Competition · Kaizen

A Hard Day’s Night: Liverpool Open

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All YouTube videos were filmed by Laura Jenney Photography.

So I headed off down to Liverpool this Sunday to compete in the latest event put on by BJJ 24/7 Events – I was expecting big things because the Manchester Open had been so good. More on that to follow.

Kaizen Academy was fielding its largest team to a competition yet, so I thought that that was really exciting. For many of the competitors it was their first “big” competition, so it was exciting for them as well. I predicted in the last post that we would come away with nine medals – we didn’t reach that total. Instead coming home with five – one gold, one silver, three bronzes. I think we would’ve got more if we’d have stuck around for absolutes (open weight categories), but due to the event overrunning by quite a lot, the absolutes were pushed right back to the end of the day (6pm) and most of the team couldn’t stick around that long in order to take part.

We arrived in time for the beginning of the event because one of my teammates was up in the first division at 10am. One of the things that was a little bit strange, and different from Manchester, was the fact that there was no warm up area. The sports hall we were in could just fit the four matted areas, with space around the edge to walk, and then the viewing gallery/medal podium, but there was nowhere to warm up or down.

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The mat area – photograph courtesy of Jits Art

Unfortunately Mat, who was up first, lost both of his matches in his division. The first one was to an accomplished Judo player who had a set game and a mean Americana. The second bout was lost to an RNC I think. Mat’s second match is available to watch here. It was Mat’s first big competition, however, and it takes a lot just to step up onto the mats and find out what it’s like when somebody is actually trying to beat you aggressively. It’s a totally different atmosphere to the rolls you get used to in the gym, even if you’re going hard with your partner.

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Mat in the -67.5 white belt – photo courtesy of Jits Art.

At around the same time the no-gi masters -91.5 was taking place, in which Kaizen Academy had two competitors. Robyn was up first and lost a hard fought match. It was unlucky for Robyn because at one point he had a deep footlock attack on his opponent but that guy must have had feet of steel! He was able to escape and take Robyn’s back before sinking in an RNC – watch Robyn’s match here. Kam was also taking part in that division and he won his match in style with a flying armbar, sunk in once it reached the floor. Watch Kam’s match here. As a result that division yielded one gold and one bronze for Team Kaizen.

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Kam on the podium.

Up next in terms of Team Kaizen was Luke’s division. The organisers were extremely liberal with mat side time for competitors, which meant Luke was called about forty-five minutes before he actually stepped onto the mat! I think this was because matches were running to overtime a lot and the divisions weren’t moving as fast as anticipated.

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Luke standing mat side waiting to fight – photo courtesy of Jits Art.

I was also called to mat side in this time and had my first match whilst Luke was still waiting for his! I was up against a girl called Lucy Harrison, who was very smiley and lovely.

After an initial failed attempt to pull guard, I managed to get my butt to the mat but she escaped, causing me to roll and have to play half guard on the side that I’m not used to! This was a bit of a nightmare and it took me a while to secure my underhook. I eventually managed to get my hips out and secure a sweep into an over-under position. Initially I was okay at securing the leg, but then I got caught in a triangle. I struggled to escape for a while, almost managing it at one point, but with 16 seconds left on the clock before overtime, I could feel the world going grey at the edges so I tapped. Watch the full match here.

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Photo taken by Papa Seager. 

I also got thwacked in the nose at some point during this roll because as I stepped off the mat I noticed that there was blood on my face and hands. I ended up having to use some of the first aiders stuff to clean up. It wasn’t bad, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t break it. It must have just had a bit of a knock which caused it to bleed. I didn’t have another match in this division, which I thought was a little odd ’cause there were three of us and I was anticipating a round robin, so I got the bronze medal.

By this point Luke had fought two matches and was waiting for his final. He’d won both his first two matches in style with his characteristic footlocks. Both his opponents were good at defending them, but they succumbed in the end. Watch his first and second match. His final was going much the same way, but the guy had clearly been watching his previous matches so was doing his utmost to keep his feet and legs away from Luke. He managed to push the match to overtime and after a gruelling three rounds of overtime managed to clinch the gold. Watch the final here.

