Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Conflict of Modern Underground Female Wrestling

Hey there, Gentle Readers.

Now, mind you, I normally avoid topics of controversy (uh oh...), but recent Twitterings have gotten my attention and have moved me to speak out.

I recently read a piece discussing how Brazilian jiujitsu ("BJJ") is threatening to dominate the underground female wrestling video industry.  The claim implied that technical styles of grappling are not as interesting or, one can infer, not as sexy as instinctive, untrained squeezing and pressing.

Sure, I can definitely see that.  Raw passions, innocent risk-taking, and wild fury may very well have greater appeal for an underground audience than sportsman-like chess playing.  It was implied that it is better to see untrained ladies performing hard, strenuous wrestling than experienced grapplers on the mats together.  Indeed, one can see the appeal, surely.  However, we need to consider a few things before we can move on.

Firstly, from a production stand-point, unbridled, untrained, "anything goes" is like playing Russian roulette when it comes to competitive underground wrestling.  How long will it be before one wrestler turns the wrong way while in an incidental lock, before another gets her neck cranked in a headlock, before too much random leg tangling leads to the loss of a knee ligament... All is well and good, until injury happens.  And when bad injuries occur in the underground, some really bad feelings can result.

But training and experience can greatly reduce the number of accidental, ignorance-based injuries.  For one, wrestlers will be less likely to attempt potentially self-damaging movements (I keep thinking of forcefully spinning the wrong way out of a heel hook - which can potentially happen incidentally).  Furthermore, the wrestler will be more likely to immediately realize when she or her opponent are in a potentially damaging situation or position, and she will be able to adjust for safety.

But I risk digression here.  I just deleted a bunch of technical digression, actually.  Back to the topic at hand.

The Conflict of Style

I have seen these comments time and time again.  To paraphrase: No one fights "Old School" anymore!  The women are using grappling styles that are too efficient!  Scissors and smothers are being defeated by new-fangled grapple-y techniques in "open" underground competition.

Some people long for the good old days, before submission grappling schools became ubiquitous and when underground wrestlers relied on trial-and-error in the moment.  What's a quick and easy way to cause pain?  Scissoring with your legs.  What's a quick and easy way to cause discomfort?  Smothering the opponent's face.  Untrained wrestlers can find these techniques quickly and easily, and against other untrained wrestlers these attacks can be quite effective.  They are universally accessible.

Indeed, when I first tried underground wrestling many years ago, I submitted someone by front body scissors, just on instinct.

But these easily accessible techniques are also easily countered.  As people are inclined to do, wrestlers sought ways to overcome these obstacles.

In the 1990s, on the "mainstream" stage, we saw the emergence of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  In the early UFC, we saw representatives from different martial arts come together to fight in "mixed martial arts" competition.  The early events were dominated by the representative for Brazilian jiujitsu, Royce Gracie.  As a result, BJJ grew tremendously in popularity, often championed as a way for a smaller/weaker opponent to overcome an untrained larger/stronger opponent.

Over time, BJJ schools grew in number, branching out across the nation and the world, and providing opportunities for adults to learn an efficient grappling martial art.

And please note where I say "adult."  By this, I mean "non-school-age person" or, more specifically, "someone who is no longer playing sports on a school team."  Indeed, someone on a school wrestling team has great access to wrestling training, but someone who is not on the team or who has already graduated has a very hard time accessing regular, formalized wrestling training... but BJJ and no-gi submission grappling are actually quite accessible for adult people.  They are our most accessible form of wrestling and grappling education at this time.

Female wrestler Helen von Mott was one of the first, if not the first, underground female wrestler to bring her BJJ education to the underground scene.  In fact, she even earned her BJJ black belt while still operating in our industry.  Helen became legendary as an underground wrestler, known to be extremely skilled and confident, and she also demonstrated just how effective BJJ style training can be in the mixed / female wrestling environment.  She even visited us here in NYC to show our local ladies some essential techniques and encourage all to take up BJJ training (easy to do with schools so accessible).

And so, Brazilian jiujitsu had entered the waters.  Its effectiveness in mixed wrestling and against untrained opponents became obvious to see: by using leverage, off-balancing techniques, and a new arsenal of submission attacks, trained women started snatching victories from untrained (and sometimes larger) opponents.

