Be a Champion, Part Two.

Last week I had a post titled “Be a Champion, Part One.” Just in case someone couldn’t figure it out from the title of this post, which would make me question your ability to tie your own shoes, today is the second half of that.

The chances of me ever being a champion in the athletic professional sense are slim to no effing way. But, I like the idea of calling myself a champion. I believe that the term champion doesn’t have to be reserved for professionals. We can be champions in our own ways. – from Be a Champion, Part One.

The second type of champion I want to strive to be is the most important one to me. I hope to be a champion for my kids. It terms of BJJ, mostly a champion for my oldest son, Drew.

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Don’t get me wrong. I love both my kids equally and there are many ways that I can be a champion for both. However, I feel like Drew needs me more in a BJJ sense than my youngest. And, honestly, I need him too.

My youngest son, Jackson, and my husband, Mike, both have a lot of natural ability and instinct with BJJ. They both have picked up techniques fairly quick and they both experience a more effortlessly positive and happy relationship with BJJ. It would be a pretty rare occasion for them to leave class without having gotten a submission. I think it’s more uncomplicated and naturally fun for them. A lot of times they just can’t relate to what it’s like for Drew and I.

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Drew and I both struggle a lot. There are some age/gender/size differences in our struggles, but for the most part, we struggle a lot in the same way.

We both constantly lose. Every class. Almost every roll.

If we want to find victories often times we really, really have to search the fine details to find them. Getting a submission is a rare treat and we spend the majority of time getting dominated and smashed.

I know through previous mistakes and regrets that giving up when something is a challenge is never the way to go. I know that quitting is never the way to win or to get better. I know that losing sucks, but that it isn’t the end of the world. I know that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. I know that the key to success is through hard work, perseverance, and determination.

Drew’s an 11-year-old kid with a lack of life experience that doesn’t quite understand all of that just yet. This is where I feel like it is important for us to be a champion for him. To be his inner voice that says, “You can do this! I believe in you!”

They say that the key to raising your kids with the traits you want them to possess is not to tell them, but to instead show them. Us doing BJJ as a family gives me an opportunity to do this often. I also have the added bonus of extra motivation to never give up. I know that my kids are watching me and if I quit, I would be showing them that when things get hard you should give up. When you are frustrated, you should quit. When you feel defeated, you should walk out and never come back.

Life isn’t easy and I want my kids to learn how to fight through the tough parts and to refuse to give up just because something is a challenge.

I’ve watched Drew struggle a lot in class. He puts all of his focus and value on winning and losing. Mostly losing. He thinks because he is mostly on the losing end of a roll that it means he isn’t any good and often times he feels like he’ll never get better. He gets frustrated and just gives up so quickly. His first instinct goes to quitting instead of fighting through. He’s been in his head so much the last few months that he has had some rough classes. A few weeks ago after a tough roll that he got really embarrassed about, he cried and told me he wanted to quit.

I did my best to comfort him and tell him that it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to lose, but I was stern when I told him that it is not okay to quit.

It’s one thing to tell him all of that. In those moments of defeat and frustration I have to find opportunities to show him. Thanks to BJJ it’s quite easy to find those opportunities.

A few minutes later he sat there at the edge of the mat as I rolled two rounds with two different brown belts. Afterwards he looked up from his phone and asked me in an excited voice, “Did you win, Mom!?”

“Nope,” I told him with a smile. I laughed a little when I said, “I never win, Drew.”

Later on he asked me, “Do you really never win?”

I told him that I could probably count on one hand how many legit submissions I’ve gotten over the last year and that the majority of my time on the mat is spent in what most would call loser-ville.

“How do you not want to quit?” he asked.

I don’t remember word for word what I said, but it was something along the lines of this:

“Because I think it’s fun and I like feeling like I can fight for myself. During the rare times that I do get to dominate or win it makes me feel strong and like a badass. If I quit I will never get better and I will never get the chance to win. It’s hard and it’s frustrating, but anything that is worth it is going to be hard and frustrating. Trust me, one day it will all be worth it. One day we will get to look back and see how far we have come and be proud of what we accomplished. One day it will be our turn to win.”

I know. It all sounds cheesy and cliché and I’m ripping off the words of wise people before me, but it’s all so true. I know Drew might not get that just yet. Right now there is nothing more valuable to him than video games and his iPhone. His instinct when it comes to challenge and hard is to quit, to take the easy road. But, someday I want them to look back and get it. I want both of my kids to experience what it feels like to work really hard through challenges and frustration and defeat and find success. To earn success.

I don’t force him to be what I want him to be. I let him choose his clothes, his hair style, his hobbies, how he spends his free time, I strongly encourage him to be his own person and to love what he loves without fear of judgement. He gets his choice to do what he wants. But, we do set our foot down when comes to BJJ. He does not have the choice of quitting. It is just not an option. Period. I’m convinced that there is nothing in this world that can teach him some of the best core human values than BJJ can.

