Wine, Cheese, (Beer!) And BJJ

Partially bailing on a girls weekend in France for BJJ? I thankfully have some very understanding friends. While they don’t ‘get’ the sport, they certainly do get that it’s special enough to have me gushing like a teenager after attending a class on our first night in town.

I honestly didn’t know much about Strasbourg before this trip, other than it being near Germany, and one of the seats of the European parliament. But thanks mostly to super cheap EasyJet flights, I found myself in the main city of the Alsace region in eastern France, asking for directions to Gracie Barra 67 (thank God for Google translate).

I was reminded yet again just how awesome – and small the BJJ universe is, when I met the only other girl in the gi and no gi class, Marie-Laure. It turned out she had recently been travelling on my ‘home’ side of the world, AND rolling with some of my favourite AGIG  ladies! You should read her most excellent blog.

Marie quickly took me under her wing, partnering me and translating instructors Geoffrey Kintz and Christian Sardella.

This particular night’s classes were less focussed on techniques and more on rolling rounds, giving me the opportunity to be paired up with (and squashed by) pretty much everyone on the mat. Later, Marie was great in letting me work through some specific techniques with her.

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After class, in true BJJ Globetrotter spirit (a team/movement I only recently heard about, ashamedly) Marie not only offered me a ride back to my hotel, but also a walking tour of Strasbourg the following day.

Taking in and learning about the sights from a local’s perspective.. what could be better, seriously?

How about hanging with her BJJ teammates at a cool little beer festival right next to a stunning gothic cathedral? Yup, I got to do that too, and nervously say “une bière s’il vous plait” – baby steps, you know.

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Meantime back with my girlfriends, copius amounts of cheese was gleefully eaten along with way too many croissants and pastries. I also inhaled my fair share of the local specialty – flammekueche. Did I mention the Alsace wine? There was plenty of that too, naturally.

We also wandered around the Petit France quarter, took a boat tour and caught the train to the pretty town of Colmar.

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I’d love to head back to Strasbourg at the end of the year to experience the Christmas Markets. After such a warm welcome however, I could easily return to this city just for more BJJ.

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Aussie Jits Girls Represent!

I was sitting in the newsroom at work when this came on one of the five TVs on the wall – I totally squealed “that’s my girls!”

It’s stupid awesome to see the Australian Girls In Gi get national media coverage.

For those unfamiliar with Aussie television, Sunrise is (most of the time?) the number one breakfast TV program. Great exposure for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

If you’re a local BJJ girl or from overseas just visiting, definitely hit the group up for the best Aussie club, and female only open mat meet up recommendations.

Meantime at the Worlds …

Livia Gluchowska won gold!

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I have known this woman for only a short time through AGIG, but she is the most inspirational BJJ gal I know, so incredibly hard working and focussed. Huge congratulations Livia!

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Pic via IBJJF

Back to it!

BJJ training comeback success!

After a couple of weeks off the mat with a sore back and hip joint, I tested things out in Tuesday’s FAFC class and happily headed home with no soreness, bar the niggling hip.

Still pumped, I went to the new Australian Elite Team headquarters to train on Wednesday night – still under construction, the mat space is going to be HUGE when it’s done (new mats on order).

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Something I’m disappointed about though (and I know leasing a space means this is not entirely in AET’s control) is the lack of showers – for both sexes, let alone a female change room.

There is one bag storage/change area with a window, so it’s not really a space to full on change in.. and there is one – ONE toilet. To be shared by everyone.

I never realised what a luxury even having a female change room and shower was, until I read Jiu Jiu’s blog post on the subject.

I have no idea what to expect now when I move to the UK, I suppose it will depend on the BJJ club.. but the thought of having to head home from training on the tube without having had a shower ain’t too appealing!

There was a black belt grading tonight which I wasn’t able to attend, but I snagged this team pic off Facebook anyway – such an awesome, inspiring (albeit smelly) Jiu Jitsu family they are!

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And a final highlight of the week – my patches arrived!

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Custom Patches Online did a terrific job with some detailed (for a patch) artwork, my idea with these is to give them to BJJ people I meet on my travels. If some make their way onto bags – or even gis that would be pretty cool. =)

My First BJJ Seminar

Sophia (McDermott) Drysdale, Australia’s first female BJJ black belt.

Recommended by AGIGI honestly didn’t know what a BJJ seminar involved! I was envisioning a uni lecture where you sit and listen to someone speak, and take notes.

Or I figured you just watch them demonstrate moves.

Thankfully I asked, found out it was more like a class and made sure I packed a gi!

Cool vid put together by Jess Fraser.

I brought a notebook and my phone out on the mat too, though it’s up to the individual whether they allow photos/video and since I didn’t ask Sophia before she started, I decided to play it safe and keep my phone to the side.

Ditto the notebook it turned out. Other than a couple of scribbles in drink breaks and during the Q&A at the end, I really didn’t have the time or the thought to take notes.

After a quick warm up Sophia got us into pairs and we took turns moving around our partner who was flat on the floor, chest to chest, arms behind our backs.

It was all about using your whole body when on top to keep the pressure on your opponent, as opposed to most of the strength coming from your arms. Also altering that pressure as your opponent tries to escape (“be like a water bed”) and being on your toes so you’re able to move and adjust quickly!

