Saturday, August 29, 2015

If You're Not in Pain, You're Doing it Wrong

It has been awhile, people. I would love to tell you that I have been traveling the world but if you know me you know there is no way that is true. To be honest, I have just been kind of lazy with writing lately. I guess I haven't been inspired. 

Not to worry, it was only a matter of time before someone posted something on Facebook that was worthy of my ranting. (Shockingly, Donald Trump's mere existence was not good enough.)

This morning, it was "Don't Be a Pussy" martial arts guy.

That is not his real name.

But you all know him.

"Don't Be a Pussy" martial arts guy has a very recognizable persona. But just in case you are not sure, here are some of his distinguishing features:


  • Posts only memes that have to do with "hard training" and "real martial arts". By "real" he of course means only things that will "work in the street." 
  • Says a lot of military stuff. Has never been in the military.
  • Makes fun of any art that involves kata
  • Actually still uses the phrase "boards don't hit back", as if any dojo anywhere has ever used breaking for anything other than a fun and challenging addition to their regular training 
  • Is constantly complaining about the "new" jiu-jitsu, the "sport" karate, and teachers who encourage students to "roll light" instead of just trying to kill each other all the time
  • Is always a man. Has probably been training for less than two years. Thinks those two years make him an expert. 
  • Actually uses the word "pussy" in polite conversation and does not seem even the slightest bit embarrassed
This guy believes that if you are not limping out of class every day you are doing it wrong. He is proud of all of his injuries, especially the ones where he decided not to tap. He thinks sparring with women is a waste of time. (Because when is he ever going to be attacked by a woman???) He has one speed, fast, and has one level of power, hard. He has no problem smashing someone brand new because "that is what they did to me when I was coming up, that is how I got stronger." 

"Don't Be a Pussy" martial arts guy will inevitably train for a few more years (if he is lucky) and then quit either when he can no longer move his neck to the left or more likely when his ego can no longer withstand the number of 25 year old super athletes who can now wipe the floor with him, even when they (god forbid!!) go slowly.

This guy is a douche.
Every dojo has one.

The question is, is he right?
If you don't train hard, are you missing the point?
If you're not in pain, are you just plain doing it wrong?

It is very easy for me, as a 5th degree karate black belt with over 25 years of training, to speak wisely about the value of going light. I spent years backed into the corner of the dojo being pounded on by a black belt man who would sometimes forget that the person in front of him was roughly the size and shape of his 13 year old daughter. In other words, I paid my dues. I have also spent over four BJJ years stuck underneath one giant spazzy white belt after another. I just turned 40. I have a 7 year old daughter that I have to take care of and a job running a dojo which I cannot do if someone charlie horses my thigh every Friday night. But before I was a mom, and a dojo owner and almost middle aged, I would limp home every Friday night and I would feel proud of how hard it all was. I was so tough, I was so strong, I was so not a pussy!

I was so miserable. I hurt all the time. I didn't actually get hurt, only bumps and bruises and once a broken toe that got accidentally caught in someone's gi top. But I was so sore, so banged up. And I so loved it.

To be honest, I still am pretty banged up half of the time. This jiu-jitsu thing is a bitch. I am sure there will come a point where my incredible skill will finally make up for the fact that I am barely taller than Tinkerbell, but that point is not today. Today, my ribs hurt. And I don't love it so much anymore. The novelty has long worn off.

As a grownup, career martial artist (and by that I do not mean that I am paid to fight like Ronda Rousey (I wish!), but that I plan on training for my entire life if I can) I am constantly trying to find the right level for me, one that still challenges me physically but also allows me to enjoy the rest of my life without the need for prescription painkillers. If I am not in pain, perhaps I am doing it wrong. But if I can't sit on a playground bench and watch my daughter frolic in the sprinklers, I am also doing it wrong.

This is not an easy task. In my own dojo, where everyone knows me and have been sparring with me for years and years, it is easier. I go light, I move around, I try to set things up. I am never going to be the biggest or the fastest so I try to be the smartest. Most of the time I fail but it is ok because everyone plays along. The teacher in our sparring classes, who happens to also be my husband Matthew, sends a very clear message every week. Not to fight light necessarily, but to pay attention. To go at the level that is going to keep both you and your partner safe but also allow you to both improve. He is six feet tall, about 190, with a 5th degree black belt in karate and a brown belt in BJJ and yet he claims that if he does not learn something from rolling with a 5 foot blue belt woman he is doing it wrong.