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I don’t expect all parents to agree with me on that and that’s okay. I just don’t want my kids to coast through life with everything being easy. It’s hard to watch them struggle, but it’s harder to imagine them growing up to be lazy, turds that expect everything to be easy and when it’s not, to quit. Hard work is the very core of every success story and I want them to have success stories.

Through my experience with BJJ I’m trying to show Drew that I can lose and still smile. I can lose and still learn. I can lose and still have victories. I can fight through with hard work and determination and find success.

Drew, unknowingly, has forced me to focus on the positive and to smile in defeat. I know that he’s watching me and I know that if he can see me stay positive during challenging moments, that maybe he can do the same.

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When I first really noticed that he needed me to be his champion I had to 100% fake it. I was struggling with so much and I had to force myself to smile through my frustrations for him. To show him that it’s okay to fail. The saying goes, “fake it until you make it.” Well, somewhere in the process of faking it to show my kid, it just became my natural way of handling defeat and frustration. I am in such a good place right now, the strongest I’ve ever been mentally, because of Drew.

I try to make sure he knows that we are in this together, that we both struggle with the same things. On the drive home after each one of my classes I share with both of my kids how much I struggled, what I got frustrated about, and how many times I got submitted and lost. I also make sure that they hear me find the victories and I do my best to help them find their victories too.

I love that I get an opportunity to parent through something like BJJ. That we can relate, learn, and grow together. I don’t just expect them to try hard and not give up without myself understanding the true struggles and frustrations that come along. I get to show them that I myself can get out there and work hard and have fun too.

The best thing about all of this is that we have become such a closer family. I see growth in each of us that would have never been possible if hadn’t been for BJJ. I’m proud of my kids and what they have accomplished this last year and I’m confident that the growth will continue.

Drew and I may struggle and go through some really rough patches, but I know that we will fight through it together. We will struggle, but we will fight for success. We will be a champion for each other.

If you have kids, go train together as a family. Come to SFC and train with me, my husband, and my kids and many other families that train together.

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It really is an amazing experience to do together.

Sometimes it’s Pain.

You know it is the sign of a great class when it is a challenge to get out of bed. It’s a challenge for me to get out of bed every morning anyway since I hate mornings. And, I mean I hate, hate mornings. Like nobody can talk to me for a solid 30 minutes after I drag my grumpy ass out of bed and if they do I only respond in grunts and glares of promised death if they speak to me pre-coffee again.

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This morning my body popped and cracked and ouched until I was finally able to stand up in a form that somewhat resembled early man in a zombie apocalypse. Hunch backed, knuckles dragging the floor, wobbly, a little bit of a foot drag situation going on with every step. It was rough.

I would love to tell you that after I got up and moving around and drank my magic bean juice that helps me tolerate people coffee I felt better. Big nope. I sit here completely immobile with the exception of my typing fingers and my body is still screaming at me.

“WTF did you do to me, Allison!?” my body says.

I’m not bitching about the soreness, just poking fun at it while trying to paint a picture for the reader. I see it as proof that I got out there. And, I’ve learned that sometimes that proof can come in some pretty gnarly forms. Sometimes it’s a nasty bruise (or two or three or twenty.)

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Sometimes it’s pain. Sometimes it’s soreness. Sometimes it’s blood.

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Sometimes it’s a gi that is so soaked in sweat that it feels like it weighs 20 lbs.  Sometimes it’s exhaustion. Sometimes, a lot of times, it’s defeat and failure.

But,

It’s all proof that I’m doing something that challenges me and forces me to become a better me, a tougher me.

I like that.

I think you have to like it and welcome it to become your best BJJ self. You have to teach yourself to power through all of that, to not let it stop you. I’ve never done anything else in my life that teaches you to fight through the pain, both during and after, like BJJ does. It teaches you to be a survivor, someone that refuses to give up.

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I remember in my first few months of BJJ how much I couldn’t take pressure. Someone would get me in side control with decent pressure and I would tap. I don’t do that anymore. I’ve learned that it’s painful, it’s not pleasant at all, it sometimes feels you are suffocating, but as long as I relax and remember to breath, I can handle it.

I remember how I used to panic with chokes and think that because it was painful I should tap. I’ve learned that if I can relax and find a way to relieve enough pressure that I won’t go to sleep, that I can handle it.

BJJ is teaching me, sometimes in very painful ways, that I can handle a lot more than I once thought possible. I sit here in pain, and still, I’m looking forward to the next class.

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 6 – One of my biggest setbacks has been my shyness and social fears. A lot of times that meant me sitting against the wall, afraid to make the move and ask someone to roll. I also didn’t really interact or speak to a lot of people. I feel like one of my biggest improvements has been putting myself out there socially more and not shying away from asking people to roll. Because of that I’m able to get more rounds in. Last night it resulted in five 7:00 minute rounds with no breaks. Progress!

Fuji BJJ Tournament.

This Saturday my youngest son Jackson competed at the Fuji BJJ Springfield, MO Championships. I could not be more proud of him.

