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.

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