Man…I can’t believe September is here already! This year is flying by and I have been off the mat as much as on it.  My separated shoulder still aches daily and it pops and cracks like walking on pretzels, but I have been able to roll semi-productively.

Another great piece of news is related to a new presence in our gym.  Pablo Silva from Draculino’s original school in BH is training at GB Texas for the next few months and man is that guy a beast. He is a black belt world champ in the Pluma division, and wow…size does not matter when you are rolling with someone as skilled as Pablo.  I had the unfortunate experience of rolling with him once and kicking him square in the junk in the first 10 seconds trying to sit back to guard.  Let’s just say after the errant kick, I spent the rest of the time flailing for my life. I think every surface of my body came in contact with the mat in an unpleasant way.  Of course, he was extremely controlled and slick, but he is fast and he does not give an inch, if he locks down and takes an inch…that is his inch and you will not see it returned.  And  each subsequent bit of space you give will be similarly sucked away and never returned.

Along with that, I have had great learning experience-type rolls with Draculino and Wolverine.  These agile smaller blackbelts make me feel like a lumbering oaf, and I am only 6’0, 185lbs or so.

Besides the beatings I take on the mat, I have been working alot on inferior positions
(Turtle and side control more specifically).  I have always been a top player. I like to play a heavy pressure type game and have managed to avoid allot of bad positioning by scrambling, but I recently started to realize how limited that type of mindset is.  I can scramble, but what happens when I do get reversed, or when my guard is passed? Bad stuff.

I typically play a bit of closed guard and butterfly when I am on my back, and have only been slightly interested in open guards like spider or De La Riva, as I prefer positions that can be dominant with and without a gi. But even as weak as those positions are for me..there are even worse places to be.

So recently I have spent almost every practice “pulling” turtle and side-control to simulate being passed or put in inferior positions. Is it paying off? Well, I’m not sure yet. I am starting to feel more confident in my ability to defend from these positions, and even muster some offensive moves at times.

But, more than anything, I have been spending allot of time face down with guys trying to clock choke me (many have successfully) or trying to sink their hooks to take my back.

I’m sure it is a pitiful sight to anyone observing training these past few weeks.  Aww who is the poor red-faced, out-of-shape kid getting choked round after round? That’s me man!

But I think it has helped me in more ways than one, it has definitely helped me to become better from these positions (although there is so much room for improvement that it is hard to even claim progress), and it has helped me tame any lingering ego.  What I mean is that feeling you get when you know your instructor is watching and you are getting owned, I mean clock choked into oblivion. Your face looks like you are simultaneously lifting something heavy and smelling a really heinous fart.  You have spit flecks flying out of your mouth and your eyes are bugging out of your head. Yeah, it’s hard to look “cool” when you are getting choked to near unconsciousness.

Now this is something I used to worry about, “Oh man my instructor is watching me and I’m losing! Oh lawd! He will demote me I’m sure of it!”.  “He probably calls all his jiu jitsu friends and tells them how much I suck!?”.  But putting myself in bad positions constantly has relieved me of that extra bit of worry.  Why? Because everyone and their mom has now seen me struggling from bad positions.  All they have to do is watch for a minute or two and they will see me getting killed, so it is no longer special. It is no longer a big deal.  I am putting myself there, knowing that if I feel confident from the worst of places..I will not fear having my guard passed or being reversed.

Before it was pure panic mode when someone got the best of me and took superior positioning, but now it just feels like an old friend.  You can just relax and work the escapes you have been refining time and time again.  I am still nowhere near where I should be, but putting myself in bad positions is not about belts or stripes, it’s about personal growth. It’s about improving my own game.  It’s not about getting the best armbar, sweeps, or guard so that I can look impressive enough to be promoted.  It’s about feeling secure in moments when you are in the most danger.  That is jiu jitsu for me.

Until next time, Happy training!

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