Friday, December 17, 2010

Back on the mat 6 weeks post op - well kinda

So we had 2 new women sign up recently and one had some prior BJJ and MMA experience. Both fit in with our "normal-sized" ladies and we had another come in this week with experience and she fits with our midgets. It's pretty cool how it works out to have multiple new ladies coming in at various weight classes. Plus all 3 of the new ladies are tough as nails!

We still aren't regularly getting more than 5-7 ladies in the same class, but if they keep adding on, I believe it will only be a matter of time until we have 20 women all in one class.

Also, the best news ever!

I "rolled" with Ryan twice the other day and today I got in three "rolls" before stopping to rest. Okay, okay, I say "roll" but a more accurate description might be..."moving around in a way that slightly resembles jiu-jitsu with a resisting opponent who only resists in certain situations except that I can't roll on my shoulder, let them put weight on my shoulder, or post with my left arm or base on it or let it extend or frame with it in any way". I'm drilling with the basics class although I don't let anyone drill on me yet (I work in a group of 3), and I can't do all the movements so I have to adjust the technique BUT AT LEAST I'M ON THE MAT! For the next 2 weeks until my hip surgery anyway.

I can't tell you how good it feels to expend a little of my pent up energy. I'm pretty sure I'll be actually ready to kill people by the time I get back out after 8 months off competition and probably 7 months of not sparring hard. I can already tell that the aggression from so much sedentariness will build up and come out in my first competition back, which should be the World Championships so that will probably work out perfectly for me because I'll need the aggression to combat the residual effects of not training for 7 months and a recovering hip and shoulder. :)

Today is a good day! :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Update: Fifty/50 Women's Team, Kids, and more

We took our 3 most dedicated ladies (Tammy Dominick, Megan Lomonof, Lisa Ivy) to the Converse sponsored women-only US Grappling tournament in Hampton and they came back with 4 gold medals and 2 silvers with 5 submission victories out of 7 wins and only 2 losses to women of higher ranks than themselves. Tammy and Megan both succeeded pulling out wins over girls with much more experience than themselves.

But the best part was the poise with which they each held themselves during their matches. Each one of the ladies was calm, collected and working hard until the end.

Then this past weekend, Megan Lomonof and I headed up to Grapplers Quest in Vegas for her first mid-level tournament. She did not disappoint. Megan has been training for almost exactly 1 year but has spent the last half of that year training at different degrees due to a neck injury. At one point they thought she would need surgery. But she didn't let this deter her from competing and beating two blue belts in the beginner nogi division at GQ bringing her total win count over blue belts to THREE. Megan won her weight class nogi, and the absolute beginner nogi division, AND her weight class in the gi (there was no absolute gi division).

We look forward to seeing how Tammy, Megan, Lisa and all the ladies progress over the next year as a few of them look to enter their first IBJJF tournaments in 2011.

See our ladies in action here....

On top of this, we just started our kids program last week. The first day I was shocked to have SEVEN children in the room. We haven't been able to get that many in one room since but I am happy to report that we had a few sign up and have the interest of a few others arriving in the near future. I am taking Alex up to her second BJJ tournament this Saturday to another kids only event in Williamsport, MD. This time she will be more prepared for how other kids fight back!

Wait there's more...we have new Fifty/50 t-shirts on order, this time with a new graphic and special sizing for the ladies. We are waiting on the new kids logo to be completed. (We're calling them the 25/50's.) Once the logo is finished we will have the shirts designed for them as well. And next on the list are new rashguards...

And lastly, Ryan just released two new DVDs on half guard and taking the back.

Lots of changes and additions coming to Fifty/50 as we begin our third year of existence. Although the beginning is always more difficult as you build something up, it's also exciting to look forward to what it will become.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Recovery, Rehab, and Coaching

It's been about 2 1/2 weeks since my shoulder surgery.

When I went to see the hip orthopedist he was SHOCKED that I had just had shoulder surgery one week prior. He couldn't believe how fast I was healing. And I'll tell you, neither can I!

I was back in the gym teaching my women's class barely 48 hours post-op but I couldn't lift my arm up at all. Can you believe, I was on Tylenol with codeine for only 3 days after surgery and have been completely off pain meds since about 5 days post-op?! I think I scare my therapist, lol!

Today I can lift my arm straight up and by myself to 160 degrees! Out to the side, I have a little more to go but it's probably up to 120 degrees now. We just started deltoid strengthening exercises yesterday at PT for the first time. And I can't wait until we can start with the biceps and triceps, because mine have completely atrophied.

The only bad thing with improving so quickly is that you can't rush the protocol, you can only go at the pace the doctor set, even if I'm a little ahead on recovery time. Oh and the other bad thing is that I keep forgetting I'm not supposed to do certain movements because it no longer hurts all the time...until I do the movement I'm not supposed to, like reaching back to put a seatbelt on or reaching into my back pocket. Then I get a sharp pain to remind me not to do that again...for a while at least. :)

But teaching Jiu-Jitsu is still difficult. Luckily, the women have been preparing for the US Grappling Women Only event in Hampton, Virginia tomorrow, so we've been doing a lot of straight drilling and less detailed technical work. The timing worked perfectly because I can just show a quick simple movement and then have them repeat it a lot as fast as they can.

Last night though I had to teach the regular class and specialty class and then the regular class again today because Ryan took Seph, Quang, and Ostap (visitor from Canada) up to NJ for the ADCC Trials and Rick's in Brazil. (The guys did well at ADCC, no one won their division, but they each won at least one match and everyone learned a lot and next time will be able to go out much stronger.)

Anyhow, it was difficult for me to show some of the movements in the regular class. We were working on the catching the trail leg mount escape to half guard to taking the back and I would have to show one movement on one-side then switch sides to show the next movement on the other side since I still can't put weight on or post on my arm. Luckily, the guys were all patient with me and everyone seemed to get the movement despite my difficulties in showing it.

Specialty class this month has been all footlocks, but I'm not great at them yet so Ryan wanted me to teach wrestling instead. Have you ever tried to teach wrestling with one arm???? It is sooo hard! Lol! Thankfully, most of the students there that day had experience with the snatch single so I could just remind them about the details rather than show everything. We also added the flare to double, and I think they picked it up pretty well. But my arm hurt like HELL by the end of class today so I went immediately home to attach myself to my ice machine for an hour before packing, picking Megan up, and driving down to our hotel here in Hampton.

Good luck to Megan, Tammy, and Lisa tomorrow!!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Women's NoGi Worlds Results and my new website!

So, I was waiting to tell people about my website until it was 100% complete, but it's taking forever to confirm all the bios for all the historically important female black belts, so I'm giving up and taking the plunge...well, okay, so I'm just sticking my toes in and only announcing it here.

Please be patient with some of the pages still being updated, but check out my new resource for female grapplers, Grappling Girls Guild.

On my site I posted a quick write-up on the women's Brown/Black Divisions at the NoGi Worlds. Here

Please feel free to post here or email me with comments! :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

From women to kids and back

Alex started training with us this summer. She's a tiny sweet little 10 year old vietnamese girl with an incredible amount of focus, determination, and of course a heart of steel!

When I first told Ryan that we'd been approached by a parent who wanted his child to switch to our program, his answer was a definitive, "no". We weren't planning to start a kids program for a while and we didn't want any children in the adult class. But her dad told us she was a focused hard-worker. According to him, she was training in Judo and BJJ but he was unhappy that her BJJ class was geared towards younger children, expectations were low and she wasn't getting great training. Having spent 15 years as a swim coach, I was inclined to roll my eyes and look the other way when yet another parent came extolling the virtues of their child. But something about the discussion made me give her a chance. I guess I understood how frustrating it can be to watch adults overlook or teach down to kids when they are capable of learning and understanding as much as an adult if you only have the patience to try and speak their language.

