R and R

Sometimes the hardest part of the training is the not training part. The focus and dedication to improvement becomes such a welcomed grind that tunnel vision takes over completely. I’m all about the work that it takes to get better. I’ve become so focused on putting the work in, that it makes me forget about the other important part of the train. The rest and relaxation part.

Time off Is a very underrated but very important tool for recovery and refocusing. Some say that a week off will actually make you better when you come back. I was never so sure about that as I’ve had weeks off where I come back much better and weeks off where I come back feeling like I’ve forgotten my whole repertoire of moves. Add to that the cardio part seems to be much harder as I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things after time off. Nothing really prepares you for fighting like fighting, so it leaves me feeling like I will have missed out on a lot.

The key part in all this is to think of the positives. I’m giving myself a much needed time to rest and recover. Breaks are important for recovery and as long as I still keep my goal in mind and my mental repertoire of moves fresh, My battery should hopefully be charged to keep me through another long year of training and competition. In the meantime, it’s nice to have a little free time, get out, and have some fun outside of the sport. As long as I can keep reminding myself that this is a good thing!

The Procedure

After almost 2 weeks of hobbling around I was sure that I had endured a serious injury. Although this is entirely unlike me I decided to go to a doctor and get myself checked out. It had been about a week and a half and I felt no better at all. I was still limping and my knee felt severely sore and swollen. Upon getting a quick examination, my doctor informed me that I had an LCL strain and possibly some serious meniscus tear. Now I don’t know exactly what all that means, but it sounds really bad. Surgery bad.

I Went for my MRI on Thursday and the suspense of the 24 hour waiting time for my results could have probably killed me. I waited and just sweat it out until late Friday afternoon when the results had finally come in. My doctor informed me that although I had endured a major trauma as indicated by the swelling, I was actually just very lucky. It turns out that despite everything, I am only dealing with inflammation, and while heavy, certainly workable. After my fears of surgery and months of staying out of the gym and the competition scene had taken over, I am given this amazing breath of fresh air! The doctor would like to keep seeing me and have me working some exercise to strengthen the muscles around the joint, But says that I can expect to return to training in one week. I can’t remember the last time I heard better news!

Dealing with Injury

I showed up at a small tournament last weekend. I was initially just going to watch some matches and cheer some friends on. After a couple weeks of enjoying myself, going overboard on ice cream and cheeseburgers after almost every training session, I probably shouldn’t have been competing. Once I got there though, things were different. i saw fights going on, competitors everywhere, and I decided “why not?”. I grabbed my gear out of my car (it’s ALWAYS in my car) and I got ready to jump in. After all, you only live once, right?

Halfway through my third match my leg ended up in a strange position, forcing my knee to loudly pop and almost give way. I continued on with my match, winning and making it to the semi final round. At that point I found myself unable to perform up to par and I eventually ended up losing that match. I hobbled off of the mat and had a really hard time walking without a limp after that. I accepted my 3rd place medal and then proceeded to go get myself some nice. By this point, I could tell something was up. I’ve been through a lot of injuries, mostly off the mat. It started to seem quite obvious that at this point I was in some trouble. I went home and took some ibuprofen, rested some and continued with the ice, but the damage had been done. Something was definitely wrong, and after a week and a half of no improvement, it was time to contact a doctor.

Frustration

Swallowing a loss is no easy task. Going into a situation knowing that you did your absolute best and prepared in any way that you possibly could have and still came up short, well that’s another story altogether. Sometimes there are situations where you know that you could have tried harder or done more, but when a situation is out-of-control it brings with it a whole different element of thought.

After months of training hard and focusing all my energy on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships, I came up short last weekend. In the quarterfinals of the tournament I ended up losing a very close match. This match was in a way controversial because I felt that the referee was not awarding me the points that I had earned. In fact, our offense was just about the same if not me scoring more than my opponent. The referee however, had seen it in a different way and probably cost me the match.

The frustration that I feel is definitely real and definitely intense. Losing a match to a much better opponent is sometimes easier to cope with than losing a very close match to somebody that I very well may have been better than. This all just tells me that while I did everything that I could, there are some variables that are just out of my hands. The only thing I can do is take this loss and go back to the drawing board with it. I enjoyed my time in California and Las Vegas, ate some of my favorite foods that I have missed, and had an opportunity to train with some old teammates. While I have been enjoying myself and giving my mind a break from competition, I have still been working my body hard. All I can do is push myself and all I can do is strive to get better. In this competitive field where everybody is literally out to get each other; drive, dedication, and desire Needs to be in the right place not for just a season but for the long-haul. Success in the game of life after all is not a sprint but a marathon.

The Life

I get used to the soreness. I get used to being tired. I get used to showing
up at classes way more often than the average guy. The goal becomes all I can
see, the stakes too high. I’m comfortable with that.

There’s other things I’m used to that come along with the lifestyle. Byproducts
of the competition scene is really what they are. The training ends, and then
the trial becomes the traveling. Scouring websites like Priceline.com fighting
for the best prices for flights, rental cars, and hotel rooms is first. Then
comes trying to find a ride to the airport. Surprisingly, this is tedious after
a time. Anybody who thinks “no problem, my buddy will give me a ride”, hasn’t
flown to Las Vegas 10 times in one year. It gets tougher.

Turbulence, jet lag, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, rental cars, and getting lost due to faulty GPS directions are all just part of the grind. Sometimes the hardest part of the trip is getting to the hotel, getting settled in, and getting adequate sleep. The battle with the nerves we face is one that can go on for days, even weeks. Sometimes the last thing we can think about is our actual fight. Life on the road can get crazy at the times, but at the end of the day its all about the experience!

