Mental Health, Uncategorized

Who has time to meditate?? 

Back in the day, I went to a weekly meditation group in Austin, Texas. It was great for managing my stress, working through difficult problems, and kept me grounded. Nowadays it’s been extremely difficult to restart an active meditative practice with my hectic schedule.

Why re/start? Benefits are endless – helps with stress and anxiety, increases attention span and self-awareness, improves sleep quality to name a few.

Then B-A-M! After a good brainstorm, a really good idea came to mind. Some time ago, I read (and reread) an excellent book titled, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” It’s fantastic! It speaks about moving mediation. In other words, it’s about being mindful while doing something mundane like washing the dishes. I thought I could apply this much more effectively by incorporating it into my existing life.

This current practice is new, only about one month so far. I’m listening to one hour of instrumental meditative music (Chants, singing bowls, drum music, etc.) from a popular YouTube channel called Meditative Mind. The link is posted below. I’ll try different tracks until I find something interesting, then I’ll start my activity. For driving long distances, I have my usual pitstops and can start/stop the track. It’s nice to drive with engaging meditative music because it gives my brain a break from the audio books and podcasts I have playing. At bedtime, I’ll play something instrumental while I do a series of stretches or yoga sun salutations.

Inspiration for starting a moving mediation:
–Walking/hiking/running outdoors
Cooking a meal
Eating a meal
Folding laundry
Gardening/yard work
–Doing something creative (Those coloring books!)
Yoga or stretching

How to get started:
1. Remove or reduce distractions like phone notifications or television.
2. Play some relaxing music tracks of your choice.
3. Stay present in the moment while you engage in your chosen activity. Redirect your mind when it wanders off from focusing on the task. Observe all the sensory details of the task.
4. Viola! You’re in a meditative state of mind.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Meditative Mind YouTube Channel


Top 10 Jiujitsu Emojis

Emojis have really found a permanent place in our daily electronic communication. As an active user of social media, I find myself spending what feels like an excessive amount of time selecting the right emojis to accompany my message. The latest emoji update to the apple and android keyboard was fantastic with the addition of tacos and unicorns, among other icons. When posting about Jiu-jitsu related content, there are some emojis that are obvious stand-out winners. But first, please note that research informs us that females use emojis more frequently than males (See links to articles below.). The research studies on emoji use are really interesting and secondly, I might be biased as a woman writing a blog post about emojis in the first place.

1. 🥋

The classic kimono with black belt. This emoji might represent multiple martial arts that require a gi with belt, but I really feel it was made with us BJJers and/or judokas in mind. Again, biases prevail here.

Cons: There are no belt colors here, only black. I also don’t think people are accusing me of claiming black belt status based on an emoji.

2. 💛🧡💚💙💜🖤

Belt rank-colored heart emojis. Perhaps heart emoji usage is more prevalent among females, though a proper observational study is in order. Now, this emoji category provides a nice range of color. I’d say that a majority of my posts on social media contain a belt rank-colored heart.

Cons: We face the same issue as with the lack of variation of color as noted for the kimono-black belt emoji. It would be very helpful to have heart emojis for white belts, gray belts, and brown belts. I’m not even sure if a white heart would even be feasible. An outline of a heart with some shading? Good substitutes for brown belts are the chocolate bar, the poo emoji, and the bear depending on who you are referencing.

3. 🕷🦑🦖🦂🐛🦈🦍🐼

The animal kingdom of jiujitsu. Here we use different animals to represent styles and types of guards or movements. I’ve personally used the spider for spider guard, obviously, but I like to throw in the spider’s web for extra emphasis. I really wish there was a lasso. I’ve been playing more lasso guard than spider guard anyhow. Heavy weights are represented as the gorillas and the porradeiros of the mat seem like sharks to me, but less sneaky than real life sharks.

Cons: Not all guards and styles are represented, so this is not an exhaustive list. Seems like people are always inventing their own signature moves. Even Keenan Cornelius claims several of his own (e.g., Mantis Guard).

4. 🥇🥈🥉

Podium Medals. Cannot not have these. Glad there is not a fourth place in ibjjf competitions, just double third. And rightly so, because it would just suck to fight for 3rd place over 4th. Not sure when this gem of double third began but I like it.

Cons: Absolutely no cons for these emojis.

