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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2015 Can Sönmez

25 January 2015

Interview - BlogChat #4: Georgette Oden Talks About BJJ & Blogging

Georgette is one of my favourite people. I've flown over to the USA twice so far to visit her and she has always been an incredible host (amazing cook, too: you haven't experienced Thanksgiving until you've had it at Georgette's house! ;D). She is also among the handful of bloggers I've been following consistently for around seven years at this point, blogging at Georgette's Jiu Jitsu World.

During my second visit to Texas last year, I made sure to get some interview time with Georgette. This first part of the interview talks about her background in martial arts and blogging in general, then next week we'll get a lot more serious and discuss the issue of rape culture. That's an important topic, on which Georgette is eminently qualified to speak. But this week, you'll hear about her beginnings in the wonderful sport and art that is BJJ.

CAN: How did you get into jiu jitsu?

GEORGETTE: I have always enjoyed martial arts, and the only kind of exercise I‘ve ever been able to keep up with is something competitive and social. So, when I knew I was going to get married and I wanted to lose weight, for all the wedding pictures and what not, I decided I would take martial arts class.

I started taking a class in kajukenbo, which appealed to me because it was very social and very competitive. There is a lot of very alive sparring in it, but when we got to the portion of the curriculum that dealt with jiu jitsu, I was hooked. Pretty soon I realised that there were other things in kajukenbo that weren’t jiu jitsu. When we were done doing jiu jitsu for a while, I was forced to move on to punching and kicking things and people: I didn’t like that as much.

I waited until I got my first belt in kajukenbo, then I quit, because every minute spent doing kajukenbo was a minute not spent doing jiu jitsu.

CAN: I think I remember reading about that on your blog: you started it before you began jiu jitsu, didn’t you? So, what was the original purpose for the blog?

GEORGETTE: Just sharing with family, really. It was a way for family to see my garden, my house, stuff like that. Obviously wasn’t very well read, at all! [Laughs]

CAN: So, you started your blog around 2005/2006, then you got into jiu jitsu in 2008, moving on from kajukenbo. How did that impact the direction of your blog, as you began writing a bit more about jiu jitsu? It had a different purpose, I guess.

GEORGETTE: It did. At the beginning of my jiu jitsu blogging, I was writing about techniques that we did in class. It was the same as a lot of blogs, an online technique journal. The first jiu jitsu forum I ever participated in was on NHB Gear. There was a guy on there named ‘Too Old’, who I became friends with. He’s a lawyer and at the time was a blue or purple belt in San Francisco.

He told me my blog was the most boring thing he’d ever read and begged me to write more about the personal side of training, what it meant to me, my emotional reactions. I resisted for a month or two, then I started writing about the issues that came up for me training and started getting more readers. I got yelled at by my instructor for writing all of ‘our’ techniques down on the internet, so I had to take all of that stuff out. I figured, “Screw it, nobody cares about the techniques anyway.”

CAN: So, it became more of a blog about...

GEORGETTE: Like a diary.

CAN: Right, a diary. Was it particularly a diary thinking from your personal perspective as Georgette Oden, or a diary as in “Other women could be reading this, how can I be helping them get on”?

GEORGETTE: I never, especially for the first year or so, thought anybody would read it. Even after I started getting comments, I figured maybe one or two people would read it. I didn’t expect anyone at my academy to find out about it or care. So at the beginning, I was very free with my thoughts, my feelings, my expressions. It was just a reflection of me, not thinking what it did for the community or anything like that.

CAN: When did you start getting into reviewing? Was that early on, or did it take a while before you had enough clout?

GEORGETTE: I think for me, the reviewing came after I was getting sponsorship. I started getting sponsorships because I asked people for free stuff [Laughs]. I bought a rashguard, won a tournament, then took a picture of myself with a medal and the rashguard. I’d write to a company and say “Hey, by the way, I did well and I wore your product. You want to send me some more stuff?” And they did, so I did it again, with a coloured gi. People started coming up to me at tournaments asking where I got those coloured gis, I’d tell them and then get more sponsorships.

