Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Focus, Force, Faith, and more Black Eyes

Nova Uniao Pro Wrestling Training 

There is like absolutely like no way to get out of MMA sparring without getting your face jacked up. When I first got to Brazil I met this guy who had an incredibly low opinion of white belts and he used to berate me all of the time. After drilling one afternoon at Connection Rio he decided to impart some impeccable wisdom to me. He told me to "be better" (with his snide English accent). Well thats how I feel after getting punched several times with small MMA gloves. I really need to be better if I want to avoid black eyes, get grounded and pounded, and getting tossed around by all the people that are bigger than me.

Note on being small: if you look up at the picture of the team you'll note that that would be virtually everyone on the team that is bigger than me with the exeception of Michelle, who is a black belt, so that doesn't count because she is a beast. In situations where I get picked up and tossed around, SHE gets picked up and then clings to the person's body, climbs to the limb that she wants, and submits them. It's actually quite funny to watch because she is so tiny, but she can hurt sooo much. She makes side control feel like a submission (and it's not, its just a position meant to keep you immoblized)

So, in respects to sparring, just think about it. Typical boxing gloves/ heavy bag gloves weigh 16 ounces. Most people train with 14 or 12 ounce gloves, I personally use 12oz Machina gloves (although they look like they are 10oz). Muay Thai and Kickboxing fights traditionally use 10 ounce gloves, BUT, if you try to use 10 ounce gloves during sparring someone is probably going to be mad about it.

Submission grappling with Ronys Torres

Now MMA gloves, on the other hand, are a meager 4 ounces of padding. That’s virtually nothing, so we definitely don’t spar with 4oz gloves… that would be ridiculous. We spar with gloves that are between 4-7 ounces (because thats a lot better right?). I have a nice pair of Venum gloves that I really like but they are too small for me to spar in, so I was given a pair of Pretorian gloves to use instead. These gloves have a little bit more padding, but they are no where near the size of boxing gloves but that doesn't stop us from going all at it in them. 

So, like I was saying, it’s nearly impossible to go at it with those tiny little gloves and not get your face, or some other part of your body, jacked up. I mean there is always the wise decision to wear a headgear, but frankly, that rarely happens. 

The big problem for me is that if you don’t have shin guards or knee pads you’re not allowed to kick or throw knees (obviously), and my MiKiDo shin guards do not qualify (they are really just the illusion of protection, but in all actuality, provide no padding what so ever). So, that means I’m the tiniest/shortest person on the team, with a kickboxing background, and I’m not allowed to kick. That leaves me to rely on my boxing and my amazing wrestling skills (by amazing I mean almost nonexistent). I really hate wrestling, so invariably, it's what I train the most. Training with Claudinha has also really inspired me to improve my wrestling. She is exceptionally adept at throwing people to the ground, and frankly I'm not too excited about the idea of getting my ass tossed around like a doll. 

At first, ok probably still, during wrestling class or sparring I would be scared to do take downs because I don't want to look like an idiot (also, take downs gone wrong generally lead to chokes). Even worse would be when I have to go up against Lu, who fights 3 weight classes above mine in Rona Rousey's division. She is also the girl that I know the least on the team, so needless to say, I was a little worried she would use excessive force on my small frame. Well, it turns out, my fears were unfounded. She, like the rest of the people on the team, was just there to help. Inevitably, I ended up on the ground, but I managed to get a lot of tips and help with my wrestling in the process. 

On another Jiu Jitsu related  note... 
Finally got the last two strips on my white belt!

IBJJF: Rio Open
I’m finally able to compete after two months of being injured. It feels so good to be able to train full time again. Since being injured I switched the focus of my training from BJJ to MMA. As a result, I had to leave Terere's and start training BJJ at Nova Uniao. It was definitely a hard decision since Terere is such a good friend and an amazing teacher, but in the end, my goal is to fight MMA and there is no better place to do that than Nova Uniao. Since there are no MMA fights coming up that I know of, I’m going to compete Jiu Jitsu. My first competition for Nova Uniao team will also be my first IBJJF competition.

 (Note: for the non-Jiu Jitsu people, the IBJJF comps are the ones that matter. 1 IBJJF gold medal is worth the more than the other 7 gold medals I’ve won from smaller federations. I missed out on the IBJJF Brasileiros because of my shoulder).

After Rio Open I hope I’ll be able to get my blue belt because it seems like I may have gotten myself into a white belt purgatory...

An important note to aspiring white belts: When you’re trying to get your blue belt, don’t keep switching gyms! Loyalty is a big issue in the BJJ community. You train at one gym and you represent one gym in competitions.

The concept is very similar to that of a gang, when have you ever seen the Bloods and the Crips sharing the best techniques about how to pull off a drive by? Never, right? In a similar fashion, a lot of traditional BJJ gyms discourage cross training at different academies.

The girls from Nova Uniao

Places like Renzo Gracie PA outright prohibit it in their rules (with the exception of affiliate gyms). Other places like Nova Uniao just subtlety transmit the idea by ripping your patches off your gis… I get yelled at there for wearing Renzo Gracie shirts turned inside out, all they can see is black, but they know what it is. Not everyone cares though, academy’s like Terere's gym could care less. I go to Terere's with my Renzo Gracie rashguard and my Nova Uniao Kimura gi that Claudinha gave to me, and Gordo Jiu Jitsu stickers on my laptop and nobody notices… I actually got complements on the gi.

So if you want to save yourself a headache, it’s important to find the right gym for you because it’s like a family, and they expect a certain degree of loyalty and respect. I, however like to do things the hard way, in an attempt to find the right training combination with BJJ and MMA, have switched gyms twice. As a result, I’ve screwed myself into a white belt purgatory and I now have no idea who the hell is going to give me a blue belt. 

~Get Hip~
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