Enter The Danny: Round 1


"Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall there was this one: 'Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.'  Master Ittei commented, 'Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.'  Among one's affairs there should not be more than two or three matters of what one could call great concern.  If these are deliberated upon during ordinary times, they can be understood.  Thinking about things previously and then handling them lightly when the time comes is what this is all about."  From The Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai

Friday was an excellent day.  The bank I work for had an examiner from the Fed onsite this week, performing our IT and business continuity audit.  On Friday morning, we had our exit meeting with him, and his recommendations were all very minor.  It was a very good exam!  What, you may ask, did this have to do with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lesson I took on Friday night?  Here's what...

We celebrated with a big BBQ lunch.  Lots of fatty, meaty, potato salady goodness filling my entire gut, putting me into something less than top fighting form.

The schedule showed that the night's class required no gi, so I put on some shorts and a t-shirt and drove there. 

MISTAKE #2:  Just because the class does not require a gi does not mean you can wear any stupid thing you pull out of your dresser.  It turns out that if you spend an hour grappling on the floor while wearing baggy shorts and boxers, your nuts WILL get stepped on.  Probably more than once.

Blackbelt Universe is in a building that used to be a dry cleaner, so the front part is an office, and the back is a large, open room.  The floor is covered in wrestling mats, and there is equipment around the perimeter of the room, such as punching bags and shelves full of gloves and headgear.  Tony's wife Katherine manages the place, and she welcomed me and showed me around.  When I arrived, the children's class was finishing up.  The back part of the building (being a former dry cleaner) has no air conditioning, but a large garage door at the back was open, letting a breeze in, and there were two large industrial fans in the wall, moving air into the room.

Then the kid's class ended, and the first instruction Tony gave was to turn off the fans.  Class hadn't even started, and I was already dripping!  I introduced myself to the man standing next to me, AC.  If you've never met me in person, you may not know that I'm 6'6" tall.  AC is taller than that.  Also, I'm not sure about this, but there's a good chance that his entire body is just one enormous muscle.

MISTAKE #3:  Maybe it was some ingrained idea that I needed to match myself with somebody close to my size, but I chose AC as my training partner.  To be fair, he was very patient, very cool, and very instructive, but he was also very strong and very good at jiu-jitsu.

I learned so much in one class that I can barely start to list it all here.  The whole practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu centers around holds, locks, and submissions, not strikes or kicks.  You get in close with each other and try to control the others movements.  You want to control the distance between yourselves at all times.  The more you can reinforce your body by putting it in contact with another part of your own body (for instance, putting an elbow against your knee), the more you are able to brace against your opponent and restrict his movement.  We began with a technique to control an opponent's legs while pinning them to the ground.  It really worked!  "I'm pretty good at this," I allowed myself to think...

Then, Tony told the person on the ground to defend themself on the next practice round, and here's a video of how that worked out for me.


From there, we spent the rest of class expanding on the first technique.  You've got your opponent's legs controlled, what do you do next?  Tony showed us a series of techniques that could be executed in sequence.  When done correctly, you never lose the upper hand, and you progressively contain more and more of his body with your own.  I'm going to do an awful job of describing this, but essentially you pin his chest by holding it down beneath the ribs while you use your other hand to control one of his legs.  Then you sort of walk your feet back while forcing his leg to the ground, lock his head between your knee and arm, pin his hips beneath a leg, and then wrap up his arms.

The reason I describe the whole sequence is so that I can tell you that when you watch it demonstrated in slow motion by an expert instructor, it looks really easy.  Maybe you even let your mind wander a bit, and think about how hot it is, and whether the kids are being good for the babysitter.  But then the instructor finishes, and you go spar with your partner, and it's HARD.  You know how in basic training, military recruits have to do stuff like strip and reassemble a rifle a thousand times in a row, so that when they really have to do it in a crucial situation, they can do it without even thinking?  I totally get that now, because when you have to actually perform these moves, it's nearly impossible if you are in your head, which is where I spent most of the evening.

Actually, AC's armpit is where I spent most of the evening.

Class ended, we all lined up and bowed to Tony, and then he ran down the line to bump fists with us before dismissing us.  I thanked AC for being patient with a first-timer, put on my shoes, and stepped outside.  At 7:20 PM it was 95 degrees outside, but I was so hot that it felt like stepping into a deep freeze.

My legs are useless columns of jello today, which was especially evident when I went to the gym this morning.  It was awesome.

There's no class on Monday, because of July 4th, so my next lesson will be on Wednesday.  I wonder if Blake would want to practice with me...


Roy B said...

Loved it! Eagerly awaiting the next installment!

I hope it doesn't further damage the tenuous relationship w/ the Far East...

Danny said...

Thanks, Roy! When I finished my VOA interview yesterday, the reporter asked if she could use a picture from my blog to post with the story. I agreed, on the condition that she not use the Bruce Lee photoshop. Waaaay to easy to misconstrue that.

Pher Bal said...

You super-imposed your face onto an image of one of China's national treasures, even after all of the hoopla from the Chinese over the Century Egg. My hat, sir, is off to you! BTW, your recent experiences have been making great conversation at the office, so keep up the excellent work!

Danny said...

Bruce Lee is the single most iconic martial artist of all time. In the post where I introduced this project, I expressed some reluctance to use that Photoshop, given recent events, but I'm hoping that people will accept it for what it is - a loving tribute. I'm glad to hear that I'm keeping folks talking around the water cooler!

Ali said...

"your nuts WILL get stepped on." this is probably only funny to me because i don't have nuts.

Danny said...

It's funny to me, too, because I'm 12, and can't type the word "nuts" without laughing. I think I actually used it again in my latest entry.

Ali said...

i think the word "meat" is funny, too. even when people really just mean "meat." i, too, am 12.

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