Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Our female blue belt count is now FIVE at Fifty/50...bringing the total women in colored belts count to SEVEN!

Congrats to Mary Anne Hutchison and Leah Buckley for joining their peers Megan Lomonof, Kenna Benesh and Tammy Dominick at the next rank!!

Leah has been training with us for almost a year coming from an MMA background then by way of Dan Simmler's in Boston. At her last tournament she bumped up to Intermediate and performed exceptionally well against blue belts from other area academies.

Mary Anne was the very first woman to walk in to join our women only class in January 2009. This 115lb woman stuck it out when there was no one good for her to train with for almost the whole first year. So many times in that woman only class she received a private lesson because no one else showed up.

At last night's women's class before the promotion ceremony we had 9 women in class (plus me teaching) and then 2 others showed up for the promotion! We've come a long way since the beginning and couldn't have done it without our first female student!

A special congrats also goes to Mike Donaghy and Ben Bullock who solidified their spots at the next rank through their performances this past weekend at the Copa Nova!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anniversary...kind of

5 years ago today I competed in my first Advanced Division at Grapplers Quest. This was back when 12 months of BJJ meant you were considered an advanced female competitor. A terrifying thought, lol!

I had about 14 months of Jiu-Jitsu under my belt. My first fight was against a woman who had been training for 3 years. I lost by a triangle. Then I got to fight again against a Purple Belt who had been training 8-10 years and had just placed at the World Championships (the last year they were held in Brazil) a few months prior as a blue belt. I had never even seen or heard of a female purple belt before then! It was probably a good thing that it was nogi and my clueless self didn't know who she was at the time. Haha! Somehow, I managed to lose on points. Probably, I was so spazzy and technique-less that it was difficult to control me, although I can guarantee I wasn't putting her in any danger.

In my first match the woman put me in a body triangle and afterwards I remember saying that I didn't know why I was having so much trouble opening the guard. I'd never been put in a body triangle before that day, I didn't even know it existed! It's crazy to see how much the students know about BJJ today, when I think back to how little we were being taught back then compared to today's standards.

My opponent's coach in the second match was none other than Ryan Hall, himself a newly minted purple belt, about to go on to win the Advanced Absolute that day. Maybe his first Advanced Absolute title? (I should really know whether that's 100% accurate, I guess, haha). This was Ryan before he had won a single superfight match/division. (Although, he went on to win his first superfight a few weeks later.)

Celebrating 5 years since the day I met my awesome boyfriend! :) ...unfortunately though I'm celebrating without him, since he's in England until Monday. :( BUT, I am heading over to my brother's house tonight for some of the most amazing chicken fajitas ever! My favorite meal. So excited!! :)

Monday, October 10, 2011


Ryan is away on his longest consecutive absence since we started dating 5 years ago. I can't take this any longer! I am never scheduling him a trip this long again (unless I get to go with him, lol!)

I trained twice today but didn't get in the run I had planned. So I am getting up early tomorrow to start my new lifting workout, then I hit up yoga at 12pm. Then I'll grab lunch and head to the gym to work on some admin stuff. The kids class starts at 5pm (We are up to 15 kids now and one of our new little girls surprised us with her improvement today and renewed aggression. I was worried she wasn't going to really like BJJ but today she sure showed me!) I don't know why, but I just think it's so cool to watch little children execute proper technique. It's amazing what they are capable of learning if you have the patience to teach it. Then after the kids class, we have the women's class (we are up to 23 ladies!), then Basics (I'll probably rest or grab a snack during that class) then finally I train at 8:30pm.

I'm trying to figure out how to manage lifting, yoga, running, and BJJ on top of the actual work I have to do each week and balancing it out. I thought when I quit my job last year that I would have plenty of time for all the training I need to do, but really I probably do as much work with the gym that I did before at my government job, lol! And I feel a lot of pressure to be ready for the NoGi Worlds, especially after so much time off. I'm not worried about my technique too much because I know my Jiu-Jitsu is actually way better this year than last year. I am trying to get back in shape! Four weeks to go!

But only one more week until Ryan comes home!

Broken Shmoken

I did indeed break my thumb. This knowledge is courtesy of a new student of ours who happens to be a doctor and was more than happy to pronounce my metacarpal (or something) very broken. I took a week off training (prior to the thumb actually being pronounced broken) and then returned slowly, taping my hand such that I can wave like a real princess. Makes me feel pretty...except for the whole can't bend my fingers, perma-stick tape and throbbing pain at the end of class problem.

Luckily though! I took one day off during the week last week then two days this past weekend and it appears to finally be healing! 4 more weeks to NoGi Worlds. Is it possible to prepare in 4 weeks after spending over 1 year unable to train hard? I'm not sure. But Val did say that I was rolling very confidently today...meaning that I didn't appear to be worried that my body would give out somewhere unexpectedly. I think today is officially the first day that's happened since February 2010.

Hot damn!

Friday, September 23, 2011

So much goings on

My brain is all over the place working on 18 things at once. Today was supposed to be my first day off in weeks, but Seph called in sick. Luckily, one of the other purple belts filled in to teach class this morning, but I had to be here and decided to stick around and get some more tasks accomplished.

Ryan was in NYC for 6 weeks training for ADCC. He came home for just a few days before heading to Nottingham, England for the tournament. He fights tomorrow at 7am EST and we are hosting a viewing party at the gym to watch it live. I have never in my life been so nervous about anything.

If you don't know about ADCC, it's basically the closest thing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Submission Grappling has to the Olympics. The top 16 competitors in each weight class participate in the tournament. (Well mostly, 7 have to win a regional trials, 1 is invited if they won the previous tournament 2 years prior, and the last 8 receive invitations based on CV's. However, no invitations are allowed to individuals from someone on the same team that won a trial. So if your team has multiple people at a weight that are better than others, they still won't get a spot.)

I have been super busy at the gym since we are designing new gis, rashguards, t-shirts, hoodies, patches, etc for the team. Soon we will launch an online store for all the 50/50 gear!

The women's class and kids classes are picking up. We currently have 21 women, plus I'm expecting a lady to come in tonight and one other emailed to say she will be here in a few weeks. The kids program is up to 14 now (plus a few teenagers who take the adult classes).

We've recently revamped our schedule and website and are working hard to upgrade many facets of the academy. If you are ever satisfied with yourself, you will stagnate, so we are constantly searching for ways to improve. Big things are coming!

I may have broken and torn my thumb last time I was in NYC training, so I've been in and out of class myself, trying in vain, to get back in shape. Only 6 weeks until the Nogi Worlds! And I want to be back in competition form for it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle rocks!

