Monday, September 10, 2012

Wah wah wah

//First off, apologies for the rambling nature of this. It's and unedited steaming shitpile of stream of consciousness self-pity, but I needed to get it out, because it was doing me no good at all in.

I'm familiar enough with depression to recognise the warning signs in myself. It's a terrible feeling to be looking at yourself and find nothing within you to be happy about. Certainly there are things to be satisfied with, but nothing I'm proud of. It's kind of a dark place. I wish I could say I'm surprised that I find myself in this place now, but I'm not. I get bad news and am disappointed, but not surprised. Good news surprises me. 

I have a good job, a wife and child that I love, I live in a nice suburb of a good city in a great country. It's really not that bad. But I am still angry at myself. I look at everything I've squandered over the years, dumb choices, laziness and fear holding me back. I want to say "NO MORE", but am enough of a realist to know it won't be that easy.

So I'm going to break down some of my issues and what I can do:

1) Weight/Fitness - this is pretty simple. Get back on the fucking wagon pal. Eat properly, do the exercise you want to and don't let excuses take over, you've used enough of them to recognise all of them by now.

2) Family - this is easy. I love them already. Reading bed time stories, playing trucks or dinosaurs or even just watching at the park, it's all great. And it helps that when there's an argument it's over the small petty stuff, hard to maintain anger over the way someone packs the dishwasher.

3) Work - this is the killer. When I went to university, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I did a lot of nothing and a little bit of everything and came out the other side with a BA and an appreciation of a lot of different subjects. Since then it's been a succession of jobs with nothing to them - customer service and office management. And by "nothing to them" I mean that at the start and end of each day you've got nothing to show for your work except paper with a new stamp on it in a new pile. The job mightn't be rewarding, but it's reliable, it pays well and I have plenty of time for family. So I tolerate it and cherish the time I have with the people who make it worthwhile.

My wife encourages me to go back to university, but I don't even know where to start. I'm thirty years old and I still don't know what I want to do with my life. When I was in grade 4 I wrote about how I wanted to be an explorer, going to different planets, the deep sea, into the jungles - in search of lost cities and mythical beasts. Turns out there's not much call for explorers today - and even then, I doubt I'd ever find Mokele Mbembe now. I had wanted to join the Navy, but poor eyesight ended that, sadly the medical reviews for that ended late enough in the piece that I never really got a chance to think on what I wanted to do instead. So I started at University with no clear goal and no real motivation.

I cannot imagine staying in my current job for years more, let alone the decades that coworkers have. Hell, even remaining in the same business holds no appeal. It might be an outdated view, but today I couldn't stop thinking that I'll have nothing to show my son, let alone my grandchildren that I have done. I don't have a job where I can say: show them a building and say "I helped build that" or point to a story in a newspaper and say that I was somehow involved, or even wrote it. This isn't a world where I can build a house from scratch, I can't even renovate, I don't even have a garden to grow (and am a terrible gardener anyway - I didn't get that gene from my family). I'm left wanting a legacy that I know I will never have. It must be the historian in me who's obsessed with such things.

So here I am, browsing job listings, university admissions details and trying to figure out if going back to uni is really worth losing the income for four years and setting ourselves back even further. And even if I do go back - what the fuck do I want to do?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A quick update.

As I mentioned on Facebook, I had been hoping to drop weight before the comp, but a dose of gastro/food poisoning wasn't my preferred method.  But there you go.

However, while recovering from it I've been taking the time to do some solo drills of my own devising just to keep some skills up.

1) With punching bag hanging, I put a gi jacket on it (so it's roughly the same height as me) and set it swinging.  I then am trying to catch grips (collar ties, cuff grips, lapel grips) for takedown entries on the moving target. 

2) Same as above, but then going into the footwork and motions for that takedown. 

3) Holding punching bag with gi jacket on in closed guard (holding the bag elevated as if it's someone who's postured up in guard, but without the bag touching the floor so your legs and core are working), sitting/reaching up to get grips and pulling the bag down towards you so it becomes a battle between your upper and lower body. 

4) Laying bag flat on floor, in a sprawled side control on one side, to knee ride that side, to knee ride other side to sprawl and continue.... 

5) Stand bag up and go into a wrestling style "clinch" (head to one side, with a theoretical "head control" of the bag with one hand) and then practice sprawls and then "sitting out" to capture the back. 

And then a theoretical one that I'm trying to find a place to do it: 

Need a long "fence" (the metal or wood kind with a post every few metres and a single long bar inbetween with no cyclone fencing underneath), sling a gi jacket over that, hook your ankles over it in a "closed guard" and do pull ups in this position to improve grip strength and upper body and core strength (and half of it would be keeping yourself stable). 

Monday, October 11, 2010

You are only as good as your last opponent.

First of all I need to say how great the academy's temporary location is.  It's not convenient for me and the mat layout can best be described as hazardous, but it somehow makes it feel much more awesome that it's above a tyre and rims shop down a side street.

