Speaking of Spazzes.....

11:04 AM Moo 0 Comments

I read a really awesome post this morning from a blogger named Lex, called "Don’t Be a Spaz: Relax and Move Smoothly to Develop Precision. He offers some great tips for developing precision in your game and transitioning out of that awkward spastic phase. When I started Jiu Jitsu my greatest fear was having my arm ripped out of the socket. To compensate, I wildly thrashed about, threw my weight around and generally was probably quite a nightmare to roll with. The more I trained, my worst fear was being known as a spaz that nobody wanted to roll with. Sure, I still have my moments and I can be pretty clumsy. But as I became more comfortable defending myself as well as putting trust in my training partners, I have stopped feeling like everything is a fight to the death. In fact, I will actively allow myself to try positions where I am not my best.

Lex defines Spaz as "someone whose movement is explosive but lacks precision." This is not to say that being explosive is a bad thing, in fact I think it is one of my greatest strengths. As a beginner being a bit of a spaz is common and expected. You (we) are still learning to control your body and limbs as well as your opponent or partner. It can be quite daunting to realize that you have to take so many different aspects into account. I went through two distinct phases of spaziness. The first included having no idea where to put my hands or legs and passively waiting only to spend my final seconds panting heavily, making frames and spastically trying to defend the submission I should have prevented from happening in the first place. My second phase came once I had a bit more knowledge about techniques and positions. I was so eager to try certain moves that I couldn't focus on anything else. I was so keen to achieve the submission that I wanted it by any means necessary. The upper belts were quite good at counseling me (or choking me) until I chilled out. When I rolled with white belts my nervous energy typically triggered their own and we became two terrors on the mat. Lex offers some great tips and here are a few things that have really helped me.

1.Although I still have my moments, breathing has helped me immensely to calm down my rolls and to slow the pace of my movement no matter what my opponent is doing. 
2.Simply putting in mat time has been the most valuable in helping me develop my game. If you don't train you don't learn and if you're not learning you will never be comfortable effectively executing moves or defending yourself.
3.Reggae, as silly as it sounds, has been pretty invaluable. Reggae is something I have used in the past to calm me down, particularly before rugby tournaments, competitions and even plays when I was college. I have a permanent sound track in my head. Sometimes I put on music or catch myself singing a little Bob Marley or  J Boog while I  roll and it is hard to feel high strung, nervous or uptight.
4. Having boundaries. If there is someone who I know is spastic and refuses to reconsider their behavior, I wont roll with them. I learned this the hard way after being concussed by a former training partner (keep an eye out for my injury post). Someday, I imagine I will be in a place where I can effectively control people who spaz on the mat and not resort to playing their game. Until then, I am fine not rolling with them.

This is not to say that every white belt is a spaz or that you immediately stop being a spaz when you become an upper belt. In fact, I know many people who are close to achieving a new belt status who are so eager to get promoted (as well as recently promoted folks) that they go back to their first few weeks of training, cranking too hard, attempting to impress their professor and occasionally jeopardizing the safety of their partners. The goal for me is to always remind myself that I don't need to be the best, but I do need to progress in a safe environment and attempt to calm my rolls so I am never the reason someone else is uncomfortable or unable to progress. Realizing I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself took the pressure off and is helping me to develop into the Jiu Jitsu  practitioner I know I can be.


Women Crush Wednesday: Tara White

3:18 PM Moo 0 Comments

Sometimes on Wednesdays, I feature a Jiu Jitsu lady I admire! This week we have.....

"I never questioned my dream because of the feeling I had, so I just went for it!"

