500 days of jiujitsu*

Andre Galvao, co-founder of our team, will be in Manila next month.

while discussing this with someone i closely train with, he tells me that i shouldn’t go since i don’t know much about jiujitsu anyway so i would only be wasting money if i attend this seminar.

(let me give you a few seconds for those words to sink in. it’s the closest translation i can think of. trust me when i say it sounds harsher in my language.)

because i cannot beat this guy on the mats yet, my first instinct was to burn one of his gis.

instead (or as rational thought started to kick in), i wrote this:

dear BJJ,

it’s not you. it’s me.

it’s not that you still don’t like me. it’s just that i continue to deal with impatience given my limited skills and face restrictions to my training that i don’t think this can go on (and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you slowly kill passion).

we both know we can no longer make this work. so rather than force the issue, let me just tap out.

(and yes, i know, we’ve done this before. this time, though, i’m not sure if I’d come back again.)

just so you know, you had been the one,

while this was a bad case of foot in mouth (this guy – who I promised to be with for better or for worse – has profusely apologized since), it is enough to demotivate me. my incompetence in this sport has been clear from day one that it need not be rubbed in my face (i can bring myself down if i wanted to on my own after all, effortlessly).

my mind says leave the team, take on another sport (even if my beef is with this guy and not jiujitsu per se) although when i look at my options, i find that i actually have none. there is one other jiujitsu team in my part of the archipelago but it is not exactly legitimate (and this would mean an all out war of sorts with this guy). zumba has never been an option and pole dancing (yes, you read that right) has already been scrapped from my list.

and, really, how do you let go of the one?

so here i am in a bind, still weighing in whether i should stay or move on.

in the meantime, i’ve decided to hide the hubby’s favorite gi instead in a hole. under the ground. #twosentencejujiterohorrorstory

*a special shout out goes to all the jujiteros who have followed me and/or read my posts. thank you for the (virtual) support and for indulging my rants, er, thoughts about my journey. i am disheartened but i think i will be fine.



*or how my physiotherapist friends helped me (further) understand jiujitsu

there is an ad about our jiujitsu team that was released first week of this month and i just realized a few days ago that all the pictures in it are mine! since i’m trying to keep a low profile (so far, so good. hah.), here’s the cropped version:


on my thirteenth session, i brought three friends over to my dojo, two of whom were visiting from Manila (i actually told my coach that i’d make this a regular part of the city tour when my friends come over).

drills while on turtle top. taking the back. submissions from the back.

tried to do the drills the best i could, what with a new gi that seemed to be a little tight for my hips (to think i’m wearing a men’s gi as there are no locally available girl’s gi in my size). gave myself a mental tap on the back for doing knee slice effectively (the hubby joked about a collapsed lung) while i failed miserably at a technique that involved what looked like a back roll to take the back (i simply couldn’t lift my lower limbs long enough to initiate some kind of a turn, the blob that i am. there was actually another drill in which the coach literally had to push me to help me with a cambuleta roll [a side roll of sorts] but let’s not go there).

a teammate tried this back roll but she wouldn’t budge as well, in spite of her generally svelte physique.

“her shoulder was locked, more extended than flexed. it should be protracted or flexed to initiate the roll. when you extend the shoulder, the neck tends to extend as well”, observed one of my friends.

wait, what did she just say?

another drill, this time while on turtle top. move the arm away. pull the body to one side. then take the back. we do this for around one minute each.

“loved that!”, said another friend (a.k.a. sporophyte in the blogosphere) “that’s what i do. you know, elongate one side of the trunk and you facilitate weight shifting towards that side. that’s how you initiate any movement.”

the eff?

all this time, i’ve been trying to figure out how my (limited) knowledge of human movement can help me when i train (i am not a physiotherapist and my expertise – if you can call it that- is identifying and addressing limitations in task performance instead). i’ve only gone as far as thinking i could do something with the head (but what to do with it, not yet). my friends took one look at how jujiteros move and, well, grasped certain important principles, faster than you can say kinesiology and biomechanics. life is not fair, after all.

the hubby and i roll and i found myself under again. i escaped his trap only for him to do this again. this went on and on until he finally got my outstretched arm and pushed it upwards for a submission. while this did not exactly hurt (a previous injury has made some unusual shoulder positions bearable), i had to tap out because i couldn’t figure out how to escape without injuring my shoulder, given how awkward i move sometimes.


the hubby and me during a roll. photo courtesy of sporophyte.

we roll again and this time, tired of always being mounted on, i managed to go on top of the hubby instead as he tried to take me down (the element of surprise was my ally) and i ended up on his back while he was on all fours. but because i have, er, short legs (the hubby was not crouched low enough), i couldn’t reach the mats to stabilize my position. while i was trying to think of a move, the buzzer rang (later, i realized i could have tried to move his body to get his back, much like the drills we practiced earlier).

