Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yelling to Be Quiet

It seems that every day my third grader comes home from school with the same story. This teacher yelled at our class today because no one was listening. We had to wait in the hallway for ten minutes before going into the lunchroom because kids wouldn't stop talking. We didn't do much in gym today because he kept having to wait for everyone to be quiet. Be quiet. Stop talking. Sit down. 

Never mind that they are 8 and 9 year olds who are already forced to spend most of their school day sitting and being quiet. Never mind that their recess is all of 20 minutes, at least 5 of that spent getting to and from a quiet line. Never mind that they cannot go outside when it is below 30 degrees, or when there is any snow on the ground. Never mind that some teachers still think it is ok to threaten missing recess as a punishment for not sitting still in class. (The absurdity of punishing kids who have trouble sitting still by taking away their only chance to move around just blows my mind!)

Why does the gym teacher have to wait for everyone to be quiet before he starts his lesson? It's GYM!! Make them run 20 laps. Trust me, they will be panting so hard talking will become virtually impossible.

Do these teachers get that lunch is basically the only school time these kids have to actually socialize with their friends?? Because god forbid they talk in the hallways! And classroom time is for learning, which we all know cannot happen if students are talking, or moving, or you know, using their imaginations.

To be fair, there are certainly times during the school day when quiet is absolutely necessary and appropriate. Like when the teacher is explaining the lesson. When instructions are being given. When a new skill or game is being taught.  When there is a fire drill. I will even give you quiet in the hallways because sure "other classes are trying to learn." (This seems to be the elementary school mantra. Learn it.) But every child who has been through pre-k has learned the difference between "indoor voices" and "outdoor" ones. So why is it so terrible to let them talk to each other sometimes? So long as they aren't screaming. (That lunchroom is kind of loud.)

When I was in 6th grade I had the privilege of getting to leave my classroom every Friday afternoon to go to a writing workshop run by Teachers & Writers Collaborative. At 2pm every week I went into this special classroom where we could sit wherever we wanted, write whatever we wanted. Help was given if needed. Collaboration was encouraged. I do not remember the teacher in that room ever asking us to "please quiet down". Probably because he didn't need to, we were all too busy writing. In other words, we were so interested in the activity we were doing that there was no need to entertain ourselves in any other way. If we did talk to each other, I am sure it was about writing. That was the kind of classroom it was.

Listen teachers, I get you. I was you. Some of these kids can really drive you crazy. But stop waiting for quiet. Just teach. Make it interesting. The ones who want to learn will listen to you. The ones who don't, well that is their problem. Or maybe you could try reaching those kids in a different way, later, while my kid is quietly working. But please don't make her sit and wait for everyone to shut up before you teach her something. 

And absolutely ZERO minutes of gym class should be spent sitting down waiting for kids to be quiet!! IT IS GYM!! The place where whistles blow and balls bounce. Kids should be moving from the minute they walk into the gym until they line up to leave. You want them to line up calmly and quietly? EXHAUST THEM!

Third grade classrooms are full of children. You know what children aren't? Still. Quiet. So figure out how you can educate them anyway. But please stop yelling at them to be quiet.

A little hypocritical, don't you think?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why I Didn't Win the Powerball Jackpot

I am sorry to disappoint you but I am not a billionaire. I know you may have been hoping to hear that I won the jackpot last night, and that your check is currently in the mail. But sadly I did not win. Of course, there was zero chance of me having the winning numbers. I know what you are thinking. There is always a chance right? I mean, someone has to win. A dollar and a dream and all that. But in my case there really was no chance because I never even bought a ticket.

Yes, you heard me right. Despite all the media hype and the Facebook posts and the fun pics of signs that could not go above 999, I didn't buy a Powerball ticket.

Don't get me wrong. I thought about buying one. I mean, everyone else was doing it. And who doesn't want to win the lottery.

Actually, me. 

Ok bear with me here. Because I actually gave this a lot of thought before deciding not to buy that ticket. And before we begin lets be clear. Yes, I like money. And yes, it would be nice to have a bit more of it. 

But what do people say about winning the lotto? What would they do?

"I would quit my job immediately!" Well, actually I love my job. In fact, if I had more money I would probably end up working more. We would get a new fancy dojo of course and fill it with all kinds of classes. And no, I would not hire someone to teach all those classes for me. I would be bored to tears! Plus, I would miss the little ones. They look so cute in their tiny gis.

