To Belt, or Not to Belt.

February 25, 2013

Cam finished another highlight reel.  I’d have to say that personally, my favorite part is CC’s double body weight squat for a set of 3.  With no belt.  Pretty dece’ since that beats her previous PR single.  I’m not going to pretend like we have some kind of grand, master plan . . . but according to the master plan, we’re going to keep her un-belted for at least another year or two (if ever).  Young trainees (myself included) add the belt in too soon.  She’s going to get a nice bump with her numbers as she gets a few years underneath her (figurative) belt.  I’m anticipating it will help her jerks the most.  Some athletes will need to introduce the belt sooner than others.  It’s done WONDERS for Derek.  But in her case, we’ve decided to hold out for a while longer.

Ohio and Kansas.

February 23, 2013

I’ve done a poor job of keeping you guys up to date on Cameron’s training highlight vids.  Be sure to follow his youtube account to stay up to date because he does a pretty good job with them.  Thanks, Cam.

Also, I’m going to be in Ohio this next weekend for the Arnold Classic.  I’m going to try and catch a look at Chris and Mike from the 70sbig crew kill it in the powerlifting meet.  Myself and two others from the Midtown crew will be competing on Saturday.  Come say what’s up afterwards if you’re going to be there.  From there, I’ll be traveling to Kansas where I’ll be at the grand opening of my buddy’s new gym, PSP3.  Do I have any readers in Kansas? If so, come say hi at the grand opening and I’ll help you with your Olympic lifts.

Rant: Vision Quest (Part II).

February 20, 2013

In the first segment of this post, I basically went off on a tangent on my wrestling experience and my introduction to the sport.  This inevitably lead me on a path that would force me to choose what I wanted to specialize in.  And we all know how that ended.  I must be getting older because it seems I can never actually give my opinion on something without diving into a complete analysis of why.  I suppose this also explains why I rarely give my opinion on anything.  Nonetheless, I’m just going to continue on the nostalgia track and hopefully it will lead me to my reasoning on why I think the sport of wrestling is intimately tied to the Olympics. 

I have two memorable instances which led me to ultimately choose to pursue weightlifting as my primary focus.  Sacramento State doesn’t have a wrestling team so I enrolled in a few units at a local JC including an “introduction to wrestling” class.  I figured that it would be the most logical way to see if I could join the team.  The only people who would probably take that class would be the wrestlers on the team looking to get some practice in during the off-season and the only person who would most likely teach that course would be one of the coaches.  I was right.  After a week or so, we were doing live wrestling.  After seeing me perform, the coach asked if I wanted to join the team.  I told him that was the only reason I took the class.  He responded by assuming the persona of the pope, he made a hand motion in the sign of the cross and said that I was officially on the team.  I let him know that I had just qualified to compete at the Collegiate Nationals in weightlifting after which I would be a full-time wrestler.  Collegiates came and went.  The coach congratulated me and then said it was time to hang up my singlet . . . my weightlifting singlet.  The problem was that by the time I competed at collegiates, I was already far too invested in the sport.  I remember seeing Cody Gibbs and the rest of the lifters from LSUS dominate in their sessions.  I promised myself that one day I would be like them (also a good story).

A few months later, I found myself at the judo club’s night practice.  The other guys that I coached wrestling with were older and more experienced.  They had already branched out into different martial art styles and were always eager to educate me.  This would usually lead to a few bumps and bruises but always laughter afterwards.  Ready to learn and practice with new faces I sought out groups who would practice different grappling styles.  I made friendly with the judo club instructor who was also a biomechanics professor.  After enrolling in his judo class, he also let me practice with the club during the evenings.  Sensing a pattern here?  After a handful of practices, I met a blackbelt who looked to be in his late forties.  He was a cool dude and also kind enough to practice with me.  During some light sparring, we had a conversation about how I ended up at a judo practice without actually being a real judo player.  I explained to him that I wanted to make a run at the Olympic trials one day as a weightlifter but also really loved wrestling and grappling.  He stopped what he was doing, called me foolish and then told me to choose what I wanted to specialize in before I injured myself doing both.  Best piece of advice I’ve ever received.

So that’s what I did.  For better or worse, it’s been WEIGHTLIFTING ever since.