Nickname: The Taranator
Academy:  Jiu Jitsu League (Atos Long Beach)
Lineage :Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie Reyson Gracie > Osvaldo Alves > Luis Dagmar >André Galvão> Kevin Howell> Tara White
Belt Level:Blue Belt (achieved in 6 months)
Signature Position: Unknown
Weight Division: Heavy Weight

Why I love her: She is the number 1 ranked blue belt, is a champion in gi and no gi and she's an absolute machine on the mat! She is so skilled that she progressed from white to blue belt in a mere 6th months. She is as (if not more) entertaining to watch than most higher belts I have seen. She's may not be small, but she doesn't fear moving like she is. She is great on her back, pulls guard,moves quick and is technical as hell in addition to her powerful top game. Her explosive energy and background in football make her dangerous on the takedowns and prove she would be a force to be reckoned with in many sports. With her father being USC Heisman winner, Charles White, it's not surprising to see that athleticism runs in the family.

Best Asset: I most admire her aggressive nature and competitive spirit. Often female athletes are told to be humble and quiet,for fear of upsetting anyone or coming across unladylike.She is all woman and an incredibly fierce,strong, dominant,unapologetic one at that!  She totally won me over after her No Gi win against Gracie Barra blackbelt, Tammy Greigo. She handled her masterfully and came out with the win. Then she lifted her hands in the air, thumped her chest and said "That's what I'm talking about, baby. Atos Baby" before triumphantly striding off the mat.

If you don't know her now, you will very soon! She is going to do some big things in the Jiu Jitsu world!


BJJ: Empowerment, Boundaries and Assault

10:18 AM Moo 1 Comments

A Meme often circulated in BJJ networks from a  Kristina Barlaan self defense seminar.
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend about the benefits of BJJ and she remarked "and I bet it's nice to feel so comfortable defending yourself." She may not have thought much of the comment but it really resonated with me. Absolutely. Although not the only reason, this was a huge reason why myself and many women I know, started Jiu Jitsu to begin with. Having been assaulted in the past, I wanted to feel empowered and in control of myself. When it comes down to it, assault is usually not characterized by a need for sexual contact, but rather an abuse of power or desire to feel omnipotent. 

 Just this morning I received a message from a girl who was just beginning Jiu Jitsu, she is a rape survivor and was quite nervous about her training triggering any negative emotions about the assault. This is a very valid and understandable reaction. Everyone copes and deals differently. Many people have found  Jiu Jitsu to be very healing. BJJ is all about body awareness and is defined as a "combat sport, martial art and self defense system." In this way, it goes hand in hand with the idea of Somatic Therapy for traumas. Somatic therapy is  "an interdisciplinary field involving the study of the body, somatic experience, and the embodied self, including therapeutic and holistic approaches to body." When we have had a painful experience or a trauma we will carry not only the memory and feelings from that experience, but we will recall it physically as well. It is the bodies memory of the event. With somatic therapy, a person becomes aware of these sensations and uses their body to work through them, instead of burying them. It combats powerlessness through awareness, empowerment and self love. Somatic educator and Martial Artist, Paul Linden shares his experiences helping survivors of assault in his article Being in Movement :

Since 1987, most of the clients who have come to me for body education sessions have been adult survivors of child abuse. As a somatic educator and martial artist, I focus on a very body-oriented and practical view of the core problem in abuse. In my work, I have seen over and over again how issues of powerlessness and lack of safety play out in the bodies of people who have been abused, and I have seen how healing it is to help people create effective boundaries and on that basis live more fully in their bodies. "

I believe Jiu Jitsu does just this.Claiming ownership of your body is a feeling many people take for granted. For survivors of assault, it is imperative. I use the word survivor, instead of victim because I believe survivor makes us more than just a sound bite or a statistic. A survivor is a person who may have gone through hell but came back through on the other side. By nature and definition it is empowering. Jiu Jitsu challenges the notion of "weakness" by it's very essence. It is after all "the gentle art" that promotes the concept that size is of no obstacle. A smaller, weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger assailant simply through the use of technique and body mechanics. It not only teaches these techniques, but trains the mind to know that you are always worth defending.

I often hear people say "I should not have to teach my daughter how not to get raped, you should teach your son not to rape." This is a sentiment I agree whole hardheartedly with. In a perfect world this would be the case. Assault is never the fault of the person who is attacked. I realize while I cannot control the actions of others around me, I can control my body and how I use it. That knowledge and skill makes me a confident woman, but it also makes me self sufficient and highly motivated to prevent harm from ever being done to me. One of my favorite stories is that of the US Navy Sailor who wrestled a rapist to the ground, locked him in her guard and subdued him.