Indeed, this style of training even provides the weaponry needed to escape from and defeat incidentally-applied scissorholds and smothers.  How great!  Who could ask for anything more!

Since BJJ style training is so accessible nowadays, many ladies have added basic techniques to their repertory.  However, a downside does come of all this.  Perhaps several downsides.

One is the guard position.  I personally don't have issues with the guard position, provided it is an active, aggressive guard that is just a stepping stone to a sweep or submission.  However, less experienced grapplers can lack the skill and confidence needed to progress from the bottom of guard and/or conservative opponents may make no attempts to pass the guard if there are no penalties for stalling.  The result of those cases is a match with very little movement, few changes of position, and one big neutral position.

The next problem is the "calm" mentality that results from BJJ training.  Generally speaking, the more experience one has in this style, the more likely that she will approach the match in a thoughtful, technical, chess-game state of mind.  "Anger faces" become more rare, impulsive and passionate random movements become more rare, and the match can become more of an athletic discussion and/or surgical dismantling, rather than a clash-and-bash festival.

Next problem: the game is now top-heavy!  While many ladies have accessible to jiujitsu and submission grappling training, many others still do not.  So, in a world where prior training is becoming the norm, untrained newcomers and veterans alike are finding it harder and harder to win.  In a world where everyone was playing by instinct, size and strength - or random anomaly - were often the determining factors.  But now, with no formal skill level divisions in the industry, the game has changed to be potentially less inclusive.

What is this Brave New World like?

It's sporty.  At least this is how it appears to me.  It's competitive, certainly.  It does start to run noticeably parallel with the mainstream.  And not everyone is pleased about that.

Two points I want to touch on here:
1. Sexiness
2. Competition

As to Sexiness...  one of my follow community members notes that jointlocks and technical athletics just don't have the same "sex appeal" as squeezing scissorholds and pressing smothers.  I have two thoughts here, and my initial thought is this: Imprinting.

If, back in your "formative years," your first encounter with underground wrestling, be it mixed or female, was filled with images of ladies fighting competitively with scissorholds and smothers, then I would dare say you may have become inclined to seeing fighting with scissors and smothers.  These moves were the bread and butter, and who can have wrestling that sexy-looking without them?  That's how it's done!  That's how it first appeared to you.  And, if you liked what you saw, then that's how it should always be.  Changes to the game, and the decline in use of these moves, for better or worse, are just... for worse.

But what if, theoretically, you never cared for scissors and smothers, but the first time you saw a triangle hold, or a mounted triangle, or even an armbar, what if then you had a little light go on saying "how sexy!"  Furthermore, what if you weren't even around during the Old Days and instead your first encounter with underground wrestling featured small girls defeating larger girls by using slippery skill and mounted triangles... and what if you liked that very much... ?

Now, I grant you, squeezing and pressing is generally "sexier" and more sensual than putting pressure on a knee or elbow from off to the side.  Probably a greater number of people find this to be the case.  Body-to-body pressure in a slow, smothering manner, with sweat and (insert your favorite attire choice), the grueling strength battle, bulging muscles, gritting teeth, wild hair (like, think 80s hair), pressing, squeezing. But anyway, just consider this.

So Why Change?

Competition... Most people like to win.  But the competitive lady wrestlers really like to win.  And none want to lose.  Especially when being video recorded.

In a given match, the wrestler will do whatever she can within the rules (ahem) to secure her victory.  Or, at least, to prevent herself from losing.

We've established that BJJ and formal submission grappling training can teach a wrestler how to grapple more efficiently: conserve energy, escape from holds, launch time-tested techniques.  And we've discussed how underground ladies are incorporating this style in order to stay ahead of the game - or how previously-trained ladies can quickly rise to the top.  But what has happened to the scissors and smothers?

Since they are easily escaped and countered by trained grapplers, scissors and smothers may be falling behind in top-level underground wrestling competition.

Well, says I, that's easy to fix!  Why not just change the rules to make it "Scissors and Smothers Only" or "No closed guard" or "No joint attacks"?


You. Can't. Change. The. Rules.

What?!  Rubbish, of course you can change the rules.  You can make whatever rules you want.  Furthermore, have we even established what The Rules are?

You. Can't. Change. The. Rules.

