Choked Out At The Pro Trials!

I was strangled unconscious in the finals of 183 lb (and under) Blue Belt Division! Wait, wait, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The Preface

An Abu Dhabi Pro-Trial Tournament was held in San Antonio Texas on November 26th, 2011. I trained for the better part of five or six weeks for the competition, including copious amounts of exercise off the mats and some control on diet.1 On the grounds of full disclosure, I feel I should inform my audience that I used the word ‘some’ loosely.

Anyway. My first match-up was against a representative from my old team, Pat Hardy’s Texas Punishment Crew. I had never met my opponent personally, but I knew that TPC always brings the heat tournament-side with their stable of incredibly humble, hard-working, jiu-jitsu-loving guys.2 This fact known to me, I had set my sight on finishing this match (and all my matches) as quickly as possible.

Despite my intention to dominate the competition like a flaming, golden hawk descending upon all opponents in an eruption of lightning and Higg’s Bosons from Mount Olympus, my match turned out to be a completely even-sided affair. We traded both a few submission attempts, alternatively putting one another in trouble, and one guard pass each.3 Toward the end of the match, exhausted, I managed to score two points and the win with an over-the-shoulder sweep from guard.

Later in the day my opponent, Mr. Johnson, and I were speaking about just how close the match was, and he informed me that he made it four matches deep at the 2011 Mundials. The man’s talented, no doubt about it. And then I realized that because these Pro-Trials were being held the weekend of Thanksgiving, all the casual grapplers must have decided not to participate. All the brackets in all the divisions were really quite small, all things considered. Instead what happened is that everyone who believed they were talented enough to have a legitimate shot at winning the trip to compete at Abu Dhabi stepped up to the plate. While there were only 13 people in my division, I am pretty sure that almost any one of the 13 could have (and has) won a local tournament of their own. Everyone was tough. Everything was a struggle.

My second match was with a Ralph Gracie representative (I think), who was as wide as he was tall. I took a deep breath and pulled butterfly guard, summoning all the flaming, golden hawk energies from Valhalla to help vanquish this proto-Zangief.4 I managed a strong, early lead but he came back with the vengeance and the fire to finish me. He trapped my head and nearside arm between his legs, and my vision was in sepia the whole time. Just in the interest of full disclosure, I was really, really sick that Saturday. But I toughed out his attack, made it through, and won.

The Finals

My opponent, a representative of Marra Senki and stand-up guy (I discovered later), pulled guard on me. Finally, or so I naively believed, someone had made the one unforgivable mistake. Time to use the flaming, golden talons to rip a still-beating heart from his butchered, collapsing chest, turn my wings skyward to soar into the sun, and take my first oozing, red, victorious bite!

While on the cusp of the pass, he secured a choke which I decided to neglect. “He can’t strangle me from side mount.” But the choke suddenly got tighter; and I decided, in an obviously delusional and feverish reverie, to double-down on his gamble. So I tried to slap an armbar on his far-side arm while he was strangling me. “He’s going to have to let go of the choke, or I’ll catch this armbar easy as Sunday mornin’.”

And the next thing I remember is looking up at a stadium ceiling with a ref holding both my legs in the air. I was babbling nonsense (more than usual) as he lifted my opponents hand, and made me sit down on a chair for a while. Apparently getting strangled unconscious is confusing for a brain…even the brain of a flaming, golden hawk demi-god. Who knew?5

So I did pretty well and got second place. It was not quite the showing I had wanted, due in part to circumstances beyond my control. But competition is about rising above the challenges set before us, by both chance and circumstance. Period.

Many thanks to my opponents, especially the guy in the finals who took first place in the division, strangled at least four people unconscious that Saturday (but would take a seat and wait for them to be revived before expressing any emotion or celebrating whatsoever – pretty classy, if you ask me), and ended up taking second place in the absolute division. Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch up with you, my audience, next week.—————–

Oh, one last thing. For my loyal readers, I must apologize for not updating last week. As you might have guessed, it’s been a pretty hectic week. But I’m going to continue to…well, aspire to update once a week. Sorry, and thanks!

