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Hello Old Friend

You know when you have been friends with someone for awhile and one day while you are just sitting around thinking about them you suddenly remember first meeting them? And then you have that weird moment where you realize that that person you met years ago and that person who is your good buddy now are actually the same? And your brain goes, whoa, really? That is Jim? But he is so different now!

Jiu jitsu and I have had a very long, very rocky relationship. There was the first six months, where I really could only attend class once a week and did not learn a single thing other than how to not suffocate while someone was sitting on my chest. Then there were the months and months where all I did was tap. Stuck on the bottom again, tap. Whoops, got triangled, tap. What in the world is this guy doing with my lapel....oh, tap, tap, tap! And so on. All new BJJ students get very comfortable with slamming their hand against the mat over and over again in defeat, but I was particularly skilled at it. I am not exaggerating when I say I did not get my first submission on anyone for at least a year. I liked to blame it on my size but it is possible I was just really bad at jiu-jitsu. Even for a white belt.

When I finally got my blue belt, I remember feeling like things were starting to come together. I could remember a couple of the drills. I had a few transitions down. I could occasionally catch a brand new white belt (usually a child) with some kind of chokey thingy. I was finally getting jiu-jitsu!

I had no clue what I was talking about.

I was a blue belt for a long time, over 31/2 years. Those years were a constant back and forth between "Hey, I just figured something out!" and "What in the world is this guy doing with my lapel....tap, tap, tap!" There was a lot of "Wow, I really suck at this, maybe I should quit." There was a neck issue and a rib problem. Some days I rolled hard. Most days I tried to be slow and technical and instead got smashed by some new white belt guy who had no idea what slow and technical was. I tried really hard to "learn stuff." I took a lot of Advil. Eventually I decided that I was just one of those people who didn't really "get" jiu-jitsu but that that was ok because at least I was having fun. Except I wasn't. Not really.

Then I found a new school that I loved and also started training more at my own dojo. The new place was smaller, friendlier, more focused on movement. My husband's classes were smart and well structured.  The combo of these two schools made me excited about BJJ again. During a seminar at our dojo run by my husband's teacher, I was awarded my purple belt, a complete surprise. The chokey-thingy now worked on a few adults too and I suddenly realized that I could combo moves together. I was finally getting jiu-jitsu!

I still had no clue what I was talking about.

Over the past few months, I have started working out with some of our BJJ students who are interested in competing. In addition to taking class, we often stay after and work on stuff together. What, and how, we work will remain a secret, but lets just say I have a BJJ notebook now just like Matthew. Since I have also recently joined his school out in Brooklyn, suddenly I am training 5 days a week, sometimes twice a day. I am always, always thinking about jiu-jitsu. (Much to my daughter's dismay.) Our car conversations (when they are not about Donald Trump) consist of  stuff like "I had trouble getting the underhook with __ but I then thought maybe I should move my hips out a little and that worked but then he went for the darce and then I had to bail and so I recovered butterfly guard but then I was not sure where to go from there...."  (Again, my daughter is thrilled.) For the first time ever, I recently used You Tube for something other than watching animals fart.

The blue belt me who thought she was starting to understand things would hardly recognize this recent person. For the first time ever, while driving home from the dojo the other day, I had the thought that I might actually become good at this someday. That at the very least, I was on the right path. The difference is that I am now aware that I still probably have no clue what I am talking about. Not that I won't ultimately become a skilled BJJ practitioner, but that the current feeling that I am starting to "get it" is nothing compared to how I will feel a year from now, or two, or six. That the scope of the things I need to learn, the things that I GET to learn, is so big that it could take a lifetime. This awareness simultaneously fills me with joy and absolute terror.

What if I die before I learn it all???

I guess the point of all of this is that if I had quit BJJ during any of the many, many times I wanted to over the past seven years, I never would have gotten to know this person. I never would have realized that I could BE this person. And if I quit now, or next month, or next year, I will never get to meet the black belt me, a person who I am sure will think she finally, finally gets it, and will still be wrong.

To be honest, there have been so many ups and downs over the years that I can't promise that I will make it that far. I have had one too many "Ah ha, finally!" moments that then turned sour. It is going to take a little while to fully trust this new me. But I promise to try.

So to sum up, this BJJ stuff is really, really hard sometimes. It really can suck and you will want to quit a million times. Stick with it anyway. Even if it means changing what you eat, or the color of your gi, or even where you train. Find what works for you and then stick with it.

You never know what you might discover about yourself.


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