For the last few months I’ve been spending every little bit of time I can find on a new ebook for work and I ended up having to cut some “extras” out of my life for the time being. Sadly, my jiu-jitsu writing and a lot of my social media activity got the knife. For me all of that has become such a big part of my jiu-jitsu experience and I really miss it. Writing after every class has been a great way to process my experiences and has given me a great outlet for working out my struggles and figuring out what I need to focus on. I definitely notice that it’s missing. It also has been a fun way to document everything. I wasn’t really planning on writing again until May-ish, when my schedule will go back to somewhat normal, but due to recent events this weekend, I can’t not write.
I got my blue belt.
That is definitely write-worthy material.
Two years and three months ago I did my first class. I was a terrified mess of awkwardness both physically and mentally. My hips didn’t move the way they are suppose to. The only shrimp I knew of was the fried kind. My breathing and cardio sucked. I spent a good portion of that first year telling myself that me getting anything beyond white belt was going to be impossible.
That first year was hard. Honestly, it’s still hard. I don’t think it ever really gets easy, you just become better equipped to handle the difficulties in front of you.
I admit, the second I heard we were testing in April, I was a mental mess. I had no idea what to expect and I was terrified for what I might have to do. The unknown was terrifying. I can handle being exhausted and having to push through that, where I really struggle is if I have to do anything where people are watching me. I do not like that kind of attention. Not even a little bit. I would choose having to roll with five black belts in a row for seven minute rounds (while everyone else is rolling too) than have to shrimp down the mat in front of everyone for just a few seconds.
For last few weeks I’ve had a few people tell me about previous tests where they had to demonstrate technique in front of everyone. Like everyone sitting there watching you do technique on one other person. I’m sure I didn’t do well with hiding the look of horror on my face. I mean, that sounded like my nightmare. N.I.G.H.T.M.A.R.E. Forget Freddy Krueger, public displays of technique has to be a more brutal death. Surely I would die if I had to do that.
That’s all I could think about for weeks. Am I going to have to get out in front of everyone and do something? Anytime I thought about it a giant bowling ball dropped into my stomach. Or at least that’s what it felt like. When the day actually arrived I feared that I might be the first person to actually die from embarrassment. At the very least I would have to change my name and move somewhere far, far away.
Or, you know, I could suck it up, get out there, do it, and move on. Sounds simple, right? In hindsight, it is. In the moment, not so much. The anticipation is the worst, the waiting and the build up. The good thing is, I didn’t have to wait long.
We all form a giant circle around the mat. My husband and his partner are called out first and they simply have to roll. My inner panic is setting in pretty quick. There are the common fears and worries. What if I make a stupid mistake? What if I completely suck? What if my nerves get the best of me? What if I do so bad that there isn’t even the slightest chance that I’ll get my blue belt? For added mental fun, I always add another layer of fears and worries that really are quite unnecessary. What if my shirt rides up and I show belly? What if fall? What if a boob pops out? What if my compression shorts get pulled down and I show ass crack? Basically, if there is a possible bad thing that can happen, I have already played it out in my head and have absolutely terrified myself that it could possibly happen. The ridiculous isn’t exactly off limits either. I’ve got the imagination level of a five-year-old with the problems of an adult.
Thankfully I didn’t have too long to stew in my nervousness because I was called out second. Slap, bump, go and before I know it time was called and it was all over. Simple as that. Afterwards I’m wondering why I get so worked up and nervous because in the moment there is none of that. There is only do what you know and forget that everyone is watching.
After everyone had rolled a round we lined back up and promotions began. For the last few months I’ve been on a roller coaster of thoughts and worries concerning blue belt. On a different day you could ask me if I thought I should get my blue belt and each day I would give you a different answer.
There were days that I would compare myself to the others that I assumed would be getting their blue belts. These guys can smash and dominate me and I can’t always do that to them. I might find little moments of victory and a rare submission, but I’m definitely not at the same level as them.
There were days that I would roll with newer white belts and I could control, transition, and submit as I wanted. Even men that are bigger than me. I would tell myself that that has to mean I’m getting close to blue belt.
There were days that I prepared myself that my husband Mike might get his and I might not get mine. That he might get a belt and I might just get a stripe. We started this together, but I had to accept that we might not progress together.
And then there were days that I would look back at the progress I had made and I felt proud of myself for how far I have come and I felt ready for that next chapter, the next level, that blue belt.
I had no idea what to expect when my name was called. I walked up there and when the roll of tape came out, I told myself, “It’s okay. This doesn’t change anything. You can be disappointed, but you can not give up. You’ll get it next time.” And then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a few inches of something blue fall from behind Brett’s back. I tried not to look and I tried not to consider that it might be mine, but then I heard Gabe say, “Go ahead and take that belt off.”
Hello, waterfall of tears!
We are talking crybaby level of tears. I tried not to, but they just came out at an uncontrollable amount. It was just crazy to think back to that first year and how hard it was and how it felt impossible. I said that so many times on the drive home from class. “It’s impossible! I’ll never be able to do this.”
But, I did do it. It was possible.
It was possible for the shy, socially awkward, mental headcase, 37-year-old, mother of two to get her blue belt. To become only the second girl to get promoted to blue belt at SFC. And, all it took was a refusal to give up, a promise to always show up, and a constant visit outside of the walls of my comfort zone. It wasn’t easy, I can’t even begin to describe how hard it was at times, but it was worth every single struggle and challenge. I never knew what I was truly made of and what kind of person I wanted to be until I walked into SFC and started jiu-jitsu.
Thank you so much to everyone at SFC, the best second family a person can have. I would name you all, but there are so many that I’m afraid I would leave someone out. It has been amazing to belong to a team of people that only want the best for those around them. I remember being terrified to step on those mats because I thought everyone was going to look at me and ask, “Why this hell is she here? She doesn’t belong? She’s too old, too fat, and a girl. She can’t be here!” But, not a single person ever made me feel that way. If there was ever a place to feel like you matter, it’s at SFC.
A big thank you to my husband, Mike, for always dealing with my crazy and for always being the voice of reason. If I get in my head you are always the first to talk me down and get me back on a rational path of thought. I never would have made it this far without you. Plus, you’re my favorite to smash…when you let me.