Professor Doc Eddie says it's not Median Nerve Compression. Says it's likely a blown disc in the neck that's pinching the Median Nerve root, but the actual Median Nerve is in the arm, beyond the brachial plexus. Suggested I take it easy for a bit and not train at all (including core work and jumping rope). Then referred me to a neck specialist. Need an MRI. To say that I'm disappointed is an extreme understatement. I can finally tie my new blue belt, but can't break it in. Lovely.
I'm out...for the most part. Chiropractor clearly doesn't have a clue what's wrong with me. 5 minutes of googling tells me I have median nerve compression or irritation (but not CTS). Going to take it easy for a few weeks and see what happens. Through Christmas Eve, I'll show up to class a couple times per week, warm up, and be very picky about my participation in techniques and drills. No rolling. I'll work my core and other band/ankle weight conditioning instead. Then I'll take 10 days off while home for Christmas. If my symptoms haven't subsided come the new year, I'll have to see a neurologist.
5:15-5:30p: Showed up for my private with Gavin early to stretch. First time putting on the Blue Belt. It's an HCK brand and I tried a dozen times or so to tie it properly with the label upright...fail. Such a Baby Blue. Can't even tie my belt. Tsk tsk. Shawn (Purple) was training with some of Spider's top kickboxing guys. He looked beat. Could tell he had a rough (as in good rough) session. Wish I could have been there earlier. Shawn told me to quit my job and show up next week at 4pm. Maybe I'll leave work early with a mysterious illness? ;-)
5:30-6:30p: Private. In many ways this was my favorite private yet. Almost everything we worked I knew, but Gavin refined details. Worked mount and technical mount escapes, half guard to full guard recovery and half guard sweeps, and some closed guard sweeps and subs. Finished with spider, de la riva, and x-guard sweeps.
6:30-6:45p: Stretched and watched Professor Matthias roll with Doc Ken (4-stripe Purple) and Gavin (4-stripe Purple). Good, solid rolls.
6:45-7p: Doc Ken asked me to roll. I was hesitant at first because I wasn't warm and my neck has been...well...problematic to say the least. Ken is a big strong guy and I was feeling pretty fragile. So glad I said yes. It was a great warm-up roll. Challenging. Had a couple solid escapes and guard recoveries from bad spots. Almost pulled off a butterfly sweep to side control, but I'll take the sweep to guard. Ken wasn't pressing me too hard, but he pushed me as hard as I could take and I was pleased with my performance.
7:15-7:30: Pummeling and take down drills. I'm not a good dancer. Shot a double underhook take down on Andrew (Brown) and got an electric jolt down my right arm and hand. Arghhh.... No take downs...
7:30-8p: Technique. De la Riva to omoplata followed by koala guard to single leg take down if opponent tries to pull out of the omoplata set up.
8-8:30p: Rolls. 6 minute rounds. Crowded mats tonight so we grouped in threes. Got Noor (Blue) and Jeremy (White), then Noor again. Three in a row. Lots of technical work. Standing guard passes, sweeps, escapes. Used a new De la Riva sweep Gavin showed me tonight a few times. It's basically a sweep off a pass variation and can tell it's going to be one of my favorite sweeps. Some successful inverted guard to guard recovery. Was worried it would pressure my neck, but no problems. Had difficulty securing positions and lost a number of submission attempts. Need to remember: Position before submission. Managed a gi choke from technical mount. Got kneed in the jaw. Knocked me silly. Had difficulty chewing tonight. Pain...bleh.
Apparently my neck is too straight and I have a bulging disc between C5 and C6. Chiropractor says the "trauma" must have happened in past couple years. Since I haven't been in an accident, he thinks it must have been BJJ and suggested a guillotine or another choke (he promotes MMA events and understands BJJ). The only neck trauma I can think of is the RNC at the no gi finals on 10/23. I felt my entire neck and spine crack and I briefly lost motor control. I literally couldn't tap. After Professor Marco broke it up and Cleve let go of his grip, I regained control of my muscles. My neck seized up and was an issue the week after. Didn't think anything else of it until a few weeks back when I began feeling tingles in my right thumb, index, and middle finger. Now my index finger is numb (constantly) and my thumb and middle fingers tingle. I feel a strange pinch in my lower right neck/shoulder. No pain, but very annoying and disturbing.
