If you don\’t play to win, why play at all?

Choosing Your Partner
February 7, 2010, 6:19 pm
Filed under: BJJ Brazilian Jiu-jitsu | Tags: , , , ,

In BJJ, just like in life, you have to choose your partners wisely.  I have rolled with a lot of people last week, as long as my cardio allowed me.

BOY #1 is a new guy who have trained for a couple of months.  It was my first time to roll with him, and boy was I surprised with his utter use of strength on me!  I was stalling most of the time, tiring him out.  I was too scared that if I let my arm loose, he’d yank it off my elbow.  So I kept all my limbs as tight as possible, but kept my base strong so I won’t get swept.  I waited for an opportunity for me to have some space so that I could insert my right knee in between his legs.  When that happened, I immediately went for a knee-through pass, but my left leg got caught in half-guard.  I didn’t want to lose the opportunity, so I drove my shoulder to his neck to loosen his legs.  Then I just felt a violent tap on my back.  He tapped from my drive-shoulder-to-neck move!

✖ The only thing I learned from the roll is to wait patiently for my turn.  Personally, I didn’t think it was a good roll.  The guy was using all his strength to try to topple me over, so I just hunched and made sure my arms were tight.  So I was stalling to get him tired, but what if he didn’t get tired at all?  I would have been penalized if it were in a tourney.

BOYS #2 & #3 are blue belts, and I did some flow-roll with them.  It was good.  They were giving me just enough resistance to tire me out, blocking my techniques and not easily allowing me to apply whatever move I wanted to do.  They made me work hard, and in the end, I was very tired but happy.

✔ Rolling with people with more advanced skills makes me feel stupid sometimes, because no matter what I do, they are always able to block it off.  But it definitely gives me a lot of thoughts to ponder on.  What pass was he doing to counter my sweep?  How was he able to do the same sweep twice?  How do I get out of a triangle from turtle?  Why was my cutting armbar not working?  These thoughts then lead me to discovering more techniques and working on the loopholes in my game.  That is also one of the good benefits you get from a competition — with just one match (it doesn’t matter if you win or lose), you get a lot of pointers and realizations that will probably direct your training for the next couple of months.

BOY #4 has been training for almost a year.  He’s about my size but about 10kgs heavier.  He played guard, and he was able to sweep me in less than a minute.  While working my guard, I tried a few sweep attempts but was not able to finish.  I even got the opportunity to get the back, but I was too slow to pull it off.  Finally, I managed to slip a half-triangle.  I was trying to put on a triangle choke, but in a split-second I saw an opportunity for an armbar and went for it.  He tapped.  After our roll, he told me he was happy he lasted that long against me.  I couldn’t remember, but he said we rolled during his first few sessions, and I was tapping him every 30 seconds or so.  I was flabbergasted, in a good way.  It was funny to submit him from guard, because before we rolled, I just told my coach casually that I want to start playing on top.

✔ It’s good to be able to roll with people you haven’t rolled with for a long time, and be pleasantly surprised at how much progress they have had since they joined the club.  They also have their favored positions, submissions and techniques now, so it’s good to meet different people on the mat with different favorite moves.  It definitely makes you work harder being faced with something you are not used to dealing with.

BOY #5 is a white belt I met during an open mat.  He definitely moves very fast!  I wasn’t able to do anything — I just tried to survive.  He has good skills, very tight positions and tricky sweeps.  And very good guard game.  And oh, did I say he’s fast?

✔ I got my ass kicked nicely by this guy.  He was very technical, and a gentleman, too, so I had nothing to complain about.  I would like to meet him in the next open mat to try to survive another 5 minutes with him.

GIRL #1 is totally new in BJJ but has some Muay Thai and grappling background.  I was surprised at how rough she plays.  I ended up having a mouth sore from an elbow strike and a few scratches on my arm.  I was able to pull off an armbar from a triangle choke, and did a few sweeps as well.

