Monday, August 29, 2011


Do you ever have those days where you just can't make yourself care what happens on the mat? And not in a good ego-less way but in more like a blasé way?

I don't know if I'm still a little under the weather (I'd been feeling badly for the last few days but woke up this morning with my sore throat, etc significantly improved). I also spent around 20 hours updating and compiling the bookkeeping for the gym over the weekend, so my brain is kinda fried. Or maybe it was just hard to come back to the real world after training at Marcelo's. But either way, I just couldn't seem to get my competitive streak going in class tonight. Maybe I need to start lifting again...

Normally, I love to train hard. And lately, I've been like that all the time. Maybe it's because I spent so much time on the side of the mat this year, but a week ago, I was still trying to remind myself during every roll not to get too carried away, hold a little back, watch your knee, hip, and shoulder. Slow down!

But today, no reminder was needed, I just didn't feel like going hard. The weirdest part is I wanted to train, I took 2 classes in a row, but I just couldn't make myself train HARD.

I'm vaguely annoyed at myself for this, eh.

-Unusually detached

Sunday, August 28, 2011

16 yr old 2x BJJ World Champion

Meet 16-year-old Dominyka Obelenyte on the Grappling Girls Guild Spotlight Section. Read our interview with her here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jiu-Jitsu in the Big Apple

When Ryan asked me if I would come up for a few days and visit him in NYC during his ADCC training camp I jumped at the chance for two reasons. First, of course I wanted to see him since he'd been gone for almost 2 weeks, but I extended my stay a few extra days so that I could train with the all the ladies on my new team! :)

OMG I haven't had so many fun rounds in a really really long time! I trained with 2 female blue belts my size, and one a little bigger who used to be a national level collegiate wrestler. A nice surprise arrived in a purple belt my size who just moved to NYC from Canada. AND Dominyka (2011 purple belt world champion in the absolute and 2nd place in the division 3 weight classes up from me) was just back fresh from her trip to Lithuania. On top of this I was able to train with both Emily Kwok (first Canadian female black belt) and Jen Petrina, another black belt. It is so rare to be in a room with a bunch of good female training partners and multiple days in a row too! Hopefully, next time I will get to roll with Tati and Lola too!

Practices were super hard. There wasn't a lot of technical instruction, mostly just hard rounds because Marcelo and Ryan get ready for ADCC during the regular practices. We did different types of training, sometimes regular rounds 5 minutes, sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes we did 1 minute only working takedowns on the feet followed by 5 minutes on the ground. A really fun option though was when we did 5 minutes of a regular round then at the 5 min mark the bell rang and we had 5 minutes to score, first person to score after the 5 minute warning won and the round would be over.

It was a little tough on my body to go from pretty much no hard training to suddenly 2 times per day of hard training. But it was totally worth it. I finally arrived back home late Wednesday night and practically crawled to Yoga the next day. So refreshing! Haha.

I can't wait to go back again in a few weeks towards the end of the ADCC training camp. I should be in a little better shape by then too since I'll have a few weeks of training hard again under my belt. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Second Place at the world championships...of swimming!

Okay, so I want to brag about a little girl that I taught to swim many many moons ago.

Little Sarah was 2 1/2 years old when her mom first started bringing her in for me to work with her. Sarah would have to be forcibly extricated from her mother's arms before every single class, screaming and crying the whole way. But Sarah was (at the time) the youngest of three (now she has a younger brother) and her mom was nonplussed and would do so every Sunday night at 6pm and then turn and walk out the door of the indoor pool, entrusting her toddler to me (I was just a young teenager at the time). Luckily, Sarah would stop crying the second her mother exited hearing range, haha!

I worked with Sarah as her primary coach for almost 10 years before I stopped teaching her during the winter as I was teaching at a different program then and eventually graduated from college and moved on and didn't get to see her in the summer either anymore. But I try to keep up with her competition success stories.

I'll never forget Sarah's mom approaching me when she was in middle school saying that all Sarah's coaches wanted her to quit her other sports and just focus on theirs (soccer, basketball, swimming, etc). My advice to her was to not let her specialize until high school and to let her pick at that time what she wanted to do. Well she's a swimmer through and through.

Last week Sarah received a SILVER MEDAL in one of her races at the Junior World Championships being held in Peru! I couldn't be more proud of how far she has come. Sarah was one of the kids representing the U.S. at the Junior World Championships. Not a bad way to start out her senior year of high school!

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for her when the Olympic Trials roll around next summer and she gets the opportunity to take on all the adults!

Go Sarah!!! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Self Awareness: Are you a spaz?

I took a couple of our new kids to their first tournament a few months ago, 5 year old and 8 year old brothers. There was a lot that I saw in the tournament but in the 8 year olds last match I was very proud of how hard he fought against a kid 2 years older with over twice as much experience. Except for one thing. He didn’t use an ounce of jiu-jitsu. It was all sheer aggression.

