Sunday, 6 November 2016

I need your help.

I'm not good at asking for help,  and I'm bad at talking about this kind of stuff. So bear with me. or is it bare with me?  whatever.  Maybe me putting it out there now will help me get better at dealing with it better down the road or maybe me putting it out there will help someone else who's struggling be able to make the move to ask for help.

I'm depressed.  Or, i'm dealing with some depression. Having a bout of depression?  How ever you want to word it.  I don't really like "I'm depressed" because you don't say "i'm flu"  or "i'm torn acl" ya know?  not the point.  It snuck up on me, like it does sometimes.  I think because I've been so busy with stuff and the temporary "high" from a trip to vegas, then a trip to europe and planning my trip to Australia all kind of disguised it.  It's not unusual for me to feel less motivated and generally down in the fall, less daylight, ect ect, it's science and semi normal(at least for me).

Like I said, it snuck up on me,  I've realized I've made bullshit excuses for not doing things I love. Which is like sign #1.  I feel busy all the time, but then I just go home and sit on my computer and do fuck all.  I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and I know half the time I feel like crap is just mental.

This isn't new to me.  I've dealt with it since I was a teenager.  I've never been on medication, partially because i'm to stubborn to admit I might need it, and partially because I can normally manage it with proper diet, exercise, and time in the forest (sounds cliche, I know, but it does actually work for me).  

I haven't really trained since old lady worlds, and before that, it was pretty half assed with a few moments of brilliance and hard work mixed in.  I registered for the Montreal Open almost 3 weeks ago, with a grand plan of using it to help motivate myself, but that didn't work (it does fairly often, a real tangible goal to work towards often does wonders for me).

I know what I need to do, but knowing and doing are two very different things, especially when your brain is working against you.

So my friends, close and not that close.  Even if we hardly talk or have never actually met in person.  I need your help.  I need you to call me out on my bullshit excuses and badger me if you see me online on facebook when I should be at the gym(mon 5:30-9:30, tues 8-930, wed 5:30-9:30, thurs 8-:930, fri, 5:30-7:30).  If you see me eating crap call me out.  Please.  That's all. You don't need to talk to me about how I'm doing, or even acknowledge anything in this posts.  Just don't let me make excuses. That's it.  Please.

If you read this from facebook, and I can count on you to help me, give it a like, or a laughing face, or sad face,or any of the reaction options, or leave a comment, just so I know who's out there.

Old lady worlds is about 10 months away, and I've got my work cut out for me to be properly ready for it.

PS:  If you're dealing with depression or anything talk to someone.  Don't be afraid to reach out and get help.  You're not alone.  


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Tips for Newbies from a Referee

As a referee I get to interact with a LOT of competitors.  If a tournament with 250 competitors runs 5 mats, that's 50 competitors (ish)  per day.  Most tournaments I've worked at have had more competitors then that, but also more mats.  But 50 is probably a decent average.

So I see all the ranges of experiences, age, and belt and it's always really obvious who the first time competitors are. Generally, they are white belts, but every events got a few first time blues and even purples!  

So, to help you all you new competitors out (and by doing so  help myself and fellow referees out)  I'm writing up this post to cover a lot of the etiquette, rules, and situations that competitors should be aware of!

All this stuff is going to apply to tournaments that follow the IBJJF ruleset.  So that means, the OJA tournaments, the IBJJF tournaments, the Buffalo Classic, and a very large portion of other events that get put on across north america.

I think we'll just start at the very beginning and go through the whole process, from weight classes, weigh-ins, matches, draws, ect.