In my BJJ school, it is a mixed bag, a combination of young and old, competitors and non, mature skilled purple and brown belts who can switch from flow to slam and back with ease, and brand new white belt dudes who only roll at top speed, last 45 seconds and then have to go vomit in the bathroom because "damn jiu-jitsu is really really hard!" My teachers here usually leave the pace up to the students, which means that sometimes I am forced to tell dudes to "slow down a bit" to prevent my getting a bruised rib or a hyper extended elbow or more likely a lovely knee to the nose.

I have visited BJJ schools where the teachers require everyone to roll with control and I have been to karate schools where the sparring is barely more than shadow boxing. Are those students not really training? Are they not doing "real martial arts"? Are they all "pussies"?

In my opinion, the conversation of what works in a street fight is a stupid one. I have never been in a street fight, don't plan on being in a street fight, and if someone looks like they are looking for a street fight I just go the other way. 

But the conversation of how hard we should all be training is an interesting one (to me anyway), and I think it is clear by this very long, rambling post, that I certainly do not know the answer.

What do you all think?

P.S. If we as a society can finally become mature enough to stop using the word "gay" as an insult, maybe we can also agree that calling someone a "pussy" is only really appropriate if you are talking about your cat. 
Just saying.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mixed Messages

There are so many lessons in a kids karate class. Perseverance. (When you are really tired and think you cannot do another pushup, do just one more. ) Being a good example. (See that new white belt kid over there who is spinning in a circle. Why do you think he is doing that? Do you think it may be because he saw you, a green belt, spinning on his butt?) Painting. (A few weeks ago I told my most advanced class a story that went like this: Suppose you had an assignment for school to draw a picture that was going to be hung up in an art show. You wouldn't just scribble on a piece of paper, say "I'm done!" and call that your masterpiece, right? No you would work really hard. Make it your best work. Well your kata is the same. Don't show me your scribble Pinan 1. Show me your masterpiece.")

That's deep right?
Some real Kyoshi stuff.

I spend a lot of time telling my kids that karate is for them. That if they cheat on their pushups they are only cheating themselves. That if they do lazy punches it is their body that will learn how to punch badly. That they will get out of class exactly what they put into it. So if they put in 100 percent, they will improve 100 percent.

And other motivational talk.
All true, by the way.

This week in summer camp we had a water fight day.  Kids were allowed to bring water guns, spray bottles or balloons. Then they chased each other (and me!) around the park trying to see who could get the most wet. When it was time to fill up the balloons, a couple of the kids got a little upset. "Those are my balloons," one of them said. "I don't want them to all get used up." Another one complained that they were from a friend and therefore "special." 

My first thought was to take away one of the boy's water guns, the one that said "UWS" on it, because it was "my water gun and if he didn't want to share then I didn't either." But eventually I just told both kids to put the balloons away and then explained the rule that I used to have for Maya when she was a toddler; basically anything that comes to camp is for everyone. It is totally fine if you don't want to share your stuff, but please leave it at home.

They are six, not two.
They were cool with it.

That was Tuesday. Today when the campers returned from the park there were surprise treats hidden all around the dojo. Armed with a bunch of clues, they had to search under, over and behind things, looking for candy. Everything they found went into a big bowl in the middle of the room and then they all got to share the treats after lunch. What about the kids who found more pieces? Doesn't matter, everyone got the same amount.

This time no one complained (it was CANDY after all) but it did make me think. I want my kids to learn to work as a team. But I also want them to be very aware of how all their hard work benefits them and them alone.  This week's activities included sand art, bracelets, a game where teammates had to work together to collect colored balls, a friendly game called "Murderer" (it is everyone's favorite!), and a group cooking project where everyone had a job. But we also played dodgeball. And chess. And Monopoly, the most selfish game there is. Not to mention all that sparring and grappling.  

(Quick aside, the first time my kid learned what losing at Monopoly is, she burst into tears. The end of that game is BRUTAL.)

Back to camp. Am I sending these kids completely mixed messages? 