After the match, I went up to him and first praised him for his efforts. Then I asked him what happened, why didn’t he use his jiu-jitsu techniques the way we practiced? He was still gasping for air and just looked straight in my eyes and in between breaths, said simply, “I don't know, I just forgot”.

Why is it that an 8 year old is capable of this self realization and honesty but most adults are not? He didn't argue with me or make an excuse. He knew that he had allowed the pressure to overtake his mind.

The other day after class the topic of spazzes came up. One of our blue belts asked Seph (our brown belt instructor), “how do you know if you are a spaz?” Seph’s response was that first because people tell you that you are one. They tell you all the time with phrases like, “calm down”, “use less strength”, “relax a little more”, etc. He said that coaches told him he was a spaz all the time during his progression. (Aside: Are we being too nice? Are we not being direct enough with the students who are spazzy?)

My answer to the question was a little different. I said, if you notice that the coaches rarely ask you to roll (even in small group settings) or when they do they don’t exchange positions with you, they just tap you over and over and over or they just sit on you and put lots of pressure down and never let you get to any positions, it’s a sign you are a spaz. Another blue belt piped up, “Wait, Ryan doesn’t roll like that with everyone?” My blunt answer, “nope”.

Light Bulb!

This second student then asked me directly if he was a spaz, as you may imagine, the answer was yes. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear but he had the appropriate reaction asking how to fix it. I wonder how many years he's been training and no one ever told him this before (he's fairly new to our academy).

But how to fix it is the difficult question to answer. Once you come to terms with your spazziness, how do you stop? How do you attain the ease of movement that high-level black belts have? Many of us struggle daily trying to discover the appropriate balance between aggression and smoothness.

Actually, I’m not exactly sure how to do it as I’m still working on it myself.

But here are a few quick tips that have helped me a lot: If you are ever doing a pushing movement that isn’t designed to get a return push for a redirect, but rather is strictly for the purpose of pushing your opponent away, than you are being spazzy. If you are ever pushing your opponent back away from you from the bottom of guard, instead of using your guard, hooks or points of contact to pull, than you are probably being a spaz. If you find yourself exhausted after 2-3 rolls, you are probably being a spaz. And of course, both mine and Seph’s original responses to the question apply as well. Pay attention to how your instructor rolls with you and with various other individuals. Is it different?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gym hopping

Why do I read Sherdog? It seems to be constantly full of low level white and blue belts giving their opinions on Jiu-Jitsu. It kinda reminds me of a middle-schooler trying to teach his parents about life...

The latest thread I became frustrated with was on the topic of gym hopping. I guess I can understand to some degree where the point of view that despises gym hopping comes from. Usually they are non-competitors who cannot comprehend the constant drive to learn more, faster, better. They are also probably lacking in some way a connection of some sort and need their team to be their family. They want to be a part of a group more than they want to succeed. These people are necessary in the academy and in life, but they will never be at the top.

I have changed gyms twice...and hope to never have to again.

The first gym was the one I happened to walk into when starting BJJ. While at this academy, I treated it like my family. I showed up regularly for a year and a half, I was one of only 4 students that regularly competed. But I hit a point where I didn't feel it was giving me what I needed. I was more committed to them than they were to me. I realized that the instruction wasn't as good as my ignorant self thought the first time I walked through the doors, and I wanted to train with women who were higher ranked than me. Even still, it was an agonizing decision that took me months to arrive at. I still have a few friends from this academy, although most of those have since followed me to my third.

I was very much thrilled to become a part of my second gym. I was so excited at the instant increase in my jiu-jitsu knowledge and skill. But after some time I decided it was no longer the place for me. Although, I had a bunch of friends and enjoyed the training itself, the atmosphere was no longer for me.

My third gym was started by my boyfriend, Ryan Hall. I don't know what I would do if we broke up, because I can't imagine ever training anywhere else. Ryan has so much more Jiu-Jitsu knowledge than almost every person I've ever met. He makes all movement look and seem easy. He can answer literally every single question I've ever had and his answers come from tried and true, proven competition results at the highest levels. He isn't a Marcelo Garcia or Cobrinha, but is working towards getting there one day.

Ryan holds the key to my constant battle between technical movement and aggression. His scientific and principled approach to BJJ is exactly what I need. Every time I roll with him, I get better, simply by feeling his movement. Plus, I love the laid back yet hard working environment he fosters. Ryan doesn't have any desire to be your dad or your boss. He doesn't want to be an authority figure in any way, he just naturally is one. He likes to joke around a lot but our practices are hard; all the students train with aggression and desire to win, yet each one also constantly strives for technical proficiency and ease of movement. The exact combination is so rare in jiu-jitsu academies that to me it is amazing to behold.

Many times I have commented that even the students who get on my nerves, I like. I work at the gym full time now and it really is truly wonderful to be in an environment where you work with around 100 different people each week and yet like them all! A positive environment seems to perpetuate itself in much the same way a negative one does.

I am very excited at the idea of what it will become in the future. I can't imagine ever being anywhere else.

But then, I couldn't imagine every leaving my first two gyms either. So who knows...