Thursday, June 18, 2009

Introducing My Newest Grappling Buddy

Ok. I'm officially out of shape. I hiked the Chief (4.5 hours straight up and down a local mountain) last Saturday. Result: My legs hurt for several days after. Yesterday, I did my first upper body resistance training session with my coach since I started my movie work a month ago. Result: My upper body ached all over today. Tonight, I did some of the first sparring I've done since before I started the movie work. Result: One of my students owned me because I had become all flinchy.

Conclusion: It sucks getting back into the old training regime after having taken too long a break.

What I'm Gonna Do About It: Keep on pushing till I get back what I lost.

Fortunately, I did manage to keep doing some grappling here and there over the past month, so I'm still feeling on my game with that. Gotta focus on the positive too! So going with that theory, this Saturday, I'm meeting up with my new friend, Shelene Yung, whom I met on the movie set. She did competitive wrestling for 7 years and has now moved into submission grappling. Check out this video of her tapping out a guy at a recent tournament:

I like that she made the guy fight on her terms, like any skilled fighter should. Because of her experience, she's more skilled on her feet than on the ground compared to a student in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. So she kept the fight on her feet. Every time she took him down, she'd wait until he got back up, until she eventually choked him out with a slick rear naked choke (from standing, no less!).

Anyway, even though the movie work kept me from my training, it's nice that I was able to meet a number of skilled martial artists, particularly a few skilled women, which is a treat for me. And the way I see it, you can't have too many skilled training buddies. I'll let you know how it goes. :)


Anonymous said...

It really isnt good form or considered "sportsman" like in BJJ tournaments to take your opponent down, stand up and repeat just to gain an advantage on points. If she wanted a takedown contest she should have stayed in wrestling or taken up judo.

Regardless she did win with a submission so that was an excellent finsh.

Lori O'Connell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori O'Connell said...

It is a sport. If the rules allow for it, it can't be unsportsmanlike. Cheating is unsportsmanlike and she did nothing of the sort.

If the organizers of the sport want to force participants to stay on the ground, they should have rules to enforce it like they do in Judo. In Judo, they emphasize standing grappling and throwing so they have a rule to prevent prolonged ground grappling.

Take the UFC 97 fight between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites, for example. Both worked very hard at keeping the fight on their own terms. True, it didn't make for an exciting fight, but you can't blame the competitors for trying to gain advantage by emphasizing their strengths. They didn't get to where they were by using their weaknesses.

But I can tell you this: Shelene is working very hard at improving her ground game, that is why she has taken up BJJ in supplement of her wrestling background. And as she improves her ground game she will use it more. But that was a tournament in which she was trying to be competitive with men who were heavier than her, so of course she would try to get every advantage she could take with her skill set.

Meerkatsu said...

This post is one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog. The female grappler clearly was more skilled than her opponent and was playing 'her' game. It's up to the guy to work it out. I am inspired by watching skilled exponents, regardless of gender, but for some reason, a female schooling a male gives the match an extra frisson of enjoyment.

Anonymous said...

Auch, getting your ass whooped by a girl. That has got to hurt. I do not think the guy was any heavier or stronger than her though, for a guy he looked extremely skinny not to mention anorectic. If she had fought a fully grown man and won I would have been impressed, I doubt he’d be able to grow facial hair even if he wanted to. I can’t believe he actually consented to fighting her, it was quite clear she’s more experienced (if he was any good at BJJ he would have kept her in his guard since he must have known she hailed from a wrestling-background) and why would you want to be publicly humiliated like that? That being said it’s clear she has skill, have fun training together. Training wrestling on the side can only improve your clinch and that is another important aspect of MMA.

I do wonder why people keep claiming BJJ is so great for a little guy trying to overcome a large adversary. If you weigh a mere 120 pounds and your adversary is twice as heavy you are going to lose, especially on the ground. If you’re smaller you’re generally faster, if you intentionally go to the ground most of that speed is negated and he’ll be able to use his weight completely against you. Of course skill and heart are the two most important factors in a fight and I’m quite sure a properly trained female karateka or boxer could beat the snot out of 90% of the male population (at leat a high level one) but pitted against a properly trained male fighter she will most likely lose, even if he has a little less skill than her. When you remain standing you can use your mobility to get out of harm’s way (the one advantage small people enjoy, speed) and retaliate from a safe position, on the ground this is so much harder to do and thus requires even more skill from the defender.