The truth is that yes, I am trying to teach my kids both lessons because it turns out that both lessons are important. Sometimes your hard work benefits you and you alone. Like when you stretch a little bit wider every day and at the end of the week you have a full split! But sometimes your hard work benefits the group. Like when you find six pieces of candy in three different hiding spots and now your whole table gets to enjoy it. One day being the one in class who does the best kata will win you first place.  But on another day it will get you put in front of a brand new blue belt who is told to follow your every move. 

Even harder than trying to teach kids how to be both tenacious and gracious, is trying to teach them which situation calls for which behavior. Like when you are playing baseball and the person who hits the ball is the tiniest three year old in camp. Are you supposed to let the ball roll past you because you know he will be so happy to get a home run? Or are you supposed to catch it (which you can easily because he is three and you are six and have won 5 little league trophies ) so your team wins the game? 

Do you really, really have to share your stickers with the whole camp?

And while we are at it, sharing sucks!
But candy, candy is awesome!

And here I thought my job was just to teach them how to do Pinan 2 and play Murderer.

P.S.. We actually changed the name of the game this year to "Sandman". (As in, he makes you go to sleep.) Because when a three year old comes home from summer camp and says "Mommy today I was the murderer" we get a lot of phone calls.



I really love them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

On Giving...and Laundry

It rained all day on Monday. That meant that Maya and I could not go to the playground after school like we normally do. She didn't want to go to the library and I didn't want to pay $20 for our local indoor playspace, so instead we just stayed home and did a bunch of random things. Maya wrote a story. I made a tiny dent in the giant pile of clean laundry that lives in the corner of our living room. She cleaned her room. I cleaned the bathroom. She beat me at chess. Twice. 

For awhile now Maya has had the idea to collect some of her old things (clothing mostly) and put them in a bag to donate to charity. Specifically, she wants to help the homeless. Here in NYC, there are often people out on the street begging for change. They make Maya feel sad, and she wants to help all of them. So on Monday, while the rain beat relentlessly against our windows, Maya filled a bag with clothes that no longer fit her anymore, along with two stuffed animals, a book and a toy baby that cries when you push on its belly. 

I was very proud of her.

The day went on. We had dinner. We watched a movie. She had a bath. And then somewhere between teeth brushing and lights out, she suddenly got sad. 

"I think I want to keep the red dog."
The red dog was one of the stuffed animals she had so selflessly stashed in the paper bag bound for the Salvation Army.
"Why? I thought you wanted someone else to enjoy him."
"I think I changed my mind. Can I take him out?"

After a few minutes of contemplation I decided that yes, the red dog could go back into Maya's bed.

She read for twenty minutes. I kissed her goodnight, shut the light, and sat down on the couch to watch something really meaningful on Netflix. (Like reruns of Dance Moms.)

About five minutes went by.

"Mommy?"
"Yes honey."
"I think I want to take the baby out too."
"Maya, go to sleep."
"But I love that baby. I don't want her sitting on a shelf and feeling lonely. I want to keep her."

Ok now I was starting to get annoyed. Maya has like five baby dolls. What happened to my selfless little girl who wanted to make other kids happy? What did I do wrong? Not to mention all her yapping was making it really hard to hear Abby Lee Miller completely destroying young girls' self confidence. 

"Maya you did a great thing by giving that baby away. It will make some other little girl who does not have any toys really, really happy."

Pause.
Then a small, teary voice.
"I know. But I changed my mind."

At first I told her absolutely not, the baby was staying in the bag. That it was too easy to give away things you do not want anymore. That the point of helping others is to sacrifice a little bit of yourself. Its supposed to be kinda hard. Also that I was frustrated and a little disappointed with her for not appreciating how much she has compared to others. 

I want to be the mother of a little girl who selflessly gives all her toys to charity!! Now I'll have to delete my Facebook post!

Oh yeah, the homeless.
Its about the homeless.

Maya is seven.
She is seven.
Perhaps expecting Mother Teresa is a bit much?

So eventually I told her it was ok to put the crying baby back in her bed. That maybe she was not quite ready to give her things away, and that was ok too. Giving away the stuff you love is a very grownup thing, it is incredibly hard to do, in fact I know plenty of adults who still cannot let go of their things. I told Maya that maybe on another day, she would change her mind, and if she did she could always find more toys to share. That there is no timeline for helping, you can do it any day, every day, whenever you are ready. For now, the clothing was enough. 

