The week in review II
Already have a post called "The week in review", so here's another:
Here is Natasha’s irreverent, PG-13 (at least) description of the PanAms and how crazy we must seem to outsiders: “Here we are, in a windowless room that smells like feet and crotch, where it’s 107 degrees by 8 in the morning, and we’re all in our bathrobes trying to slam each other into the floor. Who does that? Who PAYS to do that?”
Surprisingly, lots of people. And lots of people pay to watch people do that. It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere at the PanAms, but here’s a try: We’re in a giant gymnasium, basically, with huge bleachers lining both of the long walls. Outside the gymnasium is a snack bar, and outside in the yard is a booth that sells Brazilian BBQ and acai (I think I defined acai in my glossary, so check that out). The “bullpen,” where competitors warm up and weigh in, is on one of the short walls of the gymnasium, in front of more bleachers. The awards podium, the vendor booths (Gracie Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Pro Gear), and the table where competitors pick up their tournament t-shirts, is on the other wall. In the middle is the source of all the action: the mats. Eight sets of them, blue with red trim.
And on each mat, a table with a scorekeeper and a timekeeper, a ref, and two competitors. As someone who has served all of those roles at one time or another, I can tell you that the mats look even bigger than they are. And the audience seems louder and more scrutinizing. And the time either seems to fly or to crawl. And your heart beats so fast and loud you can see your clothes moving.
I missed Tommy’s performance at the PanAms; he submitted 6 opponents, all with triangles or triangle arm bars, to win his white belt division and immediately be awarded his blue belt by Andrew and Andrew’s teacher Rodrigo Medeiros. But we got there in time to see the no gi divisions, including a tough match between Marcio Feitosa and Wilson Reis that Marcio eventually won. Saulo Ribeiro also systematically dismantled his opponents, and Felicia won her match over Kanoko Ibana. Lots of good stuff! Congratulations to everyone!
I also got to see lots of friends and acquaintances whom I didn’t photograph. Sorry. I vaguely thought about trying to capture some of the atmosphere on film. The best I did was take a picture of the view from the bleachers during a lull in the action.
Imagine these mats full of competitors and referees, and for the big matches, crowded with spectators. Natasha and I stayed until about 8 and then headed back to the hotel instead of going for dinner with some of the usual suspects. We were both wiped out, Natasha more than me, both because of the time change and because of the sensory overload from the tournament.
The next day of the tournament was more of the same: a long day of watching purple brown and black masters’ divisions and the blue belts. I wanted to cheer on several people, and their divisions were scattered throughout the day, so we were there basically for the duration.
These two days of the PanAms gave me the first inkling I’ve had recently that my life has changed a LOT. Natasha is one of my dearest friends, and she also trains BJJ, and based on those things, we realized we had made certain assumptions about how the weekend would go. Thing is, our assumptions were different. I figured she’d want to basically camp out at the tournament like I usually do. She figured I’d want to go for a few hours, including when we were scheduled to compete, of course, and then leave and hang out by the hotel pool. Seeing my life from her perspective was pretty eye-opening, I must say. I guess I spend lots of time texting people and getting texts. I know who the famous jiu jitsu people are and pointed them out to her. I have gotten to know a lot of people in LA and ran into many of them at the tournament.
So I’m kind of entrenched, I guess. And while Natasha loves jiu jitsu, she doesn’t do the trappings as much. Neither way is good or bad; it just means we come at it differently. And she said that it was a surprise to her how different my current life is from my old one, particularly because she has been reading my blog and thought she knew what the score was. And I was surprised that she was so surprised. So it was an eye-opener. We talked about it and are fine, but it made me feel a little strange, just that things have gotten SO different and I didn’t realize it. And they are continuing to change. More on that in a few.
Sat night we relaxed and I got wigged out about the fact that I was competing the next day. We got to the venue early, though I didn’t compete till 4:30 or so, with the rest of the purple, brown, and black belt women. But there were people I wanted to cheer on who went on early in the day. Poor Natasha. She was totally wiped out by the end of the day.
So. My performance on Sunday. There was only one other woman in my weight class. The short of it is, I lost on advantages. The longer story is, I am much happier with my performance than I was at the Nevertap tournament. I was much more aggressive and confident, and I pushed the action, I feel. So while I would of course have liked to win, I am making progress in learning how to compete. I do think I’m still at that place where I compete to not lose, as opposed to competing to win, if that makes any sense. I’m still too cautious about making a mistake, when I don’t have anything to lose by opening up and trying to stir things around a little. Live and learn. I have a crapload to learn.
The sad thing is, my opponent didn’t show up at the podium to get her medal (turns out she was in the bathroom), so as you can see from these pictures, it looks like I was beaten by no one. Now that sucks.
Felicia won her division by beating her two opponents—congratulations to her! Especially because she so rarely puts on a gi these days, and took it to them anyway. I have a lot to learn from her about intensity, focus, and drive. But I hope our friendship is a two-way street, as she has a lot to learn from me about lip synching to Round and Round by Ratt and Headed for a Heartbreak by Winger, using a roll of duct tape as a microphone.
Later that evening we went to Green Field, a Brazilian BBQ place, to feed our faces and pick apart the weekend’s events. Here’s a pic of Andrew, me, Britt, Rudy, Tommy, Ryan, Felicia, Kazumi, and Medora:
It was an intense weekend. After feeling upset for a while on Sunday, I was eager to get back on the mat on Monday, especially because Andre Galvao and Leo Viera were hanging out at New Breed again. I went over for a no gi training session they were doing and got to drill with both of them. It was pretty sweet. I always worry a little bit about situations like that, where big names are rolling with “the masses.” I never know for sure whether they will roll with me, yes, because I’m a woman and more likely to be underestimated. Not that I’m a superstar, but I have experienced it before, where the visiting dignitary rolls with EVERYONE, including the newest male white belts, but not me. And since we were doing no gi, there was no way for them to know that I’m not a rank beginner, which in the past has sometimes helped reluctant dignitaries give it a whirl, rolling with me.
