The Do-Over

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Last night I was served a giant steaming plate of reality and realization. A big dose of proof that mental strength and confidence in yourself is just as important and vital to success as physical strength and skill is.

When I competed in my first BJJ tournament I walked into the building and nervously scanned the room to see if I could spot my opponents. My eyes instantly went to a girl close to my size with a black and red gi and dark hair. She looked intense and tough and ready to kick some ass.

I lost my first match, at that very moment, the second I saw her. And, I knew it.

I looked at the floor and wondered to myself, “What the fuck are you doing! She’s going to kill you!” I was totally intimidated and scared and any confidence I had in my ability was drained from my mind. I knew that day that a big part of why I lost was due to my mental game. I knew it. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that I could have beat her that day skill-wise. She doesn’t just look tough, she is tough. But, I am saying that I know in my heart that a big part of that loss was due to my mental weakness. And, it’s eaten me alive since.

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Fast forward to now.

I’m standing there on the mat, winded from the latest kickboxing round, listening to the instruction for the next round when I look upstairs to see none other than the intimidating girl that kicked my ass in that tournament. The instant I saw her I thought how cool is this? How cool is it that I have the opportunity to roll with her again? Over and over in my head I’ve wanted a “do-over” for that first match in the tournament and now, in some sense, I had that opportunity. I knew I failed miserably in the tournament and I knew that I could do better. I’ve wanted so badly to prove that to myself and much to my surprise, I was getting that chance.

Thank you, universe.

It ended up being quite eye-opening as to how important mental strength is. I don’t think a lot of people grasp, especially those that don’t participate in a combat type of sport or event, just how important your mental game is. I very much believe and understand now, thanks to personal experience, that your mental game and strength is the very core of your performance and determines your success or failure.

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If you don’t exercise your mind and walk in there with confidence, you don’t stand a chance. Especially in these tournament type of settings. You are in divisions with people  close to or right at the same size, the same belt, the same age, etc. I can see how a lot of times it comes down to one extra element for the win, who is stronger mentally.

I was on the fence about if I was going to compete again. I know there is a big part of me that isn’t ready to give up on my dream of having my hand raised. The other part of me was terrified of getting in over my head again.

Last night was a great opportunity to see just how mentally weak I was then, at that tournament and what it takes mentally to win the competition matches. It showed me that I am capable and helped push me towards the “yes” side of competing again. At least this time around I know that I need to work on that mental strength. My skill is there, I know it. I work hard. I can feel the difference and the progress in almost every roll. I know that I can do this as long as I get my mental shit together. I know it. I know I can do it.

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It might be time to sign up and give this whole competition thing another go.

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge – So many positives came out of class last night. 1. – I experimented with a sweep that I saw in the kids class that involved a technical stand up when someone is trying to pass your guard. I didn’t get the sweep, but I was able to stop the pass, get the technical stand up, and get out of what could have been a bad situation. I was really happy with that. 2. – I learned that intimidating comp. girl is really nice and I think we can be great training partners for each other. I’m hoping since we both are interested in competing that we can help each other progress and get ready. I’m really glad she’s at SFC now. 3. I’m getting better and better about putting myself out there and asking people to roll. It still isn’t easy to do, but I make myself do it anyway. 4. – I hit my favorite roll to crucifix last night. It’s crazy how much I love that move. It always makes me feel happy to hit it. Even more happy when the person says, “Oh shit!” mid-roll.

 

Put Your Positive Pants On.

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I’ve noticed that I’m having more and more of a hard time writing lately. For so long, about 10 months to be exact, my posts have revolved around struggle and losing and conflict. I’ve said it a lot lately, but it really is quite amazing the transformation that can take place when you shift your focus away from those things. My writing may be suffering a little because of it. I think it was easier to write about the conflicts, mostly because I was so good at creating all kinds of unnecessary bullshit and negativity in my head and poking fun at it. I was a pro at putting myself down and beating myself up. But, when you take all the negative, critical, “Poor me, I suck!”crap away the fact that remains is quite simple…

I am getting better every time I get on the mat.

Simple as that.

Even when I lose (which still happens all the time), I am getting better. Even when I struggle to execute a technique (which still happens all the time), I am getting better. Even when I make a huge mistake (which still happens all the time), I am getting better.

And, I’m super happy about that.