My Maya has a big heart and she so much wants to change the sadness in the world. But not as much as she wants to have a big bed full of stuffed animals, and five baby dolls instead of four, and that one sparkly shirt that she loves to death even though it has not really fit her for over a year. And that is ok. She is only seven years old. So instead of being disappointed at her inability to pull the trigger, I should be proud of her for even having the thought to help. She has to start somewhere, right? And on the plus side, there is now a whole lot more room in her drawers now for all that laundry I folded. 

Maya will be eight in November.
Maybe then.
Maybe then she will change the whole world for the better. 
Right now, she changes mine and that's enough.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Karma

To the cop who felt it was necessary to give me a $135 ticket for SLOWLY biking through a red light after STOPPING FOR THE PEDESTRIANS who were crossing, on CPW where there is NO SIDE STREET TRAFFIC. ..fuck you buddy! There is construction in every bike lane, the Williamsburg Bridge is a daily parking lot, the L train costs $2.75 and is always broken and there is a traffic jam on every highway. But yeah I'm the criminal for trying to do something healthy and enjoyable with my commute.

When I was in college, I used to get on the 2 train at 96th street in Manhattan and ride all the way to Flatbush Avenue (Brooklyn College), a trip that could easily take over an hour. Since I often had early morning classes, it was not unusual for me to take my seat on the train, close my eyes, and immediately fall dead asleep. I would wake up somewhere way out in Brooklyn.


I could never do this now. Forget the fact that I am much older and wiser, therefore, I keep my eyes wide open at all times in public. I also could never sleep on the subway now because I really hate it in there. It seems that the older I get the more claustrophobic I feel on the train, particularly the L which is always crowded and goes through a tunnel so long and deeply underwater that my ears pop. Not to mention that at least once a week it stops in the middle of said tunnel due to a "signal problem" or "train traffic", or some other euphemism for "the L is fucked up again." I am always mildly uncomfortable on the subway, but when this happens my discomfort often turns into a full blown panic attack. 


Basically, I really do not like being stuck in places. I'm not crazy about elevators either.


It goes away once the train moves again but sometimes the stress is not worth it.  So I take the ferry. If there is no traffic on the bridge (so like, never) and I am just going to BJJ class I will take the bus. And about a month ago I had the brilliant idea to drag my bike out of its lonely spot in the back of my hallway and start biking to the city. 


Which I did today. 

And Friday.
And last Monday.
And basically every day this month that wasn't rainy.

I am really pretty proud of myself.


But today was the day that a police officer decided that the best way to fill his end of the month ticket quota was to take this nice thing that I discovered, this thing that makes me happier and healthier, and shit all over it.


Okay, its true there is no way for the cop to know that I have a thing about the L train.


There is also no way he could have known that I run my own business, a business where half of our income disappears during the summer months, and that a $135 ticket in May is very different from a $135 ticket in January. 


He couldn't have known any of that. But he did know that I was going very slowly through the red light, on a street with no cars or people in sight. He knew, because I told him, that I work as a karate teacher and was running late for a private class. He knew, because I told him, that I had just starting biking about a month ago; therefore, I did not know all the rules yet. (Apparently I am also supposed to have a BELL on my bike! A fucking BELL, like a 2 year old has on her tricycle.) 


He could also probably assume by looking at me, that I am not a major criminal. And he knew that even though he claimed to have a "zero tolerance policy" and that he "had to write me a ticket", he is a human being with free will and as such could have just as easily given me a warning and driven his car away. Slowly. Obeying the laws of traffic of course.


Okay, its true that he was just doing his job. That there are plenty of bikers who recklessly zoom in and out of traffic without a care for anyone else. That sitting by a crosswalk in an unmarked car, waiting to nail people with overpriced and unnecessary tickets is probably not one of the reasons he became a cop. That after I stuffed the ticket into my bag and paused very dramatically at the next red light before biking away angrily, he probably sat there in his stupid black car feeling like an asshole for completely ruining my morning.


So maybe I wished I had taken the 1 train to work today, and that cop wished he had become a fire fighter instead, and meanwhile some douchebag politician is laughing all the way to the bank. 


So fuck that guy. 


