On Dislocated Fingers

Last Tuesday, after a night of really hard rolls, I noticed my ring finger on my left hand was a little tender. In the morning I woke up and discovered my middle knuckle was as large as a quarter. This. Sign. I know this sign. My right hand has a ring finger that won’t straighten anymore, and whose knuckle remains to this day as large as a nickel (where it was once as large as a quarter). My left ring finger must’ve gotten at least partially dislocated somewhere in one of my rolls without me noticing.

Then Thursday (I believe it was), I felt my hand get caught in someone’s gi as they were passing. As he established his position in side mount, I noticed some strange and hard-to-describe pain – something along the lines of a dull, radiating type of pain that you’d feel in your joint. I yanked my hand from where it was awkwardly caught, and took a gander. Behold! What did I see?

Dislocated Finger

My goddamn pinkie! My goddamn pinkie was bent in a way that it should not bend.

I verbally tapped.1 Then I took a big-boy breath, grabbed my pinkie with my right hand, prepared for a 10 out of 10 on the This Is Going To Fucking Hurt Scale, and pulled my dislocated digit away from my body to realign everything, then gently lowered it back in place. Let me just say, putting my finger back in place hurt a lot less than I initially imagined. And that managed to take the awkward bend out of it, as in everything appears to be in working order (albeit more than slightly beat up and exceedingly swollen right now).

For those of you who don’t know, finger rehabilitation is painful. It is really preposterously painful. After a good dislocation, the ligaments in your finger tighten and, as a result, you lose some range of motion with respect to extension and retraction. Well, to get all the degrees of extension and retraction back, you have to make your finger bend. You have to slowly, forcibly straighten your crooked finger. Then you have to slowly, forcibly retract/bend your straight finger. With the tournament on Saturday, all things being equal, I’d really like to use my fingers while grappling AND so I’m on the veritable goddamn Finger Rehab Express. In the evenings after training (since this pinkie business), my apartment has likely sounded like the innermost torture chamber of a Gestapo prison, what with all the pain I am forced to vocalize.2 My friends sit around on the couch playing video games, and I want to wail away like the black lady in “The Great Gig In The Sky” as I force my pinkie to bend.

The Abu Dhabi Pro-Trials is this Saturday. I’ve trained like a madman, and am as ready as any man can be.  I’ll be sure to tape my matches, and plan to have a write-up finished by the Wednesday after. Thanks.

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1. And for those of you who know me, I NEVER verbally tap. There’s just something innately horrible about seeing one’s own body contorted in ways we know it shouldn’t.

2. I’m reading The Diary of Anne Frank right now.

The Tournament Diet

I woke up this morning and everything hurt. I guess I’m about two weeks into my training for this upcoming tournament. Good lord I am ridiculously sore. My wrist hurts. My back hurts. I’m also training everyday, and wake up exhausted – regardless of how much sleep I get. Sunday, I stuck my face into someone’s chest while performing a double-leg, and now I have a rub burn on my forehead. Needless to say, I’m a bit of a wreck right now, and am complaining aloud right now. Sorry.

Diet Considerations.

What really kills me about competing is controlling my diet. Since I started lifting weights about 9 months ago, every three or four weeks or so, I have been gaining a pound. So instead of walking around in the mid to high 190’s, I discovered one horrific morning on January 3rd that I weighed 205 pounds. What. The. Hell.

Absolutely horrified – I had not weighed this much since I lived on campus (with free access to food almost all day) my sophomore year of college – I immediately jumped onto a very strict diet. As of this morning, January 17th (two weeks after starting my diet), I now weigh 190.8 pounds. My weight class for this competition is going to be ‘Under 183 lbs,’ sooo I’m almost there, still with a good two weeks and change before the tournament.

In principle, I could cut the remaining weight in a day IFI HAD TO, but the damn tournament was so hard last year that I’m reticent to exhaust myself the day before for weigh-ins. Each one of my matches was super difficult. I didn’t sub any of my opponents; and all the matches were close. This time, I’m going for a more conservative, smarter approach.