I suppose the proper response to this would be:

Caption needed? Dem traps tho.

Caption needed? Dem traps tho.

Let me apologize.  I don’t know why I decided to go off on a tangent like an elderly physics professor talking about how he used to work on submarines.  It’s just that when I first saw that wrestling would be removed from the Olympic program, it brought back a flood of memories of my short experience with the sport and that I might have been robbed of that if my high school didn’t have a wrestling program due to decreased popularity.  As I said before, I’m not Joe wrestler.  My involvement with the sport was relatively brief and I had barely scratched the surface with what it had to offer.  Despite this brevity, wrestling played a pivotal role in my athletic background.

It taught me what “hard” is.  I’m of the opinion that people need to be taught how to physically exert themselves.  My mother literally had to push me around a track to get me to jog as a kid and I thought that was hard.  Tears would run down my fat little chin and I felt sorry for myself.  But I didn’t know any better.  Finishing a match, finishing a practice or a conditioning session, pinning an opponent of similar size and skill is hard to do.  Wrestling taught me that.  I want it to act as a teacher for generations to come.

Personal experiences aside, let’s talk about the Olympic Games.  They represent the unattainable, impossible absolute of what it means to be an athletic human being.  Who is the fastest?  The most powerful? The most agile? Precision.  Endurance.  There is an event for each of these adaptations.  The better events combine multiple adaptations.  Of course, team sports have made their way into the games which place group achievement and sport specific skill sets over individual athleticism.  And without sounding like a total jerk on my own blog, let’s just say that certain “sports” have made it onto the Olympic program that don’t necessarily challenge these adaptations as well as others.  But the core sports, the ones that have been practiced the longest, remain as the cornerstone of human achievement.  Let’s talk about a specific human achievement, muscular endurance.  Wrestlers score the highest in muscular endurance tests over any other athlete.  That’s pretty elite, right?

Oh snap. I said the “E” word.  I’m sure crossfiters would argue that their elite would achieve higher muscular endurance and they might be right.  But it doesn’t change the fact that Crossfit is still a company, a name branded version of a randomized strength and conditioning program.  So until Crossfit competitions eventually become, “randomized strength and conditioning competitions” (which doesn’t sound so sexy) it will remain more of a marketing campaign and less of a sport.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’m just sayin’.

So there you have it.  2,000 words on why I think wrestling should stay in the Olympics.

1)      It’s hard.

2)      It tests muscular endurance and requires multiple skill sets.

It would be tragic if future generations miss out on this sport due to it being removed from the Olympic program and I am wondering what the real motives were for taking a sport that has always been part of the Olympic tradition out of the games.  All I can say is that as a human race, we all just got a little weaker.

All The Skwatz.

February 19, 2013

Angela sent this to me the other night.

We shared an LOL.

We shared an LOL.

The next day she did this.

Also, here’s my 180 from Friday.

Never Stop Pushing.

February 15, 2013

I clean and jerked 180kg tonight.  If you’ve been reading for a while, then you know how much this means to me.  I’ve come pretty close to quitting many times over the years and I honestly was beginning to think it would never happen.  I’d like to thank everyone close to me for pushing me.  You know who you are and I couldn’t have done it without you.  And I’d like to thank YOU for reading.  Starting this blog has been one of the best things I’ve done with my lifting and I plan to keep writing as long as there’s a few people out there who enjoy reading.

Never stop pushing.  Some people are meant to win world championships and some people are meant to clean and jerk 180.  Some people are meant to snatch 50kg.  The numbers are irrelevant  the goal is what’s important.  Decide who you are meant to be and whoever you are, never stop until you get there.

Well, time to drink.  It IS my birthday after all.

Thanks for reading,

-Ben

Rant: Vision Quest.

February 13, 2013

Today, I learned that the IOC voted to omit wrestling as part of the Olympic games.  Outraged by this, I decided to write about it since I hadn’t formed an opinion on anything in quite some time. What came out was a lot more personal than I intended it to be but I figured what the heck.  It’s my blog, I’ll write about what I want.  Here’s part 1 of why I think it’s outrageous to hold an Olympic games without wrestling.  