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I always get so nervous when my kids do these tournaments. Especially for Jackson. Sometimes I forget how much he has changed over the last year. For seven years we have watched him shy away from everything and everybody. Everything scared him. Anything that was unfamiliar was terrifying to him. If even for a single second he felt slightly embarrassed he was devastated and had to escape the situation. He wasn’t just a little shy, it was shyness on crack. (Is it bad that I just used a drug to describe my kid?)  It affected so many areas of his life, of our lives. It was very much a disability.

For so long we have been his leg to hide behind when someone would try to talk to him. The shoulder to cry on when he got embarrassed. The ones encouraging him to face his fears and whispering, “You are brave,” in his ear. The ones nodding to him as a way to say, “You got this!” when he would look to us across the room for support.

I learned this weekend that Jackson is not that kid anymore and I have got to stop expecting him to fall back to that shy guy role. While he does still tense up, avoid eye contact, and get really quiet when someone talks to him, he is just not anywhere near what he used to be. He has proved to the world over and over that he is full of courage and strength and tenacity.

In my book, he’s a little badass that inspires me to be brave.

I think he’s also proved that BJJ is something that he is just naturally good at. He can be so uncoordinated and a lot of times he has trouble getting brain and body to work together when learning something new. However, his body just naturally moves in the way it needs to. He is super flexible, refuses to let someone pin him down, he always stays calm, relaxed, and loose, and does a great job of quickly scrambling to get out of bad positions. I think we’ve found his “thing.”

Let’s get to the break down of his matches.

Bracket #1 was his gi matches. There were three kids in his bracket. The first match he dominated the whole time.

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He quickly got to mount and the other kid did a great job of escaping to half guard a few times, but Jackson would quickly pass the leg and get back to mount.

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The kid rolled over a few times and Jackson took his back.

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When the time ran out Jackson had won, 32-0.

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The second match ended up being against the same boy. That kid had won the match against the third kid and moved up to the match for gold. Again, Jackson quickly got to mount and ended the match with an Americana submission.

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This was Jackson’s first gold medal so he was super excited!

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Bracket #2 ended up being a new bracket of four that they created because a kid that didn’t have a division to compete in. The first match Jackson went quickly to mount and won by Americana in the first minute.

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The second match he got the takedown, battled between mount and back takes, and got the win for gold, 21-0.

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Look at that smile! Republic Martial Arts should be very proud of this kid and his excellent display of sportsmanship. He came up to Jackson after all the gi matches and said, “You’re really, really good and you did a good job today!” Such a sweet kid.

Gold medal #2 for the day!

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Bracket #3 was no-gi and we started to get a little worried because they weren’t calling his name, yet all the kids in his gi division had already had their matches. Finally we hear his name and see his opponent and my jaw dropped slightly.

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This kid looked older and bigger than Jackson and Jackson looked terrified. I instantly went to “Oh shit, this kid is going to destroy Jackson.”

I’m feel like such an asshole for doubting my kid.

Jackson held his own with the bigger boy just fine. The kid tried to pull guard and Jackson refused to let him close it up and passed to side control.

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He got to mount, but the kid quickly reversed him.

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This might be my favorite picture from the whole day!

At one point the other kid scored points for getting to mount, but Jackson escaped and scrambled to take his back.

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He couldn’t get his hooks in, but went for the choke anyway. He couldn’t get his arms completely locked up, but the kid tapped anyway.

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Jackson jumped up and threw his hands up in celebration.

I swear I am sympathetic to the other kid. Losing sucks. I feel for him and I applaud his hard work and for getting out there and competing.

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But, I think he might have underestimated Jackson a little bit. That’s the beauty of BJJ, you can’t ever underestimate the small guy.

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I was so excited I missed the hand raise photo op!

The second match was almost all stand up. They both fought for takedowns and Jackson did a fantastic job of stuffing all of her attempts.

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I didn’t get many photos of this match because I was so nervous!

Eventually he got her in a standing guillotine and I swear she was seconds from tapping but the ref stopped them. I think, if I heard right, you can’t do standing guillotines, you have to take it to the ground to finish it. So, they go back to battling it out and she ended up getting a take down right as the time was up. Jackson lost, 2-0.

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He was so upset afterwards. I see him crying and my heart just breaks. I didn’t want him to be disappointed because he worked his butt off and gave it his all and I was so proud of him and how hard he fought. He was quickly surrounded by his coaches and we all did our best to make him understand that we were all so incredibly proud of him.

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Five minutes later he was back to smiling.

What an amazing day. We had so much fun watching all the kids from SFC get out there and battle their little hearts out. They all show great sportsmanship and heart. I am just as proud of all of them as I am my own kid. I just love that kids class!

Now is the point where I tell everyone with kids, get your kids in BJJ. More specifically if you are in the Springfield area, get your kids to SFC.

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Your kids will belong to something amazing and get an experience that you yourself, as a parent, can never give them. Trust me, you will not regret it.

I know that some of Jackson’s progress comes from us encouraging and guiding him, but I am convinced that most of it comes from what he has learned at SFC through BJJ. I can’t even begin to thank the coaches at SFC enough.

