BJJ: Laughing to Learn

I’m a groupie and a gremmie when it comes Jiu Jitsu.

Now before you start envisioning scenes from Almost Famous or humming Gremmie Out of Control under your breath, let me explain.

When I was living in Ithaca both during college and for several years after, my favorite Maine band, Rustic Overtones, would come to town about once a year. I would arrive at the shows early and stay late, chatting with band members when the opportunity arose. I nicknamed myself the World’s Most Innocent Groupie because, as infatuated as I was with the band, I wasn’t flirting or looking for a chance to “get with” any of them. I just found it interesting to talk to them about life, music, being on the road, whatever came up. I was curious to see what music they chose when they were loading up the van and wanted to learn the name of their dog (RIP Astro).

Even earlier in life, 1995 to be precise, I spent a week in Santa Cruz with my Uncle Gary. He taught me how to surf on a longboard and I was an instant gremmie. But again, not in the “bad” way. It was just that my enthusiasm for the sport was immediate and strong. I surfed until I got a sunburned scalp. I was in awe that I got to ride my uncle’s Robert August board and attend Wingnut’s 30th 6am surprise birthday party. I wanted to talk about surfing with the people I met. I talked about the trip frequently for a long while after and I’m pretty sure my face still lights up when I tell the story of pearl diving a lot and standing up once. It’s been 20 years and I love surfing even though I only did it that one time on some teeny waves. I still think about finding the right opportunity to do it again.

Flash forward to now, I’m a groupie and a gremmie for Jiu Jitsu. More so a gremmie, though you will see me light up as I talk enthusiastically about Jay and my other instructors – rightly so, they are an amazing group of dudes – but just like Rustic, they aren’t “crushes.” I look at them more like a rowdy, tattooed set of older brothers.

Feather embroidered gi from Fenom Kimonos
You might be a gremmie when your only Black Friday purchase is a sweet new gi from Fenom Kimonos.

So what’s all this have to do with laughing and learning? For anyone who’s read a fair chunk of my posts (either here or at All Around Dogs), you know that “Embrace the Awkward” is one of my philosophies towards learning. Learning a new skill feels awkward most of the time. Add on top of that that Jiu Jitsu is a close, full-body contact kind of sport… and the fact that I’ve never really been in any real physical altercations in my life… and it’s beyond strange sometimes. And while sometimes my awkwardness turns to self consciousness and trips me up, I try to leverage my gremmie/groupie tendencies and enjoy the fun that Jiu Jitsu has to offer.

My favorite training partners are the ones I laugh easily with – I can’t say if I learn more from them, but my gremmie is stoked to get rolling and my cheeks probably work as hard as some of my body parts from all the grinning. I laugh when I fall, I laugh when I screw up, I laugh when I get it right. Goodness knows I laugh at some of the descriptions they use while teaching – the crotch of your hand, spread your arms out like Titanic, and (I kid you not) if you can’t motorboat them then you’re doing something wrong.

I know I’m still in the honeymoon period with the sport, but I hope I never stop laughing while I learn. My goal would be to emulate one of my favorite instructors, Cole. He’s been doing this for a decade but still laughs and grins like a kid when he sees something click for a newbie or exclaims “That (move) is so sexy!” when he’s practicing a slick maneuver.

Today I received an automated email from “Jay” saying that they hadn’t seen me at the Academy in a while (It’s clearly written by someone other than Jay with it’s cheery language, exclamation points, and complete lack of profanity but it still gave me the right push). Between holidays and nagging colds, I haven’t been around much at all. Given the close contact nature of training, I’m trying to be cough/sneeze-free when I return to class, so I’m waiting longer than would if I were at a gym and could just wipe the equipment down after I used it. I was only in class about twice in December and I haven’t been yet this month. If my health cooperates, I’ll finally be in class this Wednesday. I can’t wait – I’m always up for a good laugh!

And, as a special groupie bonus, I’ll be participating in a Jay Jack Uncensored podcast recording before class!

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