Gritty in Pink

BJJ: Gritty in Pink

We’ve all heard of the law of intended consequences. You do something to get result A, result B comes along for the ride. I spent a few weeks doing “focused freewriting” and suddenly noticed that my Sudoku skills had made a major leap forward. I might not have made the connection except that the writing guide I was using mentioned that surprising gains in other areas was a common phenomenon. Recently I’ve realized that my training in BJJ has had a rather interesting, if incongruous, unintended consequence: I’ve started to explore being girly.

The Back Story

I have never been what you’d call a girly girl. At the age of 3, I proclaimed there would be no more ruffled panties – I didn’t like how they made my pants bunch up. (Side note: This is also the first known example of my propensity to obsess about the “lines” of an outfit.) I also, sometime between 3 and teenage aged years, put a firm kibosh on the color pink. I’m sure it was present in the garish clash of neon colors in some early 90s gear. But I cannot recall a time when I ever considered or allowed it as a prominent feature.

As a teenager and young 20-something, I played around with funky and sometimes genuinely tiny clothing. But still no ruffles, still no pink. I was primarily a jeans and t-shirt girl who swapped to tank tops or halter tops and short shorts in summer. Skirts were avoided because I wasn’t terribly good at being ladylike but didn’t feel like flashing people either. I would wear dresses on special occasions or as costumes.

Wearing a silver cut away dress for a super hero party.
Super tiny superhero dress! And random guy’s iguana.

Fast forward to full-fledged adulthood. I spent most of my first year or so in a full time job wearing dress pants and button down tops. As soon the dress code relaxed, I was wearing khakis, cords, sweaters, and long sleeved cotton v-necks that I figured counted as “blouses.” And that was my pattern for each job. Start with dress slacks until I’d felt things out. Then dress as casually as possible, as close to jeans and t-shirts as “business casual” allowed. My aversion to pink and ruffles still remained. Years ago, I bought an argyle sweater with thin lines of pink on it when my ex-husband “challenged” me to try it. At one point when I was still in the dressy stage at a job, I bought a couple of pencil skirts to mix it up. They looked good on me and were long enough to avoid the flashing issue, so I thought they’d work. They ended up shoved in the back of the closet and forgotten. Since my divorce (and more limited closet space) my dress slacks and those skirts have been riding around in a plastic bag. They are too big for me now and I go back and forth on whether to have them altered.


BJJ has helped me become both more and less aware of my body. I’m more aware of what I’m doing with my body. I’m less self-conscious about who sees. It is counter-intuitive that it would help me dress up if I don’t care who sees me. But I’ve found a freedom in that balance of awareness and lack of awareness. After my first two Totes, I decided to get a little more playful and tried a dress. And I loved it. Since then, there has been 1 or more dresses in every tote I’ve ordered. And I’ve enjoyed wearing nearly all of them. (Note to my newfound girly self, stripes changing direction need to land in a very particular place or you just look weird!) Most have been tight in the arms and some have been just skirting the length of office-appropriate. It’s still been fun to wear them. I have had to invest in some warmer “tights” so I don’t freeze my cute little ass right off. It was (is?) still winter in Maine, after all.

The real break through, so to speak, was when I ordered a predominantly pink dress in my tote. That’s right, pink. Purple stripes but the stand out color was absolutely pink. A playful cotton candy colored pink. And just like that very first dress I tried, I was surprised by how much I loved it. It was deliciously soft, nicely cut, and incredibly flattering. I sent it back but I adored it so much, I rented it a second time and bought it. That’s right, all in, I own a pink thing. And it’s a dress. And it requires a little decorum because it’s just barely knee length with a small slit. My friend Kaetlyn told me the dress looked like the Cheshire Cat. When I wear the dress, I feel like my smile is just as wide.

Author wearing a pink and purple striped dress.

Of course this doesn’t mean I’m whole hog on the pink bandwagon. You won’t catch me in a pink gi. I won’t be sporting “it’s the female version because we added pink” outerwear or camo. I won’t buy pink princess clothes for baby shower. But I’ve decided that pink is acceptable in doses. Wearing it does not automatically put me in some “typical girl/woman” category.

