Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You too can grapple.

I have had a realization.

No one, and I mean no one, ever in the history of the world or in the endless future of this planet will anyone else be as awful at Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as I was on my first day.

I'm not dogging myself either.  I am just being honest, and I am okay with my very extremely humble beginnings.

I think it is a testament to my instructors, teammates, and even to my own determination and dedication that I have come this far.

I know I have a tendency to exaggerate, but for the sake of the point I am making, I am going to speak in facts...  And yes, I was really this bad when I started.

When I started I was an out of shape, over weight mom, nerdy mom.  Other than some running in high school, I had zero athletic background.  None.  And what is worse, I really believed that as a girl, being weak and nonathletic was not only okay, but the right way to be.

I very clearly remember my first day.  I was horrible at everything.  Everything.  It took me three months to get a forward roll right, and I mean from sitting, not standing.  I just couldn't do it.  My instructor at the time Mario, bless him and his infinite patience, had to help me.. and by help, I mean basically pull my legs over my head for me, for weeks until my body could figure out which muscles I was supposed to use to get my ass over my head while going forward.   Once I could do it myself, I went sideways for a looong time.  In his also infinite wisdom he didn't even bother asking me to try rolling backward until I had been going for several weeks.  I eventually did get it right though...forward and, believe it or not, backward.

I barely, and I mean BARELY made it through warm ups.  I had to stop and walk twice while we jogged what was maaaaybe a quarter mile in laps around the mat.  Mario jogged alongside me to encourage me, and I remember being absolutely FLOORED that he could not only do it, but he was talking to me totally unwinded - unphased at what I was truly struggling to do.

I couldn't hip out either.  I couldn't even wrap my head around what the heck he was asking my body to do. He showed me about seventeen times, and explained over and over that I was supposed to basically move my butt up to where my head was by way putting my foot near my butt and pushing my body up.  Nope.  Does not compute.  I ended up doing an extremely awkward, embarassing backward inchworm maneuver on my back across the mat and back.

Then it was time to grapple.

"Attack me."


I remember thinking, "How am I supposed to do that?" I did bumble through three grapples that day, that were very much a blur.  People were putting their bodies on me, sweat happened, my head went in crotches, arm pits were near my face.  I was being touched.  A lot.  And at the time I was very much a person who required person space.

I did not want people even to be inside my orange circle, but everyone was all up in my red circle like they belonged there.  It was horrifying.

The morning after my first class, it hurt to get out from under my blanket.  Not because I was hurt, but because I was so out of shape, and my muscles were so accustomed to not being used that a single class of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu nearly crippled my upper body.  (Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but it did hurt to move my blanket.)

But against the odds I loved it.

And I kept going.  And I kept trying.  And I kept getting frustrated.  And I kept crying when I got home.  But, I kept going.  And slowly, I got better.  I still get frustrated.  I still cry sometimes.  But I still go.  I still try.  I still love it.  And I am still getting better... but happily I am a far cry from where I started.

Now that I help Allie with the women's class I see a lot of female beginners, and that is what made me realize just how terribly uncoordinated and out of shape I was when I started.  The first few times I saw people do forward rolls on their first try, I was kind of shocked, but now I see that being able to do that is something most normal people can do on their first try.  lol

I grapple almost all the girls on their first day, and am still shocked at how well some of them do on their first day in comparison to my first day, which for the longest time, I assumed was normal.

It just makes me realize all the more, that.. Yes... everyone can do this.  No matter how much you think you don't have the ability, or that it isn't something you could do... You can.  Trust me, you can.  You just have to try, and keep on trying.

I don't think I am great, or even above average... at best I am an average blue belt, but the fact that I came from where I was to being an average grappler in a little less than two and a half years gives me a sense of pride.  With the help of some really great coaches and amazing teammates, I have come pretty far.

It makes me really happy.


  1. Terrific post. Do you tell the new girls this story?

    Also, I'm kind of curious as to how you decided to do BJJ in the first place. Most people who live like you once did never get into BJJ. It took an act of courage to walk into the gym and many, many more to keep walking back in there.

  2. I do tell the new girls how terrible I was when I started and not to worry if they don't get something right away... but I've just recently realized just how truly awful I was when I started. lol

    And I came the first time because a friend was being dragged there against her will, and she begged me to go with her, and in all honestly, had I known what BJJ was, I probably would not have gone. I was envisioning karate of some kind. hahaha =)

  3. Thank you!! I just went to my third class last night and was thinking,"Will I ever stop being so clueless, uncoordinated, and embarrassed?" It was the first time I left feeling kind of down. I really appreciate this post because it's encouraging me. Especially when you talk about the forward rolls, because I can't do them! Last night my instructor spent plenty of time with me on trying to learn a simple move called teddy bears, and I just looked like a total clown. So embarrassing. But I'll keep trying, gosh darn it. After all, I did just cut all my beautiful nails off so I'm committed.

    1. Hang in there!! It DOES get better! I remember feeling like a total lost cause for a couple of weeks, and then I had my first light bulb moment. It wasn't major, but one thing just suddenly made sense. Ladies and gentlemen, I can be taught! Then slowly, but surely more things stated to make sense.

      Though, normally goes more like this... Say a submission, or sweep takes 5 steps.... The first time I realized I where could do it, I got the first step, and screwed up... Then, the next time, I got two.. then three.. and so on until I get to the point to finish said sweep or submission, and then comes figuring out how to get around the person your grappling trying to stop you. hahaha

      BJJ is a slow process, but one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done. Keep at it my friend!