Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Belts for All!

When you run a dojo, there are a lot of things you have to think about. What classes you are going to offer. How much you are going to charge for tuition. What to do about that slowly leaking pipe that is directly above the mens changing room. (Seriously, can someone come and fix that!) What color gis should everyone wear. And if your students wear gis, they probably wear belts. And if they wear belts, you are probably going to have to figure out how and when to give them said belts. Which means some kind of promotion. 

I have promotion on my mind right now. We just planned a big kids one at our dojo for early October. In mid October, our style promotes black belts, for which we currently have 4 candidates. My BJJ school is promoting students tomorrow. All of that adds up to a lot of pieces of colored cloth.

There are many different ways to do belt promotions, and since I have been involved in multiple arts with gis over the years, I have witnessed a bunch of them.
  1. The promotion "exam". This is what most karate schools do. There is a specific day set aside for promotion and students are asked to come and participate in a special class where they demonstrate adequate knowledge of their required syllabus. Often this day includes a physical challenge as well, like multiple pushups. Sometimes sparring is required, and occasionally there is even a written test. When it is all over, you are rewarded with a new belt or stripe. Attendance at this testing day is usually by invitation only, and students rarely fail because they are only asked to go for promotion when their instructor feels they are ready. The good thing about this kind of promotion is that you always know when it is your turn to go. Also, the expectations are very clear. There is a syllabus for every rank and in some schools, a required amount of time and classes for each level. Students receive an invitation to attend promotion so there is never any confusion. Everyone who attends receives a new belt, no one feels left out. Since knowledge is required, however, it can sometimes take students who learn slowly a long time to get to their next level, which can be frustrating.
  2. The ceremony. Like the exam day, students are invited to attend this promotion but there is no testing portion. Often there is a giant class which everyone is welcome to attend, even those people who are not getting a new belt. At the end of the class, belts are awarded. Sometimes your progress is based purely on class numbers; other times it is more subjective, but either way you receive a letter ahead of time so you know you are receiving new rank that day. I have seen a few BJJ schools that promote this way. The ceremony feel makes for a fun event, however, some practitioners feel that the class counting method allows for less skilled students to achieve rank that they do not "deserve". 
  3. The "surprise" promotion day. My BJJ school does this. There is a specific day set aside for promotion, but no one knows ahead of time if they are receiving a new belt. Everyone in the school is invited to attend, and students are forced to guess if it is "their night" based on how they are doing in class, how long it has been since their last promotion, who got promoted last time, and anything else they can think of. (Does my instructor like my hair today???) There is no physical portion, although after new belts are tied on there is often an open mat where everyone trains together. Some schools do a form of "gauntlet" where you have to roll with everyone there, or a "belt whipping", which is what it sounds like and is, in my opinion, stupid and more than slightly offensive. The surprise promotion is very exciting but makes for some hurt feelings when students wrongfully thought they were getting a belt. There is also no chance to invite friends and family who might want to see you receive your rank, since you are never certain and no one wants that awkward moment. ("Thanks so much for coming grandma! I am sorry it wasn't my turn tonight. Can you leave the senior center again in 3 months?") 
  4. The surprise belt on a random day when you are least expecting it. This one is notorious in BJJ. You are rolling with your teacher and you are so busy defending the triangle choke that you do not notice he has replaced your blue belt with a purple one. (Thank you You Tube!) You just won the absolute division and on the podium are awarded both a shiny trophy and a brand new belt. Right before showing the move of the day, your teacher pulls a belt out of his gi and calls some shocked student forward. This method is really cool, except for those students who hate surprises. It it also torture to those of you who are obsessed with knowing where you are in the lineup, since on any given day someone could suddenly be awarded new rank. I am not sure what criteria teachers use to determine who they award belts to, but I imagine it is mostly based on class performance. 
These are the ones I have seen the most, but I am sure there are other ways to award students with new rank. In my opinion, it does not matter which one your school chooses, so long as it is a positive experience that makes students feel good. The only problem I see is when promotions are too stressful (ie: teachers are so tough on everyone they become insulting), or are used as excuses to reward only the top students while making others feel like they are being picked last for teams in gym class. New belts should be a reward for hard work, time put in, mental and physical effort. In other words, skill and sweat. 