"I would move to a bigger house." Nope, not me. First of all, I love the weird hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, with its skinny jeans and uber-fancy coffee. I have no desire to live anywhere in Manhattan, or own a brownstone in Park Slope, or suburban Jersey, or even to move into one of those new fancy apartments by the river that are going to be completely underwater the next time a hurricane hits. So we would use our winnings to get a new paint job, maybe take over the upstairs apartment and cover it with mats or something. But actually, I like where I live. Why would I want more rooms to clean? And more furniture. And more shelves which I will then be required to fill with more stuff. Ugh. I have plenty of crap piled up on tables already. In fact, I could actually use throwing out some stuff. And no, despite the so-called American dream, I really have no interest in owning a house. Seriously. I like apartment living. I know what you house people do on weekends. You are "working on the house." You are refinishing things and repairing things and adding on and taking away. There are roofers and plumbers and floor guys in your life. I don't want to spend my Sundays with these people. (No offense meant to plumbers. Plumbers are cool.) Do you know where I am while all this house fixing is happening? The rock climbing gym with my kid.

"I would buy a..." Ok, truth be told,  if we won lotto we would probably buy a new Camry. Because ours belonged to my mom and is from like 1994. But since we have zero interest in moving out of the city (read above paragraph), we also have zero interest in having a fancy car that we then have to worry about all the time. Only a fellow beat up car owner would understand the glorious freedom in not caring one bit about the guy who accidentally touches your bumper while parallel parking. So no fancy cars. And we already have an X-Box and a plenty big TV and computers that we like and cellphones that we like. I like jeans from Old Navy and Matthew only wears t-shirts with motivational BJJ sayings on them. Maya has a roomful of toys. I guess we could buy some new couches. The point is, there isn't anything any of us really need, or even want. So instead we would end up buying a bunch of crap because we are supposed to and then we would need a bigger place to store all that useless stuff and I already explained how I feel about moving. 

"I would travel the world." Well, if you know me you already know how I feel about travel. I don't like sleeping in strange beds and flying in an airplane feels a bit like drowning to me. So aside from the obligatory trip to Disney World (for Maya) and maybe a few days sitting on a random beach somewhere, I would rather be home. In my small Brooklyn apartment. And thankfully I married a man who likes his own routine even more than I like mine. In other words to travel would require him missing his Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 jiu-jitsu class. Which would make him miserable. Unless perhaps the random beach is in Rio and there are some Gracies somewhere to train with, neither one of us have much interest in "getting away from it all." Besides, we have family here. Maya sees her grandparents twice a week, every week. Her visits are a very important part of what makes them happy. And there is no way my dad is flying to Rio.

Since we are talking about family, however, I would be remiss in not mentioning that it would be nice to toss my parents a few million dollars. Here you go guys. Move into a super fancy place that has a full time staff whose entire job is to make old people happy. Only it has to be in NYC, since as far as I know my parents have no desire to leave the city either. (They are OLD. Old people hate change!) So yeah, some money for them would be cool.

Also, we have a few friends whose lives are kind of stressful. It would be nice to toss them a few million too. 

And then there are all those sick kids. And the homeless. And those poor sad-eyed doggies in the ASPCA commercials (damn you Sarah Mclachlan!). So yes, it would be nice to help a whole lot of people. In fact, if I were ever to win lotto that is where a lot of the money would go. To others. 

But really have you guys ever really thought about what your life would be like? You cannot claim your winnings anonymously. (I know, I Googled it.) So that means the whole world would know of your riches. All your friends. All your family members. Do you know how many phone calls you would get from "cousins" who need just a little help? Not to mention the criminal masterminds who have absolutely no problem kidnapping your child, or following you down dark alleyways. So you would have to hire security guards. Who would then follow you everywhere. Everywhere. Ugh. In fact, most articles about winning lotto recommend you immediately move to a new place, where no one knows you. And that you tell absolutely no one about your money. Ever.

Those same articles also recommend things like setting up a special corporation so you can claim the money in a name that is not your own. And how to avoid people constantly trying to scam you. And how to invest your winnings. And how to avoid drug addiction and gambling addiction and depression. Yes, depression. Because it turns out that winning millions of dollars actually does not fix your relationship if it sucks, or give you a sense of purpose in life if you have none, or makes you healthier unless of course the reason you are sick is that you cannot afford health care. (In that happens to be you, I take back everything I said. I hope you win.)