This was the second time in the last 3 weeks that I was able to go train at Marcelo Garcia's academy and it was awesome! This time I didn't get up there until Saturday night and Sunday is their day off, so Ryan and I spent most of the day revamping the Fifty/50 Academy schedule and website as a whole. Ryan's on a strict diet so no going out to eat. :(

On Monday, I went with Ryan to a special ADCC training practice (the academy was closed due to the holiday). I watched as Marcelo, Ryan, Cobrinha, Batista, and Gabi prepared for ADCC through an hour training session of hard rounds with a few hand picked individuals who came in to help them out.

Later that day, I tried my first HOT yoga class at a place I found just a few blocks from Marcelo's that offers classes for only $5! The class was packed and halfway through I almost bailed, lol! But after a while, I decided it felt pretty good afterall. :)

I grabbed my yoga mat and headed over to Ronin Athletics where I was meeting Ryan and his friend Christian (owner of Ronin) for another training session. I warmed up with Ryan (having cooled down since yoga ended an hour earlier). Then was happy to be able to do a few rounds with Liz (a purple belt at Christian's academy who is my size and very nicely stuck around after their open mat to train with me). Unfortunately, though, my yoga mat didn't make it home. Hopefully, Ryan can pick it up at Christian's later this week for me, oops!

Tuesday, we went in to train in the afternoon advanced class at Marcelo's. The only other girl training at this class was Gabi, but one of the guys agreed to drill with me. I rolled with a few different guys, then towards the end was looking for a new partner and Cobrinha saw me standing and asked if I wanted to roll with him! What a super nice guy! He's in training for ADCC and volunteered to give up one of his hard rounds to go with me. And then Gabi did the same! I know that I can't even come close to mimicking the type of training they need and was so appreciative of the rounds I had with them. It is so cool when you meet people who are so accomplished in their careers, well-known and still super humble and kind.

When we came in for the evening advanced class on Tuesday night, I was excited to see a bunch of other girls. One blue belt my size and one a little bigger that I rolled with last time I was in town. Plus, a purple belt who was visiting from California who I met one other time when she dropped into our academy about a month or so ago. I got to roll 10 minutes with each girl plus 10 with a male brown belt about my size and the last 10 minutes with a male pluma-sized blue belt who was super fun to train with. What an awesome session!

My last training session there was today, Wednesday's advanced class. Emily didn't know I was in town but she was sitting behind the desk and I went over to say hi. She hadn't been planning on training, but being the super awesome, nice black belt that she is, she jumped up to change so she could work with me. We went over hand fighting from the back to secure the RNC. You have to pay close attention when Marcelo show's technique because he only repeats it once or twice and if you miss something, he will find it when he comes by to watch you drill!

10 minute rounds again. As expected, Emily pretty much crushed me easily. Haha! I like that she goes pretty hard with me, because I can tell most of the guys hold back a little bit and sometimes feel bad putting their weight on me when I'm on the bottom, and I can feel them back off sometimes. But even though I know she's also careful, Emily makes me work super hard and doesn't let me get away with any mistakes!

On the bus ride home now. Only $14 from NYC to DC and it includes free internet! Can't beat that! :)

Every joint in my body hurts from training so many hard rounds. It's going to be a while before it gets used to training hard again. And I def need to get back on my strength training before heading into an actual competition. Can't wait for yoga class tomorrow to ease my achiness!

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Female Black Belt at Fifty/50!!

Well she's not exactly new to her belt. Or new to us for that matter. BUUUUTTT I am so excited to announce that BJJ Black Belt Valorie Worthington (of famed blog BJJ Vision Quest) is moving to Arlington, VA next week to join our team! Well, actually, to be fair, she is starting her journey next week, but it will take her over a week to arrive since she is driving across the country. :)

So much awesomeness. Because a. She's awesome b. she's smart c. she's a female who will be around so it won't just be me and the guys all the time anymore d. she's a black belt e. she's on our team and gonna be here all the time and f. she's gonna be staying with me at least for the month that Ryan is in Europe for ADCC and seminars (I hate being home alone)!!! Woohoo!!!

Monday, August 29, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

-Unusually detached

Sunday, August 28, 2011

16 yr old 2x BJJ World Champion

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jiu-Jitsu in the Big Apple

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Sarah!!! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Self Awareness: Are you a spaz?

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

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

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

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

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

Light Bulb!

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gym hopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm gonna party like it's my birthday

Because it is! :)

How did I spend my day? Well, of course it started with Jiu-Jitsu.

I taught the women only class, which was super small today but it worked out because I was able to catch to of our newest girls up on some techniques they'd been having trouble with. Then Ryan rolled with me and helped me with a few things for an hour of uninterrupted time! It's probably surprising to most people but we almost never get to train, especially for any length of time without being interrupted by students or other coaches needing something. It was nice to spend that time with him working on a bunch of my weaknesses. It's weird because even though I've barely trained the last 9 months, he said my movement is WAY better than it used to be. I guess all that time just watching everyone else may have paid off in some form. Now I just have to get back in shape and be able to go full speed.

Then Ryan, Kenny, Gianni (who just arrived from NY today), and I all went to the pool. It was nice to relax a bit. Now we're home cooling off and getting ready to change so Ryan can take me out to dinner.

A totally awesome day!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Black Belt Down Under

Esther Tavares Tutida becomes the second Australian female to receive her black belt in BJJ! Read more at the Grappling Girls Guild!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 Mundial Women's Brown/Black Review

I watched the Budovideos live feed from home this year since I couldn't compete due to injuries. :(

And the ladies sure shook things up!!

Full review here...
Women's Brown/Black Belt Play-by-play

The women’s divisions did not disappoint this year! The feeling on the budovideos chat log was that the women’s division finals were much more interesting than the men’s. These ladies came out to fight and by all appearances were not satisfied to squeak out a win by advantages if they could help it. Whether the match actually ended by submission, points, or ref’s decision, it was clear that each woman on the mat was playing for keeps.

* Please note that they didn’t show all of the women’s matches so I don’t have exact play-by-play for all of them other than the finals.
Gezary Matuda Kubis finished her first two opponents (Tove Sodersten and Claudia Martinez) by triangle/armlock and armlock respectively to meet up with Leticia who had a bye first round before besting her first opponent on the way to her match with Gezary. Leticia and Gezary battled it out with Leticia coming out ahead 8-6. On the other side of the bracket, Nyjah Easton bested her first 2 opponents before beating Jennifer Sutingco by a large point margin in the semifinals.

