More catching up with this post. For the month of April and the first few weeks of May, my life has been a blur of work (my biggest work deadline of the year is the first weekend of May), planning a birthday party, Mother’s Day, graduations, the last few hectic weeks of school for the kids, and all the other normal everyday stresses and such. Don’t even get me started on the challenges we are facing while raising a pre-teen at the moment. Long story short, I’ve been busy and super stressed so writing and even jiu-jitsu had to be put on hold for a bit. Usually I wouldn’t play catch up and write about things that are weeks behind me, but it just so happened in that blur of craziness going on in my life, I hit some big milestones in my jiu-jitsu life and it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to write about them.
So, buckle up. It’s a long one.
My gi match at the tournament is the beginning topic of today. This one has some shoulda, woulda, coulda involved when I think back to it. I’ve never been one to talk or even really think positively of myself and give myself credit where I should. But, thanks to a handful of events lately and mostly the positive results of jiu-jitsu, I have found some much needed confidence and I’m going to channel it today to make the following statement:
I was the better opponent and the only reason I lost was due to my own mistakes. She won because I lost. I get that that might sound like a really dumb statement, but bare with me.
Let’s get to the match breakdown, at least as best as I can remember today.
I think my mistake number one was walking into this match on a high from my no-gi win and gold medal moment and initially not really caring how this match went. In someways I think it helped for the obvious reasons, I was more relaxed and I was walking into it with very little nerves. The reason I think it hindered me was that I had lost that killer drive, focus, and mentality.
One of my biggest victories of the match was in stand up. In my previous tournament experience this is where I fucked up in each match. I rushed things and grew impatient with the thought that it had to get to the ground immediately instead of waiting or creating the right opportunity for it to get to the ground. My approach this time was to only go for the takedown when the opportunity presented itself and to be patient. I suck at takedowns. I don’t do them enough and just haven’t developed that area in my jiu-jitsu game. My hope was that I could defend her takedown attempts, let her wear herself out, and let her be the one to grow impatient.
My game plan played out on that mat exactly the way I wanted she was constantly rushing takedown attempts, wearing herself out, and at around the two minute mark her impatience took over and she pulled guard. I might have actually smiled at this moment. It felt weird and rewarding to be in there and actually feel like I knew what I was doing and that I had enough experience to be able to predict what my opponent would do. It was a really cool moment that to most people probably went unnoticed.
I’ve gotten really comfortable lately with being in someone’s guard and passing so I didn’t feel any kind of threat at this moment. I was able to pin her right leg and keep her from closing her guard and got my left knee passed. I did rush it a little bit and completely passed my knee instead of using it to pin her leg so I could pass my other leg as well. I ended up with my leg stuck in half guard. I was completely okay with that though because this an area I work a lot in live rolling and I am comfortable here.
I smashed her down so she couldn’t get up, got my underhook on her left side, and as my leg was sliding out and was getting down to only my ankle and foot still stuck, she started grabbing my collar and trying to do some sort of choke.
I honestly don’t even know what it was, I just knew that I needed to get my hand in there to block it. This hindered my passing for a little bit. Once I felt that choke was not a threat, I reestablished my passing. Smash, underhook, forehead to the floor, and then I used my left leg to block hers and pulled my right leg out.
I get to side control and this is the moment I lost the whole match, in my opinion. My usual, my path when I get to this point for the last few months has been the same. I go to side control, I go to scarf, I pressure in, I get the arm partial extended, I put my leg over the arm to lock up crucifix, I switch my hips over locking up the crucifix as tight as I can and basically sit my hip on their face as I attack the arm. It’s my go-to. The place where I have dominated and gotten the most submissions and success in my small little jiu-jitsu life. It is my favorite place to be.
And I second guessed it.
Because I followed this path in my no-gi match and fucked it up and this girl was tougher than my no-gi opponent, I didn’t want to fuck it up again. Big mistake. I am pretty positive that I could have submitted her from there if I had locked it up. I’ve been working this path on men bigger and stronger than her and have been successfully getting armbars from there often. I should have went for it. It was my planned path and I should have stuck to it instead of hesitating.
See. Here come the shoudas. They are such little bitches.
Now, here’s the part of the match that afterwards was eating at me a little. And I’m only putting it in this post, not as a complaint, but as a full disclosure of my feelings and struggles. I’ve dealt with and moved on from these frustrations.
I get to side control. I maintain the side control for the three second count. The ref holds up his hands with three fingers and as he says, “Three points for…” she gets a knee in and locks up half guard again. He takes away my points.
My confusion and outlook on this moment is this, the rule states that you have to hold the position for a three second count, which I did. Actually I held it for longer than that when you consider the fact that he was in the middle of rewarding the points when she locked up half guard. Her getting that half guard shouldn’t have mattered at that point. I had already maintained the three seconds. I was really kind of frustrated about this for a little bit, but I get that everyone has their own style to reffing and awarding points and I’m not going to doubt or complain about his choices. He could have a different count system or he could have seen something else that stopped him from giving me the points. There’s a lot of factors that can come into play. What it all comes down to is that it’s my own fault and I take full credit for the loss. I should have established and maintained a better side control.