It then got to a point...I don’t even remember how I got asked to review the first thing. I think I just started reviewing things that I bought, then people started hitting me up to review other stuff.

CAN: Were you still a white belt at this point, or had you gotten to blue?

GEORGETTE: I got my blue really fast. I was sponsored as a white belt, but I got my blue after training four months. I was still a white belt, even if I had a blue belt around my waist, I was still a white belt! [Laughs]

CAN: That reminds me. One of the main things that impresses me about you is the sheer amount that you train. Did that start pretty early, that it became an obsession?

GEORGETTE: Oh yeah. If I couldn’t train every day, I was very frustrated.

CAN: I think you said this to me earlier, but have you always had some kind of activity that you get into really heavily?

GEORGETTE: Yes. I always have an obsession, that’s my trend.

CAN: How have you managed to get in that much training, in a very physical, difficult sport like jiu jitsu?

GEORGETTE: Hmm. I just don’t care if I’m injured. I sometimes say that if I had a superpower, it would be fast recovery and that’s true. I do recover very quickly. I’m also not keen on babying myself, so I don’t mind being tired and I don’t mind being sore. If I’m having fun doing it, I’m going to do it as much as I can. I have an addictive personality, I guess.

CAN: Do you think your training would have been the same if you hadn’t had a blog and interacted so much? Has it had a big impact in terms of actually improving your jiu jitsu, helping you progress faster?

GEORGETTE: I would say that the way it has helped me has been much more of a ‘big picture’ help. Because I blog and I’m active in the scene on an internet level, I’ve reached a lot more people than I would just as an individual. I’ve met a lot of people, so that when I travel, I feel like I have an academy everywhere I go, they're like family. I think that has helped my jiu jitsu, but I don’t think blogging about the techniques any kind of help to me.

CAN: And I guess that is something you stopped doing fairly early on.

GEORGETTE: Yeah, it is. I know other people write technique blogs, it depends on how you learn. I just don’t have time. I take notes and I have little scraps of paper piled in a box in my office, but that’s as close as I get. I don’t digest it again, though I know that would probably improve my retention.

I think I’m an aural learner, as I need to hear someone describe in words what they’re doing. I very rarely remember the details of what it looked like. I can remember what it felt like, but unless I can put it in words, I can’t reverse engineer it the next time. If I have a question, I have to remember if they said, “The leg closest to the head, grab the top leg,” or whatever. I have to remember the words to be able to recreate the position.

Part Two is coming next week. In the mean time, why not check out the chat I had with another awesome blogger, BJJ Grrl?

24 January 2015

24/01/2015 - Earn A Meerkatsu GrappleThon Shirt | Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Open Guard

Class #625
Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 24/01/2015

Meerkatsu's GrappleThon shirt design is ready! The ONLY way to earn one of those is to set up a fundraising page on MyDonate for Equality Now and get in some donations (full details of how to do that here). All donations, no matter how small, would be very welcome: please help us reach our £4,000 target for charity! Any amount gratefully accepted, and it's all for a great cause. Head over to the MyDonate fundraising page to send your pennies (or dollars, yen, whatever, you can donate from anywhere in the world), here. :D

I'm especially excited about the prospect of someone over in the US setting up a simultaneous GrappleThon (like this). I've tried to get that going before but it unfortunately didn't happen. Still a goal of mine, so it would be super cool if anyone managed to run a GrappleThon for Equality Now at the same time as the Artemis BJJ GrappleThon here in Bristol. Keep in mind that if you do that, then as long as you set up a fundraising page and join the team, you're in with a chance of getting a shirt. ;)

Should you still be unclear on any of the details for the GrappleThon, everything you need to know can be found on the main event page, here.

My return to sparring continues, as I risked free sparring with some of the bigger, stronger guys that pop along to open mat. That meant I got in both gi and nogi sparring, which is unusual for me. In the gi, I was using the stiff arm guard yet again. I think I'm still not pushing my chest out enough, though I feel like I'm starting to get the transition into my favoured tripod/sickle combination sweep. That worked for me a number of times, but I wasn't coming up to capitalise. Following my own advice, I need to concentrate on controlling that foot so they can't pre-empt me by coming up first. Using the sleeve or collar for additional momentum would help too. I'm hampered by my injury on that, but should still control the leg much more than I did today.