The final pitted the experienced black belt and reigning champion, Leticia Ribeiro versus Brown Belt, Nyjah Easton. Nyjah quickly pulled guard at the opening of the match. After a long stalemate, Leticia finally forced her to open and Nyjah quickly switched to De La Riva Guard. Leticia managed to secure 3 points for a pass before Nyjah exploded with a bridge and managed to roll Leticia over. Leticia managed to base out and in the scramble land back on top. Nyjah was able to secure a sweep to give her 2 points towards the end and the match ended 3-2 in favor of the current champion, Leticia Ribeiro. Read More Here

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fifty/50's First Student Mundial a GIRL!!!

I just found out from my doctor last night that I tore my LCL (more later), but today, I don't care. Because I am so happy for Megan!

Megan Lomonof is the first student from Fifty/50 since we opened our doors in January 2009 to medal at the BJJ World Championships! Congrats to Megan for her Bronze medal in the Women's Blue Belt Lightweight Division!

Megan has worked so hard and definitely deserved this! She started training BJJ in December 2009 and was promoted to blue belt in February 2011 after winning the White/Blue Belt Division at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in NJ. On top of being a beast at BJJ, Megan is a highly accomplished musician, playing the flute and piccolo for the United States Army. And she bought her first bikini and sundress the other day! So it's a win all around this week for her! :)

Good luck in the absolute tomorrow chica! And good luck to Kenny and Ostap as they fight their divisions tomorrow as well!

Monday, May 30, 2011


And no that's not a mantra I'm just telling myself to make it so. :)

I've been on and off the mat, trying to get back into training the last 3 months following my initial post-surgery rehab. I've been on a strict weight lifting regimen and unable to train much because just lifting would exhaust my hip/shoulder to the point of often being unable to train (or train long) that day or sometimes 1-2 days following hard lifts. And even when I did train, I wasn't able to do more than a few rounds and was very nervous about tweaking my hip or shoulder and had to move carefully to avoid many positions...BUT...not today!

For the first time in over A WHOLE YEAR I trained 100% pain free today! It probably helped that I didn't do any physical activity on Saturday and only rolled for 10 minutes with my favorite training partner on Sunday, so my body was feeling great when I went in this morning to train with Megan for the Mundials. I'm not going, but one of our female blue belts is and I wanted to help her get some work in at the special Mundial Memorial Day practice. After drilling and warming up, Seph asked me if I was going to train. My response was, "yes, but I don't know how many rounds my body will hold up for". But my body did GREAT! It didn't betray me today. Not at all.

I trained hard, and without thinking about my hip or shoulder at all the whole time! I know my strength still isn't 100% but this is the first time I've been able to really train without worrying about the angle my arm or leg was at in literally over one year since I first tore the hip and shoulder. Okay, during the last positional sparring round I felt my hip starting to tighten up but I actually lasted all the way to the end. And once during rounds I had to break the order and take an extra 3 minute round out because my asthma was acting up from my cardio lacking after almost 8 months off real training (holy crap, it's really been that long!) but otherwise I couldn't be happier!

Jiu-Jitsu is fun again!

After being injured for so long, between the initial injuries and the months of ignoring what I knew to be true, then finally getting both surgeries and doing the rehab, to getting back into jiu-jitsu (probably a little too early), I actually forgot how much fun jiu-jitsu was. I can't wait to get back into actual shape and get back into competition! I will be a different grappler. New and improved!

It is a little frustrating that this moment of bliss finally arrived the week of the Mundial...if only it had been 3-4 weeks sooner, then I could have competed. But at least I'm healed! My doctors rock!

Soo...yeah...I need to go ice my hip because after training earlier, it is tight and achy. But I made it! It's all uphill from here! Woohoo!!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011 ADCC Invitee...Ryan Hall!

Yay!! Ryan received his invite for ADCC earlier this week. I'm so happy for him! :) I know he wanted to do the trials but he unfortunately missed both. :( He missed the east coast trials last fall due to a torn thumb ligament that affected his grip and missed the west coast because of an ankle injury that affected his ability to train hard in preparation for (and to make the new day of weight requirement since he couldn't run either) the tournament. And he wasn't sure if missing the trials would preclude him from being able to attend this year. (Huge sigh of relief!) I can't wait to see how he does two years later, one rank higher, and possessing much better competition and training experience under his belt!

Ryan leaves mid-way through next week for a Mundial training camp in San Francisco with Felipe Costa, Caio Terra, and others. And he already has plans for an ADCC training camp in August-September with some of the best. Good luck, Ryan! :)

And good luck to the other Fifty/50 competitors heading out to the Mundial this year: Seph Smith, Ostap Manastyrski, Kenny Savercool, and Megan Lomonof! (Wish I was going with you all!)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A generation of participation trophies, ribbons, and now...BJJ Belts? (pt 1)

I had a couple conversations regarding belts with a few of our students today and a topic touched upon in both was that of belt promotions.

The first conversation was in relation to kids belts. It seems that many BJJ kids programs have created their own belt structure due to their preference for what they perceive to be a necessary marketing tool. It is designed to give the kids a regular promotion as a physical representation of their improvement. One student related how in TKD her niece's had a belt test every 6 weeks. BJJ used to be anti-mcdojos, but are we heading in this direction too?

The initial BJJ belt structure was organized so you would be at a given belt for a fair amount of time (years, plural) before being promoted. How many gyms follow the official IBJJF belt protocol for kids (or adults)? Not many from what I've seen. The kids at the tournaments have all sorts of belt colors, some even follow the adult system (against IBJJF official regulations).

We decided when we started our kids program last fall that we would follow the official IBJJF guidelines instead of designing our own marketing gimmick (gag). We wanted to commit to the intent of the system. In doing so, we ended up demoting 2 of the kids who transfered from elsewhere so their skill level would match the belt we would give them. And contrary to the popularly held belief in martial arts (including BJJ) marketing, neither child minded at all. In the 6 months our kids BJJ program has existed, we have not broached the subject of belt promotions with the kids at all. And only one of them at one time inquired how to get a black belt, when told he couldn't be awarded one for a while and it was explained that he would be told when he was ready for promotion, he dropped the subject and never brought it up again (he's eight).

All the children work hard every day, they learn, ask questions, train, and have fun! We are even taking the majority of them to their first BJJ tournament next weekend in Ashland, VA. But because we don't emphasize earning a physical representative of their improvement to outwardly express it, they don't need one. As children will do, they simply follow our lead and example. And ultimately isn't it better for them to be learning to enjoy the process of earning success instead of being focused on an outward representation of it? Isn't that more of a lifeskill than anything?

Has our society's desire for participation ribbons and trophies and the idea that everyone earns the same rewards begun to ruin our culture and by extension BJJ? I believe to some extent it has. Everyone is not created equal, some are more naturally gifted physically, some mentally, and others with sheer determination and drive. Shouldn't rewards go to those who shine? Otherwise, they aren't rewards at all...they are in fact, meaningless.

