Fucking Back Rolls

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I almost didn’t write about class. I was back and forth with the idea. Sometimes I worry too much about what I’m putting out there in these posts and that my mental struggles will annoy people. It’s embarrassing to put this stuff out there. (Good grief, that statement fits perfectly with what I’m writing about today.) But, I made a promise to myself when I started that I would write about it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. My inner workings and struggles are not pretty and I’m sure a lot of people will never understand it but I don’t want that to stop me from putting it out there. We are all unique in our obstacles and these are mine.

I let back rolls defeat me last night. How stupid is that!? A silly little back roll.

I looked around the room and everyone was doing them with ease, or at least it looked like with ease. I was scared at the thought of doing them in front of everyone but gave myself a little pep talk and decided to give it a go. I tried the first one, couldn’t do it, and panicked.

Then we entered into a mental “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation. Do them and have the embarrassment of looking like a whale that can’t get her ass over her head. Don’t do them and have the embarrassment of being the person that couldn’t face the challenge. Either choice was going to shoot my anxiety through the roof.

Hello panic attack!

I let it bother me for the remainder of the class. It’s like I get stuck in the very back of a long, dark tunnel. I can faintly see the people around me, I can kind of hear them, but it’s all so far away that none of it sticks. I’m in my own underworld of self-hate, deaf and blinded by my fears. My sole thought is to get out of the room and I just go through the motions in hopes that no one will notice I’m freaking out inside.

I know that challenges are suppose to be the things in our lives that make us stronger, that make us grow into better people. I know that. When it comes to most things physical I welcome the challenges. I like pushing my body to see what it is capable of.

When it comes to most things mental and putting myself out there, I am the opposite. I struggle deeply with the challenges. Conquering my anxieties feel impossible and sometimes suffocating. I would give almost anything to have one day, just one freakin’ day that is easy. One day that I don’t worry about the people around me. One day that I don’t fear how I am perceived. One day that I don’t get embarrassed over stupid things (like a failed back roll.) One day that I can make mistakes and look silly and not feel like it’s the end of the world. One day that I don’t freak out about simply having a conversation with someone I don’t know very well. One day that I don’t feel broken.

It’s exhausting. I just want easy, get out there, do the thing, mess up, and let it roll off me like it’s nothing.

*Self pity rant over.

There are days that I feel mentally deflated and defeated. Today is one of them. (Over back rolls, might I remind you. *I’m saying that phrase with a tone that implies just how stupid it is to get in my head about a freakin’ back roll.)

All I can do in hopes of conquering myself is to keep going. To keep trying. To keep doing the things I’m afraid of. I don’t know if I will ever overcome these issues but I know that giving into them isn’t the way to bettering myself. As tempting as it is to become a hermit and never leave my house, I want more than that. I crave a life where I am no longer afraid and am on a quest to make that happen. The older I get, the more important it is to me to make that happen.

Show up and try again. That is what I will do.

FYI, after class while everyone was occupied with rolling, I went over to a corner and did a few back rolls. As with most things I get worked up over, they were easier than I thought.

So, I will go back on Thursday. I will do back rolls. I will be brave. I will probably mess up here and there. I will not panic. I will not worry about how I look. I will not worry about what people think of me. I will do my best. I will not give up.

Ego Gots to Go

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My biggest struggle with BJJ lately is pretty much in line with what I struggle with in my day to day life. Letting myself get super disappointed or frustrated over things that I can’t change and can’t control.

I’ve talked about it before, how the strength factor is a big struggle for me. It’s a struggle that still exists and will forever. I will never be as strong or stronger as the men I roll with. I sometimes have a hard time accepting the results of that truth and I let it frustrate me way too much. Especially right now when, as a white belt, we rely on strength a lot because we don’t have the technique yet.

That’s not the part that gets to me though.

The part that bothers me is how I react to it. I get pissed. I let it get in my head. I let it tell me that I can’t do this. Those strength battling moments are when I feel like this is impossible. I get so frustrated and for a brief moment, I let it defeat me.

I can sit here and say over and over that it defeats and frustrates me because I’m a girl and “poor me” and the odds aren’t in my favor, but really it comes down to one thing…

My ego.

It defeats and frustrates me because I have an ego. I get in my head about things I can’t change and can’t control because I have an ego. I don’t like accepting loss in a battle of strength because I have an ego. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to fixing the problem, right?

