January 14, 2019

Are You Being A Crappy Boyfriend To Your Training?

Well, are you?  Are you returning calls?  Are you listening when she talks?  Are you looking her in the eye?  Are you buying her dinner?  Surprising her with small gifts, for no reason?  Are you remembering birthdays and such?  Are you paying ATTENTION????

Well, I thought I was.  But life is a fluid vehicle; priorities shift, wax, and wane.  Some elements demand your attention, like a psychotic mistress.  They step in like Glenn Close with frizzy hair and crazy eyes, and declare, "I won't be IGNORED Dan!..."

So there I was Spring of 2017.  I had just learned my score and subsequent (hilariously low) ranking on the sergeant's exam at work.  The process was arduous, time consuming, annoying,  long, way too long.  I was frustrated and I swore up and down "I'll NEVER go through that process again!"  Suckers were thrown into soil.  Tantrums occurred when no one else was looking.  POII is the life for me!

But time heals all annoyances, and also assists the brain in erasing the memory during the times the brain knows better than the heart.  Time whispered to my mind, "Okay, so, make her forget about the hours and hours and hours of studying.  She really needs to be a sergeant!  Can you do that?"  My mind responded, "Oh TOTALLY!  I am so on this!  I think you passed by enough.  She had that mega-fit back in May, but it's November now, and I think I can make this work."  My heart, none the wiser, listened when the brain spoke up and moved the chess pieces inside my anatomy.

November 2017.  Wellllllll.  Maybe I'll try it again.  The nano-sized question and answer session that started to repeat was "Do I have another sergeant process in me?.....Yes."  Done.  Yes I did.  And I did it.  I threw myself into the process.  No, I HURLED my being into it.  I am nearly a 100% kinesthetic learner, so when my first two weeks of study appeared to be an utter failure according to the practice tests I took, I researched how kinesthetic folks get through law school.  I changed my methods and they worked!  My schedule went something like this:  Get up, coffee, go to work, (graveyards at the time), study at work.  On my days off it went: Get up, coffee, jiu jitsu, or arnis-eskrima if it was Sunday, then study at the library until they closed, then study at the Starbucks until they closed, then study at Manana's Mexican Restaurant until they closed.

From November 2017 to February 2018 I did this.  The amount of study material that made up the required reading was monumental.  And, so. dry. just. so.       dry.  Policies.  Procedures.  Discipline Manuals.  One book that was one guy's take on leadership, and included good information, but was about 100 pages too long.

But, got 'er done.  I passed the written exam (barely).  Then I dove into the interview portion, and thanks to the awesome people in my study group, the awesome people that listened to me recite my "this is why I am qualified for this job" speech ad nauseam, and several more hours of prep time, I passed the interview, but this part I passed with a banner of flying colors.  I landed in a prime position of 19th overall in the sergeant candidate field.  I was promoted in the first round (there are usually three per process).

Back to normal, right?  Back to training.  Right under my nose, the intensity of my training shifted gears.  The enthusiastic "kick" I usually had for class was pulled from it's assignment, repackaged, and then moved to the section of my brain that loves to ingest mundane information.  I resumed a normal workout schedule, but I was really just going through the motions.  Ha!  or lack of motion.  I was getting passed, swept, pounced upon.  And I was letting it happen.  I was committing a huge disservice to my training partners, and myself.

Classmates came to my rescue around October of 2018 and pointed out in no uncertain terms I needed to step it up, and step it up right now.  One told me my pressure was practically non-existent.  Another told me my level of aggression was ghost-like.  My arnis instructor told me my stick-fighting was just shy of being wholly effective, because my strikes were coming up short.

I listened.  I reevaluated, and realized the months of studying and directing energies elsewhere had siphoned away my kick.  I had been ignoring my training.  I had ignored the details of the game, the details that MAKE the game.  I laughed out loud as I thought to myself, I've been like a crappy boyfriend to my arts.  Phone calls have not been returned and I've missed ALL the special days I was supposed to remember.

The road of refocus however, is wonderful and truly joyful.  Years ago I went mountain biking in Fruita, Colorado, which is known for single track.  Miles and miles and serene, clean, winding single track.  Resetting the training mind became a simple project of riding down the clean singletrack, and letting that track lead me to the room where the dimmer switch was temporarily turned down low.  I reopened trunks in my brain that had been partially closed for a few months and threw the contents all over the floor.  I let the dust fly in my face.  I let the bouncing balls hit the walls and knock over the lamps.   I turned the lights up high and ripped the curtains off the windows off the windows.  I let the light in one day, and just like that, training came back into sharp focus.  I looked training in the eye and started listening with committed intent.