1.  Weight classes:  This is one thing that varies event to event, some events follow most of the ibjjf rules but deviate on the weight classes. So I'm not going to specify them here. One thing that I do want to point out is that the weight classes are the UPPER limits of the category.  I've seen a few parents put their kids into the wrong division because they thought they were the bottom.   The only exception to this is the top division which is generally specified as OVER 220  or 220+  for example. Also:  NOGI divisions tend to be 3-5lbs lighter then the gi divisions and you generally have to weigh in for both.  SOME events don't do the second weigh-in and some events have a larger allowance if the competitor competes in gi and nogi. The IBJJF has ZERO tolerance.     Here's a chart of the IBJJF weight classes

2.  Weigh-ins : This process varies a bit tournament to tournament as well. Generally you should be at the event 1h+ before your division is scheduled to start.  Weighins will happen right before your division starts.  You weighin in your uniform. So if it's a gi event, you need to be wearing your gi and your belt. If it's no-gi you need to be wearing your shorts + rashguard.  The IBJJF has no tolerance for missing weight.  zero. none. ziltch. If you are over you will NOT compete.  The OJA tends to have a 1lb allowance and many other events do as well.

3. Gi Check : The IBJJF is, of course, the strictest when it comes to "legal" gis.  Only Black, Blue and White are allowed.  You cannot mix and match the colours (like blue pants and a white top) and they have to be in good repair(no rips, frays or tears).  There are several rules in place about the baggyness and length of the sleeves and pants, as well as maximum collar thickness, gi "skirt" length and belt width and length.  Finally, there are rules about where patches can and cannot be placed on the gi.  Page 30 and 31 of the IBJJF rule book outline the rules pretty specifically.

Some details to note about uniforms.

1. Men are NOT allowed to wear a rashguard under their gi.

2. Women MAY wear one, they are also allowed to wear a sports bra only or a 1 piece swim suit.

3. Everyone needs to wear non-thong underwear underneath their gi. (note: if you have Shorts under your pants, you can wear all the thongs you want, this rule is just so their are no bare bums).
4.  Men: no tights under your pants.

5. Women are allowed to wear tights under their pants, as long as they are shorter then the gi pants.

6. For NOGI: you need to wear a rashguard, and it has to be black or white, with ate least 10% and up to 100% of it being your rank colour. (most tournaments are not that strict about this).

7.  For NOGI: men are not allowed to wear only spats,  they used to not be allowed at all, but now black spats are allowed under your regulation shorts.  Your shorts have to be board short style, no pockets, no zippers.  They need to be black or white with up to 50% of your rank colour.

8. For NOGI: women are allowed to wear lycra tights, OR lycra shorts that are mid-thigh to knee length.  Interestingly, board shorts aren't mentioned in the rule book, but I'm fairly certain shorts that meet the men's guidelines would be ok as well.

So, bring at least 2 gis (or nogi sets) to every event, just in case.  Because it would be really shitty to get to a tournament and not be able to compete because your gi isn't legal.  Also, if your gi rips, you need to get a new one to carry on in the match.

4. Pre-Match You made weight, you passed gi-check and you are brought over to your mat!  Congratulations, the hard parts over! ;)  The runner(they'll be the one with the clipboard or tablet that has your drawsheet on it)  will tell you which side to go on.  Wait on the side and do NOT go on the mats until the referee invites you.  (the gesture for this is their arms are up and they wave you in).

If you both competitors are wearing the same colour gi, the fighter on the referees right side will wear a green/yellow belt to identify them. Generally the competitor who's name is on top or the left of the bracket will go on the green side.  If one competitor is wearing white, and the other blue or black, the blue or black competitor will always go on the green side.  If one is wearing black and the other blue, the blue competitor will go on the green side.  so basically, blue trumps everything and black trumps white.

Once the referee has invited you onto the mat, make sure to shake the referee's hand.  If there are 3 refs, make sure to shake the corner refs hand as well.  If you like, shake your competitions hand at this point as well.  Many competitors will do the slap / fist bump after the referee says combatche, this isn't required, and I would be wary as there are always those guys/gals who will fake and go for the arm drag or takedown.

5. Referee Comands  There are only 4 commands from the referee (in Portuguese) that you need to know.  Make sure you know them and respond to them appropriately. There is nothing more frustrating to a referee (and coach) then a competitor stopping and getting up when you gave them a penalty.