Does this mean it will work 100% of the time? No. But when faced with an attack, it means I will fight 100% of the time. Regularly training has allowed me to put myself in positions where I am not always comfortable. It has made me focus, breathe, work through the discomfort and come out on the other side, ultimately stronger and empowered and for me that is invaluable. Jiu jitsu has done more for me than I could even imagine. I gave gained back a part of myself I never thought I could. I have learned that I am stronger than I appear and I am confident in saying Jiu Jitsu has saved my life.


Competition Time in Gif Form

10:42 PM Moo 0 Comments

The second I got on the mat and realized my competitor was a Judoka

When I see people trying to pull off a kimura from inside the guard

When I thought there was someone in my weight class to roll with

How I felt as I attempted a flying arm bar

What I imagined it would look like.....

How ridiculous it actually looked....

When I was exhausted/dying on the mat and my boyfriend said he was going to ask the ref if I had to roll again...

When the Korean announcers say the name of another foreign competitor and look to me for confirmation..

 When my first opponent said she was too scared to roll with me and left the mat....

Standing on the podium awkwardly smiling while receiving an award for being the only one in your weight class....

How everyone warms up for a tournament....

How I warm up....

Trying to be cute when I notice the photographer zooming in....

When my corner is repeatedly shouting directions that I am trying my hardest to follow


The Strange Occurence That Was My Second Jiu Jitsu Competition.

10:12 PM Moo 0 Comments

My life is rarely average, but recently I've been getting pretty used to routine and a sense of normalcy, so I was a bit surprised with the exceedingly strange day that was my second tournament.

I woke up early this morning after playing tug of war with my boyfriend for blankets all evening, as he tends to run hot and I am always freezing. I was running on about 5 solid hours of sleep, but I figured it would all be fine when I got to the tournament. I felt nauseous and quite dizzy, but I chalked it up to nerves and left it at that.

When I arrived I was 6 pounds under and still had zero competitors in my weight class. This is pretty common in Korea, as Western Women typically outweigh the Koreans. The Weigh in staff member smiled at me and said "Yay, free trip to the absolute." They called me up so I could gladly accept my fatty gold. Think of it as a "pay to play" trophy. No one showed up, so we give you a gold for being heavy in Korea (69 kg-hardly heavy at home).

When absolute finally rolled around (hours later) I was called forward with another competitor. She looked at me, I glanced at her and I saw her untie her belt and walk away from the mats.  I figured they had changed our order or perhaps she was switching Gi's. The organizer walked over and said "she is forfeiting, she doesn't want to roll with you. Too scared." I thought he was joking, but after a minute of uncomfortable shifting around and apologizing in Korean and English, he said "Don't Worry I will change the brackets." I wasn't sure whether I should be flattered that she was intimidated or upset that she found me scary.

An hour later it was finally my turn to roll. I bowed to my opponent and wondered when I would be taking on the Judo competitor I had heard so much about. The second she lowered herself onto the mat, I knew it was her. The stand up game was nerve wrecking but I managed to resist 2 of her trips and a take down attempt. Finally tired of all the stand up I did something I have never done before: a flying armbar. In my mind, I was jumping her guard as I sailed through the air like a crazy spider monkey, landing on my back in position, before I could re-secure her arm. Again, no idea why I did this, but I recovered alright and moved into spider guard. Eventually she passed and caught me in side control. This is where I realized I had less weight to rely on. My first tournament I was able to use some brute strength to flip my opponents, rolling with this Judoka took all of the strength I had and I was exhausted. It went something like this: she reaches for my neck, I defend and attempt to break her guard, she reaches for my neck again, I defend again, attempt to remove her grips and spend the rest of my time trying to escape her guard before time is finally called. As I walked off the mat the photographer, obviously seeing my disappointment said "Don't worry, I have a sek-shi picture of you." Hahaha, only in Korea!

