Me Too.

I put the “try” in triangle and I ended up with an after-almost-two-years-I-finally-did-it-angle.

Lame. The delivery of my news is so cheesy. However, let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on the fact that I finally got a submission via triangle.

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I’ve drilled them over and over. I’ve drilled the basic fundamentals. I’ve drilled different set ups. I drilled and I drilled and I drilled and it finally resulted in success. I think one of my mistakes in my hasty excitement each time I would get a triangle set up was not shoulder walking when I needed to. I think that was the detail that solidified everything last night. It was such a fantastic feeling to finally get each detail, not rush it, and actually get the submission.

Yay! Triangles are fun! (If my high school geometry teacher heard me say that…)

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I was so happy that I thought I was going to float right to the ceiling on a cloud of pure jiu-jitsu delight.

But…

But then, I rolled a few more rounds and got absolutely destroyed. I mean the kind of ass kicking that makes you feel like you are back in week one. Just right back to a foolish, mistake-making-at-every-move, white belt. I even had a very brief moment of telling myself, “Why am I doing this? This is impossible.” It’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt that way. By the end of class I was tempted to take off the three strips on my belt and throw them in the trash because I was afraid that I didn’t deserved them. That if someone saw me roll they would call those strips a fraud.

Here’s where I get incredibly lucky though. Since my husband and I both train and we have about a 30 minute drive home, we always talk about the night. The things we messed up, the victories we had, the way we feel about certain techniques, etc. Last night when I actually voiced out loud that I felt like I super sucked and didn’t deserve my strips I was surprised to get a “me too” in return. If I was doing this alone, I might not ever realize that the defeating thoughts that creep into my head from time to time are pretty common. That we all go through a lot of similar ups and downs.

Just simply knowing that I’m not alone in that thought made me feel like we are on the right track. We aren’t experiencing anything out of the ordinary. We don’t suck anymore than anyone else did at this point in their jiu-jitsu life. It made me feel a lot better. We are right where we should be, doing the right thing, showing up, putting in the effort, determined to get better, and focusing on how to make that happen.

Maybe we are putting ourselves in tougher spots. Maybe we are trying new techniques and making more mistakes and having more failures. Or, as Mike suggested, maybe we are knowledgeable enough to see and understand the holes in our game more, but can’t quite execute the techniques correctly yet. Being in those three situations isn’t easy, isn’t always fun, and isn’t always the best at putting you in a positive mindset. At least not in that moment. But, obviously it’s such an important part of improving.

Little PSA moment: So, if you are new to jiu-jitsu or you feel like you struggle with feeling like you suck, I’m going to take it upon myself to tell you that you are not alone. I would bet that any negative thought you might have in regards to your jiu-jitsu is not anything new or taboo. We all go through the ups and downs and face many, many common struggles. Jiu-jitsu is so hard and that’s a huge part that contributes to making it so great and so rewarding. Hang in there!

I might have left class in a little bit of a funk, but by the time we got home I was cool with it. I accepted my reality and I appreciated the lessons I learned via ass kickings. I was thankful for new motivation, a new fire was lit under my ass, and I’m excited to work on and improve what I need to. I’m focused on the positive aspect of brutal ass kickings, the fact that the tough rolls will make me better. It was just a brief funk. I had no plans to unpack and live there.

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And, in that funky fog, I almost forgot that I had accomplished something earlier in the night that took a lot of work and a lot of time to get right. In that moment that the one little tap happened, it made all the work and effort and struggle over the last few years so worth it.

So worth it.

Nothing worth having comes easy and when you finally get there nothing can compare to how amazing that feels. The hard is what makes it great. Remember that.

Thief of Joy.

Between Sunday open mat and class last night, I am swimming deep in jiu-jitsu glee.

Last week was a little rough here and there. I kind of got in my head a few times and sometimes if you let the littlest seed of doubt or negativity seep in, it just takes over everything. Why is that? Why do we seem to listen and absorb negative self image more than we do the positive. I guess it’s probably different for everyone, but I know for me it seems like I am quick to believe the negative and suspicious of the positive. You should see me when my husband tells me I’m beautiful. “No.” is always my response. Sometimes when I’m feeling a little more polite it’s “Thanks, but no.

I know that most of the time where I go wrong when it comes to negative self-image is when I compare myself to others. Theodore Roosevelt was right on when he said comparison is the thief of joy. It really is an ugly thing we do to ourselves.

In jiu-jitsu one of my biggest mental blocks has always been comparing myself to my peers. I used to be really horrible about it. I mean it was a daily thing. Eventually I learned that that’s not a good road to go down. Even knowing that doesn’t always stop the crazy car from barrelling towards a crash anyway.

