I have been training in BJJ – Brazilian Jujitsu – for about six months now. Let me tell you how difficult this was to undertake, but how rewarding it has become.
It started with self-defense. My para-military-safety-personal-protection-expert-friend trained me in firearms. I have very much appreciated the confidence he has bestowed upon me, and the skills I have learned. I am licensed in multiple states to carry a gun and am a competent handler of my firearms. Thanks, Sparky!
However, I realized that there are situations in general, let alone on the road, that I probably would not or could not have a gun at the ready. When I am out at a bar, when I am fussing around camp, at most jobs, even times that I am in my sleeping bag while at camp. I mean, what if the gun is not right there or I cannot get to it? In my opinion a firearm is a great way to protect myself, but, I felt like I needed other options. Besides, a gun can also be taken away, malfunction, or be dropped. I felt like I needed more.
I had seen signs around town advertising the name and phone number for self-defense and martial arts classes. I looked up the information on-line and the place was located right downtown. Easy enough to stop in on my way home from work and check it out. Self-defense would account for not having a weapon handy, and maybe teach me how to disarm an attacker and protect myself. This felt like the right direction. It did take me some days to get up the courage to actually stop in. I mean, it is a little intimidating as I knew not one thing about self-defense or martial arts or any of the classes they advertised. I thought about it, contemplated, and finally talked myself into taking that first step. I decided to stop in one evening after work.
The day had come and I left work as usual. I took the detour through town for a visit. It was a small little doorway I had not really noticed before, sandwiched between several other businesses I had never really notice before. I opened the door and there were classes happening. It was Capoeira, as I now know, in the front and some martial arts looking thing in the back. I am sure I had that look on my face like someone who did not know what was happening. Thankfully, an instructor saw me and intervened. She was warm and welcoming and attentive. I told her I was looking for self-defense classes and she introduced me to another instructor. He was in a gi, so I assumed he was the martial arts person. He was tall and lanky, with a warm smile and calm disposition. He explained some options to me and I agreed to come to a class. He was encouraging and excited for me. It was a jujitsu class and not exactly self-defense. OK, I was game to start somewhere.
Even before the class, I asked a lot of questions. What to wear? How to prepare? Will I fit in? I am in pretty good shape overall. Yeah, I carry a few extra pounds, but I am healthy and strong and maintain a pretty decent standard of fitness. In my work out clothes I went to the BJJ class. HA and Holy Shit! While the instructor was supportive and encouraging, these behemoth men were not having it. I listened to all of them tout the years of experience they had with multiple martial arts, while I literally only had minutes of exposure. I played along and did as I was told. The poor bastard who was paired with me got frustrated and did not have a great time as I bumbled along. Grab here, hold there, flip about. I was asking my body to do things it has not done in years, or ever, and to do things with a man that usually involved at least a couple drinks and dinner.
When it was over, I decided that was not for me. I emailed the instructor and said that was way above my head. I did think I was on the right track, but I needed a better starting point. Private lessons were the answer. Predominately self-defense, with a little BJJ thrown in for shits and giggles. Private lessons would give me more of the “protect myself at any cost” vibe, and give me a chance to get caught up to even the beginning level of most class participants. Though not exactly cheap, these lessons were an investment in my safety and feeling of security. I signed up for eight lessons, which was the recommended amount to build skill and retention. I had the option for more if wanted.
We got started and eventually my body began to respond. What was once strange and foreign movement began to feel more comfortable, sometimes even natural. I got increasingly accustomed to the contact, the physicality, and my body moving in these strange, yet powerful, new ways. The instructor was patient, supportive and complimentary. With his bidding, I went back to class. I was now combining classes with the private lessons. This was the perfect mix for me. Fortunately, the Cro-Magnon men from class had moved on. This new group was younger and more diverse. The class was not as bad as that first one and I was able to carry forward some of what I was learning in self-defense, adding techniques we learned in class.
Despite my ongoing awkwardness, something about BJJ really appealed to me so I kept going. I learned that my size, age and physical strength do not have to limit my ability to protect myself and, when needed, I can cause harm. I mean, that is not the goal, but damn it feels good to know I can incapacitate an attacker or choke out a douche’ bag. I kept up with the lessons for another round and kept going to class.
I must say I have had my frustrations and my hurdles. First, most of the guys do not want to train with me. I am sure it is both my age and my gender, or it could even be my lack of experience. But, I think mostly the gender. Yes, it is strange at first to be rolling around on the floor in intimate contact with strange bodies of the opposite sex. But, once you get into it, once I am working to not give in, that goes out the window. Well, until you get a nut sack in your face or they get a boob in theirs. Such is life. There was one time that I was literally standing there all alone as not one of those bastards would train with me. Fortunately, I met a couple great guys who are OK with me and we can train just fine. Well, I am also new, which can frustrate those with more experience. OK, truth be told, I am probably older than their parents!! I bring the trifecta – older, woman, with less experience. I get it. Now, get over it.
Also, and while it has been fun overall, I have been hurt. I had a bone bruise on my leg and I hurt my ribs. Those put me out a couple weeks each time and had me hobbling around a bit. Normally, I just walk away bruised and sore. Well, more sore the next day, but sore just the same. Those two injuries had me at the doctor making sure nothing was broken. I encourage these men to treat me equally, but realize I do not have their strength. I mean, come on, it does me no good to be babied during training when in the real world I have to know what it feels like to grapple with a potentially heavier, stronger opponent. I push myself because I know it will pay off, but I also enjoy the challenge. Just don’t break anything!
Over the last few months I have continued to bumble along in class and stopped the private lessons. I do not always know what I am doing, but I hang in there and keep at it. Even if I do it wrong, I am at least doing it. I feel like I have been given one million bits of information and I can maybe string together three pieces. However, my confidence and ability continues to grow. In order to up my game and fit in at various training events and academies, I recently purchased a ghi. My goal is to train while I am on my journey, hitting various campus and gyms, and I want to at least be in the standard uniform. I read that some places require it and I really want to stay with this. Now I sport the standard white ghi with the accompanying white belt. I feel like the Michelin Man and I am pretty sure the “new” white can be seen from space. Such is the life of a beginner, baby!
I am writing all of this because recently, and only recently, it has started to come together. When rolling (their term for sparring or practicing), I actually had moves and even got one of these youngsters to tap out. Just like on TV, when you feel yourself getting hurt, you stop. Who, me, an actual adversary??? Ha!! Man, that felt really good. I may not have the technique quite yet or the names for all the moves, and maybe I can only pull off one move at a time, but when the dude is breathing hard and sweating because I would not tap out or he could not get me pinned and I am barely breathing hard, well that is a thing I am proud of. I have actually been able to get the advantage, hang in there, and give these guys a challenge. Did not see that coming did you? Not gunna lie, that feels good.
This achievement makes me feel proud, confident and strong. Not only physically strong, but emotionally strong, less vulnerable and less afraid. Wow, I can actually do this! It feels good. I also know enough to help others learn, as in I let them do the moves on me and do not always resist. That helps me, too. This sport is pushing my body and my mind in new and different ways. Me as a person is being pushed into uncharted territory. I like the physicality of it, I like the mental part of it, and I feel I have more tools to draw upon should I ever need. A good class leaves me feeling energized, strong, and more aligned with myself. It also leaves a huge smile on my face. This agrees with me, this sparks confidence, this stimulates my body and my mind. This is good.
Cheers to finding your strength!