Ryan and I decided that we would allow Alex come in and take one women only class for her trial. If she performed acceptably and was able to stay focused and work hard, then we would let her take the class until the time came to start the kids program. We were concerned that she would detract from the other women's opportunity to learn and train or that they (and she) would have difficulty with the size difference (she's only 60lbs). But when Alex came in for her trial, Ryan and I were both pleasantly surprised with her and with her interaction with the other women so we decided that she would be able to attend the women's class once a week.

The ladies have taken her under their wing and she works hard and pays attention to all the important details. Even though we had yet to see her train BJJ with another child, we decided a few weeks ago that she was ready to try a competition. And she did awesome! Alex won only 2 of her 5 matches but she went out and performed better every single time. We went over her mistakes after each match and then she went back out and fixed them ON THE SPOT. She was a different grappler by the last 2 matches of the day. I don't know if she will ever be a great high-level grappler, but it doesn't matter because she had a blast and represented herself, her family, and her team well. What I do know is that she has what it takes to be great at whatever she puts her mind to.

Lots of people cringe when I tell them we are about to start a kids program. All they see is hard work, frustration, screaming kids and crazy parents. I see the kids like Alex. The ones who know the pleasure they can derive from working hard, constantly improving, and succeeding in something worthwhile. The kids with the great attitudes that make you want to show up every single day. And I see the ones who need you to want to help them, the ones who need to learn how to find the inner peace that comes with hard work. I've been looking forward to getting this program off the ground for months and seeing how happy Alex was today, tells me that we are doing the right thing. She'll have to be my little helper while my arm and hip are healing and the other kids are learning, but with her as a role model, we have a good thing going.

November 29, 2010 - The Birth Of The 25/50's

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post-Op Day 1

Well, I don't remember talking to him after surgery, but apparently my doc said that everything went swimmingly. I was out of surgery a little early so that's def a good sign!

Also, no asthma attack when I woke up this time (it was so scary after my last surgery, trying to wake up and unable to vocalize the words to tell the nurse that I couldn't breathe) so taking Prednisone in advance was definitely the way to go. Thanks for the advice, Mom!

The general anesthesia wore off faster this time so no issues being alert and eating while staying at my brother's house last night. I did take some Tylenol 3 before bed in case the local wore off early, but no problems at all so far. I can finally move my arm a little as the feeling is slowly coming back. It's sore, but certainly not the unbearable kind of sore like last time. I learned though to pre-empt the pain by taking the Tylenol 3 earlier this time. Lol!

My brother is taking me to my first PT appointment in an hour where they will take off the bandages and force me to start moving my arm. That will probably hurt a lot. Last time I couldn't help crying when the therapist started moving it around the first day. I just gritted my teeth and looked away and told her to go as far as she needed. Seems pretty tough of me at first when you hear that, but it hurt enough that I'm kinda dreading today, haha!

My doc's office (and PT) are all the way out here in Maryland, he's worth it, but it's why I decided to have my mom drop me at my brother's house instead of at home yesterday. Mike had to open all my pills before bed in case I needed them because in my stupidity I forgot to ask for the non-child proof caps when I filled my prescriptions the other day. He also fixed me dinner last night and lunch today, pretty cool for a big bro. If only he knew how to fix a ponytail. ;)

Ryan is coming to pick me up after PT and take me home and I can't wait to see him! By tomorrow I should be able to drive so I can take myself to the new PT place closer to my house. (The first post-op PT visit had to be scheduled at my doctor's office.)

This Saturday my 10yr old student is entering her first BJJ tournament and I am so excited to go coach her! She's gonna be a beast one day! :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

BJJ Surgery #2 in T minus 1 day

MRI results are in...affirmative to the hip and shoulder labral tears. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing I didn't already know.

I can FEEL that there is something really really wrong. Don't we always know, deep down? My hip has been out of whack since at least January. And the shoulder was torn in February by a kimura at the ADCC Canada Pro Trials.

What are the odds that less than 2 years after my last shoulder surgery (also caused in a BJJ tournament), I would tear both my other shoulder's labrum (plus a little partial on the rotator cuff) AND the labrum of one hip? To top if off, I discovered this less than one month after FINALLY quitting my job! Good bye 2-a-days, hello weeks and months off training. Goodbye Nogi Worlds and training with Michelle Nicolini for a week, hello Tylenol, Prednisone, ice, and frustration.

Oh don't worry, it gets better - Jake Mackenzie is here training for 2 months, we will have blue and purple belt visitors from Canada, France, and others during the next month. Jeff Glover is supposed to come visit in December, and Ana Lowry and Murilo Santana are returning at Christmas. And I am stuck on the sidelines. :(

But wait, there's more...

There is one heck of an awesome women only tournament about to run in Hamption, VA sponsored by none other than CONVERSE and US Grappling! Sure, I can take my ladies but it would have been nice to be able to compete instead of showing up in a lot of pain and a sling.

Yet despite all of this, I am actually looking forward to going to sleep a little before 4:00pm on Tuesday and waking up around 6pm with my shoulder completely fixed. Believe it or not, I can't WAIT to go into surgery. I'm tired of my arm hurting 24/7, of being unable to even sit or lay down comfortably.

I filled my post-surgery prescriptions today and helped myself to 2 of the prescription strength anti-inflammatories. I can't take Advil and ice doesn't do much. But then, it doesn't seem that these meds are helping a lot either...

Soon the pain will start improving instead of worsening practically by the day.


Then I will have to schedule my hip surgery. Hopefully, they can fit me in a few weeks before Christmas, so I'm off crutches by New Years.

Not likely, but I need a little hope right now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nogi Pan Ams & My Upcoming Surgeries

First off, my JV field hockey team won their game on Thursday against their rival team in their division and it was so exciting! The girls played so well and I was very proud of them, not only for the progress they've made technically but mostly by the way they fought hard every minute of the game. To congratulate them, they earned Friday off!

And because of that, we decided to take an earlier bus to NYC for the Nogi Pan Ams. Ryan, Seph, Quang, Rick, and I hopped on the Vamoos bus from Rosslyn, VA to Penn Station, NYC. We should have left earlier though because we didn't arrive in NYC until 6 hours later on what should have been about a 4 hour ride. Exhausted, we checked into our hotel then went out looking for food. We found a fantastic diner right around the bend and (of course) ran into BJJ people Ryan knew from Ronin Athletics (his first jiu-jitsu school).

Our hotel was cheap...with a very good reason. It was creepy as hell and a little dirty. And for some reason the bathroom was over half the size of the actual room. But for the 5 of us it sufficed for a one night stay. We woke up early because it was 30 minutes to the tournament at City College in Harlem. (Can you believe that they actually made us go through metal detectors and checked everyone's bags - so it took a little extra time getting in?)

Andy was up first, he went one and one in his division. Then it was my turn. I warmed up with Ryan in the back - I always prefer to warm up with him when possible because I feel like I absorb his efficient and smooth movements. (I'm always struggling to move more like him. Although, he actually tells me I should move like Jeff Glover whenever he's correcting me. Lol!)

My first match was up against purple belt Melissa Biscardi. I've beaten her twice before back in 2008 but we'd missed each other in the brackets since then. And I knew she would be a tough competitor because she won the Worlds at Blue Belt last year (2009). But I was ready, focused, and aggressive enough to pull it out in less than 2 1/2 minutes.

Here's video of our match...

