January 10, 2011

Dagney's Blog, The Gracie Issue

I survived!  No broken bones, and more importantly, no broken pride.

As many of you know from my last post, I approached the Gracie Academy experience with a generous helping of trepidation hanging around my shoulders.  I believe one should always present with he most respectful self possible when entering a school as a guest.  As I walked up the understated driveway of the famed academy, I realized the entire weight of what my presence in this class meant to me.

I wanted to make myself proud.  I'll be brutally honest here and unapologetically admit that I wanted to make an impression.  Heck yeah I wanted the instructor to say, or at least think, "yeah, she's got game."

I wanted to make Fabio proud.  A poor roll would reflect badly on Fabio.  Unacceptable.  Just, so unacceptable.

The protocols, oh the protocols!  Each school has their own methods.  I worried about haplessly making some garish faux pas.  Also unacceptable.  A misstep on my part, however accidental, would reflect badly on me, Fabio, and my sister, who trains there.  

So despite this Atlas like imagery I have just presented, my legs magically walked in the front door.  The administrative staff was friendly and welcoming.  The women's locker room a completely bizarre experience, as there were actual women, plural, women in the women's locker room.  The volume of women there requires a women's locker room.  Coolness.

The mat was, is massive.  The room is big enough for 50 people to roll with plenty of space.   I was blown away.  I walked onto the mat and immediately acquainted myself with a couple of guys.  "Is the instructor in the room yet?" I asked.  They answered no, but they would tell me when he came in.

Several minutes later, Renner Gracie walked in the room.  I walked up to him and introduced myself.  Renner said he recognized me immediately because of the resemblance to my sister.  I quickly followed up with information he knew (sis filled him in on me), that I trained with Fabio Santos in San Diego.  He was gracious and warm and thanked me for training with them for the night.  All the while I'm thinking, um, no, thank you for letting me train here.

The class structure was based heavily on technique.  We worked escapes from the choke (when your opponent has your back) with careful attention paid to the each tiny excruciating detail.  I enjoyed this method of instruction, as I tend to analyze and search for the minuscule leverage parts of a position that create extraordinary power where one might not expect to find it.  

I learned a brand new way to escape, which involved moving the opposite way that I practiced so far.  I have always moved toward the direction my opponent's hand is pointing, but the escape Renner taught involved basing out to that side, and then, sneaking the opposite hand in underneath my opponent's arm to create a frame.  Once the frame was solid, you moved toward your own framed hand, walked your hand up the side of your face, and slipped your head out of the choke.  Then, (of course) the roll was a chess game of butterfly guard versus your opponent's mount versus your own mount, so on and so on...

Then we rolled.  So, I did good.  I noticed my first sparring Jay (blue belt), had monstrous knee braces on both legs.  Prior to rolling I asked Jay of he had any injuries?  Oh, well yeah, my knees, he replied, I usually go about 60 percent.  Not gonna lie.  I had a good roll.  I didn't feel like I was going all out full bore, but my movement and technique felt flowing, relaxed, and clean.  I got side control a couple of times, my best position.  After class, Jay told me he was impressed with my respectful attitude (asking about his injuries).  I smiled, at least one part of the mission accomplished.  

The second roll was with one of these tall spindly wiry types (also blue), you know, the spider guard from hell guy. (See The Bat Dojo for a full explanation).  At one point I got turtled up.  Yes!  Perfect opportunity to try my new dress on, the turtle to triangle.  I trapped his arm okay, sat back okay, but my finishing speed was lacking the velvet touch.  My opponent locked in his excellent posture, making my triangle attempt a passing fancy.  But there I was on the bottom, so I worked my spider guard like nobody's business, only to get passed when my technique got sloppy.  I did get side control, and he did this absolutely crazy I-Have-The-Longest-Arms-On-The-Planet reach around and grab my belt escape that was so completely graceful I made him show it to me.  

And thus, the Gracie Issue of Dagney's Blog comes to a close (for now).  I thanked Renner profusely.  I thanked my sparring partners.  I watched my sister's class.  She and I took a photo together.  The night was flawless.  I walked to the car that night feeling wonderful.  

Train well,




  1. Awesome! I've been looking forward to this post (as ever, RSS problems, or I would have seen it sooner). Very cool that you had a chance to head down and see what it was like, and nicely written, too. :D

    From what you just wrote, it sounds as if that class wasn't all that dissimilar to the average BJJ lesson (as opposed to the "we're self defence, not sport!" chest-beating that comes across from the Gracie University marketing literature I babble about here. Then again, its marketing).