Approach to Learning.

Who knew that getting beat up could be so damn fun? Well, if you do jiu-jitsu, you know.

Last night was one of my best classes to date. I don’t know if I’ve ever smiled and laughed as much as I did last night. I am assuming that a big part of it was having to miss a few classes and just being really, really happy to be back.

Yay! More bodily torture!

 

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We really are somewhat of a crazy breed. I mean to an outsider we probably look really, really foolish to want to subject ourselves to what we do. But, really the outsider is the fool. An outsider sees only the surface. If only they knew, really knew and understood what we get out of this, maybe there would be a shit-ton more people on the mats.

Yes. Yes it is. Shit-ton is an actual measurement in my world.

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The other side of my extreme happiness was from seeing a little bit of the extra work and effort I’ve been putting in at home during my morning workouts actually pay off.

Sweeps have been something that I just really suck at. I can’t ever seem to get the timing right or the details all in check in order to actually get the sweep. Every night we do pass, sweep, submit and every night I majorly lack in the sweep department like a janitor without a broom. I figured I can either keep having trouble with my sweeps and letting it frustrate me or I can do something about it. So, I studied. I drilled. I watched videos to make sure I was getting all the right details. I drilled. I studied. I drilled some more. I was determined to better my sweep game. And, guess what happened?

I swept people. I actually swept people.

Five to be exact, and two right on the verge as the timer went off, but who’s counting…

One week of extra effort and in return for my time I was rewarded with many new victories.

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All this week I’ve really thought a lot about how people approach learning jiu-jitsu. I became really curious as to if people supplement their training, if they “study” jiu-jitsu, watch videos, drill at home, or take notes after class. Lately, out of my increasing love for jiu-jitsu I keep having this strong urge, a need to get better. It’s not really coming from a place of extreme frustration or urgency to advance, I just want to make sure I am maximizing my efforts. It’s a need to make sure that I am approaching learning in a way that is going to make all this effort and training stick with me. It’s no secret that we all learn and absorb information in different ways and I’m curious to find out what the best approach for learning jiu-jitsu is for me.

I already know that one of the best ways for me to really digest and retain what I’m learning is to study it and get into a better, deeper understanding of why a technique works and how it works. I’m one of those people that loves information. I question everything and find joy in researching what I don’t know to understand it better.

#nerdalert

I feel like this was instrumental to how I was able to get those sweeps last night. I may not have gotten them with the exact technique, but just simply understanding the concepts of how a sweep works helped me tremendously.

I’m also trying out taking some notes after each class. I’ve always kind of wanted to do this because it fits right in line with how I usually approach learning. I am a list making, note taking addict. My problem was that I could never really find an approach to it that fit my need for organized perfection and I just never took the time to figure it out. But, after reading a really good blog post from Lucas Walker (click link to check it out) about how to take notes after class, I was able to come up with an easy and more organized plan for that. So far, I really like it. I know a lot of people hand write their notes and that was were I was having some trouble with it. I didn’t want a notebook that was hard to navigate and find what I needed when I needed it, so instead I do all of mine on my computer. I have a BJJ folder on my desktop and each technique I have typed up notes for has it’s own document. This way I can easily find and add to what I need, when I need it. It’s easy, it’s organized in a way I like, and so far it seems to really help me retain the information I’ve learned.

After just one week of really focusing in on how I learn and trying to maximize those tools, it already made a big difference in my performance on the mat. I’m really glad that I finally took this approach and a part of me wishes I would have started this sooner. However, as much as I wish that, I think I had so much mental fog and struggles to sort through that I just didn’t have the right mindset yet to approach my learning in this way. It’s a nice change that makes me really excited about my jiu-jitsu future and growing my jiu-jitsu intelligence.

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The Flying Squirrel.

Spazzy white belt. One of my biggest fears in jiu-jitsu. Not just to roll with, but also being one. I know that it’s a stage we all go through. We panic. We come at people with the intensity of a life or death battle. We think it can’t be that hard to stop someone if we just go faster and more aggressively.

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White belts are stupid.

