End of Day 5--September 1, 2007
First, happy early birthday to Mikebyrd! He is an ancient 28 today. What is it with me and the kiddies? I guess this sport keeps you young. Or initiates the midlife crisis that makes you act infantile and hope to God that nobody rats you out. Makes me pluck nervously at my gold medallion and fuss with my combover.
Also, Lana won her MMA fight! Knocked out her opponent in the first round! Congratulations, Lana!
Today we started out the morning session with massages. You grabbed a partner, and then s/he would work on whichever area of your body hurt the most. I kneaded Crystina’s calves like they were bread dough, and then she poked at my armpits. My armpits, of all places, are the part of my body that is killing me the most. Makes it hard to reach, push up, or even do my chest growth exercises (maybe some of the ladies remember wondering during puberty whether they would ever get a chest and doing useless exercises in time to that rhyme, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust. We know, we know, we know that it will grow.”) They are still achy, but better.
The morning session was pretty low key. Crystina and I worked some takedown combos (including the one I have been working—I was rusty at first, but then it came back to me. Gonna do the same thing tomorrow) and then rolled lightly, putting ourselves in dangerous positions and drilling how to get out of them. I think I perplexed Jason because when we squared off to roll live, I asked him if Crystina and I could change partners. I like working with Crystina, but not only have we worked together most of this week, we also know each other outside the context of this camp, both in LA and prior to that when we trained together in Chicago. And she agreed that we needed to switch partners, saying, “Yeah, Val will take me down, and then I’ll keep her in my closed guard.” This is what has been happening all week.
Jason, understandably, didn’t want to switch us in with much larger partners, so he had Crystina work with Felicia and put me in with Gene, whose nickname back in the day was Mean Gene the Pinning Machine. I’m glad I didn’t know that before we rolled. Gene is amazing. He is an encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge, and has all kinds of great anecdotes about how at this competition he pinned X world class wrestler, and then just on a lark he entered a judo contest without knowing what he was doing and beat the bejabers out of those guys too. But it’s not bragging. It’s always to illustrate a point about what he’s showing.
And he’s a fantastic sport. After two hip replacement surgeries, some number of shoulder procedures, and just years of wear and tear, he’s mostly bionic by now, but has no qualms about getting on the mat and showing us all what he knows. He watches how we roll, and he thinks of things that complement it.
Here’s the best part: when we were squaring off, we started pummeling. I could feel him feeling out how I pummel, and then I could feel him switching to a different takedown from what he might have been planning to do initially. He told me later that he could tell I felt really comfortable in the pummel so he decided to switch up his strategy. So when Gene Mills tells you you feel comfortable in the pummel, you do. I’m happy about that.
Later on I rolled with Matt, who is rapidly becoming a personal favorite of mine. Not only was our roll great, as well as the takedown work we did with Bob, but his facial expressions are priceless and he is as big a smartass as I am. Two cases in point:
1. I was teasing him about something, and I said, “Why do I keep trying to start trouble with you?” He replied, “Because you don’t know any better.” Ouch. The truth hurts.
2. Matt comes from a wrestling background, unlike those of us who grappled first and came to wrestling later. So he wears compression shorts without board shorts (for those of you old enough to remember The Breakfast Club, it’s the required uniform for wrestling. Tights.) or, like he did yesterday, just a long pair of spandex. While we were rolling, a photographer was taking some pictures of us, and he said, “Dude, don’t take the shot of me getting swept by a girl!” The photographer said, “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure your manhood remains intact.” Matt said, “Not in these pants.”
Felicia and I went into The Pod first thing in the morning, and then Ricky and I got back in in the afternoon. Ricky is hard core, and JC, the Pod manager, had taken him up to 24,000 feet prior to yesterday. I had only been as high as 16,000, I think. So I was a little nervous about 24,000 feet, but I just felt a little lightheaded. And I wasn’t going to show weakness in front of Ricky! The kid is a machine. And it’s very smart of me to try to keep up with a 21-year-old male black belt.
I was Ricky’s training dummy for some moves that Gene showed him. All I can say is, I pity whoever Ricky catches in one of them. I flailed around like a fish on a hook trying to improve my position, and I just succeeded in tiring myself out. From there, Ricky spent about 15 minutes on my back, sinking the hooks and taking the rear naked choke however and whenever he wanted to. I didn’t see how it was helping him, but it certainly helped me. He nicely said afterward that my technique is a lot tighter than it was when we rolled over a year ago. I’ll believe it too, because it was unsolicited. I mean, I didn’t ask him, “So, am I better? Huh? Huh? Am I? Ricky? Where are you going? Come back!!”