Fuck the dude who is going to take a nice long weekend at the Hamptons with my ticket money and the one you got for smoking a joint all by yourself in the park, and the one my brother got for switching subway cars, and the one his buddy got for jaywalking out on Flatbush Avenue. (Fucking jaywalking!) 


I know, I know, how dare I be different. How dare I teach karate to four year olds for a living instead of spending my days slowly destroying my back while sitting at a desk like I am supposed to. How dare I ride my bike to BJJ class at noon, instead of follow the herd through Grand Central Station at 9am and 5pm every weekday like I am supposed to. 


I apologize for attempting to do more with my life than just engaging in a slow crawl towards death.

But how about you let the cops catch the actual bad guys and me bike to work in peace?
That way everyone is happy. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dear Parent, Don't Do That

To the Parents of the Small Child in My Karate Class:
Which small child? The one who, on her first day, burst into tears at the very thought of stepping on the floor. The one who is now one of the leaders in my class of 3 year olds. The one who could not, for the life of him, stand in one place for more than 5 seconds. Look at him, he is about to get his blue belt. The one who has been in our dojo since he was four and is now one of the sharpest brown belts I have ever seen. The one who is peeking wide eyed through the window when she thinks no one is paying attention. I see you, little one. Come join us. It will be ok. In fact, it will be better than ok, you will love it. 

I get it. To most of you, our dojo is just some after school class you are signing your kid up for. Something to do while you are waiting for the snow to melt, for soccer season to start up again, for your vacation time to accumulate. I know how it goes. I signed my child up for gymnastics in January. She loved gymnastics. But it cost a lot of money, and once the sun finally came out again she decided she would rather spend Wednesdays running around the playground with her friends. So we stopped bringing her to the gym.

I am a parent. But I am also your child's teacher. So let me tell you some things that might not occur to you as you are stuffing your child's gi into his backpack (don't forget the belt!!) and rushing out the door. 

Remember when you signed him up. Remember how you explained to me what condition he was diagnosed with, what medicine he was on. Remember how hard his first few classes were. What you don't know is that five minutes into that first class I vowed to help him succeed at karate. I worked very very hard at this. Sometimes I even went home after all my classes were done and thought about your child, about what worked that day and what didn't. And every class he got a little bit better. I was so proud of your boy. And then, when it was time to sign up for his next month of classes, he was gone, just like that. Maybe it was the money, maybe it was the schedule. Maybe your nanny had quit, you needed child care, and actually you had no intention of continuing after that first month. I don't know why he is not in my class anymore. All I know is that we were a good team, your boy and I, and now, we aren't a team anymore. 

Don't do that. Don't sign your kid up for a month of classes, have him learn to love it, have me learn to love him and then just quit. It is unfair. To both of us. 

Also, don't send me an email explaining why your kid no longer wants to take karate anymore. As in, you won't be seeing Billy in class anymore because he says it is too hard. He is bored. He feels left out. How the hell am I supposed to address these problems if you don't bring him to class??? I have been doing this teaching thing for a really LONG time. Trust me, your kid is not the first one who finds pushups difficult. Give me the chance to fix the problem. 

Speaking of which, if your kid is having a hard day and gets upset, do NOT, under any circumstances, take him home. If she is afraid of sparring today, do not take her home. If he is throwing a screaming, thrashing tantrum in the corner of the dojo, DO NOT TAKE HIM HOME. How is he supposed to overcome whatever is bugging him if he is sitting in his living room?? Leave him there on the floor. I will handle it. I will take care of him. Most of the time he will be throwing punches before you have even ordered your coffee from the corner bodega. Screaming four year olds are what I do. They are my job. And I am really good at my job.

Finally, if you are really having financial difficulties please talk to us. We want your kid to train. We want you on the floor. We will try our best to work with you. Seriously. We have been you. We too have wondered how exactly we are going to pay all our bills with nothing in the bank. But if money is not an issue for you, please pay us, and pay us on time. We are not Verizon. Your karate tuition supports our family. Your lack of tuition hurts our family. It is as simple as that. Please do not try to haggle with us over the one class your child missed. Please do not use the fact that you have known us for years and watched my child grow up as an excuse to request special favors. It is exactly because you have known us for so long that you should know better.  Have you been here in August? No, you were on vacation. Along with everyone else. It is only $20 for you but we have over a 150 students. You do the math.