Damn. There is that shoulda again. Bitch.
So, she’s locked up half guard and I pass again, quite easily, to side control right as the timer goes off. We are tied 0-0 and go to overtime, first one to score wins.
I had the same strategy for stand up and wanted to just let her grow impatient. Plus, at this point the exhaustion has taken over me. At one point her leg was right there so I grabbed it and used my last bit of energy to try and drive her over. It was so close too. But, you know what they say about close, it only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (and definitely not jiu-jitsu.) Big thanks to my high school geometry teacher for that dandy little phrase. Minus the jiu-jitsu addition, of course.
That takedown attempt used my very last drop of energy so I eventually sat down to my butt. I didn’t realize that doing that, sitting down, would give her what I am assuming were takedown points. Or, there is a great chance that in my exhaustion, I don’t recall what happened exactly at that point. But, I honestly don’t remember a takedown.
They separated us. He raised her hand. I lost.
At the moment, I honestly didn’t care at all. I had a huge smile on my face. I had conquered so much of myself and my fears and had so many victories well beyond the obvious wins and hand raises. I was proud of myself and counted the day as a major success.
When I walked out of that building and had time to think and process it all, I started kind of beating myself up about a few things. Especially that gi match. I dominated the match yet walked away with a loss. I had a hard time accepting that. I really talked down to myself and had a brief moment of getting upset with myself and the fact that I lost.
That’s a big “but then…”
But then, the overwhelming happiness I felt over the many victories I had in conquering the old me, man, they really flooded out any kind of disappointment I had in myself over anything else. It was a moment that I learned that the true value of victory is not always over an opponent. It is the victory over yourself that is the true win. The win that, a lot of times, really matters the most.
This is especially true in my case.
Something happened when I turned 30. A big turning point and change started in my life. I had lived my whole life feeling like there was something wrong with me. I guess, in a way, you could say I was living my life as a victim. I always clutched closely to that “poor me” mentality. Poor me, I wasn’t pretty enough. Poor me, I wasn’t as good as my sister. Poor me, I was too shy. Poor me, I sucked at everything (or at least in comparison to a few peers and my sister.) Poor me, I was too sensitive. Poor me. Poor me. Poor me. I felt like everything I did was wrong, even the things that were out of my control.
It was exhausting.
I hated myself. I don’t remember a time in my whole life, that I didn’t hate the very person that I was. I hated that I was so shy. I hated that social interaction terrified me. I hated that I let people walk all over me and treat me like shit and that I was always dumb enough to go back for more. I hated that the idea of confrontation would stop me in my tracks. I hated that I was a people pleaser. I hated that I had no confidence in myself. I hated that I stayed in situations that weren’t beneficial to me and my well being. I hated that I put so much focus and value on people liking me instead of me liking and valuing myself. In hating all of this about myself I had it in my head that all of this was out of my control.
The turning point wasn’t necessarily right when I turned 30. It’s not like it was a magical number and the meaning of life was presented to me in a glowing realization. It came in the form of a documentary. Mike and I were obsessed with documentaries and watched them all the time. I sat there and watched this particular one and cried because I was watching something that had happened to me that I had never realized could shape and form me into the mess that I was and that it was fixable. I thought I was born this way and that I was the sole reason of why I was so messed up. I blamed myself for everything that was wrong with me. I even had people in my life that blamed me for it too. Poor me, right? I watched that documentary over and over and cried every time. Good grief, it makes me cry now just thinking about it and how mind blowing that moment and realization was. It really fucked with my head. I finally hit a point that I thought maybe I should seek help so I called a therapist and began one of the most difficult journeys of my life.
I think a lot of people don’t realize how hard therapy can be. It sounds so simple, just talking to someone. I thought I would go and immediately feel better, but instead discovered that it was a roller coaster in a dark and twisted tunnel that I would have to go through every single week. I had to relive and revisit some pretty hard things from my past. I would go through my 45-minute session and leave with a mess of shit to process. Sometimes I would sit in my car in the parking lot trying to figure out how to navigate through it all and pilot a big metal vehicle at the same time. It felt impossible to carry that weight and function as a normal human being. Sometimes it was. I remember I would call my husband on the drive home and tell him all about it and my new realizations and cry. I would spend those first few days in a pretty dark place. And then, a few days later I would start to feel better. Stronger. I would practice and use the tools I had been given to deal with my issues and just when I would see the end of what I thought was the worst, I would go to my next session. It was a vicious little cycle and you really have to be committed to getting better to survive it.
And I did survive it.