Speaking of, it is time for me to go roll around on some mats!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lincoln Tunnel

A little over a week ago we went to the NY Renaissance Faire. (Yes I insist on spelling it that way. Their website spells it that way. It is correct. Lofty, obnoxiously correct.) We had a great time watching knife throwing and jousting, eating overpriced fried foods, and enjoying the scripted antics of people dressed up like Shakespeare. On the way home, I did what I always do on car trips, obsessively checked Google maps for the most efficient, traffic-free route home. 

There are many ways to commute from Tuxedo Park, NY to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All of them involve a bridge or tunnel of some sort, most of them through the fine state of New Jersey. Since I am a tad claustrophobic, if given a choice, I would always prefer a bridge. If it is New Jersey, I would prefer anything but the Lincoln Tunnel. Why such prejudice you ask? What difference does it make? 

It doesn't really. Only to me. I have some weird travel quirks.

In case you have never had the pleasure of this particular commute, here is a picture of the road that leads up to the Lincoln Tunnel.  It is called the Helix. 

Fancy, isn't it?
And here is a picture of the Helix during rush hour:

So, to recap, it is a long windy elevated road, full of slowly crawling traffic, with no exits, that leads to a hole underneath the Hudson river. 

All other New Jersey crossing have escape hatches. The Holland Tunnel has a bunch of gas stations leading up to the toll plaza where you can jump out of the misery for a moment to pee and grab some Twizzlers. The GWB has a few last minute exits. (Beautiful, beautiful Fort Lee!) Not so with the Helix. Once you are on that road you are on it until you die. Or at the very least, a truly painful half hour that you are never going to get back.

On this particular journey, Google Maps said there was an accident on the GWB so I told my trusty phone to navigate us elsewhere, into the Bronx, over some other bridge, far, far away from the evil clutches of the Lincoln Tunnel.

So there we were. On route 17. On another highway. On the Turnpike. On a road that...wait a minute...this road only goes to two places. Suburban Jersey. And...


It seems that after all my careful searching and refreshing and obsessing we ended up exactly in the spot I was trying to avoid: on the Helix.

Matthew just laughed at me. All roads are the same to him. And, in the midst of my frustration, I had to laugh too. What an absolute navigational failure.

In the end, it was ok. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and traffic was pretty light. And, I got a very important life lesson out of it. A metaphor, if you will. 

I am one of those people who likes to plan for everything. You may call me neurotic; I like to think of myself as the ultimate boy scout. I am always prepared. Before I board the subway I make sure I have water, a snack, a pack of gum, some Advil, some Pepto Bismol, a book, a sweater, a machete and two sticks to rub together in case I need I start a fire. Ok, I am exaggerating. But only slightly.

Sometimes, however, shit happens anyway! God I hate it when that happens! How dare things break down! How dare people get sick! How dare the clouds produce rain! How dare you crash your car on the road where I was just driving, the road that Google Maps told me was completely traffic free! 

How dare things happen that I cannot control!
Like, um, almost everything!

Its almost as if no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you obsess and worry, sometimes you just end up in the Lincoln Tunnel anyway!!

But here's the thing about that. Even during 9am rush hour, you get out of New Jersey eventually, right? I mean, it may feel like forever. But really, it is just a teeny tiny fraction of the whole big timeline that is your life. So you can kick and scream and honk your horn and in a few hours it will all be over. Or you can exhale, turn up the radio, smile and eat some Twizzlers, and in a few hours it will all be over. 

I generally do the first thing. (I am really good at kicking.) But I am trying to learn how to do the second.

Wishing you all stress free commuting this week.
Now, off the the L train....


Yeah, about that.....

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I don't really believe in a higher power, certainly not the way most people do. I do not go to church on Sundays, or say my prayers when I lay me down to sleep. All the holidays that my family is inclined to celebrate tend to center around the same important tradition: food. 

