Monday, December 27, 2010

The Outing of Shark Girl

As you know, Shark Girl prefers to remain anonymous. If you have been reading my posts, you also know that Husband can’t stop telling everyone everywhere about my new BJJ habit. Which is fine. He also tells everyone about my blog. Which is fine. Then he tells them my alias: I am Shark Girl. Which is not fine. Up until that very moment, Shark Girl remains anonymous.

So, not only does my attorney know my alias (helpful if anyone wants the movie rights to my story, Renzo and Shark Girl) but neighbors coming over on Christmas Eve told me my new haircut looks intimidating, and I hear passersby in the grocery store whisper, “There she is! That’s Shark Girl!” Okay, not that last part. But this next part is true and you will clearly see the bind I’m in once you read it.

As a good minister’s wife, I took the kids to church on Christmas Eve when our neighbors left for the evening. After the service, hot chocolate and cookies were served while parishioners mingled, exchanged pleasantries, and extended holiday greetings. As I stood in line for hot chocolate I espied a handsome couple with two children chatting in the corner. The husband looked familiar. Of course, if he’s a parishioner, he should. But something wasn’t right. I don’t recognize him from here, I thought. Is he another teacher that I work with or know from a professional situation? Or the parent of a student? All this staring at him took the notice of his wife.
            “Oh, Honey,” she said, “This is Rev. X’s wife, [insert Shark Girl’s real name],” she said. And then it hit me. He was in my BJJ class. And his wife didn’t know we knew each other.
            We looked at each other awkwardly. Wife said, “Do you two know each other?” After much more awkwardness, it was revealed that I was that lone woman in his BJJ class. I was the girl who had her husband in my guard on many occasions. I wasn’t sure how he felt about her knowing this. But more importantly, I realized that if Husband is outing Shark Girl, it brought home the possibility of  my classmates reading my blog and knowing that I was writing about them.
            “Well, that’s why you have to be careful what you write,” said Husband reprovingly.
            “Well, that’s why I wanted to remain anonymous,” I reproached. “I didn’t want to worry about this. Thanks a lot.”
            “Okay, okay. I’ll stop.”

But is it too late? This could really limit what I can talk about. I have a whole “frilly underwear” post that I’m just waiting for the right time to use. But if my high school students could potentially figure out that I’m Shark Girl, I can’t talk about my underwear or sex, or anything like that. Right now many of you are breathing a collective sigh of relief.  

And then I started thinking. What is the protocol about writing about your classmates? I’ve read many of your blogs and you all relate matches and talk about your classmates. Many of you are not anonymous. What feedback do you receive? Have you ever had any problems? Please help Shark Girl. And if you are reading this and you know who Shark Girl is, please keep her anonymous!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gigunda Sparring Faux Pas

 Oh, yes I did. I did a bad thing tonight. And I feel terrible.

Class was great, until then. I was learning more armbars and practicing. Then we started sparring. The Old Boys taught me new tricks and gave me a good run. As the night closed, I asked SMEWB if he wanted to roll. He was sweating and obviously tired. I was breaking a sweat, but not exhausted. The Old Boys don’t roll so hard on me, plus I’ve got my runner’s endurance. He accepted, a little reluctantly. We rolled.
            I have fun rolling with SMEWB because it clearly is a challenge. Our skill levels are close and he is not a great, big guy. He got in my guard and I tried to choke him. He countered with a forearm to my neck, so I released the choke. Then we grappled around for position. He was mostly on top. I have trouble getting out from underneath. I consciously practiced my elbow-knee escapes. A couple of times he gave up his hips to my feet and I Flying Exited him. He tried to armbar me and I wriggled out. Somehow I ended up on top. I went for a choke. He put up his shoulder and all those armbars came back to me. I grabbed his arm, quickly spun around, nailed the armbar. He tapped.
            And then “it” happened. I heard the word escape my mouth before I could close it. “Yesssss!” I squeezed through my teeth, kind of a whisper, with the final esses hissing victory. And I felt immediately horrible. I couldn’t take it back. I couldn’t say anything. That would make it worse. I imagine that dialog would go something like: “Excuse me! I just gloated over my win. I’m so sorry—you must feel emasculated.” “Oh, no, it’s nothing, really.” So, I simply thanked him for a great roll and wished him a Merry Christmas. (I know he celebrates, so at least that was not a faux pas.)
            When I got home I told Husband about it.
            “I feel so bad.”
            “Oh. Yeah. That was bad,” said Husband.
            “Oh, my God, really? Was it really that bad? Tell me it wasn’t.”
            “No, it was. You can’t do that. You’re ‘the girl.’ They’ve got egos. No one’s going to want to spar with you if you do that.”
            “I know, I know. But it just came out. I couldn’t control it. I wasn’t expecting to win and it was a hard fight.”
            “Well, I don’t know. What do I know? I think it’s bad, though.”