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1. Five or six weeks ago, I could hardly do 14 push-ups before collapsing in a giant heap of Pathetic (as I previously mentioned). Now I can do around 25. Progress, people. This is called progress.

2. Modeled after their instructor, Jason Ebarb.

3. I don’t need to be exhaustive with the details, as I am almost certain all my matches were taped. As soon as I get my hands on the tape, I’ll post them for your viewing pleasure.

4. I changed imagery because I’m listening to Led Zeppelin now.

5. I probably knew.

Karate Chop Writer’s Block

When I don’t have anything to say, I peruse the internet until I figure out something worth saying, worth writing, worth being read. Though sometimes, just sometimes, I find the bottom of the internet before finding something to say. While I am unsure as to whether this video is worth five minutes of your time, I, for one, could neither turn it off or look away.

Now, having watched that video, I kinda want to be the very model of a modern major-general.  And I don’t even know what that means!

The San Antonio Abu Dhabi Pro-Trials is set to begin next Saturday, November 26th. A sponsor was nice enough to take care of the registration fee for me yesterday. So I am definitely going. No turning back now – despite my desperate longing for turkey and ham and stuffing and mashed potatoes and the like. A man, for pity’s sake, cannot live on pizza from across the street alone.1

Piecing together what happened with the facts, I am almost certain this is what happened to my ankle.

You know, minus the whole me-being-Cro-Cop thing…and my teammate (a) kicking me straight in the face and (b) being Gonzaga thing. It was a bad fall from a single-leg, and a total accident. To borrow a phrase used about jiu-jitsu by a man wiser than I, “It’s not a cooking class.”2

Unfortunately, I must cut this entry short. Sorry my audience, and thanks for reading!  Until next Wednesday!3

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1. Though I am thoroughly testing the limits of that statement.

2. Surprisingly – or not – things can go wrong in kitchens too:

3.  I’m holding myself to the deadline this week, I swear!

My First Injury

My ankle got mucked up a bit on Tuesday while fighting for a takedown. It got me thinking about my first injury on the mats.

What do I remember?

I remember the old academy in Elsa, TX. For those of you who do not know (most of you, I presume), Elsa is one of the poorest cities in the United States. In fact, I would venture to say that most of my readers have never seen the face of poverty as it can be seen in Elsa.

The school was a white-walled number, small, reminiscent of an old thrift store which had, for one reason or another, gone out of business. Two-thirds of the available mat space we had was covered with tattered, black puzzle mat pieces which had long ago stopped fitting together. The final third was matted properly and, if class was small enough, everyone would try to stay on that side.

My cousin and I had gotten into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu together. He had wrestled in high school and had a certain aptitude for the training. I did not, and could just never beat the guy. All the same, we were competitive as shit.

This was August 2006 – if I remember correctly – and we had both been training for about six months. So we started one of our matches which, naturally, would be fought until the death. What else are two competitive family members to do? And as was nearly always the case, he got top. Then he passed my guard, transitioned into north-south, and secured an americana. Damn it. Back in those days, it was as easy as breathing for him.

But I refused to surrender.

Why? Because I’m a flexible guy. My flexibility is going to save me, as it has so many times before. “Actually, my arm comfortably bends like that.” He’s beginning to apply the submission. “Nope, that submission does. not. even. bother. me.” Twist, twist, crank. “In fact, is it even possible to finish an americana from north-south? Can I get a ruling? I bet it’s not. He’s trying to do something that does not even work.”

Then came a long, sustained wrenching. Wrist pinned helplessly to the mat, the ligaments and tendons in my arm could resist no longer. My elbow gave one last push-against, before relenting and being thrown passed any sensible angle. I heard and felt two very distinct pops, like the snapping of celery. In my arm.

But it did not really hurt at the time, to be honest. The three of us figured, maybe, nothing had happened. Maybe my arm really is made of rubber. Maybe I really am Mr. Fantastic.

Maybe the popping was the sound of my arm breaking the fucking laws of physics.

Well, I woke up in the morning and the whole ‘not injured’ delusion was quickly dispelled. My arm could not extend beyond 60 degrees, and my fingers weren’t working. They just would not. Oh, I’d tell them to extend or move. But nothing would happen. Incidentally, that day was the first day of the fall semester. I still remember having to take notes with my left-hand in my Contemporary Philosophy class. It was awful.