Before anyone takes offense to that statement, remember, I too am a white belt. I shouldn’t have to spell out that I’m calling myself stupid. But if I do, you deserve to be called stupid too.

She’s comin’ in hot with the insults today, boys.

I’m not trying to say that as a white belt that you are stupid in a mean way. It’s the kind of stupid that you could call a baby. (Wow! I just called babies stupid.) A baby is born into the world without any skill to care for themselves. They can’t hold their own heads up, or walk, or talk, or feed themselves, etc. Stupid is probably a horrible, horrible word to use, but I didn’t start this post talking about babies and this is kind of where it went.

Oops.

Before I start getting angry private messages and comments from the babies out there reading this, my apologies. You’re super cute and cuddly so we don’t really care that you are stupid too. I fully support and respect babies. I am team baby.

Just like a baby, a white belt can’t, so to speak, hold their own heads up. In terms of skill they can’t walk, talk, feed themselves, etc. So what do they do?

They spazz.

I like to think I’m out of this phase, but then I’ll do something really stupid like frantically lose a grip and punch a guy in the face. I feel horrible about it for both concern for that person and for selfish reasons. I don’t want to hurt people and I don’t want to be a spazzy white belt.

Then, I got to be on the other side of the spazzy coin. I had to partner up with a guy in pass, sweep, submit and it was only his second class. He came in hot from the get-go. It was either he looked at me and could instantly feel my badass vibe and knew he had to come in hard or maybe in his mind, in his white belt infancy, he won’t even consider the thought that a girl could beat him. Whatever the reason, this guy was super, super aggressive.

At first I wasn’t worried. I tend to think that most of the time the spazz, the super aggressive are easier to handle. Their spazziness is always a great reminder for myself to relax. There’s also something about spazzing that makes that person easier to beat. In their spazzy intensity they make a lot, A LOT of mistakes and you can usually take advantage of that. I’ve dealt with plenty of spazzies and it has never really been an issue to me.

Until last night.

So the round starts off fine. I’m on the ground, he’s standing up. I know he’s going to come in hot so I’m prepared. He tried to sprint to my back so I roll to turtle, and have one of his legs. I go to reach for his other knee so I can drive him over when he sprawls on me. I get up on my feet in a bear crawl position and start to circle out. He too gets to his feet, lets go, and runs behind me. I’m almost fully standing at this point, but still kind of hunched over, when he jumps on my back like a flying squirrel to a tree branch. I don’t know how much more he weighs than me, but it instantly and forcefully dropped me to the mat with him still hugging my back.

“Damnit dude! What the fuck! You don’t jump on someone’s back like that!” I yelled.

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Pic or it didn’t happen.

And then, in my weird and typical Allison ways, I got mad at myself instead of him. I was the victim of a spazzy white belt attack and I’m the one who felt shame.

I’m so weird about weaknesses. I don’t like appearing weak. I’m am really hard on myself in that area. This mindset also works against me with injuries, which I currently have. Doing jiu-jitsu as a woman, an older woman, an older, overweight woman, IĀ  know that chances are I am the weakest in the room. I try to take a positive outlook to that and use it as fuel, as a push to work harder, to never give people an opportunity to look at me as weak. The second I yelled at that guy and complained I felt like I had put a she’s-fragile-take-it-easy-on-her red flag on myself. And that is the last thing I want.

I felt fine after the flying back attack and finished the rest of pass, sweep, submit. I don’t know if it was adrenaline, but my injuries felt fine throughout the whole thing.

(Interrupting for an injury breakdown. The first is my shoulder and neck. I honestly don’t know for sure what happened. I think it was just too many omoplatas and attacks on this one arm. I can’t turn my head to the left without pain radiating throughout the right side of my neck and my right shoulder. I also can’t put pressure on my elbow. When I do there is a burning pain that radiates up my arm and throughout my shoulder. The other injury is my hand and two middle fingers. There was a wrist-lock situation that went from 0-100 on the pain scale in about a millisecond and I just didn’t tap quick enough. My hand just hasn’t felt right since. I can grip things, but if I try to grip and move something, hello sharp pains! This one happened a month ago and it still swells up and bruises after almost every class. Both injuries don’t really hinder my movement so I keep doing class. I keep thinking these injuries are improving and each time after class I’m back to hurting. It’s hard to sit out guys. I don’t like it. See, I’m white belt stupid too.)