Yeah, but - what rules?  What are these unspoken rules?  We know there are rules, because, for one, you aren't allowed to kill or maim you opponent.  So, there, that's one rule I have divined.  We kind of think there are no small joint manipulations allowed (bending fingers or toes), but no one ever really mentions it.  We know there's no striking.  We kind of think that all submissions are allowed, by default, but we also do not allow submissions by hair pulling (or do we??).  So, what are the rules?  Do we really know?  And if we don't have them written down, why can't we legitimately offer variations?  And, by the way, who exactly is "we".....?

So, things change but they don't change?

The Rules =  female submission wrestling.    ...?

Isn't it perplexing?  What if we had an underground circuit for scissors and smothers wrestling?  Would it have a following?  I suppose, if you build it.... maybe it's worth a shot.  But one of my esteemed colleagues says that "special rules" are just a "side show" to the Main Event.  Indeed, there is some phenomenon out there in the wide world that says "Scissors and Smothers Only" is not the "pure" default.

I asked Keri for her opinion on the matter.

On Twitter, I asked her how she would feel about winning a match using a scissorhold.  Also on Twitter, she replied:

"i wouldn't be proud of a match won w/ technical skill needed."

In response, I asked:

"But, Keri, how would you feel is only scissor submissions were allowed?"

And she replied:

"same way. I'd do it and it would be fun, but I would not count it as any part of win/loss record."

How intriguing!  And thank you, Keri, for adding this very valuable point of view!

Win/loss record matters to the lady wrestlers.  But what counts toward the win/loss record?  It seems like only matches that follow The Rules.

Sadly, under The Rules, draws are allowed to happen.  I think this is a key problem to complaints about the New Way.

Since a draw is not a loss, modern wrestlers may be inclined to fight for the draw.  This means less risk-taking, more conservative styles, fewer attempts are scissors and smothers against high-level opponents.  Low-percentage but potentially interesting/entertaining moves go out the window (such as risky guard pass attempts, school girl pins, or attempting headscissors from the bottom of guard).  And, instead, a match may come down to a takedown followed by guard position for the entire rest of the time.

Attempting to pass someone's guard is risky.  You can get swept and then stuck on the bottom after being so happily on top.  So, if there are no penalties for not attempting a pass, why risk it?  If you are pinning your opponent and The Rules do not specify Pins, then why bother with a submission attempt that could lead to the opponent's escape?  As it is, there is no downside to a draw.  And this can lead to "slower" modern matches, which are not slow because of sensual body pressing.

So, What Are We to Do?

If the underground wrestling world is uncomfortable with the modern developments of the game, then what can be done about it?

1. Change the rules.
    I know, I know, this leads to a lot of belly-aching.  But if you want to see the trained grappler girls fighting on instinct and impulse, you need to put them in an environment that is new to them.  It's just like periodization in weight training: once you've adapted to a stimulus, you need to vary that stimulus in order to get new, dynamic results.

2. Do not allow draws.
    This one is tough to implement, since draws have been allowed by default.  Indeed, some women may refuse to compete if they knew a winner had to be determined somehow.

    I disallowed draws in our competitive matches perhaps a year or two ago.  I've tried several tie-breaking techniques, such Sudden Death overtime, arm wrestling, positional point scoring, and judge's decision.  Of all of these, I think the most satisfying is Sudden Death overtime, but that can make the match unreasonably lengthy...
   ............. but just think about it - if you came into a match knowing that it would never end unless someone won, wouldn't that light a fire under you?

    I think the least satisfying is arm wrestling.  That's a totally different game.

    The jury is out on Judge's Decision.  I am actually a submission grappling referee, so I am used to deciding matches by decision in the mainstream world.  We select a winner based on "skillful aggression" - whoever tried for the most things, whoever took the most skillful risks and pressed the advantage.  However, I don't get the impression that the underground scene as a whole is prepared to accept Judge's Decision.  But I'm not sure - maybe the ladies would accept it...

3. Standardize Pins-and-Submissions as the default
    This may be considered "changing the rules," but a number of people, particularly in mainland Europe, tend to lean toward Pins-and-Submissions as a potential default.

But really, at the end of the day, it all comes down to what the ladies and the rest of the community will accept as The Rules.

If I say "no draws" for my company, then people will just think it is just a unique quirk of ours.  However, if I can somehow, for example, mobilize my wrestlers and colleagues to accept the "no draws" policy, then we might be on to something.  However, if the promise of a not-loss (aka draw) is very lucrative, then it might be difficult to get rid of draws.