A year ago we couldn’t hardly get Jackson on the mats. Ten months ago I never thought he would loudly and confidently yell his name in front of a bunch of people when it was his turn during “roll call” for new students. Six months ago I never imagined that he would put himself out there in front of everyone and compete. Three months ago I never thought he would get out there with bigger, stronger, older kids and beat them.

If Jackson has taught me anything, it’s that I should never underestimate him again. He’s one amazing, little dude in my book.

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Nothing but Love.

Tomorrow is the big comp day! I’m so excited to go watch everyone from SFC, especially my youngest son Jackson, compete tomorrow.

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Last night in the middle of BJJ class someone asked me if I was competing. I looked up in the middle of a half-guard escape, laughed, and said, “No way!” with a big smile. Well, that didn’t really get a good response. And, as I turned my head to look back at my drilling partner I heard someone loudly say, “What’s wrong with competing!?” in a tone that sounded like maybe they were taking offense to what I said or the way I said it.

Well, shit.

This wasn’t going to be my topic for today but I just can’t let that go by and not address it. I just can’t. This isn’t an anger post or anything like that. I just don’t want anyone, even for a second, to think that I don’t support competition or the people that do it. It’s very much the opposite.

First, if what I said actually did offend anyone, my apologies. I’m not even sure why or how that would happen, though. If it was taken that I think competing is stupid or something like that, that’s just crazy.

Seriously.

Fucking crazy.

I love SFC. I love everything about that place. The atmosphere, the people, the motivation, the encouragement, the badassery. Everything. I love BJJ. I love MMA. After years of going to a martial arts school that we were embarrassed of, I love belonging to a place that I can be proud of. I have nothing but love and admiration for all things SFC and I want nothing more than to see everyone succeed.

I would go to every competition, every MMA fight, every class, and support every person in those arenas every single time if it was possible and my husband and I come pretty close to it.

We always try to get out and support everyone as much as we can. I can’t wait to go out on Saturday and support every single person from SFC that is competing.

I have so, so much respect for anyone that would put themselves out there and compete and I’m just super bummed that anyone would ever assume otherwise.

The laugh, the smile, the hearty “No way!” was directed at myself.

When you like humor and you don’t like certain things about yourself, you tend to go the self-deprecating route with a lot of things.

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See. It’s funny.

Usually my way includes a laugh and then a self-humiliation attempt. When someone asks me if I’m competing, my first instinct goes straight to laughter.

And, I’m the punchline.

I 100%, no doubt about it, no denying it, sucked it up my first comp. Like I’m still embarrassed about it. I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I probably won’t be competing in the immediate future. I’ve just got too much I need to work on first physically, mentally, and skillfully. Right now, competing actually isn’t even an option because of this whole Invisalign thing anyway. Honestly, I’m not even 100% sure if I’ll ever compete again.

Oh boy. Incoming vulnerability.

*Deep breath. Loud exhale.

I am absolutely terrified at the thought of competing again.

Like seriously terrified. Terrified of getting out there and freezing up again. Terrified of getting out there and losing. Terrified of looking stupid. Just straight up terrified.

My dream goal is to one day have my hand raised and I don’t know if I have the courage to put myself out there and try again. I want to. I am working towards that everyday. But, I really don’t know if I can actually do it. I am scared and I am admitting that, much to my embarrassment, to you all right now. I try to tell myself that I want it more than I am scared of it, but yeah, I just don’t know if I believe that right now.

It’s one thing to suck in a class, it’s a whole other to suck while a crowd, your peers, the people that want to see you fail, your family, your husband, your kids are watching. I feel like SFC is such a powerhouse of badasses and I don’t want to go out there representing the place I love and end up being a big joke. And I know that nobody at SFC would ever make me feel like a joke and I certainly don’t think that anyone else that competes and loses is a joke. I’m just super hard on myself.

So, there you go. That’s that. Not much else I can say on the subject.

I know that everyone that is competing tomorrow is going to go out there and kill it and I’ll be right there cheering you all on.

#sfcproud

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 5 – I barely made it through drilling last night. I slaughtered myself and my cardio in kickboxing and was left with an empty gas tank for BJJ. I felt like those guys you see in MMA fights, in the last round, that can’t hardly throw a punch because their energy is so depleted. And, I’m still feeling it today. My body feels so tired as I write this!

I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the rolling portion of class, so I put as much effort into drilling as a I could, which at times wasn’t much. One thing I noticed is that I don’t rush through drilling a move like I used to. It was like I used to think that you had to do the move with speed to be good. I’m learning that drilling is the time for me to slow it down, get each detail down, and working towards fluidity in the movement instead of speed.

Be a Champion. Part One.

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This is one of my favorite quotes.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I say that a lot. Every quote is my favorite quote. It’s like an addiction. I have a quote addiction.

The chances of me ever being a champion in the athletic professional sense are slim to no effing way. But, I like the idea of calling myself a champion. I believe that the term champion doesn’t have to be reserved for professionals. We can be champions in our own ways.

The word champion is such an elite word and I know that the type of champion I can be doesn’t even compare to the “real” champions of the world. I promise I’m not trying to take away from that, from the elite that have earned that title. This isn’t a we are all winners, participation award-ish post.

