Friday, 25 January 2013

Twenty Thirteen

It's that time of year again, a recap on last years resolutions and setting another bunch for 2013.

Here's what I set out for 2012, and if I achieved them or not.

1. Make some big achievements with Black Belt Poker.

This didn't happen as a couple of weeks after the blog I was made redundant. I don't think it's fair to call it a fail though as the redundancy definitely wasn't by choice!

See I will call this resolution career progression as ultimately that's what it was about anyway. The first 1/3 of 2012 was shit career wise. I was unemployed for most of it, apart from a brief stint as a sales manager for genting casino. However, a week before my wedding, I got the call that Grosvenor Casinos wanted to offer me a role.

So I've now been there for nearly 10 months and it's been great not having much responsibility, instead a steady work flow I can work through. I've made big waves within the company and am in touching distance of something big. So I'd say this resolution was almost a big success.

However, due to the stress of all this, it has affected my other two resolutions somewhat, which is a shame.

2. GET HEALTHY (inc. get my yellow belt and win squash league).

Well I actually progressed two belts in Kickboxing, narrowly missing my third before having to leave (more on that later). I didn't manage a full squash league, but won whenever I played, so could have made that resolution if I'd tried harder.

In terms of getting healthy, I will say that I am much fitter and strong than I was last year, but no where near where I wanted to be. But I think that with the copious amounts of work related stress I had to manage, I did pretty well.

3. Complete a creative project.

Nothing on this front. Again, it's hard to be creative when your head is so full of worry. BUT this year is shaping up to be one when I don't have to think about rent etc... and can just focus on my life, so I'm excited to see what I can do.

So this years goals:

1. Get settled with Anna. We are looking for a place, but it's not easy.

2. Get my dream job. I'm at touching distance right now.

3. Get fucking strong. I've started to really enjoy powerlifting, have bought a power rack and some heavy weights, so time to get big.

4. Get at least 2 stripes on my White Belt. My new BJJ academy is notoriously tough at promotions, so this one will be hard!

5. Compete at least once. I can't wait to enter a BJJ competition, it will be a huge rush.

6. Get much fitter. This will come from spending a lot of times sparring and playing more squash.

7. COMPLETE A CREATIVE PROJECT! I have an amazing musical idea I want to get cracking on, I just need some free brain space.

I think these are all doable. gogogogogogo


Poker wise I've not been playing, it's just not something I can put any time into right now. It's a shame as I miss the game, but it will never be one I can again play casually, so I won't start until I can play with a half decent frequency.

Speaking of time, it's been something I've gotten shorter and shorter on recently, especially after making the genius call of joining a second martial arts club. So after a lot of thinking, I decided I'd have to drop one club.

It was a super hard decision, but ultimately it had to be my first club. I've focused more on grappling in the last 6 months and enjoy BJJ so much, I really want to give it my full attention. That's not to say I won't ever go back to kickboxing as am really proud of the skills I've amassed and have made some good friends at TMAS.

Thanks to all the guys and especially head coach Ross for the time they put into me, I'll definitely be back!

BJJ wise I've only been a couple of times since my last blog due to being ill and injured (niggling injuries). Both were daytime sessions when I had time off and were very different as there were only a half dozen of us each time.

The first lesson we drilled some half guard sweeps, which was interesting as it's never been a position I've had much success with due to my longer legs. However, it started showing me how important leverage is. The sweep was similar in principle to this one (start at 3:50)

Where, upon escaping from half guard and pushing against your opponent that counter this by pushing back, you then use their momented to sweep into dominant position. It was super interesting as like I said, without proper leverage, it didn't work (or required a ton of strength), but executed properly it was very smooth and easy.

With just a few of us there, and it being 3 x blue belts, 1 brown and 1 black, I figured I'd spar with the blue's and then sit out. Wrong! After getting a pasting from the bleu belts, I then got paired with Mark who'd just received his brown. After a coupe of amazing sweeps, he let me get full mount and just held his arms close to his chest. He is super strong and I just couldn't do anything.

After this I was EXHAUSTED, but jumped at the chance when the black belt, Andre Pimenta, signalled it was my turn to roll with him. He didn't hold back, catching me in all manner of interesting submissions.

The next session I arrived early and there was a Judo class going on (the gym is owned by british Olympic bronze medalist Karina Bryant) and recognised Ashley McKenzie and realised this must have been the national team! Was very interesting to watch such high level Judo.

