Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Women's Open Mat Article on Ouano International Website

The women’s locker room at the Sport and Health© in Ballston Common Mall (Arlington, VA) this Sunday afternoon was as crowded as after work on a Monday evening. But instead of pulling running shoes out of their gym bags, these women pulled out Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gis!

Fifty/50 BJJ (Ryan Hall and Jen Flannery) were honored to host this go round of the East Coast BJJ Women’s Open Mat Series, and we are extremely grateful to our friends at Ouano International and Cat Fight Gear for donating female specific BJJ apparel to raffle off to the 22 ladies in attendance! These women represented schools from around the DC area, New Jersey, Richmond, Virginia Beach, and as far away as Canada: Bartman Jiu-Jitsu, BJJ Revolution, Fifty/50 BJJ, Fightworks, Gustavo Machado, the Krav Maga DC Training Center, Mecca MMA, New Jersey Martial Arts (Team Balance), and ladies from multiple Yamasaki Academy locations.

Women from white belt to brown belt, 110-150lbs, all shapes, all sizes, and all levels enjoyed this opportunity to train together in an open, non-competitive environment…a first for some of them!

This series began in the summer of 2007 as collaboration between then Lloyd Irvin student (now Fifty/50 BJJ Assistant Instructor), Jen Flannery, and Crazy 88 BJJ’s Julius Park…and the idea took off. Since that first exciting open mat, BJJ Revolution, Fightworks, and New Jersey Martial Arts have each hosted a session, usually bringing together 20-30 women in search of a chance to train with other ladies of myriad sizes and skill levels that so few are afforded at their home academies.

These ladies rolled, drilled, talked, tied and re-tied ponytails, tried on each other’s gis, went out for dinner, and followed it up (of course) with some quick shopping. For the first time it was the LADIES intimidating the men who were walking in the door for the co-ed open mat following the women’s training session, lol!

Best smelling group of sweaty glistening BJJ individuals I’ve ever come across! ☺

p.s. Stay tuned for information on the next East Coast BJJ Women’s Open Mat to be held at BJJ Revolution in Richmond, VA sometime this summer!

Jen Flannery
Women’s Instructor
Fifty/50 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Original Article posted at Ouano International - News

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wrastlin' with girls!

We have a couple guys who wrestled in college who have been helping us recently but I realized that I can only get so much out of it if I'm always wrestling with guys who are bigger and stronger than I am. So on a whim a few weeks ago, I started searching the internet for female wrestlers to train stand-up with. I thought I had struck out and had almost given up, until on a last ditch effort I found a local college wrestling coach who also taught private lessons and ran clinics for high school and middle school children.

My last shot in the dark, I sent him an email asking if he knew any female wrestlers (college or high school) who would be willing to train with me in the off season. I volunteered to go wherever they were; he responded quickly with a note saying he knew a few but was out of town and he'd get back to me. Well I didn't hear back for a long time, so this week I sent him another email asking if he'd found anyone interested. And the best news came back to me! "Can you be here on Thursday at 4:30?" You bet I could!

Ryan drove me out to his gym, neither of us having any idea what to expect. Is it a big class? Is it just a open mat? Is it a big deal that I don't have wrestling shoes? Who knows...

There was one high school female wrestler just a little bigger than me (maybe 10 or 15lbs) and one teenage guy, it was basically a small group lesson. We learned and drilled for an hour and a half! I learned setups, shots, and throws and so many small details I'd never seen before AND could execute everything without straining under too much weight! Even more amazing, I had a female partner who responded with the appropriate movements...AND he invited me back!

We haven't talked price yet but the instruction was freaking fantastic. He was like the Ryan Hall of the way he focused on proper body mechanics and the rules of movement and control. And of course the fact that he likes to talk a lot about the "why's". I like this approach, it allows me to take a concept and apply it to other positions or instances in training/fighting. To top that off, he actually made a concerted effort to apply what I was learning to BJJ as well.

Instant Euphoria!

And today my quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves are more sore than they've been in AGES!

Still Euphoric!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend in NYC/Competing at the IBJJF Open

My first time officially staying in NYC was certainly a blast! I've only been in the city once before and it was to just to train at Ronin Athletics (Ryan's first BJJ school) and Alliance (to train with Marcelo Garcia) but that was a year and a half ago. And basically we drove in, trained at one school during the day, had dinner, trained at the other school, then left the city. So I wouldn't say that I got to see much (other than inside the BJJ schools, lol).

