Breaking the Cycle.

Finally hit up my first class in almost three weeks. I know, I know. I’m not suppose to go that long without BJJ. It’s jut that things got a little out of hand. And, then one of our kids got strep. And, then…

Everyone says that excuses are like assholes, everybody has one. Well, I have lots of them. No, no. Not that. You are focusing on the wrong word. Excuses. I have lots of excuses. Most of which were hinged to my competition failure.

Wait. It was opinions that are like assholes. Eh. I need it to stay as excuses for the sake of my attempts to be clever in my writing.

So, anyway…

I did a little bit of this:

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Some of this:

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Netflix became my best friend as I avoided the three-dimensional people.

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I might have done a little bit of this:

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Which eventually turned into this:

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I didn’t say they were good excuses…

I’ve never been one to sugar coat things in my posts and I’m not going to start now. I’ve always struggled with depression. Anyone who deals with depression knows that if you feed that monster it will eat you whole before you know it. One of the biggest sides of that for me is that I struggle with the feeling of embarrassment. It’s a big depressive trigger for me. If I feel embarrassed I escape, hideaway from the world, and beat myself up.

I felt really embarrassed after my losses. It wasn’t me fearing anyone else thinking less of me, it was me just being really disappointed in myself and how I performed. That led to an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment and I let it eat me up and keep me from pushing forward in a positive manner.

I know, for me, the way to slay depression is to stay active, to eat healthy. That has always been my cure. The hard part is actually making myself do it. When I am depressed the couch, binge watching Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and documentaries on Netlix, and eating pizza is much, much more inviting.

The older I get the more aware I am of how that depressive lifestyle alters my body.

Eating like crap always makes me feel like crap. Bad carbs and sugar are almost like a drug and once I start eating them, it’s hard to stop and it just snowballs.

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Not only that, those unhealthy foods make me feel tired, heavy, bloated, and sluggish. Those icky feelings usually halt my activity level. Not staying active gets in my head and makes me feel lazy, I’m less productive, and I end up just wasting the day, often times accomplishing nothing.

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I also would find myself in the cycle of “the tomorrows.” I’ll start tomorrow. I can eat whatever I want today because tomorrow I will eat healthy. I can be lazy today because tomorrow I will start running again. Tomorrow I will get back on track. Tomorrow I will go to class. Tomorrow everything will be better.

The last few years I’ve really tried to focus on always moving forward towards my goals. Even if it’s just a little bit, a little progress, it’s always about moving forward. A relentless pursuit of better. Over the last three weeks I would sit there at the end of the day pissed and mad at myself that I did absolutely nothing to propel me forward. In fact, most days I was sliding back, distancing myself further from the things I want to accomplish.

It’s an ugly little cycle to get stuck in and it’s so hard to break.

Eventually I have to force myself to make the changes to feel better. I don’t know how anyone else does it, but for me I focus on small successes. I take it day by day and when I’m struggling I might have to take it hour by hour, and when it’s really bad minute by minute. It was the exact method I used to quit smoking.

Get through the next hour, Allison. Just focus on getting through the next hour and you are that much closer to defeating this struggle.

That was what I told myself. It works and each minute, each hour, each day it gets easier to stay the course and keep moving forward.

I’m on day three of Allison-is-determined-to-climb-out-of-this-rut-and-get-back-to-kicking-the-ass. I’ve stuck to my healthy eating and I’ve stayed active. I feel so much better even just after a few days.

It felt great to get back to class last night. I’ve missed BJJ so much. I’ve missed the happiness I get from the endorphin high I experience after a hard workout. I’ve missed the empowerment I feel being a girl and engaging in a sport that makes me feel strong and badass. I’ve missed the fun of learning. I’ve missed the people and the environment. I’ve just missed it all and I’m so glad to be back.

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“You Should End It.” Part Two

I thought I would give an update to the “You should end it” situation. That post was shared a lot and got a lot of attention and comments on social media so I figured you all deserved to hear what has happened since.

First, a little background.

The main kid, the one behind the horrible statements, has been doing crap like this to Drew for about three years now. His behavior and treatment of those around him is nothing new or surprising to us or generally anyone who has had contact with him. Over the last few days I have gotten several private messages via Facebook from parents that immediately knew who the kid was when they read my post. He’s built up quite the reputation.

For about 2-1/2 of those years it was happening at the martial arts school we previously went to. It was a roller coaster of both mental and physical bullying. That was one of the advantages of leaving the martial arts school, we wouldn’t have to deal with this kid anymore.

And yet, here we are, eight months later going through it all again.

This kid would feed off of Drew’s weaknesses and loved to pick at them while hiding his intentions behind friendship. One day this kid would be Drew’s friend and the next day he was rallying up everyone to ignore Drew and say cruel things to him. He would purposely exclude Drew and often times make fun of him for his sensitive nature. Drew is really tenderhearted and if he ever showed that, this kid would pounce. Many times these situations were the result of silly things like Drew beating him at dodgeball or because Drew had gotten a new video game or app. He only wanted to be Drew’s friend if Drew was below him.

The emotional bullying wasn’t where it ended either. On many occasions this kid physically attacked Drew. Seeing this kid go on the attack was kind of scary. He looked like he was in rage mode, like he was going to murder someone. It was crazy. I can’t even remember how many times this happened.  There was the time that Drew beat him while playing a board game and so the kid leaped over the table, knocked Drew out of his chair, and started choking him. There was the time Drew’s team beat him at dodgeball and so he attacked several kids when they all gave each other high fives in celebration, Drew included. There were the many times he would physically pick at him and pick at him and pick at him.

