Thursday, July 29, 2010

Training on Vacation

Last week Ryan and I went to Corolla, NC in the Outer Banks for our first week long vacation together since we started dating (almost 4 years ago). Oh sure we've taken week long trips before for the Worlds and Pan Ams and everything but this was the first trip that wasn't focused around a major competition. We could relax and eat anything in sight! (Well, I can always eat anything in sight and be under weight, but I can't relax too much when Ryan is dieting because he gets irritable, haha!)

Ryan's dad's family piled about 15 people into the house we stayed in. And conveniently enough, my dad's family was in a house 7 miles down the road the same week but they had 35 people staying in their house! The houses are ginormous...but not THAT ginormous.

Ryan and I swam in the ocean, challenged other beach goers to volleyball games, went back and forth between the hot tub and the pool and watched lots and lots of movies. Of course we also found time to drive 30 minutes down to Nags Head to train at the only BJJ gym around. We made the trip down 3 times during the week. Two times though we missed class but they were nice enough to let us on the mats and train with each other for an hour and a half. I can't remember the last time I trained with Ryan that much because there are always so many other people vying for his help, it was fun!

The last night we were there we finally walked into an actual class and there was another black belt there from Boston. The instructor at Knuckle Up was out of town so Ryan taught a few techniques and then we all rolled for a while. All the guys were really big but were very nice and trained hard without killing me which is always nice, lol!

We ended up driving from the Outer Banks 4 hours over to Henderson, NC for the US Grappling tournament being held there. I was bummed that no advanced women showed up to fight but Seph had a superfight against a local brown belt that he won and Ryan ended up getting a match against a black belt who was there to referee. Two of our guys came down with Seph and between the two of them they won like 7 divisions. With only two people contributing to team points, we placed third overall, lol!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Intensity Kicks Up at Fifty/50 And Yields Quick Results

After going to train at Marcelo's academy for a few days before the Worlds, Ryan realized that training at Fifty/50 had lost some of it's intensity.

When the head instructor is not still trying to train and compete it is easier to keep the intensity up because there is always someone watching and yelling at you during class. But when a still competing practitioner opens his own academy, you have conflicting ideas to contend with - and Ryan was no different.

Recently Ryan has been personally making significant breakthroughs in his own conceptual understanding of the game and how these ideas apply throughout specific positions and techniques. But at the same time we were pulling students from nearby gyms who didn't have the knowledge base one would have expected. Because of this, at first Ryan spent a LOT of time talking and explaining techniques and overarching concepts. (Perhaps this was also due in part to the fact that for the first 4 months after opening he couldn't train anyway due to his surgeries.) On top of this, Ryan was constantly torn between trying to work on his own game (without appropriate training partners to push him) and trying to correct all the students.

The first hint that maybe a training adjustment was needed was a recent local tournament our guys/gals went to in May. The students all knew good BJJ at that point but we unfortunately we didn't see a lot of it demonstrated that day. Most of the white and blue belts were not moving properly, they were giving up too easily...and frankly, it was disappointing. (Two of the ladies who had entered their first competition saved the day by performing well and demonstrating their knowledge base and both placed! And we'll excuse Kenny who would have done better but was doped up on Percocet for an injured hand and was super loopy that day, lol!) After the tournament, Ryan immediately went back to the drawing board and began restructuring classes and although it showed right away, it seemed there was still something missing.

Then just ahead of the Mundial, Ryan visited Marcelo's in NY to get in a little extra training. It was there that he re-discovered the last necessary piece we had misplaced for a while. Ryan realized that he had allowed his desire to pass on his own technical growths to his students to distract him from the idea that at it's heart BJJ is a FIGHT, and the best way for his students to learn how to handle themselves is to have to FIGHT every day in class. A little too much emphasis had been placed on the skills required to succeed and it had been at the slight detriment of encouraging the intangible desire that is also required to succeed. They should fight like their life depends on every guard pass, every mount defense, every submission hold. Not that they should be spazzing or dangerous to each other, but that they should go hard with the intention of winning every single exchange they have on the mat. They should not accept defeat in any form. They CAN'T accept defeat in any form or they will not be able to be successful in training, competition, or (God-forbid) a real life self-defense situation.

No longer would anyone be encouraged to "just use technique". Now they would be asked to dig deeper than they had ever known they could. The week before the worlds, Ryan flipped the tone of the room on it's head. He began instituting "corporal punishment" for losing exchanges in the form of push-ups, squats, and sit-ups. For example, we now do push-ups every time we lose an exchange in "King of the Hill" and have to cycle back through the line. Of their own accord the students, previously quiet in most exchanges, began to coach and encourage each other throughout practice. The ceiling fairly blows off the building with the level of effort and excitement that now exists in the room in every practice!

The first test of this new mindset came only 3 weeks later. About 10 or so members of the team followed Ryan to the US Grappling Diamond State Games to watch his superfight against Wilson Reis and Felipe's superfight against Luis Pantoja. Ryan and Felipe got the day rolling with wins over their opponents - and it barely slowed for a minute. We had more Gold medals in the Advanced divisions than we expected. Students were pulling out moves we didn't even know they had! For the first time they had come to FIGHT and were expecting to WIN! And win they did!

Fifty/50 BJJ came in THIRD Place overall with only about 10 competitors AND we came in FIRST overall in the points scored from any single training location. (All the affiliate schools from Lloyd and Balance got to add their points together). Some of our students were in divisions with and beating other local head instructors (who were in some cases higher belts and significantly heavier). Not bad for a gym that has only been open for a year and a half.

Clearly, the last three weeks were the kick in the ass our guys needed. I can say with an absolute certainty that at least for myself, I am a completely different and renewed grappler already. I am excited to see how much everyone will progress over the coming months with this new attitude! The goal will be constant improvement and winning overall titles at local tournaments as well as eventually taking larger groups to the real tournaments. Unlike some other academies, we want our students to realize that there is a great big ocean out there much larger than our little pond in the DC area. And the ultimate goal should be to go get the ocean!

Oh and p.s. The new female white belt who was moving here from Florida arrived this week. I think she's been training almost 2 years (maybe more?) and she's about my size so with any luck will end up being a good training partner. And she will definitely be good for the other ladies. She is our 5th female white belt under 120lbs and brings our total number of female white belts to 12! Hooorah!