That Next Gear

I haven’t been on the mats since Saturday, but it has given me a few days to get some perspective and think through the sheer, smiling destruction that I experienced.

A few of us got to the gym early and did some takedown drills for 45 minutes. I really feel like this part of the art is by and large ignored and consider it a disservice to jiu-jitsu as a whole. Afterwards, we had the usual suspects show up to class and I was feeling pretty good after drilling, then running through technique with Joe.

During live rolls, I paired up with Dave, our resident purple belt, and we went to. A few things need to be mentioned here, though. I’m 31 and weigh in right under 160 lbs. Dave is 46 or so and is lighter than me by 10 lbs. But make no mistake – Dave was ranked number three (or four?) in the world at blue belt last year in his division after winning gold in three major tournaments. He’s an ass kicker if there ever was one. When we normally roll, he lets me get position and then defends and breathes through it all – not really paying much attention to me, except maybe to say good job here or there. Because of this, my expectations with him had changed. I thought this was how Dave ALWAYS rolls.

Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday, he destroyed me and laughed the entire time he was doing it. Over the course of the 5 minute roll, I think I tapped 7 or 8 times. (but who’s counting!?) He’d bait me one way, dead-end my path so I could only go the way he itended and he’d joke around the entire time he was giving me an ass-whooping. At one point, I was working on a Toreando pass; I got most of the way around him, went to hop one last time and he grapped my pant leg while it was in the air and YANKED. I fell to the floor in a heap and he just chuckled like a sage. I had to stop and laugh because THIS WAS SOME NEXT LEVEL SHIT.

After the roll, I told him as much and asked him not to go back to his defend and yawn mentality with me, because I need these kinds of beatings if I want to get any better.

I’ve been thinking about that training a lot over the last couple of days – and how it relates to the rest of my jiu-jitsu game as well as how I relate it to competition. At Old Man Worlds this year, I was talking to another training partner and at one point, even said, “If Dave can do this, so can I. We seem to be able to keep up with him just fine in class. What the hell is wrong with me if I can’t make that transition to competition?”

Here’s the thing I’ve realized: Dave “dumbs it down” for me. A lot. I don’t think I was shocked at this at all, because we all know Dave is a humble, ass-kicking guy. However, I don’t think I realized exactly how much better he is than me before. This might sound odd, but it makes me want to roll with him more often – and to go harder – so that one day, I’ll have that same gear that he seems to keep in his pocket.

Hell, for all I know, that was just his “second gear” – and he’s got 4 more stuffed away somewhere, waiting to come out during competition.

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