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Luke… being Luke, on the podium. 

Then it was Neil’s turn in the -91.5 adult no gi. Neil took both of his matches to overtime and if it had been the standard points method of BJJ he would have dominated both his opponents. Unfortunately both his opponents were savvy in their overtime rounds and just managed to pip Neil to the post. It was unfortunate because Neil’s jiu-jitsu had been more technical during his rounds. Watch his first and second fight here. He was disappointed, but he needn’t of been, his jiu-jitsu was very good. Competition just sometimes gets the better of you.

Then it was time for my gi match, where I was once again up against Lucy. This match went better than my no gi match, and I found myself in a dominate position a few times. She had several good submission attempts early on but I defended those. Unfortunately I was unable to capitalise on this defence and ended up getting caught in a flying armbar at about 3.30 time wise. I attempted to wiggle free, and nearly had my elbow out, but she put it on deeper and I decided it wasn’t worth a broken elbow so tapped! I was actually quite pleased with my performance, despite getting caught, because I feel I was a lot more in control of my technique and that it was just a good match. Watch the match here. So once again I picked up bronze in that division.

The team’s final competitors the day was Jack Morgan. It was his first major competition as well, but unfortunately he lost his first match and due to the fact he was in a stacked bracket meant that he didn’t get another one.

I am so so proud of my team though. As I mentioned earlier, for many of them this was their first “big” competition, and they all rose to the challenge really really well. It made each of them aware of the atmosphere of competing, the potential adrenaline dump that can occur, the aggressiveness of opponents, the noise of spectators etc. etc. It’s very very different to rolling in the gym. All of them are aware of the bits of their games that they want to work on now, and we’ll come back stronger than ever at the next one.

As for myself, I’m going to be working on my submission defences, and securing dominant positions. I was able to get into good positions, but then struggled to maintain them long enough to progress. It’s the North West Open in about four weeks, so we’ll see what happens there. The brackets already look bigger than normal for that and not everyone’s signed up yet!

Until next time,

B

 

Competition · Kaizen

In Preparation: BJJ 24/7 Liverpool

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I’ll admit it straight off the bat that I’m a little bit nervous about Sunday. It’s strange that I feel this way, I’ve not felt nervous before a competition in the past, except perhaps my first one – which was all the way back in February – so it’s a little strange to feel it now.

I think the reason for it is two fold. One is that Glasgow knocked my confidence. As much as I tried not let it affect me, losing my matches was definitely a blow after I’d been working so hard on specific aspects of my game. I tried to learn from it, however, and you can read my blog post about Glasgow, and what I hoped to take from it, here.

The second reason is that it’s submission only. It’s a little counterintuitive that I should be nervous about this. I’ve done a sub only comp before and it’s the one I won gold in. That was against players who did more MMA than jiu-jitsu however, so this is going to be an entirely different ball game. Also I’m more familiar with the points system, rather than the submission system with the EBI overtime rules.

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We had some practice with the EBI overtime rules at competition class at Kaizen the other night. We practiced all the options; attacking and defending both spiderweb arm bar and the rear naked choke position. I was okay at resisting submission for quite a while in most cases, so I’ll just have to test it out against the opponents on Sunday. Once again I’m doing both gi and no gi, so we’ll have to see how that works out. I enjoy doing it that way, it gives me more fights during the day and quite frankly, at this level, I do everything for the experience. I do try and hold onto the adage of you win or you learn whenever I head into competition.

I’ve been training hard over the past few weeks since Glasgow, trying to iron out kinks in my game. Seeing as this is submission only, however, the game changes somewhat. My coach, Michael, always says that you must have position before submission, otherwise it’s never going to work, so I guess working on my positional game will give me better potential for gaining submissions.

Anyway, it’s only a few days to go until Saturday, I’m under weight (of course!) and nearly set to go.

Kaizen is taking it’s largest team yet which I think will be really exciting. There’s 8 of us going to compete (me and 7 of the guys), and they’re competing in a broad range of weight categories across the white belt division… Anyone wanna place bets on how many medals we can bring home? With 8 of us, participating in ten divisions, I’m going to call that we bring home 9 medals… Any takers?

