Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jiu Jitsu Relieves All Kinds of Stress


"Hanging out with friends, beating the crap out of each other, there's nothing more fun than that. You got drama at home. You got school. You got homework. But when you're on the mat, nothing matters. You know, everyone has their own different way to cope with things, and I guess fighting's mine." --Justin Hayes
This is a quote from an article I heard on National Public Radio a few days ago. It's about mixed martial arts as a therapy for returning vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Listen to it here.)

Just the other day, I wrestled a really cool vet who felt that jiu jitsu helped him get his life back on track since he returned from duty with PTSD. He described drunken fights, bouts with the police, and lack of physical self-control, all which he felt slipped away since he has been practicing jiu jitsu. Of course, he is not cured, and still has night terrors and other symptoms. One thing is for sure, there was no choking that man out.
     "Was I at least close?" I asked him, after trying my new Shark Girl Surprise on him.
     "On a regular dude, it would have worked. But me, I've taught waterboarding and I've been tortured. It wasn't gonna work on me."

Props to you, man, and to all vets trying to get their lives back together.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shark Girl’s Top Ten: Giving Thanks

 In the spirit of eating turkey, here’s a shout out to some of the Jiu Jitsu things I am thankful for this year:

  1. Husband. He gives me time away from the demands of family to train at least three times a week. What a man!
 
  1. Health. No broken fingers or toes, no black eyes, ringworm, or other mystery ailments. (Okay, if I were superstitious, I’d be knocking on wood right now!)

  1. Cracking the Mystery of the Funky Gis. More importantly for me and my training partners, I corrected it! (Hint: Do not buy a Bosch washer. Sorry, German engineers. Your precision equipment can’t stand up to the demands of ultra-sweaty Shark Girl.)

  1. Help! The on-line Jiu Jitsu community has been a great support, from the bloggers to the readers, to the women and men who have been like, “Dude (yes, they call me “Dude”), you are totally not too old to be rolling around on the floor trying to beat the crap out of people. In fact, let me give you some tips on how to do it!”

  1. Ladies. A few more are training at my gym. Soon, we will take over the world.

  1. White Belts. The newer, the better, so I don’t feel like I’m running in water when everyone at my gym improves at the same (or faster) rate than I do.

  1. Time Off. I have developed the sense to stay away when I am sick. This ain’t running—I can run no matter what is dripping out of my nose. I have confidence in myself now, that one night missed will not mean a rollback of skills. So, when there’s ick to be shared, I keep it home, and, if I really need to get my exercise on, I just take it to the street or the treadmill.

  1. Great Training Partners. There are even a few new extra-large men who have become my favorite training partners. They actively work technique and not muscle. They even let me get a tap instead of using muscle to get out of it. That takes a special kind of man!

  1. McStephy over at You Want Me to Put My Head Where?! She introduced me to Flula Borg and I can’t stop watching him. Children of Shark Girl are also mesmerized, mostly by Flula’s use of the word “poop” and his critique of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Flula is a god to six-year old boys, if not everywhere, than at least in my house. Don’t make the same mistake I did, though. Preview his clips before showing them to children, or their cuss vocabulary could increase quite a bit.

  1. The New, Secret Move I Developed. If I told you, it wouldn’t be secret anymore. So you’ll just have to train with me to see it. I call it “The Shark Girl Surprise.” Also, just being able to make up a new move is something I am very thankful for!
Now, go eat some turkey!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Breaking Out of the Box


“. . . I knew I needed to do something completely different, something I had no idea I wanted to do—no, something I actually didn’t want to do. I needed to get off track, to completely challenge every assumption I’d ever made about who I was and what I wanted. I had to do something that would quite possibly make me miserable. It could end up being a terrible mistake.”
 Shark Girl read these words today in “Regrets of an Accomplished Child” by Pamela Paul in the “Education Life” section of the New York Times.

I could have written them myself two years ago. This is how I felt when I started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In my very first post, I describe a middle-aged longing for something different. The blog was a way to force myself to stay in something that could have made me miserable. And, of course, if I broke an arm or lost a tooth, BJJ would have been a terrible mistake. But something drove me to get out of my comfort zone, challenged me to see myself in a different light—not the tiny woman who grew up getting good grades and going to college, finding a job, paying the mortgage and playing by the rules for women in our society. I wanted to see something underneath this outer shell, something mysterious and unexpected.
This chick can omaplata your ass off!
In her article, Ms. Paul warns against the dangers of “checking off boxes” in our lives: homework done–check; college–check; job–check; marriage–check. Box-checking keeps us focused on completion, not excellence. It is the antithesis of learning and stretching. Box-checking leads to safe choices and failure avoidance. But the very possibility of failure is what can bring the best out of us and give us a chance to excel.

For me, Jiu Jitsu was breaking out of the box. I had no expectations of even liking it, never mind being good at it. It scared me to even go to class. I had to psych myself for a half hour to get out the door.

I could write a cheesy litany of things jiu jitsu has taught me. Indeed I started one and then stopped when I realized how much cheese was dripping off of it. (You’re welcome for my editorial restraint.) Probably the most important thing I have learned is what it is like to “play,” that art lost when we enter middle school and become self-conscious and start to notice that the world has its own ideas for us, and no you can’t be an altar girl.

I could have played it safe; I could have taken a Zumba class (or maybe Boot Camp, if I wanted to be a little edgy). I would have stayed fit and even enjoyed it. And I wouldn’t have learned anything.


Shark Girl Faces a Change

It is a turning point for Shark Girl. I haven’t written in a while. When I was a white belt, everything was new and curious. And being ...