In other words...wait for it....yes, money does not in fact buy happiness. 

In fact, if you quit your job and spend your days buying stuff and then sitting on the couch, staring at your stuff, and then sitting on your hotel bed staring at the Marriot's stuff, in the end you might realize that what you have actually bought yourself is a whole lot of emptiness.

Here is the part where you hate me for being all high and mighty. For being above all those material things like cars and vacation homes. Here is the part where you sit there in your very nice living room and say "What a smug, self righteous bitch!" 

So before I have to go hire a security guard to protect me from you, let me explain. What I felt after my decision last night to not buy the Powerball ticket was not smugness. It was not pride at what an enlightened human being I was. It was simply gratitude. 

I am thankful that although we occasionally struggle to pay bills on time, our life is not one of constantly wishing for an influx of money to save us. To put food on the table, or clothes on our backs.

I am grateful for a family that I do not want to be too far away from.

I am extremely thankful that my desire for a few newer, nicer things is nowhere near my desire to keep the rest of my life exactly the way it is. To not shake it up, even a little bit. To keep teaching where I am teaching and training where I am training and sending my kid to the public school down the block and climbing the rock wall on Thursdays and Sundays and eating at the same burrito place and the same diner and the same Italian restaurant. To keep hugging the same man every night. To keep hearing the same little girl's laugh every morning.

Are there changes I would like to make? Sure, but to be honest, most of them are within my own mind, with the way my brain works, and no winning lotto ticket is going to help with those. (Although I could buy some really good drugs!)

Also, I am fully aware that at any point we could lose this. The dojo could fail and either one or both of us could have to go work at jobs we hate, for bosses we hate. Our house could catch fire, our family members fall ill. We could have injuries that prevent us from being the athletes that we love to be. So I am grateful for all the things in my life that I do not want to change. It turns out there are a lot of them.

So actually, what I really feel is lucky.
Ew, I know. 

It is because I am already so damn lucky that I did not buy a Powerball ticket. 

Which of course means I would have won if I had.
Which means you would have been very rich this morning.

So yes, go ahead and hate me.
I understand.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Shut Up Brain!

I am not one of those bloggers who gets paid to write about stuff. (That is not to say that I wouldn't accept some cash if you want me to blog about your diaper cream or rashguard brand or whatever, so go ahead send me the money!) But I normally do not use this space to endorse the things I've bought, or watched, or read, unless it is someone else's words and they have pissed me off greatly.

But it is a new year and everyone is trying to make resolutions and better themselves and all of those good things so I thought I would write just one tiny post about this dude:

If you are friends with my husband you have probably already heard all about Dr. Sarno and his books. In fact, if you know him well he has probably already handed you a copy of this book and ordered you to read it. Especially if you have pain.

And we are all martial artists, so who doesn't have pain?

Dr. Sarno's theories are not new at all. This book in particular was published in the 80's. So you may have already heard of him. If you haven't, consider this an introduction.

It is actually difficult to summarize and explain what he talks about in his books. Not because it is scientifically complicated (it isn't), but because it is very easy to say it wrong, to say it in a way that sounds crazy and to instantly turn someone off to the entire thing. So I am going to recommend that you just read the book for yourself. It is not long, and not difficult.

However, since most of you won't, here is the tiniest fraction of an explanation. Basically your life experiences, your childhood, your job, your family, everything you go through causes emotions. (Duh!) Some of them are good and some of them are bad. Some of them are right up there in your face where you can feel them on a daily basis. Others are way back in your subconscious because your brain has decided that you should not have to mess around with them. Nice brain, right? Except that sometimes when our brain represses bad things in order to protect us, it creates something else in its place, a distraction so we do not discover the little game it is playing. It creates pain. Often chronic. Typically lower back pain, or neck and shoulder pain, but sometimes tendon pain, or migraines, or even things like chronic heartburn. Often we even have had a mild injury at some point (an MRI may even show one) but then the pain persists long after such an injury has actually healed.

To be clear, you are not imagining your pain. This pain is very, very real, sometimes debilitating. But the reason for the pain is not what you think it is. 