Whew, so there you have it!  These are my words on the topic for this lovely, humid summer afternoon here in New York City.  I'm motivated to try putting together some new female competitive matches with new faces (however, fantasy FF, mixed, and bondage wrestling are far more popular, I find... but that's a topic for another day).

Maybe MAYBE I can conduct some video interviews on the matter with the ladies.  That would be just swell!  But in the meantime, I leave you to muse on the matter.  And, as always, my ears and inbox are always open, and I'd love to hear your comments on the subject.  (I'm really quite friendly, under the right circumstance ;-D  )

Thanks for reading, and catch you all later!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Beach Wrestling Today: Report!

So, we finally got to get in our first official beach wrestling adventure this summer!

As I mentioned in my last entry, our beach wrestling attempt last week was foiled by an off-putting weather forecast, and so the beach visit only resulted in scouting and solo filming.  But today, we had no weather fears to worry about!

So, early this morning, VeVe, Hanz, and I ventured out to the Rockaway beach for some wrestling action in the sand, sun, and surf.  Sadly, Amazon Annie and Azy couldn't join us, but hopefully we can get them involved on the next go-around.

VeVe had last attempted a little beach wrestling last August, but I don't think Hanz had ever wrestled on sand and surf before.  I don't know if he knew what to expect, but he got a pretty good taste of it this morning.  Actually, I think both VeVe and Hanz got a good literal taste of the ocean with this morning's bout!

I bought the competitors down to the water's edge, and we set up a fight area just inside the surf line, so that the water would wash in and out during the match.  So, as the tide rolled, the competitors would be alternatingly surrounded by wet sand and several inches of water.  And, of course, the sand and rolling waters proved a to be quite key aspect in this entire endeavor...

VeVe and Hanz started off with a pure submission wrestling bout, a regular competitive bout with all submissions being legal.  I kind of hoped they'd do a little more with takedowns, since I know what "difficulties" surf wrestling can provide to participants - takedown, stand up, takedown, stand up is a more forgiving method of handling this environment - but these two were just bound to discover the beach's joys all on their own.

So off they went!  And as soon as they hit the ground and started to work, they both discovered how immobilizing the wet sand can be: you get pressed into it and get stuck, it scratches you when you try to scoot around on the ground, it makes you fend off the environment just as much as you're fending off your opponent.  And then there's the challenge of the rolling waters!  Opponent on top of you and pressing you into the sand?  So you're stuck in the mud and.... here comes a wave!  Get rolled over and "face plant" right into the water.  Gasp for breath just as the tide rolls back in, and here's some tasty salt water.  It's a huge challenge to beach wrestle on the ground!

But despite the environmental challenges, VeVe and Hanz fought on!  In fact, they fought for about 11 long minutes before the first submission was eventually gained.

After a little interview to give their first impressions and comments, the competitors steeled themselves for the next round, which had quite the potential to be an even greater challenge: pins only!

So, they no longer had to worry about sticking their necks into choke holds, but now they faced the possibility of being pinned down into the rushing waters...

And, oh yes, this round was the hardest.  Especially for little VeVe.

With her ability to slide and slip around her opponent's body greatly reduced by the sand-burn traction, VeVe found Hanz's size advantage to be quite the foil.  But despite being stuck, sunken into sand, and water logged, VeVe fought on with amazing perseverance.  

And, by the way, any standard belly-down pin defense would often result in water in the face... and, of course, don't forget the opponent on top of you.

But despite fatigue, sand burn, and salt in the eyes they fought on! 

The Pins Only round lasted about 10 minutes, with only one full 3-count pin being achieved, despite all of the many attempts and body-pressing effort.  Both competitors emerged drenched, roughed-up, and covered in wet sand.  Surely, this is not an activity for the faint of heart!

Furthermore, VeVe has a low tolerance for cold, and even though she was moving about, the water was slowly freezing her into shivers.  But what a trooper!

Anyway.  VeVe and Hanz gave another brief commentary for the camera afterwards, letting us know their thoughts and opinions for this round.  We'd intended to also do a third round of takedowns only, but by this time the beach was starting to populate, and park rangers were starting to buzz about.