Yet this past week, I found myself waking up in a strange bed every morning, with my first thought being "Thank you God." 

This week was our annual trip to Long Beach Island, the cozy little beach town on the Jersey Shore that we go to every summer. It is a slowly meandering vacation. There is the occasional bike ride, or drive to the amusement park down the road, but for the most part it is just pure lazy beach time. A typical day involves drinking coffee on the porch, followed by dragging far too much gear (beach chairs, boogie boards, umbrella for shade breaks, snacks, towels, more snacks, that book you can't stop reading) down the street to claim a spot on the sand before the lifeguards set up their stations. Then there is a morning swim. Some conversation, catching up with family. You try to read but keep getting distracted by all the talking. At some point the ice cream vendor appears to ring his bell like the Pied Piper. You negotiate the ice cream rules. (Maya gets one per day, whenever she wants it.) You go back to the house for lunch. You take a nap. You go back to the beach. You go back to the house for dinner. You have a glass of wine on the porch. That cool cousin who loves to braid does some fancy crown-like thing to your hair. You play some cards which is really just an excuse to giggle a lot and make fun of your cousins. You go to bed. There is a lot of sand in there. You wake up and do it all over again. 

Of course, not every LBI trip has been so blissful. There was that year when Maya was two and would not let me leave her sight for a minute without screaming her head off. No napping that summer. ("Mama! Mama! Want mama!"MAMAMAMAAAAAAAA!") There were the weeks where it rained half the time and suddenly all those nice conversations started to feel more like being  trapped inside a crowded elevator with a bunch of people who would not stop asking questions. 

And then there was last summer. The summer of pain.

Dramatic, I know. But when I woke up every morning this week, my first thought was "Thank you God. Thank you for allowing me to get out of bed so easily. Thank you for letting me make my eggs and bacon without a splitting headache. Thank you for allowing me to sit on a beach chair for more than five minutes without grimacing. Thank you for another pain free day here at the shore."

Last year I had injured my neck and shoulder exactly two days prior to leaving for LBI and spent the entire week alternating between lying flat on my back on the floor and wrapping myself in a heating pad/ice pack. No position was comfortable for more then a few minutes. There were some nice moments in the water with Maya, and a few evenings where the wine took the edge off enough to enjoy the view. But mostly, it just sucked. And I did not realize exactly how much it sucked until I had this year to compare it to. 

Should I have been able to ignore my discomfort and enjoy my vacation? Yes, absolutely. I was not the only family member in pain that summer. In fact, every year someone is dealing with something, an injury, an illness, an emotional struggle. Most of these people manage to suck it up and enjoy the beach anyway. 

Or perhaps they just had a better poker face than I did.

But hey, there is nothing like a crappy vacation to make you really, really appreciate a good one, right?

So thank you universe. Thank you for this wonderful week with the family. It was one of the best ones in a long time. I even enjoyed the noisy arcade. (Almost. I almost enjoyed it. Although what I was thinking going on that nauseating roller coaster I will never know!) Thank you for beautiful sunny skies and cool, foamy waves. Thank you for Maya, who learned new card games, and how to boogie board and how to cross streets with her cousins. (Look for cars, goddamn it, look for CARS!) Thank you for morning conversations in the kitchen and afternoon conversations on the sand. Thank you for Oreos. Thank you for the ice cream truck. Thank you for fishtail braids (that I still cannot do) and good books and long walks collecting shells. Thank you for gross, farty little boys. Thank you for husbands and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and family friends and that one poor person on the beach whose choice of bathing suit causes hours of cruel entertainment. Thank you for coffee. Thank you for comfort. Thank you for a traffic free ride down the Garden State towards home. Thank you for the sand on my living room floor. Thank you for the sand in my daughter's hair that won't wash out until some time after Labor Day.

And so on. I'm feeling grateful.
You get the picture.

Happy end of summer everyone.
Bring on the second grade!

(For Maya. I already completed second grade.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ladies Night

Tonight my husband had dinner plans with friends, so I went out for a "ladies night" with my daughter. We went to this new Italian place that was two blocks away from our house where I ordered a glass of wine and she made rubber band bracelets. We shared some pasta and watched the streets of Brooklyn through our window. It was nice.

