This week in LA
Another busy week. I mentioned that I went on a ridealong on Monday night with Mike, a blue belt who trains with John and Johnny. He set it up so that I could ride with his partners Tim and John. I sat in the back, of course, while John drove and Tim rode shotgun. We were in an unmarked car, and according to Tim, while they don’t have Porsche engines anymore, the engines are still pretty damn fast. On the dashboard are two little handles that work external spotlights that they can shine in the faces of people they want to talk to. There are also two pretty interesting-looking police antennae on top of the trunk; they look like giant corks. I noticed that Mike, John, Tim and their colleagues used the police radio to bust each other’s chops. I liked that!
It was kind of a quiet night. We went to the house of someone who violated his parole for drug possession (Tim said he was probably afraid he'd do a "dirty pee test") and staked it out for a while (searching the neighborhood, talking to the neighbors) b/c when he saw us coming he bolted (left the hose on and a wet car). His brother was trying to turn him in so he rode along with us in the neighborhood for a bit and I talked to him a little. It was hard to know what to say; “Dude, sorry your brother is a drug addict” seemed kind of insufficient.Then we stopped a dude for erratic driving. (And yes, I say “we” because I played a pivotal role all night: that of slightly uncomfortable tourist.) He accidentally pulled out an unpaid speeding ticket along with his license. John loved that. Then we busted a dude who was carrying some crystal meth and when they ran his name, it turns out he had three outstanding warrants: two for domestic abuse (he said he beat his baby's mom, but that was 5 years ago) and one for possession. He was walking out of a bar and into a hotel two doors down, carrying a gym bag. They stopped him because when they called out to him he kept walking, and sure enough, he was GUILTY. They had him sit on the curb with the cuffs on, and I got to get out of the car and look at him. That felt sort of strange, like he was a museum attraction or something.Then it was back to the station for the paperwork on the perp. That lasted for a good two hours, during which I sat around writing an entry for my blog and drinking a diet Coke, and after that it was about 11:30pm, so I excused myself, having had a pretty fun time and feeling pretty glad, actually, that I didn’t see a murder. And in answer to the obvious question, there were no donuts, but they did offer me a Hostess lemon pie. (I said no thank you. As you’ll see below, I’m trying to cut weight.)
On Tuesday we trained at R1 again. I forgot to mention that some notable people float in and out of there; and this time it was Marc Denny, one of the Dog Brothers, who came over to say hello. The Dog Brothers are kind of hard to explain. They are a group of martial artists who have a kind of eclectic style that involves sticks and knives. They get together periodically, put on minimal amounts of padding/protection, and whack the shit out of each other. It’s far more technical and sophisticated than I’m describing it, but that’s kind of the gist. Marc is a big, 50ish dude whose nickname is Crafty Dog (all the members have a Dog nickname and greet each other by saying, “Woof woof.”), and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want him to hit me with a stick. You can check them out at dogbrothers.com.
That training session was great: we worked the riding the pipe takedown and the counter to the counter to it, and I felt like I was FINALLY starting to get the hang of it. Of course, in the evening gi class that John taught I felt like I was regressing and got so frustrated I was on the verge of tears. But then I took Johnny and Sheldon's class after that and Sheldon gave a couple tips that really helped. Freaking takedowns. At lunch we were talking about the Abu Dhabi trials. The Abu Dhabi Combat Club is a martial arts club run by prominent (read: wealthy) United Arab Emirates citizens who appreciate Brazilian jiu jitsu and related martial arts. The club sponsors a no-gi competition every couple of years that is widely viewed as one of the most competitive in the world. 2005’s competition was the first that had a women’s division, and the women’s competition was AWESOME. There are some amazing women doing BJJ at very high and sophisticated levels. And someday there will be more! Anyway, trials for entry into the competition, men and women, will be held in October in New Jersey as part of a different event called Grapplers’ Quest. I will not be participating in the trials, but I definitely want to go out and watch. So I gotta make some arrangements myself.
I’ve been having fun conversations with Johnny about his BJJ curriculum. He’s gonna let me take a look at it from an educational psychology perspective. What a fun way to use my degree! And there could conceivably be ways for me to make a living at it. So I’m getting more and more hits on what I could do with my time that would 1) make me happy (because that’s always of most importance) and 2) make me enough money to live on. Muscle Activation Therapy is still in the running, but I’m not interested in working at all right now, at least not at a job that pays me (I feel frequently like I am working REALLY hard at BJJ, though I love it), so all of this is tabled for the moment.I think I wrote about how Johnny, Paul (really tough blue belt) and I trained at Tinguinha’s Wednesday morning, though he wasn't there himself. Everybody there was HUGE, so that was kind of frustrating; I couldn’t do much, especially when being smushed on the bottom. Last night I sat out of the basics class here at “home” (New Breed) but took the advanced class, though I didn't do the free sparring. I have been training every day and usually twice a day since I got back from Florida, 10 days in a row. So I'm a little fried, I think.
