AET Grading.

An Australian Elite Team grading is the stuff of legend. Among the BJJ crew I mix with, anyway.

Ninos doesn’t tell a student when they’re about to grade – he tells everyone else. The class begins as usual, but sometime midway through a demonstration he or she whose time it is will suddenly be pounced on by a pre selected student – a collective roar will go up, accompanied by the thunderous sound of bare feet and hands, slapping and stomping the mat in encouragement.

“The chosen one” quickly realises it’s time to put up their biggest fight yet and gets to work, while Ninos regally makes his way through the crowd of students selecting the next opponents.

On the battles go, until everyone has rolled with the suffering student. The most senior team members give him or her a hard time before it’s Ninos’ turn.

The crowd again roars as the head of AET shows how it’s done, and when he decides they’ve fought hard enough, a submission is applied which signals the grading is complete.

I was hoping to witness this and the hardcore belt whipping that follows before I left, and last weekend I was able to.

AET held an open day at the new headquarters; a bigger warehouse than the old digs, kitted out with arguably one of the biggest mat spaces in the country (and even then training can still feel crowded).

Around 300 people came – mostly grapplers and their family members from affiliates, but also rival club members, to show their support.

Three students graded, two to purple and one to blue.

Poor Dany dislocated his knee halfway through, but he continued on with all the moves he was able to do.

The line up at the end for belt whipping was pretty epic – whites and blues the full length of the mat with a second line needed for purple, brown and black belts.

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Photo: Courtesy of AET
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Huge congrats Tony, Jason and Dany! Photo: Courtesy of AET

Some really heartfelt speeches followed, then it was barbecue and open training time!

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I got to hang with a gorgeous bunch of jits girls, and received some tips from one, Emily – to get more comfortable on my neck/shoulders and in situations where I’m being stacked. (“bring your knees into your chest, people forget they have another joint between their neck and legs!”)

I’m gonna miss these kids.

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– How do your club gradings work?! Do you like the surprise approach?

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Bottom Up!

I was dropped on my head once – not as a baby but as a 17 year old, under a tree at debating camp by a dude I had a major crush on.

He was easily 6 ft tall, we were being boisterous and without warning he grabbed me around the waist and hoisted me up to throw over his shoulder.

Whatever force it is, he misjudged it and I went flying up and over – crashing head first onto the ground… like one of those tennis balls in a stocking if you ever played with one in primary school, wound it around your head and let go – but think tennis ball sailing dowwwwwn.

I was stunned, felt pins and needles … everyone panicked – but I was ok!

Maybe it stems from that, maybe it doesn’t – all I know is I have this mental freak out when rolling that sees me often put an invisible ‘block’ on moves that should see me forward/backward roll or fight off my shoulders.

For example, instead of rolling out of an omoplata I’ll stop down and struggle then cop the submission.

Last night I did my first proper class in a couple of months (happy to report the back/groin whatever injury it is, pulled up ok!)

We did this shoulder roll drill – well, everyone else did… picture me simply falling sideways … and that’s about as far as I get.

I’m a curvy girl, I often tell the guys I feel like one of those bottom-heavy blow up punching bags that will always spring back up no matter how hard you try to put their butt in the air. (Bobo The Clown rings a bell?)

I want to be able to do this roll! And comfortably spin in and out and around all over the place.

If you have any drilling tips/links/suggestions to get me more comfy on my shoulders, I’d love to read them.

It’s Not A Race.

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Let’s just draw a line through that last New Year’s Resolution – I’m a one-stripe white belt with a back injury – I am NOT getting my blue belt in the next six months.

And I’m completely okay with that! 

Late last year when I wrote these resolutions I was training hard – very conscious of how quickly my teammates were progressing – I felt this desperate need to prove myself and keep up.

While Sensei had told us it’s not uncommon for people to be on the same belt for a number of years in BJJ, other students I was meeting and mixing with were moving to blue belt within a year to 18 months. 

That goal was going to be a big motivator I figured, a commitment to keep up the training and progression.

But a few things got in the way.. I took a month off for a trip to Europe, couldn’t make class for a few weeks because of work, couldn’t make my old class times AT ALL because of a work shift change, hurt my back and haven’t trained now for more than a month.

A few revelations..

– Life gets in the way. Injury gets in the way, and it’s okay! Not everyone is going to be able to commit to every class and every tournament – not everyone can be on the winner’s blocks at comps and become world champions.

– There is such a thing as a ‘natural’ in this sport, (to a degree) body types, competitive attitudes and athletic backgrounds count for a LOT. I have no advantage in this area.

– It’s not a race. I can be thrilled and in awe of my BJJ friends and teammates as they collect more stripes and medals and proudly wear in a shiny new belt colour, and not feel like I’m being left behind.. because the only person I’m competing against is myself.

For now, the mission continues to treat and strengthen my back so I can be ready to roll when I jet off in 4 weeks time. And if it’s still not good by then? I’ll pack a shiteload of painkillers and just keep working on it.

Missing The Mat.

My BJJ training comeback was short lived. The bulging discs in my back are still an issue and something I really need to get on top of, before I leave in a little over a month.

I really haven’t had a problem with them since 2008, when I first started feeling back pain which turned into sciatica – many visits to doctors, X-rays and MRIs and a few neurosurgeons later, and it eventually came good without the need for surgery.

Intensive physio/a huge focus on core strength, water aerobics, personal training etc.

The good run I have had since though is something I have taken for granted – and doing Jiu Jitsu, it was only a matter of time before my lack of ‘back maintenance’ caught up with me.

Trying to describe what’s going on in my lower back is hard – when I’m standing and walking I feel no pain. Sit/bend down or stand up though, and it’s excruciating on one side, into my hip joint and thigh.

Straightening my leg to stretch is tough, as is raising it in a straight position.

Getting out of bed in the morning would have to be the worst. Sometimes it takes me a good 5 minutes to work out the least painful way to get upright. So you can see how this ‘injury’ is not conducive to rolling!

All I’m allowed to do at the moment is light stretching and moderate walking – and I’m starting to see the extra kilos creep onto the scales.

BUT I must stay positive, must do everything I can to help myself and get strong, so I can get back to the sport I love.

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. =)

Bikram Yoga – some kind of hell.

I knew what I was in for – I went through a phase about a year and a half ago where I was going to Bikram Yoga classes three times a week. I was a wobbly, inflexible mess then and I am even worse now.

Just add back injury to the above. But THAT’S why I have returned to the hot room.

My Osteopath thinks I have a disc herniation of sorts, something I’m familiar with having a sister who needed an operation hers was so bad, and having had three bulging discs previously myself.

So no Jiu Jitsu for me until it settles down… I am allowed to walk, do the prescribed back/butt strengthening exercises and pilates/yoga – backward bends are ok, forward bending not so much.

So I went into the room knowing there would be a few moves I would sit out, ok possibly a little smug in that knowledge too (weeee unscheduled rest/water breaks!). What I didn’t expect was how crazy dizzy I would feel ( I totally ate and drank beforehand in preparation too). I ended up having to sit out a good half of the class.  

Thankfully I didn’t embarrass myself by fainting! And I did stay in the room the entire time, which scored me points with the teacher. 

Something I forgot about which I will have to erm, rectify before my next visit – open plan showering after class = lots of female nekkidness!

Supermarket stop for some wax on the way home.