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The silly part is that there really isn’t a single person that I can accurately compare myself to. I am the only 37-year-old, larger woman in class. I tend to gloss over the fact that people are a different gender or younger or stronger or taller or faster or in better shape and go straight to, “Why am I so far behind this person? Why can’t I do this or that and they can? Why are we the same belt and I’m getting submitted three times in one round?” The only logically-insane Allison reasoning has to be because they are awesome and I am poo.

That kind of thinking is such poison. Dirty thief of joy.

It’s said a lot that the only person you should ever compare yourself to is the old you. So that’s where I tried to go with my brain beating comparisons last week. I shifted from comparison to others to comparison of myself and it almost immediately changed how I felt. I’ve come a long, long way and thinking about that progress made me excited and looking forward to the progress in my future.

Take that, comparison. Ain’t no one thief-in’ my joy.

*It’s a lot more fun if you read that in a redneck accent.

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By Sunday open mat I was ready to get in there and get in as many rounds as I could. I had some great rolls, got a lot of help from others on cleaning up and sharpening some techniques I was struggling with, and could feel some progress. My favorite moment was re-learning the D’arce choke. I remember learning it long ago in a class, maybe one of my first classes, and it felt so complicated. I obviously didn’t retain any of it and have never tried it in rolling. It’s pretty cool how much your brain adapts over time to learning jiu-jitsu. How a technique learned in the beginning can confuse you and leave your mind so quickly and then later on when you revisit it you don’t ever understand why it was so confusing the first time. Anyway, my favorite part about that was just the general atmosphere of that moment. Three people doing whatever it took to walk me through it and get the details down. They showed me what to look for, different set ups, common mistakes, escapes, and all the tiny details to get the finish. It was just a cool moment of jiu-jitsu peeps helping each other get better and that just made me happy. Some good ol’ fashion jiu-jitsu warm and fuzzies.

Last night was more of the same from Sunday. Great rounds. A great variety of challenges. Getting a few submissions. Having fun sitting on the edge of the mat talking with people. Playing around with things I haven’t yet tried in live rolling. Having people help me sharpen up some fundamentals. Having success with the shin to shin sweep we drilled in class last week. Making mistakes and learning from them. It was just another great night. A great reminder that surrounding yourself with positive thoughts, positive actions, and positive people is the way to go. I walked away feeling like life couldn’t possibly get better than it is right this moment.

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I am just very grateful for where I’m at, the experiences I am getting to have, and the people in my life. Joy is winning at the moment.

*Joy is one of the words that the more you say it/type it/see it, the weirder it sounds/looks. Or maybe I’m the weird one. That’s probably it. 

The Good Bad Night.

Welp. Last night was a good bad night, if that even makes any sense. Surely, if you do jiu-jitsu you can understand what I mean.

On the surface it was a bad night. A really bad, frustrating, mad at myself kind of night. I had so many submissions set up throughout the night, more than I probably ever have in one night, and I couldn’t finish a single one. Scissor choke. Armbar from mount. Armbar from guard. Triangle. Kimura. Straight ankle lock. Americana…a few of those I had set up multiple times. Nada on the tappy taps, though.

By the end of the night I was frustrated and I really let it get to me. I let my old friend You’renevergoingtobeabletodothis come back into my life. She’s a real bitch. I could see the road I was headed down, ThisIsImpossible Lane, and I came down pretty hard on myself. That lasted for about 20 minutes and then I realized that I don’t have to go down that road if I don’t want to. I can view this in a better way. I can take the bad for what it is and use it to help me focus on the good.

Now I have this in my head:

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life…”

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If you can name the TV show that this theme song is from you will win…absolutely nothing. But, bonus points if you actually sang it in your head as you read it. I did. And, if you can’t name the TV show you obviously are too young and really missed out. Honestly, I have no idea if you missed out. The only thing I really remember about the show was always finding it funny that someone was named Tootie, because anything that I could reference to farts put me in hysterics. Never really grew out of that…

Ah. The facts of life. We take the good, we take the bad, and the fact of life is that we can ultimately choose how we react to the good and bad.

It wasn’t long ago that I wasn’t even in a position to set up submissions. I was very rarely on the attack and lived in the constant state of survival mode. That’s not at all the case anymore. I get to attack often now. That’s a huge amount of progress and when I think of it in those terms, I’m really proud of myself and how far I’ve come. It really does make me happy with where I’m at.

See. Good bad. It’s really a thing.

I remember back when I couldn’t even get to these positions so I could start working on submissions. Then I progressed to actually getting to these positions but not being able to maintain long enough to attack. From there it progressed to maintaining the position and starting to attack. Today the progress has lead me to getting position, maintaining, and getting the submissions set up and locked down. (*Keep in mind, this is on white belts. I’m still very much in survival mode with higher ranks. I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying I can do this with everyone I roll with.)