For self-defense ju-jutsu (to lock you do not need a lot of strength and it actually teaches you to use his strength and weight against him) and wing-chung (a striking system actually designed by a woman and based on superior body-mechanics and basic mathematical efficiency) are way better than BJJ. That Royce Gracie defeated so many heavier opponents in his day does not prove anything except that he was well trained and that those guys were completely incompetent when it came to grappling. He was very good and he deserves respect but these days most pure grapplers will have a hard time in the ring and it will be difficult to surprise anyone with any flashy grappling moves.

Great song btw, I love Armin Van Buuren

Have a good day,


Lori O'Connell said...

Zara, it was a tournament, so the guy had no choice but to face her. It was that or be disqualified. And most people don't know anything about the training backgrounds of their opponents in these things.

I fully agree with your points about BJJ not being the best choice as a primary martial art for smaller people who have to face larger people, particularly in a self-defense context, for the reasons you stated. On the ground, when two people of equal technique face each other, the stronger one is at the advantage because on the ground, he or she can use their strength to their advantage much more so than when standing and striking.

That being said, the positional strategy on the ground that BJJ teaches is valuable in combination with strikes to vulnerable targets for the purposes of getting off the ground as quickly as possible, which we can all agree, is the best thing to do in a self-defense situation.

Anonymous said...

That’s odd, I thought in general MA-competitions were not mixed. I still feel bad for the guy though, lol. Then again it’s a risk you take by entering competition. I agree BJJ has its advantages regardless of your training-goal and if you do end up on the ground a few good submission-moves are a real asset and may very well save the day. They are not that easy to get though but if you soften up your opponent first (again distractions) there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pull them off. The more comfortable you are on the ground the better. For self-defense I would advise to start groundwork by learning ground-striking and escaping-drills. I trained a few hours with sensei before noon (his gf is out of town for a few days and he has the key to the academy so we basically had the mat all to ourselves) and we practiced some grappling aswell and there are quite a few things you can do to a guy after a fingerjab to the eye. I own a few instructional dvd’s on krav-maga (thank god for the information age) and they have a few great ground-moves aswell. One of the simpelest ways you can handle a guy who tries to choke or punch you from within your guard (not a very smart thing to do but then again most people generally are not that smart) is create space, scoot to the side, block his forward momentum with your knee, swing your other leg over (always keeping control of his arm) and kick his face a few times (the first ones to do damage and possibly knock him out, the last to push him off of you). Simple but effective and that’s all I ask for. If it looks pretty and impressive it’s probably not going to be very effective or safe and vice versa.

I think what you should be trying to do if you do land on the ground and he’s much bigger than you is to go for the vitals (throat, eyes, eardrums, neck. groin), create space and get the hell up. Only if you feel confident on the ground and had some serious training in that area you can then go for an armbar or a choke but if they do not work instantly he’ll just use his weight again to nullify your attempt and you can bet he’ll be in a rather foul mood when you mistreated his family-jewels or raked his eyes. There is one serious problem with this though, how far can or should you go with these types of techniques? In a military context it’s simple, anything goes. If you go for his eye you scoop it out or you pierce it, if you grab the throat you crush his windpipe and you will have won. Of course this is brutal but it’s also very simple and very effective (there seems to be a rather high correlation between the two, don’t you think?), civilian self-defense is a whole different ballgame since there are rules and you could be held liable but then again, how the hell do I know what is enough to defeat him and if my reaction isn’t swift and decisive (unfortunately a lot of times this means doing serious damage) it could spell real trouble for me. This is rather paradoxical. A criminal may be trying to take your life while you have to play it safe since overreaction could land you in jail, making you a criminal yourself. Does this not place you in a disadvantageous position? If you were a commando training for war you could select only lethal and brutal techniques, techniques that end confrontations almost immediately (I’d like to see someone attacking me with a broken neck) and this would give you a very high chance of survival. I know I’ve been rambling off-topic but what do you think about this?


PS, tonight I’m teaching again. If this will go on for much longer I’ll have to insist he’d pay me lol. Ah, the duties of a sempai… Just imagine what I’d have to cough up if he actually would make me pay for all these private lessons he’s been giving me, this is the least I could do really.

Lori O'Connell said...

Yes, tournaments usually are divided by gender, but since no women entered her division they gave her the option of fighting in the mens division.

Good luck with your next teaching session, Zara!

Steve said...

Great article. It's not uncommon to see women in the lighter men's brackets, particularly in local tourneys where there aren't that many competitive women.

To the point about standing up, this depends upon the rules of the tournament. In an IBJJF tournament, she'd be penalized and told to engage if she stood up out of person's guard and her opponent stayed on the ground. The rules specifically forbid avoiding combat while ground fighting by, among other things, standing up. First penalty would be an advantage to her opponent, second would be two points and finally for a third penalty a DQ.