The intent has led me to new paths.  My pressure is present and improving.  I commit to a constant low hum of aggression in my training during each session.  Being aggressive is not always natural for me, but when I call on it, she comes to dinner.  I started assisting with the children's class at Fabio's.  I started an Open Mat session at my substation.  I have taken on my very first student for private lessons.  The well is full and now I am compelled to not only keep it full, but to share the contents.  

February 13, 2017

Look, It's Right There.

I just finished watching a documentary about a cult.

I am saddened to my core by the number of people who believe their "answers" will come from a guy with a bad hair-dye job for the mere cost of a several hundred thousand dollars.  Oh!  And within, one week's time.

The answers, the reasons, the purposes, are right in front of you.

The answer is, go do something.  Right now, or tomorrow.  Go...volunteer somewhere.  Go....take a jiu jitsu class.  Go...have breakfast with your parents just for fun.  Or, decide you are going to batten down the hatches and train for a marathon.  God, people, you don't need a shiny guy in a shiny suit to give you an answer.  

The reason?  Because this is not a dress rehearsal.  Because as much as we all plan about next year, retirement, the far future, Reality has her own plan.  Reality might flip a switch and drastically change your life in the next month, or not, but at the end of the day, what if your breakfast this morning with your loved ones was the last?

Your purpose?  Inspiration.  Influence.  In committing action, you will create a sphere of purpose.  Many of the people I count as being influences in my life probably had no idea of their impact, but they were committed to their actions and they shaped the people around them.

In unrelated news, I signed up for the Pan Ams in Irvine.  5 weeks away.

February 11, 2017

A Observation of Cross Over

I studied classical ballet m a n y years ago.  Since then I have hiked, run, lifted weights, rock climbed, mountain biked, and now I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Arnis.  What strikes me, is how much the basis of the technique of, well, ALL these forms of physical movement is deeply rooted in the core, in strong balance, proper alignment, in the basics of classical ballet.  I am always, brought right back to ballet.  Ankles straight, knees over ankles, hips over knees, stomach in, butt tucked in, shoulders over hips, head resting straight on top supported by the body and a strong spine.  In hiking, proper alignment ensures and efficient gait. Running?  Open shoulders will keep your lungs open.  Weight lifting?  There is no weight lifting without the core.  If you are riding a mountain bike downhill, you're moving the core to the back of the bike for counterbalance.

In ballet, you spend hours upon hours, holding in your stomach tight, squeezing the butt,  holding your shoulders open and straight, and stretching your spine tall.  This description of ballet technique makes a dancer sound like a stiff board, but in fact, the ballerina looks smooth and fluid, because she has refined her core strength into almost mechanical perfection.

The most beautiful Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, like ballet, is also graceful.  The movements are grounded in hours of practice that start off looking rigid, but over time, the practitioner slowly sculpts away the extraneous rocks of unnecessary movement.  All that is left is pure clarity of movement, giant and gentle crashing waves from an ocean of the clearest aqua blue.

The warm-up I do before a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class is completely stolen from ballet class.  I start with joints.  Head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, and then I move on to the muscles and spine.  In guard, I am hyper aware of my posture.  If someone attempts a sweep, it's my stomach and butt muscles that come to my rescue before my legs.  If I practice a throw, my knees and ankles had better be in order.  In Arnis, we practice "rebalancing," which is the practice of staying slightly up on the toes, and constantly moving your feet to reestablish your balance quickly when your opponent swings the baston at your head and you move out of the way.  The rebalancing in Arnis would not be possible without a strong core to assist with speed and direction, and an awareness of proper alignment.

The reason I mention all this, is today Fabio was demonstrating a choke originating from the guard (bottom position).  Fabio has particularly long arms and knows how to maximize their reach.  I remember the first time I felt the power of that space station when I was going merrily along passing his guard, and his left arm crept sneakily around my neck and choked me.   Today, I was watching him demonstrate this same ability and I realized, it's Swan Lake!

When a ballerina rehearses the Odette role in Swan Lake, she will spend countless hours practicing the up and down "flying" movement of her arms.  Seasoned ballerinas who have performed the role many times will still, at the beginning of the season, practice this movement over and over.  Watching a skilled ballerina perform this delicate technique is impressive.  You watch her and think, okay, her elbows must have been surgically removed because the movement just flows like a silk scarf in the wind.  In fact, she has learned how to create magic before your eyes.  And that's what I saw today.  Fabio's arm reached around my classmate's neck and I realized, this technique, when performed correctly, is as effortless and graceful as the regal 8-foot moving wingspan of a swan.

I am so many years removed from my last ballet class, and yet here it is, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class.  

October 30, 2016

44 Page Views today from Bangladesh? Hello from San Diego!

Occasionally I get a kick out of looking at the "Audience" stats for this blog.  Imagine my shock today when I saw 44 page views from Bangladesh.  Really?  Bangladesh?  A person, or some people, are reading this in Bangladesh?

