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This is my third time starting this post. I know I have something to say but for some reason I am finding it hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, what story I want to tell. 

Jiu Jitsu has always been a struggle for me. In the end, that may be why I actually love it so much. It has never been easy. In fact, some days it is so hard that I cannot imagine getting up the next day and going back to class. And I have done hard. I am a fifth degree black belt in karate. I used to fight a scary man named Paul Williams on Friday nights who would sometimes push his sparring partners into a corner and pummel them until the bell rang. 

But Jiu Jitsu is a different kind of hard. True sometimes I am still fighting to survive. (Like that time last year when I suddenly found myself rolling with the spazziest white belt in the room and knew that if every ounce of my focus was not on, I was getting injured. Not tapped. Injured. Perhaps seriously. )

But if I am being honest, most of my rounds are not like that. On the best days there is the beauty of perfect movement, a roll that flows like a prima ballerina commands the stage. The moment when suddenly your hands and feet and brain are all in perfect sync. 

And then there are the times the teacher shows a new move and you just can't get it. You roll with someone and they just keep tapping you. You are forced to reevaluate yourself again and again on the mat. BJJ, at least at the schools where I have trained, has no set syllabus. What works is what you know.  You know what you practice the most. You need to roll again, and again, drill again, and again. It is never over. You are never done. 

This constant struggle is not the same for everyone. But everyone who has been training awhile has felt a touch of it. And while it is brutal, I think it is also the thing that keeps us coming back in the end. The quest to get it. To get more. To do more. To be more. It is the heart of it I think. It is where the love is.

I know that I am not the best fighter in the room. I know that there are people who are bigger than me, stronger than me, better than me. But I also know that training is supposed to be about more than that. It is supposed to be about being the best you that you can be. About being better than you were last year, last week, yesterday. And it is also about your training partners,; how you treat them, how you make each other better. My best days on the mat have lifted me up, made me feel invincible, and it has very little to do with who I tapped that day.

One of the versions of this post thanked a whole bunch of people. Training partners, teachers. And believe me, there are many of them to be thanked.  No one trains alone. But I will be in class next week. I can thank you all in person.

The other version was all about Matthew. There are so many different layers to the wonderful surprise he arranged for me yesterday and I am still a bit overwhelmed that someone could care about me that much. But that story is for him to tell. Or not. Perhaps those details,  things that are more romantic than any bouquet of roses or box from Zales will ever be, will remain between us.

(You should know, however, how much I love being in Matthew's BJJ classes. The amount of time he spends thinking about teaching is incredible. His is a mind that can scan a room and then come up with a lesson that somehow challenges the black belts, excites the white belts and keeps everyone safe while still allowing them to work their asses off. It is no easy feat and he is a master at it.)

I also thought to tell you how I ended up leaving my BJJ school of close to five years (and why) and training with a wonderful teacher at a small school out in Brooklyn, a teacher who believes in the beauty of movement and the value of hard work.  And how when Matthew called that teacher to ask if it was ok to promote me, he was nothing but excited. This man is building something special out in Crown Heights and I am honored to be a part of it.

But my reasons for ending up where I am now are not relevant. Not anymore. All that is relevant is the journey forward. 

Finally, I thought to tell you about  Matthew's teacher, a man who believes that jiu-jitsu can change lives. He strives to run a dojo where everyone can succeed. He preaches a message of hard work and cooperation, of teamwork and setting goals to better your entire life.  His knowledge and experience in the martial arts is incredible. He is the real deal. No matter what other bullshit you might hear on the Internet.

There are purple belts who I can hold my own with on the mats and there are white belts who can tap me a hundred times. I do not care. My BJJ journey is neverending. I worked my ass off to get where I am now and have no plans on stopping.

So in the end I guess what I wanted to say is simple. Jiu-jitsu is fucking hard. But it is so so beautiful. And so so worth it. (Just ask Meisha Tate.)

 I am always myself out there on the mats. There is no way to be anything different. The me that is a purple belt is still going to struggle, to rise, to fall, to rise again and to love and hate the path from one day to the next. 

Only now I get to do it with a really pretty color around my waist.



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