Shouldn't we teach our kids at a young age that they can have anything they want, but only IF they work for it. That if they choose not to, they can't complain and demand/expect the same rewards of those who do? Shouldn't they be taught to win and lose graciously instead of being forced to believe in the idea that no one wins or loses? Because, in life, that simply isn't true at all.

Elsewhere in our society they are being forced to believe a fairy tale. But what about when real life happens and it shatters that vision? Will they be prepared?

What happens when a generation of children become adults that don't know how to work hard for (and appreciate) success or how to win and lose with dignity?

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Mundials are out...

Once again I will miss the Mundials due to injury. :(

After asking me if I could do a couple positions/movements this past Saturday, to which my answer was "no", Ryan informed me that I couldn't participate in the Mundials. I cried again. Dammit. I've spent over 3 months rehabbing, adding strength and conditioning, everything I could to push myself to make it back in time for the World Championships. I really thought I could make it. I was so frustrated when I was told there was no way. And the worst part is, I can't really argue with the assessment. What do you do when your coach asks you to do a simple technique and you can't?

You see, I've been training and hard too, so no one realized how much trouble I was still having in some positions...because, well, I just avoided those positions at all cost. But Ryan is right, there are too many I have to avoid because of my hip and what if I can't avoid them. Then what? But knowing that doesn't make me feel better at all.

How do you stay motivated to work hard when you know you won't be able to compete against people your size and level for FIVE months? The curse of being small means that local tournaments never have people in your division. And now it will be a full year from my last competition until the next. Especially, as I probably wouldn't even be able to think about entering divisions against bigger people for another few months as well. Being injured sucks. And healing, but not quickly enough sucks too. Ugh.

But to keep from being too negative, even though it cuts into my training time, I've really enjoyed teaching all the classes while the guys are in Toronto competing at Grapplers Quest. It's exhausting to be on the whole time, especially yesterday, but it's really cool to see the progress the students are making. Also, it looks like our numbers are back up for the women's class. The ladies were a little irregular in their attendance for a few weeks for various reasons and it's nice to see a bunch of them back in regularly again. We got up to 11 in one class last week and 9 in one this week. So fun!! :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Emirati Women Set a Precedent

An article in an online newspaper in the UAE about the UAE women's jiu-jitsu team competing at the Abu Dhabi Pro

Emirati Women Set a Precedent
By: Amith Passela

ABU DHABI // The Emirati women's jiu-jitsu team gained much-needed exposure from their first international competition last night.

All seven participants, making their debut on the international stage, lost their first-round games at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships. All of them, however, declared they would return stronger for the next staging of the event in Abu Dhabi.

"Our biggest challenge was to get on stage in an event telecast live and in front of a big international audience. We have overcome that hurdle," said Rachida Mubarak Belfakir, after her defeat to Megan Lomonof, of the United States, in the white/blue 63kg and under weight division at the National Exhibition Centre yesterday.

"We all knew the fights would be very, very tough. Yet we wanted to get on stage and fight against opponents with more experience. We are not exposed to such training but we want to change that culture and become athletes by our own.

"This championship was a learning curve for all of us. All of us realised how much work we need to put in to reach the level at which we just competed. I think we got about 30 per cent experience from these fights.

"I would like to think we are on the right path and with more intense training, we will reach a good level. It is up to us now to increase our workload and then keep improving by participating in competitions regularly."

Belfakir has ambitions of becoming a black belt and to compete in the World Professional championship. She has trained about a year and has participated two local competitions, winning a silver medal and a bronze.

"We are a group of friends and we are very serious of pursuing a career in jiu-jitsu," she said. "Our parents didn't have any objections when we asked for their permission. There are several other Emirati girls in training but they don't want to fight in public. But we, seven of us, have decided to move forward. We have given the Emirati women a start and I am sure more will follow us."

Of the other Emiratis in the 63kgs and under, Issrine Idris was outclassed with a choke-lock from Niceye Whissell of Canada and Charlotte Baumgarten of Germany had Latifa Hassan out early with a hand-lock.

Maha al Rumaithi went down to Tamino Kaori of Japan and Samira al Rumaithi went the full distance although losing by 17-0 to Eman Isam Bilbaisi of Jordan.

Soud al Mir, who went down to Allison Tremblay of Canada in the 63kg and over weight division, wasn't disappointed either.

"There is no reason for me to get disappointed," she said. "It is the other way around. I am very excited and happy to have participated in a big competition that has drawn a big audience and seen live on TV.

"Like all my friends, I am going to continue with the training and get better. This was a real good experience for all of us. Jiu-jitsu is new for the Emirati girls and I am sure it will get bigger and better with time. What we need here is more competitions."

Latifa Akhassay, al Mir's colleague in the same weight division, was beaten by Eirin Nyguen of Norway.

Caroline de Lazzer, the Emirati women's coach, also made a first round exit to compatriot Michello Nicolini in the black belt 63kg and under.

"It just goes to show how tough the competition has become," said de Lazzer, the 2006 world champion. "Those opponents the Emirati girls competed are those who are pursuing in becoming future world champions. My students are just beginners. It was the experience for them."

For a second successive day the organisers failed to have a fight-card and the results, and not only had the public and the media confused, but some of the competitors too.

Katrina Weilbacher, from the United States, in her first appearance at the Abu Dhabi event was still wondering around long after the day's events were over to find out if she had to fight for a third-place play-off.

"Usually the fight schedules and the results are announced over the PA system so you know when and whom you fight next," she said. "There is a lot of confusion. I still don't know if I have to fight in a play-off for bronze."

Weilbacher went down to South African Penny Thomas in the black belt 63kgs and over in the semi-finals.

"I was in a triangle for about three minutes but lost the fight," she said. "Penny is one of the best in the world. The competition here is much higher than I expected with all the top fighters from around the world."

Thomas will meet the world champion Gabriella Garcia, of Brazil, in today's final. And Weilbacher, who lost in the World Cup final to Garcia in Los Angeles last year said it could be anyone's final.

"It will be a very close and exciting contest," added the American, who has crossed path with both. "It will be like a toss of a coin for me."

The finals of all weight classes and categories will be worked off today from 11am at the National Exhibition Centre.

The National: Emirati Women Set a Precedent

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jiu-Jitsu in Hijab...Female Competitors at the Abu Dhabi Pro

I've posted a quick article and some of the preliminary results from the women's divisions at the Abu Dhabi Pro on the Grappling Girls Guild Website. Click here for more information.

