Martial Arts & Pregnancy: Working Out

img_0032

For the last 8  months, I’ve been busy growing a mini martial artist in my belly. I’m well into my 3rd trimester and have about 4-5 weeks to go until I’m due to pop. This being my first child, the whole experience has been completely new to me and training while pregnant is so far removed from regular non-pregnant training so I thought I’d better document it so I don’t forget how its been like to train through pregnancy.

I haven’t been the most disciplined about keeping a regular exercise routine. I learnt that my body has been releasing this hormone called relaxin, designed to help make all my joints really pliable and flexible so that I can somehow squeeze what feels like a bowling ball out. While I’m assuming this is a massively positive thing towards getting said bowling ball out, it’s also seriously affected my movements and I haven’t been able to do very much with my legs without significant pain.

Despite that, every so often, I try to push out a few push ups and squats so I don’t completely lose all my muscles. (More on actual martial arts training in another post!)

Squats are still fairly easy for me, the only hindrance is my big belly. So I’ve had to take a much wider stance so my belly can dip down between my legs when I squat down. At first I was worried about the change in my centre of gravity or falling forwards or backwards (that would have looked funny!), but it really hasn’t been an issue by making sure I’m still keeping my knees over my feet, sticking my butt out and keeping my back straight and my core engaged.

Push ups are a whole lot harder. It definitely didn’t help that I developed bursitis in my left shoulder early last year. As I eased off training hard, my bursitis finally healed up and I could attempt push ups again around my second trimester. However as my belly got bigger and bigger, it definitely got harder and harder. There was a point where it felt like there was a very strong magnet between my belly and the ground and I would just collapse mid way down. So I needed to focus a whole lot more on ensuring I was using my core and keeping my back super straight. Wider leg positions also make things easier. At the end of the day, I just wanted to focus on ensuring I was working out the right bits of my upper body so even if I could only do a couple then drop to do them from my knees, that’s what I did. And of course, I could only go as low as my belly would allow, which these days really doesn’t feel like much any more.

On the other hand, there’s just no way to do sit ups in a way that would make them actually useful for my core. It just feels like I’m more likely to do more harm than good in trying to persist with traditional sit ups. So for my core, I’ve been doing things like balancing on an exercise ball and engaging/activating my core in mini sets while I’m just sitting around (which is most of the day, yay couch).

Sadly, I’m sure I’ll have a long, hard journey ahead of me after the birth to get my body back to the way it was pre-pregnancy. But if I made myself fit and strong before, I can do it again. Right now my top priority is keeping my body well-rested and not injured in any way so it can do its thing welcoming my mini jiujitsu-ka into the world.

Posted in Fitness, Observations, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shower Thoughts

This is why my showers take so long..

IMG_2268

Posted in Artwork | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Back on the Competition Mats

20160313-_CPS4567

On March 13th, I found myself stepping back on the competition mats at the Grappling Industries Submission Only Gi/No Gi Tournament.

After my last competition more than 2 years ago, I decided that the next time I competed, I wanted to be at my absolute best and had done every single thing I could to prep for it.

Then for some insane reason, on the very last day of the registration with only 30 minutes left to register, I stared at the registration form and held a debate with myself. I was at the worst fitness level that I’ve ever been in for the past 5-6 years, I’ve only been going for class once a week for the last 2 years, my mindset is “oh man, that looks too hard, too lazy”. Perfect competing conditions, Not! But then, I hit the Register button anyway. Worst, I didn’t want that additional stress of not making weight so I entered in a weight class above!

Of course, as soon as I entered, I regretted it. What had I done?? Why did I do that to myself?? Stress!!!!

But I also started feeling a little excited and some of that long-lost fighting spirit came back to me.

I knew going in, this wasn’t a physical battle for me, it was going to be purely mental.

I think there are 3 major things in play when competing: Fitness, Skills and Mindset.

Fitness and skills are somewhat linear. If I work on my fitness, I will get fitter. If I work on my skills, they will get better. In a sense, these 2 aspects of competing are easy to achieve. Yes, they require time and commitment and discipline (all of which I’ve been falling short on) but I know without a doubt that if I put the work in, they will happen.

