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.
As I looked around the gym, I saw a lot of new stripes and some new colors on familiar faces. Maybe it’s the gremmie in me, but I felt proud to see how some of the guys had progressed – even though I couldn’t remember many of their names. I changed into my gi and watched some of the guys who were rolling before class. I danced to the tunes playing… then got shit for dancing when I missed part of warm ups signing in for class (hey, no one told me I had to redo all my release paperwork!). But being given shit is par for the course, an expected and even enjoyable part of my time at the gym.
After opting out of some pieces of the warm up and struggling with others, I got a little nervous when I saw that most of the class was newer white belts. My buddy Tony wasn’t there and I usually paired up with her or more experienced students/instructors. Much to my relief, my favorite instructor joined the class just as people were pairing up and we paired up with a hand slap and a bro hug. Along with being a great instructor, a brown belt, and a fellow gremmie, Cole is a nurse at a rehab facility. Want to feel safe your first class back after surgery? Take one of your favorite partners and add professional knowledge about your injury.
Also, want to get your ass thoroughly kicked on your first class back? Take a gremmie training partner, add professional knowledge… he knows you’re healed and he’ll push you to trust your leg without scaring the pants off you. And keep you moving so you don’t have time to think about it much – “And again. And another one. Now the other side.” Drill, drill, drill. Until you feel it, until your body starts to flow on its own (for a moment at least).
One of the aspects of BJJ that I love, besides forcing me to embrace the awkward, is that you have to get out of your brain and into your body… I can overthink like nobody’s business. If they had a tournament for overthinking, I might take gold. But BJJ doesn’t really allow that. I may get flustered and start thinking too much about the steps but at some point, you’ve got to feel rather than think. The first time I flipped him, I brought him down right into my knee. It startled me more than it hurt. But moments right before it happened, was I thinking “Should I watch my leg?” No. I didn’t have the time or attention to think about my leg. There is only so long you can float a guy before you have to put him down – or throw him down. When I hit that pivot point, I committed to the forward motion and over he went. Laughing, of course.
I’ve now been to 3 classes. I’m still seeing new (to me) faces, still getting back into the swing of things. There are parts of the warm up where I can feel that I’m weak or I don’t trust myself to make the maneuver. I get tired more easily than I did back in January. I haven’t stayed for open grappling yet – not quite ready to roll. But it’s coming back. Faster than I expected in some ways.
And it feels so good to be bruised.