It was my first evening training in a while though and going up against Dieter, who I hadn't rolled with for ages showed me that you need a lot of variety.  Because he smashed me in a variety of ways.  There is a saying in chess of "you can only get better by playing people who are better than you".  And this is completely true with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Whenever I have the opportunity to roll with those who are much more experienced than me I come out of the session feeling like I have learned so much.  Having someone highlighting every issue with your game by capitalising on it can be demoralising, but it is also such an important part of learning.

If you only ever rolled with people who couldn't show you what you were doing wrong, the you're never going to make corrections or improvements to your game.  But when someone destroys you and subs you once a minute for the duration of your sparring, you realise quickly what mistakes led to that in an effort to avoid the pain again.  Then you get the chance to make a whole new set of mistakes, or have existing ones highlighted by another sparring partner.

To be sure it's nasty to be so utterly thrashed by someone, but it's far better to have a glaring issue with your game highlighted in some sparring than in a comp.  And at least someone in your club should be willing to take time out after the roll to discuss it with you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

When is nothing the right answer?

I've been talking and thinking a lot about BJJ gameplans recently as try and design a plan which I can reliably train and then execute.  As I trial new ideas, refine techniques and learn from my mistakes and mis-steps I have come across a point which has puzzled me.

Is there ever a situation where the right move to do nothing?  This was prompted by a roll with Ben on Friday where he caught me in a knee-ride setup for an armbar, which as soon as I started to defend I realised was also a choke setup.  If I defended one, I'd be giving up the other.  And so I've been thinking hard about these "no-win" scenarios.  In training, it is obviously the best time to try something, make mistakes and learn from them, but what about in a competition?  Do you stall and defend and hope that you've mentally been tabulating points right?  Or do you just go for it and hope that the other person makes a mistake?  Obviously there are many different scenarios to be had, and if you were clearly in the lead then stalling would be the preferred (in terms of winning) choice.  

Assume for a moment that you find yourself in a similar "no-win" setup in competition.  You know that roughly a minute is left and you are behind on points.  Is it better to go for broke and risk it now, or wait and hope that your opponent gives you that bit of space or opportunity?

During some other rolls with people I've been able to win the positional battles, but their submission awareness and defense has been great and I've not been able to even go for, let alone apply a sub.  Stalling in a controlling position is never the morally right option, but it is a great way to win a fight.  But when your opponent has such good defense that chasing a submission is putting your position and lead at risk, is it better to choose to just stall?

I don't know what the right answer here is.  But I think I know what I'll be trying.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Losing weight. The easy way.

Every time you look at TV, newspapers or any other media today you see ads filled with dietologists talking to you about how to turn yourself from a fatty into some guy with abs you could use as a xylophone or in the case of ladies into someone who has clearly just had all the fat from the lipo dumped into the boobs and lips. All these nutritioneers talk about miracle formulations that turn your fat into cash or exercise secrets that not only burn calories but also brings burning desire into those of the opposite sex.

By drinking deep of their custom branded protein shake which they have somehow configured to make it taste completely awful (I suppose to prevent some people from gorging ourselves on protein shake binges) we are supposed to magically transform ourselves. And all for the low, low cost of only $50 a week to learn these secrets. And then another $50 for the supplies. And another $50 for the supplements. And another $50 for the rest of the food that the menu calls for. But by the time you get to the last one, you've already said "fuck it, and skipped the fruit and veg at the supermarket and picked up the biggest serve of chocolate you can find and are heading to the deli to see if they have a 1kg serve of the pasta salad there to go with your 2L chocolate milk. Really, it's just like a pyramid scheme run by skinny people to have a laugh at the expense of the desperate, gullible and overweight.

This isn't to say that you'll never have success with it, because some people do. But let me clue you in on the big secret to losing weight. It's six words. Two sentences. I can't be bothered counting the syllables.

Don't eat shit. Do some exercise.

Holy shit. Did I just blow your mind then? Now, as a guy who is admittedly a complete fatty nerd, who am I to tell you this? Well, perhaps there needs to be an addendum.

Have some willpower.

This is where I've traditionally fallen down. I get going and then suddenly I get an overwhelming craving to jam something unhealthy down my throat. Repeatedly. If I was a flippant person I could say something like: "But now that I've acknowledged that failing, I have taken away it's power." But that would be the kind of bullshit that you'd usually have to pay some jack-arse with a degree from some online university $200 an hour to hear. And believe me, a burger talks a hell of a lot louder than that guy. It's almost unfair, like having a debate between Dr Buddy Rydell and Mike Brady in your head. You know that one of them is being completely sensible and reasonable, and to top it all off is probably right. But then the other one throws a bag of golf clubs at your head and screams like a crazy man about how he's jonesing for a pizza. Tell me which one you'd placate.