Mindset isn’t quite so straightforward, it ebbs and changes and I  haven’t quite honed the skill to have the right, positive and strong mindset on hand when I need it.

Battle of the Brain

So from the time of signing up to compete until the second I hit the competition mats, my entire focus was getting myself into the right mindset.

I dug deep to figure out why I wanted to compete and what I wanted to get out of it. And I came out with these goals:

  • I want to prove to myself that I can face my fears
  • I want to prove to myself that I won’t let my ego and pride stand in my way
  • I want to prove to myself that I won’t give up

From the start, the odds were stacked against me winning. Higher weight class, most likely much younger competitors, competitors who most likely trained a lot more and competed a lot more than I had been doing. At the start, my mindset was “Yeah if I don’t win, that’s why!” which was wrong because I was using these odds as excuses.

I could recognise myself making excuses so I had to get myself out of that. I focused on the things that I knew of myself. I know that when I actively ignore the need to ‘win’, I roll better, my mind is clearer and I can see more opportunities. I know that when I actively think “don’t give up”, it doesn’t matter how exhausted I am or how squished or uncomfortable I am, or how impossible the situation might feel, unless a limb is about to break, I’ll keep fighting against getting subbed. I know that in the right mindset, even if I’m getting absolutely annihilated, I will be doing my very best and I will come out feeling good.

So that’s what I wanted out of competing, I wanted to get my head in the right place and come out with no regrets because whatever the result, I would know that I did every single thing I could physically do and I would give it my very best.

The ‘bad’ thoughts surfaced every now and then while I was prepping my brain. What if I lose and people think I’m so crap? What if everyone in my team medals but I don’t? What if, what if, what if? It was a challenge to push them away but I think writing down my goals and focusing on them helped. As selfish as it is, I wasn’t competing for my team/academy or anyone else,  I was competing to get my headspace back in the right place.

Competition Day

I had 2 fights in my division. In the first, we went the full 5 minutes and I lost by referee decision. At the start, I managed to get around to her back during stand up but I hesitated and she capitalised by hip throwing me. Then as she was in a dominant position, I had to fight to survive for most of the round.

There were a fair few hairy moments when I thought “man this is really tough, I could just end it by tapping cos I don’t think I can escape” but I told myself, no she doesn’t have this submission yet, I can’t just give up. And that gave me boosts of energy to escape. Step by step, I fought my way back to reverse the position and got myself into half-guard top and almost completely passed but unfortunately the time ran out.

20160313-_CPS4558

 

In my second, I noticed my opponent started with a very low position so I went for a head snap to sprawl on top of her. Mistakenly, I did not capitalise on catching her head so she was able to catch at my feet and put me on my back. After a few failed half guard attempts, I made a mistake and my opponent seized on it to put on a very swift arm-bar.

20160313-_CPS4563

This being my second fight, it was no longer about having to think “Don’t give up”, I was just focused on doing what I needed to do.This fight was pretty interesting to me because there were quite a few moments when I was about to do something in order to escape, when I suddenly pulled myself back. I started seeing that if I did what I wanted to do, that would open me up to another attack so I ended up not doing it.

It was an eye-opener because turns out I do think while I roll. Often during a roll, everything I do is purely reactive. But now, I realised that I do think slightly ahead. So I’ve progressed from “OMG, she wants my arm, need to roll to the left!!” to “OMG, she wants my arm, need to roll to the left, but then she can get my back, oh no, better just stay!” Now that I’m beginning to think about how my opponent might react, the next progression will be to plan how to use that reaction to my advantage. If I don’t move onto that part quickly, I’m going to start being very still and inactive during my rolls!

20160313-_CPS4569

So in the end, I lost my 2 fights and got a bronze medal. I’m a little sad that I couldn’t bring home a win for my team. But I’m also really happy because I accomplished the goals that I set out for myself:

  • I was scared to compete but by competing anyway, I faced my fears
  • My first loss didn’t affect my second fight mentally (I’m pretty sure it did physically!), and I didn’t feel really crap about  myself for not winning because I didn’t let my ego and pride get in my way
  • I soldiered on and made myself keep going when the going got really tough, so I didn’t give up

Another good thing I got out of competing was being able to look back at the fights and see what I needed to work on. My weakest points were starting the fight, using my recoveries and defence to my advantage instead of just keeping myself ‘safe’ and my fitness. So back to the drawing board (or mat?) to work on those things!

