Thursday, December 8, 2016

Beat Down Off the Mat

I expect to get a run for my money on the jiu jitsu mat. But I wasn't expecting one off the mat this Thanksgiving when I visited a gym with Cousin of Shark Girl.

I traveled back to my hometown. Cousin of Shark Girl was at dinner, and we made plans to catch a class the next morning to roll off all that pasta and stuffing. 
Yes, pasta. We are Italian American!

Cousin and I were the first there, except for a man in his thirties, kind of oddly shaped and out of shape. He seemed out of place for a high-powered jiu jitsu class. While my cousin changed, the man, I’ll call him Silvio, asked us what we did.
                “We’re teachers,” I said.
                “What do you teach?”
                “He teaches physics,” I pointed to the curtain behind which my cousin was changing.
                “She teaches Latin,” Cousin called from behind the curtain.
                “Are you married?” We get that a lot when we visit gyms together. Most people think we are a couple, not related.
                “No, we’re cousins.”
                “Oh. I thought you were married.”
                “Nope.”
                “So . . .” Silvio hesitated. I held my breath. I knew this was going to be good. “Latin, huh?”
                “Yep.” There are basically 3 reactions I get when people find out I teach Latin:

        #1 Isn’t that a dead language?
        #2 I took that in high school thirty years ago. I hated it.
        #3 I took that in high school thirty years ago. I loved it. Let me recite something for you.

This looked like it was headed toward response #1.
                “What’s the point of that?” he asked.
                Seriously? You are not seriously asking me that? By this time, I realized that “Silvio” had some issues that I should, as a sensitive person, be alert to and compassionate about. But this just pushed my buttons. Sometimes patience is beyond my reach.
                “What do YOU do?” I asked.
                “Nothing.” he replied.
                Round 1 goes to the Latin teacher. But not a very sweet victory.



Friday, October 21, 2016

Mo Milk, Mo Problems Or, Shark Girl’s Bougie Coffee Dilemma

As an aging practitioner of jiu jitsu, I find it more important than ever to watch what I put in my body.

Like, I'm watching these Cheez-Its very carefully as I stuff them in my mouth.

For a few years now, I have been on the alert to cow’s milk. Too much causes my system . . . distress . . . to put it politely. I have been limiting my consumption of milk and cheese, and it has been good for the environment.

Last year, in a bid to find out whether I had an actual intolerance to milk, I tried to do a breath test with my GI. That didn’t work out too well. I almost passed out doing the  carb-deprivation prep and couldn’t take the test.

This year I am seeing a naturopath. We decided to cut out milk for a while and see what happens.

After two weeks, I felt like my morning fog cleared up. I had no bloating, even during my period. I felt “skinny.” I missed milk and milk products immensely. I craved cheese and delighted in sneaking cookies that I “couldn’t really be sure” contained butter. And I substituted soy milk in my morning cappuccino. Not great, but tolerable.

Then, the soy started affecting me worse than the milk. I tried almond milk—ick in coffee. (Two bitters do not make a right!) Then I tried coconut milk—it was like drinking water with a little coffee powder sprinkled in.

That's real milk on the left, folks, and all the others on the right!
Alas, because I couldn’t find a proper substitute, I went back to milk in my morning capp. And it didn’t stop there. Hell, after my milk-deprivation I went crazy and made a fabulous pasta with cream sauce, peas and prosciutto. Then I ate all sorts of my favorite cheeses like cheddar and manchego. I wolfed down cookie dough by the spoonful and then the cookies that actually got made. Mom’s lasagna? Seconds, please. Ben & Jerry’s? It would be rude to say no. It was a backlash that would give Bossie a concussion.

I think I am finally ready to try going milkless again after my bender, but I need your help. I am writing to you, Gentle Readers, to ask you two questions:

 1) What are your experiences with milk, on and off the wagon?

and
  2) What the hell can I put in my morning cappuccino that will make my naturopath, my digestive system, and my inner foodie happy? I am not going black in the AM, folks. That is barbaric.



Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Berimbolo Kid

I recently visited another school’s Open Mat. I had a fine time training with some women, something I don’t get to do very often. It is always easier to approach the women at a new school, so I do that first, if I can. After a few rounds with the ladies, it was approach someone new or sit it out. I looked around for someone who might be willing to train with my petite ass. I spied a guy, not too much bigger than me, but muscular and compact. He was sweating from a previous roll and wearing a white belt, one stripe.
     Perfect. I thought. Not too big—if he goes nuts I can handle him. A little tired, so he may have gotten some aggression out. I went up and asked him to dance.
     “Sure,” he said. We tapped hands and jockeyed for position.
     As always, when I roll with someone new, I try to respond to what they give me to get a sense of whether they are skilled and restrained or some crazy knee twister. With guys, I am always aware of the ego. In some men, ego can trigger EIIB—erratic, injury-inducing behavior . . . aka spazzing out. I’ve had my share of spazzing–out injuries and I really don’t need another. 
     This guy seemed to know a few things and was not too wacky. Between the initial grip fighting, I started small talk. I find small talk helps disarm tension that could lead to, you know, EIIB. I learned that this guy was about a year into Jiu jitsu.
We grip fought for a while, and then swept me. I countered, reguarding. He opened my guard, passed it, and pushed forward, hard. I hip escaped and reguarded, pulling him down. We went like that for while, and then he went for something . . . hard. When he didn’t get it, he shook his head.
     “Are you working on something?” I asked, figuring he was practicing some move on me. 
“Ahh, yeah. The berimbolo. I just can’t seem to get it.”
     “Oh, I see.” I reguarded . . . both physically and mentally. My mental reguard was something like: Hmmm . . . one-stripe white belt can’t seem to get the berimbolo down. I better watch out for this one or I’m the next YouTube video casualty.
    He lunged at me and arm–dragged me, looking for a Kimura. I wriggled out and snuck to his back. 
     “Kimura, ey?”
“Yep.”
“You want to try it again?”
“Nah.” 
“Kay.”
I moved toward a sweep myself, spidering my right foot on the crook of his left arm. My foot fell through and he clamped down. He’s going for a footlock. I play so much open guard I can see that a mile away. I punched my foot through to the other side of his armpit. He grabbed at my ankle but it was too late, I was already through.
I noticed his hand was swollen. It looked like a latex glove after someone blows air into it.
“What’s that?” I asked. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, my hand is screwed up.”
“Too much grip fighting?”
“Yeah.”
“Okay. I’ll stay away from it.”
“Nah, you don’t have to. It’s all right.”
“Maybe, but I’ll stay away. Injuries suck. Both my knees have had ‘em.”
“Oh, your knees?”
“Yep.”
“So I’ll stay away from the heel hooks then.”
“Hahaha!” I laughed, but he wasn’t laughing with me. Was he serious? “Wait . . .  were you trying to heel hook me?”
“Yes.”
“Yes, NO heel hooks, please.”
“OK. Glad you said something.”
“Me, too.” 
I finished up the roll as soon politely possible (there were no timers) and moved on.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Goal Setting: Not Shark Girl's Forte

Well it is back to school and full confession: Once again I did not meet my summer jiu jitsu goal.

My summer goal is always the same: more jiu jitsu. And I always start off thinking I can accomplish this goal, plus run more and finally organize my house and get my finances in order and finish up all those half-started home projects. Wait! Come to think of it, I didn't meet my other summer goals, either!

It happens all the time . . . grand expectations meet with the constraints of time and the reality of running a household with two children. This summer, I think I did the least amount of jiu jitsu than I have at any point in my jiu jitsu career. 
     
Now it is fall, and all my hopes of meeting any of those goals are out the window. I have switched to my fall goal, which is also always the same:

Make work A PART of my life, not my whole life.

This is a difficult goal when you are a teacher. There are always lessons to plan, papers to grade, curriculum to develop, colleagues to collaborate with, special projects to work on, meetings to attend, personal interactions to reflect and improve upon. I've had this same fall goal for 20 years and I've never met it, either. I am foolish to think this will be the year. But, I am always a fool. Every year. Every September, I am full of hope—more a wish and prayer—that I can keep this year under control, in perspective. It is usually November before I give it up for a lost cause and plunge myself into a darkness I do not recover from until sometime in April, when the sun starts to warm my part of the earth again.