The freedom I’ve found in BJJ has let me play with my image. I can be sexy, playful, and powerful all at once. I’m starting to transform myself and adopt a new image. I have been Princess Fuck You, not Princess Charming, for several years. Now I’m upping my PFY game. Adding a little something to the Princess without sacrificing any of the attitude.

Sexy dresses paired with gnarly bruises.

Not pretty in pink, gritty in pink.

SoML: Addicted (BJJ Edition)

Recently I’ve talked to a few people at the gym and how often I train has come up. I don’t know if it’s my history of rowing crew in college (one day off a week, two days a week w/lifting in addition to practice) or just general obliviousness that it never occurred to me  until now that I train A LOT. The first time I was enthusiastically chatting with a newbie (I’m still a gremmie, afterall) and she asked which classes I typically attended. I started to list them off when Ashley walked by and said “Pretty much all of them.” And I realized she wasn’t wrong. With the exception of Tuesday/Thursday noon classes – which my 8-4 type work schedule doesn’t allow for – my regular schedule is the M/W/F weekday classes and the Saturday noon class. Sometime about a year ago, I started adding in either training at my buddy Rob’s or “Church” (open mat) on Sundays. Another time I was talking with a woman who was feeling bad about how infrequently she could attend and she asked how often I trained. I told her not to use me as a measuring stick – I don’t have a busy life pulling me in other directions so I can make all these classes a fairly regular thing. Plus, I’m kind of addicted.
After I said that, I had this song in my head, slowly changing the lyrics to fit my particular addiction…

Adapted from “Addicted” by Saving Abel

I’m so addicted to all the things you do
When you’re rollin’ round with me on the open mats
Oh all the sounds I make, when my breath you take
It’s unlike anything, when you’re chokin’ me
Ooh yeah, let’s take it slow
Just some give and take, little easy flow
Gonna take our time, see who’s tappin’ in the end
It’s not like you to turn away
Give up your back so I can take
I’ll earn it for myself someday
I’m so addicted to all the things you do
When you’re rollin’ ’round with me on the open mats

Oh all the sounds I make, when my breath you take
It’s unlike anything, when you’re chokin’ me

And I know when it’s gettin’ rough
All the times I spend tryin’ to make this move
Somethin’ better than just tappin’ out again

It’s not like you to turn away
Give up your back so I can take
I’ll turn you for myself one day

I’m so addicted to all the things you do
When you’re rollin’ ’round with me on the open mats
Oh all the sounds I make, when my breath you take
It’s unlike anything

How can I make it through all the things you do? How many times am I gonna tap for you?

I’m so addicted to all the things you do
When you’re rollin’ ’round with me
Oh all the sounds you make, when your breath I take
It’s unlike anything

I’m so addicted to you
Rollin’ Jiu Jitsu…

In somewhat related news… I ended things with Dave a few weeks ago. More on that (maybe) in a future blog post. But for now, just consider this my status:

I'm dating Jiu Jitsu

BJJ: Knuckle Punk

About a year ago, I was teaching classes for my first major software deployment and newly re-cleared to train BJJ after my hardware removal surgery. I tried to schedule the classes I taught so they didn’t interfere with Academy classes. I needed an outlet for the stress of constantly being “on” for my students.

Despite taking a broken leg and two surgeries within a year like a champ, I was still a bit of a cupcake when it came to pushing myself.

Continue reading BJJ: Knuckle Punk

SoML: Two Girls

A few months back I saw Paranoid Social Club live for the first time in a long time and was reminded of how much I love this song. PSC’s songs tend to be on the upbeat and playful side of my alt-spectrum. They are an ass-shaking, head-banging good time. But this one goes a little further.

What is Two Girls? It’s Ludacris’s “lady in the street but a freak in the bed” concept expanded upon in glorious and catchy detail. It lays out the dichotomy of what men desire in a woman with a sweet surprise at the end. (I also believe you could flip the gender roles and it’d still ring true.)

Continue reading SoML: Two Girls

Lazy Bones Paleo Beef and Broccoli

I have never been much of a cook. Neither was my mother. Neither was hers. I come by the whole “wander off and the food burns” thing pretty honestly. I don’t enjoy it and by some stroke of luck, I’ve landed with a guy who not only enjoys cooking but he’s good at it. REALLY good at it. So I find myself deferring to him on almost all things culinary.