Definitely pumped to step back onto the competition mats again soon!

 

Posted in Competitions | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fine Line Between Self-Confidence and Arrogance

Just wanted to share an old illustration that I made a couple of years ago:

HareandTortoise2

For some reason one day I was thinking about the hare and the tortoise story and it suddenly hit me what the moral of the story was.

This story is always associated with “slow and steady wins the race”. But it’s really not that simple. Let’s face it, if the hare didn’t fall asleep, it would’ve won, plain and simple. So why didn’t the hare win? Because he fell asleep. Why did he fall asleep? Because he was so arrogant in his ability to run faster that he underestimated the tortoise and thought that there was no way he would lose to a slow tortoise.

On the surface, arrogance and self confidence can sometimes seem very similar. But on the inside, they’re worlds apart and I think it has to do with one’s mindset and how someone approaches a challenge.

Arrogance: I can beat you in this race.

Self confidence: I can win in this race.

An arrogant person validates their ability against others. A self-confident person validates their ability against themselves.

Here’s another version I made with a different layout 🙂

HareandTortoise

Both are available on my RedBubble shop, just click on the image to check it out!

 

 

Posted in Artwork, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Self-Doubt and Fear

20130406-_CPS8961

Every time I step on the mats, I feel this little wave of fear and self-doubt. Even after 4-5 years of training Jiu Jitsu, I still feel it. It doesn’t matter if its to compete or just to train. The questions that I asked myself may have changed and evolved but the feeling is still there.

What if I get injured?

I’ve had my fair share of injuries; knee injuries, over-extended elbows and shoulders, wrist strains, broken pinky toes and my most annoying at the moment: a neck/upper back injury. Not to mention all the bruises from accidental strikes while rolling. Recently, I did a No-Gi class at the tail-end of my neck injury, I had a swollen ankle (from a Bull Ant bite!!), I got kicked in the head and then kneed in the face. It was hilarious to look back on, not too much fun during! Accidents happen, but unfortunately injuries aren’t healing up as fast as they used to 4 years ago so I’m always afraid of injuring myself and putting myself out of training!

What if I get completely smashed?

Or worse, what if I get completely smashed by someone less experienced than me? Or the ultimate, what if I get completely smashed by someone less experienced, smaller and physically weaker than me??

I know, I know, leave your ego at the door when you step on the mats. But there’s always that little bit that just won’t get left behind!

What if I don’t deserve my blue belt?

When I was nearing the end of my white belt journey (about 3 years into training), I felt an immense pressure! All the people I regularly trained with had been graded up and it was only me left behind. I competed a lot at that time and I felt so much pressure that I absolutely had to win all the time because I’d been a white belt so long and so should technically be better than my less experienced opponents.

When I got my blue belt, at first I felt relieved because I could now start again at the bottom of the pack. Back to being a noob, just that this time I’d be a blue belt noob. But that didn’t last long! I then started feeling the pressure of having to prove to everyone (but mainly to myself) that I deserved getting my blue belt.

Every time I have a hard time on the mat and come off feeling helpless, I feel like a blue belt impostor.

What if I let my ego get in the way?

This is a really big one for me. As you can see, my two “What If’s” up there are completely ego-related. And I know that if I let my ego get in the way, I’m wasting time on the mats because I’m making excuses, I’m being stubborn and close-minded, and I’m probably going to end up injured as well.

What if I give up?

This is my worst fear. The one thing that I feel most confidently about myself if that I don’t give up easily, to the point that I feel it’s what defines my martial arts mentality. And so I feel if I were to step on the mats and just gave up, then I will no longer be who I think I am.

Is it just me?

I’m not sure if other people think or feel this way when they step on the mats. If they do, they certainly hide it well! But I suspect that many people have had at least 1 or 2 of the same kinds of self-doubts and fears that I do.

I don’t think it will ever go away, but it will evolve as it has over the years as I experience different parts of my journey training Jiu Jitsu. And that’s fine, I think a healthy dose of self-doubt and fear is a part of Martial Arts.