Or an ear bitten off?
And then I stare summer in the face, and break out my other recurring goal: more jiu jitsu! This is the year I will make it all fit together. Because of all the crazy time I will put on the mat, I will see the connections and become the air around my opponent! 

But then the children call. And the house calls. And the family calls. And the unbalanced check book calls. And the sun calls, too, and says, "Shark Girl, if you go to jiu jitsu you will not see me. Why not run instead?" And then it turns 90 degrees and humid and I do not want to do anything except sprawl on a couch and moan while sweat inches down my limbs.

This is the cycle of life, my friends. Moving from unrealized goal to unrealized goal. The turn of the seasons never changes but always promises change. Maybe this is Shark Girl’s year! Maybe this is the year I will do it all! I will be the bad-ass, super-mom jiu jitsu mastering, life-changing educator with a solid financial future that I always dream I can be!

As we say in Latin: dum spiro spero: while I am breathing, I hope.
Wow! With a quick Google Search, I found out just how many people have this saying tattooed all over their body. Not for the faint of heart!



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sometimes You Eat the Bear . . .

. . . and sometimes the bear eats you."

     I heard this quote on our new favorite family TV show, Granite Flats. Husband, me, and The Two Boys have revolving favorite family shows that we watch together. For a while it was Merlin, then Gortimer Gibbons; you get the idea. Granite Flats is our new favorite. It's about three detectivey pre-teens who mix it up with Cold-War espionage. Perfect family viewing. It's done by the Mormon Brigham Young University and there are references to God and being saved, but there has been nothing (so far) that has been too preachy for us liberal, New-England types. Except the pastor. Pastor Todd, is a little creepy. Mother of Shark Girl thinks he is "nice." It must be her '50s sensibilities; I think he's got a stalker smile and looks predacious. Vive la difference.

"Pastor Todd"
Okay, here he looks kind of cute, but on the show there is a huge creep factor. I'm sorry, Actor Who Plays Pastor Todd; I am sure you are a very nice guy! I bet the director makes you smile that way!
On my way home from jiu jitsu recently, I thought of Granite Flats and that quote, said by one of the pre-teens after a particularly fruitless day of detectiving. That's what I felt like after that jiu jitsu class--that the bear had eaten me. And the bear was a newbie, white-belt young girl, fighting for her dear life, and (almost) winning. She was strong as a bear, actually.
Ummmm, not sure why she had to go here. . .  .

     Now I can think of lots of excuses why the bear ate me that night, some relating to me and others the environment I train in. But I'm not here to make excuses (tonight). Back in May, I ate the bear. That night, the bear ate me. I should have crushed her. I should have been a wrecking ball (with my clothes on and not licking dumbbells, Miley Cyrus!). And I was making mistakes. I was ready to turn in my belt. Seriously, who AM I? Who do I think I am playing with this jiu jitsu shit? I've either got to step up my game or get off the matt. 

     And so, Gentle Readers, tonight I leave you with a lighter for me and my ego. . .
. . . and more metaphors about the volatility of learning jiu jitsu with this great, old, song "The Bug":

You may prefer the Dire Straits version; it was written by Mark Knopfler and covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1992. Tonight I'm feeling a bit Mary Chapin Carpenter. And very much like "The Bug."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Taking Notes

“All right guys, do you remember the new verbs we learned yesterday?”
Silence. Dead silence.
“Okay, let's look at our notes from yesterday to see if that jogs our memory.”
Not a rustle of paper in the group of twenty.
“Okay, then, take out your notebooks—you’re going to want to take notes on these.”
Not a hair of movement in the whole class, and twenty blank faces staring at me. Was I speaking English? They seemed not to think so.
“Don't you keep notebooks?” I asked warily.
That got a few mumbles from my mostly-junior class. “Er, ummm . . . .” Some glances down at the shoelaces.
I launched onto my soap box and discussed the brain biology behind learning, how we actually learn by trying to remember—that’s what stretches the brain’s pathways to information.
By this time a notebook or two had appeared. “Hey, when you really want to remember something, and it’s important, if you write it down, then you can look back at it and it will help you remember it. You know,” I confessed, “I always jot down notes when I come back from jiu jitsu. Even though it’s not academic, it’s a sport, I come home and review what I have learned. I put it in a notebook so I can look back at it later, because it is important to me.”
“What?” A student gasped incredulously. “You take notes after your jiu jitsu class? That takes all the fun out of it!”
Sure, if “fun” is defined as repeating the same mistakes over and over again, struggling to remember that great move you thought would totally open up your game, and getting caught in the same submission class after class after class, then, yes, fun removed.