But they were really cool about it: I drilled with both of them twice. Leo laughed both times we partnered up, but he wasn’t laughing at me, I don’t think. I think he actually had fun playing with me. He also showed me a cool sweep from the closed guard that he said could work well for me because I have long legs. And Andre showed me an arm drag from the half guard that I kept missing when the setup was there. And then he proceeded to arm drag me from the half guard for the entire time we drilled. Not because he was being jerky, but to show me how to set it up, I think.
Anyway, here are some pics, including one where both John and Leo are being goofs. I look like the first layer of skin has been rubbed off of my face, or like I have just gotten some really bad plastic surgery. I’m all red and raw. Well, at least I don’t look like that lady who is trying to make herself look like a cat. Yet.
Leo Viera and me:
I also got to train with a friend of a friend at the open mat and had a fascinating discussion with him about a job he used to have in a fetish club. I didn’t get a lot of specifics about that club, but basically he went around to the different areas to make sure everyone was getting permission before they touched anyone. So this led to a discussion about fetishists; he has met everyone from “furverts” (also called “furries,” I believe), who are people who get off on dressing up in animal costumes, to people who like to be babied—wear diapers, be powdered, fed from a bottle, tucked into a crib.
If I’m acquainted with any fetishists, I don’t know it. My interest in discussing the whole situation with this friend of a friend went beyond the titillating (pun intended, of course), because he has obviously thought a lot about what fetishes say about human nature in general. His most interesting comment was about how sexual fetishes may be the fetishist’s attempt to relate to another person emotionally, although maybe not in the most efficient way. For example, if you don’t know how to engage with somebody emotionally by talking with them, you can evoke emotions in a sexual context: disgust, fear, anger. So that was a take on fetishes that I hadn’t considered before. Anyway, thought-provoking aside there.
In the evening Natasha and I had a great dinner in Long Beach. The next day, we sat by the hotel pool during the day, and in the evening we went to Whittier, where I’m living now. She oohed and aahed over the town and over my place, and I have to say, it was great to have someone kind of bear witness to my life as it is now. She said all the right things, and I was happy to have her there. We went to the movie theater in town, which is within walking distance from my place, and watched Blades of Glory before heading back to the hotel.
Wednesday I took her to the airport. I cried on the way. It was just great to have her around, both because she’s a dear friend and because she was able to give me some perspective on my life that I didn’t have before then. I pulled myself together after I dropped her off, though, and went on to have a great day. First, I trained for the first time at Hollywood BJJ, where I’m going to train regularly in addition to New Breed. Shawn Williams, the main instructor there, is cool with me training at both places, as is Johnny, and I’m incredibly grateful and feel so fortunate to do that.
The very first day of class rocked my world. We learned a guard recomposition technique that I had vaguely known, but could never pull off because I didn’t know enough of the details. Then we learned another recomposition technique that I didn’t know. And since I spend a lot of time in the turtle position, these techniques are extremely useful to me. In addition, who should show up but Rodrigo Gracie. (For the civilians, yes, he’s another total badass who is a Renzo black belt just like Shawn.) He’s going to be teaching all the classes this week while Shawn is out of town. Amazing. And a very nice guy, too.
Then after that, I stopped by the Jiu Jitsu Pro Gear store and applied for a job. They need someone to work in the store and take care of phone orders, etc. I think it went well, and am optimistic. If it works out, it would just be great for me to get out and about and plug into the BJJ community more. Every time I’ve gone to the store I have gotten a gander at this or that BJJ luminary, who is sleeping on the couch in the back or hanging out before a competition. So it could just be a lot of fun.
In the evening it was more training back at New Breed. Thursday was more training: at NTT and then at Hollywood. Gi at NTT and no gi at Hollywood. Hollywood continued to rock my world. I was just talking with Parker, a friend of mine who trains with Shawn too. He’s been there for about a year, and he said that he had to relearn techniques he thought he knew because Shawn’s teaching is so precise, detailed, and clean. I am already starting to see what he means. It’s a very humbling experience already, and it’s only been 3 days. I am sooooo excited to be so humbled!
Yesterday Ryan and I went back for more Hollywood BJJ; took the noon class and stayed in the area for the open mat in the evening. Had lunch with two of the Seans in between. And today I puttered around, did some errands (including picking up some cereal I found—and love—at Big Lots, of all places), finished my application for online teaching. And tonight I watched the UFC at New Breed.
I’m not including all the details here about what’s been going on the past couple days, obviously. The highlights are: Hollywood BJJ is rocking my world; it was a blast hanging out with Ryan, who is a great guy in addition to being a BJJ stud; I had a wonderful time with Natasha; and especially if I get the job at Jiu Jitsu Pro Gear, I will probably be moving soon (I am really liking my little apartment, but it’s so far from Hollywood AND Lawndale, where the store is, that I will want to be closer). But I’ll worry about that when the time comes.
Another cool thing is this: I saw friends at the PanAms who told me that my blog helped them recently. They were frustrated about BJJ and felt like quitting. They read some text from one of my posts, apparently some text from a post during which I was feeling the same way. And apparently my comments made them feel better about what they were going through. So that was gratifying. See, me being all Jerry Springer confessional helps people!
Okay, looks like I’m all caught up. Happy Easter to everyone tomorrow, and happy birthday to my sister as well!