At one point I looked across the table at my dinner companion and smiled. She looked tired. Last night was my birthday and Maya spent it at my parents house, a place that is like a second home to her, where she happily watches more tv, eats more sweets, and stays up later than she is allowed to at home. Which is all fine. That is what grandparents are for.

Also, she looked kind of dirty. We went to the playground this morning and it did not occur to me to change her clothes or brush her hair before dinner.  Summer vacation and all.

But suddenly, in that moment, I saw what the other patrons of the restaurant probably saw, those who do not have six year olds, or perhaps the ones who left theirs home with the babysitter so they could have an "adult" dinner. A little girl with wild hair and tomato sauce on her face. Her dress was too big in a way that every few minutes on strap would fall down her arm leaving her torso half naked. And despite my daughter possessing two perfectly functioning opposable thumbs that can hold a fork like a pro, she was eating her pasta with her fingers. And singing. To herself. Like, well, like a crazy person.

But that's not what I saw.

I saw hair that was wind blown and tangled from a joyful early afternoon sprinkler romp. I saw eyes that had the glazed over look of one who is a few hours short on sleep, but knows it was well worth it.  I saw a child who liked her pasta so much that she did not have the patience to bother with such pedestrian things as utensils and napkins. I saw a little girl who was so wrapped up in her own imaginary game of rubber band people and magical songs that she did not give a crap who heard her. (For what it was worth, it was only me, she was singing very quietly.)

I saw all this, and I sipped my wine, and ate my fettuccine and loved her so fiercely I thought my heart might explode right out of my chest.

Which, incidentally, would make an even bigger mess than the meat sauce.
I''m just saying.

She also spoke politely to the waitress when the woman asked her what she was making with all those rubber bands. She apologized when she knocked an entire glass of water across the table and into my lap. She said goodbye when we left and carried the little plastic box with her leftover pasta all the way to our kitchen counter.

She does a million other things too, every day, things that are brave and kind and smart and silly, and just totally,  totally awesome, things that are so much more important than the tomato sauce on her face and the knots in her hair.

Still, when we got home I made her take a bath.
Cause awesome or not, she is looking kind of dirty.

Despite how this photo might look, she is not actually one of the orphans from Annie.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kyoshi Problems

Yesterday was one of those days. Not a terrible day, mind you, just a terribly mediocre one, full of bad choices and things that did not go the way I wanted them to. I blame my breakfast. I had cereal. Bad choice! I'm normally an eggs and bacon person. You have to start things off correctly or there is no telling what could happen!

Maya and I followed Matthew to his noontime jiu-jitsu class. Whenever we go there we eat lunch at the same Brooklyn diner, a tiny hole in the wall called L&D Luncheonette, that is the most Brooklyn place in all of Brooklyn. (And I use to LIVE in BAY RIDGE so that is saying a lot!) They specialize in greasy things made in the deep fryer (even my sausages were made in there!) and silver dollar pancakes and tuna melts and black & white shakes where they give you the extra mixture in a frosty silver cup. The women who work there are all long nails and big hair and twangy Long Island voices. They call Maya "honey", know everyone who lives on the block and know exactly how to make Vinnie's burger and how Tony likes his coffee. Yeah, its that kind of place. Whenever I eat there I usually order a perfectly respectable chicken wrap but for some reason this time I opted for a plate of greasy eggs with home fries and sausage instead. 

My stomach was not too pleased with me. For hours.

My classes at the dojo were similarly disappointing. I had 16 kids in my second class. Three of them were brand new. They did great. Out of the other 13 kids, exactly 4 of them were actually paying attention. Normally when I have a group like that I immediately scrap anything I had planned on teaching and invent some brilliant game instead, one that somehow combines karate moves with Buddha-like meditation. Suddenly they are completely focused without ever knowing how they got there. (I am a karate teaching wizard! Like Gandalf, only with spin kicks.)

But not yesterday. Yesterday we did some mediocre katas, I yelled a bit, and then we all went home.