Also, new BJJ/Grappling events for women taking place now through August have been listed in the calendar section. Check in to match up your vacation time with one of them! (And please feel free to send me more if you have any brewing that I don't know about.)

A special congrats to Fifty/50 student Megan Lomonof for her hard work, dedication, and composure for earning a spot to compete at the Abu Dhabi Pro as a 14 month white belt, then going out and competing in her first big tournament ever (and first tournament as a blue belt) and coming home with 2 submission victories, many lessons learned, and the ability to believe that there was nothing different she could have done to achieve a greater outcome. (Megan lost in the quarterfinals but put up a brave fight the whole way). We look forward to seeing her get out to more tournaments in the latter half of 2011!

Monday, April 11, 2011

iPhone...sending BJJ technical instructions from Abu Dhabi

I miss Ryan. And on top of this I hate being home alone, I'm used to noise all the time and I just cannot sleep when it's quiet. Consequently, I haven't slept well since he left. I'm perpetually tired all day, yet unable to fall asleep at night. Tonight I plan to leave the TV on all night and see if keeps a low hum at an appropriate decibel for me to sleep soundly. Fingers crossed...

This hasn't been an easy weekend. Ryan's grandmother passed away last week, the night before he left for Abu Dhabi. He was going to stay home, but his mom thought he should still leave to compete at the World Pro. Trying to stand in for him as best I could, I went to the wake on Sunday and the funeral today. This was a side of his family that I haven't met as often as the other side so, as I was recounting the last two days' conversations to Ryan via Facebook chat, I kept confusing him by getting names mixed up, lol. Plus, he was chatting using his iPhone so there was a huge delay from message to message, making things more confusing when there was a question, haha. :)

Ryan's bummed about his performance this past weekend in the higher weight class at the nogi tournament and by losing to Vagner Rocha by advantage in the absolute, but he's getting good training in with Murilo Santana this week and looks to perform better back in his regular weight class this coming weekend. He's also looking forward to the arrival of our student, Megan Lomonof, who flew out today to Abu Dhabi, where she will compete in the women's white/blue belt division. She's been working hard and I know she will make us proud, regardless of the actual outcome. Good luck to them both!!!

Btw - You know you are addicted to BJJ when your boyfriend/coach is sending you instructions for how to do a particular sweep using FB chat on his iPhone from the other side of the world, lol! (This was going on in between my messages describing my day with his family. I guess we are a strange couple...)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New G3 Female BJJ Spotlight Member

The other day on Gracie Mag's website I read an interesting article about the first Female Arab Purple Belt. Her name is Ghalia Ogden-Smith and she is a female running a BJJ club in Beirut, Lebanon. Reading about Ghalia's amazing efforts inspired me to search her out and learn more. I asked her if she would be willing to answer some interview questions for the Grappling Girls website and was thrilled when she agreed.

To read about Ghalia's efforts to teach BJJ in Lebanon, check out the article on Gracie Mag: Pregnant Purple Belt Heads Men's Class in Lebanon

To read more about Ghalia herself, check out this interview on the Grappling Girls Website: April Spotlight: Ghalia Ogden-Smith

Enjoy!!! :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Weight Management

I've always enjoyed the fact that I can eat whatever I like going into competition while everyone else is dieting/cutting down. The night before weighing in at a tournament, I'm eating pasta, ice-cream, whatever, and drinking as much water as I want to stay hydrated. And I love that I don't even have to step on a scale to wonder if I will make weight.


The flip side is that I'm always smaller than everyone else. And since having my surgeries I haven't lost any actual weight, but instead of being a relatively strong 110lbs, I am now a soft 110lbs and I feel every bit of my lack of strength daily in training at this time. My strength coach (we started on a strength and conditioning regimen about 4 weeks ago) just informed me earlier this week that I need to gain 10-15lbs. I'm on the opposite diet of everyone around me, now they will hate me even more, lol! Is it possible to gain at least 5lbs between now and the beginning of June? I'm not sure, but I aim to find out. Just in case I happen to get cleared by my strength coach and BJJ coach to go compete at the Mundial. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pan Ams Female Divisions Recap

Every year the ladies make a bigger and bigger splash at the IBJJF tournaments. The matches become more even and exciting as the years go by and the ladies become more and more technical at the highest levels of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

It definitely shows the growth in the sport worldwide when a company like Budovideos is streaming all the matches live on the internet. It is rumored that 60,000 people logged in on Saturday to watch. They only show one or two matches at a time, but the commentators try to let you know what’s happening on the other mats. My only complaint is their lack of knowledge of the female fighters. It’s appalling to me that they didn’t really know who Hannette Staack was. SHE’S A THREE TIME ADCC GOLD MEDALIST… They have obviously not done their homework when it comes to the ladies. But, I am excited to report on the divisions that I was able to witness. To read more at the Grappling Girls Guild click here

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Moving on up

Since my last post, things have improved slightly. I have noticed a huge plus up in my strength and stability at this stage. I can actually see definition and toning coming back into my arms and legs...which is nice as it's just in time for the warmer weather when I'll be wearing tank tops and shorts/skirts. So really I can't complain. Ah, the things we ladies think about. :)

On Monday, I moved up in weight significantly on the leg press and leg curl machines. The last time they were in our circuit I could still feel the instability a lot and it limited the amount of weight we could put on. But Monday, I was able to really tax my legs. We did another leg workout on Wednesday, then I went to Yoga on Thursday. But it might have been too much this week because both my knees started to bother me and I have a little pain and sensitivity when kneeling. I heard my right knee pop a bunch of times earlier in the week, and thought maybe that was what caused it but then last night I noticed my left knee had a similar pain, so who knows...I only trained one round last night, I was teaching class anyway and figured I should go light and give my legs a rest (we worked our arms Friday morning, I'm going up in weight but still feeling a fair amount of weakness on the left side).

This week I lifted 3 times, went to Yoga once, and had a massage but only got in decent BJJ training one night. I did some light BJJ 2 other times but it's not enough, I need to be able to train more.

In very good news, we had a new boy come try the kids class, he has been training at another academy in the area for at least 6 months and he would be the oldest in our program which, if he signs up, will be good for the other kids. With some kind of luck, another student brought in his younger cousin to watch the kids class the same day and the boys knew each other so perhaps we will succeed in getting them both signed up. The class could use a few more older kids and their additions would probably allow us to begin splitting into 2 groups, older and younger.