My second match (the semi's) was against a blue belt (our division was combined blue/purple). I was attempting to pursue on the feet and started to get frustrated as she ran away for a while (should have just pulled guard as it's hard to wrestle someone who doesn't want to). Anyway, I ended up over-pursuing in my frustration and she went for a guillotine, as I was getting out of it, I stumbled over my own feet...oops! Luckily, I was able to pull out an armlock within a few seconds though.

The third match was against the only other purple belt in the division and I knew she'd be tough as well having just watched her go through her first two opponents. Unfortunately, though I must have allowed my focus to wan and wasn't moving as quickly or as aggressively as I should. She pulled guard and I made it to half guard lockdown twice but wasn't able to secure a pass due to my own stupid passivity with my guard passing. She ended up catching me with a sweep I should have been able to stop. Although I managed to get a good closed guard, she didn't seem interested to really try to pass, in an effort to hurry, I shot a really poor triangle and ended up having to scramble as she went for my back. I managed to fight off the choke and eventually recover my guard...just in time for the end of the match. Ugh. I'm very disappointed in myself for fighting that way and have promised myself and my coach to do better next time. (It was disappointing day all around because all the other guys lost in their first rounds.)

However, exactly WHEN the next time I compete will be is up in the air right now as I found out today that I will likely need surgery for a labral tear in my shoulder AND for the same thing in my hip. The shoulder injury is from February's ADCC Pro Trials in Canada (I know, I know - February). And the hip has been nagging me since the end of last year. I thought yoga was helping but my hip was hurting me so much after this weekend that when I took Ryan to the Orthopedist today, I got an appointment for myself too.

The MRI's are scheduled for next week so I'll know more then. But it looks like 5-6 months recovery before I can compete again. :(

Monday, September 27, 2010

Every day is my weekend!

I gave my notice to the US Government a few weeks ago and as of last Monday I am now officially a full-time Jiu-JItsu bum! Well, except for the fact that I am also coaching JV Field Hockey for a local high school. We practice for 2 hours every day Mon-Fri, except when we have games. Unfortunately, this means I'm still not training on the full-time BJJ bum schedule but at least I was able to train hard when I did go to practice last week instead of being too tired after working all day then coaching field hockey.

I was also busy last week with some final preparations for my sister's wedding this past weekend. We had the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on Friday night and the wedding on Saturday. My sister and her fiance didn't have a lot of money to spare so the wedding was in my parents' backyard and all my aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and cousins chipped in to help in various ways. The yard came out nice and the ceremony was beautiful. Plus it was fun to see everyone again. I miss seeing all my niece's and nephews especially.

Here are a few pics!

The Bridal Party

This is my crazy family, lol!!

The back/top view of my hair

Me in the procession

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fifty/50 women's program adds 3rd day of training

Our 18th student took her first class today. Woohoo!!

Ryan and I are excited to announce that we will add a THIRD class per week for our women's program starting in October!!

When we started the program in January 2009, we usually had one or two students showing up to one class per week. In the end of October last year we added our second day and averaged about 4 students per class. And now going into 3 classes per week we are averaging about 8 women a class and the most we've had in one class at a time is 11! I am so happy with the growth in the program to date but I can't wait until the day that we have a single class with 20 women - all Fifty/50 students. That will be the day when I know our efforts have come to fruition.

Ladies, sign up soon because starting in October we are reducing the discount that women currently have when they join Fifty/50 since we are no longer a small minority. (Would you believe that once in a while Fifty/50 even has regular basics classes with more women than men in them?)

LUV IT! =)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Up to 17 Female Students!!!

Quickly approaching 20% of our currently active and paying students are female!!

So I'm curious, is there another academy anywhere with 17 (18 counting me) women training BJJ in any single academy location???

I know there are big teams with women training primarily at different locations, schools that open their women's training sessions to ladies from other academies, etc. But are we the biggest women's BJJ team on the East Coast? In the USA? The World?? Or just in the state of Virginia? :) Please chime in if you KNOW your academy has more than 18 women currently training full-time in one spot!

I am so amazed at how quickly this sport is growing for the females. Hopefully, one day we too will compete in divisions upwards of 50 people at the Worlds! Keep up the hard work, ladies! And continue spreading the word to your female friends about how awesome jiu-jitsu is!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fifty/50 promotes it's first female student!!

The ladies are moving in!

Multiple times over the last few weeks we've had as many as 11 women on the mat at one time for class. A couple times we've even had more women on the mat than men! Oh yeah!

We have officially reached my summer goal of having 15 female students on the team!!! Now I'm working towards 20. ;) We have 3 women currently participating in the one week free trial that we offer all prospective students and I have 2 more pretty secure prospects who have trained before, I just don't know when they will actually be able to sign up. If all of them really come in, I'll have my 20 ladies!!


Ryan promoted our first female student to blue belt this past Sunday after she put on a GREAT showing at the US Grappling tournament in Richmond on Saturday. Tammy entered the intermediate nogi division and won against a blue belt her size then had to go up a weight class since there was no one her size in the white belt division and she easily took that division as well, showing without any doubt that she was ready for the move to blue.

Three of our ladies competed at that tournament and I'm hoping to have at least 6 competing by the next one in October. About half of our women are less than 120lbs so they have a great training experience and this will help them all push each other. We are attempting to recruit more "normal size" women as Megan (one of my students) calls them. So if you are normal size (i.e. over 120lbs and not a midget like myself) we want YOU too! Lol! But more midgets are always welcome. ;)

I couldn't be more excited for the future of our program!!! :)

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!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Michelle Nicolini - 2010 World Champion Seminar!!!

Michelle and Bruno arrived in DC yesterday!

Bruno teaches his seminar at Fifty/50 on Saturday and Michelle will teach hers on Sunday.

All are welcome! Today is the last day to pre-register and save money by paying through paypal. Go to for details.

Michelle jumped up from Pluma to Meio-Pesado at the Worlds this year and WON!!!! Talk about amazing!!!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Too tired to eat

This title should actually be taken quite literally.

I am, right now, simply too tired to eat.

My legs feel like they are on fire, my back feels like I was dropped onto it from at least one story up, my shoulders and hips feel swollen, and I can't bend my fingers.

Yep, it's clearly about that time of year again...MUNDIAL TIME!!!!

I haven't posted much recently because I've been super busy. The gym is growing exponentially, practically by the week. The women's class is now up to having regularly 4-6 students and this past Sunday for the first we actually had SEVEN of all our own female white belts! The coolest part though is that with our regular participants we can divide into 3 weight classes for training: the under 120lb group, the 125-140lb group and the over (albeit barely) 140lb group. How incredibly perfect is that??? AND we expect two new female white belts (both already have some training) to move to the area from other states and start with us this summer. Wouldn't it be cool if we were up to 15 women by the end of the summer??? That is my biggest wish!

On top of increased gym responsibilities, work has been very busy lately, but I won't bore you with the details. I'm looking into the VA career switch program to become an elementary or middle school teacher so that I have better hours for training and so that I am able to start a kids class, which would eventually solidify myself a full-time position at the gym. But I have to take the Praxis Exam the day of Bruno's seminar to get into the program. Boo! :(

Also, I started going to Yoga once a week a few weeks ago to help with weakness in my hips and knee. It seems to be working and after the Mundial, I plan to start going twice a week because I have found that I really enjoy it. I'd go more right now, but between work and training, I'm also trying to run/lift 3x per week - although this week I haven't had time to do so even once so far. This is why I need a new job, the one I have doesn't allow for enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do.

But I am as ready as I can be and have a week to solidify a few more things before the big event. Can't wait!!!!

p.s. Ryan is getting some of his last few days of hard training at Marcelo Garcias (from today through Saturday). He is sooo freaking lucky! And I'm super jealous!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bruno Frazatto & Michelle Nicolini Seminar Weekend (June 12-13)

Fifty/50 BJJ is so excited to have Bruno Frazatto and Michelle Nicolini visiting in June following the Mundial!