What am I eating? Essentially, I have four different meals that I allow myself to eat. What I feel like eating at the moment will determine what I cook.

The Mighty Four Meals:

  1. 48 Almonds and black, plain coffee
  2. Chicken breast (cooked on a cast-iron skillet) marinated with lemon juice, garlic, and maybe a pepper or two.1 A ½ spring-mix, ½ spinach salad big enough to cover the other half of my plate (about three cups worth), sprinkled with a nut/seed mix, and dried cranberries. A tablespoon of olive oil for dressing, but I can eat it plain too.
  3. Three eggs and 4 slices of bacon.
  4. A cup of oatmeal, plain.

Usually, diet considerations are not a matter of increase but decrease. For most people – this is certainly true for me – it’s more important to cut out the superfluous shit everybody eats every day. No more burgers. No more eating preposterously large portions, when portions that would sate most human beings would do just fine. No more sodas. No more pizza. No more goddamn carbs – damn do I miss bread sometimes, though.

Once a week, I give myself a cheat meal. Last week’s was a double-cheeseburger. This week, I cheated with Indian food. My small daily indulgence is fruit juice. If I had a rigorous workout before the meal – the kind of workout that makes your hands and legs shake, that takes you to that dark head-space where you begin to have thoughts like, “This guy is going to have to kill me to beat me,” or “If I do one more squat, I’m going to fucking keel-over and faint (and I hope this shyster-bastard weight kills me when I fall face-first2) BUT I am going to do it anyway. Because fuck it. Because death before dishonor. Because I don’t love winning so much as I HATE losing – then I pour myself a modest glass of cranberry juice (or grapefruit juice) to enjoy with the meal.

Of course, to lose all this weight, I’m also doing an assload of exercise. But really, the exercise is to prepare myself for the tournament, not to lose the weight. I’d be doing as much exercise if I was already on weight. It’s a matter of earning some competitive advantage against your opponents; and exercise is part of that game.

Just thought I’d post an update about the tournament training, now that I’m ~12 pounds lighter than I was two weeks ago. Thanks for reading.

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I spent the first hour of my morning debunking various pieces of the “Sandy Hook is a Hoax” insanity. I swear to god people are dumb enough to believe anything. Claims like these about a coverup, government conspiracy come from the same people who say that government is overly bureaucratic and inefficient. I wish they cared enough or were intelligent enough to recognize they held contradictory beliefs on the ability of our government. People need to be more skeptical.

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1. I used tilapia for 4 meals or so, but I could not quite figure out how to cook it correctly. Occasionally, I switch out the chicken breast with beef of some kind. I’m looking forward to trying it with some cut of pork in the near future.

2. I really did have these series of thoughts on the 17th rep of a 20-rep set of Super Squats. It’s hard to explain, as I’m a perfectly rational human being. When you trap someone into a corner – by making them desperately tired, for example – there is a whole new set of thoughts which crop up. Close, competitive matches that bring you to the brink of your physical limitations force spontaneous eruptions of…insanity, of a kind of competitive insanity.

A very gentle, soft-spoken teammate of mine had me in a choke yesterday. It was not secured properly, but he tried to secure it as tight and awkwardly as he could. Exhausted and considering tapping, my damn lapel was covering my mouth, forcing me to breathe through my nose. Our match had been high-intensity too. Knowing I could not stay there indefinitely eating this choke, I burst from the position, fought for the top, secured and finished a triangle during our scramble. Later, he and I laughed about it after picking up the mats. “I knew the choke was not in there, but I said to myself ‘Hey, I never get here with Justin. I’m going to try to cut his chin off with his own lapel; I might as well try.’” ← His actual words.

The Happy New Year Entry

Happy New Year.

The Abu Dhabi Pro-Trials is coming up February 2nd, 2013. This was the tournament two Thanksgivings ago, the one where I took second place by being strangled unconscious. Some 14 months ago, I have a new belt now. And I’m hoping to have to another excellent showing – preferably WITHOUT the whole “being strangled completely unconscious” thing.