Imagine my surprise when one night I come home after BJJ class to all the ingredients for laid out and ready for me to cook with an eager Dave waiting in the wings. Continue reading Lazy Bones Paleo Beef and Broccoli

BJJ: Grind This Way

August 31st was my two year Jitsu-versary. The picture of my feet on the mat for my first BJJ class is a Facebook memories that I will always want to “share.”  It is the inspiration behind so much of my writing these days that perhaps this blog should be called ‘Grind This Way’ instead.

my feet on the mat of my BJJ school
First steps, first reps

If you had asked me two years ago what the On Ramp class would mean for me, I might have said something flip about choking dudes out. And in my head, that’s all I was doing – taking an intro class that was meant to give me some basic skills applicable to self-defense. I didn’t think of myself as someone who had started to “train Jiu Jitsu” until my first night on the big mats. Maybe not even then. I still make flippant comments about choking dudes out but BJJ is so much more than that to me. Continue reading BJJ: Grind This Way

Le Tote #2

Le Tote Review: Meh Tote or Yeah Tote?

Years ago, I tried out Stitch Fix and experienced multiple rounds of disappointment. If you read those posts, you’d probably be surprised to hear that I tried another clothes subscription service. Then my sister, who’s transitioning from scrubs to business clothes in her career, told me about Le Tote. There were a few significant differences that drew me in: Continue reading Le Tote Review: Meh Tote or Yeah Tote?

BJJ: The First Step to Being a Bad Ass is…

Over the summer, I had been training in earnest for my first stripe in BJJ. Two weeks ago, I was signed off on all the drills and techniques except one … the sprawl. For a combination of physical and mental reasons, the sprawl is my personal Everest. The mental reason is easy to describe – to perform a sprawl, you essentially throw yourself to the ground and my brain thinks that is a bad idea. The physical part is harder to describe, suffice it to say that some parts tighter than they should be and others aren’t as strong as they need to be.

I had gone through periods of working on my sprawl and periods of avoidance for the last year. It’s hard to be persistent when you continue to suck at something and when there is nothing motivating you to make it happen. When I started working drills and techniques in preparation for the test, I would mix sprawls in but never really hammered at them. I’d be given a stretch to help my physical limitations and keep up with that, but was slow to seek out a next step or push forward on the exercise itself. It was hard and, given my physical issues, frequently painful.

A week ago, I had a little breakdown about the situation.   At the two week mark, I’d asked Jay for his advice and (I realized later) focused on entirely the wrong piece of what he explained to me. I started working more diligently once I realized how close the test was. But I wasn’t getting better.  It still hurt most times, it felt awkward as hell, and I still had to talk myself into every rep. People, especially the women, at the gym had all been encouraging me and assuring me that I could get the sprawls signed off in time. Last Saturday, after some particularly discouraging reps, I started to cry as I shoved my binder back into my gym bag. Crystal came up to talk to me and once again tried to encourage me. I told her it wasn’t going to happen and showed her video I’d taken the night before of how bad my sprawls truly were. She suggested that I talk to Jay – ask him what I needed to do to progress. I reluctantly agreed, feeling like a wimp and a failure for letting a goddamn warm up drill get the best of me.

What followed is hard to describe if you aren’t familiar with Jay. It was empathetic without coddling. It was direct in a way that might have been too harsh coming from someone else. He will feel your pain but he will not feel sorry for you. And, like any good Jay conversation, it was riddled with expletives and stories from his crazy past. My feelings of frustration were validated. My feelings of weakness and wimpiness were not. He gave me advice on dealing with the emotions and an exercise to address what he believed was the biggest physical challenge I faced. I took both to heart and I got to work.

A few days later, I was doing well with the exercise and checked in with Jay to make sure I was doing it as-prescribed. He told me it looked good and I could move on to the next iteration. The next step he described still sounded like a far cry from where I needed to be to get signed off. I had no expectation that I’d be able to test, but I felt good about my physical progress and my mental head space. On Friday, Jay decided to put us through various line drills at the beginning of class and he coached me the entire way through the sprawls. I was still going slow, it might have even felt more awkward than before, but it didn’t hurt. I appreciated the coaching. It felt as though he saw me taking his advice to heart and was taking my efforts seriously in return.