Yep. I think it was bad, too. I have a feeling I’m going to pay for that “Yesssss!” And I deserve it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shark Girl Refinances, and Other Tales

Oh, my spouse. While Shark Girl tries to remain anonymous, Husband gains pleasure from outing me at every opportunity. Take our mortgage refinance closing yesterday afternoon. To most, a dull and dreary occasion filled with yawns and finger cramps. Not mine. The first part was rather monotonous. But then, something happened. 4-Year Old had to go to the bathroom. “I’ll take him!” I leapt up, happy to be out of the chair and to focus my bleary eyes on something other than a printed page. When I returned, Lawyer and Husband were discussing the next document to be signed.
            “This one verifies that you do not use any other alias for legal purposes,” Lawyer informed me. Pause . . . Pause . . . Pause . . . “Like Shark Girl.”

I leave Husband for a two minute potty break and he has already discussed my secret blog with the closing lawyer? Sigh. I’m fighting a losing battle here.

Last night’s class continued our focus on armbars. We practiced some more complex ones that started from a Figure 4 and from the Turtle. Then we sparred.
One of my partners was a big guy who heretofore has gone easy on me. Last night he showed me just how easy. When I was in his guard he squeezed the stuffing out of me with his thighs. “This is what I would do with the other guys.” Well, I thank you not to do that with me because you’ll get a tap right there, Iron Legs. Your thigh is the size of my waist!
I must say, however, that I like to know the range--how hard someone is practicing against me versus how hard they could go. He squashed me to educate me, and I appreciate that on some strange level. He also did this because my classmates are advising me to spar more “mean,” I’ll call it. They say things like, “When you’re here, jab your elbow into his stomach because he’ll hate that.” “Put your hand across his face like that because it will bother him more.” “Really get your arm up into his throat because it will be very uncomfortable.” These are hard for me to do. It’s not that I’m “nice,” but I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me, so why would I do that to them?
My last spar of the night was with Slightly More Experienced White Belt. He’s a smaller guy and has about 35 lbs. on me. Last week he couldn’t submit me, but this week he trapped me in two armbars in a row. I hadn’t learned my lesson, so he started maneuvering for armbar #3. I managed to wriggle out and push him away. He hesitated for a split second with his back to me and I sprung upon it and landed the choke. Iron Legs was on the sidelines coaching me. SMEWB tapped. We disengaged, looked at each other, and burst out laughing. “I think I’m done,” I said. “I’m kind of tired.” There was no way I was going to ruin my moment with another armbar!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Joy, Less Fear

 This trial has officially taken over my life.

Today at the hair salon, I did something I said I would not do. Ever. To be fair, I didn’t go all the way. But I did reference “grappling” as a reason that I wanted my hair shorter. Is this a slippery slope? Will I be shaving my head next? And then growing one of those stylish goatees?

And I am considering taking a class at another place while I am visiting my parents over Christmas. (Now, I know Dagney is going to proclaim LUV, LUV, LUV. Sometimes others see it before we see it ourselves.) I’m afraid that if I miss a week I’m going to get my ass handed to me on the mat when I return.

My husband took me to task tonight.
“You shouldn’t be motivated out of fear,” he said.
 “But I am!” I replied.
“You should be motivated from joy! Fear’s the wrong reason. You need to explore this. It’s a growing edge.” (Okay, for those of you who missed that my husband is a minister, this last statement probably brought you up to speed pretty quickly.)
“What if overcoming fear gives me joy?” I weakly responded. Weakly because my fear seems to shift from week to week. Fear of going to class. Fear of not going to class. It seems I do more fearing than overcoming.

The new gi came in the mail today. I went to open the package and Husband grabbed it out of my hands. “It’s for Christmas!” he shouted. “I have to wrap it and put it under the tree!” No matter that I picked it out and ordered it myself.

As we close in on the holidays, I wish you all more joy and less fear in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Love and I Hate

Returning from class on Monday all I could think about was a poem I first read way back in my high school Latin class. It’s by an ancient Roman named Catullus.

odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
[Catullus, 85]

In English this means:

I love and I hate. Perhaps you ask why I do this.
I do not know, but I feel it being done, and I am tortured.

Obviously I am having mixed emotions about my BJJ practice. How can I gain pleasure out of something that frightens me? How can something that seems insurmountable also at times be enjoyable?

I have decided to post a list of BJJ Loves and Hates that I will add to (maybe even cross out?) as my months progress.

Sweeping someone
Getting a heavy sweat on the gi
Getting stronger
Building confidence
Cracking jokes with my partners
Staying in shape through the running-less winter

Being picked last for partners
Awkward eye contact during partner-picking time
Getting my face crushed

Please let me know your Loves and Hates about BJJ, too.