Also, this week, we had another lady come in and sign up for the women's classes. We've lost a couple women here and there for various reasons but it looks like the class may be picking up in steam again. An additional woman (to the one who signed up) also visited this week from another local academy, she has over a year experience and will likely be signing up with us in about a month after her other membership expires. It's always nice to get additions to the program who already have experience. Speaking of which, we have another blue belt female who may begin training with us next week and I spoke to another lady on the phone who is planning to come in for her free trial in the next week or so. We still have yet to reach a total number of 20 though. I guess the plus to this is that most of the ladies who have been adding recently are more consistent in training than the ones we are losing, so the attendance numbers of women in class are going up even if the total number is still bouncing up and down towards 20.

p.s. I can't help but mention, good luck to Ryan and Seph at the IBJJF Pan Ams tomorrow morning!! We're going to put it on the computer during the women's class and one of the ladies' husband agreed to sit there and monitor it and let us know if/when they show their matches on the live feed. Budovidoes

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I was finally cleared to train a few weeks ago. The first week I only trained 3 days and I couldn't get through the drilling portion of class before my shoulder and hip started to hurt. By the completion of 2-3 sparring rounds I couldn't wait any longer and would need to ice immediately. That was 3 weeks ago and even though I had literally no strength and was in pain most of the time, I was just happy to be back on the mat.

Then 2 weeks ago, Ryan and Seph went out of town and I ended up teaching every class, 4-5 classes per day. I was so exhausted from teaching that I only attempted to train 3 days. I felt better physically, but was getting at least a day between each session and was only rolling 3 rounds with carefully selected partners.

Last week Michelle Nicolini and her student Priscila Prandini were in town for Michelle's seminar. We trained hard the first 2 days despite also beginning my first weight training workout in years. Needless to say, my body gave out after day 3 of hard training and lifting. I took the next 2 days off, only rolling one round with Priscila on Saturday and only drilling the techniques Sunday at the seminar. Monday we lifted and I rolled hard with the guys that night then Tuesday I got in 3 hard rounds with Michelle and one with Seph. I was sore as hell but didn't want to rest one more minute of time while Michelle was here.

Michelle and Priscila left Tuesday afternoon so I took a much needed break Tuesday night. We lifted again on Wednesday and I took Wed night off. I thought I would be good to go by last night and was looking forward to hard training after the time off. I went 2x7 minute rounds with Ostap and one round with Seph in the middle. I should feel good because Ryan actually watched all my rounds for the first time in a while and he complimented me on the improvement in my movement and techniques (a rarity from him). But by the end of the last round, my whole left arm was throbbing and visibly shaking, and my whole right leg was throbbing, from my low back to my ankle. My body was betraying me despite all my hard work and there was nothing I could do about it.

I was so excited at first to simply be back on the mats that I didn't care when someone passed my guard because I couldn't fight back with my right leg or that I couldn't secure anything with my left arm because it wasn't strong enough to grip tightly. But, I am ready to train again for real. I want to trust that my right hook is going to work when I attempt to use it. I want to believe in the stability of my left shoulder (and by extension, arm). I want to roll hard without stopping to avoid a certain direction because I know my body can't go there.

I know that part of my frustration lies in the fact that Ryan and my strength coach were discussing my future competitions the other day. Our strength coach had actually laughed at me a few weeks ago when I told him I wanted to compete at the NY Open. After a couple days back on the mats I realized he was right and Ryan and I decided that I shouldn't try to compete that early. So I set my sights on the Mundial. Then on Wednesday night Ryan told me that they don't think I will be physically ready to compete by June. I was so upset, I cried. Those goddamned tears.

Why did I cry? Because I have spent the last 4 months working my ass off in PT. I've recovered faster than any doctor believed I would - from BOTH surgeries. AND I still might not make it to my goal. I cried because there are only 4 tournaments a year in the U.S. where I am guaranteed to have girls my size and level to fight. The gi and nogi Pan and Mundials. It's not easy to be 110lbs (I'm almost back up to that weight consistently now) and do jiu-jitsu. Take away the strength from one arm and one leg and it becomes near impossible to fight people heavier than you every day in training and competition against larger opponents isn't even thinkable at this stage.

I can understand now why some people never fully recover after a long stint off for an injury. It's hard to be so very far for so long from what you used to be able to do without even thinking about it. Many times over the last few months I've wondered whether or not it is worth it to me to continue being a competitor.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My blue belt is resurrected and an engagement

On Tuesday night we promoted our second female student to blue belt since we opened our doors in January 2009! This particular occasion called for the passing on of my blue belt as she was the first female student to achieve a blue belt who actually started her Jiu-Jitsu progression here on our mats (the first girl we promoted started her progression elsewhere and moved here already close to blue belt level).

Megan Lomonof joined Fifty/50 BJJ in December 2009 after a very long and thorough evaluation process of all the academies in our area, actually making lists and researching each team thoroughly before deciding where to begin her first trial class. And we were lucky that she liked us so much that she never made it to try a class at the second school on her list. We heart you, Megan!

A little funny story about Megan is that she almost broke Seph's arm during her first class, lol! If only we knew that was a hint of things to come... Seph was teaching her how to do an armbar going all slow and expecting a girl to move gingerly and carefully on her first day, but Megan had other plans. She slapped on an armlock so much harder and faster than he expected that he wasn't ready to tap yet. Oops!

Megan has done well in competitions, at least as far as winning them goes. But each time I watched video I was surprised that she didn't look as good as she does in class. We knew that she was approaching blue belt level but were waiting for her to prove it in her competitive performance. After an adjustment to her mental approach to competition, Megan did just that at the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials in NJ. Megan isn't being promoted based on the fact that she beat 4 blue belts on her way to winning the tournament and earning a free trip to Abu Dhabi. She is being promoted because of the WAY she fought. She fought with an assurance and aggression that we see every day on the mats in the gym. Megan finally decided it was time to compete without fear of losing, because in the end you cannot control the outcome of the match. You can only control yourself and how YOU perform. And if you do that, the winning will take care of itself. This is only the beginning of Megan's blue belt career, she has a long way to go and a lot of growing to do in her new belt. But I know she will do herself proud.

Perhaps even more amazing than winning the tournament is that Megan came out and hung out all night watching the fights at the bar and then went on to perform with a section of the U.S. Army band in a musical concert at the Kennedy Center the following evening. What a girl!

A second bit of exciting news was after Megan's official promotion on Tuesday, we had a surprise engagement on the mats! Two of our white belts who met at our gym and started dating last year became engaged. Congratulations Lisa and Greg!!!

Check out some clips of the surprise engagement here....

Friday, February 4, 2011

Qui audet adipiscitur

He who dares wins
Qui audet adipiscitur

-Latin Proverb

Monday, January 31, 2011


The European Championships are over, the 2011 tournament season has begun...

Ryan had high hopes for the first tournament of the gi season. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go his way and have caused him to take another hard look at how he's been training and how the training in the academy is going for the students. It's time to switch gears in multiple ways...