Until next time,

B

Training

In Pursuit Of Progress

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Sometimes it’s quite difficult to know how you’re progressing in BJJ. Okay, so we have stripes and belts, given at the instructors discretion, that allow us to know where they think we are. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to keep track of how much your game has improved, or how working on different things has been paying off.

And then, the other day, something happened which meant I was able to see exactly how much I’d improved in the space of a year. A video popped up in my Facebook memories, showing me rolling with Cosima a year ago. I posted it to my Girl On A Mission Facebook page, so you can go check it out!

Anyway, as I was watching that it showed me just how many changes I’d made, and how much better I’d become. Quite frankly it was a bit cringey to watch that, but I guess we’ve all got to start somewhere, and I clearly wasn’t going to be amazing at it before I started training five times a week with Michael Wood at Kaizen.

In terms of the content of the video, it’s clear that I had very little idea about principals (something which provides the core basis for teaching at Kaizen Academy). I’m giving away underhooks for free, I’m being swept all over the place and my positional recognition is nowhere near what it is today. The being swept is fairly understandable, I had no idea that was a bad thing (!), and didn’t know anything about the rules or points system (IBJJF system). Now I’m fairly up on the rules, and enjoy figuring out the best ways to maximise those points.

What I didn’t know then is not really important. The point of this is to prove that even when it feels like you’ve not progressed, in reality you’ve made leaps and bounds. On a day to day basis it’s difficult to see where the improvements have been made, but this video from a year ago makes it as plain as day. If I had a roll with myself from a year ago, I would kick my ass up and down the mats. It would make for a rather strange experience though!!

The appearance of that video just gave a chance for a moment of reflection and “oh yeah” realisation, as to what my jiu-jitsu was like a year ago. I’ll be fascinated to see how much my game improves in the next year…

Until next time,

B

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Training

Just Lift The Bar First

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I’ve been aware ever since I started BJJ that an integral part of it was going to be strength and conditioning. Yes, doing all of the technique classes and rolling is the main part of the game, but s+c can supplement and support what you’re doing on the mat.

Since I started BJJ “properly” (and here I’m talking about when I started doing classes consistently, more than once a week, and taking a serious interest in technique based learning), so therefore a year this October (when Kaizen Academy opened), I have lost roughly 12kg in body weight. Some of this was due to a prolonged illness, some of it was because of the sport and working out 5-7 days a week. What does this have to do with strength and conditioning? Well it’s the fact that I’m right at the bottom of my weight class, and I’m not very strong. I’ve gotten better in recent months, but whilst you can see a slight muscle line on my arms/back/shoulders if you look very closely, it’s not where I want to be at in terms of muscle definition, and it’s not enough.

So, I decided to start dedicated some time to actually going to the weights room and putting in the effort there. I’ve only done a couple of sessions so far, and my body is screaming at me in dislike, but hopefully the work will pay off. When I was talking to our in-gym guru (Robyn) about this he said that there were three basic movements you need to do for most sports – unless there’s a specialist muscle group you’re working – and that is a squat of some sort, a lift (i.e. a deadlift) and a push (i.e. a benchpress). The problem is, however, is that when I used to go the gym before I lost all that weight, I could squat 25kg, benchpress 30kg and deadlift about 50kg, at my best. It’s still not huge, and for some people those weights would be absolutely puny, but for me it was okay.

Now, however, having lost about ¼ of my body mass, I’ve had to drop even further down the scale. I’m now squatting 15kg, benching 20kg, and deadlifting 30kg. So I’ve had to take it down in all three of the major areas. For bench press, for now, all I’m doing is lifting the bar. I don’t even bother putting any weights on the end. Yes, I was a little bit gutted (and a little bit embarrassed) at using so little weight, but I figured that at least I was trying. In a couple of weeks, if I can pull of my sets and reps well at this weight, I’ll move up a little bit.

Everybody’s got to (re)start somewhere though, right?

