Updated: Aug 13, 2022
In the BJJ world, one of the areas of our game that usually lags is the stand up portion.
This is because we often learn take downs and throws from our BJJ professors, but we are shaking things up at Black Sheep Jiu-Jitsu MMA. Enter stage right Sensei Kenyon Whaley. Professor Mark asked Sensei Kenyon to come out to the gym once a month and help us improve our take downs and throws. Lord knows this is something I need serious help with.
Now if you recall I mentioned in my first blog post that I dabbled in Judo while in graduate school. Dabbling is probably exaggerating my participation. I really did only learn the basics such as shoulder rolls. I know I was taught a throw or two, but I can't even remember them to name them. What I do remember is that Sensei telling me that I needed to stop trying so hard and thinking so hard. I needed to learn to let go and use my opponent's momentum to my advantage. I was so focused on body mechanics that I blocked out that bit of wisdom.
I was first introduced to Kenyon in 2019, when my husband hosted a 22 Until None Roll-A-Thon benefitting military veteran's mental health services. I remember being at Pendergrass Martial Arts, who generously donated space for the event, and falling repeatedly as my husband whipped me around with intention. I also remember hitting the floor. Harder than I'd like. You know those cartoons where the character sees stars after getting hit in the head. Kinda like that.
I also learned that I do not fall well, which is likely the reason for the aforementioned stars. Being an awkward faller (lets just pretend this is a word), lends to injury. Fear of injury has prevented me from actively and aggressively improving my Judo game, because to do stand up opens you up to getting thrown yourself. So I have spent the majority of my time in BJJ class, starting on the ground. I do practice my breakfalls as well, but it is a different fall when you have the momentum behind you. You truly can feel like someone hit you with a planet.
Also, being a getting-back-in-shape now 40 year old woman, I wasn't took keen on practicing my stand up game with teenage and 20-something wrestlers. I do remember telling one of them, before we rolled, that "I am old enough to be your mama so let's slow it down". I'm happy to report that he started from the floor rather than shooting in.
I am gaining a new appreciation for my stand-up game, however. Sensei Kenyon held his first Judo seminar for us in March, which was so much fun. I regret that I had to miss his second seminar this April. In that first seminar, we progressed through a series of throws. Each throw built upon the last. With each through the technicality increased. It was quite a fun challenge to do these technical throws, making sure my and my partner's form was correct from our foot placement to hip rotation to hand placement to movement of torso. It is a good feeling, being strong enough to hip toss your partner. (Really all it takes is good technique, but it makes you FEEL strong.) There is a sense of empowerment that is gained by correctly executing the movement.
I have also found that my falling has improved over the past three years. I know manage to breakfall correctly a subjective 90% of the time :). I have yet to get injured in this endeavor. *Knock on wood. Not to say I don't get jarred if my balance is slightly off when I fall, or if I fall in the wrong direction. Believe it or not there is a correct direction to fall with each throw. There is a correct position of your hands and arms in relation to your body. You want as much body surface area as possible to hit the ground simultaneously. You want to be able to get back up to be thrown again and be able to find an almost juvenile glee in repetitively hitting the ground.
I know I don't have time to seriously learn Judo, though I wish I could. But I will tell you that I will continue to practice my Judo for BJJ. I will gladly learn all of the stand up I can in BJJ classes, Judo seminars, Wrestling seminars and MMA. The techniques all translate to a great BJJ game and more importantly, to self-defense, my main motivation for starting this journey.
If you ever want to practice hitting someone with a planet, I know a place for you to go. :)