Injuries

Any sport or physical activity brings with it it’s physical consequences.
Especially in combat sports, where the objective is to inflict bodily harm (to a
certain degree), accidents happen. In a sport where the objective is to grab a
hold of your opponent and force him to submit by choking him unconscious or
applying a series of joint locks attacking primarily the elbows, wrists, or
shoulders, there will surely be injuries. And let’s not even get into leg locks!

Jiu Jitsu is known as the gentle art or “arte suave” in Brazil. A smooth,
flowing series of transitional movements that land a practitioner in dominant
position or submission, this grappling art can be beautiful to the eye and
surprisingly harmless to the body. For the most part, a skilled practitioner
can see (like in a game of chess) when they are in danger moves ahead. This
allows for the individual to prepare and defend, or promptly tap out. There are
always instances though, when this doesn’t happen. Especially in competition
when athletes are pushing themselves to the limit and trying to power out of
holds that they know they are caught in.

There will always be injuries in sports. The key is to find a way to push
through them. Sometimes pushing through means tape it up and keep on going.
Sometimes pushing through means having the strength to admit when you need a
break. In preparation for a major fight, there will always be at least a minor
injury to work through. It is said that nobody goes into a fight at 100%. Even
so, it’s important to be smart, and sometimes have a back up plan to go to when
injured. If all an injured athlete does when injured is sit around waiting to
get back to training, days will feel like years, and the time off will be ill
spent. In a fight, just like in life, versatility is an important key to
prominence.

Overtraining

Getting ready for the biggest tournament of the year, can be hard on you. The
usual volume and intensity of training is turned up a few notches, and the
mindset changes completely. In hot pursuit of a world championship, you
sometimes forgo normal human feelings. Basic needs like food, water, rest,
relaxation, and socializing go by the wayside as the only thought becomes
winning.

It can sometimes be an amazing thing how much the mind shuts out when there is a
goal at hand. At times like this, the tunnel vision takes over and the fight
becomes all I can think about. When this happens, it becomes a major task to
focus on other priorities, school included. The mental and physical draining
process becomes so taxing that even when I’m applying myself to a task, I don’t
notice the decline in my abilities to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
Exhaustion takes over, and takes over completely.

So now the question arises, “what’s to be done about this”? I’m beginning to
think that the problem with the mental chaos that comes along with preparing for
a major event is fixable with meditation. Clearing the mind and establishing a
pattern of relaxation can only help me regain mental focus. Just like anything
else, if this is a goal I set out to achieve, there will be a way to accomplish
it. If all goes well, I will be starting a yoga program upon my return from the
west coast, and I should hope to see my mental clarity return in no time at all.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned on the Mat

All I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and that to do and how to be I learned on
the mat. “Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned”:

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

You can learn something from EVERYBODY

Hard work pays off in everything you do

Facing adversity makes you a better, stronger person

Warm cookies and cold milk are NOT good for you.

Take a nap every afternoon.

Practice good hygiene, your body, and everyone else around you will thank you for it.

You are not perfect. You have a breaking point. Accept it, so that you may learn to
work through it.

Nobody is unbeatable.

Respecting your fellow man is pivotal in any life setting.

Sometimes we must follow if we ever hope to lead

Self control, intensity, integrity, intelligence, and leadership will get you
everywhere.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply
it to sophisticated real world settings and I firmly believe that they will hold up. I
have always felt that there is something to be said about a game in which the intent is
to reach the goal of defeating another person in a fight situation, using 100% of your
abilities in trying to do so. That certain something is indicative of the struggles
that we endured as a species and persevered through in order to be here today. It is
also my opinion that this scenario is much closer to the real, natural world and it’s
settings than the corporate suit and tie world of today could ever could be.
By entering into this setting, we are in a sense reborn, defenseless as babies in the
wild and forced to adapt. The lessons we learn here are real, true to life survival
instincts, some which have become long forgotten here in this age of technology. In
truth, when applied to everyday life, these lessons prove as beneficial as they do in
combat sports.

Telling proof of my opinion is the age old classic novel, “The Book of
Five Rings”. In this book, 17th century samurai warrior of Japan, Musashi Miyato shares the lifetime worth of knowledge he gained in his deadly art. To this day, business leaders worldwide cite his book as lending them the blueprint they need to follow in order to be successful in the business world. Knowledge of this only serves as reassurance to me of what I already know. The lessons I’ve learned in this world; the drive, work ethic, and camaraderie that I continue to gain every time I step on the mat, serve as tools that I can take with me into any avenue of life. These hard learned lessons have taught me more about myself and the world around me than anything else could have, and with them I am well equipped to live a better and more productive life.

My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training Blog

This Saturday I competed in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan-American championships. This is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, and by far the most prestigious on the East Coast.  After months and months of focused training for this event, I showed up to city college in Harlem ready to win.  After three grueling fights I had made it to the semifinal round.  In this fourth fight, I had been winning by a considerable advantage and my opponent was far more tired than I. At this point he went for a final desperation move and with a last ditch effort I was caught in an unorthodox position, forced to tap out due to a vicious ankle lock, thus ending my goal of winning the championship.                         

                                                                          
All in all I think I did a great job. Third place in such a major event is a really big deal, but I know that I could have done better. After a day or two of nursing my wounds, I need to get myself right back on the mat.  Come November, is my biggest event of the year, the World Championship tournament.  With just under five weeks to prepare, I now look toward the biggest prize of them all, the coveted World Championship.  All of my preparation and mental focus will be on this next event, and I know that with the right mindset and the right preparation, I can bring that title home.  In the coming weeks, I will be training, strategizing, and getting myself into a mind state where I know I can achieve victory.  The purpose of this blog is to chronicle what I will be going through and use it to organize my thoughts and training practices in order to optimize the work that I put into my goal.