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

October 15, 2016


It's been waaaay too long.

No drudgerous details about why I have not been writing.  Suffice to say, it's time to write again.

A few catch ups:

I was promoted to black belt!  A humbling experience.  Um.....looking for earth shattering wisdom to write....not there.....So we'll stay simple.  It's humbling.  You're being recognized as having achieved a certain skill level, but you are also being given a life long task of passing the torch, of developing your own game into a great ballet of refinement and finesse.  It's a beautiful burden.  The heaviest, most fragrant, most colorful, flowers.

I am still training Arnis-Eskrima.  Recently I had the opportunity to watch one of my sparring sessions on YouTube, and was very surprised to see that I sucked much less than I thought, and actually, looked like I had a modicum of skill.

A few little drama things:  you may remember I had designs on being on the swat team at work.  This has not happened.  I have tried out four times.  Each time, I have sailed through the first part of the tryout, only to fall at the last element, the obstacle course, which must be completed in under 4 minutes.  My best tryout time was a few years back, at 4:01.  I think I named a post after this time.  Not.  Frustrating.  at all.  Many things to say here....not the time.  In any event, I'm not doing it again.

I tried out for K9.  Passed the tryout.  Made the list of eligible people.  Made the academy.  Did not pass the academy.  Also not frustrating.

I took the sergeant's exam and passed, though did not land as high as I would have liked on the list, so now it's a waiting game...

So, here I am here again.  The last couple years I have put much effort and toil into work endeavors, and have come up just a little short each time.  I'm placing those work efforts on the back burner for now.  I am drained and tired of disappointment in a world in which there are factors beyond my control, factors which a reasonable person could expect to HAVE some semblance of control.

I'm shifting back to the good place of solid priorities:  training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Arnis-Eskrima, writing, good music, and reading travel narratives.

Good to be back, and I'll be changing the blog to my real name, maybe in a couple of posts.

Thank you for reading,

Deborah Clem

September 12, 2013


or my lack thereof...

There was a time I would have never thought to take up a martial art.  I did.  There was a time I never thought I would be good at it.  I practiced.  Now I have skill.  And I love it.

There was a time I was a terrible shot.  I hated shooting practice.  I dreaded it in fact.  Then I got frustrated with being frustrated.  I switched to a better, smaller, more comfortable gun.  I practiced.  Now I have skill.  And I love shooting.

There was a time I said, "I'll never be able to do one pull-up."  I challenged myself, "BUT, what if I tried..."  I practiced.  Now I have strength, and I can do weighted pull-ups.  I love doing them.  Once, during work, I saw a guy doing pull-ups on the bar of a traffic light.  I moxied up, walked over, and did 4  pull-ups with my 30 pound gun belt.

Right now, I hate take downs.  I have always hated them. I suck at them.  Well, today, I am done with that.  I am going to practice takedowns and I going to get good at them.  Really good.  Like, people in class will dread starting from standing with me good.


September 10, 2013

Sabbatical. From this, not training...

WELL, I suppose I need to write.

I have been back to consistent training since June.  The last couple of months have been fairly exhilarating.  The months I was absent from training were like a slow winding of a rubber band, and when I started up again, the band snapped into a lovely, slow perpetual motion.  I have had more good training days than frustrating ones, my movement is becoming sharper and cleaner.  I am beginning to dominate more sparring sessions than ever before.  Now, I am about a million miles from being a frightful threat, but there was a time when everything was...just...it just felt like a LOT of work.  Not that it's all easy (Ha! right, uh, no), but the vision of the fight is becoming clearer, thus, I use less energy, thus, occasionally, I surprise myself with the occasional moment of, gosh,  flight, is the word that just popped in my head.  Flow.   Clarity.  Submissions that are planned and that work.  Moves and combinations that used to pass me by, or maybe I passed them as if void of senses, now display themselves like colorful peacocks, daring me to grab their beauty and exploit their presence.  I have experienced moments of actual, honest-to-goodness, joy.  And not once, a few times.  How breathtaking and calming!