I don’t know what is wrong with this kid. His parents are really nice, good people and as far as we can tell on the outside it seems to be a personality/behavioral issue, not an abuse/neglect issue.

Full disclosure, because there are always many sides to a story and I’m not trying to claim that my kid is a saint…

When Drew is angry or upset he has a really hard time walking away from the situation. He wants it fixed immediately and just can’t drop it. If it can’t be resolved immediately, he gets frustrated easily and often times cries. He will pick at the situation until the other person gives up. He’s also really competitive and is sometimes a sore loser. And, by sore loser I mean that he would pout, not run over to the winner and tackle or punch them in rage.

I understand that boys, or just young kids in general, are going to pick at each other and fight with one another. I don’t think there’s anything out of place with that and consider it a normal part of navigating through adolescence and learning how the world works.

Drew and this boy also had some great times as friends. But, unfortunately there are some kids that take pleasure in preying on what they see as the weaker kids. That is this kid. Most of the time Drew was around this kid Drew was walking away sad or hurt. That’s just not a good friendship to be in.

The last incident we had with this kid was when they were playing Nerf wars at martial arts camp and when Drew hit him with a nerf bullet and then lied about it by saying, “It wasn’t me.” The kid then ran at him in full rage, tackled him and then got up and kicked him in groin. The way the situation was handled and all the other bullying events leading up to this opened our eyes and woke us up to what that school was and it definitely played a part in our decision to go somewhere else.

Long story short, most of the incidents were never really handled beyond talking to the kid’s parents and maybe taking his belt away for a few weeks or something else pretty minor. It was all basically people pleasing, slap on the wrist stuff.  We came to the end of our rope after the last incident when both Drew and the other boy received the same punishment (they had their “special” gi kimonos taken away) and we were told that Drew was asking for it the physical attack since he lied.. We were also told that Drew was just as much the problem as the other kid.

Seriously?

I didn’t even know how to respond to that. This kid is a bully in every sense of the word and Drew is absolutely not. This kid is in their office, in trouble almost every other week. Drew was not. This kid was disrespectful to the instructors and to other kids. Drew was not. This kid punched, kicked, tackled, choked, spit, etc. in a rage when he didn’t get his way. Drew absolutely never, ever, ever did anything like that. EVER. (He would have been in a world of trouble if he had and he knows that!) I knew from talks with his parents that this kid was getting into the same kind of trouble (physically attacking, being disrespectful, etc) at school and they were getting calls from them often. I’ve never gotten a negative call from Drew’s teachers or principals and often hear from them and adults around him how well behaved and mannered he is.

When they said that Drew was just as much a problem, I couldn’t understand how if this is true, why was this the first time in two years at that place that we were hearing this. Why was the other kid in trouble all the time and Drew never was? It just didn’t add up and it became very clear that the situation was being handled in a people pleasing manner instead of doing what was right.

I will never understand that conversation.

We aren’t the type of parents that try to cover for our kid or have on blinders to their behavior. If our kid is doing something they shouldn’t be, we take care of it immediately. We are not afraid to discipline our kids. I take pride in how with a single look that I inherited from my mom, that I can warn them that they are entering trouble territory if they don’t shape up.

Like I said, I just will never understand the reasoning behind that. I remember thinking how can a place that is suppose to be a safe, bully free environment, not kick this kid to the curb after it became a consistent problem for years? When we did ask how, we were told, “It is what it is.” It was a really eye opening experience to the intentions of that business.

So, now that we’ve got the background out of the way, he’s what happened after my post.

The kid kept calling. He even called while he was at school. Drew ignored the calls so the kid left a voicemail. It wasn’t as bad as the previous statements, but it was still poking at Drew.

The other kid involved, I’m not worried about in the least. Him and Drew are friends and for the most part get along great. He’s a good kid who just got involved in a bad situation. Another parent and I were talking about how easily kids can bandwagon and good kids can jump into something they usually wouldn’t have any part in. I believe that is what happened with this boy. His parents are great people and even though their kid didn’t make the statements, they took the situation very seriously and we had a nice talk about it all. They even had the police come over and talk with their boy about the situation. The boy later came over to our house and sincerely apologized and Drew was very happy with that.

*Huge shout out to the Republic Police Department for taking the time to do that. I was told that they didn’t hesitate to come right over and shared a very heartfelt, emotional personal experience about how the words we say can haunt us for the rest of our lives. We are lucky to belong to such an amazing community where the officers will take these things seriously and take the time to do this for the kids.

Much to my surprise, the martial arts school did contact me. We’ve exchanged some information and we passed on the voicemail to them. They apologized about the situation and assured us that they will address it. They had a meeting set up with the parents to discuss it with them. I’m hoping that disciplinary action is taken from both the parents and the martial arts school. I am very appreciative of the school contacting us considering that there is some history there and obviously, if you read my posts, I don’t always say the nicest things about their business practices. It was nice to see that history put aside and a focus put on remedying the situation we are currently dealing with. They made it clear that they are looking out for Drew and would do anything in their power to keep the situation from happening again. I am 100% genuine when I say that we appreciate that.

