Preventing Neck Injury

I get some strange looks when I do my neck exercises in front of BJJ and especially Muay Thai folks. It looks strange to see someone apparently running around on their head, but there a solid method and extremely sound reasoning behind this activity.

Leo Frincu is a former wrestling world champion, successful entrepreneur, and has been strength and conditioning coach to champions like Ronda Rousey, Diana Prazak and Romulo Barral. In the video above, he demonstrates the carousel, and some regressions of the front-to-back bridging sequence.

I started looking for effective neck exercises while trying to return to training after spraining my cervical spine during BJJ training in 2011. Previously, my neck had been strengthened through the process of Muay Thai clinching, which had given me very strong and active upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles, but had not prepared me at all for the myriad of positions in which one finds oneself while grappling – falling or being dropped on the mats head-first, posting and bridging on the head, being stacked, and resisting chokes and neck cranks (intentional or otherwise.)

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Owning It

This week has been fairly light in terms of training. Not only am I feeling very ungrounded and out-of-sorts since leaving Singapore, but most people are in holiday mode and many academies are closed or “taking it easy” over the New Year period.

The New Year period has provided a good opportunity to begin to consolidate some of the techniques that I learned at Evolve MMA, to reflect on the experience and distill some lessons. This is the way my mind works – an experience is not complete until I’ve spent a considerable amount of time “brooding” over it and have extracted as much meaning and learning as I can. I’ve been criticised harshly for this in personal contexts, but have learned to accept and embrace it, as it’s integral to my learning both on and off the mats. In this sense, my Evolve experience is far from over. It’s fermenting now, like wine in a barrel. The value of the experience will be determined as much by this fermentation process as by the actual act of having gone and trained there.

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Jiu Jitsu Adventures at Bull and Tiger Grappling: Evolving Beyond My Comfort Zone

On Wednesday night , I did something out-of-character and registered at the last-minute for a BJJ competition that I literally found out about mid-roll that day. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to pre-comp and pre-fight preparation and routine. Although there are many people who take a relatively casual attitude towards BJJ competition preparation, I usually treat mine like a fight-camp and make it the sole focus of my training.

At Bull and Tiger Grappling Comp, Singapore
At Bull and Tiger Grappling Comp, Singapore

But ever since I first put on a gi in 2011 and started thinking about MMA, I have wanted to fight in Singapore. A last-minute BJJ comp is hardly a fight, but it seemed serendipitous – as if the Universe was posing me a question that I needed to answer.

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The Hunger Game: Combat Sports, Eating Disorders, and Roy Nelson the Anti-Hero


When I first started combat sports training, one of the ways in which I found it a liberating experience was in the way that it changed my relationship with my body.

As a teenage girl, like so many other teenage girls, I had been taught by the people, role models and the media influence around me that my body was an object that existed for the pleasure of other people. I was defined by the reaction that my body elicited in others. If it elicited repulsion, I was Ugly. If it elicited desire, I was a Slut. Like all girls my age, I walked a fine line. I needed to be “pretty” but never a Slut.

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New Beginnings and Minor Setbacks

A few things have happened since my last blog post. Here is a short Instavideo of last night’s training:

What you’re seeing is a treatment and mobility exercise to break down an intramuscular hematoma, which was the result of an injury which I incurred in training on Monday night. An intramuscular hematoma as basically a bleed that is contained within a muscle, and although it’s usually caused by trauma (everyone assumed that I had copped a leg-kick) it can also be caused (as in my case) by an elongation injury.

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Tapering, and The Burden of Proof

It’s Thursday night and I’ve finished my final training sessions for the Synergy Pro BJJ comp this weekend. I’ve had a near-perfect lead-up, with no personal stress, minimal injury and little disruption to my training routine.

The final week before any fight or competition is, for me, always a relatively light one. I halve the duration of my training sessions, and switch from full rolling to doing drills which are specific to my game-plan. My priority is being mentally and physically fresh, fully recovered, on weight, focused and happy. So far, I consider this week successful, because I am all of these things. The soreness of the last and hardest weeks of full training is gone; the minor injuries I that accrued have almost completely healed.

Tapering is not a new or revolutionary concept. Any strength and conditioning coach or experienced athlete is familiar with the concept. However, as I have discovered over many years of training in different disciplines with different coaches, not all martial artists do what is physiologically best.

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Progress is Incremental

I had a hard night at MMA sparring tonight. At the end of it I leaned against the wall in the women’s bathroom (yes, there is one of those, awesome) and looked up at the shower-head (wow, we have all the amenities!) and wondered if I could “do this.”

Wondering if one can “do this” is almost always counter-productive, because doing “this” usually means succeeding 200% of the time and being the Best In The Whole World Ever Of All Time. In other words, it represents an all-or-nothing, be-all-and-end-all definition of succeeding.

Luckily the same sparring partners who took me down and smacked me in the face from top half-guard reminded me of the incremental improvements that I had made. It’s hard to view one’s own progress objectively, so this kind of feedback can be valuable.

I was still angry at myself – angry because I was “unimpressed with my performance” and angry about the fact that I had allowed it to unbalance me emotionally. I didn’t feel like staying for the second training session (No Gi jiu jitsu), but I did because I knew that that was what I needed to do. (After all, discipline consists of doing what you need to do, not what you feel like doing.) I’m glad that I did. I exhausted myself with good, controlled rolling, and the success that I achieved ameliorated my frustrations about the sparring session.

Jiu jitsu has allowed me to learn a lot about what it takes to make progress in all areas of life. It’s important to allow yourself to enjoy what you do, and to be willing to make mistakes and get countered hundreds of times while you’re working on perfecting something.

Tonight I tapped someone for the first time with a submission that I’d been taught in 2011. You can imagine how many failed attempts there have been in the three years that have passed since that time.

It was a fitting reminder of the importance of persisting, of relinquishing unrealistic expectations when it comes to progression, and of striving for that 1% improvement every time I train. It’s not an all-or-nothing process, it’s a 1% improvement, one day at a time.