Again I blame my breakfast.

Also, there were the shoes. Maya needed new shoes. So on Monday we went to the store and I let her pick out these pink sparkly things that proceeded to rip half of the skin off of her heels. Since my child is nothing if not persistent, she wanted to wear them again in order to "break them in better." After wrapping her foot in no fewer than six Band-Aids, I then allowed her to hobble around all day, in theory "breaking in" these awful shoes. Finally, while we were walking to grandmas house around 6:00 last night, Maya turns to me and says, "We should get some socks." 

She is a genius that one. At no point during the two days of watching my daughter stubbornly limp around did it occur to me to put socks on her feet. Because that is the kind of spectacular mom I am. Also, I had cereal for breakfast.

After a quick trip to CVS for new socks (Genius!) , and dinner at my parents house, I was on my way back to the dojo, ready to disappear into training for an hour. Or at least that was the thought I had while walking up Broadway. I was frustrated and cranky. My stomach still hurt from the deep fried sausages. (Why???) I just wanted to punch and kick things for an hour. Preferably in the back of the room. Anonymously.

When I was a lower belt coming up through the karate ranks, I often went to the dojo to relieve stress. And except for the casual pre-class small talk with other students, and the occasional correction from my teacher, I could usually disappear into the crowd and completely lose myself in the joy of hard training.

This task is a little more difficult now. The dojo floor where I punch and kick is my own, and therefore I cannot help but look up whenever the phone rings or someone comes in the door to ask questions. Everyone in the room is a friend of mine. Which means that even on my worst day, I cannot help but smile when I see them. I cannot avoid conversation. In fact, the minute I enter the womens changing room, I often forget that I wanted to be alone in the first place. Its hard to stay angry in a place where everyone knows your name. Remember Cheers? No one is ever angry in that bar. (Ok, so I've never actually watched Cheers. But I know what the theme song is about. No follow up questions please.)

Also, my husband is the teacher here. He's seen me give birth. (TMI? Sorry.) Although, to his credit, he does a miraculous job of treating me just like everyone else. (Yeah, I totally messed up that bo kata last night. And no, he did not let it slide.) 

And lets face it, it looks a little weird if the highest ranking person in the room, the co-owner of the dojo in fact, is stretching in the corner by herself with a bitchy look on her face. When there are three black belts in class who are still learning their katas, it is not very friendly for the person who they are following to go all super aggro and speedy so there is no way anyone can keep up. 

In other words, having a "me party" in a class of 15 is a tad obnoxious. Besides, that is what we have a heavy bag for.

And the truth is, I only thought that I needed to punch in the back of the room with my angry tournament face on. Once I got on the floor I realized that what I really needed was to mess up an easy combination alongside a woman who I have known since I was 13, laugh at myself, fix my hands and move on. What I really needed was to have Kyoshi Matthew correct the form of my pushups when I got a little lazy. (Never lets me get away with anything, that one!) What I really needed was to be the only one who got the first move of the kata perfect (I am KYOSHI Jennifer!) and then turn around and help the others get there too. And so on. 

I also needed to have ordered a chicken wrap for lunch. 
And to have remembered the socks.
And to have made those kids punch pads instead.

And perhaps a glass of wine.
Mediocre wine, of course.

Because nobody's perfect.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Communications Blackout

When I was a young pre-teen in the 1980's, I desperately wanted to attend Space Camp. Not because I was a science buff but because I wanted to be Catherine (Lea Thompson), a tough but beautiful gal who not only gets to fly the space shuttle home after it "accidentally" gets launched into space, but also gets the cute but obnoxious guy with the bad teeth. Confused? Then you never saw Space Camp. 
What brilliance! What genius! This movie had it all. Romance. Adventure. An unfulfilled dream. The ditsy blond who ends up actually being smart. The token black guy. The little boy who feels left out and bullied but eventually finds his place in the world. A talking robot friend. Outer space! Danger! 