So anyway, I feel fine, I finish pass, sweep, submit, and at the moment I’m glad I didn’t sit out like I had originally planned. Then as I laid in front of the fan trying to calm my breathing and cool down the pain of my injuries came to the surface. When I tried to sit up, I could feel more than the usual though. Thanks to my new leaping 200 lb. cape, my whole back felt horrible.

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I think it’s time to be a good girl and let my body heal. I don’t like it. It feels like every time I start making big leaps of progress, I encounter setbacks. Sigh. I know, I know. It’s a marathon, Allison, not a sprint. I’m in it for the long haul so missing a few classes shouldn’t matter. Is still sucks though.

As for my spazzy white belt pal, I have zero hard feelings towards him. It’s just part of it and it happens. He’s in his white belt infancy and this is just the way it is. I mean I’m not saying I won’t take the opportunity to do a little crossface on him if I can, but I’m totally understanding that his intent was not to hurt.

Jiu-jitsu can be intense at first and sometimes brings out the flying squirrel in you.

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Be Un-rape-able.

I woke up this morning feeling like 15-ish people kicked my ass last night.

Oh, wait…

That actually happened.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of crazed lunatic I have to be to have decided at 36-years-old that I would love to get my ass kicked three days a week and wake up the next day feeling like I got ran over by a truck. Or, in the case of this morning, fifteen-ish trucks.

“Why couldn’t you just crochet or craft or some shit like that, ” my body might ask.

Because somewhere along the way I decided that personal growth is the shit and became addicted to bettering myself. So far, jiu-jitsu has been the leading deliverer of that growth and that makes all the pain and soreness worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of moments where I think to myself, “WTF are you doing to yourself!?” But, then I have moments where I am lying flat on my back and sweep a guy that weighs at least 50 lbs. more than me and I remember just how bad ass and empowering jiu-jitsu is.

Worth it.

Or, I remember where I was mentally a year ago and how much stronger, braver, and tougher I am.

Worth it, again.

It takes worth it to a whole new level when I think back to those beginning days when I couldn’t do anything. It was very frightening and unsettling to realize that if a man attacked me I couldn’t do anything. I remember not really caring so much about the self-defense aspect of jiu-jitsu until it was brutally shown to me that I couldn’t defend myself on the ground against anyone. Anyone. That honestly scared me. I just don’t think you realize how much it takes to defend yourself until you’ve tried to get up off the ground when someone is trying to keep you there.

Today, I think one of the best things a woman can do for herself is to learn how to defend herself. And I don’t mean a bullshit self-defense class at a McDojo where they teach you ridiculous techniques that would never work when met with resistance. Not once at the McDojo we went to did we ever work on any kind of defense once on the ground. Not once. They acted like the ground didn’t exist and the only defense you needed was stand up.

giphy-downsized-large.gif

Not from the actual McDojo we attended, but a pretty accurate representation of it.

I can’t remember the statistic, but I know that the majority of fights and attacks end up on the ground. If you aren’t learning some sort of defense from there, you could be wasting your time. Ladies especially, do yourself a favor and learn something legit, something that is realistic and usable. I don’t think there could possibly be a better self-defense then learning jiu-jitsu.

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A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were wrestling around on our bed…

I promise this is PG.

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Since we both do jiu-jitsu anytime we get close to each other it turns into a grappling match. On this particular day, I was on my back and my husband was trying to…I swear, no matter how I say this it sounds dirty…get in my guard to lay on top of me. I started using my legs to stop him. He would get one side of his body in, I would slightly switch my hips, loop my leg back over his arms, and get my foot in position to stop him from moving forward. After 30 seconds or so of this he says, “You are like un-rape-able now!”

It’s true jiu-jitsu has put a bit of damper on my husband’s cuddle attempts, but it has more importantly helped to ease both his mind and my mind with the skills I have learned to defend myself.