It was a difficult match and although I did my best, I couldn't help but be disappointed. Losing sucks, but I don't mind that part. I felt that I could have done more, tried more things but in the end I was just grateful to have been able to compete at all and very grateful to have support from all of my friends and team mates. Especially my boyfriend, who immediately came and dumped water on me even as I crankily yelled at him and pushed his hands away. I think he knew I was struggling.

After accepting my medals,I made my way home and the last thing I remember was saying bye to a friend before waking up on the floor of my elevator with a very confused neighbor.

Him: Maggie! Are you okay? I thought you were kidding?
Me: Huh? What?
Him: We were talking and you just sort of fell
Me: I did?
Him: Well, that is why we are both sitting on the ground of this elevator.
Me: Oh, yes, that makes sense.
Him: You don't sit here with neighbors, often do you?
Me: I suppose not. My head hurts did I hit my head?
Him: Well I caught you, but then I kind of dropped you on my shoe. So now we are sitting. Sorry.
Me: That's okay, I have a hard head.
Him: Let me get you some water and walk you back.

After another round of dizziness and nausea he took me to the doctor, who determined that I am the dumbest 27 year old athlete in the world. He said I had suffered heat stroke, brought on by dehydration and my temperature had reached 103. He asked what I had been doing all day and when I said Jiu Jitsu, but only one match, he said I was very lucky it had only been one. I suppose now I can be grateful for the distinct lack of competitors in the women's division. On the positive side, had I not gone to the hospital, I may have never known the magic that is Korean Melon flavored ice-ees! They gave me a nice little IV, Ice bath and some delicious popsicles before leaving me to my own devices.

Fail for Maggie's Jiu Jitsu, but a win for quiescently Korean frozen confection!

Next tournament is June 15th and I will definitely make sure my heatstroke doesn't make a reappearance! I did my best but next time my best will be better.


The BJJ Struggle is Real: In GIF form

7:02 AM Moo 0 Comments

When the upper belts are discussing some move and I follow their reactions because I have no idea what they are talking about...

Trying to escape  while rolling with my boyfriend

When my professor teaches an escape for a submission I have just perfected on other students....

Walking into class with a new Gi....

Me running to my team mate,White Bear, after she sees me struggling during a roll and decides to teach me a technique and drop some knowledge.

When I want fried chicken after training but everyone is cutting weight for competitions....

When my professor says step forward if you didn't roll last time....

When I realize the only person left is going to destroy me

When a new student tries to go all MMA on me but I know how to effectively defend myself with BJJ

Everytime I try on a Gi specifically made for women 

Trying to refresh the page when I saw no one was in my weight class for the next tournament....

Thank you to What Should We Call Me Tumblr for the awesome gifs!


BJJ Competition: What is Maggie Moo Doing to Prepare?

9:37 PM Moo 2 Comments

What am I doing? Or what should I be doing. Currently I am:
1. Nervously scarfing down PB&J Sandwiches
2. Worrying that I have lost too much weight and will have to massively adjust my game plan.
3. Freaking out about minor details that have very little bearing on the actual competition
4. Thinking of how disappointed all of my imaginary fans would be if I don't do my best.
5. Picturing life without my boyfriend after he decides I am a massive failure for passing out in the first match.

Okay, so in reality these things are not very helpful. How should one prepare for a competition and what works for me.

1. Reggae-Immediately calms me down and gets me focused. It's an instant stress reliever for me that I regularly use before my toughest rugby games.

2. Picture my first moments on the mat and my take down. You can never go to step two if you haven't completed the first. This helps me to get rid of some of the anxiety I feel about the sequence of events.

3. Hydrate the mess out of my body. There is nothing worse than being dehydrated before an event unless it is having to pee the second you're getting ready to compete.

4.Start getting into the right mindset and being kind to myself.

5. Don't think about points! I know this is advantageous for many people, but the second I start thinking about my Jiu Jitsu as a series of  numbers then I am worrying about beating my competitor instead of myself. I firmly believe the only person who can make me lose is me.