Just think of how excited I was when I learned that Space Camp was a real place! Only it turns out that it is really just science camp. Astronaut themed science camp, but still just science camp. Also it is really expensive. And no one ever gets launched into space by a little robot named Jinx. (Can you say lawsuit??)

In a very dramatic moment towards the end of the movie, when Lea Thompson's character is struggling to keep the joystick thingy steady so the shuttle can re-enter Earth's atmosphere without burning up, they experience a "communications blackout". Suddenly, Mission Control can no longer talk to the shuttle! The camera switches away from the anxious teenagers inside, to the anxious dudes at NASA who are waiting to hear if the shuttle made it. "Atlantis, this is Control, do you copy? Atlantis, this is Control, do you copy?"

"_ _ _"

"Copy that Control, this is Atlantis!"
Good job Catherine.

While I admit that the premise of Space Camp the Movie is somewhat dubious, communications blackout is a real phenomenon.  From Wikipedia: "The communications blackouts that affect spacecraft re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.. are caused by an envelope of ionized air around the craft, created by the heat from the compression of the atmosphere by the craft. The ionized air interferes with radio signals. For the MercuryGemini, and Apollo spacecraft, such communications blackouts lasted for several minutes. Gemini 2, for example, endured such a blackout for four minutes, beginning at 9 minutes 5 seconds into the flight."

So there you go. 

This Monday, we begin summer camp at the dojo; an annual ritual for us that includes twice daily karate classes, sports and water fights in the park, cute art projects like homemade backpacks and rubber band bracelets, and exciting activities like board breaking and indoor ball games. (Dodgeball. No matter how many choices I offer them, they always pick dodgeball.) July is the only part of the year where I have a "real job": 9-3, Monday - Friday, followed by my normal afternoon classes. 

I do not write anything during these two weeks. I do not do much in the way of training. I am terribly anti-social. I plan activities and I sleep. When I remember, I eat stuff.

Here are Adri and I at the end of last years summer's camp:

It is not a set shot, we really were that exhausted.

Of course this year will be different. We have less kids for one. And, for the first time ever, the dojo has air conditioning. 
Last year, during the second week of camp, NYC had a heat wave. It was 102 degrees outside. I am not exaggerating, go Google it if you don't believe me. It was 102 degrees outside, which meant it was 101 in the dojo. (Fans, We had fans.) Matthew filled a bucket with ice water and some towels and the kids walked around with their heads wrapped like the dojo was the trauma center in some old war movie. We stuck an AC in the women's changing room, threw some Legos in there, and called it the "cool room".

Camp was a huge success anyway. The kids had a fantastic time. I was the only one who was completely stressed out, constantly chasing them around with cups of water: "DRINK this! Drink it or you'll DIE!!". 

Barring an accidental space shuttle launch, I predict this year's camp will be a bit easier.

Still, do not expect much from me for the rest of the month, except a few half-assed Facebook posts and the occasional photo of some cute kids grappling.

Communication blackout.

You can do it Catherine!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Day I Quit Jiu-Jitsu

Tuesday was graduation day, my last scheduled session of physical therapy. That does not mean I am all better. I still have to continue doing the exercises on my own in order to make a full recovery, and more importantly to ensure that I do not re-injure myself. I just no longer need to do them in her office. 

In general I am a gym-hater, but I adored physical therapy! I loved the predictability of my twice a week appointments, which started with a bunch of neck and shoulder strengthening and ended with some spinal manipulation and a trigger point message. I loved chatting with my therapist, who is named Alyssa and is awesome! I even learned to love those stupid chin tucks.

At the end of my session yesterday, Alyssa showed me a model of the cervical spine and explained again exactly what a herniated disc is. (For more detail feel free to review my previous "jelly donut" post.) She told me what to do if I started to feel pain again. She signed off on my return to grappling, provided I promised to be careful. When she asked me how I felt about being done with her I stuck out my tongue like a pouty five year old.

"I feel like the minute I walk out of this gym my head is going to fall right off my shoulders."

I know that it is not Alyssa at Equinox that has made my neck improve. Or at least, it is not any kind of magic in her fingers; rather, it is simply her series of exercises (all of which I can do on my own) and time, that have helped me. But I still feel cut loose, afraid of my freedom, drifting around randomly in the ocean of neck cranks and triangle chokes. 