“Hi. My name is Allison Davis and I have an ego. It’s been 22 hours since my last episode…”

I put way too much self-worth into one rolling match. I put way too much self-worth into a lot of things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s really kind of stupid when I think about it. For too long I have tripped up over these things only to find out that the only thing I am really tripping on is myself. My inability to separate losing to a submission and losing in life.

Your ego is not your amigo.

I’m really trying hard to focus on the learning opportunities that are at my disposal. That these battles of strength with men that are way stronger than me are going to help me improve both physically and mentally. I want to focus on taking out the competitive element that I always put there and instead letting my opponent take the role as a teacher that I can always learn from, win or lose. Letting each encounter mold me into the best version of myself that I can be both in jiu-jitsu and life.

A One-stripe white belt

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My first official class as a one-stripe white belt.

I was sitting there before it started looking at that stripe as I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “I’m a little scared now.”

He gave me a strange look, a I-have-the-weirdest-over-thinking-head-case-of-a-wife kind of look. His eyebrows said WTF is she going to be worried about now.

“Why?”

“Because now I feel like there is a little bit of pressure. Like I have to prove that I’m worthy of that stripe. Being just a white belt I could suck as much as I wanted and it didn’t matter because I was just a white belt. Now, I have something on my belt that says I should at least know a little bit. What if that doesn’t show in my very, very small cache of capabilities?”

I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes. I don’t blame him. I said it before and I’ll say it again, I, Allison Davis, am a head case. Always thinking and over-analyzing situations. But, here’s the deal. There is a legit reason I over-thought this one.

At our last martial arts school you couldn’t tell shit by someone’s belt. The belts told you absolutely nothing about that person’s skill level. Nothing. There were black belts that couldn’t kick above someone’s waist. In sparring you might see a blue belt destroy a second or third degree black belt. There were white belts that were better than green belts and brown belts better than red belts. You could not look at someone and assume because they were a black belt that they had the skills down. It was really wonky and weird to me. I always thought that the belts would be a clear cut representation of someone’s skills. That you could look at their belt and know, at least in some capacity, what they were capable of.

I know I’m getting a little off track here but that is the exact reason why I quit testing at this place and never got the black belt I was suppose to get. It didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like my skills matched my belt. I was not comfortable wearing a black belt without having the mastery of even the basics to back it up.

At SFC and in BJJ you can very much see the differences in each belt level. There is a clear cut tier of skill with each belt. You can look at someone’s belt and instantly know a little about them without asking a single question. My personal favorites to watch are the brown and black belts. They are so relaxed, patient, and just slick. I could honestly just as much enjoy watching them roll as I enjoy rolling myself.

When we first started at SFC my husband would be recapping his experience and telling me about someone in class that he rolled with and when he would say, “He’s a brown belt,” I would always ask if they were good. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that if someone is a brown belt at SFC they are a legit badass.

After my first class as a one-stripe white belt, I’m glad that stripe is putting some pressure on me. It made me want to show that I deserved that stripe. It made me work harder. It gave me a little more confidence. It made me hungry to roll more, to learn more. It made it easier to deal with frustrations. It’s proof that I’ve made it over many obstacles over the last five months and that I can make it over many more.

I didn’t need to tell myself “You are brave,” in scary moments because my stripe said it for me.

My First Stripe

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It just looks goofy to smile with a mouth guard in. Especially when mine is black and so it just looks like I’ve got a weird, toothless grin. I didn’t care last night, though. After class I couldn’t stop those little muscles in the corner of my mouth from curving up in a blacked-out grin.

I got my first stripe.

It was a completely unexpected moment. As they were giving out the stripes to the higher ranks I was preparing myself for being okay with a lot of white belts getting their first stripe and me not being one of them. There are so many moments were I feel like I’m light years behind everyone else. I even considered the thought that two years in the future I might set the jiu-jitsu world record for taking the longest to get the first stripe on my belt.

And, then I heard my name.

I didn’t move from my spot. My back was glued to the wall. I looked at him with raised eyebrows that asked a simple question, “Me?” I didn’t want to move just in case he said the wrong name or there was some other mystery Allison that I just hadn’t met yet in class. My feet were stuck. I think my husband might have given me a little nudge.

I took my first step and could hear “whoops” and applause.

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The support of the men who had smashed me and submitted me too many times to count. The people who always offered a learning opportunity whether it be via a submission or slowing things down and directing me through something I was struggling with.

I took my second step. “Don’t cry!” I said to myself.

I took my third step. “Dammit, Allison, don’t cry!”