✔ It is refreshing to finally meet a girl who plays it rough!  With the limited number of girls in our camp, we all are nice little ones who are a bit too girly when we roll with each other.  I can’t remember the time when I really went all out against them, maybe because I hold a higher belt and I sort of have that “mother instinct” to care for them, being less experienced than I am.  Somehow, I have developed that habit to play it nicely and sweetly on the mat when I am pitted against a girl that it doesn’t come in handy in competitions.  Girl #1 can help me train to become more fierce and aggressive, and the fact that she is a lot stronger than I am is a great plus!

So how do you choose your partner on the mat?

Find someone who brings out the best in you. This someone can be that person wearing a colored belt duller than yours (which means he/she spent a lot of time on the mat with that belt), or the small guy at the corner with superior skills, or the big sweaty guy who is working on something you are not good at.  The more people you roll with, the more choices you have.  But take note of the ones who are not worth your effort next time.  We girls know how to politely reject guys who hit on us once in a while, so I don’t see any point why we can’t use that on the mat.  Always remember that you are there to learn, progress and enjoy your time, and not to prove who is stronger and better between the two sexes — so avoid the guys who use too much power to compensate for their lack of technique.  In the end, safety is the most important thing.  Make sure your limbs survive to live another training day.

How BJJ-addicted are you?
February 19, 2008, 12:34 am
Filed under: BJJ Brazilian Jiu-jitsu | Tags: , , , ,

It seems that BJJ has totally taken over my life. I eat, speak and breathe Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) all the time. I wouldn’t have noticed it, until I went out with a Portuguese guy last weekend and he became my victim for incessant talk about jiu-jitsu. I guess I cannot help talking about it that he already pointed it out to me by asking if what we’re having was a “martial arts date”. He even had a taste of my rear naked choke when he was misbehaving, but that’s another story. Even when I go out with my non-BJJ practicing friends, I’m all too eager to share my BJJ stories and videos that they are probably seriously considering to take me out of their gimmick list by now.

So how do you know if you’ve just submitted your life to BJJ? Check out the checklist below and give yourself a point for each number that applies to you:

1. You spend your Sunday going to the open mat to “hang out” (read: sweat it all out) with your teammates instead of spending it with your family or significant other.

2. You are out with your friends on Saturday night, and yet you are thinking “How do you do the brabo choke again from the bottom?”.

3. While making love, you told your non-BJJ practicing guy: “Honey, did you know that being on top is one of the most advantageous positions in BJJ?” Then when he asks you what you can do from there, you start showing him chokes and armbars from mount.

4. You try to pass your girl’s “guard” while in the missionary position.

5. The friends you always converse and hang out with are those from your team.

6. You spend your free time at work watching Marcelo Garcia or Eddie Bravo on YouTube.

7. You check the BJJ forums all the time, as if it’s your personal e-mail.

8. You move in to a place near your gym for proximity to training.

9. Your credit card bill reflects those you bought locally and online — all for BJJ and grappling.

10. You’ve given up smoking because you’re panting badly every time you roll on the mat.

11. You don’t get a foot spa because you need all your foot callouses (from mat burns) to move better on the mat.

12. If you’re a girl BJJ practitioner, you tend to converse more with your guy friends who watch and understand the UFC. You tell them how amazed you were with the armbar of Din Thomas or judo throw of Karo Parisyan.

13. If you’re a guy BJJ practitioner, you bond some more with your guy buddies who watch and understand the UFC. You do takedowns, armbars and chokes on them whenever you guys get together.

14. Your good-looking, non-BJJ practicing date tells you, “It feels weird and awkward talking to a girl about BJJ. So is this a martial arts date?” You reply with a sweet smile, then you continue talking about the triangle choke you just did earlier on your 75-kg guy teammate.

15. When your pet wrestles with a stuffed toy or another pet during playtime, you call it grappling. You are even compelled to call out moves (Take the back! Pin him down!) while watching, as if your pet understands.

