Friday, November 21, 2008

Bloody Hell!!!!!!

I am scared.
I am not ready.
I competed last year.
My wife will not let me.
I got promoted too early.
I do not trust the referees.
I need to work on my cardio.
I cannot afford to get injured.
I am not as good as those guys.
I do not want to let the team down.
I am still working on my game-plan.
Everyone will remember if I do badly.
I have not been training much recently.
I am just not in the right mindset right now.
I retired from competing once I got this belt.
I cannot get down to my weight-class that quickly.

And so the slippery slope of excuses for not competing goes.

Bar one excuse I have never heard; I only have one leg.

Here is something that will inspire you; a video of a lady with one leg competing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2008 Pan Pacs

Another great competition spoilt by the way it was again unfortunately run!! Hurry up and wait once again became our mantra for the day. I'll just point out a couple of areas in which I and I'm sure just about everyone who competed reckon could be improved upon -
One set of scales are you kidding me????
An assigned official to each division/group who/what/where????
Open Weight divisions being called to weigh in? What the?????
Being called to weigh in at 0930 and then not actually weighing in until 1230.....

On the plus side the competition was of an extremely high standard and the sportsmanship displayed exemplary. The officials were fair although a universal interpretation of the scoring system needs to be refined. I particularly enjoyed watching the many black belts compete this year and will finish with this:

Please Peter de BEEN run the VICS/AUS CUP/PAN PACS

Apart from all of the above I still had a good day. Pommie Paul and Travis were first up in the 79kg white belt no gi division. Both fought very well with Trav getting pipped on points in his first match and Paul winning his first match with a nice armbar and then losing his second match on points. I lost my first no gi match by a point but was still happy with my performance. Jeroen psyched out his opponent in the purple belt gi 97+kg division and went straight through to the final. Dave was up on points in his first Blue belt 85kg Gi match then got caught in an armbar towards the end. Trav again fought very well in his first Gi match going down on points and Pommie Paul won 3 matches before losing his forth on points. I managed to win my first two gi matches then got armbarred in 17 seconds by one of Rodney ELLIS'S boys from Southern Cross Jiu Jitsu in the semi-final. He went on to win the division which gave me the bronze medal. Dave fought the same guy in No Gi and lost by an advantage. Jeroen had an extrememly tough Gi match against a monster and lost on points to take the silver medal. Rickasauros of course squashed everyone who dared step on the mat with him and took out the Gold Medal in the Open Weight Adult White Belt division. He pulled out of the Gi division because competing at 10 PM wasn't that appealing after a long day of Hurry Up and Wait!!!!!!!!!

I'm slowly uploading all of the action on to YOUTUBE so if you type in 2008 Pan Pacs in the search engine you'll find them. There are already a number of fights up there from other people including Jeroen's first No Gi match. See you on the mat....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You gotta love the 90's!!!!!!

In 1994 a tae Kwon Do instructor told Scott Tannenbaum that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was unrealistic against a skilled karate practitioner. Scott had 1 year of Jiu-Jitsu while the Tae Kwon Do instructor had 9 years experience. To make it more interesting Scott was not allowed to punch, elbow or knee. The TKD instructor could. Scott could only win by submission on the ground since the TKD guy said there was no way he could be taken down. Here is the result......

After the first match up the TKD instructor claimed he wasn't ready and it was a fluke that he had got taken down. Scott decided to give him another chance.....

Relax and Breathe

Again more from Stephan Kesting. This article reinforces what Jeroen repeats to us on a daily training basis. Don't hold your breath!!!!!

Breathing, Oxygen and Exhaustion

For the past two weeks I have been talking about breathing, concentrating on unusual situations, like hyperventilation and the Valsalva Maneuver. I should probably have started out by talking about something that is a bit more universally applicable.

Let’s talk about this: no breathing equals no oxygen equals total exhaustion.

It's storytime: a few months ago I was talking with a very frustrated and discouraged grappler. For the sake of this story, let’s call the grappler ‘Fred’. Anyway, ‘Fred’ was a fit guy who did lots of cardiovascular conditioning to help him with his endurance, but had an unusual problem with his grappling. In his own words:

“The situation seems to occur when I train against new people who are very aggressive, usually wrestlers. I try to relax, but it doesn't seem to be working. I still seem to tense up and gas out. But when I fight guys who are so much better than me I can train for a long time and even roll for 30-40 minutes at a time with minimal breaks.”

In other words he had MORE endurance when he was sparring advanced people who kicked his butt than he did when he was grappling aggressive beginners.

It took some experimentation and discussion, but what we finally discovered was that he was holding his breath while fighting certain types of opponents. When he grappled beginners he tensed up and held his breath because he did not want to tap, or get schooled, by a beginner.

Against advanced grapplers he knew he was going to tap: he could accept that they were more skilled than he was, could concentrate on putting up a good fight and doing his best on the mat.