  • Combatche: This means go/fight.  The referee will say this at the beginning of the match, and any time the match is stopped and needs to be started again.
  • Parou:  Stop.  Don't move.  Just STOP. Generally this happens when standup goes out of bounds (in this case, head back to the middle) or when the ground work progresses to close to the edge or ends up out of bounds (in this case, don't move until the ref says, they'll want to check your grips and make sure they can reproduce the position).  
  • Lutche:  This is a stalling penalty.  If you are just sitting around, not doing anything you're going to get called for stalling.  It can happen while standing, or on the ground.  There are a few positions that you cannot be called for stalling:  Mount, Back Mount, and Back Control. This is because these are the highest on the progression scale.  You can't progress further.  That being said, they must be maintained in the point scoring style. So putting a body triangle on in back control will make you eligible for a stalling call if you don't try to sub.  
  • Falta: This is the newest one.  We used to not say anything when we gave penalties. Now we say falta.  The progression for penalties is as follows:  Penalty + nothing for the other guy -> Penalty + advantage for the other guy ->Penalty + 2 points for the other guy -> Penalty + DQ.

6. Penalties  There are a lot of things that'll get you a penalty. I'm not going to go over all of them. Just a few key ones.

  1. Don't talk to the ref. Don't question their calls, don't talk. At all.  The ONLY 2 cases for talking to the ref are medical emergencies / injuries and uniform problems.  If you are injured you can tell the referee and have the medic come over. This will NOT automatically make you lose.  Having a muscle cramp will though. Don't ask the ref to stop the match for a cramp that's a match ender.
  2. Illegal Grips:  inside the pant/sleeve collar is no good, neither is inside the jacket.  You CAN grip the top of the pants though.  If you accomplish something because of an illegal grip (a sweep for example) the referee should penalize you, and put you back to wear you were before the illegal grip caused the progression.
  3. Illegal techniques:  Know the chart on page 24 of the rule book.  It's important. Doing an illegal technique will get you disqualified.  

There are a LOT of things that will get you a penalty.  You can find them on page 27-30 of the rule book.    Read them, be aware of them and don't be this guy. (warning: swearing and kneebahs).  

7. Slams  This is a topic I get asked about pretty often. Ussually from wrestlers who are scared their takedowns are going to get them DQ'ed. Most Judo and Wrestling take downs are not slams. Even if the other guy hits the ground hard.  It becomes a slam when you elevate them, and then help increase the force they hit the ground with. like, double legging, and you jump up, both feet into the air and land on top of them.  Most slams are called from guard or triangles and armbars.  For example Jane is armbarring Sue from guard, Sue stands up, and then drives Jane into the ground head first.   Or Bob has Joe in closed guard.  Joe stands up, and then jumps back down to their knees accelerating Bob into the floor.  A slam will get you an instant DQ. 

8 Some Rules that cause some confusion

  1. Out of bounds with a sub = 2 points and restart standing. 
  2. Sweeping to turtle is 2 points.  
  3. Passing and causing the guard player to turtle is an advantage
  4. Fleeing the area to avoid a takedown or sweep is a penalty, and will result in 2 points for the competitor attempting the action.
  5. Reaping!  Read page 26 of the rule book. Basically, don't let your leg cross the middle, especially when there is is a submission in play.  DQ if there is a sub, penalty if there isn't.  Unless your leg goes ALL the way across to the far side, then it's still a DQ.
  6. The Estima Lock.  For a couple years, this was a big of a grey area, at the IBJJF rules course they were saying it was legal and up to the referee discretion.  As of the last New York Open it's back on the black list for everyone but brown and up .  

9 End of the match
At the end of the match, the referee will say Parou and direct the competitors back to the middle.  stand facing the score boards at this point.  The referee will hold the arm of both competitors and raise the arm of the winner.  At this point, shake the referees hand to thank them and you may shake your competitions hand as well then head off the mats.  If you won, make sure to confirm with the runner that you won and find out when your next match will be.