In addition to their seminars, Bruno and Michelle are available for private lessons! Don't miss this opportunity!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sparked from an thread

The topic was why BJJ schools don't really intermingle and teach all aspects of grappling evenly.

"It is odd to me that there aren't more schools dedicated to grappling in general where you can get quality wrestling, judo, sambo, and bjj training all under the same roof. They could even have dirty boxing/clinching training so that it represents a complete grappling approach to fighting. Students could focus on one art, or cross train.

I know that some schools have done something along these lines, but it is usually with the focus on a single grappling art and peripheral training in the other arts.

It would seem that a school like that could field competitors in a variety of sports related to grappling."

One individual posted that the idea of true cross-training in grappling is "wishful thinking".

In a sense I agree. Not many gyms have the space capacity to offer multiple classes in all arts. However, I think it's possiblity is beginning to pop up all over the U.S. BJJ gyms ARE looking for quality instructors in other arts to develop grapplers fairly well versed in multiple aspects.

One small example:

First, as you all know, I train (and teach) at Ryan Hall's gym, clearly our focus is BJJ. However, about 4 months after opening the new academy, he encouraged me to begin taking small group wrestling lessons from a D-1 College coach (I'm obviously a girl and we had discovered that the coach was teaching private lessons to 2 female highschool wrestlers). During the same time period, Ryan began working one on one with a former wrestler friend of his and later after ADCC began working with the D-1 coach privately as well. We were interested in learning the art (wrestling) for itself as a wrestler would learn it. We were lucky to find a coach with 9 years experience coaching at the collegiate level as well as experience competing in both Greco and Folkstyle who's own college coach was Russian and who of his own accord(years ago) cross-trained in Judo to help his wrestling. Now, about a year after I'd started working with him, we were able to bring this coach on to take over our once a week wrestling class. This has become an extremely popular class, consistently attended by most of our competitors.

With previous grappling experience and consistent classes and lessons with this wrestling coach, Ryan and I have been able to add pieces of his influence into the rest of our instruction and I believe you can see the difference in the style of jiu-jitsu in our gym. As one person replying to the original post pointed out, wrestling is so much more than takedowns and it's influence can be integrated into your entire game.

Second, we don't claim to teach "Sambo" however our assistant head instructor has a black belt in Sambo and everyone knows that Ryan makes use of leg-locks frequently, therefore, all students are expected to learn them to some degree of proficiency.

Third, all of our instructors have worked some Judo and we encourage our students to try it (okay none of us can be considered particularly good at it - although it is a little known fact that Ryan placed in a 16 man division at a local Judo tournament recently). We have a couple Judo players who train at the gym and occasionally they offer advice to coaches and students. Hopefully, in the future, as the gym grows we will be able to add a real Judo coach as well.

See! I really don't think it is unique for BJJ schools to be offering this type of variety - my last school did as well. But maybe I'm wrong and it is unusual to see your head instructor taking the wrestling class from a guy who works "for" him. And maybe not all coaches are willing to jump into a local Judo tournament to work on their Judo (and not just try to win with BJJ).

Everything always comes down from the top. If the guy at the top is willing to learn and try and potentially fail in front of their students than everyone will be willing to try new things as well. If your best students don't appreciate the usefulness of wrestling and Judo and participate in offered classes, no one will. If the head coaches don't cross train to the point where they are teaching and encouraging throws, take downs, leg locks, and the like during "BJJ" sparring, then you will never see their full integration in the students.

So if you want integration, stop whining about it and do what we did...go out and get it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to Teach The Arm Drag...and everything else

"The most important thing to remember is to grip the shoulder, not the arm, and instead of attempting to PULL with your arm, keep your elbow in tight to your side and allow your body weight to pressure your opponent into the ground". I started my explanation for how to begin the arm drag to the basics wrestling class by emphasizing a piece that I had the hardest time with when I first learned a proper wrestling arm-drag from James Torres (Asst. Coach at George Mason University) almost one year ago.

James himself came in halfway through the half hour class I teach on Wednesdays because he teaches the Advanced Wrestling class next on the schedule. Not one to be able to watch someone do anything wrong for any length of time, it took him all of 2 minutes watching before he asked me if he could give one of the groups that was having trouble a few pointers. His quick point to this individual was, "Don't grip the shoulder, hit the armpit with your wrist and allow your hand to catch quickly and then pull your elbow HARD down and in to your side".

The interesting thing is that both James and I were looking for the same result. Some students (like I used to do) pulled too much and didn't connect enough, others didn't pull at all and were too worried about connecting. It appears that no matter which way you first describe a technique, someone is going to need you to emphasize a different aspect as everyone's tendencies and experience levels are different. I have one student (not here tonight) who gets too attached to a specific description instead of realizing that often as an instructor you over emphasize generalizations in order to focus on the most important aspect. The challenge as a student is to be able to accept generalizations as 100% truths until the instructor adds the next piece. The challenge to the new instructor is to know which piece is most important at a given level.

When I first started teaching BJJ regularly one year ago, I thought the importance of each technique was all in the details. That, like in swimming, careful, exacting practice at the beginning stages would set the parameters for future successful performance. But after working with James and seeing the way most adults approach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I am beginning to think that it is more important to push for people to just try, try, try, as aggressively as possible and to fix after the fact. Maybe with children who are more likely to proceed with wanton abandon and no thought, slowing them down can be more successful (I'm not sure about that yet) but it seems with most adults, the biggest hang up is fear. Fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, or fear of injury. We need to be pushed to be more child-like in our approach, to just GO for it!

Of course there are always those who need to be treated differently. The child who needs to be pushed to be more aggressive or the adult who needs to be reigned in. But recognizing the differences in your students and adjusting your instructions to fit each individual is what great coaches are so successful at. I need to keep working on this. But I'm happy to be in a gym where no instructor is above learning from any other and all feel comfortable with someone else offering an alternative description or point when they are showing a particular technique. As I described above, a different explanation is not necessarily contradictory...but often the addition of another's point of view is complimentary.

I've seen coaches who don't like to be questioned, or don't like teaching when there are higher level belts on the mat. Schools that don't allow visitors at the rank or of higher rank than the head instructors for fear of being contradicted or shown up. But at our gym, you might find head instructors Ryan or Seph taking my wrestling class. Or someone like a visiting world champion caliber black belt, Murilo Santana sitting in on a regular class like any white or blue belt in the room. This is an environment I am proud of and very happy to be a part of.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Going to watch Ryan in his first Black Belt Division!

I woke up feeling a little better this morning, finally. Ryan got plenty of sleep, had breakfast, is in the shower and in a few minutes we will leave for the venue.

Can't wait to watch him fight today! Good luck to Ryan, Felipe, Michelle, Val and all our other black belt (and brown belt female) friends competing today!


p.s. Here is a photo from the guys training at the new Shoyoroll studio on Friday night. Just after this pic, it was packed with brown and black belts from everywhere.

And a pic of Son and Kenny playing on Vince's Street Fighter arcade game after training, lol!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Breathing is unfortunately necessary

Well, things didn't go my way yesterday. Although I am frustrated and disappointed, I shouldn't be all that surprised.

We went up to New Breed to train (not that I did any real training, it was mostly for Ryan) in the early afternoon before coming back to the hotel, showering and heading to the venue. At New Breed I almost had a panic attack when Ryan held me in side control at one point, I tapped because I couldn't breathe. He looked at me and said, "don't get on the bottom today or we'll have a problem". I tried to put it out of my head though and get serious.

