I am three and a half months into learning jiu-jitsu, and it has become a real source of motivation for me. I am finally up to two classes a week, and things are slowly making sense in terms of what I am trying to do on the mats. Last night had me at my first class in a Gi (traditional Japanese uniform) at Toronto No Gi (a non-traditional school for Brazilian jiu-jitsu), and it has been a long road for me to feel comfortable enough to put one of these on. The wait was worth the anticipation; the new experience confirmed that patience and building the foundational techniques pay off.
I actually own about four Gi right now. Overkill. But honestly, I really like the designs by a few companies (93 Brand, Meerkatsu, Shoyoroll and CTRL Industries), and it has been tricky to find the right size for my body type. A2 seemed right, so I bought the Meerkatsu/93 collaboration Zodiac and the Haida design Gi from CTRL. They are both beautiful and I can probably shrink them enough so that they fit better. If not, then the bottoms have made a perfect replacement for gym pants around the house and while working out.
For my first class, I went with a Shoyoroll A1L that I got two weeks back. It fits me perfectly and I like the simplicity of it. Shoyoroll is a bit of an annoying company to buy from though, as they only do limited edition drops of their clothing and most sell out within 20 seconds only to end up on eBay for double the price 15 minutes later. For me, in Canada, I think my iPhone connection is fast or I am magical because I have been successful making purchases on their last two drops. I do not like the illusionary hipster exclusivity of this brand, but their products fit me really well and at the end of the week that is really about all that matters
From what I understand, most jiu-jitsu Gi are made in Pakistan and designed by others for production. While there are three main colours of Gi [white, blue and black], I have decided to go with white. Why? I am clearly a white belt, and will probably remain so for quite some time. White kimono seem like a universally accepted colour, and eventually I will feel confident enough to visit gyms for day sessions as I travel the world. I am happy enough with the patches and design options as my identity expression, so white I will stay…even if black would make me look thinner and more evil. Muuhhahaha.
What was class like? I truly loved it. The instructor showed me how to tie my belt properly (and unlike others’ belts, mine never fell undone). I felt like I was embarking on an exciting ritual, and then I learned what it felt like to almost be choked unconscious with the lapels of my Gi.
In reality, the night’s focus was on the omoplata and transitions from there to arm bar to triangle and wrist lock. Submissions are the cool part of jiu-jitsu, and the “tricks” you would want to show your buddies, but they are also the part that could hurt those buddies (so keep them on the mats!). I read an awful lot, and the idea of position before submission resonates a lot for me. Attempting an omoplata from a weak position is not as useful as using it as a way to move to a better position.
My weakness is the leg triangle. I have powerful, short legs and that makes the triangle tough. It is a move that I seem to be able to get to, but not finish, which means that I need to work on finding a way to make it work for me.
My strength is…my actual strength and my body weight. I am only 5’6″, I weigh 194 pounds, but I do not look that heavy. As a white belt, my role is to survive on the floor. I have no illusions about being Marcelo Garcia at this stage of my journey; I simply do not want to be choked unconscious while I am trying to learn how to move through positions. Using my strength becomes exhausting, so I try to only use it when I need safety as I look for any move I might find recognizable from my current position. Last night I had my third “rolling” experience. It was with a third stripe white belt whose first question was “How much do you weigh?” Answer: 200 pounds. Why? Reason: if an opponent asks a question like that, then it shows what he fears. 200 pounds makes me sound scarier, so that was what I became. Our roll went well for me, but was probably frustrating for him. He almost submitted me via a collar choke, but I remained calm, rose to my feet and broke his grip. After that I was able to achieve three things that I was quite proud of: a wrist lock, a triangle and passing his guard to side mount. None of these resulted in submissions, but if I had pressed the wrist lock, been able to finish the triangle or move from side mount to knee on belly, then I might have had him tap.
Why didn’t I? I did not want to break his wrist in a wrist lock and he was fighting the move so I would have had to use too much strength thereby sacrificing control and his safety. The triangle was just not happening yet. It will, but not yet. When I made side mount I was exhausted and the round buzzer rang, so I tapped to end the roll safely. What I attempted, but could not secure, was an Americana shoulder lock and a kimura from you closed guard. I also found a bicep press from his closed guard. Overall, I was happy with what I learned for the next time.
In other life events, we booked a journey to Rome and Florence for March. I am shooting hero shots for Paderno cookware this weekend. I signed up for the Robert Drysdale jiu-jitsu seminar in Hamilton at the end of the month. My second session with Kyle to work on my left arm tattoo sleeve is set for next Saturday, and who know what else I can fit into the time that remains.