Day 23, Having way too much fun

It was Monday! Time to get myself cranked up again and in the gym for my 23rd day of the McDonald’s experiment.

Unfortunately I got a very slow start today due to a lot of issues which popped up out of nowhere. Exercising is something that I can fit into my normal living routine and schedule around my work. Working a normal 9-5 job it is not that difficult to run at 6 or 7 in the morning, eat, go to work, lift during the lunch hour, eat at my desk (or wherever — I’ve never had a boss who had a problem with that if I explained what I was doing and most importantly got him interested in it himself…) and go to box or roll after work is over and still have time to catch a TV show while I cook my dinner. Granted, that is a full day but its actually a lot more fun than spending the day procrastinating and avoiding any activities which might speak of personal motivation. That being said, videotaping everything you’re doing for a month does actually require a life-pause. This has turned out to be pretty fun in a childish sort of way, but it is extremely time consuming… and with that comes neglect of other areas of my life, which have popped up today and have interfered directly with the schedule I was hoping to follow.

Feeling chipper around the final turn of the run

I felt a little bit tired but it was difficult to tell if it overtraining and just being worn out, McDonald’s finally sneaking up on me or if it was really just my mood because the morning sucked. Okinawa was experiencing a pretty nasty bout of Chinese factory smog today, too, and sometimes that makes me feel weird… but usually only after I run. Because of the way I felt I resolved to really try to hold myself back and run as slow as I felt comfortable with. It may sound weird to a non-runner but holding yourself back can feel worse than letting yourself go faster sometimes, and I usually have a problem with that so when I want to hold myself back I really have to focus on it.

I ran the same 4km route in 20:30 though I felt like I was going slow. In fact, I felt like I was running so slow that I would turn in a 24 or 25 minute time, but that just wasn’t the case today. That was a remarkable difference in the way I felt today, after two days of complete rest, over the way I felt on Friday where I was killing myself to get the exact same run time I did today. Actually, it was the exact same run time to the second, which is an unusual coincidence… but running about 15 times in 30 days with a time spread of a little less than 60 seconds gives you a pretty fair chance at having at least a few run times match.

After my run I really felt like going to the gym to lift but there just was no way I would be able to eat, lift, eat again, roll, box and then eat again and feel good about it so I stuck with my decision to call off lifting today so I could dedicate some time and focus to jiu-jutsu today.

Which reminds me… I failed to mention that jiu-jutsu is really my main sport and the reason I am so focused on boxing is because I suck at it. I am decent at rolling around on the ground though and have done it for a few years, though I haven’t had a chance to train with anyone worthwhile in a few years. The boxing gym I am going to is supposed to be bringing in a judo black belt and a jiu-jutsu black belt this month and I am extremely excited. It is difficult to explain the level of awareness you can gain by being exposed to people who are truly skilled and it is an invaluable experience to roll with some people who can skillfully ball you up in an instant instead of the typical opponent who simply wants to try to struggle and muscle his way through positions that he doesn’t yet fully understand.

I really could go on and on about that, but that’s not the point of this blog just now. I was very excited about the prospect of getting my gi back on and rolling with some skilled players.

I went to the gym thinking I would be doing ground work first and then moving to boxing, but instead there was an “MMA” class going on taught and populated largely with the sort of MMA folks I don’t agree much with who refuse to ever train a single skill set to perfection in isolation and instead suffer from the sloppiness that is typical of the amateur scene these days. I decided to move over to the boxing side of the gym and do my boxing routine first though that would wear me out a bit before stepping on a mat for the first time in a few years.

Making myself more tired than I needed to be today with Ell

My boxing workout:

Jumprope, 2R
Knees (heavy bag), 2R
Light bag (movement), 1R
Front kick & move (heavy bag), 2R
Shadow, 3R
Heavy bag, 3R
Heavy mitts, 2R
Focus mitts, 2R

That adds up to a 17 round workout — a lot more than I had intended to do before moving over to the jiu-jutsu mats. I took so long over at the boxing area because I was waiting on the MMA group to finally disperse and the BJJ guys to pull their gis out. It took forever, so I just kept boxing because, well, why not?

Finally the jiu-jutsu folks came out and started getting ready. I wiped off and changed clothes. The jiu-jutsu guy I had heard about was supposed to be a black belt, but apparently that was an exaggeration or simply a rumor. The instructor turned out to be a purple belt named Leandro who had come in from Brazil specifically to teach groundwork at the gym, though he was not teaching in the MMA class for some reason.

