I started this week with the lurgy.
After the intense highs of last week, waking up on Tuesday feeling like a month-old-sock was a devastating blow. But (after a particular period of woe and introspection) it’s given me a chance to rethink my training strategy.
It takes a peculiar type of ballsiness to seek out a hobby where you invite others to attack you.
Couple that with the highly visible competition scene, and the endless flow of “I just benched 200kg, went rock-climbing and did a three-hour kettlebell workout, now I’m off to training” status updates, and it can seem like everyone is training harder, faster, heavier and more often than you.
Jiu Jitsu guilt sets in, and it is not always your friend.
For me, however, comparing myself to that 18 year old prodigy has often been a fasttrack to self-flagellation. Because as much as I might lament the merlot-fuelled decades, and envy the effortless movement and technique of those who took up BJJ in their teens, aping their training regimes isn’t necessarily the best way to go about things.
For one, a late-thirties body can’t just plough on through without rest and recovery (I’ve even noticed a decline in “springback” since my mid-thirties). And for two, beating yourself up every time you have to take a break totally wrecks your love of the sport.
Having hit a physical wall just one week into a five month trip was threatening to bury me. For my own sanity, I needed to find a BJJ lesson that I could learn from my sick bed. Here’s what I came up with.
1) First and foremost, find the fun again. Enjoy it. Go into each session looking forward to the challenge and work hard. If sickness or injury make that a less viable possibility, eschew the “but I haven’t done enough,” martyrdom, rest up and recover.
2) Put the overactive guilt complex to different use, and find smarter ways to get that RnR. Smarter training patterns, better eating habits and lots of Zzzzzs.
Right now, the sleep bit is pretty compromised, Needless to say, the California Suites Hotel doesn't boast a $40 a night rate because they've scored a discount at the custom mattress store. Our bed creaks, bounces and jettisons you floorwards every time your other half so much as stirs from their slumber - a recipe (on both sides) for a sleepless night.
We are also, thanks to a meagre bedding allowance, having to use our spare gis as pillows.
I am however hoping that our new apartment will have a less volatile sleeping platform. If not, you’ll find me on the sofabed.
3) Compare my performance just to myself. Not to the World Champion. Not to the 18 year old kid (ok, at Atos, they’re probably a World Champion too). But you know what I mean. My progress, my scores, my numbers, my game. Improve on that and sack off the comparisons.
Having spent the morning watching Andre’s interview with Budo Jake in which he talks about a new generation of guard pass, we spent a lot of our next mat session sitting on our backsides with our legs intertwined.
Andy is sick today, so we have recreated the move poolside for demonstration purposes (we haven’t taken up rolling on concrete).
Reminiscent of some kind of partner-based situp drill, this is actually the start position of a seated De La Riva pass. At least in theory, we have yet to master the complexities and orientation of the move. We might both be purple belts, but as Professor Galvao tactfully put it, “you guys haven’t done this move before, have you?”
Bypassing the usual “stand up, pass guard, sit back down again” rigmarole felt more like a game of 'Twister' than the patterns we were used to, and it’s hard to tell when you’re working and when you’re just tying yourself in comedic knots. Still, and here’s my evangelical sentence of the week, it’s inspiring to be learning Jiu Jitsu as techniques are developing, and not just in a “I saw this cool thing on YouTube” capacity.
Over in the Suples fitness studio, it was Tacfit time, and a definite chance to work on point 3 of the resolution.
Originally developed for military personnel, Tacfit (Commando) involves six exercises, exactly performed and mirroring fight movements, hammered out eight times each in 20 seconds on, 10 second rest bursts.
It’s kind of like Tabata in terms of timing, except in Tabata you aren’t keeping your other arm up to shield your face from punches (at least not in any class I’ve been to).
As if Front Lunges, Plank Push Knees, Sit Thru Knees, Basic Pushups, Spinal Rocks and Tripod Overheads, times 48 rounds, isn’t punishing enough, this week we were using our ten second rest breaks to note down how many reps we’d completed.Whilst Maurizio and Stephen shouted “get your butt down lower,” “stop wobbling,” “where’s the explosive energy?”and “put down that water bottle” at us.
Apparently the stress of physical exhaustion, combined with mental fatigue and overwhelming feelings of sadness and fury are also integral to the training, developing an athlete’s ability to focus under high pressure situations.
One wobby-handed, scrunched up score sheet later (it echoed my bodily state), we learned the twist.
Despite being told to maintain a steady pace throughout all eight rounds of an exercise, our egos had lead us into the usual “more is better/peak and slump” patterns. Unfortunately for us, it was our lowest scores across the drills that were being added up. The fact you knocked out 20 reps in as many seconds during round one didn’t count. The bit where you berated your very existence and scaled down to invalid pace, with a face like the orphan in 'Les Miserables', did.
Post analysis, I had some valuable insight and definite areas to improve. Overall, I hit 43, which isn’t terrible, but with aspirational scores in the 60s, I won’t be exhausting the range of Tacfit quite yet (there are also harder variations for the more experienced athlete).
I learned, from the wild discrepancy in scores between exercises, that whilst my legs and glutes are strong like a banyard ox, my arms, wrists and shoulders are weak like a farmyard chicken.
So, yup, scores are handy things, but sometimes you’ve gotta go down to go up.
We finished the session attempting to crack our own backs with Joint Mobility - as Andy is once again demonstrating beside the pool. Joint Mobility is one of those underrated arts that deserves its own post, so I'll be updating the blog with more uncomfortable looking photos later.
So, onto Week Three and a couple of crazy-ass highlights to look forward to:
1) Metamoris tomorrow. The wet dream of pretty much any BJJ fan, and of course, Andre Galvao will be competing against Ryron Gracie.
Quite often I return to the room to find Andy hunched over the laptop, making “ooh” and “aah” sounds and furtively watching the preview videos.
We’ll be there in person, wearing the t-shirt and cheering on the Professor. Excitement doesn’t really cover it.
2) Cristina Cyborg is coming to teach women’s Muay Thai conditioning classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays as of the 16th October. The Strikeforce veteran, and a woman who attacks a tractor tyre like it just walked up to Mr Cyborg and offered him a good time. Not quite sure how this is going to hit the training budget, so it's still fingers crossed for now, but if I manage to score a place I'll let you know.
Nothing left to do but concentrate on that rest and recovery resolution.
For Andy that means finessing his Berimbolo...
...whilst I focus on the more horizontal techniques.