But…

I’m not trying to stir the pot, I’m just frustrated as a parent.

I can’t help but to think about how if this kid would have been given the proper punishments and suffered consequences for his actions years ago, we wouldn’t be going through this situation right now. I can understand that you see these kids that obviously have behavior issues and tell yourself that they need martial arts more than anyone. They obviously need that discipline, that environment, and that motivation to be a better person. But, when it’s consistent behavior and it’s not addressed properly, and it starts to jeopardize your other students and customers, wouldn’t you eventually hit the point of saying enough is enough and it’s time for you to go? Maybe suggest physcological help and coming back when the behavior has improved?

I still don’t understand why this kid felt the need to target Drew after such a long period of time of no contact with each other. Drew doesn’t even think about this kid. To him he’s a part of a bumpy past that he no longer wants to participate in. I remember the first time the kid called last week and when Drew figured out who it was, he said, “Why would he call me now? I don’t even want to talk to him anymore. I have no reason to talk to him.”

I hate that Drew had to go through all of this over the years, but at the same time, I’m glad he did. One of his biggest struggles was that he was way too forgiving. He used to be a super social kid and having lots of friendships was always really important to him. He wanted to be friends with everyone, even the kids that didn’t like him. Because of this he would, a lot of times, let people walk all over him. They could treat him like crap and he would just let them. Through all of this over the last three years he’s learned that it’s more important to have a few friends that get along, that care for you and want good things for you than to have a bunch of friends that treat you like crap and use you. He had to learn the hard way that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to friendship. He’s still a social kid, he’s just more selective about it.

Today, this whole incident isn’t even a big deal to him. I don’t think there’s anything this kid could say that would hurt Drew. He knows how this kid works and he knows that this kid is just trying to get a reaction out of him and the best defense to that is to have no reaction at all.

I have no idea what measures are being taken to ensure that this kid leaves Drew alone. I have no idea what measures are being taken to ensure that his kid doesn’t bully anyone else. I’m going to guess, based on our experience with him in the past is not a whole lot.

I really wish that his behavior would be taken more seriously both for his sake and for the kids around him.

“You Should End It.”

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about kids. In it I had referenced our previous experience at the McDojo we attended and the difference we see in the kids there and the kids at where we train at now. I actually felt a little bad about part of the post. I kind of blanketed all those kids at the McDojo into one statement and I admit that isn’t fair. There are some really great kids at that place. Sweet, kind, hard working, excellent kids.

But then, in the last few days, I was reminded of what kind of kids I was talking about in those blanketed statements. Today, I don’t feel so bad about that post.

For the last two weeks my son Drew has been getting prank calls from some of their  “black belt” kids.

After class is over these kids are getting together in the “kid’s room” at the school and repeatedly harassing Drew with phone calls on his cell phone. (I can even hear the classes going on in the background.) If he tries to ignore the calls and not answer, these kids will blow up his phone with call after call after call. That’s fine. They’re kids and I understand that this is what kids will do. I’m fine with fun, harmless prank calls. What isn’t fine is what happens when he does answer the phone. There was generic name calling “Asshole, douchebag, etc.” And, then there were these gems:

“You have won a free trip to Japan because no one wants you here.”

“You parents made a mistake when they made you.”

“I bet it even says mistake on your birth certificate.”

“Your life sucks. You have no life. You should end it.”

My bottom jaw dropped to the floor when I heard the last one.

Drew hasn’t seen or talked to the main kid doing this in almost eight months. There wasn’t even a single situation that provoked this. Drew wasn’t saying anything on the phone to provoke these statements, he simply answered the phone and said, “Hello?” There is absolutely no reason for this kid to be calling him and saying shit like this. Eight freakin’ months that they haven’t seen or talked to each other! Why now?

I can’t say it with enough passion: There is absolutely no reason, no fucking reason for 9, 10, 11-year old kids to be telling other kids to kill themselves. 

Let me tell you, it absolutely broke my heart to hear someone say that to my son.

They also threw in a few statements about where we are training now and that it sucks balls (exact words) and how we are all lame because we quit “karate.”

Sigh.

Kids.

Oh, Kids.

Kids, kids, kids.

I’ll just leave that one alone…

So, eventually I stepped in and told them that Drew had them on speaker and I could hear what they were saying. They started mouthing off and saying similar shitty things to me. They quickly hung up when I told them that we knew who they were and started calling them by name. They haven’t called back since.

I can understand that they are kids and kids will do and say some pretty stupid things as they fumble through these awkward stages of growth and immaturity. They are kids, it’s to be expected from time to time. They don’t grasp yet that words can have a devastating aftermath.

Drew is happy, supported, loved, has tons of friends, belongs to a very close-knit family, and BJJ is helping him build self-confidence everyday. He can handle it now. He’s not huddled in the corner crying or in need of a “safe space.” I’m not worried about words like this hurting him to a point of self harm.

My worry is that I can’t help but to think of kids that don’t have that love and support and self-confidence and what words like that can do to them. Sadly, there are kids in their tweens and early teens killing themselves because of situations like this. Adults can sarcastically say, “Well kill yourself then,” and you can laugh and not take it personal. I see it everyday in Facebook comments. Kids minds can be so vulnerable and fragile and, unfortunately, they haven’t yet grasped the beautiful art of sarcasm.

