The Christmas Entry

“I’d like to take a moment, as many people have, to just acknowledge the void that has been left by the death of our friend Hitch. While it might be possible to guess what he would have thought about a number of the topics raised here, it’s almost impossible to imagine how well he would have expressed those thoughts. The man had more wit and style and substance than a few civilizations I could name. So there’s nothing to do but take another moment to miss him.” – Sam Harris

I miss the Richard Burton boom of his voice, dirty limericks told at the drop of a hat, quoting lines and lines and lines of Hamlet from memory, and the stories of his travels.

Happy Holidays.

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“Death and The Present Moment” by Sam Harris

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The Hazards of Training

Or one of them, at least: Injury.

Two weeks ago, I went home for the first time in eight months or perhaps longer then that still. I’m not exactly sure. The last time I distinctly remember being home was when my ankle was still injured from tough Abu Dhabi Pro-Trials training. In any case, this time I went home without injury and had made the conscious decision to train with all my old friends back home.

So I arrive, and look up my two oldest friends still in the business of doing jiu-jitsu. Today some seven years now past since I first started training with these two individuals, they now hail from two separate academies. First on the agenda is going to visit my old instructor.

And visit him I did. He has a new location, a shared space with some CrossFit-types. It’s a far cry from the puzzle mats which NEVER fit together properly and two-students-is-a-good-class days when I first used to train with him. And he had a fair bit of students too, most surprisingly some of the old students I used to train with ~5 years ago.

Now I write to you, my audience, reaching for the words to describe those familiar feelings when you see old friends who’ve progressed so much since you saw them last. With that feeling too comes the knowledge that you yourself have progressed so much since you saw them last; so many things have happened. What? What is that feeling? The immeasurability of time. It just keeps passing, with or without our permission. I don’t know. I don’t know what that feeling is.

So after a lot of back-slapping and how-do-you-dos, my former instructor – now a seasoned brown belt – and I lock horns on the mats. We’re having a fairly competitive match for the first five minutes. It feels a bit strange, as this man first taught me how to do a triangle, how to do an armbar, how to control someone from the back, et cetera, et cetera. It feels strange now being competitive with someone who used to be able to beat me so goddamn handily back in the day. I realized, as we were grappling, that I have tough matches every day on the mats. In the city where I live, the BJJ community is large enough such that there are people who can push me wherever I need to be pushed. My Former Instructor lives in a very small community and does not have access to the same quality of training partners. I also get among the highest technical instruction available in Texas; and it shows NOT in that I think I am the Technique-God’s Gift to Jiu-Jitsu. Rather I would say when I’m rolling with someone, I can ‘feel’ whether or not this person is going to pose a legitimate threat by how they respond to technical problems which arise while rolling.

After about five minutes of back and forth – we were still warming up – the match started getting pretty heated. It’s just one of those things that happens. From mount, I went for an armbar. MFI managed to get on top, and successfully defend the armbar. His posture was immaculate, grips well-placed too, so I decided to open my guard to see if I could manage to open an avenue for attack. Now having placed him in butterfly guard, I reached into the back of his collar to start working on controlling his posture (eventually setting him up for a sweep, let’s say). With my hand in the back of his collar, he rolls my elbow up, and slaps on the fastest reverse-armbar ever seen Across The Seven Seas.

Reverse Armbar

Recognize, however, that he was in MY butterfly guard. Not the other way around.

And somewhere in my old sunnuvabitch brain I knew as he began to apply it: I was not tapping. Not to that. Consequences be damned. If someone’s in your guard, you can ALMOST NEVER be tapped. Position before submission. The days of tapping while in my guard are long since past.1

Then came those too-familiar popping sounds. Tendons and ligaments tear. Bones start to loosen from their cartilage hinge. But, just like the last time I refused to tap to something (has not happened since the days of my white belt career – and that was for very different reasons), there was surprisingly little pain. Warmth. What I felt in my elbow was warmth.

MFI stopped applying the submission and asked if I was okay. “Sure,” I said. I hadn’t made a single sound in pain. “I’m fine. Are you ready to continue?” I said, now warm-elbowed but as still and calm as the morning dew. He looked at me like I was crazy. And of course, I was. [I am.] We slapped hands and continued.

My approach may or may not have been along the same lines as the nightmare scene in The Cable Guy. I was armbarred as he feigns leaving at ~0:53. Then I recapitulate my attack with renewed vigor at ~1:13.

“I just want to consume your immortal soul on the mat. NO BIG DEAL!”