"Normal" neck profile
The chiropractor says to train, but train smart. I need to tap to all chokes that get close to cranking the neck. No guillotines, d'arce's, gator rolls, RNCs, and I should avoid inverted guard and stretches that involve putting my legs behind my head. I can do that... In the mean time, he says I need a few months of adjustments (3x per week) followed by a month of traction to get the proper curve back in my neck.
I don't know. I'm skeptical. First, is my neck profile really a "problem" or is it just that I kept my neck straight for an x-ray? Second, if my neck is a "problem" is cracking it a few times a week followed by some traction really going to help? My spidey sense is tingling here...not sure.
I'll train tomorrow night and see how it goes. Missing the last two nights...driving me crazy. I must train.
Represents more than 200 hours of mat time, 90% of which involved me getting my butt kicked. Dorian, Ricky, Chris and Nick got the nod tonight as well. Each well deserved. All four under 23 yrs old. I was the token old guy. Caroline got her Brown tonight. I'm really happy for her.
Now the real fun begins. I'll have a target on my back. Getting through this transition without injury will require that I set aside my ego and go for the ride. Do I have it in me? We'll see. Do I "feel" like I have Blue Belt skills? Sometimes yes, often no. But as they say: The belt only holds your pants up. I continue to trust my Professors.
11:05-11:20a: Showed up a bit late to class. I have a thing about wearing a fresh gi to every class and my gi wasn't done drying. Should have woke up earlier... All sorts of warm-up drills I'd never seen before. A 4-stripe Blue with a Capoeira background led. He usually trains mornings so I don't see him very often. He's much more athletic and flexible than most everyone else. A couple folks caught on, but most of us looked pretty silly.
11:20-11:30a: Sweep / pass the guard. Started in Jeremy's (Blue) guard. Broke his guard with a standing break, but eventually got swept. Can't recall how at the moment. Got the Capoeira guy next. Broke guard and almost passed with a knee slide. To secure the pass, I had to base out and smash his legs together. Jeremy stepped into my guard. Worked open guard. He eventually stuffed my legs and passed.
11:30a-12p: Technique. Fundamentals. Basic guard break to stack pass. Then bottom guy worked an escape from side control via underhook, hip/switch, and take down to land in guard. Then start over. Added a knee slide pass variation if opponent employs predictable defense against the stack attempt.
12-12:30p: Rolls. 6 minute rounds. Got a visitor (2-stripe Blue), Ricky (White), Instructor Tran (Brown), and Chris (Blue). Great exhausting rolls.
The visitor charged at me hard. 2 minutes into the round I thought I was in for a serious butt kicking. He passed my guard at will and took my back. I was in serious survival mode. Maintained composure and relied on survival/escape basics. Eventually found myself with room to work. Recovered half guard. Transitioned from half to X-guard and got the sweep. Ended up taking his back and got a bow and arrow. A bit later I triangled him from guard. I think that's the first time I've tapped a Blue twice in a roll.
Ricky is always a challenge. Arm dragged me and took my back. Spent most of the roll surviving and escaping back only to have him take my back again. I have no offense against this kid. He's eventually going to tap me. Only a matter of time.
Tran worked with me. Shot a couple triangles but I escaped. I'm pretty sure he was playing catch and release. At one point he took my back and I executed Saulo's scoop and break. He said, "Dang Saulo stuff. It works!"
Chris hasn't been around for a few months. He's about my size. Hard charger. The last roll of 6 consecutive training days and I didn't have a lot to offer. Thought I had a sweep off a pass, but he knew the defense. Dang. Didn't have a backup plan...should probably have a transition from that sweep set up handy since it's not that difficult to stuff... He caught me with a triangle. Surprised he didn't get anything else.
12:30-1:30p: Private with Professor Matthias. Worked half guard passes and a couple half guard escapes in response to common pass attempts. Used techniques from Saulo's Revolution 1 series as the basis, but Matthias added details that aren't on the DVDs. Also worked arm drag defense.
Had a 50-minute deep tissue massage after class. By far the best deep tissue massage I've ever had. Most of the time the masseuse can't dig deep enough. Not a problem for Desiree. She said I have a wicked knot that has receded under my scapula and is likely the source of the nerve pinch. That makes total sense. I can feel the knot and the pressure under the scapula. When I tilt my head to the right and back, it puts even more pressure on the knot and induces numbness. Said to take regular epsom salt baths and I need monthly deep tissue sessions. (BTW, fellow jits blogger Dagney Taggert recommended epsom salt as well (here and here)...will have to get some tomorrow). We even talked jits. She's an avid MMA fan and has been thinking about getting into a martial art. Hopefully she stops by the gym.