The caveat to that is, if she stands up and then her opponent stands up... no problem. The opponent ceded the position.

The important thing is, know the rules.

Mark said...

Zara keeps mentioning about how it's bad to get beat by a gal. For me (as background: powerlifter and served in the military for 2+ yrs), if I was placed against a female or even a male who was 20+lbs lighter than me, I would not consider it much of a victory if I used my size and weight advantage to win. When grappling with females, I consciously dial down my strength and focus on technique. If she beats me, hey, just means I need to work on more technique. After all, a submission grappling competition is a test of skill not strength.

Never any shame in loosing to a better skilled opponent.

Lori O'Connell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I do not bother with MA-competitions of any kind; it’s all about ego really. When the goal of your training is winning you’ll be disappointed when you lose or you’ll get cocky when you win. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind some friendly sparring or some rough treatment from my training-partners (everything for efficiency and skill, well nearly everything) but I do not see the point in getting knocked out or submitted or knocking out or submitting other MA-artists for the entertainment of a crowd (most of whom know squat about the MA. Not to mention it’s bad for your health. The only thing that’s missing is a yell for blood and a downward thumb and we’re back in ancient Rome. My goal in the MA is to improve myself and my techniques and to become the best I can be, not win some stupid trophy or getting admiration from people who wouldn’t know a true MA if it bit them in the ass.

As far as my comment about losing to a girl goes, I don’t think I look down on women (I do have female friends and I appreciate them greatly and I have nothing but love and respect for my mother and grandmother) yet losing to one (in anything) just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps I am a bit macho but then again it’s still better than being a sissy or a ‘new man’ or whatever that is and I haven’t heard complaints about it from the women in my immediate surroundings. Probably because they know I respect them and cherish their qualities especially when they differ from mine.

Getting back to this match, the guy really ran out of luck with this one, I may not know a lot about what goes on in competition (I used to compete in judo when I was much younger and even got a few medals but that was way back) but I do know he simply couldn’t win this one. Either he’d have won and people would have said ‘oh, but it’s just against a girl’ and if he lost, which he did, the reaction would be ‘why on earth did you lose to a girl?’. This is why mixed competitions are a bad idea, basically it will just reinforce stereotypes genre ‘you won inspite of being a woman’ and it will undermine the confidence of smaller guys and they’ll lose respect in the eyes of their larger brethren (in victory or defeat). Don’t get me wrong, I do not contest women can be very skillful and this is to be applauded but this should not be used to make guys feel inferior or humiliate them. If I were to come across a skillful female instructor (which has not occurred to this day) I’d gladly learn from her and if I could that by sparring and getting pointers on how to do it better I wouldn’t mind at all but I would loathe it to be in front of everybody or outside a dojo or gym. Wing-chung was created by a woman and I greatly admire her since it is a very fluid and effective MA so I don’t think I could be accused of being misogynistic or anything like that.

On another, and final, note. Teaching went well today, I managed to cover what I wanted to cover (the rest of the program for yellow-belt) and I even got a compliment out of it. One of the women in the class said my explanations were clear and informative, especially on the details. Now that does warm my heart, I guess I’m not such a macho after all, lol.

Good night, at least here it is.


Chris Olson said...

I'd like to quote Mark from above - "There's no shame in loosing to a better skilled opponent."

That's the best mentality anyone can have, because it means you've an open mind and are likely going to learn.

As someone who trains under a female instructor, Lori O'Connell Sensei, as well as other male instructors in other styles of Jiu Jitsu, good instructors have nothing to do with sex. I've trained with many more bad male instructors than I have female instructors. To quote Robert Mustard Sensei - everyone can get a black belt, not every black belt can teach. Having passion, skill and the ability to communicate those skills is what makes a good instructor.

If your purpose of training in the martial arts is to better yourself, which mirrors my own goals, then you should be ready to take your lessons from every available source. The fact you've not met a woman you respected in the martial arts could be simply because you've never actually run across one, or it could be because your couldn't see one because of your attitude.

Seriously, read over what you said, using words like sissy for those who lose to women, in anything, is pretty sexist.

Zara, excuse me, but I think comments like "yet losing to one [a girl] (in anything) just doesn’t feel right," and "I’d gladly learn from her and if I could [do] that by sparring and getting pointers on how to do it better I wouldn’t mind at all but I would loathe it to be in front of everybody or outside a dojo or gym," does in fact make you look very macho.

I've trained with excellent instructors and I've trained with terrible instructors, and sex has had very little do with it. Passion, skill, and desire to teach make good instructors and good martial artists. An everlasting desire to become better means more than being male.