In other words, there is a difference between I can't pay and I don't want to pay. You know which one you are. Pretending otherwise is insulting to those people who really are struggling. 

But most of all, please try to be there sometimes. I know life is hard. I know you are busy. But your child is amazing! They are getting really good at this. They really love it. I am so very proud of them. You would be proud of them too. So try to poke your head in every so often and watch them. Don't just send the nanny. It will be worth it, I promise.


I know, I KNOW. There are no words.
His name is Edwin.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On Motherhood

Every year, on Mothers Day, Facebook is flooded with posts from grateful sons and daughters, bragging about all the amazing qualities of their respective moms. Thank god for social media. It used to be that you had to actually call your mother on the second Sunday in May, or even worse, meet her for an overpriced brunch somewhere. Now you can post a heartwarming photo and a few choice words and you have fulfilled your obligation.

Not that I have any problem with Mothers Day, or my mom, for that matter. In fact, I am one of the lucky ones. I adore my mother; we get along perfectly. She lives close by. Most importantly, she is still alive. For many people, this particular holiday is nothing but a terrible reminder of what they have lost. If you are one of them, know that I am thinking of you.

Of course, there are also the blog posts from the childless women, the ones who feel compelled to defend their decision to not become mothers. And I understand the impulse, after all, if there is ever a day to make a woman feel defensive about her life choices, it is Mothers Day.  So by all means, stay out late, have a glass of wine without having to hire a babysitter, and celebrate a life free from tantrums and poopy diapers. (Well, mostly. There is still old age to look forward to.)

The thing is, some of us really love being moms. I mean, yes, there are some trying moments. Like the time my daughter's "mommy clingy" toddler phase coincided perfectly with our week-long beach vacation. Mommy is going to go for a swim now. "MAAAAAAMAAAAA!" Mommy is going to go for a little walk down the beach...alone. "MAAAAMAAAAAAAA!" Mommy is going to try to take a nap now. "WAAAANNNNT MAAAMMMAAAA!" Mommy is going to slit her wrists now.

That was a great vacation!

We mamas try sooo hard to do it right. And mostly, we succeed. But occasionally other parts of life gets in the way. Earlier this year, I had a biopsy on a lump in my thyroid and had the fun experience of WAITING FOR THE CANCER TEST RESULTS TO COME BACK. (An experience that can really only be written in capital letters.) I thought I was handling the whole thing quite well, teaching my karate classes, taking care of Maya. Until the day she didn't want to go to the playground after school and I started screaming at her. I would like to say she had some fault in this incident, that she asked for ice cream or lost her backpack or any minor childhood infraction that would make my standing in the middle of Grand Street shouting "I DON'T WANT TO JUST GO HOME AND SIT IN THE HOUSE!" like a 2 year old even a little bit ok. But no, that gem was all me. 

Sometimes the best thing to do is just be honest. As in "Mommy is so very sorry she yelled at you. I am a little worried about something and it is making me very sad and cranky. You did nothing wrong, I am just having a really bad day. I love you." Later that evening I called my husband. "Hi honey. Remember how strong and positive and just completely okay I have been about all this. Well, funny thing actually. Turns out I am NOT OKAY!!! I AM SO NOT OKAY!!"

Thankfully, the tumor was benign and I could go back to freaking out about more mundane things like head lice.

Oh, the head lice! That moment when you look into your daughter's beautiful blond hair and see little black things MOVING!!! I cringe just thinking about it. And the laundry. And the combing. The never ending combing. 

But all those hours spent poking at my daughters scalp with a fine toothed metal comb are nothing, NOTHING compared to how much I absolutely adore being a mother. How much I love the 10 seconds every morning between the creaking of her loft bed ladder and the pop of her bedroom door opening. Or how great it feels when she accomplishes something new. Or how cute she looks with sand on her nose, her hair dripping wet from the ocean. Her feet are stinky and sometimes she rolls her eyes like a 14 year old, but god do I love this little girl.

Last Friday I went out with my own mother. She is 75 and everything about her screams Grandma, from her love of baking to the constant stream of gifts she bestows upon my 7 year old. It was too early for lunch so we ended up just sitting on a bench in the shade, talking about life. (It was very Forrest Gump.)