Tonight is the NOLA BJJ Christmas party. Should be a wild time. Wonder if I should bring a gi.
5:40-6p: Two short warm-up rolls with Instructor Tran (Brown). Straightened and swept mats between rolls. Tran rolled light. Let me pass guard from standing several times. It was too easy to be legit. X-passes mostly, but one or two step through passes Professor Marco taught a while back. Tran's NOLA BJJ forum handle is "Underhook." Now I know why. His underhook to guard recovery from side control is sick. Finally prevented the escape by switching to reverse kesa gatame. Passed to mount. Set up for a Roger Gracie cross choke variation but got upa'd as I tried to sink it in. Still had the grips from guard, but my top grip wasn't under the neck. Didn't want to smash his face and didn't think to shock snap his head to get the forearm under the chin so I let it go.
Aside from the gimme passes and the mount to cross choke attempt, Tran had me on defensive most of the time. While trying to prevent the cross face to set up an escape from side control, he pointed out that I should keep my elbow to the mat and against his hip. I asked how I could do that and prevent the cross face at the same time. Instructor Rusty (Brown), who had been watching, assisted. They showed me how to switch between cross face prevention and good side control survival posture. Nice. I've been so focused on cross face prevention I was creating another -- but equally dangerous -- hole in my game. Thanks guys!
6-7p: Self defense class. Review of the arm bar techniques taught on Wednesday. Great! Love to see techniques again. I have too much swirling in my mind already. Arm bars from mount and step around from side control. Then looked at a kimura option from north south when opponent defends the side control step around by grabbing belt. Rusty's lagniappe for the night. Loved it.
Almost called it a night. Asked Matt if he wanted to bail and head to dinner. He shamed me in to staying. Fifth night in a row and given my neck pinch and tingly fingers plus general soreness, I wasn't looking forward to class. But thanks to Matt, I'm glad I stuck it out.
7:20-7:30p: Single leg take down to sprawl/stuff drills.
7:30-8p: Technique. Over my head. Learned a wrestlers stuff from sprawl of single leg attempt. Then learned gator roll and d'arce. Good to see the gator roll and d'arce again, but I'm still far from comfortable with these subs. I'd much rather learn how to avoid and escape them. More on that later.
8-8:30p: Rolls. 6 minute rounds. Got Sammy (White), Dr. Steve (Blue), Ben (White), and Will (White). Got a RNC (White) and set up an X guard (White) and had him stretched out quite a bit. But without a gi lapel, sleeve, or belt to grab on to I didn't know how to finish the sweep. Also got to and maintained mount for over a minute. Good that I maintained mount for so long, but trying to get a submission from mount without a gi is tough. Too slippery to lock in the arm triangle. Too slippery to tie down an Americana. Too slippery to pull of the arm bar from mount reviewed in self defense twice this week. TOO DANGED SLIPPERY. Definitely something to work on.
Dr. Steve destroyed me. Americana from running escape posture. I really didn't think I was vulnerable until it was too late. Didn't feel good at all. I don't think I'm hurt though. But that wasn't the embarrassing part. Steve caught me in 4 D'arce chokes during the roll. From butterfly, half guard, side control and who knows what else. Fish out of water without my gi... I'll figure it out...eventually. Prediction? Dr. Steve gets his Purple in May or June.
5:30-5:50p: Warm-up / standard drills. Mike (Purple) led. Did bride carries. Mike was my partner. Ugh. He's 6'2" or so and 220lbs or so. Thighs still sore from Monday's fireman carries and squats.
5:50-6p: Sweep / pass the guard. Got swept twice. Scissor (4-stripe Blue) and a silly off-balance sweep from failed standing pass attempt (Purple). What's new? Posture...bleh. Didn't get swept, but I gave up an attempt to a 4-stripe Blue who set up a go-go plata after a minute or two trying to pass. No submissions in this drill, but he had the set up and started pulling on the head. Had it been a roll I would have tried to escape, but I'd tried to pass his guard unsuccessfully for too long and the fact that he surprised me and set it up meant it was time to move on. I screwed up. Next time.