Yuck.

It’s more of a with hard work, dedication, and a refusal to give up we can become a champion of our own and for the people around us. So many things we work hard for in life don’t have titles or trophies or an elite status, but they are still remarkable and champion-worthy.

I’m “probably” past my prime in an athletic definition.

*I say “probably” because it makes me feel better. The truth is that I should “probably” remove that word from the statement. My brain and my body says, “You are an old shit,” but my heart is struggling to accept the reality of aging. She encourages me to not give up just yet. I like her. Heart is always good. 

Okay. I’ll accept it. I’ll “probably” never be a champion in athletics.

*Dammit. My heart is really struggling to let that one go. She’s relentless with the “probably-s.”

But. BUT, athletics aside, there are so many other areas that I can take that “probably” out and reach champion status in.

The first one I want to work towards is, I want to be someone that is a champion for the moms and the older women.

Unfortunately, I don’t see many moms or women my age out on the mats at SFC. It can be a lonely place sometimes in that sense. I get that BJJ isn’t for a lot of women, but I hate to see women or moms that can let certain roles define their lives and dampen their abilities to better ourselves.

I can’t because I’m too old. I can’t because I can’t keep up with the younger ones. I can’t because I don’t fit the norm. I can’t because it’s a man’s sport. I can’t because there aren’t very many women out there. I can’t because I’m a mom and moms don’t do that kind of thing. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

CoughBullshitCough.

We can. Period.

I am 36-years-old and I get out there with a room of young-uns and do my best to kick ass right beside them. Yes, there are some reality pills that are tough to swallow. I’m slower. I have my kids there with me and they will come up and interrupt me in the middle of class at least once a night. My gas tank empties out faster. Sometimes I feel like a little bit of a lone wolf because there is such a big youth population.

But hey, I hope to prove that us older moms can be savages of the home and the mat at the same time. We may be a little worn and tired from parenthood (sketchiest hood there is) but if we get out there and don’t give up, we can still kick some ass.

No “probably” needed for those statements.

Kids always go through that, “Well my dad can beat up your dad,” shtick. My goal is to get to a point where my kids say, “Well, my mom can beat up your dad,” and it’s true.

#lifegoals

So listen. If you are reading this and you are an older woman or a mom, come hang out with me at SFC. If I can do it, you can do it! We’ll kick the ass, share tips on how to get matted Skittles out of the carpet, exchange horror stories of kids with Sharpies, and laugh at the tales that only moms can appreciate. (Like the one time, when my kids were toddlers and we were on a long drive and one of them shit out of his diaper and all the way up his back. Sigh. Motherhood. It’s messy to say the least.)

Just do it! It will be like a girl’s night out except we get to learn how to put people to sleep and break limbs. Come on! What’s not fun about that!?

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 4 – I’ve been trying to put myself in my weakest position lately to get better at it. I tend to get someone in my guard and kind of get overwhelmed with what to do. There are so many sweeps and submissions from there and I’m just not all that confident with my skills in that position. I’ve really been trying to just go for it and make the mistakes I need to learn more. Play around, see what works, what doesn’t, and try to stay patient. I went for a triangle a few times, an armbar, had some success with sweeps, did a back take attempt. I felt like I got in a lot of good work and learned a lot in the process.

 

 

Brotherhood.

Some days I sit here ready to write and I struggle to find the right topic. Then other days I’m torn between a few. Like today. Do I share how I was ripped from my BJJ mom/wife/employee break, my “me” time where I don’t have to worry about what is for dinner or how much work I need to do or who hit who first, all by an epic meltdown from my kids?

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Or, do I write about how I overcame my fears and rolled with more people than I ever have and that I even asked a few myself? What about how I feel like I’m getting tougher and better about handling uncomfortable situations? I could even share about how I didn’t chicken out of a birthday gauntlet.

So many topics…

I’ll spare you the details of the kids meltdown. It mostly consists of me being jerked away from my BJJ fantasy land where I think I’m a badass in training and returned to my reality of wife, mom, and creative genius. (It’s okay. I’m not being arrogant. That really is my job title. I mean, technically I made it up, but that’s the beauty of working for your family and yourself. You get those kind of privileges. I could title myself as Queen Allison, Baddest MoFo of the Land if I wanted to. I just might.)

I think the topic I’ll go with today is something I’ve witnessed and really noticed the last few weeks: the brotherhood of BJJ and SFC.

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Not exactly relevant, but funny. A lot of times, for me, funny trumps everything else.

Although, at first using the word brotherhood felt a little discriminatory since there are women in there too. I thought maybe we could mesh something together like Bro-ter-hood? Sis-ther-hood? (That last one just sounds really lispy.)

Eh. Neither really sounds good.

I guess I can accept that I belong to a brotherhood even though I am minus a penis. When you put the word brotherhood into a thesaurus words like comradeship, fellowship, kinship, camaraderie, friendship, alliance, union, community come up. I’m cool with that. Brotherhood, in my opinion doesn’t have to just include men. It’s not about the word, it’s about what it represents.