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m Joe Wrestler.  I participated in the sport of wrestling for a relatively short amount of time but long enough for me to develop a deep respect and admiration for it.  I’m sure any real wrestlers out there would be able to smear me across the mat but nonetheless I was still a wrestler before I was truly an Olympic weightlifter.  That was actually my first coaching gig.  Yes, before I was an Olympic weightlifting coach, I was an assistant high school wrestling coach.  I loved it.  I loved seeing my athletes develop a greater understanding for it and see their hard work rewarded by winning matches even though I was still learning much about the sport myself.

My first introduction to the sport was when I was just a little chubby kid watching Rulon Gardner beat Aleksandr Karelin in the 2000 Olympics.  I had never seen a wrestling match in my life but I had seen Rocky IV countless times.  And to me, this was as close as it got.  I mean, we beat the Russians!  How cool is that?  But it was even better because Rulon was a chubby kid just like me which was enough to adopt him as one of my personal heroes.  I think I was a freshman in high school at the time but sadly I didn’t try out for the wrestling team because I was just too ashamed of my body.  I played football because that’s what you were supposed to do if you were a fat kid.

Fairly accurate representation of what I looked like at 16 in my football jersey.

Fairly accurate representation of what I looked like at 16 in my football jersey.

I hated football.  I hated it for a number of reasons but mostly because we were terrible and as an offensive lineman there was really nothing fun or glorious about my job.  It was mostly just stressful.  I did, however, LOVE lifting weights and football gave me my first introduction to the weight room.  Yeah, buddy.  There was nothing better than hitting the weights with the other linemen.  We called ourselves “the fatties.”  But by the time I was a senior, I wasn’t fat.  I was JACKED.  I also found my self-esteem that I had somehow misplaced sometime during my adolescence.  Armed with my new tools, I decided to venture out into other sports.

My entire life, I was picked last for everything and now I was Ben Claridad, sportsman.  Rugby was among my favorites.  I thought I was pretty good at it too.  But that was a pipe dream soon squashed when I tried out for the all-star team after high school.  You see, my entire football career, the only time I would touch the ball would be to hike it.  As it turns out, catching and throwing a ball are a skill set that you don’t just develop overnight.  I finally joined the wrestling team and it was every bit as awesome as I hoped it would be.  During my first practice, I made some kid cry!  I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but managed to win a good amount of matches through sheer brute force and a can-do attitude.  I was having a great time until I partially tore my rotator cuff which put me out for the remainder of the season (an injury which still plagues me today).  That should’ve been the end of my wrestling experience.  After seeing a PT and rehabilitating my shoulder I was able to get back in the weight room.  Fate had brought me my true love, Olympic weightlifting (a story I will save for later).

A year later, I had graduated and was practicing Olympic weightlifting at Sacramento High School.  I had a conversation with the wrestling coach who was looking for some extra help for the season.  I explained to him my lack of experience but gladly accepted when he offered me the job as an assistant coach.  That first season was sort of like a crash course in everything pertaining to wrestling.  Not only did I become proficient in the techniques used at the high school level, but I also learned the ins and outs of coaching at tournaments and duels.  I coached for two more years after that.  My role on the team grew with the more knowledge that I gained.  At this time, MMA was just starting to blow up and the idea of being a wrestler seemed to be cooler than identifying as an Olympic weightlifter.  Nonetheless, I developed within the two sports concurrently until ultimately I had to choose which I wanted to excel at.

Stay tuned for part II.

Highlight Footage.

February 11, 2013

Here’s another highlight video of our training from last week courtesy of Cameron.  I PRed in “swoleness” by breaking the 20 inch bicep mark.  Also, there is some lifting.

Weekly Training Highlights.

February 7, 2013

Cam, captain of the men’s side and newly elected club president, has been hard at work collecting footage for training highlight videos.  I kind of fell off the whole weightlifting mixtape thing when my flip camera died on me a few months ago.  Cam took it upon himself to revive our highlight videos, first with the Electric Avenue vid and now this gem.

Now all (some) of our kooky antics will be proudly displayed on “teh youtubez” so you can see what kind of a show I’m running over here.  One day, when I finally make a few dollars, I’m going to buy another camera so we can both share the highlight video responsibilities.  But until then, be sure to subscribe to Cam’s Youtube channel so we can get mad hitzz.