6-6:30p: Technique. Side control escapes. Traditional and underhook to hip switch and drive take down. Then worked a guard recovery technique if opponent sprawls out on your take down attempt. Good review.
6:30-7p: Rolls. 6 minutes. Mike (2-stripe Purple), Alex (Purple) and Caleb (4-stripe Blue). Nice! Mike and Alex are taller, heavier, and stronger. Caleb is smaller, but solid and quick! Aside from another 4-stripe Blue, these three were the top ranking guys in class tonight. Nice!
Survived the 6 minutes with Mike. He was attacking hard. Lost a contact. Never had that happen before. Almost got my face ripped off from an RNC attempt. Struggled intensely to maintain good half guard posture. I think the only reason why he didn't submit me is because he was trying so dang hard he forced me into survival mode. I didn't try any sweeps or attacks. It was survival/escape 101. Probably had to do with a certain "challenge" issued earlier this week.All in good fun. Although very uncomfortable, I loved every second.
Then got Alex. Awesome. Two Purples in a row. Never happened before! Good roll. Started on top. Got scissor swept after not too long and fought for guard recovery most of the time, but I managed an X guard set up and butterfly sweep...sort of. The butterfly sweep set up and execution was solid, but he scrambled on the landing and had a good grip of a lapel. I couldn't get side control and landed in his open guard. Immediately pressed for a guard pass as he pulled me in. I was too eager. Left arm exposed. Arm bar. Happened so quickly my elbow popped. I deserved it. Tapped as quickly as I could, but it wasn't soon enough. Fortunately it's not sore at all. I could tell he was tired. Glad he had to work for it. I grabbed him immediately and pulled him back into the fight. No resting on my time buddy! I don't get to work with Purples too often, so no rest until after Professor calls time!
The difference between my roll with Alex and my roll with Mike? I suspect it was that Alex took it relatively easy on me and let me work. I got caught because I was acting out of my comfort zone and pressing an attack. I never had a chance to try anything with Mike. He forced me into survival mode. Had Mike let me work a bit, I'd have messed up and he'd have caught me at some point. I'm sure of it. I don't think I've ever had a Purple fully test my survival. Usually Purples, Browns, and Blacks work with me. They try new stuff and give me opportunities to work. When I get a sweep or a solid escape, it's because they are working on things they don't get to work with their peers. I realize that. But that also frustrates me a bit. I want to get my arse kicked. I can "work" with Whites and some Blues. So it was good to test my survival skills against a fully attacking Purple.
Last roll with Caleb. This kid is wicked quick. Impeccably fit. I tried survival mode, but he eventually extracted the left arm for the arm bar from technical mount. Not sure what I did wrong, but he found a hole and exploited it. I'm just glad I got away with only one arm bar. Last time we rolled, he caught me twice. Oh...escaped X guard once...using the technique learned the other night...but he recovered guard and set up a different X guard variation we learned a couple weeks ago resulting in a sweep. Great to "see" his mind work. I recognized what he was doing, when we learned it, and executed the break and pass learned in class. Nice.
I've had more than my fair share of access to upper belts recently, but tonight I hit the mother load. Sweep / pass the guard drills and training. Loved it. I feel really confident in my survival skills for only 7-mos experience. Hope to keep focusing on survival / escapes for my entire journey. The rest of the game will follow...with time.
Exhausted + dehydrated + sore = absolutely worthless for training. Should have stayed home. Made it through self defense class (6-7p), warm-ups (7-7:20p), and sweep / pass the guard (7:20-7:35p) ... but only barely. Self defense techniques included three responses to various sucker chokes from behind. Then reviewed Machida/Rampage failed arm bar attempts and drilled the correct technique from mount and side control. Observed the technique portion of sports BJJ class. Sports BJJ class techniques included X guard sweeps from butterfly and half guard set ups. Couldn't believe it, but I started to doze off. Bailed before the rolls started. Just wasn't going to happen.
Injury Report: Not sure what's wrong, but my right hand/thumb has been tingling regularly for the past few days. Something's pinched in my neck/shoulder. Don't think it's training related. I developed a kink and first noticed occasional tingling after an uncomfortable flight and night's sleep a couple weeks ago. But now it's regular. Hasn't affected my training...yet...but definitely something I need to pay attention to.