At one point, after discussing my dad and his stubborn ways, I said "The older I get the more I realize that life is just a constant struggle between trying to change the things you don't like about yourself and your situation, and trying to accept the things that are unchangeable." (Somewhere, someone who has gone through AA is emphatically nodding her head.) The thing is, these things are constantly shifting. Sometimes you work really hard to change something, only to eventually realize that you should have been letting it go instead. Other times you choose to accept something simply because the road to change is too long and too hard and you would rather just sit down in the shade for awhile and rest.

Parenting is just like that. It is like sitting down at a pottery wheel determined to make a vase. So you push and pull and you add water and you smooth the sides up and down and you spin the wheel slower and faster and all the time you have this image in your head of exactly what this beautiful vase is going to look like. And then, after all that work, you pull the damn thing off the wheel and it is a bowl. You have made a bowl. 

But, what do I know, I have never done pottery.

I do know that I love being a mom. I think my daughter is amazing. There are plenty of things I would love to change about myself, but this, this incredible job of raising a child, is not one of them. So I will continue to do the best I can, all the while knowing that in the end my Maya will ultimately just become who she is meant to be. 


Happy Mothers Day!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Who is Keenan Cornelius?

In this week's edition of Men Who Say Stupid Things, I give you Ralek Gracie, president of Metamoris. http://www.mmafighting.com/2015/4/12/8316949/metamoris-interested-in-ronda-rousey-but-claims-financial-realities.

When asked whether the popular PPV grappling tournament was planning on signing more females, he replied with this brilliant gem: "It's absolutely not a joke who ends up on the card. With every match, there has to be a unique story and there has to be an element that will bring out people from all walks of life in a lot of ways. Even though we know the core audience and what they're interested in, we have to constantly be on the boundaries. We have to be constantly pushing the edge of what our viewership is, otherwise we won't survive. All we're doing is reinvesting all of our money into these athletes. We're spinning a wheel. We have to keep the wheel moving. I just don't think there's women who are really going to bring it on that level."

He then went on to state: ""We had that one match (speaking about Mackensie Dern and Michell Nicolini in Metamoris 2) and it was cool, but that was more of, 'That's cool and that was interesting and I want to see that again if the girls are cute.' "

Sigh.
Two of the best female grapplers in the world compete, exhibit superior jiu-jitsu skills, and you would do it again "If the girls are cute"?

I get it. Metamoris is a business. They are about making money. They want fights that people will pay to see. They want big name UFC guys on their card so they can get more MMA fans to watch. Not the MMA fans who know about martial arts, but the ones in the back of the bar talking about their knockout skills and how they would like to "mount" Meisha Tate. They want those guys. So yeah you get Chael Sonnen on your card cause everyone knows his name. And then, since you are fully aware of your actual paying audience, you go ahead and sign up Keenan Cornelius.

Who the hell is Keenan Cornelius?

Go ahead, go to the sports bar down the block on Saturday night, ask around, and then report back to me the number of blank stares you get. UFC fans have no idea who he is, anymore than they know who the Miyao brothers are or who Gabi Garcia is, or how many Gracie brothers it takes to change a lightbulb. Do you know who has heard of Keenan Cornelius? The same people who actually buy Metamoris. Grapplers. 
Who IS this handsome man???
Most of the people who pay to watch your product are the same ones who pay for memberships to BJJ gyms and dojos all across the world. They know all about the silly worm guard, they know what a Berimbolo is, and they may even know where Mr. Cornelius used to train and why he left.  They also know who Michelle Nicolini is and would be just as happy to watch her attempt to choke someone out as some guy. Because good jiu-jitsu is good jiu-jitsu.

Relek Gracie may be trying to gain new fans for his PPV events, but he is also fully aware of who the current ones are. Hence, Keenan Cornelius. So why not have a female black belt match? It certainly won't lose you fans and may even gain you a few more ladies who train.

We are not afterthoughts. We are not cute little dolls who occasionally break a sweat but mostly just look sexy in gi pants and a suggestively open top. We are athletes who put in hours on the mats working our escapes and sweeps and submissions. We tape up our fingers and our toes, we sweat, we bleed, we cry and yes, we even let our hair get all messy and WE DON'T CARE BECAUSE WE ARE GRAPPLERS!

There are little girls out there right now tying on their belts for jiu-jitsu class. They train just like the boys and they deserve some real role models to watch. 

Of course, we can always just spend our money elsewhere.