Kids are mean. This is nothing new. Unless you slept through your entire adolescence you’ve experienced it from one side of the coin or the other. Your kids are going to encounter kids like this all the time. As much as I would love to shield my boys from these kind of kids, it’s impossible. I try to look at it as a lesson in compassion. When someone says something hurtful to my kids and they let it get to them, I simply tell them to remember what it felt like and try to never make anyone else feel like that if they can help it. It’s that whole treat others as you would want to be treated spiel.

I get that these boys probably don’t understand the severity of those words. I’m even willing to say that they might not necessarily be bad kids and that they don’t necessarily have bad parents. I don’t know all the circumstance of what these kids might be going through in their personal life. I’m not going to sit here and try to critique the parenting or say what they should do to prevent their kids from saying things like this.

I’m going to take the other side of this instead.

If you have kids, please, please, please enroll them in something like BJJ that helps them to build their self-confidence and equips them with the right mental tools (and physical if needed) to defend themselves against kids like this. I promise you that you will see so much growth in your kid and the way they can handle the things (and people) that life will throw at them.

A year ago Drew would have had a very different response. He would have cried to the point of being almost hysterical. He would have had a really hard time letting it go and walking away from the situation.

Drew’s response to these kids yesterday was calling them asses, asking them how many people from their McDojo fought in the UFC, and then telling them that they are just scared that he can beat them up now. And, then he put away the phone and let it go.

I was shocked at the confidence he had when he made those statements, especially considering they had just suggested he kill himself, and then how easily he let it go.

BJJ can change your kid’s life. No joke.

Permanent Improvements.

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I wasn’t going to write today. I’m kind of in a post-comp funk.

Getting back to class felt great, to be honest. Once again I’ve found the motivation I need to focus on improving. I am hungry to get better and give this whole competition thing another shot. I refuse to let the performance in my first comp be my only performance in a comp. That would just be embarrassing.

We ain’t goin’ out like that. (My mom, the retired English teacher, is cringing at that sentence.)

Now  I have a clearer understanding of what to expect, what I need to bring to the mat, and what I should be working on. There is nothing that can prepare you for that first competitive battle other than getting out there and doing it. Now that I have that done, I’m ready to put in the work for the next one.

What went wrong for me last night was I ended up with a bad case of the “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.”

“If only I could have done this.”

“What if I would have done this?”

“I should have done that.”

Those thoughts will eat you alive if you focus on them too much.

I walked out of that tournament thinking that those girls were way better than me. That I didn’t stand a chance against any of them. I walked into SFC yesterday feeling like a loser that didn’t know what the hell she was doing. I felt like my abilities and my improvement were an illusion. A make believe BJJ fairy tale.

Class proved to me that none of those things are true. I just did a horrible job handling the nerves and the pressure and I let myself get intimidated by it all. By the end of class I was just depressed thinking about all the scenarios I got caught in at the tournament and how I know, I freakin’ KNOW how to escape and handle those situations. It’s so frustrating to think about.

I wish the tournament would have went differently. What person doesn’t go in it asking themselves, “How awesome would it be to win it all?” But, there’s nothing I can do now to change how it turned out. I lost. I lost twice. I lost badly. The only thing I can do now is let it go, get back to work, and keep moving forward.

I saw a post from Tom DeBlass this morning on Facebook that was the absolute perfect thing I needed to hear today.

“The time and effort we spend preparing for competition takes our game to the next level and can even help us break through plateaus we have reached in our training. Even if we lose in 10 seconds or win gold, that feeling of joy or despair will be temporary but the improvements we made whilst preparing will be permanent.”

In the time I spent preparing for that tournament I improved on so, so many levels. Both mentally and physically. My attitude shifted, I found focus and motivation, and my goals pushed me harder than I ever had pushed before. I’m happy with and proud of those improvements.

Without the preparation I went through, there’s a chance I could still be that girl sitting there by herself without anyone to roll with because she was too scared to ask. I could still be that girl that was terrified of looking silly or making a mistake. I could still be the girl that thought that getting better at BJJ was impossible. I could still be the girl that didn’t know much about mount escapes, guard breaks, half guard sweeps, side control pressure, re-guarding, and how beneficial underhooks can be. I could still be the girl that doesn’t realize how much fun it is to go from head snap, guillotine, front roll, to crucifix and submitting someone from there whether it be armbar, a one-arm choke, or kimura. Now that would just be a sad world that I want no part in.

My positive focus today is realizing that the preparation for that tournament took me to a whole new level.

Win or lose, nothing can take that away from me.

I am excited about using that to build on. I’m looking forward to continuing that path for my next tournament.

The Tournament.

Our first tournament is in the books. What a crazy day! It was one of the most nerve-wrecking things I’ve ever been through. Feeling the nerves for myself and for both Drew and Jackson was at times overwhelming. I had to stay near the mat I would be on while I was waiting for them to call my name so I had to watch the boys on the opposite side of the room. It was really hard for me to not be able to be right there with them.

I’ll start with the good news.

Jackson

Jackson floored me. I so badly wanted him to experience a win and for him to have a good outcome with entering this tournament. I wanted him to see that when you put yourself out there, even when you are scared to death, good things can happen. I just feared that his shyness would really hold him back. I swear, that kid has proved to me time after time that I shouldn’t count him out. He always manages to surprise me.