I came out on the other side a different person. A much stronger person. I was starting to see little glimpses of the person I always wanted to be. The biggest tool I got out of all that hell was quite simple. A little shift in perception.
I can not control how people react to me or treat me and I can not change things in my past. I can only control how I choose to react.
I learned that everything I did was my choice. I could choose to be happy. I could choose to stay positive. I could choose to let things get to me or I could choose to let them go. I could choose to be brave. I could choose to set my own boundaries and stand firm in my choices. I could choose to walk away from anyone or anything that was not beneficial or a positive factor to my life. I could choose to move away from the old me, the one I grew up hating and blaming for my issues, and drop this poor me attitude.
We might be guided down shitty paths in life or stuck in unfavorable circumstances, but ultimately we get to choose how we handle them and what we get out of those situations. We can choose to come out on the other side as a stronger, better person.
So that’s what I did.
(I wish it was as easy as that last sentence makes it sound!)
This way of thinking was ultimately what started me on the path to becoming the person I always wanted to be. Therapy and learning that I can choose my life was the first and the toughest battle over my own self. It was exactly what I needed to start using struggles as motivation, frustration as fuel, and fears as focus.
To put into perspective of what kind of battle I was facing over myself, that was seven years ago and I am still struggling with a lot of those issues. For 30 years I had a certain way of thinking and to change that, it’s not an easy task. You can’t teach a old dog new tricks, right? Well you can, it’s just that us old dogs have more shit to filter and fight through to get to the new ways of being.
I still feel like I have a long, long way to go to reach the person I am striving to be. It is definitely a slow process. Honestly, I see it is as a never ending process. I see this path of bettering myself as limitless. We can always find ways to better ourselves whether it be educationally or physically or mentally and everything in between and I choose to always stay on that path of bettering myself in every way I can.
It’s never a simple uphill hike. It ups and downs and sideways and backways and slantways and every which ways you can think of. There are times that it feels like you take several tiny steps forward only to take one giant leap backwards. I’ve learned though that what matters most is that you never give up and always focus forward. I think as long as you can do that, you are always winning, even in dark moments and losses.
(Kind of sounds a little like jiu-jitsu, huh? Those that call it therapy know their shit.)
That tournament and the victories are a culmination of a very, very hard and very, very long battle I’ve had over myself. It wasn’t just a victory over the me that started jiu-jitsu a year ago. It doesn’t even feel like it was just a victory over the seven year ago me that started this process of healing and bettering myself. It feels like it was so much more than that. It feels like I’ve finally had a victory over my whole being, my whole life. I am no longer that scared, shy, super sensitive, self-hate filled, poor me Allison.
I still practice what I learned in therapy, that way of thinking, everyday and do my best to pass it on to my kids too. I feel like it is the most valuable perspective a human being can have and I hope that message is here today in what I am writing.
I strongly, wholeheartedly believe that our circumstances do not shape our lives, our choices do. And, I believe that because I am proof of that. I could easily choose to be a shy, social recluse, who does nothing of any value for herself, who sits there and feels pity and shame about the events that took place in her life. But, instead I chose to walk the harder path. I chose to be a person that fights through her challenges to be the best version of herself that she can be. And, wow, what a life and adventure I have gotten because of it.
Today’s post may not sound very jiu-jitsu-y (I love making up words) since I went a little personal, but I have to give credit where it is due. Jiu-jitsu really propelled this progress more than anything else I’ve encountered. Therapy may have been the starting point of recovering and provided me with the right tools, but jiu-jitsu has been the exact opportunity I’ve needed to use those tools and really jump forward towards a better me. I feel like jiu-jitsu jumped me forward in a mental strength capacity in a way that I never could have done on my own or even with the help of therapy.
There’s a part of me that wishes I would have found jiu-jitsu sooner and I say that a lot, but in a way I’m glad I didn’t. I think jiu-jitsu came into my life at the perfect moment, at the right time. Any earlier and I don’t know if I would have been able to handle or welcome the struggles and challenges it brings with it. I wouldn’t have understood the growth that can occur in those hard moments and I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it the way I do now. I probably wouldn’t have lasted beyond one class and that’s only if I could have found the courage to even step on the mat, which I doubt would have happened. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe jiu-jitsu would have been the perfect thing for me.
What I do know is that the last year has been, without a doubt, one of the best of my life. The person I am becoming is something I never thought I would be. I can feel the confidence seeping into so many areas in my life and slowly repairing the 30 years of damage I inflicted on myself. I walk different, with my head up. I look people in the eyes instead of the floor. I don’t fear confrontation, social situations, or even conversation. I feel strong both mentally and physically. I have never been more sure of my path in life. I am happier than I have ever been. I feel beautiful in my own non-conventional ways. And I, for the first time in my life, am proud of myself and the person I am.
I honestly don’t think I would have ever achieved that without jiu-jitsu and Springfield Fight Club and I don’t know how I will ever be able to repay that service.
It is priceless.