Sweep Me Off My Feet.

I can breathe again! Whoop! Whoop!

It made all the difference in both kickboxing and BJJ. Who knew that breathing would be vital to physical activity!? Crazy!

*Please tell me you sensed the sarcasm in that. If not, who ties your shoes for you?

Again, we finished out class with another 30 or so rounds of pass, sweep, submit. Thanks to the ability to inhale and exhale properly, I felt a million times better than the last few weeks. Yay for normal body function! You just really don’t appreciate the simplicity of being able to breathe until it’s a struggle.

#allergiescansuckit

I love pass, sweep, submit. I really do. I mostly get my ass kicked, but I really feel like I’m making a lot of improvements and at a more rapid pace.

The most exciting element for me last night was the amount of sweeps I had success with. I have been so scared to go for sweeps. Getting the right leverage and lift and pull and push and this and that is hard to get down at first. And, that whole opening up your guard to go for them always kind of kept me from venturing that route often. I always felt much safer keeping my guard locked up tight and breaking their posture down. However, we all know that safety and comfort zones are not where you learn. No sir.

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For the non-BJJ-ers (aka: my family that reads this), sweeps are taking a person on top of you, while you are on your back, and flipping them onto theirs.

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Obviously if you just tried to muscle and push the person it would never work. I’m not She-Ra, Princess of Power. I can’t bench press a person.

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This is where the awesomeness of BJJ comes into play. The small-guy-can-beat-the-bigger-guy (or gal) part. If you can get someone off their base you can pull their upper body in one direction with your hands while pushing their lower body in the other direction with your legs and suddenly they are on their back.

The higher ranks make it look so easy when they sweep you. You feel as light as a feather as you fly to your back and land with a solid thud on the mat. Oh, that thud sound. The sound that loudly proclaims, “Ha ha! You just fucked up!” I have much appreciation and respect for anything and anyone that makes me feel light like that. And my “you just fucked up” realization usually results in a face similar to this…

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One of my favorite things about jiu-jitsu is that once you understand a concept, it opens the door for so much more. Last night, my successes came from focusing on the simple concept that if I can pull their upper body here, and push their lower body there, I can sweep them. Keeping my attention on that helped me to go for it and experiment more. It helped me to work with what my opponent was doing and trying to feel out which sweep would be more effective.

I knew going into class that sweeps were going to be my main focus. I just don’t use them enough and I so badly want to get better at them. Any opportunity I had to go for a sweep last night, I jumped at. I had some major mess ups in my attempts, a few that were so, so close, and a handful that were successful. I’m really happy with that. I feel like I learned a lot and like I have a pretty clear vision of what I need to work on to get better. It was just a few months ago that I had never successfully used a sweep so getting several in one night is a pretty big leap in progress as far as I’m concerned.

I still, almost after every class, am amazing at how much BJJ is helping me not just in class, but in life in general. I used to be terrified of trying new things and the risk looking like an idiot. That used to pretty much be my purpose in life, to avoid new things, to avoid taking risks, and to avoid putting myself in a position to look stupid. Jiu-jitsu has taught me that chances are you are going to look a little silly as you fumble through the new, but man, as long as you keep trying and stick with it, it’s so worth it. The benefit of putting yourself out there, challenging yourself, and fighting through your fears is immeasurable.

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Hanging In There.

The Tuesday four-hour class extravaganza straight up kicked my ass. I don’t know if it’s my overweight body, my old age, or some allergy crap I’ve got going on, but I have been very zombie-esque the last two days. I can’t kick the exhausted feeling and don’t even get me started on the soreness of my whole body. It’s just an ouch situation every time I move.

Last night I had a bit of a hard time cardio-wise. Like I already mentioned, I’ve got some weird allergy thing going on. I’ve never had allergy issues so it’s all kind of new territory to me. In my three week experience with it, I’ve come to the conclusion that allergies are stupid and they can fuck right off.

Seriously allergies. Buh-bye.

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Because of this shit, I have had trouble breathing here and there and last night during our nightly rounds of pass, sweep, submit I felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. Ten seconds into the first round and I was already gasping for air. By the last few rounds I was literally crawling to my next partner while trying my best to get my breathing under control. I didn’t even end up rolling afterwards.

So, while there was that annoyance of breathing that I had to deal with, I still ended up having a great time. I feel like my improvement has hit a fast track and I can see and feel the progress I am making each time I get out there. I really like where I’m at right now. I’ve been saying that a lot lately and I admit it feels great.