In other words, if it were free, I think I would go to PT forever.

I injured myself some time around early-April, right after my husband tore some rib cartilage. He was out of class for a week and a half.  I went back to BJJ last week. This comparison does not matter really; I am not competing with him for who can recover from injury faster. It is just one piece of the story.

Some time in early June, Matthew came home from BJJ all excited. He had had a great class, one where he really felt in control. All his movements felt smooth and strong. Oh, and there was that one tap he got on a black belt! That was kind of cool too.

About halfway through his story I realized that I was only half listening. The other half was stomping around, throwing a toddlerish tantrum that, if it were real, would have sounded something like this: "I WAAAAANT TO GOOOOOOO TO JIU-JIIIITSUUUUUU!"

Over the next week or so, whenever the subject of training came up, I would feel angry. I started making up reasons to hate my BJJ school. I complained that no one had called me to see how I was doing. (True, but there were multiple Facebook conversations.) I berated my teachers for not being more involved in the rolling part of class. (A fact which had nothing to do with me getting hurt.) I made fun of all the new spazzy white belts. (Well...yeah...some of them are kind of spazzy...) I worried that I would never be able to train without re-injuring my neck. I hated everyone who did jiu-jitsu and it was on the tip of my tongue to ask my husband to please stop telling me his BJJ success stories.

Then, I quit.

I do not mean that I called my school and told them I would not be returning. But in my mind, I went from being a BJJ student, to not being one. Now I did not care how many black belts Matthew tapped, I was done with all that. Clearly this martial art was not for me anymore.  And it was fine. I still had karate. Maybe I would find something else to do with my weekdays. Tai chi perhaps. Or Nia, whatever that is.

A week or two later, I had a dream. I dreamed I was rolling with this brown belt I know, and suddenly, in the middle of the round, I caught him in a cross collar choke and he tapped. I tapped a brown belt! 

I woke up feeling restless. It was a Thursday. My neck felt fine. In truth, it had been feeling much better in general. On Facebook, I chatted with two of my favorite training partners, our usual "Are you going to class today?" conversation. I stuck my gi in my bag. At 12:05 I was on the mats working on spider guard.

It was only some slow drills. But I woke up that Thursday morning with the sudden realization that if I did not go back very soon, I may be done with BJJ forever. And I guess, I was not ready to quit yet. So I went to class instead.

It is rare that a martial artist stops training all of the sudden, by throwing their belt on the ground and storming out the door. Usually, it goes something like this: Work gets busy, you miss class. Your kid gets sick, you miss class. You hurt yourself, you miss a few classes. Now you can't remember your new katas. You miss another class feeling embarrassed that you have forgotten everything. You have gained five pounds. You hate that. You miss a few more classes. You go on a mini vacation with the money you did not spend on classes that month. You eat too much on vacation and feel bad. You go to one class. Then you get busy with work again. A month has gone by. Then two. Before you know it, you have been gone so long that it feels weird to come back. So you don't. Slowly, without really meaning to, you have stopped training. 

I don't think most people are aware of a tipping point, a moment when they can either choose one road or the other. Often there isn't one. In fact, it is only in retrospect, that I realize how close I was to quitting jiu-jitsu. That does not mean I would not have returned to class in 6 months, after realizing how much I missed it. All I know is that I was on that ledge for awhile. And now I am not. For now, anyway.

I went to class twice this week, and yesterday I did my first round of careful rolling. It was awesome!  Scary, but awesome. Of course, there is always the possibility that I will hurt myself again. But there is also the possibility that I will discover a whole new rolling style, one that is fluid and smart and allows me to completely control every aspect of every round. It is most likely somewhere in the middle. But that is the nice thing about long term training; you can always evolve. You are always re-inventing yourself. 

For now, I am just happy to be on the mats again.

Happy 4th of July. 
Go eat some grass-fed, free range hot dogs.
And try not to blow up your fingers. You need them for cross-collar grips.