I took my fourth step. “You don’t want everyone to see your ugly cry face. DON’T cry!”

I took my fifth step. “Stop crying!”

I couldn’t stop it. The tears were overflowing and I’m not even one of those crying tears of joy kind of people. It’s just that it was so many, many things rolled into a little two-minute moment. So much work and struggle went into that tiny little piece of tape.

There were times that I thought I would never make it past a week, let alone five months. Jiu-jitsu is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Ever. There are times that I feel like I’ve got everything against me. That I’m set up to fail.

I’m a girl.
I’m smaller.
I’m not strong compared to my partners.
My arms are too short.
My legs are too thick AND short.
I’m too old.

Failing would be so easy. I could have a million and one excuses right there at my disposal. I could simply say, “It’s too hard because ________,” and walk away and no one would doubt that statement.

But, I’m stubborn and defiant. Just ask my mom about dealing with me as a teenager.

Where’s the fun in quitting and doing what so many might expect you to do? Where’s the fun in taking the easy route. Where’s the fun in leading a life with no challenge, no change, no growth? Why not do something that seems impossible and surprise yourself? Why not prove everyone wrong and do what they think you can’t?

It’s just one stripe, I get that. I wasn’t even really focused on getting those stripes yet. I’m not going to lie, it was in the back of my head, but I was putting my efforts towards showing up and surviving and figured that stripe would just be a piece of tape on my belt. A simple representation of my time put in. I had no idea it would be so much more to me. That it would be a representation of perseverance, determination, hard work, struggles, and overcoming many, many frustrations.

When I realized what went into that stripe as he was putting it on my belt, I quit fighting the tears and let them go. I let everyone see my goofy, smiling, cry face as I walked back to my spot on the wall. I had earned those tears in that two-minute moment of jiu-jitsu joy.

Congratulations to everyone that got a stripe last night. I now know what goes into to earning those and I have the utmost respect for you all. Well done. A super big congratulations to my husband. Since I live with you 24/7 I know how much you love jiu-jitsu and how hard you are working. I am proud of you!

Hot Jiu-jitsu

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BJJ in heat index numbers in the triple digits is brutal. Anything in that heat is rough but imagine putting on layers of heavy fabric that covers your whole body and doing the most intense form of exercise, at least that I’ve ever known.

Forget hot yoga, try hot jiu-jitsu.

Seriously. Non-jiu-jitsu-ers, go put on denim. Jeans and a denim jacket. Not one of those light denim shirts, a heavy denim jacket. To be more accurate you should probably put on two layers of each. Now that you look super awesome in your denim bodysuit, go outside and do sprints. After the first sprint put a plastic bag over your head for a few seconds. After the second sprint lay down on the ground and have someone sit on your chest for a few seconds. Alternate between the two for one hour.

It’s tough, but I think I was more likely to die by drowning in my own sweat than anything else.

I did kickboxing first and I couldn’t believe how much the heat affected me. I was out of breath a lot faster and I was hitting the exhausted point way quicker than usual. It made me feel weak, out of shape, and old. That might sound like a bad thing to you but to me it’s the perfect trifecta for motivating me, for keeping me on track. I’m not good at finding things I like about myself, but I am good at finding things I don’t like and working my ass off to fix them. Now, I can’t do anything about the old part, that will unfortunately get worse every day. What I can do is my best to work hard and move towards not feeling old.

Age is just a number. Those 70-year-old marathon runners are proof of that.

There were a few times during kickboxing that I thought there was no way I could do jiu-jitsu. My body felt depleted of all energy. I found though, that it is surprising how our bodies can recover. I sat in front of the fan, I drank water, I ate some energy chews with electrolytes that I used for long distance running and I felt a lot better.

Class was great for me. I had to go a little slower during drilling and there were a few times that I wanted to rip that gi off of me. Sometimes I would be breathing heavy after simply doing a technical stand up. I just had to tell myself to take deep breaths, sit when I need to, power through what I can, and drink lots of water. I had a few moments of wanting to leave, doubting what I could do. But, I know that I am the weakest person in that place and I’ll be damned if I’m going to prove it to everyone by leaving in the middle of class.

Rolling actually went really well. I found that when I was rolling the heat was the last thing on my mind and my energy levels seemed to be just fine. I did feel a little rusty in a few areas but I feel like I learned a lot. I love how you almost always walk away from each partner with new knowledge or a new technique.

