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Making Enemies

To the girl at the open mat who thought my body was a grappling dummy, I get it. You probably train at one of those giant schools in the city where everyone is constantly struggling to catch up to the two guys at the top who the instructor actually pays attention to. One of those gyms where everyone goes hard all the time, unless you are injured of course (which happens often) or you have ringworm (also a regular occurrence since guys are constantly taking off their shirts and rolling in sweat puddles). I get that we are both purple belts, and that I met you like thirty seconds ago, so of course there has to be some kind of pecking order established. I mean if you care about that. The other option would be to say "Hello new friend, nice to meet another woman who shares this crazy thing called jiu-jitsu. Lets work on some techniques together." But no, you wouldn't know about that. To you, every match is a challenge, every roll is the ADCC finals. So whatever, you establish your dominance, piss all over the mat and bang your chest a few times. You won. You are so much better than me. Seriously. Congratulations. But you would think that after the third time you grabbed my gi with all your strength, threw me on the mat and immediately tapped me, then maybe we could have fun? After all, it is Sunday. And maybe I missed something but I am pretty sure neither one of us paid a registration fee. And hey, I know that everyone probably smashes you all the time at your home gym but this is not your home gym I am not your opponent, and also did you notice that I am not actually trying to kill you, that I keep smiling at you after I tap in the hopes that you might eventually get it. Did you notice that everyone else in the room is also smiling and talking to each other about jiu-jitsu and that you are the only one trying to win a trophy?

You are doing this wrong.
I know, because I used to do it wrong too.
It doesn't have to be this way.

I mean yes, you are much better than me at jiu-jitsu. Right now. But the thing is, I am going to surpass you. I mean not you specifically, because you aren't going to last much longer. You are going to hop from gym to gym a few more times, hit up a bunch more open mats, maybe win a few more tournaments and then tear out your shoulder and decide that BJJ is too hard for you.

I know because I was you. And I know where your path ends.
But it doesn't have to.

Girls like you, I am going to surpass all of them. Because while they are jumping around the mat trying to figure out who is stronger and faster I am perfecting my inside control. I am locking down my ashi. I am developing an unpassable guard. I am drilling my kimura grips over and over until I can lock up their shoulder from anywhere. And the worst part? I am going to do it slowly. While they lie there confused and out of breath, I am going to slowly and gently wrap my hands around their foot and then just hang out there while they flail around like a dying fish until they finally tap. And then you know what I am going to do? I am going to smile and offer to show it to them. And then we are going to go grab a beer because there are so few women who are willing to roll around on sweaty mats for fun and we are all in this together.

I am going to surpass you because while you are busy getting smashed, I am rolling with brown belts and asking questions. I am rolling with blue belts and working on the details. I am taking notes. I am going back into bad positions over and over until my body and my brain have an exact plan for how to respond. I am working submissions over and over until every detail becomes second nature. And I am not just doing this with those students who are "tough enough to handle the fire." Everyone is welcome, everyone is in! If you are willing to work, you are invited to the party. So our blue belts will also surpass you, eventually. We all will.  And not just us. There are BJJ students in gyms and dojos all across the country who are also doing it right. And they will all surpass you eventually.

And even if I don't ever beat you, even if you are always better than me, I don't care because I will be doing this thing that I love until I die. Training hard. Smiling. Having fun. Making friends. Learning.

When my teammates and I are visitors in someone else's house, we fist bump, get a few taps in and then let our partner work. We don't care if they get on top because we know we will get it back eventually. Besides, we wanted to work on arm bar defense. On our underhook game. On whatever, we can work on something from anywhere. And we also know that if the only reason you get a move is because you are stronger, you didn't really get it, so sometimes we slow way down to make sure that it is our technique that taps you, not our muscles.

And when we get beat up, which happens constantly, we go back to the mats and figure it out for next time. Because the way we train, there is always a next time.

Listen if I sign up for a tournament I expect to get attacked. In fact, when I do sign up for tournaments (which happens every so often) I WANT to get attacked. But at a casual Sunday open mat? No thank you.

You are doing this wrong and the sad thing is you don't know that you are doing it wrong. When people don't talk to you at the gym, you will assume it is because they are jealous. And when your body finally gives out from the beating you are constantly giving it, you will assume that you just got too old for jiu-jitsu and move on. I know. I've been there.

Meanwhile I will still be training.

And if I run into you somewhere, maybe at some event where you are cheering on your teammates from the sidelines with your arm in a sling (again), I will just smile and wave. Because I know something that you haven't figured out yet. What you have is fleeting. But what we are doing can last forever.

Let me know when you get tired, disheartened, broken. It will happen soon, I promise. When it does, you are welcome on our mats any time.


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