At the venue I went to warm-up on my own, just jogged for 10 minutes. I normally start running faster towards the end of my warm-up jog, but I was having trouble breathing so instead I just stopped and went to look for Ryan to warm-up with some jiu-jitsu. Our jiu-jitsu warm-up didn't last more than 4-5 minutes because I started breathing really heavy right away and Ryan thought we should just skip warm-up since it was clear my lungs wouldn't hold up. But we weren't about to let it deter me from fighting. Although I know how my body handles this kind of sickness, I ignored my brain and decided I was going out there and going to win.

...And then the match started. I kept my head on straight trying to be careful and control my breathing, think positive thoughts. I was pretty successful with that. The only problem with that is, if you are spending every thought on making sure you can breathe, there's not a lot left to think about what you are supposed to be doing - jiu-jitsu. I felt like I was dying the whole time despite a couple breaks to fix my belt, I just couldn't get my lungs to relax. I remember at one point getting underneath for half guard and even though she wasn't very heavy, I almost tapped because I couldn't breathe. Somehow Ryan's voice managed to make it though telling me what to do and I tried to relax, shift her weight towards my hips and go for my sweep. I don't even remember if I was successful, because literally every thought was on trying to make sure that what should be an autonomic body function, was still happening. I remember looking up at the clock around the 5 minute mark convinced I would have to tap or die before the match was over. But I made it to the end, barely. I had an attack after the match was over, and spent the next 6 hours just struggling just to breathe.

Unfortunately, I still don't feel a lot better. I couldn't sleep last night because I kept coughing and coughing and coughing - until Ryan yelled at me because he needed to sleep and I finally discovered an old sticky cough drop in my toiletry bag. But I woke myself up only about 4-5 hours later coughing, I had run out of cold medicine. Now I have a full box of Dayquil and some Halls and it's about time to head back to the venue to watch some of our friends compete this afternoon. Lets go Jake and Michelle!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pan Ams...Day 1

On Tuesday after work, I started to feel like I might be coming down with something - not all that surprising since Michelle was sick on Thursday and Friday and only barely recovered on Saturday.

We had our last Pan Am practice on Wednesday morning before heading to the airport...well to Robeks for smoothies first, then to the airport. I rolled light with Michelle once or twice and with Ryan a couple times. I was beginning to feel worse though...not a good sign.

By last night after the flight I was having numerous coughing fits and feeling super miserable. A trip to the hot tub in the hotel helped a little, but really I need another week or two at least for my lungs to recover. (You do not want to know what's coming out of them right now, yuck.)

This morning it was only worse, but I hoped out of bed at 7am to shower, eat an awesome free breakfast at the hot buffet downstairs and head to the venue for the Blue Belts we had fighting. Ryan was on the other side coaching Kenny (ended up losing by adv) when Son's match was called so I went over to the other side to coach Son.

Ryan's been completely revamping Son's game the last few months and this was the first time he would have the opportunity to try out his new style at a big tournament. He looked really good, came up with a single leg (wasn't able to finish but getting it was a good step) but he got caught in an ezekial choke and ended up going out with 30 seconds left. I know he was bummed but I think we can expect good things from him in the future once he feels more comfortable with his new jiu-jitsu.

Quang was up next. Quang's been working really hard and improving a lot but he cut a lot of weight, barely ate or drank anything the last few days and on top that, this would be his first IBJJF tournament and we weren't sure how he would handle the pressure. Everyone was psyched when he made it to the finals! Quang ended up tapping to his own muscle cramps, as the days without enough food and water, and way too much pacing and not enough resting in between rounds caught up with him. But second place is not bad at all! Congrats, Quang! We look forward to an even better performance at the Worlds when he is better prepared for the environment.

Rich ended up losing in the second round to a tough competitor from Alliance. And the guys are at the gym right now helping/watching Andy fight the other big guys. (I'm hanging out at the hotel trying to rest up for tomorrow and see if I can kick at least a little of this illness. Stupid asthma always taking every cold immediately to my lungs. Stupid lungs.)

But I'm looking forward to my division at 4:40pm tomorrow. All the girls in it are super tough. I fight a really good Brazilian girl in the first round and if I win, would fight Melissa from Toronto who won the Mundial in my division last year. And I'm really curious to see how Samantha and Hillary will match up on the other side of the bracket in the semis. Can't wait!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Path to Michelle...

On our way into the gym on Saturday morning, coffee in hand, I asked Michelle if she knew what she wanted to teach to us ladies at the seminar, she nodded quickly and said, "spider guard". I just about jumped for joy right there because it's one of the aspects I've been admiring about her game for years. Last week, Ryan returned from his first training session with her and immediately informed me that I needed to copy her guard yesterday, lol!

No one at our gym uses spider guard, lots of different varieties of open guard and half guard but very little spidering is involved. Recently, I had been showing some techniques from that position to the women's class because I know it's a piece of the game they will at least need to be aware of, but I know so little about it. So I'm psyched that now, I know a little more. =)

Michelle is so quiet and unassuming that at first you might think she doesn't speak English, but mostly it's that she's just a little shy with new people. After warming up, she shares easily that in the past she has been intimidated going into fights against known tough competitors, although you'd never know it by watching her compete. She told me that this feeling affected her a lot more as a new purple belt when she had to compete in Purple/Brown/Black divisions in Brazil - but she overcame it well, winning the division as a purple belt at the 2004 Mundial before they split and created a separate division for purple belts the next year (which she also won)!

She had been training Capoiera for four years when her instructor moved out of town and suddenly Michelle was in a situation to be looking for a new martial art. This happened around the time she met a young (blue belt) Robert Drysdale and he convinced her to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Ten years and multiple championship titles later, Michelle funds training full-time through sponsorships and with a stipend from the Brazilian government which she must reapply for each year and will only receive as long as she continues to place at the major tournaments - talk about motivation to succeed.

Michelle gently, quickly, and easily commanded the attention of the chattering bunch and was clear and concise in all movements and descriptions. She went through her A game series from the guard (sweeping and submitting) to passing and submitting from the top, making sure to give various options based on the different movements you may expect from an opponent. Michelle made it seem so effortless, although some of us struggled with the movements with which we were unfamiliar. Quick to correct or praise with an eye for detail on each woman's movements, she made sure we were all on track before moving to the next step. Then she invited each attendee to roll with her for three minutes before the seminar came to an end.

There is an undeniable, yet unclaimed and perhaps unrealized, toughness under Michelle's quick shy smile. Perhaps this is what makes her so endearing to those she comes into contact with. I don’t think a single woman left without feeling as though they had learned some new techniques, succeeded with at least a few of them, and were ready to go out and try it on the men in their academies at home.

One of the great thing about women only events is that there are no fake exteriors or bids for attention. It's all about the art and the desire to improve in it. There is an amazing camaraderie felt with the realization that we are all in it together - from Michelle down to the newest white belt.

As one woman pointed out this weekend, attending one of these events can be intimidating because it strips away the ability to blame a mistake on someone out-sizing or out-muscling you and forces you to come to grips with your strengths and weaknesses head on. This is the one aspect that many BJJ women are missing due to the male dominated environment in our sport. And these occasional women only events are one of the few venues outside of competition that we have to face ourselves. The only possible result can be a positive one in that it helps to raise the level of us all.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ryan Hall Gets His BLACK BELT!

Felipe Costa promoted Ryan to black belt last night in a room full of 40 students attending his seminar and Ryan's family (yeah I'm sneaky - surprise to Ryan)!

The seminar was awesome! And it was so great to finally see Ryan achieve Black Belt. I am so so so proud of him, I almost did cry. Haha!