The other thing I was concerned about when starting all this up again was making sure that I got my technique right. I was a little scared about deadlifting because I’d heard so many horror stories about lasting back injuries if you messed up the technique. So, in that vein, I got someone (Cosima + Kayleigh) to watch my form and correct/advise me. Hopefully this means that I can now deadlift safely without fear of doing myself any damage.

I do actually like lifting weights, and I can’t wait to see all the “newbie gains” that the guys at the gym keep saying I’ll get. I don’t want to put on too much weight (a couple of kilos would be grand), but I don’t think that’s something I’ll worry about just yet. Right now, my goals are to get strong, a bit more muscle, and to make myself more injury-proof, which is yet another benefit of strength and conditioning. I don’t want to do too much of it, because I find that my body gets stressed out at me if I do, but I’m aiming to do two sessions a week, on top of the BJJ that I already train.

How much strength and conditioning do you do? What exercises do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

B

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General · Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Aug 2016

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The most popular post from last month… in case you missed it, was the first part of my history of jiu-jitsu, part one.

There are differing starting points when discussing the history of jiu-jitsu, as with most things with continuous development, it is extremely difficult to pin point exactly where jiu-jitsu “started”. Some say Kodokan Judo, other disagree and say that it was when the Gracie family became involved and began to be disseminated through their extended family. These, in the span of human history, are extremely recent. Martial arts, and ideas about martial arts have been around for a lot longer than that.

Tradition dictates that some form of ground grappling that would eventually become jiu-jitsu began in India, where Buddhist monks were concerned with learning about self-defence. Buddhism became a major religion in India in about 260BC, having started in Nepal some four hundred years earlier. The form of jiu-jitsu these monks were practising would have been different to what we recognise today, but it is still linked and based on the same ideas and principals. The monks were especially concerned about negating the use of a persons strength or body mass, and so therefore were interested in techniques that manipulated leverage and balance. This was so a smaller, weaker man might gain advantage of someone twice his size.

Continue reading “Throwback Thursday: Aug 2016”

General

Spotlight Saturday: Lucas Gent

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  1. Why/How did you start BJJ?

When I got to Lancaster I decided I wanted to get involved in a combat sport. I was introduced to BJJ through the MMA society at Lancaster University. The instructors for the society, who are the founders of Kaizen Academy, were all very helpful and encouraging. They provided an approach that allowed me to see the advantages that BJJ could offer, both as a sport and as a method of self defence from very early on.

  1. Can you remember the first thing you learned?

Half guard. We learned how to retain guard against an attacking person whilst looking for the underhook. From there we looked at how to progress into side control, how to obtain the mount position and finally how to setup an arm bar submission.

  1. What do you love about Kaizen?

The Kaizen atmosphere! This is made up of so many components. The coaches are all very friendly, patient and encouraging. Their style of teaching is open and focuses on the principles behind the techniques being taught, as well as the specific details for the series of moves being focused on. All the Kaizen members are kind and great to train with. People regularly meet up on the mats, happy to exchange new information. They regularly encourage others to get involved with techniques that they have learned and challenge each other with their new moves or ideas.

  1. What’s your favourite aspect of BJJ?

The translation of BJJ knowledge/techniques to real rolling and sparring time. What you learn can be tested at any time by anyone on the mat. Sometimes people will crush your technique by seeing it in a totally different way, this then forces you to evaluate how you are performing the technique and if there are any alternatives or modifications for you in order to combat their game. It’s a very think-on-your-feet kind of sport.

  1. What advice would you give to yourself a year ago?

Technique beats power! I always knew this was true, but when I first started rolling my mind would go to mush and I would try to go as hard as possible (‘going ham!’) to beat someone. Time has taught me that powering through problems in BJJ without technique winds you up in a very bad spot against a skilled opponent!

  1. Where do you hope to see yourself, BJJ wise, in a year?

Hopefully wearing the blue belt 😉 Would be nice to see some stripes on there too. Until then I want to keep frequently training, honing my techniques and gaining all the competition experience I can.

  1. What’s been the best thing about doing BJJ?

It’s a sport that gives you confidence, satisfaction and a real sense of achievement. It has changed the way I approach my everyday life for the better- I’m much more likely to be analytical of a situation now, rather than dive in head first and hope for the best.