He lost his first match to an armbar. He fought so hard. The other kid was in mount a lot and Jackson was bridging his little ass off and almost got all the way over several times.

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He had no quit in him! When I realized he lost, I was really, really worried about how he would react. I thought for sure he was going to cry and not want to do his second match. Apparently he was quite cool with it. Maybe upset for a few seconds but then totally fine and ready to go again.

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A little pre-match pep talk from Nate.

He second match was so exciting! He started off down on points and came back to take the win. He had a beautiful take down that had the other kid landing flat on his back with a loud smack.

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Down he goes!

Jackson was so aggressive and had his war face on.

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Cutest war face ever.

He had great top control, he took the kid’s back, he fought like a beast. At one point he defended getting mounted like a boss and I think that was one of the moves that secured him the win.

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No mount for you!

I cried when his little hand was raised.

I found out a little later that his win secured him a third place medal. At that point I hadn’t had a match yet and I felt my nerves go away for a second. At that moment I didn’t even care how my matches went because I was so happy for Jackson and his victory.

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This was by far one of the most awesome parenting moments ever. To see him face his fears and get reward for it. To see him earn something that took a lot of hard work. To see him smile with so much confidence.

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One of my favorite pictures of the day. Love seeing the kids at SFC collecting those medals!

We asked him if he was ready to compete again and he quickly said, “YES!” He a little fighter and I am so proud of him.

Drew

Drew’s experience is a little harder to talk about. He was the only kid from SFC that didn’t medal and I would be straight up be lying if I didn’t say that he was kind of having a hard time with it. It breaks my heart to see him go through this. I know this will be something that will make him stronger, but dammit, it’s so freakin’ hard to see your kids be sad like that. Especially when you know how much extra work he put in.

He had such a tough bracket. It was one of the largest in the kids divisions. He had three matches, losing two and winning one.

The first match was against an orange belt girl.

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He fought so hard!

From the start you could tell that she had done a tournament or two (or three or four.) He tried so hard and never gave up, but she was really good and every attempt he took to advance was halted pretty fast.

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There were so many close moments but she always managed to get control back.

The second match was a lot of stand up and at some point the other kid threw up. That was an immediate DQ for him and an automatic win for Drew. I have no idea if he would have beat that kid or not.

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Drew was doing great. The other kid was really aggressive, but Drew was hanging in there with him really well. They both were just having trouble getting a take down.

The third match went almost exactly the same as the first match.

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Jackson trying to comfort his big brother after he lost.

Drew didn’t handle the losses very well. He was so defeated and frustrated. I just felt awful for him because he put in so much work outside of class. You could really see that work paying off and him improving so much the last few weeks. It was also really hard to see him lose from across the room and to not be able to run over there and give him a hug and tell him how proud I was of him in that moment. I was borderline on saying, “Screw my matches, I want to be there for my kid.”

I told him in the weeks before the tournament that if he wanted to medal, he was going to have to put in extra work. He did and it just didn’t work out. As a parent, it makes me fear that he thinks I’m full of shit and that all that work wasn’t worth it.

It’s such a mix of emotions. I’m so incredibly proud of him for getting out there, for not giving up, and giving it his all. And then, I’m heart broken when I think about how tough it is going to be for him to walk into class on Wednesday knowing that he was the only one to not medal. He’s dreading it.

Me

Like Drew’s situation, I am the only adult from SFC that didn’t medal.

I admit, I was defeated the second I caught glimpses of my opponents.

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Got some of my crew behind me before battle.

I thought for sure that I would be the largest girl there. I thought that I would be the largest girl by far and never considered that I might be going against girls larger than me. I definitely let that intimidate me.

Who am I fooling? I let everything about that environment intimidate me.

I lost my first match by submission. I knew the second she got the first grip, that I was in trouble. She was a beast and I could feel it with the power and strength of that grip. I felt so lost during stand up. About the only thing I consistently worked on was pulling guard with an immediate sweep. I second guessed it and hesitated. I thought there was no way I could actually lift her and sweep her over and so I hesitated and she immediately went to side control. I’m pissed at myself for not committing to what I had worked on. I’ve swept my husband like that before and I know that the key is momentum and the right leverage. The weight difference shouldn’t matter.

Her top pressure was insane. I spent what felt like an eternity with her boob covering my mouth and nose. I was in a near panic because I couldn’t find a hole to breathe in. I wanted to tap so badly but I knew that I would never forgive myself for tapping to pressure in a competition. Death by suffocation was the only option at that point. I finally got my arm in there to create a pocket so I could breathe and could try to relax a little. I tried to bridge once and couldn’t even budge her.

I know my coaches were telling me what to do but I don’t think I heard them at all. I was in my own little bubble. My mind basically screamed, “Oh shit!” and I went completely blank. It was like I couldn’t remember anything. She went to mount and I knew it was over for me.

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This girl was a force to be reckoned with.

I could feel her setting up an arm triangle and I just let it happen. I wanted it over. I was embarrassed that I was sucking so bad and I just wanted it over. I’m pretty ashamed of that. I just never saw myself just giving up.

The second match is so frustrating to relive. Within the first 30 seconds the other girl was exhausted and breathing so heavy. It was a good reminder for me to take deep breaths and relax. I told myself to just be patient, but again I found myself clueless with what to do in stand up.

