Not a Fighter

In a desperate desire to increase my BJJ training time, I have recently organized some midday workouts with a few friends and training partners. The good news is that I am now getting a lot of extra work in. The bad news is that it never seems to be enough. There are just too many things I am not perfect at yet (read: everything), too many ideas and moves and drills and concepts that I want to improve at.

Lately I have also been tossing around the idea of competing in BJJ for the first time. So over the weekend I decided to watch a few videos of someone who was the kind of competitor who would be in my division. (In other words, another very tiny purple belt.) This particular girl happens to also be an amateur MMA fighter, so what I watched was tape of her in a cage somewhere in Long Island attempting to pummel another tiny girl to death. 

She was decent, this MMA girl. A good double leg takedown. A sharp front kick. A nice arm bar. She is 23. I hope she makes it.

With the exception of some of the larger IBJJF tournaments, most events do not have an old people division for women. The men often have "Masters" or "Executive" or some other euphemism for "not 19". But because there is a much smaller pool of women who want to roll around on sweaty mats on a Saturday for fun, most tournaments combine all women of similar size and rank together. Most of these women are not 41 year old married moms who run karate schools. 

While watching MMA girl's You Tube fight I had two simultaneous thoughts. The first one was "I should probably learn some takedown defense." The second was "But I don't want to be a fighter anymore."

When I was younger I competed a bunch, in kata, point fighting, and a style of contact karate similar to kickboxing. To prep for these tournaments I did a lot of sparring, pad work, pushups. I walked around with rap music playing in my headphones to "pump me up". While riding the subway I daydreamed about low kicks and wrapping my hands with duct tape. I was young and cocky and absolutely considered myself a "fighter". (Thank goodness the man I ultimately fell in love with was cut from the same cloth. No one else would ever have tolerated me.)

But when I started jiu-jitsu, I was long past this time in my life.  After twenty plus years of karate, I was now simply looking to try something new, to be a white belt again. My BJJ gym had plenty of competitors in it, but the last thing I ever wanted to do was feel the nausea and terror that accompanies competitive fighting again. 

Recently, however, I have become curious. I have never competed on the BJJ mat. Perhaps it would be a fun challenge, a chance to see what that world is like. Perhaps competition would be less scary if there were no longer roundhouse kicks coming at my head. 

The thing is, I don't want to be like MMA girl. I don't want to smash anyone's face in. I don't want to be all aggro and angry. I just want to slowly and methodically climb onto some chick's back and choke her until she taps. I want to out think everyone. I don't want to be bigger or stronger or faster; I just want my plan to be better than her plan. I want to out BJJ her. With wisdom. You know, like an old person would.

I guess I want to prove (to myself mostly) that someone like me can succeed on the competition mats. Not by being more aggressive or athletic, but by being smarter. I want to have a perfect game plan and execute my game plan from start to finish on all the 20 year olds. Then I want to smile at them and shake their hands and sneak them a beer when their moms aren't looking. 

The truth is, I am not even all that competitive anymore. I just really, really like jiu-jitsu.

Of course everyone I know who competes is at least 15 years younger than me. Every Saturday, after our regular BJJ class, a group of us stay after and work on stuff. It is a cool group and I learn a lot in these sessions. We have even started jokingly referring to us as a "squad", mainly because it drives my husband crazy. (He hates that word.) Among the people in this weekly training session (SQUAD!) are a lovely female Columbia University student who is very tall and has a mean triangle choke, and a smart, soccer-playing blue belt guy who won his division at the last NAGA here in Brooklyn. He is 16 and a junior in high school.

So yeah, sometimes I wonder what the hell I am doing there.

I know what society says. I am 41. I am a wife and a mother. I am supposed to be starting my slow miserable slide towards old age and death. My 401K should be growing while my body falls apart. But fuck that! I would rather drill kimuras. 

That's it, that's why I want to compete someday. Because fuck you, 401K! Fuck you house in suburbia. Fuck you bad knees and long commutes and Power Point presentations and slow sips of whiskey on the couch after the kids are asleep. 

I don't want to be the next Ronda Rousey. Let that nice purple belt from Long Island do that. I just want to be me. 

A me that has an unstoppable bow and arrow choke.

Watch out MMA girl, I'm coming for you!

(Maybe. Maybe I'm coming for you.)
(I'm old, don't hurt me.)
(Wanna just grab a beer instead?)


  1. Hey, when are you considering competing? I will be signing up for a tournament that is on July 1! My husband and stepson will get to come watch. I'm currently trying to mentally psych myself up for it! :)

  2. Good for you! I am not sure yet but probably some time this Spring. The way I see it, I just want to get out there and do the best I can with what I got. :-)


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