My Muay Thai Training Diary: My Journey Into Jiu Jitsu

Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them here.

This week, something a bit different. I'm still keeping up with my Muay Thai training, but decided to try my hand at something else during training this week.

Jiu jitsu.

Let me start by saying that, despite being the "striking guy" around here, I have always loved the jiu jitsu aspect of MMA. It was Royce Gracie that first got me hooked, and true jiu jitsu has always kept my interest, but I never tried it. Recently, one of my teammates had his first amateur MMA fight which he won with a nice armbar from the bottom (congratulations to Kyle Casey on the win), and the excitement over his submission finish got me thinking I'd like to give this a try.

So, Wednesday night I went to a no-go jiu jitsu practice, not sure what to expect. After warm-ups, we spent most of class working on a few variations on the kimura, which was fun and interesting. It's a very different pace from Muay Thai training, which is quite cardio heavy and focused on repetition. This was slower and more detailed.

After the kimura work - rolling. My trainer asked if I wanted to give it a try even though it was my first class, and I figured why not, so jumped in. Before stepping on to the mat, I ran through my head of what I could bring to this sparring session and came up with a rather meager list of 3:

1. About an hour's worth of work on a kimura. But since my partner also just spent an hour working the kimura, any attempt there would not exactly have an element of surprise.

2. High school wrestling experience, which I figured could at least help me with positioning.

3. Lots of MMA watching.

Shockingly, those three things added up to a decent start. We started on the mat. My first partner went for my legs; I sprawled, spun around on his back, used my long legs to get under his body, and sunk in a body triangle from the back. He rolled me onto my back, but I tightened my legs into the triangle. At this point, I was feeling pretty great - dominant position, ready to go for the choke. But that was a lot easier in my head than it proved to be. Try as I might, I just couldn't choke him out. I believe I even had my arm under his chin a few times, but it didn't happen. Eventually, he reversed me and choked me out, but I was feeling good.

Onto opponent two, and this didn't go so well. At this point, I was tired (I should say that all this came after an hour of Muay Thai) and not nearly explosive enough. He got me with the guillotine more than once, giving me a sense of frustration as I simply didn't know what to do. Each time we started, I felt at a loss. Should I try for the back again? Pull guard? But if I do, then what? My lack of experience was getting to me.

Finally, as we were winding down, I decided that I would focus on getting to the top position. And I did. From there, I went for the one submission that I felt I could maybe pull off - a head and arm triangle. I wrapped my arms around, popped my head under his arm, hopped to the side, started turning, and... nothing. I was dejected again, but decided this was my one chance, so cranked it tighter, and just kept rotating and... he tapped. And I have to say, it was a pretty great feeling. Granted, he tapped me about 4 times to my 1, but that 1 was worth it.

I have a lot to learn in jiu jitsu, such as how to be more patient, how to work off my back, and when to fight out of a choke vs. when to tap. But will I be back? Absolutely. Will I know what to do when we start rolling this time? No way. But I look forward to figuring it out.

Question for the week: Jiu Jitsu trainees, what's a good strategy for beginners? Any particular holds you would suggest I try for?

I train under Andre Madiz at Conviction Martial Arts, 4430 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL. www.convictionfitness.com. If you are in the Chicago area, come join us, and be sure to say hello.

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