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I don’t even know for sure what happened. I think I went to trip her and fell back. She eventually ended up in side control. I could tell she was wearing herself out so I was trying to just let her continue doing that. She got to mount and I bridged her over. She had me in her guard, broken down and so I had to fight to get my posture back. I tried breaking her guard but it was pretty tight and I knew that I was running out of time. I knew that if I wanted to win, I was going to have to go for a submission. I grabbed her collar, pulled it across one side of her neck while jamming my fist into the front of her neck and then I jumped up to my feet.

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Her face was turning purple, she had spit flying out of the side of her mouth, and I just knew I was close.

“Time!”

Fuck. I lost. Again.

This was such a crazy experience that is so hard to describe. I explained it to my sister as basically attempted murder that they regulate with refs and a few rules so you can’t actually kill them. It was an intensity level that I wasn’t prepared for. I don’t really think you can prepare yourself for it without just jumping in and doing it.

When I had my fist jamming into that girl’s throat, I was in a kill or be killed mode. At one point the ref was right by us watching the situation and I actually glanced over to make sure that it was okay that I was trying to push my fist through her throat. It was crazy intense. And, yeah, that girl is tough as shit to not tap to that. I had my fist buried in her neck and it had to hurt like hell. Kudos to her for not only not tapping, but not even opening her guard.

I admit, I was really defeated in that moment when I stood there for the second time watching someone else get their hand raised. I walked off that mat feeling like shit. That lasted all about two seconds.

I was surrounded by fellow SFC-ers that each gave me hug and told me “proud of you” and other words of encouragement. How could I not smile when I was surrounded by such a great team, an extended family. It was, by far, one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it. It made that loss bearable in that moment and gave me the ability to walk away with a smile. It was such an amazing reminder that those medals may be fun to get, but having a team surround you in your worst moment and say we are proud of you no matter what, I mean, that’s winning on some level too.

So, I try to be as honest as possible when I write about my experiences. There are different reasons I like to put this all out there. I like to write. I like the idea that when I write about my struggles it mentally helps me to move on from them. It’s therapy a lot of times. I also consider that maybe someone else can read what I’ve been through and what I struggle with and can relate and know that they aren’t alone.

So, for those reasons, I’m putting it all out there. The good, the bad, the ugly.

The losses have sunk in as the days go by. I’m trying really hard to find the positives but they just get overwhelmed with the negative. I can feel the physical pain of what I put my body through and the mental pain of what I put my self-esteem through. It’s a heavy fog that reminds me that I lost. And, in the typical fashion that fog works, it’s hard to see past it right now.

I’m not exactly taking it as well as I had hoped.

I’m embarrassed that I got last. Fourth place out of four competitors. The only one in the division to not medal. The only one that didn’t win a match. The only adult from SFC to not medal or win a match.

Walking into class on Tuesday is going to be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do. I know that there isn’t a single person at SFC that would ever think less of me for losing, but I still feel embarrassed, like I let everyone down. I know I didn’t, but that thought just sits there like a heavy rock that won’t budge.

With all that said, I absolutely do not regret doing it. Crazy turn, right? We can’t end this on an ugly, negative vibe!

Losing is hard, BUT, what I’ve told myself and what I’ve told Drew is that if we are this upset that we lost, obviously it shows us how bad we wanted it. That it’s worth it. That this is why winning is so amazing, because it’s fucking hard to do. Why would we give up now? Now is the time to get back in there and continue working hard and if we do that one day we will win.

I still stand by the fact that I may have physically lost, but I still won in so many ways. There were some major victories there.

I never thought that I would have the courage to walk out there in the Shrine Mosque full of spectators, competitors, and my family and roll around with someone else in a physical fight. What an adrenaline rush! When I focus on just those simple facts, it’s an extraordinary feeling. We all have heard of “fight or flight” and I fucking fought. All my life my go-to has been flight. Get out of there. Escape the things that scare you.

I fucking fought. That just blows my mind.

And, hey, I bought my first gi and did my first gi class six months ago, almost to the day of the comp. I’m just a beginner, a baby in the BJJ competition world. I got out there with little experience and gave it a shot. I don’t think I should be ashamed of that. I am proud of myself for going for it.

I discovered that I can lose and still survive. I might be in my head about it, but hey, that’s what Allison does. She’s a head case and a work in progress. I didn’t die. The floor didn’t swallow me up. I wasn’t put in a “loser cage” where the winners could walk by and throw rotten food at me and shame me. I’m still here, a little sore and a little broken down, but still here. I’m not going anywhere.

I’m, in a way, glad that I lost so that Drew wouldn’t have to go through that alone. It’s so hard to watch your kid hurt and I’m glad that we have each other. We can be losers together. My job now is to show him that we get back in there. We walk into the next class and keep going. We use this as motivation to work harder. We remember how much it sucks to lose and do our best to not let it happen again.

I’m not defeated. Even though it’s going to be hard, I will walk into that class on Tuesday and pick up right were I left off. I’m still focused on doing my best to improve at every opportunity I can. I still love BJJ. Being in that environment was amazing. A room full of people that love BJJ, cheering each other on, and going to battle. I feel lucky to get the opportunity to belong to that world.

I have found new motivation. Something to work towards. This will not be my last competition, that I am sure of. I will try again. I will win one day and I won’t stop until I do.