Ryan is really looking forward to being able to test out his new belt at the Pan Ams next week and is more psyched and ready to compete than he has been since the ADCC in September. Online I was surprised to read a few posts where people were wondering why you would promote him right before the Pan Ams. Why not?? Why hold yourself back when you can challenge yourself? That is not the Fifty/50 way.

Plus, it's the first time Felipe has been here since right after the Worlds last year. =)

Good luck, Ryan! We are all rooting for you! =)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Arte Suave

I have never been so happy to have my ass repeatedly handed to me on the mats. Michelle had been on a plane for over 24 hours (layovers in Chile, then Peru, then LA, then Phoenix) and she still managed to wipe my face on the mats. And it was...AWESOME!

We did 4 x 10 minute rounds, all but the first at competition speed (and I did one round with Ryan, while she rolled with Felipe). Twice during each round Seph yelled, "stand up", and each group had to stand up and restart on the feet no matter what their position was. Awesome Pan Am training!

I wish I had someone like her to roll with everyday. Most of the guys really just don't appreciate what it's like to not have an entire room full of people your size (or within 10, 20, or sometimes 30lbs of your size) to train with. But then again, when we have the opportunity to roll with women our size, it's phenomenal! We get super psyched for Jiu-Jitsu!

I guess that tells you how awesome Jiu-Jitsu must be because so many women stick through it despite rarely/never having great training partners in their own academy.

For the first time in all my 4.5 years of training, I was able to train hard with a woman my size who is significantly better than me (I rolled with Felicia Oh at camp, but she was being nice because it was during a private lesson, lol). It's amazing the realizations you can have about your movement and techniques when you know with 100% certainty that nothing your partner is doing while they crush you into a bloody pulp has anything to do with their size or strength - it's pure smooth technique. And one day, I hope to achieve this.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Michelle and Felipe are en route to DC!!!

Michelle Nicolini and Felipe Costa are currently on planes en route to Washington D.C.!

Felipe arrives late in the morning tomorrow and will train with Ryan and with once again visiting black belt, Luis Pantoja from Yamasaki. What a training session that will be! Then Michelle will arrive in the evening and we will be on our way to evening class at Fifty/50 with Ryan, Felipe, and the whole Fifty/50 crew.

On Thursday, Ryan, Felipe, Michelle, and also once again visiting Yamasaki Black Belt, Dave Jacobs will get together in the afternoon. Another awesome training session for Pan Ams! (I totally wish I didn't have a day job, lol!)

Then on Thursday night, Felipe will teach a seminar to the entire Fifty/50 crew! Friday, Felipe will get back on a plane out to California for his seminar in San Diego on Saturday. While Michelle will stay at Fifty/50 to give a THREE HOUR seminar on Saturday for all the LADIES!! Boo Yah!

We'll hold the last super hard pan am training session for all Fifty/50 students going to Pan Ams on Easter Sunday!!! For those of us competing later in the week, we will probably have maybe one or two more hard (or relatively hard) sessions before letting up and relaxing going into the tournament.

We all depart on Wednesday for LA! Look out! (Btw, who put us all on the same's gonna be madness! Hahaha!)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Visitors and Training for Pan Ams

I'm starting to really see that the more I get into BJJ, the less I have any desire to spend time at my day job...but I have to plug away for a bit longer until the gym does well enough for me to come on full-time. Ugh.

I was finally able to roll with Ryan for about 20 minutes for the first time since hurting my shoulder on Tuesday and even though it was a light 20 minute session, I was happy that my shoulder held up during actual rolling. Wednesday, I went to wrestling class - I don't want to miss anything James shows, lol! We didn't go live, but we did go through all the motions, and I didn't have any trouble, just had to ice for a while after class. Thursday after the techniques portion of class, I ramped it up and decided to try hard training - but only for two 8 minute rolls before the inflammation in my shoulder increased too much (we were on brown belt time since Ryan was training too).

On Friday, I got off work early to go to PT, the therapist was extremely happy with my progress since the last visit. Woohoo! I followed therapy with my first good hard rolling session with Ryan, Seph, Quang, and Luis (a black belt from Yamasaki who came in to train for Pan Ams). My shoulder hurt a lot after training but at least it was able to make it through the whole session! I did 4x 8 minute rounds with a one round break after the third round. Then later in the evening I went for a 3 mile run followed by a light lifting session all by myself at the gym in our apartment complex. Have to keep my cardio and strength up somehow since I haven't been training hard the last few weeks. =)

Saturday, my body was pretty sore so I didn't train and neither did Ryan but we did go get a 25 minute massage...ahhhh, so nice and relaxing. =) I was a little bummed though that I took the day off because we had two more visitors from Yamasaki, purple belt Mike Byrd and blue belt Rosie Storey--and they are always fun to roll with--but the guys (and girls) got in some good rounds with them. Fortunately they visit semi-frequently, so I'm sure I'll get to roll with them another time. Today, Dave Jacobs, another Yamasaki Black belt, dropped in for some Pan Ams training with Ryan. Unfortunately, Ryan has been feeling under the weather the last few days and even though he got as far as putting his gi on, he ended up crashing on the bed in the back for almost 4 hours. Bummer for Ryan, but lucky for me because that meant I was able to roll with Dave for a lot longer than I probably would've otherwise =). After resting all day, drinking lots of fluids and taking some much needed Vitamin C, Ryan is starting to feel better, so hopefully he'll be up to training hard by tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest.

I may not have had weeks and weeks of hard training going into Pan Ams, but I at least I won't be overtrained and will be peaking for Worlds. ;)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Need. To. Train. For. Pan. Ams.

I went to PT for a diagnosis last Monday, they thought I just messed up the ligaments and tendons but would be fine after the inflammation went down and some strengthening. I only drilled 3 days this week, trying to take it pretty easy, but by Thursday night my shoulder was throbbing. Maybe it's because we were doing upside down guard into deep half and my shoulder was taking a lot of pressure. Or my shoulder has decided it's had enough.

I went back to therapy on Friday and my therapist commented on how I managed to strain not only all the ligaments and tendons in the shoulder but seemingly all the muscles going into it as well, which apparently is what is causing the discomfort/pain across the front of my chest and down my back. I was working on convincing my therapist (a former collegiate athlete) to try BJJ, but for some reason my shoulder was getting in the way of selling it. Lol!

After the appointment, my shoulder hurt so freaking bad that by this morning I convinced myself I should go get an MRI just in case. I'll be calling the orthopedic office on Monday. Why is this happening right before Michelle and Felipe get here and before Pan Ams and before Ana is coming to train for a whole month?? Mother-F'ing Big People Divisions. I'm not doing them anymore...I swear.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now I Am a Real Girl

One of our Black Belt friends, Paul Schreiner, teaches at a gym out in Santa Cruz called Kaijin MMA. He is a long time friend of Ryan's and they go back and forth and do seminars at each other's academies when they travel to train together. Paul has been invited to move to NYC to help teach at Marcelo Garcia's damn! And in conjunction with his going away party at Kaijin MMA, he asked Ryan and me to come out and put on a whole seminar weekend. So I will be teaching a women only seminar at Kaijin on April 24 and Ryan will teach an open seminar on April 25. Our first joint seminar, lol!

My first reaction when Ryan called to ask me if I wanted to do a seminar at Paul's was "Really? He wants ME to teach a whole seminar? Are you serious?" Haha! It's just still such a shock when someone asks me to teach outside my own academy. =)

I'm so excited about so many great things happening in the BJJ world for women right now. Michelle Nicolini did a great interview on Gracie Mag and she's coming here soon! Then Gracie Mag posted an article on the women's camp. And another women's camp is being offered condensed in Richmond in June. Leticia Ribeiro is doing a seminar in Dallas in June (I so wish I could go). There is just SOOO much greatness all over!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Black Belts, Black Belts, Black Belts!