When I started jiu jitsu, I didn’t write down anything. I saw the blogs and the logs of jiu jitsu practitioners’ classes and I reacted like that gasping student, without the gasps. Jiu jitsu was supposed to be a break from have-tos and shoulds. If I came home and took notes, I was just adding another chore to my already too-long list. I understood why people did it, but that wasn’t for me.
I grudgingly started taking a few notes at the urging of a fellow student. I struggled with the best way to organize my notebook, but in the end realized that just getting something down was the most important part.
            I still am not consistent in my notes. I take them when I see something I really don’t want to forget. And the visuals. How do you put in words exactly how to move your body in this jiu jitsu way? My notes are filled with stick figures in weird embraces. And I have quirky little names and abbreviations for different sides and movements. When I look back at my notes, I have to decipher my own code. 
Trying to remember what I meant when I wrote the notes, I mentally go through the move, practicing it one way, now another. I must have meant this way, I think to myself, and then redo the move in my mind until it makes sense. That is what helps me learn.
           


Sunday, May 8, 2016

This (Shark) Girl Is on Fire

I went to a workshop where I pretty much sat for four days. Before dinner, I got a kick-ass run in at the hotel gym. But for four days it was an intense, cerebral experience. The night I returned was a jiu jitsu night. I kissed Husband and Kids lovingly, promised to catch up with them later, and then hurried off to class. I had already missed one class for this workshop, I didn’t want to miss another. And my family could wait a couple more hours to connect with me. They know my life priorities: 1) coffee 2) jiu jitsu 3) family 4) work. It was time for priority #2.
I love you, jiu jitsu, but coffee will always come first!

Sometimes, when I have been off the mat for a while, I gingerly step back on, worried I’ve lost all my accumulated knowledge. I tentatively tap hands, make excuses with an injury or how tired I am, and move my limbs like dead tree branches attached to my trunk.
Sorry, I didn't mean to scratch you with my legs!

Then there are other times, like that night. My head was a fog. I couldn’t retain two instructions that my Prof said. “Were we supposed to start in side?” “Did he wasn’t us to go twice?” But when it came time to spar, I was a hound unleashed, unstoppable. I moved around all obstacles, quick quick. My opponents had no idea where I was going next. My muscles had their own mind and moved without instructions from my head. Where was this coming from?
                It was a magical night. My favorite partner was a rag doll, moving the way I wanted him to, and when he didn’t, I just switched my position and complicated things again. I was having so much fun in my own little reverie that I almost felt guilty. I wanted to roll with Favorite Partner again, but was that fair? Was it fair to ask for a reroll because I was kicking his ass? I went easy on him the second time so as not to hurt his ego, but it wasn’t as satisfying.
Then, when I went with Prof, I could sense he was easing into the roll, trying to get a feel for where I was at that night. I didn’t give him a chance. I caught him in a choke before he even realized we had started.
I rolled with a few more guys and it was the same thing. I was water on a hot frying pan, dancing around and frustrating my opponents. It felt so good, but so bad at the same time. I was powerful, strong, accomplished and winning. And every time I flushed with pride, I thought, “I can’t do this to so-and-so. How does this make him feel?”
After Prof’s roll, he said, “Wow, Shark Girl’s on fire tonight.” I was. And when the class was done, I wanted more. But I packed my bag and went home, knowing that next time I wouldn’t have this same experience, and hoping it would come again soon.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

"Let's Fuck in the Pool."

Now that I have your attention . . .