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Un-rape-able is a pretty bold word to use. I definitely don’t want to walk around overly confident and thinking that I could defend myself against anyone, anytime. That’s just asking for trouble. There are so many factors that come into play and you just can’t predict how those things will play out. A person trying to rape you is probably going to go to extremes to make that happen so I don’t know if you can ever be fully prepared for that kind of thing.

But…

You can learn some jiu-jitsu and do your damnedest to make sure that you are going to make it as hard as possible for someone to take advantage of you in that way. If I had daughters, they would be doing jiu-jitsu for sure.

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I like looking back and seeing just how hard it was to simply survive in those early days. How I could do very little to save myself from the danger of someone bigger and stronger. That is all starting to change now. Little by little.

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Taking a man, a man that is bigger and stronger than you, who is coming at you aggressively while you are flat on your back, and sweeping him onto his back and ending up on top of him, that’s some pretty badass, un-rape-able stuff, ladies. Who cares about a little pain and soreness when the end result is something like that!?

Worth. It.

Taking Charge

Last night was one of those nights that I was both physically and mentally tired before I got to class. Most of it due to two little boys that I like to call Mr. Preteen McTurdpants and Mr. LittleBro Knowshowtopushhisbrothersbuttons. I’ll spare you the glorious details of a work from home mom with two little headstrong boys that are hell bent on getting the other in trouble and enjoy spending most of the day busting into my work room every two seconds to dramatically plead to me that what the other did was sooooooo bad.

Sorry. I lied. That was one long sentence of details.

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By the time I got to class I really just wanted to be soaking in a hot bath, in a quiet room, reading a book, far, far away from any noise. Especially the “But MOOOOOM, he had two popsicles today!” kind of noise.

I should know by now that out on the mat is one of the best places to escape that kind of noise. A place to recharge, refocus, and release some of the frustration and tension by trying to choke people. It really didn’t take much jiu-jitsu to snap me out of the mom-is-going-to-go-crazy funk.

Now I kind of feel bad. I’ve really dogged on my kids here and in an effort to not sound like a horrible mother I will say I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. On most days anyway. Individually and far away from each other, they can be the sweetest little guys. Together, it’s like you’ve got a song stuck in your head called, “But he did __________ (fill in the blank with whatever ridiculously stupid, tiny nonsense you can come up with.)” They are the only people that can drive me insane, make me laugh, and melt my heart at the same time. I’m getting a little sappy because they are going on a little granny-cation and while I will enjoy the quiet house and amount of work I will get done, I’m going to miss them terribly.

(I shit you not, the very second that I wrote that sentence, one of them slammed the door and yelled, “I’m telling Mom!” Yay. Please do. I can’t wait to hear all about it. Sigh. It. Is. Never. Ending. Let’s change that to I’m going to miss them…some.)

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This is true.

Back to the other constant challenge in my life, jiu-jitsu…

I had a pretty big victory last night. Actually four big victories.

  1. I asked someone to roll.
  2. I asked someone to roll.
  3. I asked someone to roll.
  4. I asked someone to roll.

Every single round I rolled, I was the one that asked.

Sounds small, right?

Just to put this into perspective a little to help you understand how big of a victory that is for me, I am so bad at social interaction that I very, very rarely will initiate a conversation with someone. It can even be someone I know pretty well and I still won’t start up a conversation. This whole asking people to roll has been a thorn in my side for the last year and half. I couldn’t even muster up the courage to talk to people, how in the world was I going to muster up the courage to ask someone to roll around on the ground with me?

Well, the answer to that question is, you just do. That is the only way, you just do it. If you want to get over the wall, start climbing, Darlin’.

My strategy for last night was to never let myself sit on the edge of the mat. The edge of the mat is poison for me. I sit there and get in my head more and more the longer I sit there. I beat myself up, I talk myself out of rolling, and I tell myself that I don’t belong there. The more I think about things, the more I build them up to be these ridiculous stories filled with self-doubt.

Who wants to be the person filled with self-doubt and hesitation at the slightest challenge?

Not this girl.