You may expect that I was disappointed at not having a black belt to roll with, and I was in a way, but the fact is legitimate purple belts are serious fighters and many schools are run and serious jiu-jutsu groups are often run by purples. I haven’t had a chance to roll with a purple in a long time and I figured this would be a great opportunity anyway. That being said a black belt has a definite edge over a purple belt in skill, teaching ability, vision on the mat and most notably experience.

Sadly all of the other students were either beginners or were the sort of guys who thought they knew a lot because they have tapped out tiny people before. Strength is important (despite all the bullshit talk about “inner power” you hear from kung-fu movie experts), but if you are significantly bigger than your opponent it is easy to steamroll him if you both don’t know what you are doing and cover up your technical deficiencies. There wasn’t anybody stronger than me in the group but there sure were a lot of guys who seemed to want to find out how tired they could make me by squeezing, tugging and generally trying to overpower me strength instead of focusing on their skillsets and actually gaming their positions.

Leandro was going over two basic guard passes and a variation on the baseball choke today during the technique phase. I had never met Leandro or any of the other guys before so I kept my mouth shut and just looked for small differences between the way I do things and the way Leandro does. Watching him and then asking to be the test dummy for techniques showed me that Leandro was very smooth, moves extremely well and knows what he is doing. You can never really tell until you lock horns with someone sparring, but I was pretty sure from the contact I had with him drilling that he could beat me without too much trouble so I was getting really excited about sparring him, despite being pretty worn out already from boxing too long.

Keeping to myself, listening to the other players

When we started sparring it became quickly obvious that nobody but Leandro knew what they were doing. I resisted the urge to lord over the other students by simply crushing them repeatedly and tried to get them thinking about what they were doing by talking them through the situations they were in and only tapping them out when they gave me a present (like an outstretched arm in mount). Some were responsive, some didn’t think they needed to take advice from another white belt — though I’ve been wearing mine for a few years.

After a bit of watching Leandro asked me how long I’ve been doing this and if I wanted to spar with him. Of course I did! Smashing people can be fun, but it gets really boring if you’re not being legitimately challenged and the guys you are beating up aren’t interested in knowing where they are going wrong.

We decided on 5-minute rounds and to simply continue after tap-outs from similar positions. Leandro is a lot shorter than me and a good bit lighter weight so he got very low as he approached to avoid any takedown strong-man battles. I couldn’t figure out a way to get under him and he was very wary of letting my hands get near his feet so tripping was difficult. I started to go over the top and he let me, but instead of letting me smother him in a wrestling overgrip with him turtling he rolled into me (that was new) and nearly acquired butterfly guard before I scooted away. It was a really interesting and very mobile move and set the pace for the rest of our session. Leandro tapped me out several times and threatened me enough times with serious attacks that I was never able to really gain the initiative despite taking his back or turtling him several times. His defense was amazing and his transitiong between defenses and offenses and varying offenses was impressive. I am a highly mobile player but Leandro’s ability to maintain the top and transition around my escapes was able to generally either shut me down or put me in situations where I was likely to make a mistake in the scramble.

Swimming out of (another) triangle attack from Leandro — he’s very smooth pulling me into those

We talked about where I was screwing up and what we each felt was preventing me from regaining a top position most of the time (the only time I was regaining top was during escapes from back attacks or triangle chokes). His back defense was so impressive to me that we started sparring strictly from back and resetting once either an escape or a tap-out was executed. This taught me a lot about the way Leandro thinks about back and was a wonderful learning experience for me, showing me how much I didn’t know about the back/rear-mount position.

Leandro skillfully working his way out of my rear mount

Getting a hook in to take his back — not that I will be able to finish an attack from here on this guy
On a side note, that belt might not look very white, but it is, I’ve just been wearing it a really long time

I know I’ve written too much already and I am getting a bit away from the point of this blog, so let’s just say that rolling with Leandro was a great experience and I had a ton of fun. In fact, I had way too much fun. I had arrived at the gym at 1700 today and I didn’t leave until 2230 (I boxed until around 1900 and rolled from 1900-2230… yikes!). I had consumed about 5 liters of water while there and hadn’t eaten anything. This was going to take a toll on me the next few days I knew, but in all honesty I didn’t want to stop rolling. Today reminded me of why I love working out, why I love jiu-jutsu and why I think competitive combat sports are some of the most consumingly real experiences we can have as humans.

Talking through the holes in my game and the strengths in his

I went to stuff my face after rolling and while I was waiting on my food I could feel the absolute energy drain taking its toll on me. I felt a little bit shaky because I had done so much on only a single meal, but I was extremely happy to have had the experiences I had this evening.

I totally deserved an ice cream today…

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