5. 🤔

Thinking emoji. If you are active on social media, it seems that every week there’s some online drama or commotion of some sort. Impassioned outbursts, rants, and criticisms run amuck. This emoji is for those who are making a low key statement of WTH or general confusion.

Cons: It would be nice to have the thinking emoji flipped on its vertical axis. Thinking in both directions implies deep thinking, extreme confusion, or indecision.

6. 🤕

Injured emoji. Let’s face the facts. Jiujitsu is a combat sport. The majority of us claim a multitude of injuries and chronic pain issues, but we keep on training. This adequately represents general injury, head trauma or concussion, and accompanies announcement that one cannot train due to said injury.

Cons: Every limb can be represented here: An elbow in a sling, a foot cast, rib cage bandage, etc. I really could go on here.

7. 🤙

The Shaka. Internationally known as the thing to do with your free hand as you side-hug with your other arm. It indicates that you are a laid back, easy going person that loves to socialize with others in the sport. It may also indicate that you are possibly Hawaiian and possible a surfer. The hand gesture translates to “hang loose” and also represents friendship and solidarity.

Cons: Because of the stronger relation to surfing, this emoji may be misleading. Apart from BJJ selfies and in group photos, the Shaka is not in common use in-person.

8. 🍕🍔🌮🍩🍰

Post-weight cut foods. Each person has their own tastes and preferences, but generally one must avoid sweet and savory carbs and sugar. These emojis increase in frequency of appearance leading up to tournament dates as a list of restricted foods and reappear as a list of foods eaten.

Cons: Foodies with cravings for more unusual foods are out of luck. Still looking for a good representation of pandan waffles and red bean paste sticky buns. Also, I have no idea what this emoji is: 🍢.

9. 🔝

Slang word for cool in Brazilian Portuguese. This emoji was most likely designed as a directional symbol to indicate north of or above as “top”. Coincidentally, one may use the emoji to reference a post or comment by saying, “Hey look, this thing right above is pretty cool.”

Cons: Only those individuals that know the term top will understand.

10. 🇧🇷🇯🇵🇺🇸

Brazil, Japan, and USA Flags. The first two flags represent the birthplace and rebirth of two styles of jiujitsu: Japanese, or OG jiujitsu and Brazilian Jiujitsu. Flags are used to indicate national heritages of the sport or to indicate a passage written in English, Portuguese, or on rare occasions, Japanese. They make nice accent emojis, end-caps to a message.

Cons: Some might feel that jiujitsu Should not be considered solely Brazilian at this point. Although it is important to note that BJJ is still the formal title of the sport.

Emojis we need:

1. Cauliflower ear 👂

2. Ear guards⛑

3. Brazilian Referee

4. Flip flops 👡

5. Weight scale ⚖️

6. Food baby belly 🤰


Mental Health

Feeling Bipolar?

I’d say that bipolar is one of the most commonly misused labels I’ve come across in my practice. “Oh, well she’s bipolar – she’s always having mood swings!”

The reality is that most of us humans have mood swings and can feel “crazy” at times. For those individuals with Bipolar Disorder, mood can be like riding a big, winding, looping roller coaster of emotions ranging from intense highs and really low lows.

The previous name for bipolar disorder was Manic Depressive Disorder. As much as “bipolar” is in our common conversational dialogue nowadays, so was being a “Manic-Depressive” or feeling “manic.” Mania and depression were considered two states, or two poles within the disorder, hence the newer term Bipolar Disorder.

At one end of the spectrum is mania. Mania is a combination of the following symptoms, including feeling “up”, “high”, or elated, sometimes feeling irritated or easily agitated, needing little sleep, having lots of energy, talking fast and quickly switching from topic to topic, feeling as if one’s mind is going really fast, doing risky things like spending a lot of money, using excessive drugs or alcohol, or having reckless sex. These manic symptoms might not all be present for each person, but the period of mania is distinct, lasting a few days up to a week. This symptom cluster is not to be confused with having a good day or period of days, or being in a positive, happy mood. An individual in a manic episode has difficulty managing their lives with the erratic, impulsive behavior, which can sometimes result in legal problems.