Over my first year of BJJ, I felt so lost and uncomfortable and the thought of ever being able to effectively do jiu-jitsu felt impossible. It wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t hang with anyone. I was 100% the weakest and most beatable person at SFC. Bright side spin on that situation, I was the best at being the worst. It sounds better to say you are the best at something, right? Realistically, it really sucks being the best at being the worst. If I’ve learned anything about myself over the last year it’s that I am growing into being one mentally tough bi-otch. That’s bound to be the outcome when you spend a year getting your ass kicked and being the best-worst.

Doing this whole pass, sweep, submit thing has showed me that I can hang in there now. It might not be winning so much in the traditional sense, but I’m not getting defeated or destroyed every single time. And, in the world of BJJ, that is winning. I’m hanging in there. Sometimes it’s as simple as blocking a pass, other times it’s maintaining my guard and keeping them on defense. I even had some really good passes, a couple of sweeps, a few submissions, and an actual take down.

That is the BJJ recipe for a great night.

Before, my hanging in there mostly was found during rolls with inexperienced people. They didn’t know much, I knew a little, so I could hang in there and not get destroyed like I was with everyone else. Here’s the cool part about today’s post, the part that makes me feel like I’m really getting somewhere with this whole jiu-jitsu thing. When I’m talking about hanging in there today, I’m not talking about with the newbs. I’m talking about the guys that have been there for as long as I have and some even longer. When we started these guys had power, strength, and speed that I didn’t, but now I feel like jiu-jitsu is starting to even out the playing field a little.

Hallelujah! It’s about time!

I’ve watched a guy that is bigger than me and that started at about the same time I did a year ago get super frustrated when he couldn’t pass my guard and when I passed his multiple times. Now, I don’t want to sound inconsiderate of his frustration, but, and I realize this might make me an asshole, I kind of took a little bit of pleasure in his frustration. I mean I don’t wish the guy any kind of ill will, I like him, he’s a really good person, and I want to see everyone at SFC succeed. But. BUT, I have lived in that frustrating place for so long that it was kind of nice to not be the one on the receiving end of it. I might have even enjoyed being the one handing it out, a little.

Sorry. Not sorry. (FYI, that statement is the typical asshole “I can’t help it” statement. I think this might be the definitive proof that I am, in fact, actually an asshole. Sorry. Not sorry.)

Here’s my PSA to those that are just starting out in your BJJ journey…

Jiu-jitsu is hard. Like it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done mentally and physically. You will spend so much time getting your ass kicked that defeat will become your middle name. You will get frustrated. You will feel like it’s impossible.

It’s not.

You could quit like so, so many do or you can suck it up, take the losses, learn from it, put in the time and effort, and eventually you will reap the rewards. One day, one glorious day, the jiu-jitsu that has repeatedly smashed you, frustrated you, defeated you, and kicked your ass will be the same jiu-jitsu that gives you the power to do the same to others. And, it will happen. Trust me, it will. Me and my progress over the last year is proof of that. Everyone that is there on the mat, never giving up, is proof of that.

Go back and read my older posts. Go read about how many times I felt like these things were impossible. Almost every post is about the struggles and frustrations and defeat I went through, that I’m still going through.

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I still have moments of feeling defeated and I’m sure I’ll encounter even more moments of that in the future. But, here’s the key to how I’ve made it this far in the hardest journey I’ve taken on in my life, I refused to give up. I refused to let the defeat make a home in my brain and body. I refused to settle for a mediocre, easy path in life. I refused to walk away of from the challenges in front of me. I refused to swallow negative thoughts and let them poison my enthusiasm for bettering myself.

And, BJJ is one of the best things you can do to better yourself in all aspects of your life.

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This quote is hanging on the wall at SFC. It got me through a lot of classes and pushed me past those “I want to quit” moments many times. I’m still nowhere near hammer status. At this point I consider myself a professional nail that once in a great while gets to put on a hammer costume and beat a nail or two. But, each time I step on the mat I step closer to that next stripe, that next belt, that next ah-ha moment, that next victory, that next proof of the progress I’m making, that opportunity to become the hammer.

Do yourself a favor and if you start BJJ… DO. NOT. QUIT.

You can thank me later. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pass. Sweep. Submit.