That chain of progress is something I can be happy with. I can see that throughout all of these frustrations and challenges I am moving forward. I am progressing. It took the bad for me to reflect on the good.

Good bad. It works.

Now I just to need to focus on the details of each technique and try to figure out where I’m going wrong, why I’m not getting the tap. Last night showed me what I need to work on and nothing excites me more than new goals to work towards.

I’ll get there.

I’ll take the good, I’ll take the bad, and the fact of life is that I’ll be better because of it.

Difficult Roads, Beautiful Destinations.

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Another great class in the books.

After I was done rolling and cooling off in front of the fan, I found myself almost giddy with happiness. It was kind of a life-can’t-possibly-get-better-than-this moment. Maybe I was a little high on some jiu-jitsu induced endorphins. Maybe it’s a keto high too, like my brain and body function and respond better without the carbs. Maybe it’s the social media response and the BJJ community I’ve been getting to experience. Or maybe it’s over the last few years learning to focus on a positive outlook and appreciating what you’ve got going on in your life.

I’d say it’s probably a combination of all.

Jiu-jitsu-wise, I had a solid night of learning and victories and such. I got in a lot of rounds of rolling that were all challenging and fun. I could clearly see where I’m improving and I could clearly see where I need to put in some extra work and drilling. It’s nice to finally be in a place where I’m walking away from each class with some submissions. It feels like I’m on the right track, moving forward both mentally and physically.

Keto-wise, I feel amazing. I’ve dropped 15 pounds in about 2-1/2 weeks. There’s still some learning and adjusting, but so far it’s going really well. As far as how it pairs with jiu-jitsu, I feel like I could roll for hours. I may be a little winded after a roll, but it doesn’t take long for me to recover and feel ready to go again. I can actually roll 3-5 rounds back to back without feeling like I’m dying. That’s a huge improvement. I read that a downfall to a keto and jiu-jitsu relationship is a lack of explosive energy, but I don’t feel like that’s the case for me at all.

Social media-wise, surprisingly my Instagram just continues to grow at a fairly quick rate and the comments and support have been amazing! I just always said I would put it all out there uncensored and be vulnerable and in return I’ve had the chance to connect with many extraordinary and inspiring people. I also belong to a few BJJ women’s groups on Facebook that are really empowering and supportive. And I am all about strong women and the whole girl power thing so being able to belong to a group of these indomitable and courageous girls is so motivating. I know that social media often gets a bad label, but I love it. I love getting the opportunity to connect with so many within the jiu-jitsu community from all around the world. *Women check out some of my favorites: @themightydames @josei_heishi_jiujitsu @beautifullybadass @girlsingis @bravewoman_

Appreciation-wise, I just feel incredibly lucky and thankful for the experiences that I am having and how they are shaping and molding me into a stronger person and the people that have been there supporting me along the way. Family is so important to me and I’m already lucky to have such a wonderful family at home and a wonderful extended family, and even luckier that I have even more outside the “normal” family circle that I consider my family too. It might be a slightly dysfunctional family considering that we are constantly trying to choke each other, but it’s still a family and I am crazy grateful that I get to be a part of it.

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Life is good. Jiu-jitsu is great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I remember back in the day I thought success and happiness was a result of money and material things. Sure money is nice and I work hard to get more of it, but experiences are where’s it at. Today I don’t give a shit about what brand my clothes are, expensive purses, or flashy cars. Today my focus is on personal growth, building an emotionally richer life, being optimistic in every situation, and appreciating the little things.

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Thank you to everyone in my life that has had a part in that personal growth and happiness. There’s a lot of you! There have been some major ups and downs throughout the last few years and I’ve had support in every corner, every time and I would have never reached this point without a lot of you.

Now, if I could just reach a point of being an unstoppable guard passer, that would be the icing on my appreciation cake!

He Asked Me…

We are embarking into new territory here.

Wait for it.

My husband asked me for help with jiu-jitsu.

Can you show me how you are re-guarding so much and how you go inverted to re-guard? You are so amazing at it and I just really can’t keep up with you there and I’m having a lot of trouble passing your guard and so I need you to teach me your awesome ninja-like skills.

One of those sentences is a lie.

Do you realize how big this is!? In some countries a man asking a woman for help probably results in a loss of one’s head or rape or some other kind of torture. (I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying the “r” word again. Easily offended types, I’m sorry and I promise that I most likely, probably, maybe won’t ever use that word again.) Thankfully in this setting, him asking me for help is not resulting in a judgement of head loss, but instead a judgement that I might actually be better than him at something.

Hold on. Let me pick my jaw up off the floor.

Let me give you a little background first so you can understand how this shocks me so much.