6. Remind myself to be proactive instead of purely defensive. Sometimes It's hard to transition from practice mode to competition mode (in any sport) and I just need to remind myself to "always make the first move"

7. Remember why I do Jiu Jitsu. It's fun and challenging and I love that.


BJJ: Rolling With Men

11:22 AM Moo 0 Comments

A humorous response to a common question
"How do you roll with men who roll too rough?"
This is a question I've seen posted in nearly every Jiu Jitsu forum I have encountered. My response would be, the same way I roll against any other competitor that has a weight/strength advantage over me. There are men I roll much harder with and there are men who I know will require more technique. Men vastly outnumber women in Jiu Jitsu, so unless you are training in a women's only gym or at a women's seminar, most of the time men will be your partners.

There are many different types of men you will encounter. I've listed a memorable few whose acquaintance I've had the pleasure of making .

1. Conan the Barbarian
Every time you roll with this guy it's an all out war. He is hellbent on destruction and you are the target he needs to obliterate. Sometimes I find these guys refreshing, because I would like to think that in their minds this means I am an equal competitor. If I feel they are in danger of injuring me I'll stop the roll. Sometimes a friendly reminder that I am perfecting a "testicle submission" is all they need to chill out a bit on the mat.

2. Mr. Rogers the Encourager

This guy is lovely to roll with, encouraging and constantly letting you work and try different moves. They are always positive and overly cautious about coming off as an asshole on the mat.When you nail it, he'll probably be the first person to high five you. Some people hate this, but as long as it's coming from a good place I'm not bothered.

3. The Guy Who Just Can't With You....
Some men really do not enjoy rolling with women. When you two are called forward to roll  they release a huge sigh of distaste. I typically turn it up a bit on these guys, so they know it won't be an easy roll. Occasionally men will say their wives aren't comfortable with the idea of them rolling with women. While it is something I don't really understand, it is something I respect.

4. Napoleon Complex
Sometimes you will run into a guy who is smaller than most of the others in your group or gym. He may be used to being thrown around or manhandled a bit and when he sees you, you become the obvious target. I have never encountered this guy among any of my regular training partners, but when I visit others gyms to train I always seem to run into him and spend the majority of my time defending against wild arm bars,cranks and the impending concussion that his style lends itself to. It is life or death and he refuses to be bested by a woman!

5. The Guy Who Really Wants a Jiu Jitsu Girlfriend
I find these men hysterical and they can be spotted by the prevalence of their jokes about "being in your guard" or why women wearing sports bras is just so distracting and they can't focus. They sexualize Jiu Jitsu and while many women find them obnoxious I just cannot take them seriously. I like to remind them that they are no Tanquinho and I certainly am not Mackenzie Dern and they usually get the point.

6. The "Teacher" 
Unlike, Mr. Rogers these men don't have a sincere desire to teach you. If they feel you are getting to an advantageous position, they often stop the roll to "counsel" you about your technique or over correct for fear of being beaten by a woman. The men I have the pleasure of training with are genuinely wonderful teachers and not fussed about a woman getting the better of them.

There are plenty of men who don't fall into any of these categories who don't see gender as an obstacle when they roll.Again, I have the pleasure of training with some of the best men I've ever known of all shapes and sizes. The most important part is just finding a gym where you are respected and comfortable. Your training partners are invaluable. I know that I won't learn without them and won't improve without their help. These guys don't go easy on me but they also don't attempt to rip my arm out of the socket. It's a nice balance :)


How I feel when....

11:25 AM Moo 0 Comments

When I'm watching a competition I should have entered...

When I want my back scratched but all of my friends do BJJ and no one has nails

When I finally pull off a move I've been practicing and look over to my teammate, Natalie, to confirm that she saw

When my professor says "One more roll" after I've just struggled with a giant on the mat

When I accidentally zone out while my professor is teaching  a technique and I hear "Ready 1.2.3" (clap)

How I felt on the inside after my first submission

How I looked on the outside....

My fathers response to my first competition....

And his advice....