10. Random Things

The runner is the person to ask about when you are up next and what place you got.  Don't bother them if they are busy.  Especially don't bother the score keepers.  They need to focus on their jobs and answering your questions is the very bottom of their priority pole.

Most tournaments use a single elimination draw system. This means if you lose you're out and the semi final losers both get bronze. This blog post I wrote a while back explains the draw system.

Be respectful always. If you are disrespectful to your competition, the referees, or the tournament staff you may be DQ'ed and it's a disciplinary DQ, which means you are OUT for the day. You don't get your medal and you do not collect 200 dollars.

Always wear your shoes when you are not on the mats.  Many tournaments will DQ you if they find you with no shoes on outside of the mats, particularily in the bathrooms.

Always keep your gi/ uniform on when you are inside the competition area.  There have been reports of the IBJJF suspending people for taking their gi of inside the competition area.  They even insist on it inside the warmup area.

If the referee instructs you to fix your gi or tie your belt, you have 20 seconds to do it.  It's a penalty if you take to long.  If you are the competitor with the green/blue belt, you get an extra 20 seconds to tie that one.

For most tournaments, to qualify for the absolute, you need to medal in your division. That means making it to the semis.  Grappling Industries tends to do absolutes / super absolutes as separate divisions that you don't need to qualify for.  Abu Dhabi Pro does 1 bronze medal,so after the semi-final is lost, the two losers fight each other for third and only the winner is eligible for the absolute.

Generally, coaching and filming is not allowed inside the competition area.  In Ontario, for most events, kids are allowed to have a single coach with them inside.

That covers pretty much all the random tid-bits of information that I can remember wishing the competitors knew over the last few events I've worked at.   I'm going to write another blog post soon about advice from competitors for first time competitors.  This will be less rules / process oriented and more about advice about nerves and what to expect and so on.

So, feel free to share this any new competitors  you know so they'll be more informed and ready when they head to their first (or next) competition!

Thanks for reading!  See you on the mats!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

I am in the worst shape of my life.

My level of fitness has always had ups and downs, it comes with the territory of doing sports and competing in weight division driven martial arts.  The last couple years have been a pretty steady decline with only momentary blips of increase that quickly fade and end up even further down the chart. 

I've dealt with a plethora of injuries, many of which were to my brain (and knees and wrists and shoulders and who know's what else, I've lost track of all the joints I've damaged in some way or another).  Most of them you can just rest / physio and carry on some x weeks later and you're fine.  

Concussions don't work that way.  The current accepted treatment is to stop all physical activity until initial symptoms are gone.  Then slowly follow the return to play protocols which are basically baby steps in level, with steps back if you get any symptoms again.  Here's a nice chart for the curious.

Now, there's nothing in there that says "eat all the things" while you're not doing any exercise, but when you'r depressed b/c you can't do shit, and you have no idea how long it'll be this time to get back on the mats, and your a dutch emotional eater, it's what happens.  At least to me anyway.  I've resisted it sometimes and have made grand statements on myfitnesspal a couple times saying i'm done with that destructive behaviour, but without fail when something happens (another injury, or a special event, or party, or a work lunch that is full of badness(delicious badness)) I derail and we're back to eating all the badness.   So, that's a really bad combination that's been happening on and rarely off for the last sayyy 2 or 3 years.   

There have been moments of clarity, like prepping for old man worlds, but then I landed on my head, and go a concussion.   Then again shortly before our vacation to cali/vegas for training.  Then I got need in the head 1/2 way through the trip and got another (minor) concussion.  I'm pretty much in the clear from that one. I was able to do a bunch of snow shovelling, and have been teaching classes and whatnot so I'm at about stage 3 of that recover chart, with likely hitting 4 this week.  But, to be honest, I'm terrified of going back to rolling, and the eventuality of competing.  