I had thought Thursday morning was going to be a free morning, but Johnny had arranged for us to train at Gracie Barra (pronounced Ba-ha), so it was more of the same. And of course the same is always fun. Gracie Barra originated in Rio with Carlos (aka Carlinhos) Gracie, Jr., whose father was one of the founders of modern BJJ. The Rio Gracie Barra is kind of like mecca for people who train BJJ; I went there in 2003 when I was in town with Carlson, Jr. (my teacher) for the Mundial, a world competition. Carlinhos and Marcio Feitosa, a black belt under Carlinhos and his right-hand man, have overseen the opening of numerous Gracie Barra academies, including the ones in Anchorage and Seattle that I have visited on this trip. They are both teaching at the Lake Forest, CA, academy now, so I’m hoping they’ll be there when Johnny and I go back next week.
And that being said, I had a great time there. Andre Fernandes, a tough, lanky black belt, taught the class, focusing on recomposing the guard and including some details I hadn’t seen before. That’s always exciting, to pick up new details and “toys” to play with. I got to spar with Andre, and he let me play around. Then it was with blue belt Derek, whom Johnny and I had lunch with later, and he was fun too. And also with purple belt Kevin. Kevin’s girlfriend wasn’t there, but she is a blue belt, and it turns out that she has some frustrations about training. And of course any frustration she may have experienced (guys muscling out of your technique, no women to spar with, intimidation and sexism factors, etc), I have also definitely experienced. So I gave him my contact info and invited him to have her call or email me if she wants to talk or to set up a time when we could train together.
Here is a picture of Johnny, me, and Andre:
Then in the evening it was on to Hollywood BJJ (Shawn Williams’ academy). I’ve been there a couple times already to train with my friend Parker, and some of the guys have been agitating for Johnny to show up there too, so it was fun to go back. Vince came along, and we met Laura there too. Laura is a blue belt under Rey Diogo, and while she wasn’t there last week when I trained at Rey’s, I met her at the competition on Sunday. She was really taken with my story about quitting my job and taking this road trip, and when we trained at Shawn’s, we spent a lot of time talking. Turns out she’s at a crossroads herself, and I guess talking to me gave her that little extra incentive she needed to start planning her own vision quest. She’ll start in Mexico, where she has relatives, and then it’s on to Brazil for her. She’s got about 5 or 6 months of groundwork to lay before she goes, but she’s on her way! I’m really excited for her and a little proud that I could provide some inspiration to someone. We’ll train again while I’m in town, I’m sure.
And can I just say again how cool Shawn is. Actually, there are like four Shawn/Seans at Hollywood BJJ, and they are all incredibly cool. I gotta get them some donuts or something because they won’t take my money for a mat fee. It was also really cool to watch Johnny and Shawn discussing technique, their takes on how to improve certain positions and then how to teach them. There’s so much to learn, and so many knowledgeable and friendly people to learn from. I love this sport!
Afterward we had Hawaiian BBQ with Parker and Emmee (Emmee’s daughter was already asleep, unfortunately). We had moco loco, which is hamburgers with fried eggs on top, chicken katsui (fried chicken with yummy sauce), and teriyaki chicken, all served with rice. It is SOOOO incredibly good. Unfortunately, though, it is not conducive to losing weight. I think I mentioned that I’ve decided to compete in a tournament next Sunday, and the weight classes I could be eligible for are 141 and under and 151 and under. Right now I weigh about 140, but you have to weigh in with the gi on, and that adds about 5 pounds. And it’s better to be at the top of your weight class than the bottom; it gives you a little bit of an advantage, so I really should be trying to lose the weight. It isn’t working. Bummer that I like food so much.
Yesterday I was pretty exhausted, so I dinked around on the computer while Johnny taught the morning class. Then it was laundry day; Johnny and I actually had to do some and Sean came along for sushi, which we had while we waited for the clothes.
You can probably see from the pictures I’ve posted so far that Johnny is about 5’5” or 5’6”, not super huge. Well, as I was loading clothes into one of those huge Laundromat dryers that holds at least 3 loads, Sean said, “I wonder if Johnny would fit in there.” We contemplated that for a minute, examining the capacity of the dryer, and then asking Johnny to come over. He looked up, saw the open dryer and our curious expressions, and without missing a beat said, “Yeah, I fit in there.”