His anxiety was causing him to hold his breath. No breathing equals no oxygen equals total exhaustion.

The solution was fairly simple: he had to concentrate on his breathing before all else. He started to focus on inhalation and exhalation while doing pushups, while doing Yoga and especially while grappling.

Fred also used a fairly simple tool to ensure he wasn’t holding his breath while grappling: every 5 or 10 seconds he would check in on his breathing and ask himself if he was holding his breath. Submissions, body positions and techniques were all secondary to focusing on the breath, making sure that it continued to flow in and out during the heat of the battle.

Here is what happened in Fred’s words:

“When it came time for sparring, I picked one of the heavier aggressive guys to go against. I did what you said and kept reminding myself to breathe. Every 5-10 secs I was just saying to myself breathe, breathe, and breathe. I wasn't even thinking 'too hard' about my attacks and defense, I just wanted to relax and flow.”

“But you know what happened, I was thinking so clearly. I subbed this guy 5 times in 5 minutes! I have never subbed anyone that many times before in that amount of time. I hit triangles (I suck at triangles, trust me) twice, two of your kneebars, and then the ‘Minotauro’ choke.”

“The important thing was I wasn't even trying, it was weird. I mean I wasn't lying like a log, but I was just focusing on breathing rather than just trying to 'fight'. And everything was so clear. I even let this guy take my back and pass my guard, but I recovered easily.”

“The next rolling partner I had was a solid blue and I asked him to just smash me. He did smash me, but I wasn't gasping from escaping. I kept breathing and just trying to remember good posture. It was really good. I gave him a tough time and he really had to work to get me.”

“The next partner was probably the same level as me. I kept the breathing concept in mind and I nailed some more moves I don't easily pull off normally in sparring.”

Things went really well for the next couple of weeks. So well, in fact, that he decided to enter a NAGA tournament:

“Well since everything has been going so well thanks to you I am gonna put my money where my mouth is and compete in NAGA in 2 weeks. My wrestling is something that needs improvement but I feel confident enough that my other attributes will even things out.”

Shortly thereafter I received an email from Fred: below you can read parts of it:

“Stephan! I won my division in NAGA. Thanks so much for all your help. I was doing well with my breathing until the finals, where I left it all on the mat. I did not notice I was breathing a lot until they called time and I felt the exhaustion. But no one scored any points on me and I got some nice armbars … Throughout my matches I did the breathing check every 10 seconds. If you told me to compete in NAGA 2 months ago I would have laughed and thought you were crazy.”

If you find your endurance fading unexpectedly, be it when fighting certain types of opponents or in certain situations (competition at tournaments, sparring at other clubs, etc.) the FIRST thing you could do is to ensure that you aren’t holding your breath. Ask someone to watch you, and/or do an internal breathing check every 5 or 10 seconds. Think a little bit less about technique and constantly remind yourself “breathe, breathe and breathe!” You may be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Grappling with Competition Anxiety

Thanks to Stephan Kesting for his advice on comp nerves.

I don't do a lot of competition these days, and I do miss it (and the wonderful focus it adds to your training). One thing I DON'T miss, however, is the stomach churning anxiety that accompanied competition. Basically on the day of a competition I became an emotional wreck: moody, grumpy, nervous, and asked myself again and again "why am I doing this". All these emotions dissolved pretty quickly once the matches started and I had to focus on grappling with a real opponent rather than with my fears and worries. After the competition, if I'd performed up to my potential, I was usually deeply satisfied and eager to do it all over again.

Interestingly there was a period of time when I felt considerably less pre-competition anxiety. This was a two year span when I was competing fairly often: I participated in submission grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments, but I was also competing in Firefighter Combat Challenge events ( Although the Combat Challenge was a very different event than a BJJ tournament I definitely felt that there was a carryover effect; there were still crowds, cameras and the potential to screw up royally.

Somehow with competition being a more regular feature of my life, as opposed to something I maybe did once a year, I started feeling less nervous. I can't say I ever felt normal while waiting to compete, but it started to become a bit less stomach-churning, and eventually it started feeling a bit like it was just another day at the office. I attribute my decreased anxiety purely to the desensitization which results from repeated exposure to a stimulus. Get out there and do something often enough and eventually it will start to feel normal.

Interestingly enough this desensitization doesn't last forever (or at least not in my case). When I started competing less regularly the nerves came back just as strong as always

It's not that I think everyone has to force themselves to compete - many grapplers are happy to only 'compete' on the mats of their club via regular regular sparring. Some people just don't like competitions and this is perfectly OK. If you WANT to compete, however, and if you find your performance impaired by nerves and anxiety, you might want to see if you can break through the anxiety barrier by competing more, not less. Additionally, consider competing in any other sport that appeals to you, be that 10 kilometer runs, rugby tournaments or fly fishing contests. Like me, you may just find that there is a carryover anxiety-quelling effect from these other sports to your grappling competitions.