Black Belt week at Fifty/50 is coming up.

Everyone is invited to the Felipe Costa Seminar at Fifty/50 on Thursday, April 1 at 7pm. It's only $50!!!! It's a steal!

And Ladies don't miss the Michelle Nicolini Seminar on April 3!!!
Also, only $50 if you pre-register by March 31. Facebook event here: Michelle Nicolini Seminar - Event

Thursday, March 11, 2010

God cursed my shoulders

And I mean this completely literally. In fall of '07 I separated my left AC. In Spring '08 I tore my right labrum in two places and had surgery just before the summer started. This past weekend it appears I may have hurt my shoulder more than I thought when I recounted the tournament earlier this week.

I swear I tapped as fast as I could, I knew I was done and didn't play any stubborness at all. But it happens I guess - I both heard and felt something in my shoulder crack...well more like a crunch actually. As I stood up, I was pretty sure I had completed f'd my shoulder. But then it didn't hurt quite as bad as I expected so I wasn't so sure. Until the next day. I took Sunday and Monday completely off and it felt a little better but still only trained lightly at the beginner basics class on Tuesday. Then Wednesday it was hurting a little more again but we had our first class with Fifty/50's new wrestling coach, James Torres - who happens to be the assistant wrestling coach at George Mason University (yeah the same guy who's been giving Ryan and me private lessons over the last few months). I was trying to be careful last night, took advil and ice and everything after practice. But this morning my shoulder felt significantly worse. I scheduled a physical therapy appointment for Monday morning and I'm a little worried about what they are going to tell me.

Today I had a private lesson with James and Quang for an hour (because I didn't want to cancel it) then taught the women's class. Thursdays are picking up! We had five female white belts in the class today! So even though my shoulder hurts more than ever, I am excited about the growth of the women's program! We had another little lady sign up just a week ago! (Haha, I say little even though she's the exact same size as me, but she feels so tiny! LOL!) It's exciting because we have someone at all weights at the white belt level in the women's classes now. Just wait til some of these gals start competing!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Moderate Success at Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in Canada

Montreal is like a sub par NYC combined with a sub par Paris where the subparredness is squared. I am not so much a fan. Except for the noodle place. You can pick your own type of Asian noodles, any Asian sauce, any meat, and choose all your favorite vegetables for some amazing stir-fry. We went twice in as many days. Lol!

It was actually the first time Ryan and I have traveled together for a tournament believe it or not. It used to be that we were never able to leave at the same time but my new job is more flexible which is nice.

Anyhow, the tournament went pretty well for the most part. Not surprisingly, Jake walked through most of the competition in the Men's Purple-Black division to earn the gold and a free trip to compete in Abu Dhabi. Congrats, Jake! His buddy Josh who is a blue belt manhandled people all day placing first in his division then second in the absolute (just narrowly missing a free trip to Abu Dhabi but he showed a lot of heart, determination, and skill all the way through tons of matches).

As for me, I was lucky I guess to have a bye first round, but that sometimes makes me nervous because I haven't had a match to warm up in yet. Luckily Ryan spent a lot of time warming up with me though and things went well. The weight class was 138.5 (and I weighed in at 113 with all my clothes on - jeans, belt, and all, lol) so I was definitely the smallest but happy that the first girl wasn't outrageously bigger - maybe only 10 or 15 lbs. I was able to secure the take down and after a long fought match able to get the choke in the last second of the match. Then I had a very long wait for the next match (2 hours maybe) so I had time to rest but almost too much time because I had to warm-up again before the second match.

The second match (semi-finals) was against a girl who had to cut some weight to make it, so I knew I had to push the pace in order to ensure that I wouldn't be too tired if I made it to the last round. I jumped for an armlock early on, but I wasn't able to secure it. Then while going for a gi brabo, I was able to snatch a triangle then armbar from the bottom to finish. In the finals I was up against Sheila Bird, a long time black belt in Canada. I was ready to fight but knew she was a good wrestler. Stupidly I let up on a single leg attempt in the beginning due to a hesitation (my wrestling coach will be unhappy with me) and I would have had it had I gone in hard expecting to be successful. I won't make that mistake again. That turned out to be my only chance as she took me down, she landed in top of North-South with her grip already on for a shoulder lock. I tried to recover an upside-down guard but really with someone that much bigger and stronger and more experienced, if she doesn't make a mistake, it's tough to recover. Not ready to give up, I decided to try to turn out and was immediately wrenched into a kimura to which I tapped as quickly as possible - but not before something in my shoulder cracked. (I was worried yesterday but thank God, today it feels better and doesn't appear to be significantly injured.)

It's super frustrating to lose that way. Mostly because I feel like I was having a pretty good day overall and due to a hesitation on my part, missed out on the only opportunity that was presented to me during that specific match. Next time, I definitely need to be more insistent to play my own game and dictate the pace of the match.

Well, it was a learning experience for me and while second place doesn't earn a free trip to Abu Dhabi, it isn't half bad considering I was the smallest there. I am happy about one thing though, because I didn't have any issue with my lungs holding up and since that is a major concern for me, it's a big victory each time I have manage to keep my asthma under control. Three tournaments in a row now that I haven't had an issue! (Knock on wood!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Black Belt Mundial Champions Descend on 50/50 BJJ ahead of Pan Ams

It is confirmed!

2x Mundial Black Belt Champion Felipe Costa will be at Fifty/50 BJJ from 31 March - 2 April and will offer a seminar on 1 April!

AND 3x Munidal Black Belt Champion Michelle Nicolini will be at Fifty/50 BJJ from 30 March - 7 April and will offer a women only seminar on 3 April!

Open your brain for high level instruction and get ready for some serious training!

The Pan Ams are coming!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gonna Sine Yo Pity on the Runny Kine

I stink like poop.

It's true. So don't try to deny it, don't bother saying "there, there" or try to make me feel better. Some days are yours to be the hammer and sure enough it always comes back around because today was my day to be the nail.

I want to talk about how great it is to have Jake Mackenzie training at our gym this month, or all the other awesome jiu-jitsuness that is unfolding for Fifty/50. But today I stunk up the mats like one of Seph's farts - and they sure are nasty. Trust me.

I know I should quit, turn it in - but Ryan just paid $1500 for our plane tickets to Montreal next weekend for me to compete and today he just bought our Pan Ams tickets. So now I keep telling myself to be psyched...

Yesterday, I had one of my best wrestling lessons in a long time with James. Quang and I were beginning to feel like real wrestlers transitioning through movements as if we'd been doing it for years. Snap down, sweep single, snatch single, double leg, duck under, two on one, arm drag, etc, etc, etc. But today I was as off as a chimp face-fucking a frog. What?

Don't worry, I'm sure I won't hang up my belt and pack it away never to be seen or heard from again. Yesterday was awesome, today sucked, and tomorrow I plan to sine yo pity on the runny kine!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DATE CHANGE for Michelle's Seminar!

Anyone reading this please note that the Michelle Nicolini Seminar has been moved to Saturday, April 3. Same time, same place.

We apologize for the inconvenience, but Michelle found out that she will be in Abu Dhabi competing at the ADCC Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship on April 17. Kind of halfway across the world. She was awesome enough to offer the weekend right before the Pan American Championships as an alternative!

Ladies, please join us for the seminar on April 3!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fifty/50 Gracie Nationals Highlight Video

Below is a video re-capping our experience at Gracie Nationals...enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Training at Alliance

Alliance in Atlanta is freaking awesome.

I went in for class today thinking it was from 12-1:30 and we didn't finish until around 2:45 (but we did start 15 min late, haha)!