Skill and expertise has nothing to do with sex - and if the guy from the video can put aside his ego, he might learn something about his own grappling game. Otherwise, he’ll just keep losing to more skilled opponents.

Steve said...

Zara, it sounds like you've got some things to work out for yourself, hopefully before you move from sempai to sensei.

Chris, I couldn't agree more. Thanks for your response.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, what do you hope to achieve with this ridiculous political correctness? You’re twisting my words Chris: I never claimed there aren’t any good or skilled female instructors nor that I wouldn’t want to train under one (maybe you should read my previous comment again before jumping to conclusions). The fact is that I’ve never seen a really good one, not in person anyway, and I do think I’d recognize skill when I see it. There are relatively few female martial-artists,even less who actually made it to a decent level (black belt or equivalent competition-experience) and even less who teach and/or have their own dojo or gym. Besides that there is the factor that a woman has to be extremely proficient to actually be able to beat men, especially when they’ve had some training since most men are by nature heavier and stronger. Not to mention they’re usually more aggressive and/or determined. I’m sure there are women who manage to overcome this and become good and all due respect for that really but that doesn’t change the fact I’d seriously loathe to be defeated by one, even more so than by a man which would be bad enough in itself. When you train for real you simply cannot accept defeat as a reasonable or acceptable outcome of a fight (expect to win, train to win, fight to win) since the consequences are much heavier than in a ring or on the mat.

If I were to be beaten by a woman who I’d more than likely outweigh and outmuscle so to speak this would either mean her skill-level would be exceptionally high or mine would be quite low, now this would be quite good for her but very bad for me. Besides that the MA or fighting is more of a male than a female thing, it’s a male duty to protect women and children and while everyone should have the right and the opportunity to learn how to defend themselves in most societies the brunt of defense (military, police) rests on the shoulders of men and this is how it should be. If you want to call this macho than be my guest, I can’t say I care much. Being macho is not the same as being misogynistic.

That being said it’s quite obvious incompetence is fairly evenly distributed between the sexes (just as intelligence) and I would never train under a bad or mediocre instructor (exactly the reason why I left my old dojo when the guy appointed to take over from sensei was no better at ju-jutsu than me) be it a man or a woman. I never claimed women can’t be good at MA or can’t teach so what is your point exactly?

As to Steve’s comment: I do not like your insinuation that I somehow lack the moral fiber to be or become a good teacher. For one you do not have the authority to be making such a claim since you’re not even a sensei yourself (how would you know what it takes to be one?), besides that you do not even know me personally nor have you seen me teach so your claim is entirely baseless. In class I do not treat the women differently from the men except that I pay a little more attention to them since they are beginners and simply need to work harder to make a technique work. I haven’t been teaching for very long but up till now I haven’t heard one single negative remark from the students at our dojo so I’m assuming their opinion about me as a martial-artist and a teacher (even if it’s just as assistant) must be quite good. Quite frankly I don’t give a damn about yours. Who are you trying to impress anyway?



Lori O'Connell said...

Zara, I know you're from Belgium, and that there are a lot of cultural differences between Europeans and North Americans, but just so you understand, in North America, when you say that you would be 'embarrassed to be beaten by a woman (in anything)' implies that in the natural order of things men are better than women at everything both physically and mentally, the only reason that a person who would make such a statement would have to be embarrassed.

Lori O'Connell said...

(Didn't quite have time to finish my comment.)

Misogynist:One who hates, dislikes, or mistrusts women.

Sexist:One who carries attitudes or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.

No one called you a misogynist. They called you a sexist. They are very different things. Sexists don't necessarily dislike or mistrust women, they simply believe that men and women have distinct roles based on their gender. Generally, people in modern North America no longer believe in distinct roles based on gender. People with such beliefs see no reason to be embarrassed that a woman should be better than them at something. It is simply natural that people, male or female, will have both skills or qualities at which they will be stronger and weaker than you.

Steve said...


I actually had your maturity level, not your integrity, in mind and nothing you've posted since leads me to believe I was mistaken. While I am not a BJJ black belt, this isn't my first trip to the rodeo, and I think that it's yet another indication of your maturity level that you attack my credibility so vehemently in response.

I'm sure your ma skills are fine. I have no reason to believe otherwise. You have, however, provided ample evidence (at least as far as I'm concerned) that you could stand to grow up a little. I hope you do so before you accept responsibility for teaching and leading others.

To answer your direct question, I'm not trying to impress anyone. What a funny question. Heck. I roll with women at my school and sometimes they catch me with a submission. It's funny but their armbar is just as painful as a guys. Weird.