So then of course I had to see whether I could. I do, but I didn’t go all the way in, because I’ve gotten to know Sean well enough to know that he would shut me in there, put a quarter in, and start the thing. As I’ve told him, he’s kind of like the brother I never wanted. So I kept my feet out the whole time. But for future reference, I do fit in a huge Laundromat dryer that holds at least 3 loads.
I was STILL cranky at the evening class Johnny taught, so I only sparred a couple times after technique. He showed some really cool things, though, so then I got over myself and remembered them and wrote them down: escapes from the triangle and from the arm triangle (two different things). Gotta transfer them to my training journal.
Last night I finally got to meet Melissa, who is one of my long-standing internet forum friends. We’ve posted and talked on the phone periodically for about 4 years, but I had never met her before last night. And when I did meet her, it was so normal and fun like we had known each other for a long time, which we basically did. She works in the MMA industry, for an agent who represents people like Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, two really well known mixed martial artists. We had some burgers with some of the dudes from my “house,” and then she and I went to Oceans, a bar nearby.
She just moved here from San Luis Obispo for her job, and I was so glad to get a chance to hang out with her! And we have plans to get together again, maybe even tomorrow, for an MMA expo type thing where there will be fighters and referees that she knows. I adore her for her, but I have to admit, it’s also fun to hear her stories about all these famous people! Here's a picture of me and her at Oceans:
I called it kind of an early night (although we did close down Oceans) because this morning about 8 of us road tripped to San Diego for competition-style sparring at Rodrigo Medeiros’ academy. Rod is the one who gave Johnny his black belt, and I am part of the extended family, because Rod’s black belt is under Carlson, Sr., who was my teacher until he passed away earlier this year. Crystina, whom I trained with at Rigan Machado’s last Sunday, trained at Rod’s for the 2 years since she left Chicago, but has since moved on to City Boxing, which is run by Dean Lister and focused more on no-gi, and that is where her interests lie. So I didn’t get to see her, but am hoping to tomorrow at the open mat at Rigan Machado’s.
I was REALLY nervous about the competition-style sparring. Rod has a female purple belt named Giselle and a tough blue named Caterina training under him, and I sparred with them. The things that wig me about competition-style sparring are 1) you are the only ones on the mat and everyone is watching, and 2) you start from standing (normally in training, for lots of reasons, we start from the knees), and this means I need to work my—say it with me—takedowns.
I sparred three times, with Giselle, then with Caterina, and then with Giselle again. The first time I was really jittery and froze a little; Giselle pulled guard and I spent about 3-4 minutes defending her triangle attempt. I know about 4 or 5 escapes from the triangle, and all of them forsook me. So I just sat there trying to breathe and remember what I needed to do, and just focused on lasting. That was extremely frustrating. But the good news is that it made me want to spar again. And she didn’t finish me. I’m pretty sure she would have won by one advantage, which is a kind of “extra credit” you get for attempting a move if it doesn’t work. Referees count up advantages when the points score is tied.
So I did spar again, with Caterina. She pulled guard as well and tried for an arm bar, which I defended. I passed her guard and then took the mount. I really smashed her so she couldn’t move around very much, because she was really game, and by the time I established the mount and would have started working for a finishing hold, time ran out. The scoring for that one would have been 7-0, 3 points for the guard pass and then 4 points for the mount.
I felt better about that one, obviously, but was also still concerned because since I’m a purple belt and Caterina is a blue belt, I should have better moves than she does. So then Rod had Giselle and me go again. This time was MUCH better. This time *I* pulled guard after squaring off with her on the feet for a little while. First I worked for a gi choke, and then when she stood up to try to pass my guard, I swept her and ended up in her guard. But I kept it open by planting my foot so my knee was up (she couldn’t close her legs around my bent knee) and worked to pass, eventually succeeding, and that’s when time ran out. So the scoring of that match would have been, I believe, 5-0, 2 points for the sweep and 3 for the guard pass.
Johnny coached me, like he did all the guys who came with us, and boy is it nice to have someone telling you what to do in those situations! Thanks, Johnny!
So I’m very glad we did that kind of sparring, and even gladder still that I am all juiced to compete now. In fact, there’s another big competition in Santa Cruz in October, and I’m thinking of sticking around for that, or at least coming back for it. Who knows? But the point is, I had had a real block around competing for a long time, and while I’m not over it, I’m working on it. And I’m pretty happy with my performance today.
Here’s a picture of me and Giselle. I didn’t get a picture with Rod because he left before we finished with the open mat. But you can see a picture of him on his website.
So it's been another terrific week. Tomorrow is more open mat training at Rigan Machado's, and then some time during the week Wen and Parker are supposed to come to New Breed to take a class under Johnny. Saturday is another UFC, and Sunday is the competition!! Right now I think I'm gonna keep watching Jackass and turn off the computer. Open mat tomorrow is at 10.