Saturday, January 27, 2007

On The Mat

While recent UFF postings have been sporadic, I'm sure that my faithful readers (both of you) are keeping up using the wonders of modern technology (Praise RSS!) and you'll be happy to know that I have many inspiring entries in store. That pesky day job keeps getting in the way of blogging. Donations are welcome.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

During my recent trip to California, I had the opportunity to attend an introductory Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class at the Ralph Gracie Academy in Mountain View. I'm pretty sure that had such an excursion been suggested to me a few years ago, my response would have been a firm "Thanks but no thanks." However, given my recent forays into athleticism (see: Triathlon, Marathon, and Boxing), and safe in the knowledge that knowing nothing about martial arts AT ALL meant that I'd have nothing to prove, when MFD suggested it to me, and I believe somewhat to his surprise, I enthusiastically agreed to try it out.

The Academy is located in kind of a strip mall on El Camino Real in Mountain View. I borrowed a gi and changed in the bathroom, in which hung the sign: "Please! If you must throw up, do it in the toilet, not the sink. Thank You." Heh. And, ew.

I warmed up a little, and then one of the resident black-belts, Gumby, came over to help with my introductory lesson. He explained the principles of jiu-jitsu, and showed me a number of moves, including the oopa (mount escape), guard pass, and posture in guard. I practiced each one a bunch of times. I was kind of meh at some of them, including the bridge, which is strange because Urdhva Dhanurasana is one of my favourite yoga postures. He also showed me three attacks: the cross choke, the Americana shoulder lock (that's a good instructional video, but remember kids, these are trained professionals. Don't try this at home), and an armbar from mount. Watch out: If you lie still and don't defend yourself at all, I could really annoy you.

Both Gumby and MFD (who goes by Canada in these parts) were incredibly patient and encouraging, and the experience was surprisingly unintimidating. After about half an hour of instruction/practicing, Canada asked Don (whose nickname, if he has one, I didn't catch) to spar with me. Ack! So much for unintimidating. I kind of didn't want to do it, but hey, I was there, so I tried out my new moves.

In sparring that first time I learned something valuable: Jiu-jitsu is *hard*. Don, a brown belt, was very nice to me, and I'm quite aware of the fact that he could have kicked my ass from here to Sunday (read: effortlessly choked me unconscious and/or broken one of my limbs). Don, should you ever read this, thanks for not doing either of those things. I really like having two functioning arms. I tried to apply some of the stuff I'd learned, but in the moment, it was difficult to remember which hand went where and when. The technique seemed logical but complicated, and I really appreciated the amount of work these guys put into training.

To round out the experience, I watched Canada and Don spar for a while. To my untrained eye, these guys looked amazing. I also extra-want to keep both of them on my good side (see: unconsciousness, broken limbs).

Big thanks to everyone at the academy, including Batata (who runs the place), Gumby, Don, and Canada. I felt very welcome and would love to come back next time I'm in the Bay Area. ('Course then I wouldn't have that whole "know nothing" excuse to fall back on.)

Postscript: At lunch afterwards, almost immediately after we sat down, Don asked me how much I weigh. I told him, and he replied, "Yeah, you're pretty robust for a girl." I'm totally taking that as a compliment.

1 comment:

Candace said...

That sounds fun, I'd been thinking the problem with boxing is you don't get to kick anyone.

When I was doing Tae Kwon Do I hated the sparring. Hated it. They'd always pair me with some guy with arms like eight feet long so it'd be me standing there trying to block while getting beaten up. I think if you're short you have to be fast to compensate and, well, I'm not.