So why do I keep stepping on the mats?

There are days when I have absolutely no idea why I put myself through this. But through all that self-doubt and fear, there is one thing I absolutely do not doubt at all:

Whether or not I become a kick-arse Jiu Jitsu-ka or whether or not I ever reach the day that I can confidently smash everyone on the mats, none of that ultimately matters.

What matters is the day that I let any of that self-doubt or fear dictate whether I step on the mats is the day that I give up. And I don’t give up.

 

Posted in Musings, Philosophy, Training | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

It’s Okay, I’ll Just Arm Bar Them

Last year I decided to attend a Sketchcrawl with the Urban Sketchers Melbourne group. As soon as I decided to go, I started feeling very nervous. I’m quite an introverted, shy person and I often find new social situations a bit daunting and stressful. I shared my fears and insecurities with my oh-so-supportive husband who gleefully proceeded to ‘help’ calm my nerves. Over the next few days he came up with, “what if they laugh at you for not having the right drawing tools?” and “what if they say you’re drawing things wrong?” and “omg, they’re going to stand around and scold you!”

Then suddenly one day, while he was coming up with all these scary scenarios, I jokingly said, “It’s okay, if they scold me, I’ll just arm bar them!” And then suddenly my fear and nerves were gone!

Okay, firstly let’s just make it clear that I’m the last person that will go around arm barring people and that’s not just because my arm bars are pretty crap. I’m definitely not one to punch first, ask questions later and I think my aggression level would definitely need a serious heavy duty dose of steroids before it kicks me into doing anything like walking around Melbourne arm-barring street artists.

armbarartist

But that little joke did give me the confidence boost I needed and it stems from years of training martial arts. Actually it’s two kinds of confidences in play here: physical confidence and mental confidence.

I find that the hardest part of fighting is facing the fear of getting attacked. Getting punched is actually not that scary, but facing up to getting punched is. But once I faced up to it and learnt how to take hits, I stopped being all that scared about getting hit. And then I started learning how to protect myself, then slowly little by little I started learning how to fight back. And through it all, I was slowly developing physical confidence.

Now physical confidence in the sense of not being afraid of getting hit or knowing how to defend myself physically or even knowing how to physically smash someone isn’t all that practical when it comes to dealing with a perfectly harmless situation such as meeting new people in a new environment. Maybe there’s a little of that stick and stones may break my bones thing going on here. If I can learn to be unafraid of the sticks and stones breaking my bones, I sure as hell can learn to handle any kind of words or situations thrown at me.

Another great confidence booster that martial arts has given me is the confidence to suck at something. Martial arts has taught me that I suck at some things and it’s okay. What’s more important is that I’m better than I used to be and that the only reason I’m better at it is because I didn’t give up just because I sucked.

Growing up, while I didn’t really have that kind of crazy pressure that you hear Asian kids usually have, there were still undertones of that. Parents asking how your friends did in your exams, people bragging about what level their kids were in certain activities, etc. It was as if you were expected to be born just being good at stuff and for a long time I did hold that view that oh, I can’t do this because I just wasn’t born with it.

Martial arts has taught me that that’s utter bullshit. Everyone sucks at the start and that’s the truth. Yes, different people learn things at a different rate or may have an affinity to different things so may advance faster. But no one comes into their first ever martial arts class and is just great at it right away.

So yes I may suck at street art because I’ve never done it before but that’s okay. I know that if I like it, I’ll keep doing it and then I’ll suck less. So I went for my first Sketchcrawl and of course it was completely fine. No arm-barring was called for.

It was a funny joke between me and my husband and easy to take out of context but since then, every time I’ve found myself getting nervous about a new situation or new people, I tell myself “It’s okay, I’ll just arm bar them”. And then I feel like I can face anything the world wants to throw at me.

 

Posted in Musings, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2014: Counting the Little Things

In summary 2014 has been a pretty lousy martial arts year for me. I’ve entered a phase of non-motivation and thus have been more than happy to let other things in life take up my brain space.