People are starting to work on cutting weight. This may be obvious, but we all qualified for the tournament by competing in a particular weight class. You may remember that I tried to cut weight so I could get down to the 138 and under division. I failed miserably and decided to stay at 145 even though the next cutoff was 158. Seemed to work for me, though. But other people walk at weights heavier than their cutoff, so they need to do what they do to cut. Lisa has some to cut, though she’s so tiny already it’s hard to imagine. But she’s experienced so it shouldn’t be a problem. Malcolm has to cut about 20, but as I so eloquently put it, he loses 14 pounds after a crap, so he should be in good shape too.
Darren and Matt may have a little to lose, and Felicia has a pound or two. I think everyone else is pretty good. I could eat an entire ham and wear a suit of armor onto the scale and still be fine. I talked with Jason about cutting down to 138, but then 1) we’d have no one in the 72 kg and under women’s division, 2) there would be 3 of us competing against each other (Crystina, Tara, and me) in that division, and 3) I’d have to watch what I eat. I suppose I could fall back on my dirty little secret method, emphasis on dirty: the colonic. Nobody here with lots of experience cutting has ever done this, despite the fact that through my research, as I shared before, I learned that the average human colon contains 5-7 pounds of waste at any given time. But I’m not going to do it.
In the evening, we went to Chris’ for dinner. BBQ food, which was very nice. We watched The Art of War, another MMA show, this one featuring Brazilians vs. US citizens. Our teammate Jeff Monson (that sounds so weird to say) was pitted against Pedro Rizzo. Unfortunately, Jeff lost; I think he got knocked out but can’t remember. But what’s more troubling is the fact that he took some hard kicks to the thigh, and those are more likely to rule him out of the Turkey competition than a punch to the face, because they might affect his ability to fight for a triangle, hip escape, or do any of the other basic things a grappler tries to do. So we don’t know whether he’ll be there with us, but we hope so! He has said numerous times in numerous interviews that grappling is his first love, and that he likes to compete in straight grappling events to stay true to his roots. So here’s wishing Jeff the best and hoping he’s in good shape to compete with us!
The other thing is, the only person who might even be close to being able to fit into his uniform is Malcolm, and even Malcolm says he only has a 32-inch waist. Yes, we got our uniforms today, and that was weird and exciting. Two of everything, one in navy and one in red: board shorts, compression shorts, rash guards, a pair of wrestling shoes/sneakers, a t-shirt. All of which have “USA” printed prominently on them. We’re also supposed to get warm-up suits, but we won’t get them till after the competition is over. Snafu at the Asics factory. Something about how the dog ate all their inventory. We get to choose what we wear to compete. I think I’ll be going with all navy. It’s slimming AND more ninja-like.
Darren’s family came to town today: his wife, their son and daughter, and his mom. I have heard a lot about them so was happy to meet them, and he was really happy to see them. You could tell. He spent the afternoon with them, and then when I saw him at Chris’ later, he mentioned how it was a good reminder of why he does all this stuff in the first place. Good reminder for me too, of why I do this stuff. So I’m just intending to relax and be excited about competing, which is a place I can usually get myself to. Part of staying there is going to be NOT watching my matches, although Chris gave them to us on DVD. I watched the final between me and Elaina Maxwell, and all I could do was notice the mistakes. So that’s not good.
Okay, to keep the mood light, where I need it to be, let’s check in with Juliano’s fashion statement of the day: no saying on his RVCA shirt, but he did go stand next to Felicia and let one rip. And I don’t think he even spent that much time in The Pod, which massages your internal organs as I’ve mentioned before.
Jimmy came today to help us train, and Kenny came to take pictures and interview people. They’ll be there again today, as will Brian. Johnny couldn’t make it because he jacked his neck the other night. I hope he feels better soon.
Speaking of injuries, I learned an important lesson yesterday: always wear your mouthguard. Always. I had taken it out because I was done for the time being, but then somebody wanted to drill a move and asked to use me. I ended up bumping my chin into his shoulder HARD and crunching down on my own tongue. That was 2 days ago and it still hurts. Ouch.
I also lost my contact lens, like I seem to be doing frequently lately. It popped out during training. Jimmy found it for me, but it’s all mangled, so I can’t wear it. And I can’t order a new one before we leave because it’s a holiday weekend. So I’m kind of screwed in the vision department. I have my glasses and in the past I also have gone for a while wearing just one, but what a time to have this happen. Crap.
One last exciting thing: I heard from Gamze! Gamze was my friend and judo teacher in Chicago (but please don’t use my judo as a gauge of her ability, either as a teacher or as a judoka). At the age of FIFTEEN, Gamze was the CAPTAIN of the Turkish women’s judo team. She is a freaking monster. And the nicest person to boot. She had to go back to Turkey a couple years ago when her father passed away, and she just stayed. I don’t know exactly where in Turkey she lives, but figured I had to try to get in touch with her. Natasha stays in closer contact than I do, so she had written to Gamze, but I hadn’t heard back until yesterday. So I’m hoping she’ll be able to meet up with us in Antalya! That would be amazing.