From there we worked on the most effective positioning when in side control, and step by step went through a few of Sophia’s favourite armbar moves.

A few things I’ll be working on (no brainers but hey, unco white belt I be!)

–       Move on your feet, not on your knees, ‘duck walk’ around for the far armbar.

–       Be more parallel than crucifix to apply the correct pressure to the best areas in side control, including hip to hip.

–       Hips forward ladies!

–       Post/grab your gi as you’re settling in for the armbar, you don’t have to lean back for it until you’re ready.

– Do your warm ups and drills fast if you want to roll fast – sprints not long runs, short but intense push ups, sit ups etc, rest then do it all again.

At the end Sophia invited questions, and talked briefly about her journey through the ranks. She revealed while she never felt a BJJ gender issue in Australia, training overseas including in Brazil she was treated differently as a woman on the mat.

But at the same time she says we have to accept we’re participating in a male dominated sport “you’ve chosen to be in it, don’t expect special treatment, although also don’t be afraid to speak up to say this is what I need” ie. to sit out, or to go over something again.

Sophia believes there’s nothing wrong with tweaking an instructor’s move a little to make it work for you and your body.

And just in case I wasn’t finding this seminar with Australia’s first female BJJ black belt inspiring enough, Sophia told us she’s planning to compete at the Worlds in less than two months time, despite the fact her second child will only be about four months old!

My BJJ motivation has definitely returned.

Sophia Drysdale Melbourne seminar 2013.
Sophia Drysdale Melbourne seminar 2013.

That Awkward Moment When..

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I don’t think about these things on the mat a lot – most of the time I’m too busy defending myself from every angle to be very aware of what possibly odd-looking positions I’m getting myself into with dudes.

But there are those occasional moments when I DO think about it – and wonder at what point in my BJJ training did I become okay with virtual strangers sweating all over me, straddling me, pinning me to the ground and choking me out with their thighs? (not necessarily always in that order)

Some of my male teammates I’m pretty sure I had a bit of (clothed, obvs) crotch-to-face action with before we’d even had a proper conversation!

Bec Hyatt knows the fastest way to get a submission. Invicta 5.
Bec Hyatt (green crotch) knows the fastest way to get a submission. Invicta5

It’s funny how a fart on a mat can create awkwardness and clear out a space for a few minutes … but a tough roll between a guy and a girl in no gi, getting super up close and personal – no one including the participants bats an eyelid at.

A great reflection of the equality in the sport, mind you.

I have been single throughout my BJJ journey to date, so it hasn’t been an issue – but I do wonder if my next romantic interest will have a problem with my  hobby.

Are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t train jits? How do they feel about you rolling about and accidentally kneeing the privates of sweaty men and women on a regular basis?

And I’d love to read YOUR awkward moment stories!

Flying Sharks And Lycra Fights

Last weekend, I joined more than 70 ladies at Australian Girls in Gi Camp 2013.

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Photo via Jess Fraser
Held at Dominance MMA in Abbotsford over two days, and organised by the amazing Jess Fraser – BJJ girls from all over Victoria and interstate (even a couple of internationals) got together for some hard work and play… and a terrible sleep on gym mats, seriously.
Next time I won’t internally scoff at the ladies bringing blow up mattresses or a stack of bedding, I’ll be one of them!
This year’s schedule featured…
  • Guard Passing fundamentals with David Hart (“You wanna be soft heavy, like a bean bag full of lead pieces..”)
  • No Gi fundamentals with David Christopher (DC)
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Photo (and most others below) via Jess Fraser
  • Judo with 5x Olympian Maria Pekli (“No giraffe, no Charlie Chaplin, no snowboard” – on the positioning of your feet when setting up a hip throw). She was a real wealth of information on standing technique.
  • Guard fundamentals with Lachlan Giles and Dave Marinarkis
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The guys teaching single x guard
Plus a couple of hours of free rolling/open mat.
There was also a talk on Competition Psychology and Physiology by Tra-ill Dowie, and Sports Psychology with Chris Shen and the lovely Maryanne Mullahy, who I was lucky enough to roll with briefly as well.
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We also had a LOL comp (Loud Offensive Lycra) and super fights.
Many of us were too buggered by the Saturday night to get stuck into rolling in our dress ups.. but we did wear them out to brekkie the next morning!
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I met the best bunch of ladies and learnt so much, some basic techniques I have probably been told and shown previously, but right now they feel fresh and shiny and new – and I really hope they stick!
Things like keeping your posture when in someone’s guard, moving yourself – not your opponent, when you arm drag and go to their back and “never cross the streams” ie. the dangers of reaching diagonally for their opposite collar/sleeve .
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Some points from Tra-ill’s talk that have inspired me to work on where my head’s at when I’m on the mat..
  • Take a few minutes before every class to feel grateful – it will increase your ability to perform well and be a good competitor.
  • There are seven basic systems within the brain; Seeking, Rage, Fear, Panic, Lust, Care, Play. Keep rolls playful in order to stay in a positive and calm frame of mind when under pressure.
  • Fighting in comps motivated by panic, fear and rage will most likely see you flip your lid (lose control mentally). Using seeking and play as your motivation will see you most able to keep your cool.
One of my favourite camp moments was while grappling a blue belt, Kim – who I have rolled with previously at AGIG events and a few Australian Elite Team classes.
After our round she said “You’ve improved so much!” Big yay.
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