When I got home on Friday, I told Dave about Jay’s coaching. He said “So you’re testing tomorrow?” and I said that no, I still didn’t expect to test because I didn’t have sprawling signed off. I was possibly going to help someone by partnering with them so I planned to approach the day as though I was testing, but I wasn’t planning on going after my own stripe.

Here is the thing about me – I’m an eternal optimist. I often find myself imagining or hoping that a romantic gesture, or a great job opportunity, or a surprise party might happen. I see teeny signs that I think might just be hints at some wonderful thing that is about to appear. My actual expectations are realistic – I’d be heartbroken if I expected all of the good things my mind dreams up to materialize – but I can’t help but hope.

And on Friday night, I started to have that hopeful, surprise party feeling. That maybe Jay would encourage me or expect me to test on Saturday. Not that he’d make an exception but that he’d tell me that what he’d seen was sufficient (for 1st stripe level testing) and sign off that one last item. On Saturday morning, I got ready to attend the test and kept my expectations tempered. I still had the feeling but I reminded myself that it was far from a certainty.

As I pulled on my gi at the gym, I heard Jay call out my name. He came around the corner and asked “Are you testing?” I said that no, I couldn’t, I didn’t have sprawls signed off. He said “If they are signed off, are you testing?” and I said yes without hesitation. He grabbed a pen and marked off sprawls on my sheet.  I’m sure anyone observing just saw the nervousness that hit me in that moment. I was instantly sweaty and a little shaky. And I was nervous. But I was also thrilled. The goal that I had set for myself, which had seemed out of reach, had been realized. The surprise party had happened.

A short while before the test started, as I fumbled around nervously on the mat, Jay told me that I didn’t have to test. I shouldn’t feel pushed into it. He said the first step to being a bad ass is saying no when you need to. I told him that I was testing, I wanted to test. When Cole asked if I was sure, I told him that I’d made a goal to get my first stripe for my second training anniversary (which was 2 weeks ago) and assured him that I was in.

The test itself went the way you would expect for someone who knows the material but has some performance anxiety. Jay made sure sprawls were included in the techniques we were asked to perform and that felt excruciating. Doing my slow, awkward version of sprawls across the mat when people really were watching me. Throughout the rest of the test, I felt myself fumble a bit at times and a few moments of shuffling uncertainty with one technique. But I never felt lost or confused by the directions I was given. “Not perfect, but good.” was how I phrased it when Jay asked how I thought I did. The panel agreed – they had seen a large error and a small one but otherwise a clean performance. I had passed.

Receiving my first stripe in BJJ
1st stripe down… so many to go.

Before he ended the evaluation, Jay made a point of telling me that my sprawls had been correct. The people watching clapped after he said that – I’d be lying if I didn’t say it gave me mixed feelings. I hadn’t made my struggle with sprawls a secret, but having it be a big enough deal that people were compelled to clap when Jay brought them up? I felt thankful but also a little embarrassed.

Nevertheless, I walked up to receive my stripe feeling pride that I’d done it and relief that it was over.  I worked down the line of evaluators to shake hands. I paused an extra moment each with Rob and Cole, who had been the driving force in my preparations. The warmth of their hands and the looks on their faces told me I had done well.

After the gym had cleared out and I was hanging around to do some dog training, Jay reiterated that I’d done the sprawl correctly –  not “good for who you are and your limitations” but correct at the level for which I was testing. He also reminded me that it couldn’t stay that way (nor would I want it too, ugh!), each level would need to show progression.

Jay said the first step to being a bad ass is saying no when you need to – but it’s also saying yes to the right things even when it scares you. Even when or especially when it makes you sweat bullets and stand in front of an audience feeling awkward as all hell.

A few of the women of the Academy
4 bad ass women (L to R: me, black belt Mandy, and soon-to-be blue belts Ashley & Crystal. Also pictured: Mabel AKA B.Money, a different kind of bad ass bitch)

BJJ: Self Defense without the Nut Shots

The first time I mentioned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on this blog in 2015, I said that I was looking to acquire some skills as a newly single woman and “learning to grapple and defend myself in awkward situations seemed like an excellent choice.” What I didn’t mention was what prompted me to finally act on my thought.

Continue reading BJJ: Self Defense without the Nut Shots