Last week I couldn’t help but to smile and feel those warm and fuzzies while watching the kids play together before class. Their latest game is playing color tag. A few that are “it” stand in the middle of the mat and yell out a color. If a kid has that color on their clothes they have to run from one side of the mat to the other without getting tagged. I looked up from my phone and saw kids from ages 6 to 15 all playing and laughing together. No arguing, no bad attitude about getting tagged, no overpowering the little ones, only fun and laughter. I think one of the coolest things was that if a problem did arise, say a kid thought they didn’t get tagged but some else said they did, they were able to problem solve themselves without ever needing an adult and without anyone getting upset. That’s pretty incredible for kids in that age range. It made me realize that my kids belong to something really amazing at SFC. They belong to a brotherhood, a team.

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We’ve done martial arts at another place and it’s not even comparable. The brotherhood, the team at SFC is a whole other world. A whole other feeling. These kids are bonded in a way that an outsider would never understand. I take great comfort in knowing that my kids have another family that has their back too. We are very thankful that our kids are getting this experience.

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They even display teamwork outside of the gym. It’s really fun to watch these kids together. I’m so happy that my kids belong to this group of kids.

I say it a lot, but if you want your kids to belong to something amazing, bring them to SFC. You will not regret it. If you do, you’re an idiot. Sorry. Sometimes the truth is blunt and doesn’t give a poo about your feelings.

Experiencing this brotherhood myself, has really helped me come out of my shell a lot. When you know you are surrounded by family, it makes it a lot easier to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

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In writing this blog I have had a lot of people from SFC come up to me and tell me that they can relate to a lot of what I write about. At first I was shocked, but I’ve learned that I’m not really writing about anything new or experiencing anything that is really that exclusive to just me.

We all share common ground in BJJ.

It is hard. It is challenging. We all have setbacks, some unique, some not. We all have struggles. We have all felt like we suck. We all have experienced defeat (many times over). We have all at times felt like it was impossible.

I learned last night that even though we all progress at different paces, unique to our own shortcomings and strengths and gender and age, the ones that stick with it, we aren’t really that different at the core.

We are the people that are challenging ourselves no matter our shortcomings.

We are the people that push ourselves outside of our comfort zone.

We are the people that are working towards bettering ourselves inside and out.

We are the people that refuse to give up.

We are the people that know that struggles can be overcome if you keep trying.

We are the people that know that in defeat we can learn a valuable lesson if we look in the right direction.

We are the people that know that it IS possible with hard work and dedication.

We are the people that can beat each other up and build a stronger friendship because of it.

We are the people that want to see our peers succeed.

We are all on common ground.

We are a brotherhood.

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Unprepared.

There are some things that you think you are prepared for and then you quickly find out you aren’t prepared for it at all.

Yesterday while I was drilling half guard escapes and sweeps my Grandma took her last breath.

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That little nugget of chunk sitting on her lap is me.

I found out when I glanced at my phone and saw a “I’m sorry for your loss,” text during a water break. I had missed the call from my mom while I was in class and since news in a small town travels faster than the speed of light, in a matter of just a few minutes after she died I had texts from a couple of people that weren’t even there. There was a part of me that knew they meant well and they just wanted to show support and condolences and I so much appreciate that. The other part of me, in that moment, was annoyed and pissed. I wanted to hear the news from my mom, my family, my little circle of Rush women first.

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The women of the family. From left to right: Me, my Aunt Karin, my Grandma Mary Lou, my mom Debbie, and my sister Stacey.

It hindsight, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. And, I do sincerely appreciate the thoughts and texts.

I knew it was coming. We were probably as prepared for her death as you can be for that kind of thing. Her health had been in decline for years and last Thursday we found out that she was starting to show signs that it was going to be soon. Yesterday we knew that it was going to be within the next 24-48 hours.

You hit a certain point in those situations where, as heartless as it may sound, you just want it to be over. You want any suffering to end. And then, you think during all of this that you’ve processed the situation, the outcome, and have already grieved. You feel like you can put your focus on instead celebrating and remembering the long, full life she had.

But, as prepared as I thought I was, I wasn’t at all.

In that moment that I got the news I didn’t see a long, full life to celebrate. I saw a long, full life that was no longer. A person that I had known my whole 36-years that I wouldn’t know any further.

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Having great-grandsons really brought out a different side of her. We were a family of generations of women only and weren’t quite sure how to handle boys. She really embraced it and it was fun to watch.

My world, my little bubble of people I care about just got smaller. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve grieved or understood the outcome, in that moment it hurts. I stood there at SFC looking at my phone and instantly starting crying. That is the last place I wanted to start crying.

So, I hid.

I sat in a chair in a dressing room upstairs with the curtain closed and cried. I cried and tried to figure out how in the hell I was going to walk downstairs and out the door without anyone seeing me or talking to me. Here and there I could get the crying under control, but I knew that the second someone talked to me it was going to come back.

So, I did what any normal, sane person would do. I hid.