For those first 10 months I spent so much time concerned with those around me instead of focusing on myself, my abilities, and my progress. If someone could dominate me, I would get defeated because they were better than me. If someone has put in less time than I have and submitted me, I felt like I was never going to get better. I was letting every roll defeat me emotionally. I was putting all the positive focus on them (they are good, they are more skilled, they are better, they are learning faster) and putting all the negative on myself (I suck, I always lose, I’m not as strong, I can’t ever submit people.)

Negativity is a heavy weight to carry. Especially when you put it all on your own shoulders and inside your own head.

Then I got some great advice from an SFC coach – Find the victory in each roll. No matter how small, find the victory.

At first there were times that I had to really, really search hard to find victories. It could have been as simple as I remembered a small detail in a technique, I didn’t tap to a tight, but not quite deep enough choke, I made it a minute more without being submitted, I defended a back take, I simply survived. Now, out of habit, I effortlessly find the victories and handle my frustrations better. It’s become just an automatic reaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still had a few moments of frustration here and there. However, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better about handling it. I remember one night in particular I had finally passed someone’s guard after a hell of a battle and finally got to side control only to have them immediately bridge, get the knee in, and re-guard. I worked so hard at passing and I was, in a matter of seconds, back at square one. After this happened for the second time I started to fall back into my old tendencies of beating myself up. For a second I almost let the frustration take over. But, I’ve learned that getting frustrated doesn’t do anything positive for me. Those emotions don’t magically make me a super skilled, agile guard passer. So why waste energy on frustration when there are better tools to handle the task of passing someone’s guard?

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Remain calm.

Get back to work.

Focus on the task in front of me.

One step at a time.

Figure out what you are doing wrong in side control that is causing you to lose position.

The frustration would have gotten me nowhere. Calming down and giving it another try resulted in me getting to work my guard pass again and realizing my mistake in side control. That shift of focus from frustration to action ended up with me getting to crucifix and getting a submission via armbar.

That victory of not letting my frustration get the best of me led to three more victories: not losing position, transitioning to a more dominate position, and getting the submission.

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”

 

It makes BJJ so much more enjoyable when you take out the stress and pressure that occurs when you let emotions that lead to frustration and defeat come into play. The best part is that I feel like my improvement while I’ve been focusing on positives and victories has really taken a big leap. I can see and feel a big difference in my skills and how much quicker I am learning.

It’s like BJJ is finally, effortlessly fun for me now. (Now if we could just get my oldest son in this same mindset!)

So I pass on the same simple, yet great advice that I’ve learned so much from:

Find the victories in every roll, no matter how small. Remove the negative junk in your brain and fill it instead with positive thoughts, focus, and drive. It makes all the difference.

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge – Pretty much a repeat from the post above. I got a little frustrated with myself last night. Nothing major, just made some mistakes and lost position because of it. To handle this kind of situation as the old Allison I probably would have given up and gone home for the night. Instead, I took some time to chill, drink some water, and focus not necessarily on my mistakes and the frustration, but what I could do differently next time. It only took a few minutes and I felt ready to get back out there and try again.

One Year, What a Difference.

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Since I’m about a week away from my 1-year BJJ birthday, I find myself reflecting back on the last year a lot. It’s quite remarkable the change, the growth that has occurred. I had some pretty hefty mental obstacles to get over. The majority of that ended up being more of a slow development, often times with many setbacks, more so than a great leap forward. Sometimes it felt like I would take one step forward and five steps backwards. Sometimes it felt impossible.

But, here I am, still chugging along and feeling better than ever and proving that it is possible. I really like where I’m at right now.

For almost that whole year I fought with myself, over and over. I was so scared of the things I thought I couldn’t do that I let it control almost every part of me. I was so caught up in my fears and struggles that I let it determine my progress.

It’s amazing what happens when you let that go. When you stop fighting yourself and your fears and start focusing on improvement. As one of my favorite quotes says, “Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.” One little shift, one little adjustment in your thinking can change everything. Everything.

I can’t pin point the exact moment that it happened, but somewhere in there, mostly in the last few months, I found a way to focus on the positive and to push my fears out of the way. It made all the difference in the world. BJJ is still so incredibly hard, but I no longer leave class feeling defeated or like I can’t do it.

Last night is a good example. As usual, I got my ass handed to me over and over.

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Four, seven-minute rounds of rolling and I can’t even tell you how many times I got submitted, and I didn’t get a single submission myself. But, I walked away from each roll with a positive attitude and a good idea of what I need to work on. I was able to look at the long list of what I need to work on with enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn more instead of letting it frustrate me.

What a difference a year makes.