It will be a miracle if I can make it through the day without a nap. Waking up this morning was painful and before I could even turn my 6:00 a.m. alarm off I was already planning my mid-afternoon siesta. It’s going to be vital to my survival of the day.

Four hours.

BJJ fundamentals.

Kickboxing.

BJJ class.

Rolling.

Exhausted. E.X.H.A.U.S.T.E.D

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I’m not even sure how the muscles to make the smile are even working during this picture.

I’m starting to find a real fondness for pass, sweep, submit. For non-bjj-ers, when we do pass, sweep, submit the class is divided into two groups. The first group sits on the floor in a big circle, the second group picks a partner and stands. When the timer starts the person standing is trying to pass or submit while the person sitting is trying to sweep or submit. After the minute round is up you rotate to the next person until you have gone through everyone on the ground. Once you have gone through each person the groups switch places. The group that started with standing is now on the ground trying to sweep or submit.

It’s a brutal little BJJ game. And, I love it.

Number one: it’s a great way to quickly work with several different sizes and skill levels. I’m learning that a submission isn’t a one size fits all opponents kind of thing and training with several different people in many different sizes will show you that. It can take some minor adjustments for different sizes and builds. I like getting a variety of people to work with so I can learn how to adjust and make things work for each.

Number two: it’s a great opportunity to get in a ton of attempts in and find out what works and what doesn’t in a short amount of time. One of my weakest positions is my guard and attacking for submissions from there. Little by little with all the high speed repetition I feel like I’m getting so much better here. When we first starting doing this I would get someone in my guard and basically spend my time trying to fight their break and pass attempts. I’m quickly learning that if I’m constantly attacking them, it puts them in defensive mode and instead of breaking and passing they have to worry about fighting my submission attempts.

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My favorite BJJ meme of all time.

Number three: I’m more likely to experiment and try different things. When it’s just a one minute round and you’ve got 15+ people to go through, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to play around. Sometimes I can be a little hesitant to try something if there’s a big chance I’ll screw it up, lose position, and then spend the rest of a seven minute round getting smashed. When it’s a constant reset within a one-minute time frame, it’s a little more inviting to fail.

Number four: it’s helping me to relax and focus on my breathing better. I tend to tense up and hold my breath, like I’m sure all white belts do, but with so many rounds in a row you eventually start to realize that the less you tense up and the more you focus on breathing, the better off you’ll be. I’ve gotten better at telling myself to relax and breath through it all.

Number five: it’s teaching me to push through the tired and find the mental strength to keep fighting even though my body is saying not to. I don’t know how many times we finish the first round of the group and I think there’s no way I can finish the second round. “My body will quit, I can’t do it,” I think. And, then I do it. It’s been a great exercise for mental strength and realizing that you can dig deep, push past the pain, and fight until the very end.

I feel like since we starting doing pass, sweep, submit, I have improved so much in a short amount of time. It’s like progress on fast forward. BJJ on crack. (PSA: Crack is wack, kids. Don’t do it.)

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The pain and tiredness my body feels today is a little rough, but it’s so worth it. I will gladly trade a little soreness for progress that is pushing me towards my goals. It’s a small price to pay for something that holds so much value.

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BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge – I got an armbar from mount last night! Whoop! Whoop! I have never gotten this submission. After getting super frustrated that I couldn’t fight a man’s strength it made me kind of hesitant to go for armbars. I just could never get their arm extended. But, last night when I found myself in that position, I decided that instead of passing up the opportunity, I would try some different things, play around, see if I can creatively get the arm extended. Before I would just put all my strength into pulling the arm only to find that it didn’t take long for my arms to go dead and I still hadn’t gotten them to budge. Last night I focused on small, explosive jerks, especially when he would try to adjust his grip. With that and raking the bones of my forearm against his and climbing up towards the wrist he eventually broke grip and I was able to extend it out and get the submission. It was a pretty awesome feeling!

White Belt: It’s a Hard-Knock Life.

Have you ever seen the movie Annie? The musical about the little red-headed, orphan who gets adopted by a billionaire, much to the disapproval of Miss Hannigan, the mean, drunk woman running the orphanage.

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This used to be one of my favorite childhood movies. I was convinced that I was Molly and my sister was Annie because we both looked so much like those characters.

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My sister on the left, dressed as Annie for a tap performance. Me, on the right, dressed as a Carebear, also for a tap performance.