I'm not going to go down the road of saying: "Oh, it's an addiction." Because that just seems like a cop-out. Instead I'll say that it's a case of GODDAMN are burgers and chocolate and pizza and coconut cream based curries tasty. Because I'll admit that I love to eat. It's just finding ways of making food that you're happy with and works for you. I've been working on a meal plan and though it's certainly no Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle or some other specialist plan, it is being sensibly constructed with the intent of balancing nutrition with weightloss while maintaining good variety. And even more important, it's economically viable. On first doing calculations for that Venuto at the start of 2009 I came to the conclusion that I'd be eating about 4kg worth of chicken breast every week. To say nothing of the egg whites and other items. Not exactly a sustainable practice, for my wallet or chicken-kind.

Onto other matters. Customer service first. On entering a footwear retailer and encountering a wait time, you shouldn't be surprised. What should surprise you is when none of the staff even acknowledge you or your wait and then go on to serve someone else who came in after you. Thank you Athlete's Foot Camberwell. You truly are a shining example of bad service.

However, on reconsidering my footwear requirements I decided to go back to my Launceston roots and picked up some KT20s (K-Mart Trainers 20 dollars for those who are wondering). Some wonderful no-name brand for $15. Not even 20 bucks anymore! Bargain. If they hold up well I may have to reconsider my long love affair with ASICS. However, if they fall apart after a fortnight, then I think that I'll be back on the ASICS bandwagon. I think I know which one is more likely here.

Second. What the hell is up with getting wrist-locked three times in one training session? It just seems uncalled for. I guess it means that I've either graduated to the next level where wrist-locking is acceptable, or if it was just one of those days. Either way, I'm bringing some koto-gaeshi to the next session now that I know it's on the table.

Third. Rolling with a black belt. I had a chance to roll with Ben for the first time in a long while today and it was eye opening. On the one hand I think that I did OK on some fronts as I got the compliment of "you're a good person to practice sweeps on as you have to get it right to sweep you." On the other hand I also had some face palm moments, like thinking that I'd passed guard and was about to get side control, only to suddenly realise that Ben was no longer there and was in fact on my back with hooks in. Though I don't think I made any massive mistakes, I also completely changed my game when facing him, being very slow and conservative in my movements as to not give him any more kinetic energy and inertia to work with than was possibly necessary. And still he did a hell of a lot with it. I love jits.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The start line

I had a a great roll during the lunchtime session today - especially with Fletch, a relative newcomer to the school, but who is at least as tall as me and tips the scales at about 120kg. And it was great to roll with someone of comparable size as it gave me an idea of what in my game will work come competition time. After all, usually when someone at the academy gets back mount I can easily turtle up and then roll. With combined 290kg to lift off the mat, suddenly that move becomes quite a bit more challenging. I really look forward to rolling more with Fletch in the future as I feel that we both were able to take a lot away from it.

I also rolled with another guy from San Diego who I cannot recall the name of. He had some grappling experience and it was a good challenging roll. As he has a few weeks before his work visa kicks in and he can commence paid employment he's intending to roll quite a bit and I look forward to more sessions with him as he had some good new tricks that I want to steal.

Add to this two good walks today and a planned shopping trip tomorrow to pick up some new shoes, I should be able to expand my training a bit more. Can't wait.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's been a while.

I decided to come back to this after about 18 months because I've made the decision to go into a fairly intensive training regime to prepare for the upcoming Pan Pacific BJJ Championships being held a the end of November.

First, a quick update on how things have gone.

Not well would be the short answer. I missed all the goals, but for several good reasons.
First is a baby. Hector, who was born on 24 November last year. So many of my plans for the year were thrown out by just how massive a disruption a pregnancy and then a baby are.
Second is the unfortunate fact that I completely axed my knee in training in March last year, tearing my lateral cruciate ligament, hamstring tendon and the cartilage in the knee. I didn't realise that I'd done anything that bad at the time and it wasn't until a few weeks later when I made it even worse that the problems really set in. Turns out that being unable to even walk reliably isn't conducive to maintaining your goals for fitness and weight loss.

Cue depression, anxiety and chronic overeating as a coping mechanism. A wonderfully bad combination. It's only been in the past few months that I've felt that I have regained at least 80% function in the knee and can now reliably weight-bear on it and not instantly collapse when I jog or have other impacts on it.

For all that though, I still have had a few good achievements. I got one stripe in a grading in November last year. I've roughly maintained my weight at about 170 (certainly nothing to be proud of, but given some of the other circumstances I'll take what I can get). And in February I won Gold in my division at the Inter Gracie Oceania Competition hosted by Gracie Oceania in Sydney.

So, with the Pan Pacs coming up, I've decided that I might as well go back to the plan I had last year. I'll be putting up more details in the next few days and will be putting up daily updates as well. Lets just hope that no potential opponents read this.

If you are, then I have a totally awesome open guard and have no interest whatsoever in pursuing an arm triangle or kimura.