That got my attention, too, when I was on the patio of the Oyster Bar, having just ordered dinner and a glass of wine.  9-Year Old Son was sitting across from me.
By now you have guessed this post is not safe for work. There will be colorful language. You will wonder what it is with Shark Girl and devil-may-care women with low-budget highlights and even lower-budget senses of decorum. You will think something is wrong with Shark Girl, who always resorts to virtual jiu jitsu, settling her frustrations on a fantasy mat in her head. But, I swear to you, every word of this story is true. I did not just make this up to increase SEO.
More than one animal on your feet at a time = Red Flag.
I looked over at the woman who said that sentence. I wasn't snooping or spying; even Pope Francis would have tuned in to that comment. And the woman was not exactly whispering. She was younger than me, probably late twenties, early thirties. Her long hair's original color was lost to a mottling of blond and brown highlights. My eyes trailed to the ground to notice her crossed legs exposed from the knee down, ending in a pair of kitten-heeled mules.

Across from her was a man of similar age, awestruck of her (or his good fortune). He was speaking more quietly. He seemed sheepish about her loud forthrightness, but he wasn't about to screw this up. (You'd have to be a eunuch to screw this one up.)

I motioned with my eyes toward my little boy sitting three feet away from her--the universal mother sign for, "Hey, there's a kid over here, tone it down." Most humans, in my experience, even the most hardened folk, respect that sign. A crooked smile crossed the woman's lips and her eyes turned back to her partner and his dumb gaze. Perhaps my son hadn't heard her. So she continued:
     ". . . we'll fuck for three hours straight. We won't get much sleep."
     The man said something in a normal diner's tone, so I couldn't hear it. She responded, "Oh, I'll find you a brunch spot . . . . It will be breakfast in bed."
     I started to feel a little, but not too, bad for her dining companion.
     The woman looked over again to see my reaction. I imagined her sizing me up before she made her next comment:
     Square, middle-aged mother, frumpy in a hoodie and flip flops, hair and face unmade. Prudish, concerned about the word 'fuck' reaching her precious son's ears. This will really offend her!
     And then she added: "Like what could she say to her father? I'm 16 and I'm going to fuck?"

I mulled over politely asking the woman to keep her softcore porn to herself. I played scenarios in my head like jiu jitsu matches, and strangely, every scenario ended in a jiu jitsu match (with me winning, of course). I think I was fantasizing more about taking her down than the man across from her was!
Oysters, anyone?

 The woman's bawdy banter continued:
     "Oh, look!" She took out her phone. "I've got a follower in Finland!" She exclaimed. She went on to read the Finlandian's post. That I couldn't hear. "I'm kind of a big deal on the Internet, and it's not even porn! I'm a lifestyle blogger!"

Are you shitting me? I thought. She has a follower in Finland? I'm a lifestyle blogger, Do I have any followers in Finland? Fuck if she has more than me. I know we are supposed to leave our egos at the door, but shit!

I looked over at 9-year old. He was staring sadly into the restaurant."How are you doing honey?" I asked him.
     "Okay . . . can we move inside?"
    
"Are you cold?" I was still hoping he hadn't heard this woman's cries for attention, but that was an impossibility.
     His lips pursed together into a frown and he rolled his eyes in Pool Fuck Lady's direction.     "Oh," I said. "Is she bothering you?"
     He nodded.
     I caught the host's attention and asked if we could move inside.
     "I'll find you a table,"he said.

Our food came out, just as the inside table was available. We trucked our plates and utensils away.
     
Inside, 9 year old was much more animated. Alas, he also was more vigilant. It became harder to nick his French fries, which were quite delicious.

A few minutes later I noticed that another group near Pool Fuck Lady had moved inside, too. Apparently, she was a bigger deal on the Internet than she was at the Oyster Bar!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Husbands Just Don't Understand

I think Husband is eager for me to go back to jiu jitsu.

I've been out with an injury. He's worried he might get injured, too. You see, I'm jonesing to grapple, and he bears the brunt of this.

This evening, he found himself in a triangle choke and a wrist lock, just for being friendly. He wasn't  amused. (But he does have the perfect-sized neck for me to snake my legs around. I had a nice clinch!) He stared up at me with blank, doe-like eyes that seemed to say, Yes, I know you can do that. Brava. Now, shall we proceed as planned?
     And then a little while later, I just started laughing out loud. Not what most men want to hear in bed.
     "What is so funny?" he said.
     "Nothing, nothing . . . "
     "Well, it must be something . . . "
     "Okay," I confessed. "I was looking for your lapel to grab on to, but then I realized we were doing 'no gi.'" I cracked up again.
     Husband was not amused. "Can we just continue?" he sighed.
    "Agreed," I said, and I swept him to mount.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Crazy Shit, Part 2

You can read the first part of this story here.

