Groundhog Day

For a long time, I’ve felt stuck in my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice. I don’t have a sports background, and I’ve been out of shape for most of my life. Starting a tough combat sport at 30 is not for people looking for a fun way to spend $150 on pajamas you can’t sleep in. I’ve been training nearly 6 years, and I haven’t earned a stripe on my belt since September of 2014, and I like to say I spent 5 years on the bottom of side control. It was like Groundhog Day (the film), but with bruises and chipped teeth.

Last night, however, I think I broke through a long plateau. I’m trying to develop a more attack and pressure game, as opposed to just surviving and escaping. I was able to mount and take back control of 2 brown belts and a purple belt, and even work a little at setting up submissions. I wasn’t able to finish most of them-the buzzer rang right as I was finally transitioning to a finish with several training partners- but this is still a huge improvement for me, and I’ll take it. It’s only a step, but it’s progress.

I had a facebook conversation about bjj and depression. Bjj definitely helps, but depression makes everything more difficult, and bjj is no different. My mind often wanders during technique instruction, and when it’s time to drill, I’m in a fog. There are times in class where I’ve asked myself “why do I keep doing this to myself?”

I heard a quote on a podcast from a respected brown belt-“I’m not even sure if I like jiu jitsu, but it’s this or suicide.”

Find your “thing”, and a tribe with which to do it. Fiercely protect these things and the time you invest into them. Make sure it has a place in your goal setting.

In addition to bjj, writing is my thing. After I finish my short story collection and 2 nonfiction titles, I’m writing a graphic novel script. I’ve wanted to do it for YEARS, but have been intimidated to try. I have this momentum after getting my first book out, and I want to keep moving. Don’t let me forget. I have a loose idea what it will be about, but I’m trying the foolscap method, which uses minimal notes and pre-writing. I have a sneaking suspicion this will work better than the use-scrivener-like-a-serial-kiler-would method, which leads to overthinking and paralysis by analysis for me.

Life is too finite to stack up regrets. I’m going to keep moving, a step at a time.

 

Day 12: Fear And Loathing In Muay Thai

fear

 

Last night I coached kid’s jiu jitsu, then made my way across the dojo to the in-progress Muay Thai class, as I usually do on Tuesday and Thursday. The bags were all in use, and there was no one left to work pads with, so I stationed myself a the wall pad for the duration of class. It was sufficient for working strikes, except knees, which I quickly learned to throw in air.

After class, I sparred for the first time. I’ve never sparred striking before, except a little boxing a long time ago. I did 2 rounds, and got banged up  a little. My neck and feet are stiff, but that’s okay. We weren’t going hard, and I had gracious training partners who took it easy on the new old guy. I’ve wanted to spar for a while. During advanced class, I’d usually work combos on a heavy bag in the corner, staying out of the danger zone of the sparrers, in awe of the ease at which they stalked, parried, counterpunched. I knew one day it would be me, but I was afraid.

I was afraid I wasn’t ready, I was afraid of getting hit. I wasn’t worried about looking silly or making mistakes, but I was afraid of pain-which never came.

I knew when I woke up on Monday morning that I would spar that night. I was overthinking it-fear was the mind-killer. Overthinking and being in my head gets me in trouble in martial arts as well as the rest of life, doubting my choices and thinking self-condemning thoughts  when I screw up. Like T-Swift says, I gotta shake it off.

I did it, and it was no big deal. I put so much value in it, put it on a pedestal, and in the end it was a fun exercise between teammates. My fear was bigger than the threat, but it was my beast, and I slayed it. Maybe next I can focus on something more challenging, like not getting so worked up by other motorist’s inability to use turn signals, which is also typically not a big deal.

Five Years

I’ve had a lot of anniversaries lately- 14 years married, 10 years since my mother passed, and now I commemorate another.

April 15th marked 5 years since I started my Brazilian jiu jitsu journey.

I miss my old team at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in VA. I haven’t spent as much time on the mat as I’d have liked, and many of my old training partners have surpassed me in rank and skill. However, I’ve surpassed everyone who didn’t start. I know I’m progressing, and I’ve had classes lately where I was able to effectively impose my will and execute the techniques I had planned. If I keep training, I will learn more and have more hours of mat time. This will be a good thing. Westside Jiu Jitsu, where I’m currently training, is a great school, too. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive. My 6-year old, Stella, started training again, and she’s enjoying it.

My life has been enriched by jiu jitsu, as I’ve written before. I am confident this will continue to be a part of my life, and I will one day be a black belt.

So, cheers to five years. Sure, I wish it were ten, but I’m glad it’s not one year, or worse still, eventually.