Jacare started by showing a fake guard pull into a single leg. It's a take down I've used many times, but he showed a better way to avoid being caught in the guard as you go down, which I hope to employ successfully in the future. Then Cobrinha went over escaping the double-under pass. Some very cool stuff with lots and lots of tiny details that must be executed perfectly - simultaneously. One resulted in a way cool back take I've never seen before that I can't wait to try on an unsuspecting partner, lol! This was followed by lots of King of Hill - but broken into 4 groups by weight classes. But the smallest weight class was under 170, lol! It was funny because they actually have a lot of really small guys but we were lumped in with the bigger guys. Then finally I got three rounds of sparring in (I had to sit out one because there were so many people). There was no timer going so who knows how long the rounds were, lol! 4 rounds lasted at least 30 minutes.

My first round I was paired with a white belt girl about 60 lbs heavier than me. Unfortunately, my lungs weren't warm yet because I wasn't on the ground for more than 30 seconds a pop during King of the Hill and I think I might have scared my first sparring partner at one point because I almost lost control of my asthma - but luckily the round was over then and I could rest and get it under control. But at least that warmed me up so I was fine for the last two rolls.

Everyone at Alliance is so technical, I've never seen a gym with everyone at such a high level of capability in so many different areas. Also, they were super friendly and treated me just like their own student (well minus the mat fee I had to pay, haha). Both Cobrinha and Jacare walked around the room giving corrections and seemed to take a real interest in advancing the capabilities of each student in the room. When it came to sparring, Jacare was careful and thoughtful when it came to making pairs, even with me. And everyone at Alliance trains hard but with no ego, so once again, it was awesome!

I wish I could stay in Atlanta and train there longer. I definitely plan to come back again in the future. What a great experience!

After training I was able to meet up Laura from camp so that was fun too. =) And now we are celebrating my sister-in-law's 30th birthday. And in the morning her daughter will be baptized and this will be followed by a real southern BBQ. So much good times in one weekend! I am SOOOO glad that I am not snowed in at home. Suckers!!!!!!

I rolled with Cobrinha!

Just after New Years, my brother told me that they were going to be baptizing my new niece in Atlanta, I checked my schedule and was excited that there was finally an out of town family event that I could attend! It wasn't until later that I realized I'm going to be in Atlanta, I HAVE to stop into Alliance while I'm there. Then this week I thought, hey why not get a private lesson while I'm there too. So being super awesome Cobrinha agreed to do a private lesson with me with about two days notice!

I went online and watched a few of his videos again to help me decide what I wanted to work on and called Ryan in Japan to ask him his opinion of what I should be asking Cobrinha to help me fix with my game. I was more interested in his open guard sweep game, but Ryan thought I needed more work on defeating the spider guard and guard passing, so that's what I asked about - and HOLY GOD was it amazing! It's so crazy how many really tiny details there are to everything he does.

His lessons aren't cheap but at the same time it was totally worth every penny. I was a little late arriving because of a delayed fight (oddly enough not due to snow) but he was super gracious and didn't seem to mind. I was planning to jump into their nogi class but after starting late Cobrinha (once again being super awesome) went almost 30 minutes over lesson time! I guess Brazilian time can work in your favor too, lol!

It's been eye opening for me to see how all the really top level guys (and girls) adapt similar concepts all over their games while maintaining different styles. And until Ryan's coaching started to incorporate some of the same things this year, I'd never been subjected to anything quite like it before. I could certainly be wrong, but after working with a number of different Brazilians this year, I wonder why most Americans seem to be very much behind the Brazilians in their approach to jiu-jitsu.

Anyway, the lesson was amazing. It was so cool how he could control his every movement so that it felt exactly as if I was rolling with someone my size and strength. He was willing to drill the same technique over and over and over until I could repeat it as flawlessly as possible for having just learned it. Then we drilled with light resistance so he could see how I switched between the techniques as it was required by his movement. He was constantly adjusting what seemed like minute details the entire time.

And finally we rolled, and rolled, and rolled. He even let me choke him once despite him releasing hold after hold after hold if he felt like I was executing the proper escape. I was prepared for him to smash me and instead it felt like I was rolling with a slightly more technical version of myself (how does he do that?) as he fed me specific techniques as I attempted to re-create what I learned during the lesson.

Can't wait to hear from Ryan how he did today in Japan!

Saturday, January 30, 2010


It's kind of a downer to be back from camp and have to go to my real job and stuff. Plus, I haven't trained since Wednesday. I was too exhausted Thursday so all I did was teach the women's class. Then Friday I was asked to sub in and teach swimming at a swim school in Maryland and spent too long in the showers trying to thaw out so I didn't get to the gym until too late for practice. And then today, I once again arrived super late and didn't end up changing to train. Well, I guess there's tomorrow...

And I really really miss my boyfriend. I haven't seen Ryan since Sunday and he still won't be home for 9 more days. :(

On the plus side, we have plans to visit Reno, Nevada in April or May to train with a female brown belt my size for a couple days and for Ryan to do a seminar at their school. Also, Felipe is planning to come back and train with us before the Worlds which will be awesome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Camp, Camp, and More Camp!

I'm sitting at Burbank airport and am finally able to begin processing the last few days. Only one word can describe it - AWESOMENESS!

It was soooo refreshing to train with women all day every day. Especially some of the great upper belt campers like Gina, Lily, Kelley, Ashley, and Jen (crap, I just realized I never got a chance to roll with Nikki - next time). Every single Jiu-Jitsu chick there was just so damn cool! It is almost uncanny. No, really, seriously. And the thing is, we are all so different. From different weights to different belts, to MMA centered chicks, and young ones, and old ones, and all the in the middle ones, married, single, gay, straight, moms, trainers, artists, business women, career competitors and gym owners, we all were gathered in one place for Jiu-Jitsu - awesomeness!

After a few glasses of wine, here I am in the hotel with Laura helping her fine tune a choke Felicia taught us on Day 2.

We had a great discussion last night centered around competition. How do you prepare for it - psychologically and physically? What makes a good competitor? And what might affect you as a competitor? Why do we compete? This in turn moved into a sub-discussion on our training partners (mostly male) and what it means to be a woman in BJJ (they plan to delve into this further on Thursday night).

Lucas' seminar last night was freaking awesome! I think it may have been a bit over the head of a few of the campers but I thought it was perfect - despite the fact that we were physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the day, lol. Val and Emily shocked me by approaching me last night and asking if I would like to teach this morning. Wow! What an honor! I was so flattered at the request that no way would I turn it down. So I thought about my game and decided to teach something the women were unlikely to get from someone else in the same way - wrestling. I hope they liked it!

After lunch, I had a private lesson with Felicia Oh. Wow! She is so small and her movement is just so freaking fantastic. I can't wait for the day that I have the ability to roll like her. First we rolled a little, then we went over a couple sweeps from the bottom of half guard which could turn into back takes depending on the opponent's movement. Then we rolled again. During/after that she fixed a few small details with my guard passing and went over a few of her game preferences and gave me some tips on how to train as a tiny person. Everything fit perfectly into my current game - awesomeness!

I spoke with Ashley from Girls in Gi's (in Texas) and we hope to hook up and make it a national thing. (I had no idea my little idea back in 2007 spawned her idea - awesomeness - together we can make it a revolution in brazilian jiu-jitsu for women!)

I'm so sad that I can't stay until the end of camp. I miss everyone already. :(

But Gina is planning to come out and visit and the New York City girls and Emily too (holy crap, Emily Kwok is going to come to my gym!). I can't wait! =)

p.s. I know some of you posted comments on my other posts and I thank you very much and promise that I will get to them as soon as I can after returning home.