However, as you may be surprised to learn my audience, when tendons, ligaments and such get partially torn, the first thing that happens to that limb is the loss of stability. The second thing usually associated with partially-torn tendons/ligaments is loss of grip strength, or loss of finger articulation. I earned my full-mount, and intended to capitalize as tight and technically as I could. But my left arm was made out of rubber bands now. As I sunk my right grip deep into his lapel for the old Roger Gracie Special and carefully tried to swing the rubber band arm around his head to sink the other half of the choke, he blocked his lapel. Trying to sink the choke with 20-pounds of rubber bands for an arm, I realized, was pointless. Even if I could push my rope-of-an-arm through to where it needed to be, I could not realistically secure a tight enough grip to strangle an infant.

Five more minutes of futility pass, then our match ends. No victor. No points. A draw.

Was it worth it? That’s a hard question to answer. Since I’m injured now – I have something called Golfer’s Elbow – the obvious answer is “No, of course not, you ignorant bastard.” But in another sense, the answer is “Yes. Yes it was.” There, however, is where I must leave it.

Golfer's Elbow

After the holidays, tournament season is going to start up again. There’s a big one in February. Golfer’s Elbow takes up to six weeks to heal. It’s been two. Depending on how the rest of the recovery goes, I’m going to participate. Whatever the case, I’ll keep you informed, my audience. Thanks for reading. Happy Wednesday.

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1. Whether or not I had enough time to tap is really a separate question. I suspect the answer is ‘no.’ That fact, however, does not change the fact I was NOT going to tap to such a cheap submission.

Tales From Bouncing pt. 4

Sorry, my audience. I completely forgot that Friday I was scheduled to work from 2pm to 3am. Anyway. Where were we?

I released The King of Douchebags; and he immediately turned around and swung his wildest haymaker right at my face. The sloppy, looping, wide punch might have hit me, had it not been for the fact I was about three feet outside his range. When you’re drunk and untrained, gauging how far somebody is when you want to punch them perhaps is difficult.

I put my hands up and out as he began to approach me. He swings at me again, and I circle outside. Not that I know anything about striking, I should mention. But as a grappler, I have enough intuitive sense for both the things I do well and my own limitations. Either stay too far to be effectively struck, or too close – and for god’s sake, don’t stand there looking to exchange. I punch like a goddamn girl, anyway.

And I Choke Girls Too

[I also make sure to only fight people obviously weaker than me.]

After that second swing, I notice that one of my bouncers and KD’s Fat Friend are wrestling with one another on the street directly outside the club. What the hell has been happening while I was dancing with KD? Keeping one eye on KD (who is still approaching me with the intention of fighting, albeit slowly, drunkenly, slovenly), I moved quickly to pull Bouncer back inside. Bouncer has FF in knee-on-belly when the cops show up blowing whistles and flailing their hands. The authority we have over patrons inside the club does not extend outside the doors, I’m afraid. In principle, fighting in the street could get everyone in trouble, patron and bouncer alike.

Bouncer goes back inside, and FF walks away. But KD is still trying to fight me! He swings another wild one, and I circle out. Again, I’m refusing to engage – because I’ve never been in trouble with the law and am TERRIFIED of the cops. Absolutely terrified of police.

Four uniformed police officers have formed a perimeter around us, ten yards out, and are closing in.

“Hey!” one of them yells. I put my hands up – immediately recognizing a lawful order when I hear one – and keep circling. KD swings at me again. “Stop! STOP! I said–” the police officer puts his hand on the left arm of KD. And in a display of staggering stupidity, KD turns on his heels and punches the officer in the jaw. Jesus Christ. ‘That guy has just entered a world of shit,’ I remember thinking.

The officer temporarily reels from the punch. Having witnessed the whole thing, the other three officers IMMEDIATELY cascade-tackle/takedown O’ Most Unceremonious, Discarded Feminine Hygiene Product. The officer who was struck did not even have time to reply in kind. They cuffed KD, stood him up, and started questioning him.

And out of another display of sheer stupidity, FF showed up again – presumably to rescue KD in some capacity.1 Nice Guy points that moron out to the cops, and they arrest him too.2 Yes, all in a night’s work.

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1. That is, until KD found himself “in the rookers of the millicents” as Alex from A Clockwork Orange, would say.

2. Later, I got the story on FF from Bouncer and Nice Guy. Apparently after KD chicken-clucked his way to 2 and I grabbed him, FF immediately punched Bouncer. Nice Guy established a modified, standing back control, and, together with Bouncer (the guy was fat, remember), threw him out. Once out, FF grabbed Bouncer; and in one way or another, they ended up on the ground. Well…now don’t go threatening us with a good time.