I sat in that chair for 40 minutes trying to figure out how I was going to get out of there. I was trying to will my husband to come upstairs so he could help me walk out and avoid talking to anyone. When that didn’t work I texted with my sister in a conversation that went from sad reminiscing to diversion plans to help me escape without anyone noticing.

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Experiencing the death of someone you care about is such a detached feeling. For a brief moment your world just stops and stands completely still. Nothing else in the world matters for that moment. While you pause all around you the world keeps spinning, not knowing or caring that there is one less person.

I sat in that chair. Behind that curtain. Paused for a moment while the world still spun around me. Class continued. I could hear the noises of hard fought matches, grunts of effort, music blaring out of the speakers, the beeps of the timer, sometimes laughter here and there. The world was just chugging along outside that curtain while my world had stopped in a moment while I was trying to process how fragile life is, how much I will miss my grandma, and how many regrets I have.

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*Sidenote: If you have a loved one in a nursing home go visit them. Seriously. That is one of the things that is hitting me the hardest right now is how little I visited her. I selfishly didn’t because I was uncomfortable with the situation. I made the excuse of she’s not going to know who I am anyway so why does it matter. It matters. I regret it so much. I feel like such an asshole. Especially considering how much that woman has done for me. I feel awful. 

On my Mom’s side we’ve always been a small family of women at the core. My grandma, my mom, my aunt, my sister, me.

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My favorite family photo.

This family has been my home base for 36-years. I don’t have many memories in my life that don’t have at least one of these women in it. It hit me really hard that our small family of women just got even smaller.

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The only good thing that comes out of death, in my opinion, is the reminder that we only get one shot at life. It’s tragic. We spend so much time focused on things that in the end don’t matter and lose sight of living our lives to the fullest. I know it’s pretty generic advice that you hear often, but…

Do the things you love.

Don’t waste time on anger, hate, negativity.

Quit waiting for tomorrow or next week or next month.

And, most importantly,

Tell and show your loved ones that they are important to you. Spend as much time with them as you can.

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View From the Sideline.

Yesterday I started Invisalign. For those that don’t know what that is, you use a series of clear “trays” that are a mold of your teeth to straighten your teeth. Over a planned period of time they slowly move your teeth to the correct positions. It’s like clear braces that you only take off when you eat.

Sounds fun, right?

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So, yesterday I show up to my Invisalign appointment with my dentist thinking that it’s going to be one of the easiest dental visits ever. They will probably show me how to pop the tray in correctly, show me how to clean them, maybe give me a little speech about the ins and outs of this process, and then I’m out the door. While we did do all those things, there was also the addition of a fun little dental surprise waiting for me.

I usually love surprises. Surprises are fun! Except dental surprises. Dental surprises? Jesus Christ. Metal pokey things and drills and such…

Apparently, if I understood correctly, in order to accelerate and kick off the process of moving the teeth and bones in your mouth they numb your whole mouth and then proceed to poke holes through your gums to the bone. So much for the easiest dental visit ever. Super ouch.

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Good news, I should have straight teeth in three short months.

Bad news, I had to sit out of class last night so I didn’t anger my holey gums and make them spew blood.

I did some light drilling with my husband in place of kickboxing and then they ended up doing open mat instead of the usual BJJ class so I just chilled on the sidelines and watched. Thank goodness this should be the only time I have to sit out during this whole teeth straightening process. I’m not usually a good sitter-outer.

The part of me that wants to get better at BJJ at every opportunity knew that I should have done some solo drills while everyone was rolling. Instead I made excuses and told that voice in my head to shut up because my mouth hurt too much. Yeah, I know. Excuses. Blah blah blah. Whiny mouth pain. Blah blah blah. Slacker.

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Thanks!

So, my-slacker-self sat there and watched everyone roll.

I could very much sit there for hours and watch people roll. I’ve said it many times that I’ve always been a big MMA fan so I’ve watched people battle it out on the ground many times. I know that jiu-jitsu in MMA is different. There are different factors, punches and elbows mainly, that come into play in those kind of fights. The point I’m trying to get to is that I’ve watched plenty of ground battles. However, I think last night was my first time to just sit there and watch and really, really appreciate what an amazing art BJJ is. Knowing a little more about BJJ and experiencing it first hand really makes you appreciate what these high level guys and gals are doing. It’s one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen.

Such smooth transitions and movement. Calmness. No overthinking or second guessing. Funny smiles and smirks when the white belt took the bait or made a mistake.

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Rolling with higher ranks, “That’s bait. Wait. Is that bait made to make me think it’s bait so I’ll do the opposite of taking the bait and then that becomes the bait!?”

I watched a black belt and three brown belts make BJJ look incredibly easy and effortless. For me right now BJJ is incredibly hard and taxing so it was like watching fight magic take place right before my very eyes.

My favorite moments were when they would go from being in a dangerous position to in control and in the better position in a matter of seconds. Sometimes the transitions had me going, “What!? How did that even happen!”

Seriously. It’s BJJ magic and it’s amazing.