Anyway, so Ry and I drove up Friday afternoon after class (it took forever because traffic was awful through DC and Maryland). We arrived at the Embassy Suites off Exit 16 of the Jersey Turnpike and promptly headed to the hot tub while we waited for Seph and Karen to arrive. The absolute best part about the Embassy Suites (besides the hot tub) is that they have the most amazing continental breakfast in existence (disclaimer: when cutting weight, it is not pleasant to go to breakfast with individual's who aren't). 

Saturday morning we headed over to the venue at what we thought was nice and early to catch Seph's fights... unfortunately, we missed his first match (btw since when does the IBJJF run exactly on time?) but thankfully we were there in plenty of time for his second one against Ronis Gracie.  

Ryan and I warmed up separately since we were supposed to compete at the same time. But luckily I ended up going first by a long shot so Ryan was able to coach me through both matches for the gold. Despite receiving the medal around my neck, I felt kind of slow during the matches, like I was working much harder than usual and not playing my game the way I'd been practicing, so I need to go through the video and try to figure out why. 

Other than what may be found on the video, I have two theories.  One of which I can change and one that was circumstances, but in all likelihood, it was a combination of both. First, that the stress from the job situation last week caught up with me and/or second, that I need to make sure I have a more BJJ targeted warm-up next time like I did for Pan Ams (where I felt much sharper than I did yesterday). 

Thanks to Eugene from GQ for holding my video camera for me during my matches! Huge congrats to Ryan and Seph who both did very well and to all our other friends who competed as well (especially Erik).

After the tournament we went (with the Ronin crew) out to an Italian style restaurant where the spaghetti and meatballs platter was enough to feed 8 people! Okay...well actually, we also shared a family size salad and a huge platter of Veal Parmigiana and one of Chicken Parmigiana as well. Needless to say, we were stuffed! But never ones to be defeated...we didn't allow the pressure on our pants' buttons to deter us from stopping in the candy store two shops down. ;)

After the candy store, we packed into Ryan's car and drove to a bar to catch up with the rest of Ronin Athletics and watch the UFC fights. After sharing Anderson Silva's frustration with opponents who are unwilling to engage in a fight, we were put up in a sweet two-bedroom apartment for the night (thanks Christian!) that we shared with Seph and Karen. Then this morning I gained the lovely experience of driving on NYC's highways after dropping Ryan at JFK this morning for him to fly out to video tape his next dvd series. And boy I can't WAIT to see the finished product!

Whew. What a weekend. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lots of BJJ this week

Well, I lost my job on Monday and I still can't decide if I'm upset or not because I've hated it there for about the last year. Personality clashes and a differing values system caused constant battles with my new boss. Some people simply weren't meant to be leaders. It's truly unfortunate that despite this fact, they are often put into positions of leadership due to superior butt-kissing skills instead of due to their desire to produce a quality product and work towards a positive end goal. Instead, they worry about the perception of whether or not they are succeeding because in their mind all that matters is what will propel them toward future advancement, and not what is inherently right. I am trying not to stress too much yet as I have other options popping up from individuals who worked closely with me for the last 4 years and knew that I was in fact working my ass off and producing quality products.

The most positive take-away is the vacation that I haven't taken in 4 years has arrived free of charge this week! And it's even better since I don't have to stress about what work isn't getting done (due to a refusal to provide repeatedly requested/adequate resources) for the first time in as long. After working 50-60 hours a week (underpaid for 40 of them not paid for the other 10-20) for the last two months straight (and extremely frequently prior to that for 4 yrs), I can finally breathe. AND I can do as much Jiu-Jitsu as I can squeeze in for the short-term!!!! Woohoo!!!!!

Today we had visitors from Richmond and elsewhere in the gym (2 black belts, 3 brown belts, 1 purple belt, and 4 blue belts on the mat!) and I got to roll with a blue belt guy exactly my size!! (And I didn't even know guys my size EXISTED! Lol!) And that was just for fun. 

Tonight I attended the regular night class and got to train with newly promoted blue belt, Anthony Cincotta! Congrats again, Anthony! (He went through a serious gauntlet last night) Anthony is super fun to roll with even though he's much bigger (about 50lbs bigger), because he trains really hard, puts pressure down and really rolls through positions with me (and subbing me) without me ever having to worry about him spazzing out or injuring me (other than accidental knees to the head or crotch or something normal like that during transitions).

