BJJ Grrl

"Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically." ~Sensei Keiko Fukuda

Nine

Nine years ago, I was looking for something to supplement my tae kwon do. That same weekend, my dad just so happened to meet a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who was moving his school practically right in my lap. I showed on the first day of class in the new place, nearly passed out during the warmup, and was hooked. 

In those first few years, I lost weight, got in shape, started eating healthily, and trained like a maniac (usually 9 times/week, which was even more than the instructors!). Then the injuries started coming, and I was sidelined again and again with broken-down & busted joints. But I kept coming back for more. And then the slide started — my new job has doughnuts on Fridays and snacks the rest of the time; I didn’t have time to walk as much; I started buying less healthy food; and then I hurt more during BJJ, so I took more days off, down to 2 days/week at one point. I noticed the slide a while ago and started trying to make corrections, only to slip up as soon as someone waved a doughnut at me or when it was cold outside at 6am so I’d go back to sleep instead of going to morning class. My jiu-jitsu has slowed down to where I mostly feel like I have no idea what I’m doing; I feel slow and heavy and reactive. Yesterday I got on the scale, and I weigh as much as I did when I started.

But, that isn’t the end of this story. Yes, mistakes were made: I got lazy and complacent and expected everything to just coast along as it had been. I’m not the same person I was nine or even five years ago; my body isn’t quite the same body. I can’t just wish that it will all get better on its own, just like I can’t just expect people to fling their arms up for me to armbar (though they often do anyway, and I happily demonstrate why they should not do that). The biggest thing I need to change is my own mind and the patterns it has fallen in to, so I’m working on that guy. (The first real test will be this Friday when the doughnut box shows up again.) I will likely never be a 9 times/week fanatic again, but I know that I can still change myself in to a better me again. The one thing I have done right is that I haven’t given up on training entirely, even when I was training least; at some point, I still show back up, ready to roll.

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Five and sevens

Five black belts on the mat Saturday: the usual four of Tim (back from hip replacement surgery), Justin, Andrew, and Blake (our Philly transplant), and also Jeff, who was here for a while then moved to Florida and was up visiting us. You want some hard-working rounds? These guys are how you get hard-working rounds:


Blake, Jeff, Tim, Justin, Andrew

(I actually only missed rolling with Andrew, but he sits on me and crushes my soul frequently enough that it’s fine.)

Seven-minute rounds is the new game in town. Longest five minutes of my life every time. My brain is so conditioned to fives.

More new women have been showing up! I love it. The other night, Andrew made some comment about how tall the 14-year-old girl is getting, and she and I discovered that we are now exactly the same height at 5’2″ (well, okay, really we’re both 5’1.75″, but we both round up). She’s still all knees and elbows and overall tiny, but we really can’t go easy on her anymore, either.

End of Open Mat was the black belts sitting around trading techniques they’ve been playing with. I sat in on the group, and it very quickly turned into a “So, there’s this thing I was working on Leslie today…”, “Hey, I was working something on Leslie today…”, and “Oh, hey, me, too, let me show you what I worked on Leslie today.” Seems I was the grappling dummy of choice.

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Magic: The Gathering edition

I don’t play Magic, but my friend does; he doesn’t do jiu-jitsu, but I do (when I’m not slacking off). The other day he asked me something about BJJ class, and I started describing my playstyle (sit back, defend, and wait for an opening) vs. someone else’s playstyle (very aggressive, forward-driving, and manhandling you until you give them something). I also mentioned that my coach has been encouraging me to play more like the latter and says that I’m too passive.

My friend listened, then said that while he didn’t really follow, his best analogy to explain it to himself was like the three main types of Magic styles: aggro, midrange, and control, with my examples being the control and aggro styles.

And I had an epiphany — I don’t need to start playing “aggro” style when my coach says I’m too passive; I just need to bump it up to “midrange.” That is, it’s not a binary choice between “aggro” and “not aggro”; there are really three (maybe more) options, with an actual style in the middle of the two. I know I’ve tried to play in the middle, but I come in thinking the goal is eventually “aggro” style and that just doesn’t work for me. But if I look at it as playing a different style, neither aggro nor passive, maybe that will work better for my brain.

Right now my brain switches to a active, attacking-but-not-aggressive style I’d kinda like to keep around when I play against the better guys (the purples and browns in particular), but then goes back to a softer control style when I play against the women again. Boo, brain!

In injury news: I ripped off the entire toenail on my little toe. I didn’t even feel it; someone pointed it out after class. It doesn’t hurt, but my toe feels a little bereft. Feels weird! Right now I’m just keeping it clean and covered during the day; I skipped morning class today to give it some more initial healing time, but should be ready to jump back in by this weekend.

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These Ladies

Look at these goofballs. (And this is probably only half of the women who train here. Good things happening with women’s jiu-jitsu around here!)

On Saturday, Jen’s purple belt friend Margarita (she’s the one with her leg up in the front row) was in town, visiting from Georgia, and she taught the Women’s Class. She taught a variation on the foot-drag/knee-elbow mount escape that I usually do, which was good but also weird; I had to do it on my stupid side because my regular side kept doing it “wrong.” But her version should be good for when guys clamp their knee to the ground and my usual tricks don’t work.

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Free Psychic Reading: Armbars everywhere

A psychic place has opened in the building with our gym. Yesterday they put their sidewalk sign out in front of our door (theirs is the next storefront down, but the sign clearly pointed to us) advertising free psychic readings. We were joking around before class, and I said that my future would show lots of armbars.

Welp, I armbarred the stuffing out of folks last night.

Fundamentals class was all drilling: early-mount escapes (that is, escaping as they transition). Advanced class was 2-min round-robin rounds for 40 minutes. As more people came in, my group kept shifting. I seemed fixated on armbars to the point that I started feeling badly about doing so many and tried to diversify my submissions — but, likely in the spirit of Halloween, everyone kept handing out free arms, so I kept taking them.

Somewhere in there, someone slammed a knee down on my heel. It seems bruised now and does not like being stood on. Meh.

I stayed over into Open Mat to roll with Robert so I could balance out the mauling I did with taking a mauling of my own.

Almost a white belt again

When I walked in last week, Andrew and Robert both pointed at the shelves. I looked but didn’t see anything unusual. Then they pointed up. And sitting there on the top shelf (which I can’t even reach!) was my belt!

Andrew said they knew it was mine because I’m the only one with a “hippie” belt (from The Green Gi; I love this belt, btw, so soft). I don’t know how I managed to leave it on the previous Saturday — and how I didn’t notice when I emptied my bag at home later — but somehow I did. When I left class that night, I opened my bag to hold my belt, to make sure it was still there. I even held onto it last night, a week later, to make sure I still had it.

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