I want to be the person that takes charge and doesn’t let her head get in her way. I want to be the person that decides to be brave and conquer the challenges before her with strength and confidence. The person that says, “Hey, I’m here to get better. I want to roll as many rounds as I can and it’s up to me and no one else to make that happen.”

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Not once in between those four rounds did I sit on the edge of the mat. Before I could let my head start in with the fears, I would find the next person to roll with. It felt great too. Like I was taking charge of my jiu-jitsu fate and making things happen. It felt nothing short of amazing.

And, I can’t wait to do it again.

Lions Lurking in the Dark.

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Our heads can be a pretty messed up place sometimes.

It’s probably rude of me to use the word “our” and make the assumption that your head is as messed up as mine, but I thought that if I said “our” it made me sound less crazy. By not taking offense to my use of the word “our” and me collectively lumping us all together, you are taking one for the team. I thank you for your service.

Sometimes I think my brain just fucks with me for the fun of it. Kind of a “I’ll show you who’s in charge,” thing.

It could almost be considered an art form of how brilliant my brain (probably the only time I’ll get to use brilliant and my brain in the same sentence) is at creating nonsense. Worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. Stressing about things that are out of my control. Putting too high of value on things that don’t matter. Letting my fears steer my direction.

It really is amazing how complicated and cluttered my brain can become over some of the dumbest things. How I can make up fears that are completely unnecessary and often times impossible.

I chalk a big part of it up to having a huge imagination. Good for my job where I rely on creativity and I can use my imagination to dream up different and unique pieces to include in my work. Bad when you can imagine and vividly play out impossible scenarios like a strange and twisted movie as a private showing in your head. I take it to the next level of bad when I actually let it scare me like it’s a rational thing.

Like my fears of being eaten by a lion…

that had escaped from the zoo…

and made it all the way to my town…

lurking in the dark field at the end of our street where the light can’t reach…

and pouncing on me as I walk to my car to get something I forgot to bring inside…

sharp teeth stained with blood as my intestines hang like a chandelier from the jaws of the beast…

eating me alive as my family helplessly watches from the window…

I fully understand that I might have just open a giant can of holy shit she’s crazy. (Like I hadn’t already done that long ago.) I might be exaggerating just a bit as to how wild my imagination is. Might. Might being the key word. I mean everyone worries about lions lurking in the dark, right? It’s a totally a valid fear, right?

Riiiiigghht…

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Alright, alright, I promise this is jiu-jitsu related. My brain just took control and ran with it and when I let it do that we can go down some pretty curvy roads of ridiculousness.

In jiu-jitsu my brain often times gets the better of me.

I worry about things that haven’t even happened yet. I stress about situations that are out of my control. I put too much value on things that don’t matter. I let my fears steer my direction.

My latest challenge, and I only say latest right now because it is only within the last few days that I made the choice, with the help and guidance of a few SFC peeps, to actually take some leaps at this hurdle of putting myself out there more and asking more people to roll. This has been a struggle from day one and it’s been a challenge that I have avoided. I’ve built it up to be this awful thing, worrying and stressing about the possible rejection. And, the more I sit there at the edge of the mat and build it up in my head, the scarier it becomes. A lion lurking in the dark unknown ready to pounce and eat me alive if I dare to put myself out there.

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I knew eventually that I was going to have to face this fear, but I put it off and put it off, knowing that this area was quite possibly going to be the biggest mental challenge I would face in my jiu-jitsu life. Or just life in general.

My brain tells me to hang out in my comfort zone. It’s safe there. No rejection. No embarrassment. No lions.

It’s also boring there.

No learning. No growth. No glory from taming the wild beast.

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But, here’s the funny things about these fears and worries that we build up in our heads. They are never as scary as we think they are going to be. Afterwards, when you’ve taken the leap, asked someone to roll, and they didn’t loudly say in front of the whole class of people, “Fuck no! I’m not rolling with you, you loser,” you realize that it wasn’t so bad and it actually felt really good to put yourself out there.

I know that I’ve still got a long road ahead of me with this challenge. It goes so much deeper than just a presence in my jiu-jitsu life. This has been something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. It’s obviously going to take a lot of practice and consistent effort to get my brain to stop making up these ridiculous rejection worries.