16. You try to wrist lock or choke your friends when they misbehave.

17. You take several supplements — Glucosamine/Chrondoitin/MSM for joints, Calcium for bones, Vitamin C for immune system, Whey Protein for muscles, etc. — to keep yourself fit for training.

18. You’ve had bruises on the most unusual parts of your body — wrists, chest, hipbone, thigh, shin, instep, neck, jaw, etc.

19. You often find yourself mimicking the choking moves or underhook / overhook holds while at your office desk.

20. Whenever you travel (locally or internationally), you have to squeeze in training at the local gym of the place you’re visiting.

21. You’ve had at least one injury — either you’ve broken a bone or dislocated / hyperextended a joint.

22. You keep an ice pack/cold compress pack in your fridge. It comes in handy when you come home injured.

23. You carry a bunch of bananas during tournaments / competitions.

24. You’re nursing an injury and was advised to rest for a month yet you can’t wait to start training again after a week that you end up re-injuring yourself.

25. You set-up your own mats at home or ofifce so that you can practice BJJ anytime you please.

26. The one thing that you can’t live without at training is your handy-dandy Mueller sports tape.

So how much of a BJJ addict are you? You are a…

BLACK BELT (21-24 points)

You don’t have a life besides BJJ! Your motto is EAT. SLEEP. JIU-JITSU. If you’re married / in a relationship, you are always in trouble with your significant other for spending too much time training. If you’re single, don’t even ask why. You love BJJ so much that you will go insane if you don’t roll sweaty on the mat for three days. You think you are home when you’re on the mat. You are practically a dojo rat, and the coach has to shove you off the mat to get rid of you. You’ll marry BJJ if you could.

BROWN BELT (17-20 points)

You train regularly, and you’re subscribed to unlimited sessions of BJJ. You always catch yourself finishing a meeting early to catch up on training. Whenever you go shopping, you never skip on buying rash guards and board shorts. You’ve given up your social life in favor of BJJ training, although you reserve Friday or Saturday nights with your friends other than your teammates. However, you make sure that one day is reserved specifically for open mat session where you meet and roll with guys you don’t usually see during training.

PURPLE BELT (12-16 points)

You balance your life with BJJ, career/school and social networks. Sometimes you skip on training to go to Tagaytay with your significant other. But before a competition, you take a leave or absent yourself from class. You know how to play it cool, and you act like you’re just chillin’ with BJJ — even if you know inside your heart that you’ve always wanted to pursue your BJJ passion all out.

BLUE BELT (8-11 points)

You’re not exactly a BJJ addict, but you enjoy doing the sport to keep yourself fit. You don’t like competing, because you hate being pressured on the mat. More than the moves, you like hanging out with your teammates, building your network effortlessly.

WHITE BELT (4-7 points)

You must be a newbie, or not at all a fan of the sport. You think that a crucifix is a religious icon to show your faith, or that being at the bottom of 69 position is a titillating thought.

BJJ APATHETIC (0-3 points)

You think that BJJ is gay. Or you are gay yourself, and you can’t handle being triangle choked or back-mounted without reaching orgasm.

What is your score, then? I scored 22 in my own quiz, and I am definitely a black belt in addiction to BJJ. You probably will tell me, “Get a life!” But, what the heck, BJJ is my life!

NOTE: Please identify me as the author if you want to repost this 😉 – Jonna B.

Women in BJJ, BJJ in Me
October 1, 2007, 1:12 am
Filed under: BJJ Brazilian Jiu-jitsu | Tags: , , ,

I have grown to love training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. But that is a far cry from my younger days.

To say that I was never an athlete is an understatement. Years ago, I hated anything that would make me sweat. I never ran around outdoors, chasing playmates. I never knew how to play chinese garter or tumbang preso. I couldn’t skip rope, or hula-hoop. I never danced, never biked, never swam. I firmly believed that I can and will never be active because I have asthma. Which was somehow a comfort for me, because I never liked being active, anyway. I would get a false medical certificate to excuse myself from PE or any sport-related activities. I totally lived a sedentary life.