But I was 20 years-old at the time, so the injury healed quickly. In particular, my fingers were usable in a few days and back at 90% in less than two weeks. My arm regained most of its flexibility back in six weeks, and I was back on the mats a microsecond after that.  Why?  Well, the first step was to heal.  The second step?  Avenge the loss!

Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

My arms are refusing to bend right now.1 Why, you might ask?

The one on the right, that’s why.

Actually, they do bend. But, Holy Moses, it feel like a thousand steely needles forged in the heart of a thousand suns stabbing a thousand points on my triceps and chest when they do bend. I need to toughen up. I am toughening up, damn it.

All this preposterously disproportionate suffering got me wondering “What causes soreness, anyway?” What the hell is going on in my muscles? Isn’t lactic acid somehow involved? Did I injure myself in some capacity?

Let’s start at the beginning.

‘Preposterously Disproportionate Suffering Because Of 100 Push-Ups On Saturday’ is better known as ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.’2 I thought DOMS was caused by excess lactic acid in the muscles. During strenuous exercise, lactic acid is one of the byproducts of the chemistry which provides muscles with energy and is produced faster than can be removed by the muscle tissues. The excess build-up, I believed, took a few days to fully remove and was what causes soreness. This, as it turns out, is unlikely to be correct.

“Several myths surround the issue of muscle soreness. One misconception is that muscle soreness is due to lactic acid accumulation. It is known, however, that lactic acid is removed from the muscle within 40 to 60 minutes following an intense bout of exercise (muscle soreness usually occurs within a day or two.)”3

Well I’ll be damned. What the hell is the answer then? As it turns out, the exact causes of DOMS are not entirely known.

The strenuous use of skeletal muscles has been documented to cause damage to its own intricate parts, in and around the nanometer scale.4 To begin the healing process, the body triggers the inflammatory response in the damaged areas. This inflammation, it is hypothesized, triggers a process which leads to an increase in the mechanical sensitivity of the pain receptors in said areas. While washing my hair on a normal day, the muscles in my arms would send signals like ‘light pressure’ or ‘some stretching.’ But these past three days, those signals have been stamped over, replaced by ‘preposterously painful pressure,’ or ‘stupendously sharp stretching.’ Or ‘Hey Stupid, stop using your arms.’To finish that theory, it is worth mentioning that this ‘sensitivity-increasing process’ which the pain receptors undergo is believed to take some time. If demonstrated, the fact would fit nicely with the observed delay in the onset of soreness.

At the end of the day, it is worth reminding you, my audience, that the exact details regarding the relationship between damage, inflammation, and soreness are still not understood.5 Sorting through any of the really detailed accounts of the relationship is out of the scope of both this blog and, frankly, this author. My brain almost melted. Seriously. What I leave you with, my audience, is the currently proposed explanation of why we get sore after rigorous exercise. It is probably correct in its major themes, but is subject to revision in its precise detail. Or, at least, that is what the landscape looks like to this humble layman.

Thanks for reading.

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1. My Cheeto finger has healed though!

2. Actually, it was 15 push-ups, collapse from muscular exhaustion, mutter a whole host of bad words, then 85 girl push-ups. Don’t. Judge. Me.

3. Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, by Peter Kokkinos, pg 111, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2010

4. “What has been observed to accompany soreness are ultrastructural disruptions of myofilaments, especially at the Z-disc, as well as damage to the muscle’s connective tissues.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOMS.

5. Ken Nosaka, in Skeletal Muscle Damage and Repair, pg 59, ends his introductory paragraph on soreness with “Although DOMS is an extremely common symptom, its underlying mechanisms are not clearly understood, nor are the reasons for the delay.”

A Brief Aside

I’ve got a science entry in the works at the moment.  However, it’s not quite ready to see the light of day.  I still need to poke around a bit, read up on sources, check citations, etcetera, etcetera.  But it’s been a week, and that means update time.

So here is a little something to hold you, my audience, off for a day or two. It’s a lovely quotation, one of my favorites, which I earmarked to have read at my own funeral someday.  I share it with you now.  Thanks for your patience.