On Sunday I ordered my husband’s Christmas present to me: a new gi. I can’t possibly launder my lone gi between Monday and Wednesday. I need at least two if I’m going to adhere to proper standards of hygiene. I got the Fenom in white. Can’t beat the price and I really like how there are no patches all over it like I’m some kind of race car. I thought about getting the black with pink. I chose the white because I’m not sure if my class is ready for the pink statement. Best to keep under the radar with all that girlie stuff until I’m feeling much more comfortable. Then, watch out! Pink gi and painted toenails!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lots of Coffee

On this fine Saturday morning, since I did not have to be at work at 7:00 AM, I sipped my coffee leisurely. Getting ready for class, I brushed my teeth and gargled. Who wants coffee breath in their face? Before leaving I puffed heavily in my husband’s direction and asked, “How’s my breath?” “Fine,” he said. “Minty. But don’t you want it to smell? I mean, wouldn’t that be an advantage?” Perhaps he was secretly jealous that here I was, off to roll with the boys, divested of my wedding ring (broken fingers can happen), and worried about my body scents. Let’s face it: I don’t care if my husband has to smell my coffee breath. Nor do I rush to shave my legs at the first sign of stubble. That’s part of the deal when you’re married.

Today’s class was the most fun I’ve had so far. We drilled and practiced first, and then each member rolled with each other. I had the most fun with the other white belt. The higher belts are all pretty big guys and very skilled. When we roll, they tend to instruct me. That’s good. I certainly need that. But it’s lopsided. Today the other white belt (who is a smaller guy, but still much bigger than my under-5’ frame) and I were going at it pretty heavily. Neither of us know much so we were trying to get anything we could. We ended up tumbling over each other all the way across the mat. I think we surprised our classmates.

My last roll was with one of the advanced blue belts. Everyone else was tired and sitting on the sidelines. They cheered me on and shouted advice. Advanced Blue let me lock him several times, but made me work for it. I left sweating and out of breath. For the first time I felt that I had exercised comparable to a run.

This afternoon my family went looking for our Christmas tree. Well, searching really. After 2 ½ hours and four farms, we lopped down what is not the perfect tree, but is the tree that we could all deal with in our tired, hungry, and cold state. Two teen boys and a teen girl drove a tractor up to carry the tree to our car. The girl went to lift the tree and the boys made some statement about her not being able to do it. Then they disparaged her girl-hood. My husband said, “You should take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and then you’ll be able to kick their asses.” “Yeah!” she said. Or, she could just drink a LOT of coffee.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This is Me With a Muscle Pull

No jiu-jitsu today. Beloved rest. Linament and ibuprofen for my overextended muscle and hopefully I’ll be able to join Saturday’s class.

Last night I mostly observed our new arm lock. Then I practiced with the instructor who is controlled enough to be gentle on my pulled back. After I practiced a few times with him and gained the control I needed, I mixed it up with the other new white belts. They were good about going easy, too. Funny, I felt that the guys were more comfortable treating me with kid gloves than when I’m in full form. Anyone else have that experience?

During open mat, I worked on some drills with one of the more advanced white belts. I can’t remember the names of the moves but I am affectionately coming up with my own. Last night I learned “The Flying Exit” and practiced “William the Conqueror.” Today as I was going over the new moves in my head, I realized that my first victories are not going to come from my skill, but from someone else’s underestimation of my skill. That is, I won’t win because I’m so awesome, but because my partner doesn’t expect me to know something and perhaps isn’t being so vigilant. So, this is chess on the mat?

My 8-year old plays chess competitively and he is constantly focused on his opponent’s rating. “I’m going to lose. He’s higher rated than me.” Or, “I’m going to win. He’s lower rated.” Before every match I remind him that a rating is an approximation of skill, and that no matter how “good” someone is, they can always make a mistake. And that he should not take for granted that he will win when paired with a person whose rating happens to be lower. Inevitable losses to players who are lower-rated are always accompanied by, “I wasn’t playing my hardest.” But guess what? The other person probably was.

I look forward to the first time that someone underestimates me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spiritual Sustenance

I just got back from a run with my husband. I made a joke about starting up BJJ at my age and how some people might consider that psychologically unsound. (Heck, one of my students told me yesterday that she couldn’t start anything new because it was mid-way through her senior year.) Husband, in usual form, took this opportunity to put his ministerial spin on things. “That’s not unsound. In fact, it shows complete put-togetherness. You recognize a spiritual need and you are following it. That’s healthy.” Then he went on to say that, if I feel vulnerable and fearful, addressing that by learning a martial art is positive spiritual sustenance. “What if I just want to kick ass?” I responded. “Well, that’s okay, too,” he said. But just not his.