Competition definitely showed me where my holes are and where I need to be. I know that I need to work on stand up and take downs. I know I need to work from the bottom more and improve my game there. I know that I need to work on fighting when I’m exhausted and finding that will to push past tired. Those girls in my division were amazing. They are definitely what I will strive to be and work towards becoming. Even if they were kicking my ass, it’s great to see girls out there succeeding. I wish there were more girls involved.

A little random but: I got to watch one of my old instructors (yes, from the place I don’t have the best things to say about) go out there and compete and place second. He’s been doing BJJ for I think the last year or so at another BJJ gym around here. I know I talk a lot of shit about our past school and I totally stand by that, but this guy was the only main instructor there that when we left we still had respect for. Seriously, just a good guy. I was so happy to see that he put himself out there to compete and make it to the podium.

One of my favorite moments from the whole day was the few minutes before my first match. I was standing there surrounded by SFC coaches and teammates. I remember Nate on my left and Brent on my right. I had my mouth guard in. I was bouncing around, trying to warm up a little. I had someone in my ear, pumping me up the whole time. The encouragement was coming from all sides and behind me. I for a few seconds felt invincible with these guys surrounding me. I’ve never felt more badass or more supported in my life.

I have a dream of one day getting my hand raised. It’s been a dream of mine for years. I get butterflies even just thinking about it. I’ve never told anyone that. I even feel a little ridiculous saying it publicly right now.

Maybe that’s why I’m taking the loss so hard. I think I wanted that moment to happen more than I realized. I really tried to go into this with no expectations but I think knowing that I could be just a few points or a submission away from my dream happening put a lot of pressure on the outcome.

A few months ago I never thought there was ever a possibility that that dream could ever become a reality. I’m 36. I’m overweight and I’m not in the best shape. I’ve got two kids to take care of. A house to take of. I work a lot. A lot, lot. Where in my little world does a dream like that belong? It just didn’t seem like something that was within my reach.

Then I walked into those doors at SFC and entered into the world of BJJ. The second I said I wanted to compete, I had so many people behind me.

Standing there bouncing around, warming up, gritting down on my mouth guard, about to step out on a mat and engage in a physical fight with someone, and having these guys around me, supporting my choice to go to war, and believing in me made me realize that this crazy dream of mine can happen. And, just as much as I want it to happen for me, so do those in my corner.

I can never thank you all at SFC enough for the support. Nate, Brett, Brent, Mike A., Mike M., Mike Z., Mike D., (we have an abundance of Mikes at SFC) Doug, Miranda, John, Amy, and everyone at SFC that drilled with me, rolled with me, gave me encouragement and tips, I love you guys. Thank you for having my back. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being my family.

I am so proud of everyone at SFC that got out there and competed. SFC killed it!!

#winning

One day. One. More. Day.

The excitement keeps building with each day.

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Three weeks ago I was a nervous wreck. There were times that I worried I wasn’t going to be able to handle the stress and pressure I was putting on myself. I was just a mess! I imagined when I got to the day before the comp I would be curled up in the fetal position screaming to myself, “Why, Allison!? Why!?!”

I don’t feel like that at all today. I have so many positive things to think about that I’m not really nervous. I’m not scared anymore. I’m not doubting myself.

Yesterday, someone pointed out a great way to stop doubts from entering your brain. Simply taking confidence in the work you have put in. Did the other girls in my division train six days a week? Did they put in 2-3 hours a day? Did they grind and drill the fundamentals? Did they roll at every opportunity? Did they study the details at home? Did they drill at home with a pillow covered in a gi? Did they eat clean? Did they have a team of badass people to get them ready?

They better have, because I did.

Does this mean I’m better? No. But, I put in the work and I did my best to ensure that I was walking in there as the best that I can possibly be. I might lose, but my goal is that if I do lose, it will be the hardest win my opponent will have to earn.

I’m still just absolutely floored at how many have helped me over the last few weeks. Every time I turn around I’ve got someone giving me words of encouragement, showing me a great technique, helping me with details, coaching me through rolls, pushing me to work harder, giving me pep talks, even guys giving up a whole class just to let me get in the drilling. (Bonus points to that guy since we worked knee on belly and side control pressure!)

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Going through something like this really shows you who has your back and wants you to succeed. The support from the guys at SFC has been amazing! I don’t even know how to begin to thank you all for that.

It might sound cheesy, but I feel like I’ve discovered so much about life and myself and BJJ while preparing for this tournament.

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I’m a different person from that first class I walked into months ago. Hell, I’m a different person than I was three weeks ago.

I just don’t see how I can lose tomorrow. I mean, sure I could physically lose, but I just don’t see a formula in my head that equals failure. I know I’ve said it a lot, but I really, really mean it. I honestly feel like no matter what happens, I’ve already won.

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I’m ready!

The Kids.

Two days.

I can’t believe that my youngest son, Jackson, is actually going to compete in just two days. My little shy guy is actually going to get out in front of people and do this!

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A year ago we couldn’t hardly pry him off my neck to do classes at the previous martial arts school we went to. This was still going on after 2-1/2 years there. He would hide behind me, cry, or fake stomach aches and injuries to get out of it. He eventually, through lots of support with our “You are brave,” mantra, started getting more comfortable, but we just didn’t see consistent improvements. The real changes didn’t start until we came to Springfield Fight Club and he started BJJ.

If you know Jackson based on how he was a year ago, you don’t know him at all.

