I’m sitting here right now feeling like I was dragged through town by a Jeep. Like I had a rope around one of my ankles and like someone thought it would be funny to see how much pain or how sore they could make me. Well, it worked. I’m sore.
I’m dabbling with the idea of taking some sort of Advil or something. I’m also wondering what in the world happened last night.
I want to preface this post with telling you that I think I’m pretty good on the mat. I’m a purple belt and I’ve held my own against browns and blacks. I’ve rarely done well against a black, but I’ve surprised myself a few times when rolling with brown belts. There’s a wide variety of game out there and I suppose the ones I’ve found myself excelling at were the ones more like mine. Just luck I suppose.
Last night was probably one of the toughest workouts I’ve had to date. Since the beginning, I’ve known that one of my biggest, if not my primary, enemies is heat and exhaustion. Like I said to someone last night, an hour and a half after open mat, my game is very thin after I get hot. It’s like all my technique and deeper consciousness finds its way to the door and I’m left laying on bottom relying on instinct and reaction. They laughed and agreed. And then they beat me up.
I’m guessing the primary goal last night was to stress the guys out. I think they’re preparing for some competition and since we’re probably all in the same boat when it comes to being defeated by ourselves through exhaustion, it’s good to train in those situations. Especially in submission only matches. They can last for any length of time and it would be hugely defeating to lose, after hours of fighting, to yourself through lack of training.
We began open mat only a half hour into the fundamentals class. That started at 7. By 7:30, I found myself grabbing my mouth guard asking the guy I was working with what we were doing. He said, “We’re rolling.” “Okay,” I thought. “Good.”
The matches were timed for 5 minutes in the beginning. I can’t even tell you how many of those we had. It seemed like too many. All I remember is that I had a continuous stream of people knocking at my door asking me to come outside and fight. Each one bigger and having a better game than the last. By telling you that, you know it’s a given that I started the night rolling with white belts and ended it by rolling with browns. You most likely also deduce that I did well to start, only to fail miserably to finish. It’s the end that’s gnawing at me.
I keep asking myself, “How did I end up doing to poorly?” And I keep answering, “Because these people are better than you.” It’s true. I’m sure I could have done better if I had a chance with the brown belts at the start of open mat, but to have to go up against them at the end? It’s just not fair. Yeah, like Jiu-Jitsu is fair.
There were a few of them there last night. The first one I rolled with was Kevin. He’s been humbling me since day one. It’s like he’s got this game – he’s got this game that is so slow and effective. Once he gets his grips, he methodically gets into my head with a pair of tweezers and removes any idea I had about blocking what he’s about to do to me. Actually, after a while of rolling with him, I’m out of ideas and I probably look like a salmon flopping around the mat, trying to do anything and everything simply to stuff something.
He did teach me a nice counter to one of his setups last night though. And for that, I’m appreciative.
And then there’s Carlos. Carlos keeps telling me that things are going to be okay. He says, “Don’t worry man. You’ll learn our game. I know how tough it can be ending up at a new school, but you’ll get it. You’ll learn what to do. It won’t be so difficult very soon.” Is that what’s stopping me? Your game? Because I can’t even get closed guard against the higher belts here. It seems like the players at this place like to use their own guard game, because for me to not even be able to get closed guard is a real issue. I play a guard game and if this continues, I’ve got problems. Big ones – because Carlos hands it to me every time. I pulled closed guard on him only once in two weeks and when I did, I laughed and asked someone to get a picture.
There was a guy who showed up last night who I’ve never met. His name is Darec and he’s another brown belt. The guys made him roll with me last. Not because of any special reason, but just because that’s how the schedule of things fell into place. Trust me, I didn’t want to roll with him. I wanted to go with a white belt who was just as tired as I was. A minute before our go round, I was laying on the mat, breathing heavy with my gi top wide open. It weighed at least twice its normal weight because of sweat and I swear, I had nothing left. For me to even sit there and play defense was going to be an endeavor.
We did okay though. He went real light and showed a lot of respect. But make no mistake, he got into my head because during our 10 minute match, he slapped on a few very creative and fast submissions that made me feel like it was my first day of showing up to class. I kept asking myself, “How can this be? How can I see nothing that’s about to happen?”
And it’s true. I felt, and continue to feel, like I saw nothing coming. How can it be that after all these years, I feel like it’s day one again? I’ve chalked it up to me being out of my loop and them being really good higher belts. They are simply better than I am.
You know, I write a lot about theory and principle and all that, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s just mat time. Darec told me last night that he saw his game go vertical after he began training every day. He said that since he’s stopped that and now that he’s training only twice a week, he’s pretty much leveled off. It’s the amount of training one does that helps their game.
I tend to agree, but I also think it’s also the exposure to higher belts that helps game. I feel like with these guys at my side, I’m going to get better. Make no mistake, it’s going to be tough, but I’m going to keep an open mind, get my ego handed to me and just get better.