Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Back in October I competed for only the second this year. This is way less than in previous years, especially compared to how much I competed as a white belt. But there were also different factors at play. There were three tournaments that I wanted to do but ended up missing because of injury or scheduling conflicts. The fight team was really active this year and a lot of those tournaments coincided with days the guys were fighting so I didn’t have a coach and still get nervous about going to a tournament alone (this is actually a nightmare of mine and I hope it never happens). And the most whiny excuse as to why my competition presence was so low is because I just didn’t feel ready and all the frustrations I was dealing with BJJ in general resulted in my heart not being in it. Also, I sprained my calf at muay thai and that took months to heal.

But! Eventually my disillusionment subsided and I fell back in love with jiu jitsu. It took some time and me stepping far outside my comfort zone. Jiu jitsu is a long journey and filled with lots of bumps, peaks and valleys, and so on. Most of mine had been limited to my home gym and training partners. I hadn’t gone to an open mat or a seminar that wasn’t at my own gym so once I finally did that, a new world opened up to me. Open mat at another gym exposed me to different styles of rolling that broke up some of that staleness/frustration and I was able to make some new friends! I also attended to seminars. One with The Canutos, Renato and Raquel, and the other with Lucas Lepri. Each of these deserves their own post and I will try to get to that in time. All of these things were super invigorating and made me feel more serious about my training. It became less about going to the gym and being with my friends, even though that it a major reason I go. Training and the gym is my refuge and to an extent it is like a religious experience and I get to spend time with people I enjoy. But this wasn’t enough at the time and to avoid becoming one of those storied people that gets their blue belts and dips out I needed that shift in focus.

So I set my sights on a tournament in the fall. The AZBJJF’s Southwest Classic. It would be my second appearance there and hopefully redemption from my awful performance the year before. I was stronger physically and mentally. I really should not have been competing at the end of 2017. I was broken hearted and so unhealthy. I showed up to that tournament weak and unfocused. I had been trying to do too many things at once so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain I was feeling. I was studying for the LSAT and took that 3 weeks before the tournament, the weekend after that I took a trip to Montana, and then competed following week. In sum I wasn’t training like I wanted to win and didn’t have a plan.

Fast forward to this year and my new mindset. I trained harder and in a more concentrated way. I tried to focus on what my weak points were in the last tournament and that turned out to be getting caught in side control. My teammates and I just worked that and my coach even had a few classes where that was my sole focus. Also, I was attending a women’s only competition class over the summer that was really tough and had lots specific training. All of this really paid off when I finally did step on to the mats.

The tournament itself was a bit a change from previous ones. My coach couldn’t make it because again, the guys were fighting (!), but I was lucky enough that one of our brown belts, Danny, who is also a good friend was competing and able to coach me. We drove up together, also good because it was raining horribly that day. Danny competed first and ended up being moved into a different division and lost on points. My division was a little bit after and there were three of us. For once I had the buy and tried not to focus too much on the match between the other two girls. I ended up with two matches that day and placing second! I won my first match with a cross collar choke from guard. It was tough but I felt good throughout. I don’t remember much though because this was back in October but I pulled guard and I think there was a scramble that ended up with her back in my guard.

The second match was tougher. I had competed against this girl last year and she took first in our division. Overall, my performance was much stronger. I’m not okay with having lost but to see an improvement is important. Last year I got caught in side control and hit in the mouth and started to flounder once I tasted blood. This year it was a better match. I didn’t concede like I did then and was able to escape side control but unfortunately I got caught in mount and ended up giving up my back to tapping to a bow and arrow! It was so frustrating because it felt like I forgot mount escapes. Nonetheless, I’m still proud of myself for the gains, small as they were, and not having given up on jiu jitsu or competing. I’m hoping to compete more next year and hopefully make it to Pans or the Las Vegas Open. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

Books: After finishing Emergency Contact I ended up doing a lot of rereading. I’m planning for future posts on those books because rereads always give a different perspective because hopefully between each reading of a book you’ve grown as a person and are able to take something different away from the book. I’m sure if I read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening I’d understand in a totally different way at 28 versus 21. My rereads were: Harry Potter 1-3 and The Shadow of the Wind (one of my all time favorites!). I’m also still working my way through the Labyrinth of Solitude and have added True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx. The latter is a quicker read but still slow and maybe I need a break from nonfiction.

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Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Emergency Contact

20181202_215658.jpgI took a break from slogging my way though nonfiction and a bunch of other things, like writing (!), and read Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi. This was prompted by my need to read something that was  1. just going to be fun and also bring me some joy from the frustration I’d been experiencing at the gym (note: I read this over the summer when things were still bad, more on later) and 2. This passage that I saw posted somewhere on Twitter right after it came out.

Continue reading “Emergency Contact”

Emergency Contact

Grand Canyon Open 2018

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Trying to maintain my guard despite getting caught with “the spliter”.