I felt like last night was a good first step in the right direction. I asked people to roll. I got in a lot of great rounds. I left feeling on top the world, proud of myself for not letting my brain and fears control my progress.

Hopefully, if I keep this up, one day I can quit fearing the lion and instead become one. Full of courage and unafraid of the challenges in front of me.

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The Lone Wolf.

Yesterday, I posted this photo with the following caption on my Instagram:

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I hate admitting it but over the weekend was the closest I’ve ever came to quitting. I was so frustrated and just done.

I love jiu-jitsu. I seriously love it. I don’t love feeling alone on a mat full of people. And I let it get to me. The truth is that I’m overweight, I’m old, I’m a woman, I’m a wife and mom. With that combination of labels you might as well put a sign around my neck that says, “has Ebola.” I fooled myself into thinking that all I had to do was put in my time and prove that I was there to work hard and get better. That eventually those labels would disappear. They don’t. And I really let it get to me this weekend.

Sigh.

But, after lots of frustration and tears, I came to the conclusion that I don’t have to prove shit to anyone else. I deserve my spot on the mat. I work hard, I show up, and if people don’t want to roll with me because I’m an old, fat woman, then fuck ’em. I love jiu-jitsu and I will never quit because I don’t fit the mold of the typical jiu-jitsu practitioner.

Whew. There she is. There’s that stubborn, defiant, determined girl. Thought I’d lost her for bit. šŸ˜‰šŸ’ŖšŸ¼

Today, I’m going to go into more detail about that subject. I just want to make sure that my words aren’t misconstrued.

I take full, 100% of the responsibility for my feelings on the subject of being the only older woman on the mats at SFC. I’m not saying that anyone from SFC has been rude to me or made me feel like poo. I love everyone and everything about SFC. I can’t ever imagine that changing. It’s very clear from the many comments I got on this post that this is something older women that train will deal with. It’s not a matter of where you train, it’s just the way it is everywhere.

The truth of the matter is I knew from day one what I was getting into.

I knew the first day I walked into SFC that this was going to be a big hurdle for me. I knew that being an older woman was going to make me kind of an outsider, so to speak. The lone wolf, as I like to call it. I knew that if I wanted to succeed in jiu-jitsu that I was going to have to deal with the fact that I am not going to be the first choice in partner for anyone. And, I don’t blame a single person for not wanting to partner with me.

The fact the matter is that in the 3-5 rolls that people do in a class of 20+ people, I can’t imagine why I would be a choice for anyone. If the roles were reversed I probably wouldn’t seek out the older, overweight, mom in the class. I know and completely accept that if I want to roll with people it is up to me to make that happen.

I don’t know why this last weekend it got to me so much.

Maybe it was PMS. You really can’t trust women and their emotions during that time. Or women and chocolate. Or women and weapons. You just can’t trust women, period, when they are PMSing. (Puns are fun.)

Or maybe it’s just after almost a year and half of the frustration that builds from very few people asking me to roll, it just got to me. I felt rejected. I sit there every class next to my husband on the edge of the mat and watch multiple people ask him to roll and in my whole jiu-jitsu life I’ve only had maybe five people ask me to roll.

Five.

And, one of them is married to me.

Sometimes I get caught up in my emotions and take it personal. I forget that it’s not that people are rejecting me, it just is what it is. And, I really am okay with that.

That’s kind of a beautiful thing about jiu-jitsu, while we do all have common struggles that we go through, everyone has their own unique mountains to climb. I like to think that this struggle for me is going to be an area of my biggest growth. It’s going to force me to put myself out there in a really uncomfortable place and face my fears of talking to people and rejection. I have improved since the beginning. I do have a handful of people that I am completely comfortable with asking and I do. However, if I want to find that next level of growth it is up to me to put myself out there and ask more people to roll.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

And, FYI, if anyone does reject me when I ask, I have been instructed (and I will totally do this) to call that person an asshat.

So, don’t reject me. Asshat.

I just want to roll and get better, just like everyone else.