I’m also convinced that what you don’t see in this movie is that all those little orphan girls were training BJJ and deeply understood the trials of being a white belt.

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A cut scene from Annie where Miss Hannigan makes them roll to determine whose turn it is to make the floor shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. Turns out you really had to watch out for Annie and her ornery armbars.

And, the song “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” is my proof. Sure, sure it’s about orphanage life on the surface, but don’t tell me that wasn’t written by someone that gets the true struggles and challenges you face in jiu-jitsu.

All right. It was a lame joke. I know. But, for some reason yesterday as I drove home in dead silence, beating myself up for the stupid, I mean really, reeeaaalllly stupid, mistakes that I made and the challenges that I had faced, that song kept coming to mind.

Being a white belt, sometimes, it’s a hard-knock life.

But, here’s the deal. Annie? The thing that was so great about her was her positivity, her optimism, and her orneriness. She was living a hard-knock life, but she never let it defeat her. And look what happened! She got adopted by a billionaire! Maybe if I keep up my positivity and optimism in BJJ a billionaire will adopt me too! Shit, I’d settle for a millionaire. I ain’t picky.

That was a really long intro just to get to what happened to me last night in class. I apologize for the musical references and the bad comparisons. Sometimes I get off track and end up giving you too much of a peek into my jumbled, crazy thoughts. It really is a scary place sometimes.

Anywho.

Long story short, since I’ve rambled about orphans and songs and billionaires…

I had a few opportunities to go for a submission and I completely, very white belt-ish-ly fucked them up. And, because I was running on about four hours of sleep combined from the last two nights, I let it get to me.

It’s been fun to finally get to a point, here and there, of going for submissions and not just always defending, defending, defending. But, I always manage to either go too fast and miss an important detail and can’t get the tap or I can’t go head to head with their strength or I try to be patient in the dominant position and wait for the right opportunity and then get bulldozed and lose it. After about the 400th time (I might be in an exaggerat-y mood) this happened, I just was pissed and done and ready to go home and attempt to catch up on my long lost sleep.

Sleep deprived Allison is a hard-core, won’t tolerate shit, pissy, pain in the ass. You wouldn’t like her. I don’t like her.

Don’t even get me started on how frustrating it is to finally get to the position to armbar a man only to discover that it’s near impossible to battle his strength and break his grip to extend his arm.

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I know that BJJ is about not using strength, but to think that it never comes into play is just playing make-believe. It does and this is when it becomes a struggle to be a girl in this world.

My husband always tries to tell me that he understands and relates, but, and I say this with love, dear husband, no. No. No. No. You can extend my arm with ease. I can’t even get yours to budge. You can Americana me in seconds. I can’t even get yours to move. Big fucking difference. (I love you!)

It’s was just a hard-knock kind of night. One of those that made me feel like me ever being good at this is impossible. Impossible. Like how am I ever going to be able to beat men? How?

Sigh. I know, I know.

I keep showing up. I keep trying. I keep working and putting in the effort. I keep finding the positive. I just keep going. One day I’ll get there.

Sometimes, a year of never winning and constant defeat, gets to you. Especially with the competitiveness I carry within myself. I do my best to be an Annie, full of optimism and positivity and even a little orneriness, while I try to navigate through my white belt hard-knock life, but some days the struggles create a perfect shitstorm in my head and get to me. Last night was one of those nights.

I think it’s the perfect time to channel my inner-Annie and focus on the positive part…

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge – Hey, the good part of this whole post is that I am starting to get to submission-able positions. That’s huge. The fact that I am actually, finally, getting to work on submissions in live rolling, while still kind of rare, is fantastic! It’s proof of the progress I’ve made and that if I keep showing up I will conquer the challenge of finishing them. I am very, very happy with that.

Repetition.

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I know at this point my posts are probably starting to get a little repetitive. It’s been a year of writing about my experiences and challenges and victories and everything in between. There’s bound to be some repetition in there. Especially when BJJ is a constant battle of learning and improving yourself. If you are striving for growth and improvement, repetition is bound to find you and become the vehicle that drives you to reaching your goals. Who does something once and reaches a goal?

Nobody.

And, if you do, your goal wasn’t big enough.

My hope is that in my repetitive posts I can offer a little, teeny, tiny bit more of knowledge with each time I repeat that topic. Or, at least each time I repeat it, I can reinforce and prove just how important that something is.