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Most modern doctors do not talk about this kind of mind-body connection. Maybe they do not want to for fear of alienating patients, or maybe they do not actually know much about it. It is not a part of your standard medical school education. But it is very real. Yoga practitioners know it is. Martial artists know it is. So do many cancer patients. Basically anyone who has ever had a stomachache when they are nervous can understand how our emotions effect our physical state. Dr. Sarno just goes into more detail.

Why am I writing all this? Why do I care? Well first of all, reading this book has changed the entire way I view my body.  It has also put me in touch with some thought and emotions that I was not aware of before. This knowledge, although sometimes painful, is a good thing. 

And secondly. My neck and shoulder pain is gone. Not magically, it took time and I am sure, there will still be moments of pain. But the injury is not there anymore. Who knows, maybe it never was. And more importantly, the fear that went along with it, is gone too. I can punch full power again. I can do pushups. I can train jiu-jitsu. I no longer tell people about my "bad neck" or my "bad shoulder" because I know without a doubt that I do not actually have one. 

Let me be clear, I have not become some magical X-Men-like superhero. I have not become reckless. I am still an athlete who bikes and rolls and rock climbs and does karate at is fully capable at any point of getting an injury. So I wear a helmet. I avoid being smashed when I can. I take breaks when things are sore. I sleep, a lot. I am just aware now of the difference between real injury and something that my brain is creating and I treat each accordingly.

Listen, I get it. This all sounds really weird and cultish. Next you are going to ask me when the mother ship is arriving. So I will just leave you with this. If you have been suffering with chronic pain, ANY chronic pain, whether it is back or neck or arm or stomach, just read this book. Especially if doctors say there is surgery in your future. Read it before the surgery. And then wait a few weeks. Or maybe even a month if you can. This stuff takes time, and patience. And then after a month, read it one more time. Just in case. Because of course you might have a very legitimate problem that absolutely requires surgical intervention. If so, in the end, all you have wasted is a few hours of reading. But you might not. And what do you have to lose?

I am not sharing this to be smug or self righteous. I am not a doctor. There are many, many ways to treat injury and pain and many of you are already doing a great job with that. For all I know, I will wake up tomorrow with the worst shoulder pain of my life. If I do, you will be the first to hear my whining.

But this book has really helped me. It has helped Matthew. It has helped a few other people we know. So I am sharing it in the chance that maybe it will help you too.

Ok, I have done my duty. I will now go back to blogging about guns (how bout that OBAMA!) and small children throwing punches.

Wishing you a pain free 2016!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Really Nice Guy

From a conversation overheard at a recent BJJ tournament at City College:

Guy 1: I heard he is kind of a jerk to his students. Like he yells at them when they lose and stuff. And he doesn't pay much attention to lower belts during rolling, he mostly just rolls with the other black and brown belts. 

Guy 2: But I heard he is a really good teacher. 

Guy 1: Oh he is! He is really great at demonstrating technique. Really knows his stuff! I took class there once and it was awesome!

Um, guys? If he is a jerk to his students he is not a "really good teacher". He just a jerk who happens to also be pretty decent at teaching jiu jitsu moves.

I don't know who they were talking about. But I actually hear this kind of stuff in the martial arts world a lot. Apparently dojos are full of these "amazing" teachers who really "know their stuff". They have won a lot of trophies, these guys. They have important names. You go to their schools, watch them demonstrate a couple of techniques and really feel like you learned something. Except for the fact that you are not sure this teacher actually knows your name. Sometimes he walks around and gives you tips while you are drilling but mostly he is off in the corner chatting with someone and you figure the move out by asking the pair of purple belts right next to you. But it is ok, because you are a white belt so you are certainly not worthy of the master's attention.

Then you spar for awhile and the people you spar with are very helpful. Which is good, because the actual teacher is nowhere to be found. I mean, he is actually right over there, training with one of the brown belts. But he is not watching you, or offering any coaching, or pointers or anything particularly useful because again, you are just a newb.

At some point maybe you get a new belt from this guy, who must be counting your classes or something, or maybe he watches you when you aren't paying attention (some kind of secret camera system?) because now you are a yellow belt. (Or a blue belt. Or whatever.) Which is awesome except you are pretty sure that this guy still doesn't know your name and if you asked him what you were good at and what you needed to work on he would just smile and blink at you.

Also, you still really suck at karate. (Or kickboxing. Or tai chi. Or whatever.)  You think you might be better if you had an actual coach but since your karate classes don't really work that way, you watch a lot of You Tube videos and hope for the best. 

You compete once or twice. Maybe you win, maybe you lose.
You text your teacher afterwards to tell him how it all went. 

For some reason you keep training anyway. Maybe even all the way to brown belt or higher. Now the master knows your name but he still has never asked you to train with him and he still probably couldn't list all your strengths and weaknesses. (He mostly spars with guys.) At one point you hurt your rib and miss class for over a month. It would have made you feel good to get an email from your teacher asking how you were feeling but you understand that he has so many students and is very very busy. You go back to class and feel like you are still progressing awfully slowly, maybe someone, like the person in charge of the class, could offer you some tips for what you need to do more of, but no, he doesn't really do that. He does smile a lot and always says hello to you (by name!) which makes you feel good. What a nice, friendly guy!

Your payments are on autopay anyway. It is hard to cancel those.

You keep going to sparring class. Sometimes you leave feeling very frustrated. The teacher doesn't notice just like he didn't notice that all the women who used to train with you have quit. He also doesn't notice that there is this one white belt guy who keeps hurting everyone. He hits really hard. Like really, really hard. Or maybe he does notice but doesn't say anything because that is not his job. His job is to demonstrate technique. He is really good at demonstrating technique. Except that sometimes he doesn't even show the move because it is far too dangerous. He just talks about this super dangerous move. A lot. And then you practice it. In the air. 

He is a really great teacher! Everyone says so!

Eventually you quit jiu-jitsu. Or karate. Or whatever. 

You are pretty sure he does not care. Most people quit the martial arts because training is really f*$king hard. The teacher is on vacation most of the time anyway. He has opened two other schools and he has assistant instructors teaching half the classes now. You cancel your autopay (which was really complicated and took awhile), send a nice email thanking him for everything. (After all, he taught you a LOT of techniques and explained them really well.)

Maybe you join a new school. Maybe you don't.

A little while later you find yourself in a conversation with a buddy at City College and you are saying "Oh that guy? He is kind of a jerk. But he is a really great teacher. Really knows his stuff."

You realize that you should stop saying that because it is bullshit. It does not matter how well that guy "knows his stuff", if he does not actually care about the development and well being of his students he is not a "really great teacher." In fact, he is kind of a crappy teacher. No matter how many world championships he may have won or how expertly he can explain a hook kick.

You know who is a really great teacher. That guy who can demonstrate proper technique and also knows the names of all of his white belts. The guy who called his student the day after he hurt his neck to make sure everything was ok. The guy who likes all the Facebook pics of your newborn. His kata is beautiful and he also knows the names of all your kids and wonders if your grandmother is feeling better. 

 Go train with that guy.

And you can also have a beer with him. Because he is actually a really nice guy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tap a Keg

I first started my karate life at a small dojo on 99th street and Broadway. There are a lot of things I remember about that place. Most significantly, how hard it is to climb three flights of stairs on your way to a sparring class that you are deathly afraid of. And the broken parts of drywall where students had "fallen" into the changing rooms. (Read: punched through a wall by a man who will remain nameless. Well ok, his name was Paul. But we had like 7 Pauls in the dojo back then, and all of them will probably think this is about them, because it was, so its fine.) 

The other thing I remember about those early years was that the dojo was above a restaurant. It changed multiple times over the course of my training, but when I first joined it was called Bahama Mama. I have no idea what kind of place Bahama Mama was because I was a teenager at the time. After class we went for pizza. But the grownups would sometimes go in there and we youngins assumed all kinds of wildness was happening. (Turns out, there was only some wildness. Most of those girls quit soon after.)

Many years later, the dojo moved to a larger location on 104th street. I was a black belt by then, and eventually, a fully "of age" grownup. After class we would wander across the street to a hole in the wall called Tap a Keg. Tap a Keg was a bar bar. It served beer and whisky and had a couple of TV's and a pool table. There was no kitchen but you could order pizzas to be delivered in, which people did often. The bartender knew everyone. After sparring, a few of us would go there with our instructor, have some drinks and talk about stuff. Nothing crazy happened, ever. Just long conversations. Occasionally there was a bar fight, which of course none of us were ever involved in. We got to know a lot about our teacher. We watched baseball. (Well not me, I hate baseball. But them, they watched it.) Every so often there was a boxing match on, which of course our teacher watched with the critical eye of a professional.