This tournament showed Ryan that he needs to focus more on himself and his own training and less on his students. The thing about Ryan is that he is one of the most generous people I've ever met with his time on the mats. He's never been able to watch someone do jiu-jitsu incorrectly. I can't count the number of times I've seen him start coaching a random person at a tournament because they are having a hard time finishing a triangle or pulling someone over he's never seen before after their match to offer a little advice. He actually can't stop himself from helping, lol! If he is this way with strangers, you can imagine how much more it exists in his own academy. As a professional, he should be selfish with his training time, but he will glance over and see a student doing something wrong and immediately stop in the middle of his rounds to assist them. Watching Ryan interact with his students, inspires me to be a better coach and competitor every day.

It's tough to run an academy and be a high-level competitor, you're being pulled in multiple directions every time you step on the mat. Although it's also refreshing to be at an academy where the instructors consistently go above and beyond to help their students, even at the detriment of their own training, it's time for Ryan to re-focus on himself this tournament season.

The future will see the brown and purple belts stepping up a little more on the mats at Fifty/50 to lighten Ryan's load a bit. The first real example of this was seen on the mats this weekend while Ryan was in Europe competing. The purple belts that are Ryan's closest training partners, regular students like anyone else, spent hours during open mat answering questions and freely assisting the lower level students. It's nice to see them gain the confidence in their abilities to impart their hard-earned knowledge to others.

Today, two of the adult male purple belts played soccer against the kids to help them warm-up in a fun way before class. I didn't tell the men before they started that one of the 9 year olds plays on an Olympic Development team. ;) The look on one of the purple belt's face when the child legitimately faked him out and scored past him was PRICELESS! The guys were great sports and the kids had a blast. It's so fun to see the team coming together!

It's been 2 years since we began with just under 20 students. It's always a trial to manage the time when all the full-time instructors are still trying to make their way competitively, but you can't go wrong if you consistently re-evaluate where you are and truly want to see your students succeed beyond your own abilities. When constantly striving to be the best you can be, you can never fail. This is why I have faith in Ryan. To come this far having been essentially coachless for the better part of his time in Jiu-Jitsu, is an amazing feat, one which others would be able to sit back and be proud of. But not Ryan. He will not rest until he reaches his goals. He is a fantastic role model for the students he intends to bring along with him. I expect to see Ryan, Rick, and Quang making a splash at the IBJJF Houston Open on February 12.

Ryan helping a little kid after one of his seminars...

January's Grappling Girl at G3

Check out this link to the January Spotlight on a Grappling Girl at the Grappling Girls Guild.

January Spotlight: Sofia Amarante.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

108lbs...I'm wilting

So my goal of getting bigger and stronger by the Mundials this year looks to have gone out the window. I was 108lbs on my scale this morning. :(

I guess the good news is that I am already losing some of the fat I had put on but since I have so little muscle-tone my weight is below where it should be. Everyone else in my division is always dieting and cutting down...except me. At first, I thought it was awesome to be small enough to make weight even if I eat junk food every day. But really I'm just too small.

After the Mundial last year, I decided that I was going to put on at least 5lbs of muscle. Instead, the surgeries seem to have caused me to lose about that much and I still have some extra flab to get rid of before I begin building the muscle back up. The trick though, is to do it slow so I gain the weight in the right places and don't just bulk up all over. I guess the most I can hope for at this year's Mundial is to be back up to where I was last year and just hope that being able to compete with two stable joints this time around will help me be more successful.

I missed swimming yesterday because I ran out of my inhaler and can't exercise without it and then had to take Ryan and Jake to the train station instead of going to the pharmacy. But at least last night's snow didn't get in the way of me going to my first post-op Yoga class today! Poses on one arm or one leg were a bit rough, especially on my bad sides, and I can tell that my arm is a LOT tighter than before. But I did it!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back in the Saddle...almost

Timeline - I am just shy of 3 weeks post-op from my hip surgery and almost 12 weeks post-op from shoulder surgery.

My hip physical therapists are awesome, I enjoy this practice much more than the one I went to for my shoulder. I will use this office next time I have an injury for sure. They see a ton of young (and relatively young) athletic individuals. I like the way they talk to me and the way they work with me. Plus, they are all - to a one - energetic and personable. It makes for a much more pleasant therapy session.

This past Friday, I made my way to the swimming pool to get in my first real "workout" since the first surgery on November 4. It had been YEARS since I tried to do a swimming workout, but it's pretty much the only thing I'm cleared for at this point. I used to be a swim coach and knew I could overdue it so I decided to start slowly.

I swam 1,000 yards (40 laps). To non-swimmers this apparently sounds like a lot, but to competitive swimmers, it's the minimum you can do and still refer to it as a "workout", lol! I swam slowly attempting to maintain technical proficiency and alternated strokes every 100 yards, Freestyle, Backstroke, Breastroke. I also included a 100yd kick towards the end. The alternating came right about on time as Freestyle and Backstroke start making my shoulder feel sore after a bit and my hip has had enough of Breastroke after about 4 consecutive laps.

I felt absolutely GREAT after finishing up and was hungrier than I have been at any given point in weeks. Which was perfect because Ryan, Marcel, and I headed to Fogo de Chao in D.C. right after. Despite trying to go slowly though, I was still sore the next day. I guess that just goes to show how out of shape you can get in 3 months of inactivity. Haha!

I am beginning to feel so good that when I watch jiu-jitsu every day, it's super hard not to just jump on the mat and try it. But I know that the best thing I can do is to go back slowly. On Tuesday, I was able to demonstrate a couple guard techniques during the women's class. By today's class I didn't even feel soreness when I demonstrated a couple more techniques. Woohoo!

I have a plan for getting my strength, cardio, and range of motion back and I'm sticking to it. I will swim again on Monday (tomorrow), I have PT on Tuesday, then swim again on Wednesday, do my first Yoga class since October on Thursday, then have PT again on Friday, Yoga on Sat, Sun off, Mon Swim, Tues Yoga, Wed PT, Thurs Yoga, Fri Swim, Sat coach Alex at a tournament, Sun off, Mon Feb 7 - first Jiu-Jitsu session! And of course I have my 1-1.5 hours of Hip & Shoulder home PT exercises that I do every day on my own.

Good news for our women's program - we had a new woman sign up on Tuesday! Then another new woman came in Thursday and I hope she comes back. (She's a dancer and picked up the body movements very quickly.) I'm expecting an additional woman to come in this Tuesday night as well. There were 9 women in class last Tuesday and 8 on Thursday (not counting myself). It's so much fun to teach to a group of them! And I've been talking to Michelle Nicolini online and we are working out a week for her to come visit this Spring and do another seminar.

