It's a year today that I went to my first BJJ class.
Yeah. Well. What can I say???
I suppose to sum it up I will say that I sit here after my Friday/Saturday big double session sporting bruises, mat burn, sore ribs and certain other aches and pains. But I can hardly wait until the next class on Monday!
The truth of the matter is that the minor inconveniences take nothing away from the enjoyment I get from doing BJJ. It's the feeling of full on concentration, being THERE, NOW, especially during rolling, which is one of the addictions to me. Sure I get squashed, and I get frustrated and I tap often. But then there is the feeling of achievement, the momentary high, when a sweep works, when the next movement is happening before I think of it or when a submission works. I will be honest, I'm competitive and I love winning. In the sense that I have bettered myself, not so much in the sense that I 'beat' my opponent. That is why a successful escape or a good sweep is just as joyful as a successful sub. That is also one reason why I don't mind rolling with people more experienced, bigger, faster, stronger (which is nearly everyone, anyway ;-) ). It gives me the opportunity to become better. Even if it's the long, hard way.
I've now been through injuries, had a horrible plateau, overtrained (and paid for it). There was a brief time when I was constantly sore, tired, and started to fear some of the heavier guys, because I hurt every time I even drilled with them, let alone when I wrestled with them. I was always on the bottom, being ground into the mat and escapes didn't work too good. Newbies trashed me. Sometimes I hardly had the energy to get back up, let alone go another round. I've never encountered anything like BJJ for finding weak spots in body or mind. Although I truly hate to admit it and am still ashamed of it, I was so frustrated that I nearly choked holding back tears on a couple of occasions. Hey, this is a tough guy's game, tears are for girls, right? Worst of all was that I felt I as being unfair to my training partners and my Sensei. Unfair and incapable of doing anything useful. Which made it even worse, to the point where I was so angry with myself that I could barely speak. But give up? No. I'm too pig headed for that. I apologised for my "sense-of-humour-failure" and went right back. Determined to get better. Determined to believe that I had to pay my dues on the bottom and prepared to accept it. And determined to not be such a "girl".
To this day sometimes I take the easy route. We roll, I get destroyed. So often, the senior guys are pointing out where I went wrong and we go back to that spot and we go again. That is SO useful. Also, I get in a bad spot and we stop so I get the chance to analyse the situation, see the danger, work out the options and go from there. Now sometimes my inner lazy pigdog whispers in my ear that that's good enough. I'm hot and tired and stuck on the bottom and now that I've had the explanation, we can go get up and be done, have a rest, right? Now lucky for me, these pesky guys then say OK, now work out of it. There's never an easy way out of a bad spot, so it's work, work, work. I can't thank them enough for their explanations, their patience and their pushiness :-). Without good training partners, I would be nothing.
And without a good teacher, I would be nothing. I'm lucky enough to have good teachers and my Sensei in particular is a driving force behind my progress. His sometimes more gentle pushing and sometimes less gentle "toe up the butt" type of motivation is just the right mix. Thank you :-))
So if anyone tells you that BJJ is character building, take my word. It is. It finds and exposes the weak spots. The simple, no BS, in the moment character of live sparring is a bit like a washing machine. It washes away excuses, pretenses, ego, self-deceipt and other worries. It leaves only myself, my wits, my skills, totally focussed on the moment. It brutally shows me my shortcomings. And boy, there are plenty of those!
I think that any martial art which pushes your body and mind to perform beyond previous levels has the potential to to help me recognise myself. Every martial art, if practiced with the right spirit and dedication is a journey of self improvement Those arts where live sparring is included seem to me to be of greater value in that respect. The pressure testing of techniques in a live scenario will give the best feedback of what works well for me and where my weak spots are.
So a year on, I still like BJJ. In fact, I like it even better now. It's an addiction. I'll watch a training DVD over lunch or dinner if I have the time and I take a BJJ book to bed. How bad is that ;-) ?? So I'll gladly put up with the minor pains and all my friends shaking their head in disbelief every time my "weird hobby" comes up in conversation.
So see you back on the mat on Monday!