An honest rolling session can lead to an honest conversation in the locker room after practice. Most white belts are in the process of learning how to simply not hurt themselves or others while rolling, along with getting down the basic positions, transitions and submissions of the art.
Techniques are probably easier to learn than the mindset required to progress through the belt-ranks. Often times that mindset comes in the form of an epiphany Or it comes in the form of humility being squished into your brain.
When you have a pleasant, but very challenging rolling session with another white belt and after you are both talking about how you’ve finally learned how to release your ego while rolling, accept inferior positions and work out of them with care, not reckless might, it’s a great relief You’ve not only related to one another on a very basic, simple, innocent level, you’ve also identified a training partner that you want to spar with and learn from moving forward.
Those are the people I want to keep around me. Those are the people I want to be more like. There’s no reason that white belts can’t learn from other white belts.
Days and weeks that have sort of blurred all together. Very late nights in the office, sneaking away for me time, for relationship time, for BJJ time whenever possible, but far too little…
No real time to bask in the success and fruits of labor. Not yet, anyways. We did good work.
But as I say this, here comes another wave.
This morning at BJJ class I rolled with a dude who does Crossfit. He might even be a trainer there.
We’re about the same experience level and I must tell you… it felt like I was grappling with a gorilla. Dude wasn’t that big by appearance (nobody looks ripped in a Gi), but holy shit was he strong.
I casually (a.k.a. not enough) cross-train with kettlebells, but I’d love to be able to afford both Crossfit and BJJ subscriptions.
All that being said, I’m still a big, hard, firm believer in technique > strength, so at the very least I can work at becoming more technical every day.
I’ve never taken performance enhancing drugs in my life. It’s easy to believe this because I’ve never put athletic performance and championship winning at the top of my life’s goals. I’ve always taken a rather casual approach to my physical well being. Not to say that’s the way to do it. I’m overweight and have been for most of my life, so that just goes to show you that my recent commitment to doing a lot of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has altered my view on what it takes to be good, not even very good or elite at something.
So, am I “committed to excellence” like some people say they are? Well, I’m not sure. However, I know from the second I meet these types of people. There’s a fire in their eye. They’re willing to suffer through injuries while training. They’re not “holistic,” they’re all about the output from the input. Gold medals and first places simply are the only measure to their efforts. They’re also very hard on themselves.
The IBJJF (regulating body for international Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition) is going to start drug testing. I’m not totally with how this will be implemented across the world, however there has been much criticism by some out-spoken BJJ competitors (Caio Terra for one) about how so many BJJ world champions are using juice. People are afraid that pure physicality will take away from the technique driven progress the sport has seen over the years. I’m guessing that is the case.
I’m not a black-belt. I don’t roll in the championship circles. I’ve never met a BJJ world champion. I don’t know first, second or third hand who may more may not be doping to win competitions. I’m thinking it’s going be to sad seeing the initial BJJ heroes fall from grace who might try to mask their doping and get caught by the IBJJF. Very poor people in poor parts of this world have been able to put food on tables and shelter over their family’s heads with BJJ. Egos will be shattered, but hopefully the sport will come out better for it.
The days can really blend together and change seems more of an abstract, sudden concept that isn’t currently happening to anyone. That’s how I usually look at it, anyways. I learn a new technique in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then I forget it weeks later when I get put in that position when rolling. It’s sort of crazy to think of how many moves there actually are to know in BJJ. I learn one and feel great about it and think, okay, I’ve got that down, now, time for the next one.
But, you never are actually progressing if you don’t learn and retain it all. Black Belts know how to do pretty much every fundamental move and then-some. They understand positions before they occur. They also drill all sorts of situations and techniques to make them muscle memory.
I get frustrated with not retaining everything, because I feel like I’ll have a repository in my mind like Neo in The Matrix. But no, that doesn’t happen. I do put as much time into BJJ as I can, considering my schedule.
Then I grapple with a blue belt and a purple belt and I don’t get tapped right away. I am more aware of my body and of theirs. I go for submissions before they are completely obvious and I’m stoked that I even thought of it.
Suddenly, without thinking about it, I am in my body and am totally aware, without trying to be.
That is beautiful. That is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I’ll be flying home for Christmas this year, opposed to driving, as I originally planned. I wanted to drive home with my dog in tow and spend a couple weeks in Massachusetts with my family, as I feel I haven’t got to spend as much time with them this year as I’d like. With not having a ton of time-off from work, I try to arrange balanced situations where I work remotely and travel at the same time. However, my current work situation doesn’t allow for that.
Making the most of the situation, I reached out to a few Brazilian jiu jitsu schools in my home-city – Worcester. Interestingly, when I lived back home, I never tried to do BJJ. I did train a little in Boston (and in Madison, WI), but never while in Worcester, so I had very little idea of what the “scene” was like, or if there even was one.
I found two gyms and sent each an email, saying where I tried and my belt rank. I heard back from one, almost immediately. The owner of the academy said he knew my professor and would love to have me as a guest. It was a really cool feeling to know that my network, because of BJJ extends so far. I can’t really even say that with my alumni network from college for high school!
In all, I’ll be spending about 8 days at home with 2 days traveling. It seems like a lot, but when you live far away, it’s never really enough. I’m hoping I get to see everyone and get some quality time all-around.
There is something special about being treated like the annoying little brother by someone higher ranking than you in jiu jitsu.
Sometimes you think, they’re only helping me because they want me to actually put in a good training session so they get something out of it.
Other times you know they see something in you that reminds them of when they too were a white belt, trying to not be awkward and get submitted every minute.
When you get to class and expect nothing, accepting the challenge of just trying to survive and learn at the same time and a breakthrough happens because someone else decided to help you. That’s special.
This week has been one of those… well let’s just say it’s referred to as “Reporting Hell” internally. I’d say that’s accurate. As of yesterday (Thursday) I’ve already spent well over 40 hours glued to my desk chair working and working and working on reports. It’s that time of year. It’s what we do.
So guiltily, I didn’t go to BJJ all this week until last night. I managed to slip out of the office around 6 and make it to the 6:30 and 7:30 PM classes. As I’ve said before, back to back classes can be really hard depending on what the first class brings. In the first class yesterday was half wrestling double legs and half arm bars. Pretty intense stuff, but I felt good at the end.
Once I started the warmup for the second all-levels class, I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t catch my breath, my muscles wouldn’t work the way I wanted them to and eventually I had to take a break (which has never happened to me). I felt dehydrated, but drank water all day at work and right before practice. I guess it wasn’t enough. However, I got back in class and we practiced omoplatas and then rolled.
Rolling when you’re exhausted is a blessing in disguise. Mostly because you can’t pull shit off that involves strength. It’s all about technique and staying calm so you don’t pass out. So, I just worked on that and it was good.
I’ll tell you this, I’m glad it’s Friday. It’s a good soreness in my body that’s taking my mind off the work week.
Happy Weekend to you all.