What am I doing for the lead-up to this tournament? Well, lots. Lots, and lots, and lots.

Monday and Wednesday afternoon, I go to Atomic Athlete to lift weights for functional strength. We’re somewhere inside a strength cycle right now…which means I’m sore everywhere all the time. Olympic lifts are as technically demanding as they are exhausting. I can’t make any sense out of it.

If you’ve never done a snatch before, you are probably looking pretty credulously at the (presumed) 95 pounds he’s lifting. But…seriously…it’s really, super fucking hard.

You know, the strangest thing about being stronger (having now been lifting weights for 9 months now) is that I get more tired moving my own bulk around. Too though, I get less tired exerting myself against another person’s bulk, because they are subjectively ‘less heavy’ than they were – now that I’m much stronger. Another person’s bulk (whatever their size) represents less of my total strength than it did 10 months ago. So rolling with someone heavier than me (in particular, getting smashed by heavier, stronger guys) is much, much less exhausting than it used to be. It is also a much less viable way to beat me.

In my opinion, the conclusions which can be drawn about the benefits of weight-lifting for one’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game are more subtle, less straight-forward than the weight-lifting enthusiasts would purport.1

My single greatest take-away lesson from this past tournament was that I was pretty tired during my matches – even though I managed to recover reasonably well in-between the matches themselves. My old standard was “If I have been training regularly AND can run between 3-5 miles in a reasonable time without having a heart-attack, I’m probably up for this tournament.” This last tournament, I was in the kind of shape I normally bring to tournaments, yet I still got tired. Is this because I’m having to move my heavier, now-muscular ass around? Possibly. I’m not sure, but this is currently my pet theory.2

All that to say, I’m also going to implement a regimented running program on Thursdays and Sundays. If my muscles demand more oxygen, I’m going to need more cardiovascular endurance. And as it happens, running is something I know a little bit about. Just spitballing here, I’m going to look to start putting in competitive times for five-mile runs, along with some proportion of intermittent sprinting. We’ll see if that doesn’t sort me out. If not, I would be comfortable in asserting that cardiovascular strength was not the problem in either this past or this upcoming tournament. We shall see.

There are associated dietary changes for upcoming tournaments, along with changes in the way I train. But I’ll talk about that some other time!

Does functional, Olympic-style weight-lifting improve your ability to affect your jiu-jitsu game?

Yes. A yes with footnotes, a few catches, a caveat here and there.

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Oh, one last thing. Here is my LOVELY Sam Harris throwing a shoutout to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the middle of his article entitled “FAQ on Violence.” Excerpted below…:

“I do not believe it is irrational to prepare for very low-probability events which, should they occur, would produce the worst suffering imaginable for oneself and those one loves. And, as I pointed out in my essay on self-defense, the actual probability of encountering violence, even in the relative safety in which most of us now live, is not as remote as many people think.

There are also psychological and social benefits to self-defense training, which offer further reasons to engage in it. If I thought, for instance, that practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu made people more fearful and neurotic, I wouldn’t recommend it—or I would tell people to do the absolute minimum to familiarize themselves with the problem of grappling on the ground. But I think BJJ makes people much more confident in the world (and for good reason). The art is extraordinarily useful—in the unlikely event that one needs it—but it also brings many other benefits. Thus, preparing for violence in this way need not be justified by a narrow focus on statistics. Whatever the likelihood of needing to use it for self-defense, BJJ is a good thing to learn.”

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1. In particular, the most difficult formulation of this question (in my opinion) goes something along these lines: Would I have performed better at my last tournament if, instead of lifting weights once and then training BJJ, I had ONLY trained BJJ? Instead of cross-training, what if I spent all that extra exercise time on the mats? Training 6 days out of the week (three of those days being two-a-days) SURELY would have had some significant impact on my showing this past tournament.

2. I could also be getting older. I started competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments at 21-years-old, after all.