“What’s grappling camp?” asked a prospective client on the phone last week, reminding me that people do, actually, read this blog. And I’m sure some of you may be wondering as well. What happens when over twenty female Brazilian jiu jitsu players gather in a hot, sticky gym to train for five days?
Before you get any crazy ideas,let me start out by telling you what Women’s Grappling Camp was not. First of all, it was not easy. No modified push-ups or Swiss ball crunches for us. Emily Kwok, who lead most of the (brutal, prolonged) warm-ups, is more drill sergeant than yoga instructor. And although training with these women was a blast, there ain’t nothin’ easy about 2 two-hour grappling sessions, drillin’ and rollin’ like banshees in a hot, sticky gym with no air conditioning. Second, we did not sit around and talk about how we hate men. I think it’s virtually impossible to get to a high level in jiu jitsu without the support and guidance of predominantly male instructors and training partners. There are a lot of different reasons women might want to train with other women…man-hating wasn’t one of them! And finally, Women’s Grappling Camp did not resemble bikini mud wrestling, so get your mind out of the gutter!
Camp was a great opportunity to get together with female grapplers of all levels, learn technique and roll. We even got a survey ahead of time so we could choose which areas we’d like to have covered. So, under the guidance of BJJ black belts Emily Kwok and Val Worthington (and several guest instructors), we worked on all sorts of techniques including stripping grips, sweeps from butterfly guard and spider guard, passing butterfly guard and spider guard, and escapes from side control and transitional side control. In the evenings, we had roundtable discussions about various issues that come up in training. And there were some great raffle prizes.
The instruction was really great. Emily, who trains with Marcelo Garcia in addition to running her own academy (because she is Superwoman) helped build on some technique we’ve been working at in my gym in our Wednesday afternoon class (which is MG-inspired). A lot of what she showed I had seen in that very class. And it was SO COOL meeting Val after reading her blog for many years. Plus I got a private session with Val, where we got to go over all the things I messed up in my last tournament. It is hard sometimes to even find people to watch tourney footage and give detailed feedback, let alone work on the very specific techniques that need workin’, so that was a very special bonus.
But for me there were more specific benefits beyond just learning some great skills from talented BJJ technicians, and getting to train with women. I don’t have the opportunity to roll with women that often, and it’s a very good gauge for me of where I’m at. Yes, that sweep I can never land on bigger, stronger guys is a lot easier on women my size. Oh, that position I keep getting stuck in and assume has to do with weight and size? I’m still stick there, and I’m rolling with a gal I outweigh by 30 lbs. Working with women is a good reality check for me, as I have been surprised in competition how different it is. Camp also gave me the great opportunity to work with smaller women who were extremely technical, showing me by example how someone can use leverage, skill and technique to overcome strength and size advantages. And troubleshooting on the fly with new-found friends was really helpful.
I also had some very frustrating moments of being told I need to work on things that I already know I need to work on (and in some cases have already been working on), which I guess is another reality check–shows me just how much further I still need to go.
We also spoke a bit about training for competition, taking responsibility for your own training (a concept near and dear to my heart) and even a bit about jiu jitsu as a reflection of where we’re at in life. For me, I notice I’m not following through on various techniques (sweeps, takedowns, submissions, etc.) and it’s making me wonder if there’s areas in my life in which I give up too easy or do not follow through due to lack of confidence in my success. So that’s just one example that I’ve been mulling over in my mind. Or not following through and then overcompensating, like when I let something go or don’t correct something until it’s out of control or I’ve had enough and then I overreact but to no avail. Responding appropriately and retaining consistency are two concepts I’ve been pondering over the past few months and years.
So I’m returning to my gym this week with new techniques to try, new drills to work on my own and a new-found vigor for the sport I love…but also a strong feeling of being part of a greater community of women who train, and a clearer perspective to light the way.
Anyway, I’m attaching a video my friend Lacey put together. We thought it’d be cool to showcase people (male and female) overcoming strength and size disadvantages–whether it’s someone winning a fight at the highest level or simply someone scoring points in the absolute division of a local grappling tournament.