So that was beach wrestling for today!  Make no mistake, it is an adventure, this style of wrestling in the surf.  It can be rough, and cold, and scratchy, and certainly salty-wet.  It can be grueling, and fatiguing, and even claustrophobic.  It's a great struggle, it's very tough, and it most certainly is both a physical and mental challenge!  

I just put the full video of this together, and I'm actually taking a break right now from capturing screen stills.  I've got so much I'd like to say in the video's official description, since this video offers so much.  Competitive mixed wrestling, splendid outdoor environment, physical stress, mental anguish, an exercise in sheer will power.  Whew, ok, just thinking out loud here.  So, let me fire off this post and get back to work on the images!


And now at 11 pm this same evening, the video has been released! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Busy Summer and Beach Filming to Come

Greetings once again, dear readers, from the very lovely middle of summertime here in New York City!  Not only has it been hot and humid here, but it's also been incredibly busy in the world of wrestling media production (and et cetera!).

Believe it or not, but I am still working on releasing the various diverse videos we filmed from our late May West Coast trip.  I've actually been updating the previous blog entry that had the list of videos with each new release.  I just updated it right now, just before opening this new entry.  But anyway, only a few more to go before those have all been released!

And as these West Coast videos have been going out, and as I've been working on their marketing materials and image collections, I've also been shooting, processing, and releasing various other videos these past two months while here at home.

Recent works there include a bondage wrestling video with Indra and Hanz, a new Superheroine Combat Match with VeVe and Keri, a fishnets agent duel with VeVe and Sircee, an "Angry Widows" catball with VeVe and Keri, mixed wrestling domination plus lift and carry with VeVe and Howl, as well as belly punching, a mixed pro-style videos, spandex POV videos, zentai wrestling, and - just yesterday - some beach antics.

Some little pictures from some of those...

But anyway, oh yes, speaking of beach antics...

We had such a fun time with our trial run of beach wrestling last year - when we first met Crazy Azy - that we decided to have a more "official" beach wrestling shoot this year.  Amazon Annie is definitely on board for anything involving the local beach, and VeVe is too, of course.  Crazy Azy will likely join us again, too.  This time, we will also be joined by Hanz and even possibly Howl.

So, we were looking to do this beach wrestling yesterday morning, but we were foiled by a weather forecast that, according to VeVe, called for "100% chance of rain."  So, on Tuesday evening, we decided to postpone that.  However, of course, once the next day came around, the weather was indeed a bit overcast, but there certainly were no horrific downpours.  And so, after a day of training and the gym, I headed over to the beach in the early evening to meet with VeVe, Amazon Annie, and Hanz to do some scouting and minor filming.

Hanz and Annie were in definite "scouting" mode, but VeVe was all set to film and well-prepared to get into the roiling waters.  So, we filmed a little bit of zentai in the water, as well as a little footage of VeVe in her new "skin diver girl" attire.

We took some video of VeVe gearing up in her skin diver attire, which is for a small clip for VeVe's Petite Powerhouse studio.  But I also made a small trailer to show this gear and the awesome background setting of the beach as well:

But anyway, beach wrestling has been RE-scheduled for next Tuesday, so more outdoor filming to come!

And don't even get me started on the plans we have for more multi-way bondage wrestling matches slated for this month.  We'll be filming with returning visitors Savannah Fox and Rachel DD (Goddess Rachelle), as well as new visitor Jade Indica and later returning guests Keri.  Possibly others as well - I need to consult the schedule!

More on that later, though, since my blogging time is very short right now.

We will also be travelling down to FetishCon again this year, which could potentially lead to even more multi-person bondage wrestling filming.  Of course, life being what it is, we've been just too busy up here to sit down and coordinate shoots for FetCon, so I think we may end up just playing that by ear.  But that tends to be fun too, and I'm quite all right with seat-of-the-pants flying every now and again.

Ok, words, words, words.  Sorry for the lack of pictures in this entry, but I am trying to compose it super fast!

So, Savannah Fox & Co filming next week.  Hanz also plans to film with Savannah for his studio, and I expect that may be mixed competitive.

But anyway, sorry to cut this short, but I've got to jet.  If you're a Twitter fan, do follow us there, since I am able to do MUCH more micro-blogging there than macro blogging here, and that usually means the tweeting of a lot of pictures.  So, follow here for lots of good, relevent stuff and updates:

'Til next time!