I ended up on the back a few times, having worked on crawling around from guard a few times unsuccessfully (thinking back to where I was before the injury, more side guard required). I always go for the seat belt as that's the most secure grip, but the old double lapel grip came in handy today, enabling me to retain control. At the same time, I need to be careful my position isn't too far forward as they try to fling me off their back when they're in turtle. My neck and face got smushed into the mat as he rolled through. I maintained control, but that could be risky for my neck (fortunately it was fine, I could tuck my head in, but I did scrape my face along the mats).

Speaking of the stiff arm guard, I used the stiff arm escape from side control a bunch of times too, but didn't maintain control properly there either. However, it did enable me to recover back to guard a number of times, so that's still handy. I am finding that one more and more useful, so will definitely try and teach that during side control month in May.

In nogi I was again using the stiff arm guard, in conjunction with some of my preferred nogi grips. I'm feeling a lot happier about nogi from guard than I used to, as now I go to the shoulder clamp. If I can get the head, that's fine too. Either option means I can combine it with the butterfly sweep, though I was perhaps too single-minded about the butterfly sweep. There's other stuff I could be trying from that position. Still, all in all an enjoyable re-entry into normal sparring for me. :)

22 January 2015

22/01/2015 - Teaching | Open Guard | Butterfly Sweep

Teaching #266
Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 22/01/2015

Marcelo Garcia has written that when passing butterfly guard, it's important to keep in mind that "unlike the closed guard or half guard, in the butterfly guard, your opponent is not trying to hold you in place." In my opinion, the ensuing dynamism and movement makes butterfly guard a more advanced position, which requires greater sensitivity and timing than closed or half guard.

So, I stuck with the most basic technique in butterfly, which is the classic butterfly sweep. There are three main grips to try. Two less common options are grabbing the neck, or grabbing the same side sleeve and collar (or neck and wrist in nogi): the latter can be useful if you want to transition to a choke in gi, or perhaps back to closed guard to go for a scissor or knee push sweep. On Carlos Machado's excellent Unstoppable DVD all about this sweep, he shows many more variations, but it is definitely a higher level instructional (so, I wouldn't recommend beginners pick it up). The orthodox method is to establish a deep underhook with your arm, reaching around their back and/or grabbing their belt.

Saulo Ribeiro emphasises that you must be close with the shoulder to generate sufficient leverage. Saulo also likes to put a hand out behind him for base (just like the cross-grip guard I've taught previously, along with the stiff arm guard I've been working on), which contrasts with others who prefer to grab the knee. It is worth experimenting with several options. One of the best parts about training in jiu jitsu is that it is so individual. There is rarely a single 'right' way to do any technique, which is also part of what makes jiu jitsu so complex.

If you've lifted them up but they aren't going over, try hopping towards your lifting leg with your other leg. That should eventually provide the leverage to knock them to the mat.


Teaching Notes: I added in a couple of variations tonight, both of which I've taught before. The ankle pick is something I've previously shown from the cross grip/stiff arm guard, so possibly not as applicable (though it's easy enough to switch from butterfly to the stiff arm). Taking the back is more effective. On that, I'll emphasise bringing your foot to the outside next time - this is something I will probably teach again on Monday, before finishing off the month with a basic butterfly pass.

I was also able to get in some more sparring. I'm really pleased I'm getting in more sparring time, but I need to be careful I don't get overexcited and make my groin injury worse. Especially as the GrappleThon is in less than six weeks now: it would be annoying to not be able to take part in the rolling, to say the least!

My butterfly guard as ever needs a lot of improvement. I was generally switching into the related stiff arm guard, going for my ankle pick off that, or transitioning into the tripod/sickle combination (as Kev advised way back in that private lesson. I think I'll get another private on the same thing when I next pop up to RGA Bucks in February).