One big thing for me this year are cats! We found 2 abandoned kittens earlier in the year under my mother-in-law’s house. We rescued and fostered them and now Rongkus lives with me and my husband, while his brother Sergio lives with my brother-in-law. Shortly after, their little brother Xiaohu (from a later litter) appeared and long story short, we now have 3 cats firmly implanted into the family. Cats are really good at grappling by the way! Rongkus plays top game and is an expert at head control, which he uses to full advantage to hold the other 2 down so that he can groom them.

IMG_4934Here’s Rongkus holding my gi hostage ❤

I also got a new job and along with that, a whole new routine and new things to fill my head away from training. It’s taken a fair while to settle down to a routine of working/cats/training as it’s quite tempting to just go home after work and play with Rongkus rather than head to training. But I’m getting there!

2014 has also been a year of injuries. Let’s see, in one year I’ve sprained an ankle, developed some kind of RSI type thing in my wrist and locked up a couple of joints in my neck. Injuries are pretty usual but when coupled with my non-motivation, it’s just been harder than usual to kick myself into gear to train harder.

However, 2014 hasn’t been a complete write off for me, there has been little achievements and “Ah I see now!” moments. So rather than just be depressed about a non-motivation year, I’d like to recap the better moments.

Training at Leverage Combat Academy in Malaysia

IMG_3587

I’m pretty sure this is going to be a yearly highlight for me. 🙂 I always have an awesome time training with the Leverage crew so it’s one more thing to look forward to on our annual trips to Malaysia.

Second AGIG Competition

I almost didn’t join in this year but I woke up on the morning and thought, “If I don’t do it, I’m going to regret it!” So I jumped into it with zero preparation and much nerves but I’m glad I did it anyway! Out of 4 rounds, I won 2 with submissions (1 basic collar choke from mount and 1 figure four from side control). I was really happy with how I did because I had been focusing lately on position control basics and could definitely feel an improvement in this competition in terms of my basics. What I didn’t do so well was definitely not having the fitness and endurance to keep up with the pace of the young competitors!

Jiujitsu Position Control Improvements

I started having regular private classes with my coach Ben Hall and my focus has been on positional control. I’m starting to get a much better understanding into the core of each position and what I need to be doing to control the position. There’s still a long way to go but right now, I’m most interested in just getting my basics down pat and I believe that this is exactly where I need to be putting my focus in at this point of my training anyway. I’ve got plenty of time later to worry about subs and other cool moves.

Efficient (Or more honestly, Lazy) Rolling

With my non motivation phase, there’s no way I’m going to apply myself to keeping up with additional fitness training out of BJJ and Kung Fu classes, so unsurprisingly I’m terribly unfit at the moment. I doubt I could do more than 20 pushups in one go now and I’m pretty sure I would literally drop dead if I tried to do 20 burpies. That said, I’ve somehow been able to continue rolling in BJJ without feeling more puffed out than usual. And I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m on my way to unlocking the secret to lazy rolling. This sounds so negative but actually it’s about finding how to use my energy more efficiently; for example knowing how to use my body weight effectively rather than trying to use my strength. So it’s a little win for me this year! Now imagine if I would just kick myself in the rear and get my fitness and strength back. 😉

I Got My Blue Belt!!!

IMG_5401

Despite all the lows of the year, I got my BJJ blue belt in the end of year grading! 😀

I often do hear about people getting frustrated during these kind of phases. In my 10+ years in martial arts, I’ve had these non-motivation phases a couple of times and here’s what I’ve learnt and how I deal with it:

  1. It is a phase and it will naturally pass and soon I will be back with 110% motivation.
  2. Don’t try to force myself to be into it, focus on the little things like maintaining fitness (I decided this one was beyond me :p), closing little gaps in already known techniques, or maintaining a consistent training routine no matter how little progress I’m getting out of it.
  3. Some people feel better after taking some time off, some people train harder to get out of the phase. Everyone deals with these times differently. For myself, I continue to apply myself to training physically, even if mentally I’m completely switched off. This works for me because I’m not the most disciplined person so I know I have got to maintain the routine else it’ll be doubly hard to start training again.
  4. As always but more so during these times, I take special care to guard against injuries and leave my ego and pride far, far away from training.

Hope your 2014 was full of personal wins, big or little and may 2015 be a kick-arse year for you! 🙂

Posted in Musings, Observations | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment