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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.


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