I googled "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Bangladesh," which much to my surprise, produced an article about women slowly scratching a presence into the Bangladesh jiu jitsu world.  Long story short, it is/will be, a long story.  Ladies in the martial arts world in Bangladesh, I salute you.

Read on:http://milkblitzstreetbomb.com/bjj/women-bjj-gender-issues-bangladesh/

Deborah Clem

October 28, 2016

A short story about women who train.

Last night after class, I had dinner at Souplantation before heading to the grocery store.  As I walked through the dining room for  second round of Caesar salad (I love Caesar salad),  I was stopped by a woman who was also having dinner.  "I love your t-shirt!  Do you compete in jiu jitsu?"  I happened to be wearing my Master's tournament t-shirt.  "Yes I do!  Do you?  Do you train?"  She replied an enthusiastic, "Yes!"

Turned out, this complete stranger was named Brittany,  trains in Sacramento, but was looking for a place to train in San Diego, because she might be moving here.  I told her I trained with Master Fabio Santos, located literally down the street.  And then, what did I do?  I broke personal protocol because this woman was no stranger.  She was a sister.  She trains.  I wrote my name and phone number on a napkin and gave it to her, and told her to call me the next time she has time to train in San Diego.

Two weeks ago, I attended an Arnis-Eskrima seminar sponsored by Guro Romeo De Los Reyes.  There was one. other.woman there.  One!  When she walked in the room we gravitated to each other like magnets, each with the same subtext running in our head, "You're a WOMAN, You're here!  You train!  Wendy trains at another Arnis school and by the end of the seminar, we were Facebook friends and made plans to definitely train together in the future (which might actually happen this weekend).

Women who train truly share a bond,  even it's stretched across the globe like the thinnest connection of salt water taffy, the bond exists.   Meeting one of these women at a seminar, or a random contact in a restaurant, means that thin stretch of taffy suddenly snaps back and strengthens with the superglue of a face-to-face meeting.  It's an incredible phenomenon and an honor to be part of this unique sisterhood.


October 26, 2016

Discomfort: The Gateway of Truth, Improvement, and Game

When you walk onto the mat, they are sitting in the corners waiting for an invitation.  Truth, Improvement, and Game.  They arrive early, warm-up, stretch.  They are ready and excited, waiting with baited breath.  The crackling shivers of hope shudder through their skin.  Discomfort tells them, just wait guys, hold up.  We need to wait for her.  Discomfort stands at their respective gates holding keys out to you.  They're polished to such beautiful shine, even the dull fluorescent lights cause a glimmer off the corners of the tiny keys.

Will you invite them in today?  

Truth is always the most excited.  Truth gets ignored too much, so the times you grab that key and open his gate he just runs at you like a bat out of hell.  Truth smothers you with love and excitement and annoys to no end.  Eventually Truth takes a breath, and though you may have been reluctant to open his gate, Truth can always be relied upon to at least bring good food and quality flashlights for lighting the way when the path looks a little unclear.

Improvement loves to hang out with Truth, but sometimes she sneaks in on the side without you knowing it, without the key.  She has a tendency to be on the quiet side, unlike Truth.  I mean sometimes you practically don't even know she was on the mat, but occasionally, your instructor will give you a stripe, and that's how you know Improvement picked the lock and walked right past the gate.  You might deny her existence, but KNOW she is there.  Improvement has a wild side, so you need to watch out.  On any given day, hand her the key and then just wait for loud party animal to come crashing out the gate.  Want to really rock your world?  Give Truth and Improvement keys at the same time.

And then there's Game.  Elusive being.  Silent.  a whisper in the threads of your gi.  Game waits too.  He waits because he knows unless you at least glance at Discomfort, he will most likely not be handed the key that day.  Improvement might invite him along occasionally, but Game is dependent on Discomfort.  He knows, Discomfort opens the gate the fastest. Discomfort makes him strong.  Discomfort makes him better looking, which is ideal because Game actually has a secret crush on Improvement.

But will you invite them in?

Will you look to Discomfort and say, HELL yeah, let's GO.  My worst positions today!  New submissions guaranteed to put me in a suck place because I have not perfected the move yet?  YES.

This is how this it goes.  The mat tells you the truth when you let it in.  Improvement happens right under your nose.  Your Game develops in a slowwwwww fashion but man oh man, don't think for one moment Game will come out unless you are willing to be miserable and uncomfortable.

What is your achilles?  Mine is side control.  I feel like every ounce of my game evaporates when I am in my opponent's side control, so I've developed these "eject button" hip movements to avoid it, but now, when I DO land there, my sweeps are laughable.  So my goal the next few months is to look Discomfort square in the eye and hand out keys with reckless abandon.