He’s a completely different kid now. And, it’s so much more than just in class. We can see the self-confidence in little, everyday things too. Being able to speak to the server in restaurants and order his own food. Responding to adults that speak to him. Running around and playing loudly with other kids before class, not being embarrassed about saying something silly and having fun. Bravely liking what he likes, even when it’s not typical boy stuff, without caring if anyone else thinks it’s stupid or wrong. He’s learning to be able to laugh at himself and his mistakes.

We have even seen improvements in academics. His reading is so much better and he’s excelling in math. He struggled before because he lacked confidence. He was so worried about being wrong and being embarrassed so he would just shrug his shoulders and mumble, “Idon’tknow” quietly while his little cheeks turned red. Trying to get him to sound out a word was like pulling teeth because he was terrified to be wrong. Today, his newfound confidence shows in his school work.

He still has some struggles. I see him in class worried about doing the techniques wrong. He is really hesitant to commit to what he is doing because he is afraid it’s wrong. The big difference is he does with a smile instead of resorting to his old coping method of crying and escaping. He still gets really quiet when an adult helps him. But, just like me and so many others, he’s a constant work in progress. He is steadily improving. He’s doing so great!

As for this competition, I don’t even care about how he does. Maybe that sounds kind of mean, but I honestly am just excited that he is actually doing this. I’m already so proud of him that I’m not worried about how he does. Obviously I would love to see him win a match or a medal, but really he has already won so much over the last few months. We’ve really been trying to get him to understand what a big deal it is that he is scared and nervous and not letting that stop him. How brave that makes him. I’m so freakin’ proud of him!

My oldest son, Drew, over the last week has gone from nervous about the tournament to excited. It was fun yesterday in class to see him excitedly shoot his hand up when Brett asked who was competing this weekend.

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We tend to push Drew a lot. He’s got so much potential, but he doesn’t always have the drive. I like to tell him that his spirit animal is a sloth. There just wasn’t a lot that seemed to motivate him.

Enter BJJ and SFC.

I think, participating in a competitive sport where there is a clear winner and clear loser and none of that “everyone wins” bullshit, is important for kids. BJJ has shown Drew that if he wants to win or succeed, he has to work hard and put in the effort. It’s nice to see a usual lazy, unmotivated kid find that drive, that motivation to push forward towards improvement.

I think yesterday was big progress for him. We’ve been working him pretty hard the last few weeks. Pushing him to put in extra work outside of the kid’s class. Drilling and rolling and getting the details down. Our hope was that he would eventually see that the extra work is paying off. He’s had a few troubles with passing guard and mount escapes and getting flattened out in side control. He’s been trying the things we’ve worked on and in the moment he would either get a little rushed and leave out some important details or he would get flustered.

Yesterday was almost like watching a different kid.

He nailed his guard pass several times. He executed a mount escape beautifully in about two seconds. He didn’t get flattened out in side control. You could tell that it was all starting to come together. That is was all clicking in his brain. You could see his confidence and drive grow each time he had success with the things we had worked on.

I don’t even know if I have the adequate words to describe, (and I love words!), how amazing it was to see your usually unmotivated kid find motivation in something. I’m really excited to see how he does. I think either way, win or lose, he’s going to continue the motivated path. I can only imagine that this motivation and realization that hard work pays off, will seep into all areas of his life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Do yourself and your kids a favor.

Avoid McDojos like the plague.

Participation awards and belts with no standards for earning them are poison to kids. You are teaching them that everything is easy, that everything will be handed to them, that effort and hard work are not needed. As someone who has experienced both, a McDojo and a legit school, you are really doing a disservice to yourself and to your kids by putting them in that “everyone wins” environment instead of putting them in an environment that will test them, and push them, and help them reach their fullest potential.

In the time that we have spent at SFC, if you were at said McDojo, you/your kids would have advanced four belts. Four freakin’ belts! My kids are still white belts and have been for eight months.

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You know what happens when you have to earn your advancement and don’t move to a different belt every two months? You don’t focus on the belt so much. It isn’t necessarily about the belt. It’s about the process, getting better, challenging yourself, facing your fears, and learning.

In a McDojo it’s a constant quest for the next belt and the next belt and the next belt. You get a green belt and tell yourself, “Holy shit! In two months I’ll be a purple belt! I kick ass!” It’s the only thing you work towards. It makes you glaze over the important stuff. It blinds you from focusing on and working towards improvement and learning and truly challenging yourself.

My kid’s eyes were always focused on the belt and nothing else. That has really changed now. They are excited to get new strips, but they aren’t constantly thinking about it or asking about it. They just put in the work.

Experiencing a McDojo firsthand, I am extremely passionate about this subject and how polluted they are. I’m not trying to put kids down, I’m not that big of an asshole, but there is a very large difference between the attitude, drive, and behavior of kids in a McDojo and kids at legit schools.

Big difference.

I look at the kid’s class at SFC and I have this overwhelming pride in all these kids and how well behaved and respectful they are to the coaches and their peers.

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How supportive they are of each other. They are very much a team. I’m so glad that my kids belong to this. You look at the class and you just know that these kids are going to grow up into strong, capable, respectful, hard working, motivated, adults.

I’m really proud of all the kids at SFC and I look forward to seeing those that are competing this weekend. I’m so very thankful for SFC and that they are providing this environment and experiences for our kids.