I competed in the NABJJF Grand Canyon Open for the third time early last month. This tournament makes me a little nostalgic since it was the first one tournament I ever signed up for and the only one time I’ve signed up for two divisions. Last year I signed up for gi only and came away with a silver medal. This year, my first as a blue belt, I competed in no gi, a weaker area for me, and did not make it to the podium. I’m not upset that I didn’t place. I think it’s great that there were more women in my bracket than usual. Usually, it’s so small that everyone places by default, so this is good for the sport and competition but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I was disappointed in myself and frustrated. I’m still adapting to being at the bottom again and the competition at blue belt is very different compared to what it was as a white belt.

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I wrote that paragraph at the beginning of May. Tomorrow is the first of June and my frustration has continued to grow; not just with being a relatively new blue belt but maybe, unfortunately with jiu-jitsu itself. I think I’ve been avoiding coming to terms with that and as a result, writing the original post, because of how much stock I have put into my training. I started martial arts right as I was entering a turbulent time in my life that had lots of change and I’ve jokingly referred  it to as my quarter life crisis. Jiu jitsu was there for me through what amounted to lots of ups and downs and some very low downs. I don’t really wanted to get into the details about that right now because some of these things are still painful to talk about but jiu jitsu was my anchor and as long as I dragged myself to the gym and got some good rounds in, I knew I would be okay, even if it was just until I get back onto the mats.

It’s entirely possible that this wasn’t a healthy way to cope and now I’m paying for it. Lately, I’ve been struggling to be motivated while I’m at class. I feel like I’ve plateaued harder than I ever have over the past three years and I hate it. I hate not being excited to go the gym and work on improving my game. I know some of this comes with the constant change in training partners. My original cohort has dispersed and my personality doesn’t mesh well with some of the newer ones. The whole atmosphere has been different and despite my best efforts to hold fast, I’ve flirted with the idea of quitting all together. It just seems easier to go back to just striking but I think I would also feel weird if I did that. I’m not sure if that weirdness would be the result of shame but I do think I would be very disappointed in myself. Jiu jitsu is the first activity that I’ve picked up and really poured myself into with the intention of being the best I can be and not giving up. To move forward, I’m going to try to keep this sentiment in mind and compete again soon. Hopefully that mental reset will do me some good and pull me out of the funk. I hate being so whiny.

As for the books: I’m currently working on The Labyrinth of Solitude  by Ocatvio Paz. It feels very academic but is still readable and enjoyable. I’m not sure what’s the best way to talk about it, just as I’m not sure how to talk about Vonnegut’s Mother Night, the last book that I read. It was good, like everything else of his that I’ve read, but I don’t have the words to properly describe how it made me feel.

Grand Canyon Open 2018

The Goldfinch

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I recently finished reading Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch.  The book follows the life of Theo Decker as he reflects on the event that changed the course of his life and the fallout from the choice that was made immediately afterwards. While reading this book, I learned a new word, bildungsroman, which is a coming of age story that follows the protagonist from childhood to adulthood. I only learned this because I got a little impatient while reading and wanted to see what happened at the end. This is probably one of my worst habits and I really can’t help it. I even did this while reading the last Harry Potter book. I’m a monster, I know.

Anyhow, back to The Goldfinch!  The story was a little slow moving and meandering and the longest book I’ve read in a while at 771 pages but I really enjoyed it! I also liked it a lot better than the last Donna Tart book I read, The Secret History, which wasn’t bad but it was just weird and a little a creepy.  A fact that was further bolstered by one of my best friends having gone to Bennington College, the school that Hampden College seems to be based on.  Alright, alright, back to The Goldfinch for reals. The story opens with Theo at what is the end of story, looking back at the linchpin that leads to that moment.  The even that sets everything in motion is a terrorist attack the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, shortly after the 9/11. Theo’s mother is killed in the attack and he walks away with a rare surviving painting by Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt. The painting is the titular goldfinch and throughout the story serves as a token that links Theo to the memory of his mother.

After the accident Theo is taken in by the wealthy family of one his friends until his estranged father shows up and whisks him away to Vegas. While in Vegas he is befriended by Boris, another motherless boy. Together they scrap together a hardscrabble existence fueled by parental neglect, drugs, and all the weirdness that comes with adolescence. I don’t want to give much more way but at its, heart The Goldfinch is a story of friendship and what it means to be good and what role being good plays in one’s destiny. The last few pages were favorite and worth the slow start. Oddly enough, I ended up watching Tulip Fever which is set in the time that Fabritius created the painting and it was a nice juxtaposition for the contrast that made the The Goldfinch so special. The painting is atypical of the paintings coming from the Dutch Masters during that time. It is simple and bright whereas Rembrandt and Vermeer’s painting were dark and moody.

This book as also renewed my interested in finishing Walden. It is assigned reading for the boys while they’re in high school but that is a post for another time.