Fast-forward, 2005. Because I wanted to be fit, I decided to hit the gym. After a few months, it bored the hell out of me. I never enjoyed sweating it out in the gym. My only motivation was my steep joining fee! Then I discovered kickboxing, and liked it. I like it that it makes me sweat and tired, and I was never looking at the clock to check if I had done enough. I just enjoyed it till exhaustion. Again, after a few months, boredom started seeping in. Then I tried grappling, with the same boys whom I was doing kickboxing with. I was doing it for a while, until I became restless. Not out of boredom, but because I wanted to learn it right. I wanted to learn more and be with the best coach, so I enrolled in Kamphuis-Fabricio. Since then, I never looked back to my sedentary life.


Being a woman, I struggle to survive in a man’s world. Clearly, women in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu belong to a minority. Not all women can take being crushed, taken down or choked out. But that’s not yet everything. You get twisted, scarred, injured. You can never grow long nails. You develop callouses on your fingers, toes, feet. You get gi burns on your face, and mat burns on every part of your exposed skin. You let go of your personal space and inhibitions, because in jiu-jitsu, you have to give your opponent as little space as possible for him not to move around. Bruises are a common thing, at the most uncommon parts to get it — fingers, biceps, forearms, shins, etc. I have to stop training for at least a week if I’m hitting the beach or attending an important occasion, just to avoid showing bruised arms — so as not to raise the interest of strangers as to whether I got my bruises from a hot night or a heated argument with someone.

I can go on talking about what you cannot do, as a woman, while you are a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner. But this is not about that. This is about what you CAN BE, as a woman doing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.


Eversince I started getting serious with my BJJ training, I have learned to take care of myself. I stopped smoking. I avoid drinking alcohol. I sleep early. I take healthy food, vitamins and supplements. My self-image has also matured. Now I do ab workouts not to have aesthetically pleasing abs, but because I want strong core muscles to move better on the ground. I do push-ups and chin-ups not to get slender arms but to have arms strong enough for chokes. I do lunges not to tone my legs but to be effective in takedowns and guard game. My motivation goes beyond looking physically good. Getting my muscles toned and shaped are just good by-products of my training.

In most cases, size matters. But in BJJ, you can get your way around even if you are small. In once-in-a-blue-moon times, I have tapped out some guys bigger than me. Finally getting that rare moment of armbar-ing a guy who is 20 kilos heavier than me is one glorious moment that beats winning a P100K raffle. Although I still get dominated and tapped out by the boys most of the time, I know I am improving when I am giving them a hard time — when they cannot easily get a submission or position on me. Considering I am the smallest, lightest and weakest in the gym, that’s one thing I am really proud of. My coach told me that women who do BJJ need 50% more strength, courage and determination compared to guys in order to last in the sport.

With our team, I don’t only have teammates — I have a family. Our coach is like a father to me and everyone else. Conversations don’t end with BJJ. We talk about anything under the sun, be it about business, economy, or places to dine. During training, we take care of each other. We may accidentally head butt or elbow our partner, but we make sure that we don’t hurt them intentionally especially when applying submissions. Ego is definitely not in the air.


I’ve had my share of disappointments and frustrations in doing the sport. Injury tops the list. Because when I get immobilized by a hyperextended arm or swollen ankle, I know I will have to stop training for a certain period of time. And no, I never want to. Another disappointment is being outmuscled by new guys. Just because they are bigger and stronger, they try to power their way out. Yeah, boys and their ego. But soon they learn that sheer strength and power won’t make them last. Otherwise, they’re better off lifting heavy weights and growing their muscles big.

BJJ has become a way of life for me. Or maybe it has become my life, I wouldn’t know. What’s important is, I am enjoying life as it is. Life wouldn’t be the same for me without jiu-jitsu. And for me, surviving Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for over a year is already a life-changing achievement.