For a long time, my husband Mike has wanted to do jiu-jitsu. We’ve been avid MMA fans for quite some time and even though he had never trained, he could always call out what submission the fighter was in danger of or what they were setting up. I loved watching as well, but 90% of the time it sounded like he was talking in a foreign language when it came to the ground stuff.

The first day we walk into Springfield Fight Club Mike’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas when he realized that he was finally going to be doing jiu-jitsu. Needless to say his love for jiu-jitsu helped him catch on fast and he progressed at a much higher rate than I did. I have always felt like I was 6 months behind him. On top of that, I don’t think there has been a single class I’ve attended that at least one person didn’t come over and tell me how awesome my husband is at jiu-jitsu. That is not an exaggeration at all. Every single class.

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

I kid. I’m really not salty about it. I’ve perfected the art of playing second fiddle for most of my life so this is not new territory. I’m basically a professional #2. I am actually incredibly proud of my husband and how much he has grown the last few years. Anytime anyone brags on him to me I feel nothing but happiness for him and I am so proud of how hard he has worked.

And, there’s only like 2% jealousy. Maybe 10%. When competitive Allison takes over, it’s probably closer to 60%…

So, to have the great and powerful white belt, Mike, ask the self-proclaimed recent suckiest white belt of them all for technical help was quite the shocker for me.

Seriously? Are you messing with me?” I asked with a dumbfounded look on my face.

When I realized he was not messing with me, that dumbfounded expression might have slightly transformed into a smirky face. I really did try to stop it, but it just slipped right out.

Hahaha! You just asked ME for help!” More smirky face.

I’m such an asshole.

We get to open mat, he reminds me that I need to show him how I’m re-guarding and when to go inverted, and I show him what works for me. The whole time I’m thinking, “How cool is this? He really did want me to help him. I’ve improved a technique enough that someone is asking me to help them with it. Crazy!

Jiu-jitsu teaches you over time that if you can drop the ego you can learn something from everyone. Usually in my case I probably educate people most via the mistakes I make, so it was nice to be on the other end of it this time. It was fun to help someone because of some successes I’ve had. I’ll probably always be a step or two behind Mike, but I love that we are at a point where we both have respect for each other’s different style and game and what we can learn from it.

*Mike I know you are reading that last line and saying, “You are so full of shit, Allison! Don’t lie to these people!”

Okay, full disclosure.

I admit sometimes I get a little frustrated at the strength and size differences and it often feels like he gets an obvious advantage because of that. But, BUT, I always feel really, really bad after I get peeved by it. Yes, size and strength can be a very superior asset in jiu-jitsu. However, I’ve learned that hating on someone because of a size or strength advantage is no different than hating on someone because they are faster or more flexible than you. We all use whatever advantages we have while we work on building our technical game. It’s just the way it is.

What I like about our evolving jiu-jitsu partnership is that we are starting to develop an understanding of how much we can help each other. As we both develop our own style, we are focusing on not just improving ourselves, but how we can help each other improve too. That’s a great place to be. Just like a successful marriage (which I feel like we are kicking ass at), our jiu-jitsu partnership is built on the same kind of foundation and support. We want to see each other succeed and we have each other’s back, both in support and with hooks.

See what I did there?

It’s not always about rolling to the death or one of us being better than the other. (Most of the time. I tend to get competitive. What can I say? I am a work in progress.) We are both better in different ways.

He can help me to deal with stronger and bigger opponents. A must for me if I’m competing again since I’m almost always going to be against girls much bigger than me. Another plus is that any man is most likely going to be stronger than me and from a self-defense perspective I am learning some valuable and possible life saving techniques because of him. And, don’t even get me started on how much I learn from him about not letting my shortcomings and frustrations get in my head too much. I never would have made it this far without his support and encouragement in that area.

He can learn from me because I have to rely on technique most of the time. I remember long ago in our beginning days I went for an armbar on him. He smirked and said, “You’ll never get my arm extended.” He was mostly just shit-talking, but it was still frustrating and I let it sink into my head that I might not ever be able to armbar him just because he was stronger.

Pfft. Silly girl. What was I thinking?

Next time you see him, ask him how many times I’ve armbarred him. I’m finally getting opportunities to show him that strength doesn’t always win and that many times technique is one bad mo fo.

At first glance we probably look like a bad match up. Why would two people that are so different pair up together time after time? Why? Because it makes us better. What he lacks, I can (now, sometimes) help him with and what I lack, he can (as he always has) help me with. His strengths are my weaknesses and my strengths are his weaknesses. We are a like a jiu-jitsu yin-yang. We are blah blah blah…

The point of the story is he asked me for help. Let’s not forget that, m’kay.

*Smirky face.