 

The Goldfinch

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Where does the time go? The past few months have been such a blur. Time has alternated between excruciatingly slow and zooming past by me. I retook the LSAT this past Saturday and since I woke up that morning at 5:45, I have not stopped. Immediately after the test I went over to weigh-ins for Rise of the Prospects 3: Sanctuary, went home and tried to nap, met up with my family for post-LSAT and birthday celebrations, stayed out too late, woke up the next day and went run the timer for the grappling matches and watch the muay thai fights, got up the next day for work and just started training again. It’s been insane but I’m so relieved to be done with the LSAT.

I have not been able to relax since I decided I needed to retake it. Every time I was doing something that was not studying, I felt guilty and couldn’t enjoy whatever it was I was up to. This especially happened when I was at the gym and trying to train. The motivation wasn’t there and I wasn’t having any fun. I would show up and drill and maybe roll three rounds on a good day. This same mentality was also impacting my studying. I had such a hard time focusing and productively studying. I think I was burned from all the studying that went into the September test and disappointed in how it turned out. But despite all of this I didn’t give up! I did the studying for the LSAT equivalent of biting down on my mouth guard, which basically amounted to chaining myself to my desk until I finished whatever study goals I had set up for that day.

Test day finally arrived and it has been such a weight lifted on my shoulders! I can’t really say how it went one way or the other. I was mentally wiped out by the end of it. In September I felt very calm throughout the test and afterwards. This time, I felt that I had been pushed to my mental limits and was put through the ringer. I was so happy to be done and basically sprinted to my car so I could get some food and go to weigh ins for Rise of the Prospects.

Weighs in were held at Gentle Ben’s so there was food which was great! I didn’t realize until after I ordered my food that it was probably not very considerate to order food when I was sitting at table with a bunch of people that were cutting weight. I may have been called a few names that weren’t very nice but it was in good fun.

The next day was Rise of the Prospects. I was really looking forward to it even though I wasn’t competing because it was the first thing I’d be doing without the LSAT looming over my head. I also had the pleasure of running the timer for the jiu jitsu matches which means I got to watch all the matches! Oh my goodness, watching so many matches was so inspiring and it made me fall in love with jiu jitsu all over again! Training has turned fun again! Even though the matches were great to watch, running the timer all stresses me out. I get nervous about losing track of time and if I’m going to hit the bell right when the referee calls starts the match. Overall it was a success and I get to run the time for future events as long as I’m not competing! As far as competing goes for me, since I’m free, I’m looking forward to getting back on the mats in April and hopefully taking part in the next Rise of the Prospects.

 

 

Rise of the Prospects

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It really does seem like I tend to post things almost two months after the fact. I’m not entirely sure what causes  this but I’m starting to think it might be time and fear. Time because there are only so many hours in a day and fear because of the vulnerability that writing entails. I still haven’t told any of my friends or training partners about this blog. I’ve only alluded to it to maybe one or two people but no one has the address. One day, I’ll announce it.

Back in October I got to be part of something really cool in my city that was hosted by my gym, Rise Combat Sports. The owners, Jen and Chris, put together a promotion called Rise of the Prospects to give local fighters and grapplers a chance to showcase their skills. It’s really cool because Tucson does have a burgeoning MMA scene with plenty of gyms and lots fighters. Jen was telling me that she was advised to overbook the card because fighters tend pull out. This was not the case and instead, she was fielding requests to be added to card non-stop. This first card had Muay Thai and BJJ. The first half of the card was dedicated to Muay Thai with the second half reserved for jiu-jitsu.

This event was was a lot of fun. It was an opportunity to compete without having to pay a tournament fee and I only had one match, so I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of “What if I win and have more matches?” Every fighter also got to choose their own walkout music and the atmosphere was so different from tournaments. Instead of being a hot and sweaty gym, we were this neat venue downtown surrounded by an actual crowd which was really cool. My match ended up being a loss for me. I got caught in a bow and arrow against a very tough competitor. It was disappointing to have lost again so soon. This was the weekend after my disastrous performance at the Southwest Classic. But it’s okay because before my match I got to cheer my sister, Bianca, on her in Muay Thai debut!

Bianca is my little sister and joined Rise about a month after I did. In the beginning she was a little timid and would only take the women’s muay thai class and then, only if she had a guaranteed partner that she was comfortable with. Bit by bit she started to get better and become more confident. Eventually, she just got really good. Bianca has always been really athletic. She played varsity basketball and softball in high school and did really well there too. I remember a write up in the local paper that referred to her as the basketball team’s “tenacious little defender.” So naturally, she would take to this new sport. She spent some time going between wanting to fight and not fight and I’m so glad she finally decided to. She worked so hard in the lead up to the fight and ran actual camp. She was running, eating well, hitting pads, and sparring. It was a huge step out of her comfort zone and it paid off! OMG! It was such a good fight and I’m so proud of her!!!

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After the fight with my dad and other sister, Jennifer.

Rise of the Prospects 2 will be taking place this weekend. I won’t be competing because initially I really wanted to go to No Gi Worlds but I won’t be doing that either. The week after this match, my LSAT scores came in and I have to retake it. I need to improve my score to get into the school I want because I’m not settling for anything less!

Rise of the Prospects