“your hubby is right. in jiujitsu, you do use the muscles that you normally do not use”, the other friend commented. the hubby’s pre-med course was physiotherapy. imagine the advantage that gives him.

(let me say this again: life. is. effing. unfair.)

sporophyte adds, as a word of advice: “if you want to get away from a lockdown, you just have to find a way to shift or elongate your body, and then rotate. that’s how you move out of any position.”

and while i know there are many ways to get out of a mount or a hold or a position where one seems to be at a disadvantage, the fact that she figured out a way that can work, just like that, is amazing.

now, if only i can convince them to join me on the mats (or at the very least, to get them to join the mats, wherever they are). wishful thinking, i know.

(meanwhile, i think i need another break to get my bearings back. lol.)


*or what you need to be to make it far in jiujitsu

the one brave thing i think i did during this session was to reply “what do you mean by that, sir?” when one of my coaches said “can you pose like girls?” while taking a picture of us girls. to get my point across, i did this instead:



this was my twelfth session. if i train once every week that would mean I’ve been doing jiujitsu for three months now. equivalent to one quarter. what have i gotten out of it, aside from a now-healed-previously-bruised rib and a neck strain radiating to my left arm? not enough yet.

i had imagined reaching this point and being rained with (rainbow-colored) confetti and balloons.

in reality, i am barely surviving.

they say that jiujitsu has a steep learning curve. my fear is that i simply stay in some form of plateau. like forever.

four points of control. submission techniques while on full mount.

the full weight of the hubby started to dawn on me the minute his body crashed on my face during a roll (he being 32 pounds heavier than me, the ninety-percent-only effort he claims he exerted seems negligible). i could barely breathe and for a brief moment i wanted to tap out as this felt similar to being in an enclosed, tight space, the kind i was not exactly built to handle. before the panic could set in, the instinct to survive went overdrive and i found myself a breathing space.

because my claustrophobia got the better of me, i barely remembered what i did. all i know is that i was on my back most of the time but i ended up on my tummy when i tapped out because –  aside from the fact that i was exhausted (reeling from a self-mandated four-week break) – my left arm, which has had a previous injury, was dangerously close to a submission.

i sit out after this roll as i pulled the left side of my neck as well. it wasn’t that bad. but another roll would have made it worse. my fear of injury was becoming harder to ignore (my day job necessitates some form of strength; if my students sense any sign of weakness, they will pick on me. seriously.).

i watch instead as a young female white belt, who has been training for barely a month, approach one of my coaches and start to roll with him. i’ve been here longer and i have not even attempted to do this. at all. this is the mother of all my effing fears in jiujitsu (heck, i’m not even sure why i find this scary but i’m scared anyway).

in spite of these fears, i stay.

during the roll that almost cut my oxygen, the (hard-to-please) hubby expressed some form of approval when i was able to escape from his mount twice (i would have cartwheeled in between breaths if i could).

while i have been pushed to do what i must, i have never been forced to go beyond what i cannot. my pace, whatever strength i have, and my limitations have been largely respected.

i stay because it seems that i am doing something right – even if my progress has been painstakingly slow – and that i am in the right team.

and so perhaps the courage to stay, to show up on the mats in spite of all the odds and fears (both real and imagined), is the one that matters the most.

jiujitsu (im)possible*

you know how it is when all of a sudden, it all makes sense?

this is not one of those moments yet.

it was my eleventh session after four weeks of being off the mats. and while i had been gone longer than this, it felt like it was my first time again (the team had moved to a different dojo; the energy felt different).

it was a slow start for me. i was going through the motions without understanding why.

butterfly sweep. flower sweep. a sweep that ends in an arm bar.

momentum is key, they said. it is common sense, they said. but i couldn’t make the sweep. the hubby wouldn’t budge.

then he tells me instead “use MY momentum”.