I was majorly bummed that I had to sit out, but I’m totally inspired after sitting there watching these guys. It makes me want to work that much harder to get to that point

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 3 – I drilled some sweeps yesterday and felt like they are starting to get easier, or I’m getting better, whichever perspective you might choose to view it as. I think I am just grasping the concept of sweeps so much better. It’s amazing how much easier multiple things become when you understand a basic concept.

A New Year

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This is true in love and BJJ.

The last two weeks of 2016 were a bit hectic and I ended up skipping out of class. I felt like such a slacker missing that much mat time, but the positive is that it made me crazy excited to get back at it and do my first class of 2017.

There was a little bit of fear thanks to this meme…

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But, I had a great class and picked up pretty much right where I left off. Well, with the exception of cardio. Two inactive weeks + eating all the typical Christmas junk = Allison feels like she is going to die two minutes into the first round of kickboxing.

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What a crazy year 2016 was. I look back and remember a lot of struggle and defeat and frustration. From a surface perspective, I started the year getting my ass kicked and I ended the year getting my ass kicked. However, when I shift my focus to the growth that occurred…wow. What a year. I started out a super shy, super awkward, super sensitive, super BJJ-dumb person and while I am still all those things, I know how to handle myself and my setbacks better. I may still be fearful, but I no longer let that stop me like it used to.

Reflecting back on that first class it was scary to realize that I couldn’t defend myself at all on the ground. Even with someone who didn’t know any BJJ. It blows my mind how much progress I’ve made when I think of the difference a year makes. I may still struggle to defend myself against my BJJ peers as we all progress together, but against a guy that doesn’t know BJJ, I have so much more confidence in my abilities. Like I said, what a year.

I also ended up dropping 30 lbs. since my start at SFC. It was 40-45 lbs., but I went through some crazy shit and ate my feelings for the last few months. I also noticed changes in strength, the shape of my body, better cardio, and my flexibility and agility is improving.

I’m pretty excited to see what I can accomplish in 2017. I’m big on setting goals and don’t really rely on certain times to set them.

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Why wait for a Monday or a new year to start working towards better yourself? We can do that at anytime, any day. With that said, I still kind of geek out a little when a new year rolls around. It’s a like a celebratory holiday for goal setters. I see it as a good opportunity to take a minute and think about what I accomplished in BJJ in 2016 and how I want to build on that moving forward in 2017.

Here’s a look at what I hope and plan to improve this year.

Flexibility. The plan is to add more stretching/yoga to my morning workouts. Girls are suppose to be more flexible, but I missed out on that female trait.

Mobility/agility. I am adding more exercises that help with this to my morning workouts as well. Kind of a bummer for girls that want to compete is that there are few weight divisions. There were only two in the tournament I competed in, 130 lbs. and below and then everyone else. If I’m gong to compete against girls that are potentially 50, 60, 70 pounds heavier than me, I want to have mobility and agility on my side.

40 lbs. of weight loss. I have set the weight that I want to compete at and I am currently 40 lbs. away from that. It’s a lot, but with discipline, a little determination, and a lot hard work in the gym and in the kitchen, it’s totally possible.

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Asking people to roll. I did pretty good about this for most of last year, but then I have kind of sunk back into my old tendencies of avoiding this. I am so socially awkward and am terrible at approaching people, even just to say hi. I will avoid it and avoid it and avoid it. I’m fine if someone approaches me and I will roll with anyone that asks me, but if that job is left up to me, I run in the opposite direction. I know this makes me look like a stuck up bitch, and what really sucks about this is that I’m not a bitch at all. I’m super easy-going, it’s near impossible to offend me, and I am an able-to-get-along-with-anyone kind of person. I need to show more of that and rebuild that courage of asking people to roll.

Working on my weaknesses by putting myself in those positions. I really need to improve and work from guard more. Working sweeps and setting up submissions. I tend to shy away from sweeps because I’m afraid to open my guard and get passed. I just need to make myself do it and learn from the mistakes that I’m sure to make.

Pushing my limits. This one applies a lot to kickboxing. The McDojo I trained at would get on to you if you punched the bags too hard or if you went too fast. Those were their signs of a bad partner. So I have built this terrible habit of hitting bags and pads too soft and never really attempting to increase my speed. I had a partner a couple of weeks ago that really pushed me to new limits. It showed me that I can push harder than I thought and that I need to do that as often as I can.

Always leave class on a positive note. No matter how bad it is or how bad I get my ass kicked I will do my best to find the small victories and leave the mat with a smile.

Help people more. If I see someone new in class, taking the opportunity to roll with them and making sure that they learn something from it. I may not know much, but I know more than I did a year ago and I totally understand how overwhelming those first few classes can be. If I can help someone through that, that would be great.

Rolling more. I don’t ever get in as many rounds as I want to or as I should. I need to roll at every opportunity I get and work on building up the cardio to do at least 3-5 rounds back to back each class.

I’m excited for 2017. I look forward to becoming the best version of myself that I can. It’s going to be a great year!

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BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 2 – I feel like I’m doing so much better at not panicking in bad situations and instead thinking about my options. I may not always be able to execute an escape, but I find myself thinking of how I can escape or how I need to position myself to stop a submission attempt.