I know what lies ahead of me in this whole BJJ adventure is going to be difficult and I’m sure I’ll face many more setbacks, but I honestly feel like the worst, the hardest struggle I have faced is behind me. I conquered myself and the fears I used to hide behind and I think when you do that, the only place you can move is forward.

The following came from one of my first posts on Ground Girl:

I know that nothing worth having is going to come easy and that the struggles and overcoming the challenges are what, in the end, is going to make this whole process worth it.

Man. I knew my shit! I’m only a year in and it is already so worth it. Every struggle. Every setback. Every challenge. I am where I am today because of those. I am stronger than I have ever been in every sense of the word, because of those challenges.

The last year? So, so worth it.

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 9 – I think the part I’m most proud about last night is that I started experimenting, playing around here and there to see what works and what doesn’t. I tried new things. I looked a fool many, many times. Most attempts in experimentation ended in failure, but I quickly found out that what I did doesn’t work. It’s easy to forget that mistakes can be the best teacher. I’m happy with the mistakes I made and what I took away from it.

The Series of Unfortunate Events.

Have you ever had one of those classes where everything seems to go wrong?

I have.

If last night was a movie title, it would be “Allison and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Class.” I might be exaggerating just a teeny, tiny bit. Maybe more like “Allison Davis and the Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Wrist. Toe. Foot. I somehow managed to injure those three in one class.

Bravo, Allison. Bravo.

I think it might take special talent (or a special brand of stupid) to make that happen. After the third injury I decided to call it a night and save the rest of my body from the certain trouble that was in the future based on the current course of damage.

It made me feel old. Like maybe I need more calcium or some shit for my brittle, old lady bones and joints and such.

He’s the crazy thing, two of the injuries I don’t even know what happened. I’ve had this happen a lot in BJJ. Not with big injuries, but I have gotten home to find surprise bruises or pains that I couldn’t tell you where in the world they came from. That’s just an everyday, normal side effect of jiu-jitsu. At this point I just don’t feel like I have put in the right kind of work if I don’t have at least one new bruise per class.

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Last night I don’t have a clue of how I sustained the toe and foot injury. I only know that it was in the middle of rolling that I noticed it. After a scramble (where the mystery injury must have happened), I had to tap because my toe and/or foot was in so much pain. I have no idea what happened and I felt nothing as the injury occurred. But somehow, once the spazzy white belt furry settled down, I could feel a slow yet persistent pain taking over until it hit a point of realizing that I should stop.

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Fo sho. Sho nuff.

This morning my wrist is fine. I think I just have weak wrists because this seems to be a recurring issue.

My foot feels iffy. Like if I take one wrong, off balanced step it’s going to fuck something up. For the most part there isn’t pain and I can put full pressure on it, but when I take an uneven step, a sharp pain shoots through the top of my foot. It just feels weird and abnormal.

My toe feels like poo. Like a decent possibility that it’s broken. I’ve had enough broken fingers from bad catches in basketball to know that feeling. Oh well. Not a lot you can do about that.

This whole week has just been a turd as far as BJJ goes. I had issues during Tuesday’s class due to some problems with Invisalign that resulted in a bad combination of an empty stomach, pain meds, and then I had too much coffee in my pre-workout drink. I was a jittery, sickly feeling, mess of a person that tanked midway through kickboxing and could barely make it through the drilling portion of jiu-jitsu.

I had high hopes for last night. I finished kickboxing feeling fantastic and ready to go. Then Shit-storm Injury blew through and laid down a painful path of destruction on my body.

* Insert big, annoyed, and exaggerated for emphasis sigh right here. 

I’m a little scared to go to open mat on Saturday. I’m hoping at this point that surely things can’t go worse than they already have. I mean, I’m sure they can, but hopefully the universe will take it a little easy on me and cut me some slack. And, just to cover all bases, if this is a karma issue and I did someone dirty, my apologies. I’ve taken my karmic beating and learned my lesson. So please stop. Please.

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 8 – Even though last night was an injury filled, painful experience, I really enjoyed class. I had so much fun drilling with my partner/husband. Last night made me really glad that we get to do this together.

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Sometimes we aren’t the best at taking constructive criticism from each other. Lately though, I feel like we both are in the right mindset of open to learn from each other at every opportunity we can. Or maybe it’s just solely me being in the right mindset. No taking it personally or getting butt-hurt about saying, “I think if you did this…” or “Maybe it would work better if…” or “You are forgetting to do…” We just seem to be having more fun together in class. I feel like I’m in a much better place mentally to where it is easier for me to have fun in class and to not put to so much focus on negative thoughts of what I can’t do or what I suck at.