and just like that, something flickered in my head, and i sweep him in one motion. not as smooth as it should be. some points of control not pushed or pulled enough. but i was getting there.

i started to roll. i used my weight. i used whatever agility i had and moved as my partner moved (as if this was not enough, my crazy tendril-like hair, in braids at that, ended up on one side of my face, poking my cheeks as i struggled) until i got to side mount. he moved his way towards my collar and as he started to set up a choke, i pulled my head away. big mistake. i had to tap out.

and just like that, something flickered in my head.

i tell him to start where we ended, with him pulling my collar for a choke. instead of pulling my head away, i put my head down. and he couldn’t pull off the choke. but he got my arm instead with me on side mount and we were locked in this position until the timer went off.

i mustered the courage to ask my coach a question, as to what i should do while on side mount with my arm trapped by my opponent. but because i had difficulty with the terms, my coaches initially couldn’t get what i was trying to say (i actually said “i was on prone and he was on his back” with some hand gesture and they said “what do you mean by on prone?”). my jargon was as bad as my skill. it was embarrassing, really (the hubby would later point out that it was not that they didn’t understand me. it was more that they didn’t understand how i could have given out my arm so easily, much to my horror).

he starts off with a (slightly) lengthy explanation as to how this is basic (but because i was barely showing up, i probably missed this one), how one should not be open (“you were too far from his body”), and how one should not get into a more advantageous position only to end up being trapped (to be fair, i think he was happy that i was finally asking questions. or so i tell myself.). he tells me, in jest, that this is actually not as hard as my day job (i would have to agree. this is waaaay harder than my day job.). and then shows me that instead of trying to pull my arm away, i should move closer to my arm, towards my opponent, until i reach his collar deep enough to trap his head.

and just like that, something flickered in my head (along with a jaw drop).

once, during a roll, the hubby set up his move such that i had no choice but to land on my side so he can take my back. normally, i would have fallen into that trap but, for some reason, my head willed my body to face him instead (there was some form of approval that came from him that time).

so it seems that the best move sometimes is to go against one’s own instinctive reaction – not to pull away but to move closer; not to turn away but to go forward.

(the hubby was trying to explain this through Physics. and while i was better at this subject than Chemistry, my mind started to shut down at the mention of fulcrum and base of support. to each his own analytic process, i suppose).

thankful for the patience of my coaches (sometimes, i do feel like the dumbest student but they cheer me on anyway); for engrams that (still) work at this age; and these little flickers of light that guide my way until my big light bulb moment comes along.

jiujitsu actually*

been off the mats for more than two weeks as life got in the way of training. hubby has been busy and while he can train without me, he prefers that he is there when i do (ain’t marriage grand?)

let me fill the gap with these instead: shots of a teammate and three of my coaches in their winning matches. these are grainy though as i had no lens and only zoom function to work with.

dumau competition. cebu city. october 2015. canon powershot s3. black and white.


Coach Jf, left, preparing for a submission


Coach Jg, bottom, going head-to-head with a larger opponent


Coach P, top, setting up his game


Sir D, submitting his opponent while upside down

ang heneral (the general)*

* or the day i met the main man from manila

i wanted to reserve this post for later, when meeting our head coach would have involved some form of direct training with him. but i figured by that time, i might have moved on to another area of interest, me being flighty and all. also, to date, the hubby has skimmed through my posts and, i think, one of my coaches (i’ll see if i can call his bluff. hah.). so my posts about jiujitsu might be far and few in between soon.

i almost met the head coach last year, barely a month after i started jiujitsu, as he was scheduled to train with the team. but the hubby told me that should i choose to attend the training, it would be best for me to stay off the mats and listen, instead of join them on the mats (whatever his reasons were, i am sure in his head it made sense).

that was around the time i took a break from jiujitsu.

“Wala na tayong panahon para sa mga bagay na hindi natin kayang panindigan.” (We do not have time for things we cannot fight for.) – Isabel

we were introduced to each other briefly in a bjj competition in cebu, the queen city of the south. i’m not sure if it were his height, his size, his deep voice, or a combination of all three, but i knew that should this man tell me to do hip escapes for like a hundred times, i would do so without question (the only other person that brings out this type of fear in me is one of my coaches).

to be clear, it’s me, not them. really.