Tomorrow we head down to Richmond to train with Andrew Smith and the crew again! Woohoo!!! I love this life! It's going to be hard to go back to the real world  :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Musings On Being a New Blue

I had an inquiry from a reader interested in how I developed my competitive mindset and wanting to hear about what it was like to be a new blue.

So going back in time to just over three years ago to talk about myself as a new blue...

I was promoted by Royce Gracie at a seminar only 6 months after I had started BJJ. At the seminar were two other girls much bigger than myself who had been training much longer than I had. I am convinced that I only received a blue belt then because they were in line to receive theirs and I tapped both of them that day. It made me very, very uncomfortable to accept that belt. If I could have given it back, I would have. Even my instructor told me that he didn't think I should have it, but Royce gave the belt to me so what could we do?

I absolutely hated BJJ after I got my blue belt. I really truly hated it. I can't begin to describe the despair I felt every single practice before, during, and after training. Nothing I tried seemed to work and I was hurt constantly and covered in bruises from spazzing white belts, desperate to prove they were better than any blue belt. They needed to show that they deserved the blue belt more than I did. But I didn't want to complain too much because I didn't like calling attention to the fact that I really was weaker and smaller than the guys. 

Sometimes though you really DO need to be protected, it's just really, really, really hard to say so. Actually, I didn't learn how to say so until after one of those spazzy white belts succeeded in snapping my neck sideways so hard that it resulted in a stinger (spine and nerve injury) that was so severe it kept me out of training for 2 months in the winter of 2006/2007 on doctor's orders. 

I didn't really learn how to protect myself when rolling with super strong, spazzy guys until after my shoulder surgery in 2008 because I was so afraid that even the gentlest movement would re-injure me. Now I know that it is more my job to protect myself than theirs, even if it means I tap when they do something that would never work on someone their size, or if I have to accept an inferior position because if I fight it I could risk injury. Don't get me wrong, it still frustrates the hell out of me when I have to do that, but accepting it and being frustrated is much better than nursing an avoidable injury.

I don't know if my story will help you deal with yours, but at least now I know I'm with a coach who won't promote me before I am ready. If you have faith in your coach's perception of your abilities, then you shouldn't be worried about deserving the belt. If you doubt your coach's perception, you may want to seek a new coach.

Please do not promote your females too soon. An appropriate gauge is not winning a tournament or two. Please protect us from being injured by an over zealous, anxious to prove his self worth, male white belt. Expect from us the same technique and precision of movement that you would expect from a male. It doesn't help us to be promoted before we have demonstrated that proficiency. For the love of CHRIST make us TAP to arm bars when we try to stand up to escape them, teach us to defend correctly or we will end up with a broken arm at a tournament. Do NOT let us get away with crappy technique because some of the guys are afraid to put down too much pressure.

New Female Blue Belts,
Protect yourself from that overzealous male white belt, do not expect him to be gentle on submissions, tap early with him. Do NOT cry in class when hurt or frustrated or embarrassed, if you must, go hide in the bathroom until you are done. Say something to your instructor if someone is truly dangerous, but do not whine when your sparring partners put pressure down on you or accidentally drop you too hard on a take down. (If he slams you though, make sure the instructor knows to have someone beat the ever-loving crap out of him.) If you feel you were promoted early, focus on your training and aim to earn that color around your waist. Know that although you will always hit plateaus, the peak is just around the bend.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pan Am Champion!

OMG! I still can barely believe it's real. I mean, I went out to win. But it's still such an awesome feeling to walk away with that gold medal.

3 and a half years of hard work!

I think that first international gold medal alleviates some of the pressure to achieve it. Now I can go into the Mundials (World Championships) with more confidence. And I am super excited to get there!

The matches all went really well without even so much as a single advantage being scored against me! Ryan adjusted my game plan after the first match and told me to pull guard. I'd never pulled guard in a match before but I trusted him. The first one was ugly but so what! 

Three matches, all won on points. The first match I won by only one advantage even though I still think I should've receive two points for the throw (but she really landed out of bounds). The second match I won on points but I had a choke from the back completely sunk in when time ran out. Shucks! The third match was against the second place finisher from last year's Mundials. She finished her first two opponents quickly that day. I went for an arm bar early on. My dumb ass though was going for the tap instead of the break and I didn't slam my hips into her elbow enough which gave her just enough time for the elbow to slip. I switched quickly to the flower sweep and came up on top. Where I spent the rest of the match. I wish I could've gotten the finish, but I won't make that mistake again.

Thanks for all your help, baby! I owe this one to you!!! :) :)