It’s great to be back at it, heat and all. I’m excited about learning and improving and I’m looking forward to the next class. At this rate, I’ll have no problem taking off my vacation weight and then some. And, I see the heat as just another level of uncomfortable that I need to get comfortable with.

The streets ain’t gonna be soft, ya’ll.

BJJ will

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First class back! It feels so great to be back! I’ve missed SFC and kickboxing and BJJ!

I admit, I was nervous. The closer I got to SFC the more butterflies I could feel in my stomach.

We just spent over a week eating horribly, so much so that I was afraid to get on the scale when we got home to see the damage I had done. I always say I’m going to be good when we go out to eat, that I will make the healthy choices from the menu. Then I see fried stuffs and things drenched in alfredo and pizza, my ultimate weakness, and I say, “Screw the healthy stuff. I’m on vacation!”

#yolo? (Am I too old to say things like YOLO? Probably.)

It’s crazy how hard you have to work to take the weight off and how easy it is to gain it back.

I hate food. I mean I love it, but I hate it. I love it, but I hate that I love it.

I’ve had a life long struggle with food. In my younger years it didn’t really matter because I was active. I played sports, I swam every second that I could, I rode my bike everywhere, I loved playing outside. My dad would call me a bottomless pit because I could eat so much.

Youth metabolism is the shit.

Unfortunately food was more than just food to me. It was always my comfort. I had a lot of struggles in my teenage years and food was what got me through it. If I was sad, food would make it better. If I had a bad day it was nothing that a little Easy Cheese and some Chicken in a “Biskit” crackers couldn’t cure. What a bad habit to form. To drown your sorrows in food.

It all caught up with me after high school and the lack of activity. That would be the beginning of my struggles with my weight. It would go up and down, up and down. I hit my peak weight, the heaviest I’ve been about four years ago, a year after I quit smoking. I knew I was going to gain weight when I quit but nothing could have prepared me for how much I would gain. I knew I was overweight, very overweight, but I had no idea I was entering the obesity level of overweight. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of myself that it hit me hard. I looked at it and there were no words to say. I was a fat ass with a capitol “F.” I looked like I could eat the people standing next to me. I was embarrassed to say the least.

I will never be one of those people that can accept my body and be proud of it when I’m overweight. I just can’t. We live in a world of “big is beautiful” and I just will never feel that way about myself. Maybe that makes me an asshole but I just can’t see myself that way. When I’m overweight all I see is someone who isn’t taking care of themselves in the right way. Someone who is lazy and weak. Someone who is choosing food over health.

I do not want to be that person. And, it’s not about being skinny. I want to be strong and fit and healthy.

It’s crazy how much taking a week off and eating like crap sets you back. I barely survived the kickboxing class and then when I put my gi on afterwards for jiu-jitsu I felt like a whale. It fit differently and I walked down those stairs worried that other people would be able to tell that it fit differently. I’m sure no one noticed, but that thought didn’t make the walk to the mat any easier.

I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to reverse the damage I did on vacation, but…

I know that there is nothing that is going to help me drop the weight as quickly as BJJ will.

I know that there is nothing that is going to make me feel as strong as BJJ will.

I know that there is nothing that is going to get me in better shape than BJJ will.

I know that there is nothing that is going to empower and motivate me more than BJJ will.

It feels so great to be back at it and working towards my goals again!

I Heart Springfield Fight Club

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No SFC for a week.

My family and I are headed off on our vacation and while I’m really looking forward to it I’m kind of bummed about missing out on BJJ and kickboxing.

Last night the kickboxing class was confirmation of the many reasons why I love SFC.

The last martial arts place we went to, we did pretty much the same boxing combination cycle after cycle after cycle. For 2-1/2 years it was jab, cross, hook, bob and weave, cross, hook. The punches may have been mixed up here and there each cycle but it was always the same formula. It got pretty boring after awhile. And, I love, LOVE boxing so that’s really hard for me to say. My husband and I would always try to predict the boxing combo when we entered a new cycle after testing. We were right a lot more than we were wrong. And, the last thing you want in boxing/fighting is predictability.

We also never really worked on movement and cutting angles. We mostly stood, flat-footed, in front of our partners. Footwork and movement were talked about but never really focused on. Kicking was never a part of our combos.

Just want to put it out there:

It’s not so much that I hate the last place we went to, it’s just that I love SFC that much. The last place has a lot of good people and there was definitely some enjoyment there, but SFC is by far a better fit for us and the style of fighting we want to learn.

Okay. Carry on.