Deborah Clem  

October 17, 2016

On sharing gifts, paying forward, and examples.

I started this blog years ago because I was scouring the internet for women writing about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and the cupboard looked a little bare.  For a few days, I would search through the search engines, looking for just one tiny article by, about, for, women in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  The field always came up empty, and it occurred to me, well, time to put up or shut up Deb, why aren't YOU writing about it?

Oh, yeah, I could write.

So, having stumbled across Blogger a couple of times, I decided to use it as my vehicle for this writing.  THEN I found them!  The women!  The women who write about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!  I think Valerie Worthington's "Prancing and Sucking" was one of the first, followed by Georgette's Jiu Jitsu blog,  Allie the Clear Belt, Tangled Triangle, Jiu Jiu...there they were and for whatever reason I had not googled correctly, but I had found them and now I was going to settle in to this new micro-community.

I wrote this blog consistently, then stopped here and there, but always found my way back to the keyboard.  Then I really stopped for a long time.  I think my last entry before the other day was in 2013.  Too long.  Just way too long.  Recently, a few events shoved the words into my face again, put up or shut up...

First, there is my husband, David.  For many years, he has encouraged me to teach.  The police academy has a team of defensive tactics instructors that teach the physical fundamentals to the recruits.  I have been on the department 15 years, and over those years, the list of qualified female instructors could be counted on one hand.  Maybe half of a hand.  This is significant, because the academy NEEDS quality female instructors who can remove the "Yeah!  Girl power!" sheen and be serious about the power of solid technique.  The field of recruits sees a few very small, petite ladies, who need to have someone close to their own size tell them, and more importantly demonstrate their size need not be a hinderance.  A small gal new to defensive tactics should know she can be just as effective as a "big strong guy" and hold her own.

I'm not going to lie.  I've probably been one of the women who has bitched and moaned about the lack of female instruction at the academy.  A stupid angle. akin to moving to Alaska and then complaining about the cold weather.

Second, one of my classmates at Fabio's, Frank Califano, opened a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in Alpine.  Dave and I ran into him one night at the pub, and he asked me assist in teaching a women's self defense seminar at his school.  I hesitated for a moment, and then thought, well I kind of have to do this.  I NEED to do this.  How many times have I complained about women needing to be more aware of their person and surroundings?  How many times have I wanted to tell a woman, do you even know how many self defense weapons you have at your disposal in the form of kicking, scratching, biting, etc...?  Now, here was a person offering up a chance for me tell a group of women just how much power they hold in their own being.  I had to do this.  So I said yes.

I helped teach this 6-class seminar alongside Frank, and one of his lead instructors, Randy Blanchard.  We focused on gross motor skill movements, and for lack of a better term, mindset.  The experience was a minor paradigm shift for me.  The look of amazement on the faces of these women when they performed a technique they previously thought was physically impossible, was pure joy.  This class was my baby step into sharing.

Third, Marc Fox.  Marc is one of the lead defensive tactics instructors at the police academy.  He is well-respected and always garners excellent evaluations from recruits.  He is supremely confident and supremely humble.  Marc does talk any talk talk, because he is too busy walking the walk.  Marc is not a big burly guy.  He is not a braggart or fake.  If you met him on the street or at a party, you might think, oh, he's a cool, low-key, surfer guy.  Last night, while sharing beers at the pub after an an excellent Arnis-Eskrima seminar, Marc asked me to consider being a defensive tactics instructor at the academy.  I hemmed and hawed, and then he threw down the words:  Role model.

And finally, number four:  Legacy.  Respect.  Sharing the gift.  I have been shy to teach, because I always think of myself as a beginner, I mean, I really think of myself as a neophyte martial artist.  Why would anyone listen to me?   I used to be flat out convinced my Arnis skills were somewhere around suck level, and then I saw a video of myself sparring.  I quickly realized my skill level was well above suck.  Additionally, I now hold a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Fabio Santos, a blessing of ability that also says my skill level is well above suck.

To deny my skill level is an insult to my instructors.  The line between humility and insult can be thin.   I strive to be humble, but at some point, one must acknowledge the gifts, pay them forward, and set an example.  From a personal perspective, that means I stop bitching about the lack of women on the mat, and start sharing, start being a role model via action.  Fabio and Romy gave me the gift of their skill, knowledge,  legacy.  To spend too much being humble and not having the confidence to share with others means I'm just a selfish jerk who wastes that gift.   I've had so many role models over the years, in the form of teachers, other classmates, good leaders at my job, family/friends who live a bountiful life, people who have shared through their actions.

Full circle to now...I started this blog in the first place to be a piece of a greater voice in the world, and now I'll continue via action.

Thank you for reading,

Deborah Clem