In between manic episodes, the person experiences bouts of clinical depression. Mild depression can affect just about anyone, but clinically impairing depression goes beyond feeling blue for a day or two. A depressive episode includes symptoms of feeling depressed or down for most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks. During this time, appetite may be nonexistent or the opposite, feeling an urge to keep eating. Sleep may be disturbed, either by an inability to fall or stay asleep or the opposite, sleeping or desiring to sleep for hours beyond the average sleep cycle (6-8 hours). During the daytime, the depressed person may have low energy, fatigue, sluggishness or may feel fidgety or restless. Other emotions that can accompany depressed mood, include feeling hopeless, worthless, or excessively guilty and unmotivated to do usual activities. More serious symptoms include concentration problems, inability to make decisions and persistent thoughts of death or of suicide.

What outsiders see in the person with Bipolar Disorder is the swing from hyper or high, to irritable and impulsive, and ultimately crashing into a depressive state. The switch can be rapid (week to week) or over the span of months or years.

Bottom line: When thinking Bipolar Disorder, think of extremes in mood and behavior. Being moody, touchy or sensitive isn’t bipolar by itself, but could be a reaction to stressful events or a personality style. If you do know of a person suffering from Bipolar Disorder, encourage them to seek professional help if they have not. This condition is not curable, but one can learn to maneuver and manage the symptoms for a better quality of life.

BJJ, Coaching

Coaching in a sea of noise

“Who’s coaching for you?”

This is a common question heard at any BJJ tournament.

For the majority of Brazilian Jiujitsu academies, the head instructors or higher belt students are given the role of coaching the competitor during his or her tournament matches. Most of the time, there is not a need for me to coach students and my coaching experience is on the light side but growing slowly.  However, each time I do, I actively work on improving my coaching style.

I am a competitor, and I’ve been on the receiving end plenty of times. I’ve heard good coaching and not so great coaching during fights I’ve had and have watched. After hearing some pretty irritating things, I promised myself to never yell those out to my competitor.

I’ve come to know what I like to hear and what’s really helpful. With that in mind, I really try to maximize my skills as a mat-side coach. In between competitions, I watch how other coaches coach their students and snag the best strategies possible in attempt to further develop my own style. Drawing upon principles of psychology, of course.

In the moment when a competitor is fighting, his or her fight-flight system (where the adrenaline rush comes from) is activated and thus, the body goes into acute survival mode. The ability to process complex, detailed sentences is drastically minimized. Let’s not forget that the noise level of the crowd makes it very difficult to hear much more than a few words. Short, simple sentences, like “keep the cross face” and “posture up” are easy to understand. Key words that refer to technique that the competitor knows well, is the way to go. That way, the opponent doesn’t cue in on the strategy suggested. I’d say that 10th Planet Jiujitsu has the most creative naming system for techniques.

My Coaching Strategy:

  1. Communicate with your athlete before and after the match. I discuss the game plan. I review major points about grip fighting and keeping pressure, or whatever is most relevant.


  1. Make sure your voice is heard by your athlete. I have a small voice and it’s difficult to be heard. Mostly, I have to remind myself to find quieter moments within the match so that I’m heard clearly. I also try to make some eye contact and perhaps show the move I’m suggesting has been a good alternative.


  1. Use short, precise commands (or suggestions). Cannot emphasis this enough. A long string of movements, i.e., “move your right leg into their left hip and start to sweep”, just sounds jumbled. If instead I said, “single leg X”, now the competitor immediately understands and can tap into their memory for the technique.


  1. Don’t start coaching too soon. I try to let my competitor do what he or she has been training for over the past weeks or months. Their job is to start the match and to progress forward. At some point when the match slows down or shifts toward or against my competitor, that’s when I begin coaching.


  1. Offer encouragement when up, offer technique/sequences when down. It’s always nice to hear some praise when you’re up on points or just executed a nice take-down or sweep. Some encouraging phrases always pumps up the competitor’s confidence and performance during a match. However, when your competitor is behind on points or in a bad position, I like to remind him or her that there is still time on the clock, to focus or refocus on technique, or guide them step-by-step to execute a counter technique.


  1. Get some feedback. After the match, I like to ask if my competitor heard me well or found the technique/phrases/hand gestures useful. That way I can adjust my strategy for the following matches of that competition.

As I continue to refine my skills for coaching matches, practice makes for better performance. I’m applying these six points to help me coach on a smaller scale – during non-competition practices or open mat training. Looking forward to where mat-side coaching might take me.