It was cool. 

For a very brief period, someone opened a sushi place on the opposite corner from Tap A Keg so we stopped going to the bar and started going there. They had some ridiculous all you can eat beer and sushi special on Friday nights and you would be shocked how much sushi a bunch of fighters can eat. That place lasted about two months before going out of business and I am positive it was all our fault. (Well not mine. Turns out all the sushi I can eat is not very much sushi. But them. It was all their fault.)

Our current dojo is on 106th and Columbus and on Fridays we all go to a bar down the block called Amsterdam Tavern . It is a step up from the old days of stale beer smells and peanuts on the floor. AmTav (as we call it) has food and in the summer, outdoor seating where you can pet cute doggies and be as loud and obnoxious as you want. Sometimes the neighborhood crazies wander by for a chat. (With themselves usually.)

But for the most part it is the same deal. All the bartenders and waitstaff know us. On many nights it is just the ladies who go out, so we spend our time drinking blood orange margaritas or red wine (one of us likes Jamison, she is a badass), eating greasy fries and talking about boys. Sometimes we eat beignets, delicious creations of fried dough, powdered sugar and Nutella that make you truly appreciate life. Like the boys, we talk about karate, but unlike the boys we also talk about feelings, life, relationships. And sometimes we Google pics of half naked UFC fighters. Well one of us does. Or at least she used to before she found out he was kind of a jerk.

What is it about the dojo bar that is so compelling? True, there is no better tasting beer than the one you have after 10 rounds of sparring. But it is more about the shared experience I think. There is not much room for talking on the dojo floor, but we so desperately want to talk to each other. Just taking class and then going home is not good enough. This is family and among family there must be laughing and silliness and sometimes drunken shouting and inappropriate jokes about high ranking black belts. It is what makes getting punched in the stomach repeatedly ok. (Somewhat) It is what makes the scariness of promotion day ok. It is sometimes what gets me through the last few rounds on a tired night, the knowledge that I am just moments away from an ice cold beer on a bar stool. 

It is what makes a dojo different from just going to the gym. Well that, and the fact that we are actually learning something meaningful. But don't get me started. God, I hate the gym. If you love the gym, I apologize. At least you are exercising. Don't listen to me, you just keep running to nowhere and picking up heavy things and putting them down again. 

Jesus, I really am I smug-ass bitch sometimes. 
Go to the gym. Seriously. Its good for you. 
Afterwards, go to the bar.

Of course, its possible I am just an alcoholic.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Failure to Progress

This morning I woke up thinking "Hey it has been awhile since I have written a blog post. Lets do that!" (Well to be honest, my first thought was "Cofffeeeeee." But after that it was all about writing.)

It is Thursday, which means it is a BJJ day for me. I took class yesterday so my neck is a bit sore (spider guard) but nothing is too banged up. I really like my new school and I am looking forward to going to class today. So its going to be a great training day! Right?

As I was weaving my hair into as many braids as possible in the hopes of it surviving rolling today, I had an idea for what I wanted to write about. In December it will be five years of BJJ for me. Yet sometimes I still am not sure why I am doing it. Despite hours and hours on the mats, I am still pretty bad at it. I still get tapped by white belts who are much bigger than me. I still forget every drill within a week of learning it. I am still not sure exactly what the point of all this is. Is it just fun? Am I hoping to get a black belt someday? Am I learning self defense? Do I just like having something to do every Wednesday and Thursday morning?

As I am formulating all of these thoughts into coherent sentences (slowly, because the coffee hasn't kicked in yet) something occurs to me. I have already written this blog post. I don't just mean that I occasionally feel this way about my training.  I mean I have already written this blog post. 

So I looked it up and yeah here it is: It was exactly a year ago, almost to the day.

Oh my god, I have gotten absolutely nowhere in a year! I am still a somewhat confused blue belt who often has no idea why she is putting on her gi! (I also clearly have nothing new to say.)

What a terribly depressing thought.

Do you know how many BJJ classes I have taken since November 11, 2014? Well on average I take about 2 classes per week, sometimes 3 if you count the ones at my own dojo. If there are 52 weeks in a year, that is over 150 classes of making absolutely no progress!