The battle I have with my mental strength is the one on repeat right now. The good thing is that each time I struggle with it, I discover that I come back to take it on stronger than I was the first time. Repetition almost always finds success.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The BJJ version? Try. Fail. Repeat. x 1,000,000

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One of my biggest challenges and a constant repeating struggle has been my mental strength. It doesn’t really come as a surprise. I knew I was a mental mess the day I walked into my first class. I knew that that was going to be my biggest hurdle. I get in my own way more that I care to admit. Well, technically since I share it all here weekly, uncensored and permanently etched onto the interwebs, I do admit it every time I face it. Which is a lot.

I am admitting to you all, right now, that I was terrified for class last night and the possibility of another 20+ rounds of pass, sweep, submit. I really struggled in the last class and I was afraid. Afraid of the uncomfortable situation of not being able to grip fully with my left hand. Afraid of having to work more with my awkward, less coordinated side. Afraid of the almost certain defeat that would bring. Afraid of my mental strength crashing down to the floor because of it. But, I knew, going into class, what I needed to work on, what I needed to focus on, and I knew that I had to put myself out there, vulnerable to the same struggles, and try again. Except, in an effort to battle my mental hurdle, I added a little extra to the mix.

Try. Fail. Smile. Repeat.

I tried my hardest to shift my mental focus in a positive direction. Aim for working with what I know, learn from what I don’t, and, most importantly, have fun in the process. And, I DID have fun. Genuine, unforced, pure BJJ ass-kickin’ fun.

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It’s absolutely amazing what happens when you get out of your own way. When you quit focusing on what you can’t do, stick to the things that you know, and focus on improving them. I had a ton of failures. A ton. But, I also had a ton of successes. Some really big and some really small, but plenty of them to plaster an authentic smile on my face. (Sweeping a man bigger than you literally off his feet and flat on his back will bring a kind of happiness into your world that nothing else can bring. BJJ is the shit.)

The difference between my post last Tuesday and today is all about mental strength. 100% mental. Just like any other strength you hope to possess, repetition is how you build it, and mental strength is no different.

Try. Fail. Don’t forget to smile. Repeat.

You have to tell yourself that no matter how defeated you are, how much you are struggling, that you will never give up.

And, then you never give up. M’kay.

BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge – Last week I had trouble finding the positive and today it’s the opposite. My positive cup is overflowing. Let’s see…basically this whole post was positive today. What can I add? I feel like my guard passing is getting so much better. I feel like my top pressure is really improving. I had trouble for a long time, as a girl that never wants to feel heavier, with that part. Now I love it when someone tells me that I feel heavy. My sweeps still need work and I still struggle in guard, but I feel like I made some adjustments and improvements last night. I’m getting there.

Other positives, Ground Girl BJJ actually has sponsors now. What!?

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If you are on a mobile device (I just wanted to sound fancy and not just say “phone.” It’s the little things that bring me joy.) you can check them out by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page. If you are on a computer, they are listed/linked in the right sidebar. I’m pretty excited about both of these opportunities, what these two companies have to offer, and getting the chance to work together.

Injured Body, Injured Mind.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this (that’s a lie), but jiu-jitsu is hard. Seriously. The hardest thing I’ve ever put myself through.

At this point I know that I should never let myself get too comfortable. That the highs, especially as a white belt, don’t last long and the lows can be brutal. Jiu-jitsu is a constant climb to the next level. You conquer one challenge to find that another one is patiently waiting for you. And another one. And another one. And another one. It is a never-ending, constant climb to the next level. It’s a constant trek from lows to highs and highs to lows, twisting and turning, and pulling you inside out and outside in and everything in between. Some days I’m still absolutely stunned at how mentally and physically challenging BJJ is.

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A chart of my progress in BJJ using super sophisticated graph technology. And, emojis.

The constant pull in many directions and the unquestionable difficulty that jiu-jitsu brings makes those high moments, the times that you feel like you are finally making progress, feel amazing. Like on top of the world, amazing. And the lows? The lows are rough.

I am at a low.

I knew it was coming. I knew that I was riding a high for long enough that a low had to be right around the corner.

I don’t take injury well. I don’t like sitting out and I don’t like feeling weak. Injuries make me feel weak and fragile and when I should be accepting that a broken finger is a definite reason to take it easy, I get frustrated instead.