Just as we started our lesson I said to one of the guys, oh that was Ashley who was on TV (the BBC made a very interesting documentary about him, see some clips here) and my training partner said, 'that other guy has been on TV more...' then onto the mats walks Alex Reid! He was similar to how he is on TV, 'boisterous' I think is the word, but also very approachable. People forget that he's done alot for MMA in this country, so I certainly respect him for that.

Here we are both very sweaty after training. I was surprised that he was only a bue belt seeing as he's been in the MMA community for so long, but I think he's more of a kickboxer.

We did some guard passing in this session and progressed it into a submission, a new one for me, the Ezekiel Choke.

This is my first specialised gi-choke. You can do it in no-gi, but it seems like it wouldn't be quite as effective without the strong gi grip. Needless to say it's really horrible!

I then sparred with a blue belt, who as usual gave me a tough time. I then started rolling with Mark the brown belt, until Alex got back from being on the phone.

I then had a rest as we had an odd number. It was here that Andre gave me a pointer that blew my mind, noticing that I 'give up' a lot when people pass my guard.

The only time you lay flat on your back is when someone is in your full guard

He then showed me that even if someone passes your legs, if you're on your side with arms out it's still super hard for them to get into any sort of dominant position. A great tip that could vastly improve my defence.

After this I sparred again with a white belt, with no stripes, who was roughly my size. This was exciting for me as I've never sparred with anyone close to my size and I assumed he was close to my skill level.

I was right, but he was much fitter than me, and by this point I was exhausted (see picture above for sweat amounts) so he was able to move much quicker. And for some reason he went mental, trying to brea my arm/neck/whatever within seconds of starting, and kneeing/elbowing in the head and face a half dozen times, giving me my first black eye ever. I HATE this type of person. Sparring is training, NOT fighting. Andre gave him a dressing down for doing this. 

He tapped me several times, but most of it was just from using strength, cranking on anything he could grab. On one roll I gave it the last bit of energy I had left, pulled of a lovely sweep, passed his guard, and executed a perfect americana. Just to show that when you're fit, technique prevails.

I'll be starting training 2-3 times a week as of next week and can't wait.

We went to see Stars of the Lid in London and it was incredible. That's all I can say on that.

Time to watch a movie, but I'll leave you with an incredible piece of music. Thanks as always for reading.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Poker and Health

I've never been the healthiest of guys, but this has meant that when I really make a positive change, I can feel the difference in a big way.

An example is my recent effort in training martial arts at least 3 times a week - my fitness has reached a point never before seen and I feel great because of it.

Back when I was really grinding the poker, I was fascinated by the 'new breed' of players, names such as Brian Townsend, who were clean cut and healthy looking, shaking off the cigar smoking obese gambler image.

I realised that these guys put as much effort into training their minds and bodies away from the tables, and this paid dividends in the long run.

I read an article recently which really got me thinking about this again, and I wanted to touch on a few of the points made. 

Firstly, the right kind of foods to eat and snack on.

Acai berries and Blueberries - Acai berries are popular with MMA fighters and who can forget Jamie Gold ordering a bowl of Blueberries at the WSOP Final Table in 2006. There's good reason for this, Blueberries contain more antioxidants than any other fruit and can help improve vision and cognitive functions, making them one of the healthiest foods in the world.

Wild Salmon - A favourite of mine! Low in saturated fats and containing plenty of Omega-3, Wild Salmon (the redder the better we used to say on the fish counter) can improve all aspects of brain function.

Whatever you're eating, remember what you put in your body has a direct effect on how it performs.

Eating right is only half the battle though and an active lifestyle is also a necessity. Here are some exercises that benefit poker players:

Stretches - Being static for a large portion of time can lead to stiffness, so try and keep moving as much as possible. Flex and hold your abs and glutes until they start to burn. Work your calves and legs by pushing up on the balls of your feet, hold and repeat. Try and set yourself a routine and stick to it.

Cardio - A personal tip I'd like to slip in, building up your cardio will keep you altert for longer when you're sat playing poker. Training doesn't have to be boring, practice a high intensity sports such as squash, football or my personal choice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Not only will you feel great when playing poker, you'll be able to relieve the stress after a tough session.

All this and more is discussed in great depth in this fantastic article (Click Here). If you're serious about improving your poker, I thoroughly recommend you check it out.