Okay, that's unfair. I am sure I have gotten better at some things. I am pretty good at guard passing. I have a decent kimura. But if my blog is any indication, I have not really moved past the wandering around the BJJ woods without a compass stage. I still don't take notes. I don't watch You Tube. I don't set specific goals before each roll. 

I love to go to class and I work hard while I am there but otherwise I am a lazy, lazy student. I am like the employee who never thinks about work, let alone does any, outside of the hours of 9am-5pm. Come to think of it, that is exactly the kind of employee I was when I had a 9 to 5 job. But I never really liked having a job.

Do I not really like jiu-jitsu?

If I loved it the way I say I do, wouldn't I be thinking about it all the time? Matthew is thinking about it all the time. (Well when he is not thinking about chess. Or Batman.) He is constantly watching videos of dudes heel hooking each other. The only BJJ videos I watch are the ones that play automatically on my Facebook feed while I am scrolling down to look for more posts about Starbucks cups. 

I have always known that I could progress much faster if I invested more time in the study of BJJ.  If not reading books and watching stuff, then at least writing down the things I learned after class and finding a way to review them later. Why don't I do this?

Man, I am a bad student.

With this newfound information, the obvious question would now be, should I just quit jiu-jitsu? But when I send that one over to my brain (which is now fully fueled with coffee) it says "Nooooo! I REALLY LIKE jiu-jitsu!"

Its weird. I really do.

So there it is. I don't want to take any BJJ work home with me. So I don't get much better at it. And then I get frustrated with how slowly I am progressing. And I wonder why I am bothering going to class. And then I go to class. And I love it. It is loads of fun and I leave feeling great. Rinse. Repeat. Write blog post about it. Again.

Jeez I need some more coffee!

Ok, I'm off to class. 
Because...well, I don't really know why.
But it seems I love it anyway.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Only Way Out Is In

I have spent a lot of time on my bike recently, to and from my new BJJ school, uptown to the dojo, to Petco to buy more crickets for the geckos. Sometimes I bike to the ferry terminal in Long Island City and take the ferry over the water to 33rd before biking uptown. I consider that the easy route. Other days, like today, I bike over the Williamsburg Bridge and then all the way to the dojo. 

That's the hard one. It's not just that the bridge is uphill half of the way across, or that it is sometimes a wind tunnel up there. Those things are hard but mainly I don't like the bridge route because I am kind of uncomfortable up there. I am a little bit afraid of heights and a lot afraid of places that I cannot easily escape from. Like tunnels. Or stuck subway cars. Or a fenced in bike path high above the East River. Inevitably there is a moment every time I am biking up the hill when I contemplate just turning around and going back to Brooklyn. Then there is the point of no return, the point right before the center of the bridge where it switches to downhill, that moment where it is almost farther to go back then to just keep pushing forward . It is the highest part of the bridge, directly over the water, and the bike path is fenced in on either side for obvious reasons. (Cause the only thing scarier than biking over the water would be taking a nose dive directly into it.)

The only way out is in.

I love it up there. I mean I hate it. I am always out of breath and kind of anxious. But then it is over and I have conquered my fear and I am coasting downhill and man that part is totally awesome. 

Also the view is real pretty.

This week one of my best friends is testing for her black belt here at our dojo, along with another wonderful student who I have known and respected for years. I know they are both going to be amazing. 

As you know if you have read this blog for awhile, black belt promotion in Kenshikai Karate is long and all consuming. It takes three days spread out over half of a week. It begins on a Wednesday and the time between that night and the next (Friday) can feel like weeks. It is both mentally and physically challenging. But hopefully, the participants also have fun during it, and nothing is more fun than the end, when you have sparred for two hours and you finally get that much coveted shiny new black belt tied around your waist.

It is totally worth it. Every time.

Come to think of it, promotion is not unlike biking over the Williamsburg Bridge. It is difficult and maybe even a little bit scary. There may be a point halfway through when you want to just turn around and go back home. But no one ever has, just like I never biked back down the hill to Brooklyn. Quitting has never really been an option. The only way out, is in.

Good luck this week to Michel and Jennifer! I could not be more excited for you. You totally deserve this and I know you will be fantastic!

See you Wednesday!