Part of the frustration stems from the choice to compete again. I had made the choice like the day before my injury that I was going to compete in April. I felt really good about it and really motivated to put in the work and put myself out there again. I was actually more excited about it than nervous, which is a huge step up from the last time I made this choice. It was disappointing to finally feel ready mentally and ready to take on this challenge only to have an injury stop me in my tracks.

Grrrr.

Stupid, fragile human body.

When I made that choice to compete again, I guess my competitive drive kicked into full gear. Especially when we started doing 20+ rounds of pass, sweep, or submit. There’s something about that drill that brings out my competitive side.

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Maybe because it’s high intensity and that tends to be my automatic reaction to that kind of environment. I don’t know. I do know that somewhere in there I forgot my focus. My focus of improving at every opportunity and seeing each loss as an education. I started looking at this drill as a life or death situation. A hardcore, black and white definition of win or lose and suddenly I was terrified of losing. Which is crazy because I had long ago accepted that I was a white belt and that losing was going to be my middle name for a long time.

Sigh. Jiu-jitsu is hard.

So then, you mix in this super competitive mindset with an injury and that is just a high speed, downhill race to frustration-ville. And, I landed there with a crash and a bang.

In other words, I lost my shit on the mat. I broke down. I let myself get so focused on losing and what I couldn’t do because of my injury that I forgot that I should be focused and working towards what I can do. So, I can’t use one hand. Get over it. I’ve still got three perfectly good limbs at my disposal. Instead I chose to focus on just the one hand and how I couldn’t use it and it really made it hell for me.

I just got beat, round after round after round. Eventually I got so flustered that it messed with my head in a way I’ve never felt before. I knew that I should be ditching my comfort of left side forward/dominate since that is the side of my injury and instead work with my right side. But then, that competitive side would kick in and I was so uncomfortable using my right side as the dominate one that I would just out of instinct switch back to my left side. From my left side I would go to grip out of habit and quickly find out that I couldn’t grip anything with that hand. By the time I went through that process I was already getting smashed and passed and swept. Eventually my brain went to super flustered mode and it’s like I started second-guessing every single movement. It unnerved me enough that my natural BJJ instincts disappeared and I felt like I was back at day one. Back to a person that didn’t know how to do anything. Anything. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that.

I let my injured body injure my mind.

So, yeah, last night was a hard one for me. Thankfully, I had a two blue belts recognize that I was struggling and they came over and gave me some advice and encouragement. Both hit the nail right on the head and told me exactly what I needed to hear. It was like I was under a vicious spell cast by my own mental mess and they snapped me out of it. I felt light years better after that and could put better focus forward from there on. To both of you, if you are reading this, thank you so much for that. I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate it.

My mental focus took a little detour last night, today is my opportunity to try to get it back on the right path again. One thing I have learned over the last year is that it’s times like these, the moments of deep frustration and defeat, that can bring the biggest growth if you are willing to keep moving forward and not give up.

I am not giving up. And, that’s that.

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BJJ “Focus on the Positive” Challenge – Not gonna lie, it is not easy finding a positive from last night. I really wanted to quit and go home after the pass, sweep, submit drill. I was so defeated mentally and still pretty frustrated with myself for getting so frustrated. I was doubly frustrated. My husband encouraged me to stay and at least get one round of rolling in. I was so tempted to throw in the towel and leave on a bad note, but I knew, and obviously my husband knew, that staying and trying my best to push past it was the better option. I’m glad I did. I left with a smile on my face. That was my victory of the night. A simple smile.

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Smiling through it. 🙂

 

Weakness.

It’s story time, kids!

Back in my younger years, think elementary through the awkward junior high days, I was extremely sensitive. (Technically I still am, I just deal with it better. Sometimes.) I was so shy (still that too) and would get embarrassed so easily (still do this too) and my initial reaction was always to cry.

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I really I hope I had a better, less ugly cry face than this. But, in James Van Der Beek’s defense, does anyone really have an attractive cry face?

This made those years kind of rough.

Kids at those ages can be so cruel. There are always the few in each class that would pounce like a lion on their prey the second they saw any weakness in another kid. The second that I showed my weakness, my sensitivity, I would get slaughtered with other kids making fun me. Often times it would start off with the notoriously cruel bunch, and then sometimes my own “friends” would join in.

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It sucked. It was bad enough to have to deal with my own anxiety and insults in my head, I didn’t exactly need help in beating myself up.

Adolescent assholes.

