spirits and several failed animal sacrifices at the height of the spring solace, it became apparent that the only way I was going to figure this out was by doing some hard thinking. Trying to predict your path by peering into a magicians divination bowl, seeking solace in tarot cards or taking part in a mystical rain dance will not get you very far. It took me much hair pulling, incoherent babbling and a long period of frustration before I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, I only have a vague outline of what I need to do to keep myself on the tightrope that is happiness, but at least I know that it is up to me to decide what I do with my life.