I'm BACK....Back in the Saddle agaaaiin!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I can walk and Copa Nova recap

My doctor apparently decided not to shave the bone after all so I was able to say good bye to my crutches on Sunday (instead of having to stay on them for 2 more weeks). It was about time though because my arms and sides were being rubbed raw after spending all day Saturday on crutches coaching and cheering at the Copa Nova.

The team did pretty well over all, we sent 1 brown belt, 3 purple belts, 1 blue belt, 1 white belt, and one child. Quang lost his nogi match but redeemed himself securing a dominant win against the same guy (the 2010 blue belt world champion) in the gi division. Quang is expected to put on a good showing at the Pan Ams and Worlds this year at purple belt. (He missed the worlds last year due to a knee injury after placing 2nd at the Pan Ams at blue belt in his first International tournament.) Kenny didn't fight nogi but easily won his purple belt gi division. Rick also easily won his Nogi Advanced Division. There was no one for Rick to fight in the gi so he just entered the Absolute and ended up placing after a difficult loss to a guy at least 30lbs heavier than him in the first round. Seph dominated in his sole match to gold in the Brown Belt Absolute division (they called it a Masters Division since both he and the other guy are both 30 now).

Jonathan Lord (a blue belt who switched over to our gym from Capital JJ 3-4 months ago) competed in his first tournament as well. He went 1-2 in his blue belt division, but he showed a lot of knowledge and a ton of improvement in his movement since he first came to Fifty/50, even securing a couple good single leg takedowns! Jeremy Posner is one of our white belts who's been showing a lot of promise in class and he didn't disappoint in his first tournament either, placing 2nd in his division. He dominated the first couple guys he fought and showed a greater degree of proficiency and technical movement than anyone else in his division. So even though he wasn't able to walk away with 1st place, it was a successful day for him. Unfortunately, none of the ladies were able to make it to this tournament due to family obligations, injuries, etc, but we'll get them back out at the next tournament.

Little Alex finally entered her first regular BJJ tournament with normal(ish) rules - she has only competed twice at the kids only tournaments before this. Being able to train with Geoffrey (a new kid with 3 yrs of experience) has been very beneficial for her as she has learned how to continually follow up and attack when her first movement doesn't work. She dominated every child in her 3 matches in the kids beginner division to gold. She didn't have a single point scored on her as she scored takedowns, sweeps, guard passes, back takes, knee on belly (her dad didn't even know she knew that one), and almost secured one armlock. She will be moving up to the Advanced division in her next tournament. It will be much tougher for her, especially because she doesn't know a lot of different movements, but what she knows she does perfectly every time. And it will be better for her growth to move up sooner than later.

Jake Mackenzie and 2 of his black belt friends from FightSports in Miami are here with us for a few weeks to train as Ryan, Jake, and Rick get ready for the European Championships. I'm sooo disappointed that I can't go to compete due to my injuries because there are already THREE women registered for my division! I hardly ever have a division! Of course I have next to no muscle tone at my current weight of 109lbs right now so it probably wouldn't go in my favor even if I could compete.

I can walk unaided earlier than expected and the steps up to the gym didn't hurt as much today as yesterday so I should be happy right now.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On the Road to Recovery

It's been 2 days since my hip surgery and I'm still surprised that it doesn't hurt as much as I expected. Maybe it's because it has been constantly sore for so long that the post-surgical pain isn't much worse than what I was feeling before. Or maybe my body just got used to pain after 2 major injuries then 2 surgeries, lol!

I didn't know what to expect after waking up because with the shoulder the whole arm is numb for 12-18 hours, but with the hip I guess the local anesthesia is only in the joint and not the whole leg so I was able to sit up and move around on crutches as soon as I was aware enough to move. My sister picked me up from the surgical center and dropped me at home where I napped until Ryan came by with my prescriptions. As it turns out though, I've barely needed any medication other than the anti-inflammatory.

I went to the gym with the guys yesterday, although Seph taught the kids class for me since I can't move easily. I can pretty much do everything I need to, it just takes me a lot longer than usual and I'm exhausted and need to rest for a bit about every 2 hours or so. Jake Mackenzie and Josh Presley (two Canadians) have been staying with us and between Ryan and them, I've had help carrying my things and filling my ice machine. I just got my hip attachment for the machine in the mail yesterday, so I can't wait to get to the gym and try it out today. Ryan and Jake already went to the gym after dropping Josh at the airport to go home, but Ryan is going to come back and pick me up before evening class so I can run the women's program tonight.

We had another kid come in to try class last night, she's a judo junior olympic champ. She is a tough kid and it would be great to see her get into BJJ. Her mom is little Alex's Judo coach and is also planning to come in and try our women's program this weekend. Moving on!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

9 weeks post-op shoulder/ 1 day pre-op hip

Exactly 9 weeks post-op from the shoulder (1 day from now), I will have my hip surgery. The shoulder diagnosis was a bad SLAP labral tear (in the back) and another labral tear in the front of the shoulder. I was also diagnosed with Femoralacetabular (Hip) Impingement, this occurs when a bone growth on your femur (like an extra bump) rubs into your hip labrum until it tears through causing pain, discomfort, and instability, and could eventually lead to arthritis if not treated.

My shoulder is doing GREAT, my physical therapist last week told me that I've recovered faster than anyone he's ever seen! At 8 weeks I was able to start training with partners I trust. I am going very carefully and my partners are making sure not to put their weight on my shoulder if I end up on bottom. I still have to be careful with stretching out or posting my arm. I was almost able to completely forget about my shoulder for a minute the other day until I swung into x-guard and realized I couldn't get up on that side, lol, and had to quickly switch to something else. That said, I definitely notice improvement every single time I get back on the mat. So far, I've kept my training down to 30 minutes or so, limiting it so I don't overly tax my shoulder. I'd be more excited about my improvement if I wasn't looking at going back under for surgery tomorrow.

But at least I was able to take the Murilo Santana seminar last week and roll with visiting female purple belt, Ana Lowry. She has great movement and control so even though she's 30lbs heavier and I have a semi-bum shoulder, I can roll easily with her.

I'm a little nervous about the hip surgery because it's still partially considered experimental by the insurance companies. And they put you in a traction machine that dislocates your hip and holds it there throughout the surgery to give the surgeon room in the hip for his tools. Ouch! I met a guy the other day who had this surgery 5 months ago and still has numbness down the back of his legs. But the good news is that he was looking to get started in Jiu-Jitsu at 5 months post-op having never done it before, so perhaps my goal of competing at the Worlds at 6 months isn't too far-fetched...

Cross your fingers!