“Nasubukan mo na bang hulihin ang hangin?” (Have you tried catching air?) – Pres. Aguinaldo

our head coach turned out to be one of those few people who can be cool and warm at the same time (however, i do hope that i only have to roll with him once in my entire life. if i can help it).

“when you roll on the mats, it shows who you are…”, he says over dinner a few days ago (couldn’t join the training as i had work this time) amidst conversation about food, college, and fears. “if you are going through something in your life…if you are committed or not”.

i almost choked on my food. it was a bit unnerving hearing this out loud.

“May mas malaki tayong kalaban…ang ating sarili.” (We have a bigger enemy… ourselves.) – Heneral Luna

most of my life i have been (a bit of) an overachiever. and, initially, it was what was weighing me down on the mats. i was frustrated, disappointed – angry even – largely because it was not making any sense to me and i was not moving the way i should. i gritted my teeth hard every time i would (try to) roll (my tmj dysfunction acted out for some time. it was that bad.). this and pride (over an indirectly-related matter) got the better of me and so i decided to stop without any plans of coming back (or so i thought).

“Ganito ba talaga ang tadhana natin? Kalaban ang kalaban. Kalaban ang kakampi. Nakakapagod.” (Is this really our fate? Our enemies are our enemies. Our allies are our enemies. This is tiresome.) – Heneral Luna

looking back, the four-month break seemed to be necessary. it was clear to me that i wanted to train. however, i needed to: manage expectations (even if others have not managed their expectations of me. hah.); take things in stride (i tell myself there is time, a few more years before i turn forty, before whatever motor skills i have start to decline. seriously.) and (try to) ignore the doubt in my head.

i came back at my pace, at what is comfortable for me. i’m sure this non-commitment (i would like to think of it as self-preservation) has been clear as day when i stepped on the mats again. not that i don’t take this seriously because i do. but i am still in the process of trying to figure out how much of myself i can give to this sport (i do write about it, after all). my coaches have respected my, er, conflicted self and for that i am grateful (see, this is what happens when i know any from my team – my coach at that – reads this. lol.)

“Hindi pagdurusa ang pagdaan sa matinding pasakit. Para kang tumanggap ng basbas, parang pag-ibig.” (To experience great pain is not suffering. It is like receiving a blessing, like love.) – Colonel Paco Román

and so, here i am, still (rocking and) rolling. oss!

*hugot quotes are from the movie Heneral Luna



100 days* (of jiujitsu)


me (all curled out) with the hubby (photo bombed by our coach. lol.)

*or the number of days i hope i last in this sport

sometimes – no, make that most of the time – i wonder why i do this.

my tenth session was a lesson on sweep from side mount.

and there i was, struggling to coordinate the movement of my trunk, my hips, my limbs, and every other freaking body part in one smooth motion.

i missed something. like only remembering certain areas to get to point A from point B when i drive (i am a geographic idiot as well). or when i’m singing and forget like a word or two from the lyrics. frustrating, really, that at a certain point i muttered what i thought was a muffled invective, a curse in Tagalog, which apparently was heard in the entire room (my teammates erupted in laughter).

i approached my coach and ask him about the specific technique, right about the time people were rolling in the mats. i could almost hear him stifle a sigh (questions are usually asked after we roll; that was the structure) but he relented to my request.

i wanted to tell him i have motor planning issues (i am tempted to take a video of myself, show my colleagues, and i’m sure they’ll all concur), execution in particular. but i think i’ll save this reasoning for later. lol.

he tells me:

  • i move my body in a segmental manner, that is, while on my back i raise my hips then lower it before i turn instead of raising my hips and turning at the same time (again, isn’t this the hallmark of a motor planning issue???).
  • i need to (further) strengthen my core (he was not impressed that while on my back i kept my hips raised for around 10 seconds {this was a different coach}. that’s like a feat for me, you know).
  • and that (much like what the hubby tells me) i simply overanalyze (i have to admit there’s {a little} truth in that).

i make a mental note of what i need to work on as he explains the technique again:

  • bridging
  • hip escape
  • bridging and hip escape
  • shoulder bridging
  • practice, practice, practice
  • practice some more

he tells me to move as a unit, to do everything in one fluid motion. then he asks the lightest white belt (the one that was roughly, er, one fourth my body weight) to practice the move on. and with one go, i sweep him!

savoring this little victory until the next challenge comes along. so help me God 😉