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity.

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I love being creative. It’s what I do for a paycheck and has been something I have gravitated towards my whole life. For those of you that didn’t read my “about me” page (shame on you) or just don’t know me well in general, I scrapbook for a living.

Yeah, I know, I know. You are probably thinking, “Wow! She has the coolest profession on the planet!”

Okay. I get that the term scrapbooking isn’t typically registered on any kind of “cool” radar, but I promise, it’s not as uncool as you think. It’s actually a huge hobby field. (Billion dollar industry. 1 in 3 households has a scrapbooker. I like sharing random facts. It makes me feel smart and shit.) Scrapbooking can actually be quite trendy and follow right along with design and fashion trends.

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Some of my crafty work stuff. Fun fact: My sister and I used to call it “crapbooking” when we first opened our store. Both of us of were admitted haters of the scrapbooking world and our mom made many failed attempts to get us to like it. I was too cool until kids happened and then I became addicted.

Long story short, my family opened a scrapbook store (shameless business plug: scrapbookgeneration.com), we grew to become international scrapbooking super stars for our style, our own brand of kits and sketches and books, and eventually ballooned into becoming one of the most well-known, largest stores in the world. I get to spend my time doing something I love (photography, making crafty shit, documenting our lives, writing, etc.) and earning money for it. It’s a pretty sweet gig. They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. True story.

I think I can honestly say I have never been afraid when it comes to crafty, artsy, creative-y things. I’ve always had fun taking chances and trying something new. Making mistakes and finding a creative solution. Coming up with my own spin on basic techniques and styles.

Then the art of BJJ came into my life. Suddenly I entered new territory and became afraid to be creative, to take risks, to make mistakes.

Every great artist, painter, photographer, and even fighters at one point didn’t know anything about their art. It took lots of work, lots of time, lots of making mistakes, LOTS of mistakes, and learning from them.

It’s all basically the same. Little by little you get those basics down and find comfort in your techniques. Then you take it to the next level by putting your own spin and creativity into it. Each new level requires a certain degree of creativity to advance past it, to reach a place you’ve never been before. That is when any artist of any trade becomes amazing and stands out for their work.

BJJ is no different.

I’m learning that there is a lot of room for creativity in BJJ and in many different ways at many different levels. And, it all revolves around putting yourself out there, trying something different, making mistakes, and learning from it. I need to do more of that.

We learn these basic techniques and it’s up to us to find out how they work for us. I don’t think BJJ is necessarily a one size fits all kind of situation. It is in basic concept, but not always in individual usage. We all have unique challenges, body shapes, strength, mobility, etc. and we have to often times find our own unique ways to make BJJ work for us.

For me, I have short arms and short, thick legs and that can make finishing certain chokes really hard. I remember for the longest time if I ran into one of these chokes in drilling I would think to myself, “Well, I’ll probably never use this one in live rolling.” However, I have found with the help of many different high ranks, that there are always ways to adjust things to fit your limitations. It might be a different grip, a different approach, a slight adjustment, but there’s always a way, as the great Tim Gunn would say, to make it work.

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Another way I see people being creative in BJJ is by using different techniques to get what they want. It could be bait. Opening up and letting someone have an underhook so you can armbar them. Putting your leg out while they are in turtle so they reach for it and open up the collar for choking. Or it could be working one move in hopes to open up another. Like going for a wrist lock to get them to react and expose that elbow or extend their arm. Hello armbar!

By the way, I am super smart and awesome and have NEVER fallen for these tactics…

I am also a liar. Seriously. Pants on fire right now.

I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable with putting myself out there creatively in BJJ, but I could still do more. I still suck at the execution, but I can’t ever expect to get better without throwing a little bit of my own creative adjustments out there. It’s more than just learning the techniques, it’s trying them over and over. The key is to not let the fears of making a mistake, losing position, or getting submitted keep me from trying things, from being creative.

BJJ is called an art for a reason. You become an artist that paints a picture of how to kick someone’s ass and it’s up to you to do that in your own creative way.

Kick ass artist is a pretty sweet title to work towards.

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BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge, Day 7 – This is only mildly related to BJJ. One of my biggest goals for January was to lose 10 lbs. I’m super happy to report that I ended up losing not 10 lbs, but 12! My goal for February is to lose 10 lbs too. At the beginning of the year I had broken up my ultimate weight loss goal into months so technically I’m starting out with a 2 lb. lead for this month. Wahoo!