Having a concussion sucks and dealing with the post-concussion symptoms/syndrome is different for everyone.  Some people are fine after a couple days,  some people, it's weeks or months, some people it never goes away.  In the MMA and Jiu Jitsu community, there have been a few pretty public cases.  TJ Grant was supposed to be fighting for the light weight title, but he got a concussion training jiu jitsu back in 2013 and hasn't been seen since.  Jared Weiner in 2014 had a pretty scary string of concussions that he's lucky to have fully recovered from (  I HIGHLY recommend you watch/listen to the podcast he did with take it uneasy (   

For me, personally, the concussions I sustained 2012 and 2014 were the worst. They were the hardest impact(s)  and left me off the mats the longest.  I've had 2 since then as well, but they were more minor and were from impcts to the head that 99% of the population probably would have noticed.  But I did, and still dealt with the symptoms for weeks.  So of the symptoms I've struggled with over the years from the concussions are:  headaches (of course),  depression,  irritability, weird moodyness, inability to focus,  trouble making decisions (even minor ones like, what am I ordering to drink at dinner) and forgetfulness.  

Speaking of focus, let's get back on track, this wasn't supposed to be a blog post about concussions and how shitty they are (SPOILER: they really suck, and need to be respected, or you'll end up like me).  It was supposed to be a bit of an accountability post.  This is me, telling you, that i'm in shit shape and i'm ready to claw my way out of this injury and concussion induced funk and get back to some semblance of shape and fitness.  

I haven't had the great luck with going public with my goals / plans / challenges.  Not that long ago I was going to do 30 days of fitness where I did jiu jitsu or lifting or something every day for 30 days (not a big deal for most, but coming back from an injury it's a good way to get back into the habit of fitness).  I got a concussion on day 3.    But keeping them quiet doesn't usually work either, because last time I tried that I tweaked my knee shortly after I had my goals all set up and since I hadn't really told anyone, my extra shitty moods took everyone by surprise.

But, I'm a very goal driven person.  I NEED goals / milestones to motivate me.  My eventual goal is a return to competition,  but I need to set some smaller short and medium term goals to get there.  So here they are:

1.  Get my weight under control.  Short term: -28 pounds.  Medium/Long term - 40 pounds. Maybe one day crazy goal: -52 pounds
2.  Get my fitness back.  It's a lot more the just weight.  My cardio is abysmal and I am mega week.
3.  Get my confidence back. Confidence might not be the right word, maybe trust, maybe whatever the opposite of fear is, who knows.  This one's the hardest, and also the most important.  It's a weird balance between respecting my body/brain (the limitations, the potential for injury/concussions(which, get's higher every time you get one btw)  and still going out there and training / rolling / eventually competing again.  

I probably should have reversed the order of that list because it's basically reverse order of importance.  But it's also in order of attainability the way it is now I think.  Also I think they will cascade into each other,  getting my weight down will lead to improved cardio /fitness by nature and improving both of those two will help me gain that confidence back.

So, there you have it.  I am going to TRY to keep a bit of a log of my progress, I would love to say "I'm going to post weekly updates"  but honestly, that's probably way to ambitious with how busy I am with work / training / teaching.  You have my permission to hassle me if you don't hear from me though, please do in fact.

I'm taking suggestions for blog post topics as well, aside from these progress updates.  So if there's anything you want me to write about let me know!  I'm toying with the idea of an "Ask a ref" type post series where people can send me questions and I'll answer them and/or get answers from my referee friends about particular situations, scoring questions and so on.  

PS:  If your dealing with a concussion, or any injury and want to talk to someone who can relate, hit me up anytime.  I've been through the ringer and back a few times and I can likely relate to what you are going through.  

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 Lastly: Thank you Redstar Kimonos for always having my back, no mater how low I got and even though I'm probably the least active competitor on the team these days.  I WILL put these amazing gi back on the podium soon.