We have a new woman in class who I think is going to stay with it.  She is a dancer, rippingly strong, totally cool, and absolutely game.  I used to dance, so the first time we met we immediately bonded.  My friend Rachael received her black belt while I was gone, and her game has turned into something that resembles a small tornado of hell.  Fabio has said that pound for pound, Rachael is probably one of the strongest people in our school, male or female.  She is a petite woman whose technique movement are razor clean and efficient.  Such is the lot of the smaller person.  You have technique or you have nothing.  Rachael has everything.

Rachael's younger sister Jessica has moved back to San Diego from Tennessee.  Her speed is...just...straight up annoying.  Jess, if you are reading this, know this is a compliment!  My default mode is slower and more methodical, and Jess makes sure I don't lounge around during sparring.  And then there is the tall Jessica.  I told her when she first started that when she figured out just how long her legs were, she would start wrecking havoc in the school.  Well, now she is well into solid blue belt status and she is starting to figure it out.  The last time we sparred It took an act of congress to pass her guard.  God forbid I get caught in her spider.

My friend Jeannette (pronounced Je-nay) has returned from a short absence.  Her game is more like mine, except she is really good at it!  Jeannette routinely sends people into fits because she moves so...infrequently! Because she does not have to.  The one move she makes just shuts down your whole plan of attack, and when you launch a new attack, she shuts that down too.  And then she chokes you.

My current "work on" move is the triangle from guard.  Not much to say here except that it's a work in progress.  I relied on side control as my gateway to submissions for sooooo long, and I thought, I really need to widen my horizons.  I love the triangle,  so my new combos are guard, spider, triangle; guard, spider, sweep; guard, spider, omoplata.  I am working for the day I achieve them on an "at will" basis, as opposed to a "please god bless me with ability just this one moment" basis.  Though I suppose that is the always the goal for all us in jiu jitsu.

I have to apologize for not writing for a long time.  Back when I was preparing for swat tryouts, I had promised a post about the power of the big toe in athletic performance.  I still have plans to write it.  I'll just have to gather my research again.  I tend to have a love-hate relationship with writing.  I admire those of you who are able to churn out well-written, coherent, intelligent articles with Mach 10 speed.  Val Worthington, for example, good grief!  Has she ever written anything that isn't completely spot on?   Or Georgette, Julia, Jen's family, Megan, Mrs Ibarra, Shark Girl, Leah...all these fantastic women that carve time to write.

When I sit down to write, I have to will myself to open the floodgates, and much of time, I just don't do it.  When I am finished writing however, I am always happy.

In work news, the Gaslamp Quarter Bike Team continues to be some of the most bizarrely fun, interesting work I have done.  Ever.  In life.  Frustrating too, but mostly bizarre fun.  Witnessing the throes of human behavior while influenced by alcohol and/or synthetic drugs, is completely fascinating.    Think...Fellini film quirkiness+thousands of people+everyone is in varying states of loudness/hysteria.  That's the bike team.

Um...real quick, I want to start throwing some food news into my blog.  Husband and I love food, so I should write about it.  We recently had an excellent meal at Chopahn, located at 6th Avenue and F Street in downtown San Diego.  Chopahn specializes in Afghan cuisine, which is slightly similar to Mediterranean food.  I'll write more about it later, but it's now 4 am and I heading to sleepies.

Train well!


June 07, 2013


Yeah, 4:01.  That was my time on the swat obstacle course.  The time limit is 4:00.
The rest of it:

440M-79 seconds
Hand-Release Push-Ups-37

So, long post short, my next challenge is to fine tune my ability to execute speed and strength together in one gorgeous dance.

We will now return to our regular scheduled programming of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu chat with Dagney.


May 30, 2013

Pull Ups

Eleven. In a row. For the first time, double digits in one set.

That is all.