Yes, I just called kids assholes. Because, well, they are kind of assholes. Just go visit your local middle school if you don’t believe me. Those little turds will insult you better than a comedian roasting a heckler.

So, eventually I grew to hate my weakness, my sensitivity. My biggest fear became showing emotion in front of people and letting people see my weaknesses. I had a lot of trouble trying to not be sensitive. It’s definitely easier said than done. Eventually I learned to build a wall and to not let certain people see that side of me. Sometimes I would have to fight really hard to hold it in until I could find somewhere private to let it out.

3

The “stop crying face” is just as ugly as the full blown crying face.

Eventually I came to love the use of humor and sarcasm to push my emotional feelings aside. I also thought that if I could be physically strong or intimidatingly tough it would keep people from putting me down for being emotionally weak. After those childhood days, I didn’t ever want to appear weak again.

And this, my friends, is why I had such a hard time with class last night.

Everything starts out great. We are talking competition and what we are doing to prepare. I’m thinking this is exactly what I need and I’m excited. The class is split into two groups with one group on the ground in a big circle, the other group standing ready to attack in a game of pass, sweep, or submit. My sweeps suck so I knew that this is exactly what I need to improve and I’m excited about that.

So, there are eleven people I have to try to pass while avoid being swept. First match, I have a really tight pant grip when they did some sort of super explosive twist and jerk situation and I felt my finger end up in a very unnatural position. I knew immediately that it was probably broken. The first round ended and I sat there with a sharp, throbbing pain in my finger trying to figure out what to do.

52

I don’t think fingers are suppose to bend that way.

I put a lot of pressure on myself being a woman in a male dominate sport. An older woman. An older, overweight woman. I just don’t ever want to be the one that can’t do it. The one that can’t push through. The one that can’t keep up. The one that is weak and fragile. At this point in my life, I don’t need to be the best or the strongest in the room, I just don’t ever want to be the weakest.

A smart person would have recognized that an injured finger is a perfectly acceptable excuse to not participate further. But, there I sat on the ground, holding my finger terrified at the thought of being the one person that couldn’t finish all 22 rounds. The one person that had to sit out. I just couldn’t bare the thought of appearing weak in that situation.

So, being the stubborn person that I am, I finished all of the remaining 21 rounds. It was not an easy situation both physically or mentally.

Physically, I struggled with using my left hand. I could no longer use it for grips and framing with it was difficult and painful. After we finished the first round of 11 I taped it up with my other finger in hopes that I could alleviate some of the pain and get a little more use out of it that way. The second set of 11 rounds, I was sitting on the ground with my opponent standing over me, and I felt like I couldn’t do shit to stop them from passing. I could get a really good sleeve grip with my right hand, but couldn’t do anything with my left. A few times I did managed to yank that right hand sleeve grip and use my feet to get a few people locked up in my guard, but that was about all I ended up doing. It was frustrating to say the least.

Mentally, I really got in my head about feeling weak. The pain in my finger was bad and there were a few times I, in the heat of the moment, forgot that it was injured, would try to get a grip, and would instantly regret it as the pain washed over and the tears forced their way down my cheeks. I ended up in a mess of pain and frustration that I couldn’t do what I needed to do and it was getting to me. I was trying so hard to not let it get to me, to continue to work hard around it, and to hold the tears in, but they were spilling over before I could stop them. Then I got embarrassed that I was crying and worried that people thought I just couldn’t handle the drill. I just felt so weak. So, so weak.

Did I mention I hate feeling weak?

It was a rough night mentally, fighting the extreme dislike I have for feeling weak, but, right now, I just want to focus on moving forward and not dwelling on that. Tomorrow is another day. Another day to work on building myself into the person I want to be.

51In my adolescent years, my weakness grew into a strength. It pushed me to be stronger both physically and mentally and taught me that I am capable of more than I thought. I’ve just got to look at last night as something that is pushing me towards developing into a stronger person. BJJ does that a lot. It’s always pretty good at putting your weaknesses out there in front of you and forcing you to face them head on and turn them into strengths.

The positive is that I did finish all 22 rounds. It was still super tough cardio-wise. I definitely enjoyed and appreciated that kind of push. That is exactly what I need to get ready to compete again. I’m really excited about the competition prep it sounds like we will be doing.

The finger today is black and blue, swollen, crooked, and in quite a bit of pain. Hopefully it heals quickly, but until it does I’ll just have to tape it up and get really good at one-handed jiu-jitsu.