Be A Good Buddy

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Technically jiujitsu isn’t a team sport. Whether you’re competing in a tournament, fighting in the ring, or defending yourself on the street, you’re going it alone. One of the most valuable keys to learning jiujitsu, though, is having a great buddy with whom to learn, and to get a good buddy, you need to be a good buddy.

First and foremost, don’t be the stinky kid. Take a shower as close to class as possible. Wash your gi after EVERY class. (Even if you don’t sweat that much, you spend the class rolling around with other people who might or might not be sweaty on mats where people have walked and sweated.) And brush your teeth…regularly. You might even consider chewing gum during class.

Over time, you’ll notice some people in class who have a knack for smelling great all the time. I think maybe Shower-to-Shower has something to do with that, but I’m not sure exactly. You’ll also notice some people are always stinky, and it’s usually the people who wear the same rash guard and gi to every class. I suspect a fair number of these folks don’t wash their gear but once a week or so. One thing to understand, though, is that sweaty stink accumulates, especially in synthetic cloths. If you let it sit, it just builds up.  Washing after each wear, though, prolongs the amount of unstinky time you have with that garment.

Over time, people have developed some tricks to combat sport stink. Some people add a cup of white vinegar to the wash. Others use a bit of Simple Green and let the garments soak. If you have a good scuba shop nearby, they just might carry a product called “Sink the Stink” which gets rid of the pee smell in sour wet suits, so stinky gis are small game for it. And drying your gear outside in the sun helps some since the sunlight has an antibacterial effect.

Use care when drying your gi in the dryer. They have a tendency to shrink.

Smelling good is a great start, but it’s only one factor in the “good buddy” equation. Next comes having a great attitude. Pay attention to the instructor and be ready to drill. Your partner might have missed some nuances, and you can help her along with the details. In jiujitsu, the details make all the difference. And when you drill, be willing to drill, and drill and drill some more. I like doing three or four reps then switching places and doing that over and over, but not everyone likes to do that. For me, it allows acquisition of some details and muscle memory before breaking the rhythm of the drill. Be sure everyone is getting equal time running the move, though.

As you’re going through those moves, be sure to try to find that balance between going easy and drilling seriously enough that when you roll, you know how to apply the technique. Every person has a speed and pressure they’re comfortable with. As you practice with different people, you’ll get more accustomed to their preferences.

Some people like to gradually advance their techniques as they practice in class, slowly getting some resistance from their partners. I happen to be one of these people, but you’ll have to try it for yourself.  Everyone likes a different level of aggression in the drills, but remember to always use care. Hurting your training buddy rarely wins you any friends and has a way of running people off.

Finally, be grateful and show it. The quality of your learning is dependent upon others who graciously allow you to contort and abuse them for your edification. Remember to say thank you and show them some love.

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Gi vs. No-Gi

Remember, I started like a brand new jiujitsu baby a short nine months or so ago, and this blog offers my insights. To many, these will seem infantile, but we all start somewhere, and my hope is to make that start a little more gentle than it otherwise would be.  Feel free to move along to the next thing in your day if you’re already clear on the differences in gi vs. no-gi grappling.

If you are going to a class where everyone looks like they’re wearing pajamas, that’s a gi class. The “pajamas” are gis, and the belts that keep the tops closed show the wearer’s rank.

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The gi tops should all have the left side of the kimono over the right one. I’ve heard that this stems from Japanese tradition and tendency toward order. In death, the right side of a kimono or gi drapes over the left–in my understanding. Most belts are tied in a square knot, with the belt wrapping around the wearer twice. I could try to describe for you how to do this, but honestly, asking someone in the class how best to tie the belt is a great way to break the ice with another white belt.

While the gis look like pajamas, they’re not quite as comfortable, and all the crazy contortions of class often have them slipping around. Brand new belts are notoriously difficult to tie and often come completely untied at the most inopportune of times. “This sounds like a bad combination,” you say? Well, you’d be right. To keep from flashing the world, a lot of folks wear undergarments of some sort–rash guards, compression shorts, spats, or plain old t-shirts. Being a chubby gal, at first I blew off the idea of wearing a rash guard and wore a t-shirt instead. Figuring out the advantages of the rash guard didn’t take me long, though. The t-shirt has a way of sliding around just as badly as the gi top, and rolling around on the mats with people wads both up in a hurry, exposing a little too much flesh. So, the longer the rash guard, the better, and I’ve found that tucking it into the pants tends to keep it in place a little bit longer. Under my bottoms, I wear capri pants or leggings. The combination seems to be the best way of not showing the world what my naked back and/or rear looks like.

No-gi is just what it sounds like, workouts or class without a gi. People who like to look cool in no-gi class wear long board short type bottoms (like the Agogue shorts from Rogue American Apparel ) along with their rash guards. Again, I always wear an under layer, and even when I wear shorts, I wear capris under them to cover my knees. Somehow my knees are always scraping along the mats and getting all raw and irritated. I’m pretty sure if I were ever brutally murdered without an ID, the coroner would look at my knees and think I was either a devout catholic or a prostitute. And since my looking cool is pretty much hopeless, I just wear my regular workout shorts over my capris.

Each way has its advantages and disadvantages. The gis are a bit restricting, but they provide a plethora of hand holds to manipulate. Rolling without a gi allows an amazing range of motion but very few places to grab and hold. Most people feel like the no-gi classes teach them more about self-defense, but if you live in an area where people where jackets, that isn’t necessarily the case. Tournaments come in both flavors.

I’m still figuring out which one is my favorite.

Wondering which gi to start with is a natural progression of the thought process. One of my next posts will be about how I chose my first couple of gis and what I think about them now that I’ve spent some time in them.