At the end of January, I heard that Team Lawton was hosting the Empower Women Tournament on March 25th – women only, submission only, white and blue belts only. The format was round robin with 3 weight divisions. Each weight division would break out into separate white and blue belt brackets if entries allowed.
I should have known I was in trouble right away. Any other time people had talked about tournaments, I’d nope’d on out of the conversation immediately. No thanks, all set, hell no. This time, I found myself reading the details. Looking up the drive time to Farmingdale. Asking friends questions about how these things worked. At one point I told Rob that I felt like I was in full fight or flight mode, heart racing and hands shaking. I figured that was my body telling me to run away – he said it was my body “calling me up” (more like out). This was the next hard thing I needed to do. The next stage of Embracing the Awkward in BJJ. So that night, before I could talk myself out of it, I signed up. And I spent the next nearly two months wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into…
August 31st was my two year Jitsu-versary. The picture of my feet on the mat for my first BJJ class is a Facebook memory 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.
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.
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.
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.
On Labor Day, I finally got back on the mats. A mere seven months and three days after my surgery but who’s counting… who are we kidding, I was counting. I was probably driving people nuts with my Facebook posts and comments about how I missed it and how I’d be back “soon!” Six months of healing, one month of constant business trips, and one major move later, words finally became action. I walked into the Academy with a smile on my face and a gi in my bag. Continue reading BJJ: It’s Good to be Bruised→
In late April I finally made it to the gym to watch testing for the first time. The format was simple and I suspect it’s pretty universal among BJJ gyms.* The trainers sit at the front of the room and ask people to demonstrate techniques on the curriculum. Describing the reasons for the test and the focus for each belt color may not be standard but as a newbie, I appreciated it. I doubt Jay’s brand of commentary is considered par for the course, but it would have felt like I was in the wrong place without it.
Note: A briefer version of this story was going to be told on the Jay Jack Uncensored podcast when they talked about the need for gameness in women and how society typically squelched that trait. But, between my accident and the podcast’s “squirrel!” attention span for topics, I decided that I’d go ahead and publish this anyways. Maybe we’ll still go over the idea on a future JJU episode. But I needed to tell my story while the last bit was still fresh in my mind.
This all starts with a foolish summer fling in 2001. I met a guy working security at a concert, we hit off, we spent the summer having some fun together. I made it clear from the beginning that this was just going to be a summer thing, I was headed back to Ithaca in the fall for my junior year of college. I like to think that I ignored any signs that he was a little “off” because it was just a summer thing so it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t looking for a life partner. He was sweet, he was fun, and that was all that mattered at the time.
A while back, I posted what has become a fairly pivotal piece for me on my dog blog, All Around Dogs. The post was entitled Embrace the Awkward and talked about the “conscious incompetence” stage of learning where things feel difficult and, well, awkward. While the post relates it to dog training, I’ve taken my own advice to heart and have tried to apply it to every area of my life. Continue reading BJJ: Embrace the Strange(r)→