Trashy Lady in the Shitty Teal Car is going to try to pass me to show her dominance. I thought. I had the urge to speed up. No. Don't play her game. Play your game. Her game is sloppy and ill-thought out. Keep your cool.
     Trashy Lady sped up and hugged the back of the car in front of her, looking for the opportunity to cut me off. I stayed my course.
     Then, when she could, she crossed in front of me.
     "Oh, she gave you the dragon look!" Oldest Son said.
     "Get her, Mom!" Youngest Son cheered me on.
     "No," I replied. She doesn't have that kind of control over me. I'm doing my thing. 
     "Come on! It will be fun! Get her!"
Image result for highway breakdown lane
     Okay, I will be honest, I had already succumbed to sending her the finger back. And I felt a rush of adrenaline when she was next to me. But then I got a look at her. A good look at her:
     Probably early 30s, bad dye and highlight job, put up in a messy ponytail that needed some washing. Fleshy, out of shape, but not obese. 
      Miraculously, I was on the mat. What if she started something? How would I take her down?
     She was not athletic, but she was big boned. This means that she was dead weight. I probably had more skill than she did, but I was much smaller and that dead weight would be tough to throw. Would I hip toss her? Should I try a foot sweep? I settle on a hip toss, ending up in knee ride. From there I could shift my weight into her armpit and perhaps go for an arm bar. How would she react to that? Would she turn in and escape my knee ride? My left leg would go for head control over her face, pushing it way from me. She wouldn't be able to get up from that, I was sure. She is probably not used to having someone's muscly leg flattening out her nose. She will hate that. They always hate that.
     Trashy Lady didn't look like she would be stiff jointed, so I calculated in her flexibility. How much strength would I need to flip her? Where would my hips fall in relation to hers? What kind of control could I expect to maintain throughout the throw, given her weight and my strength?
     I know it is totally messed up, but these thoughts brought a calmness over me, one that helped me stop the flow of adrenaline and be in control of the situation.
      She pulled her car in front of mine, accelerated, and then proceeded to weave all over the lane. At one point she thought the breakdown lane was a driving lane and swerved out of it at the last minute. I had noticed these white-belt driving maneuvers, and by this time I was consciously a healthy distance behind her. I don't need someone spazzing out all over my car. I've got children in the back. She has no children in her car. The stakes are different for her. Just like those twenty year olds with the knees that never seem to pop, she has nothing to protect. I'll proceed cautiously.
     I followed behind her for some time, my boys chattering in the back.
     "Come on mom, pass her!"
     "It will be funny!"
     "Get up there Mom!"
     "Haha I can't believe you gave her the finger!"
     "Boys, she is not in control of me. I am in control." I reiterated.

     I watched her pull of the exit and I kept moving forward. But I was kind of sad I never got to try out my hip throw on her. That was going to be sweet.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Crazy Shit That Goes Through a BJJ Girl's Mind, Part I

I don't think I think like a normal woman. Take this normal, everyday traffic incident:

Today on the way to church, I was driving on the highway in the right-hand lane. (To my Aussie and UK readers, that's like your LEFT-hand lane.) I approached an entrance ramp. A shitty, teal-green car with broken tail lights was almost ready to merge with traffic. We were that awkward distance apart where, for her to merge, I would either have to slow down and let her in, or she would have to slow down and enter the highway after me.

Here is my thinking. I am in traffic. It is my job to keep the flow going. It is the responsibility of the merger to merge safely. We've all at one time or another slowed down for the merger, only to have them hesitate, and then the cars behind us pile up, pressing on their brakes. So I kept my speed and went on.

Apparently Shitty Teal Car didn't like that, because this is what happened next:

     "Mom, that lady just gave you the middle finger!" Oldest Son said.
     "Yeah! And then she put it in her mouth!" observed Nine-Year-Old Son.
     Thanks for introducing my kids to that one, Trashy Lady.
      I looked in my rear view mirror. Trashy Lady slipped into the left lane as soon as she could and accelerated.

Here end normal, non-jiujitsu, thoughts.
Stay tuned for Part II, coming soon!