At SFC the combinations are in such a large variety that even after five months of doing these classes we still hit new combinations that I haven’t done before. Every class has something new, something to challenge us. A new combo, a new way to cut an angle, a new way to open your opponent and take advantage. We are constantly learning and expanding our abilities.

One of my favorite things is the movement. Last night we did a combination that included a 3 (hook) while stepping back. Other times we’ve switched stances and thrown a 2 (cross) at the same time. We are always moving, changing angles, creating opportunities, and capitalizing on them with punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. When we do these combinations we set up similar to sparring: moving around, light on the feet, ready to go.

I learn something new every single class. I come home excited to show my husband the new combination we worked and how we cut angles. I’m too old to actually compete but I walk out of that class every Tuesday and Thursday drenched in sweat, feeling like a real fighter.

That, my friends, is an amazing feeling.

And, jiu-jitsu makes me feel the same way. While I do get that part of that is jiu-jitsu itself, I know a lot of it has to do with SFC and how they teach, encourage, push, and challenge you.

I can see the differences in how much our family has changed and grown since we started. I’ve never felt stronger both mentally and physically and I can see that in my kids as well. I couldn’t be more happy with the choice we made five months ago to walk in those doors at SFC. My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

Old Ass Brain

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In my youth one of my annoying qualities, I probably had many, was my ability to remember everything. Every little stinkin’ detail. Nobody could tell a story from the past without me saying, “No, no, no. It was…” No one could exaggerate the details that were fuzzy in their memory because I was going to call them out on it. It was almost like I had this abnormal, super hero-ish memory power. Or, I just had a larger hard drive than most.

I miss my youth.

I don’t know if it’s just simply a part of getting older or if there is more to it. Maybe my extreme anxiety over the years is melting my brain cells and sending me straight towards a future of Alzheimer’s. Maybe it’s the results of some bad choices I made in my early twenties. It’s possible that it was the choice to have kids and spending the majority of my days trying to balancing a million and one things. I picture that image of the Cat in the Hat balancing with one foot on a ball, a book balanced on one finger, an umbrella with a fish bowl on on the other hand. Teetering on the edge of losing it at any second.

I think it’s working 40+ hours a week from home, keeping Drew and Jackson from killing each other, attempting to keep our house from looking like the path of a tornado, cooking meals, helping with school work, getting to this appointment and that appointment, exercising and eating healthy, and trying to solve the mysteries of raising boys. Like how hard is it to actually point and pee and make it in the giant hole in the toilet? Seriously. Is it that hard?

Whatever the cause it’s becoming clear that my brain has just said, “Not gonna happen,” when it comes to memory storage. Short term? Long term? Doesn’t seem to matter. My brain is nope. Today I am lucky if I can remember something from five minutes ago. If we are talking jiu-jitsu, apparently even less.

It doesn’t matter how focused and present I am, I can watch the demonstration of what we are going to drill over and over and feel like I’ve got it only to attempt it and not remember.

How is that even possible!?

I watch. I repeat it over and over in my head as they go through it all, “On hip, knee to stomach, underhook the leg, roll to other hip, grab other leg, shrimp out, take the back…got it.” Each time I walk away with my partner thinking I’ve got this. I give myself a little pep talk, “You are going to nail it this time, Allison!”

And then, my 35-year-old, apparently mush of a brain laughs and goes blank. There I am, somewhat stuck in my partner’s crotch as I have him twisted in what looks like a strange, involuntary yoga pose and I’m asking myself, “WTF was I suppose to do!?” The majority of the time I have my partner in a position that looks absolutely nothing like what I saw in the demo.

Every time I have to have someone walk me through it. It reduces me back to feeling like a child that can’t maneuver or navigate the simplest of movements. It’s a crazy feeling to watch something that looks so simple and then attempt it only to realize that it’s not as simple as it looks. Well, at least not for the newb. It isn’t until I’ve done it about 50 times that I start to maybe grasp the general idea of the move. Executing it correctly is a whole other story. It’s probably going to take a 1,000 more times to be able to do that.

As frustrating as this can be, I love it. I’ve always been one of those that loves brain games and puzzles. I see jiu-jitsu as being a real-life brain teaser. A game that is going exercise and enhance my thinking, my brainpower, my ability to solve human puzzles. Eventually, I will get better at putting all of this together and my ability of processing these moves will improve. Each time I go to class I am exercising not only my body, but also my brain. I’ve never done another form of exercise that has had that ability.

Reason #219 that jiu-jitsu is the shit.