This morning I wrenched that muscle I pulled last Wednesday in class. My son had crawled into bed with me in the wee hours of the morning. When the alarm went off, I reached over him to press “snooze.”  Pain shot through my side. I’ve been popping ibuprofen all day. I’ll have to be careful tonight in class.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Consolation Prize

There's not much I can say after tonight's class except that I really suck. Really. I definitely understand more, but it's almost worse because I have some idea of what things should look like and I can see how sucky I am.

The guys are all nice, but let's face it, they want to improve their game, not work with the sucky girl. I know, I know, one can improve their game by breaking it down and helping a less skilled person. But it's definitely more fun to be challenged. When we switch partners, I look for someone who seems like they've just had a tough match. Hopefully they'll be in the mood for an easier go.
However much I feel like the consolation prize roll, I'm going until the end of March. I promise.

Thanks to the women's bjj community on-line. Reading your words and seeing your rolls help me keep going. There may be no other women in my area, but I know you're out there, and that means I can be out there, too.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mouth Guard Hel(l)p

I'm under 5', but Joe the Sports Authority Salesman told me that, no matter what, I need an adult mouth guard. I just finished prepping this thing and I can't put it in my mouth without retching. My upper lip sticks out like Rocky's after Apollo Creed has given his face the beatdown.
     If anyone has mouth guard experience or advice, or can point me in the right direction, I would be much obliged.
     Also, a shout out to Leslie for some truly amazing video of her competition yesterday.

The Buying of the Mouth Guard

Friday night my boys and I (one husband, one 8-year old, one 4-year old) went to The Sports Authority to buy my first mouth guard. After I accidentally bashed my training partner in the mouth on Wednesday, I decided the mouth guard was necessary. You never know when payback is going to come. (Side Note: In reading all the bjj blogs out there, I see recurrent reference to the newbie spaz. Yep. That’s me. And that was me the night that poor, poor man got a knee in his teeth.)

My boys are proud that their mother and wife has started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The little ones often shout for me to practice on my husband when I get home from class. My husband cringes with the recent memory of a practiced take-down onto the sunroom floor that left his bad back needing ibuprofen for several days. Despite this injury, he takes every chance he gets to drop my new hobby in conversation. In his head he is already composing a sermon on bjj (he’s a minister).

Given my boys’ feelings, they were all excited to accompany me to the Sports Authority to get the guard. The littlest had a sudden urge to use the bathroom, so me and my older son were directed over to the football section to browse mouth guards. We were greeted by Joe, a helpful salesman.

Me:      I need to buy a mouth guard. I don’t know anything about them. Can you help?
Joe:      [Looking at my son] Well, you just need to make sure that when he puts it in…
Me:      Oh, it’s for me.
Joe:      [Pause] . . . Oh. Okay. Well, can I ask what you need it for?

I purchased two (one for back up) and a case. Today I have to boil these gel babies and figure out how to form them to my teeth. I will christen one of them tomorrow night in my first class since Wednesday. Oh, no. Here come those butterflies again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wednesday Night’s Minor Victory!

We start class with 25 push ups and 100 crunches. Crunches I can do. Push ups are really hard for my weak and puny runner arms. But if I’m going to roll with the guys there’s no way I’m going to do girl push ups in front of them. Let’s face it, ladies, we know man-style push ups are hard for us because of our distribution of weight. But do guys get it? What would they think?

Each class I’ve done as many man-style push ups as I can and ended with a few knee-on-the-floors. I’ve had to take into consideration time because I don’t want everyone waiting for me to finish. The first week I did 15. Last week I did 20. This past Wednesday night I finally did all 25 man-style push ups!

Today my 8th period class (I teach high school) was discussing the requirements for enlistment in the US Army. You have to be a citizen. You can't have more than 2 dependents. Once you pass Basic Training, to stay in, if you're my age, you have to do at least 13 push ups in two minutes. (1) Hmmm, I thought, I can do that. And the sit-ups and the run, too.

Now if it were only sleeveless weather I could show off my GI Jane arms. : )

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fear Factor

I thought I had the terror thing under control. I thought after 5 classes, that I was okay. Not scared. Not me. For the first five classes, I was afraid that if I missed one, I wouldn’t return. But class #6? No problem. Or so I thought until about half an hour before curtain time. Then, a little flutter in the bottom of my belly. Can I really do this? I forced my mind to stop thinking. I went into meditative mode. Showered. Put on my gear. Paced the first floor. Went back upstairs to rub lotion into my dry legs and hands. Back downstairs and to the car. When I finally got to the studio, I did some deep breathing.
You know, I’m not afraid that someone’s going to crush me. I am scared to be so much out of my comfort zone. I have no idea what I’m doing. Where was I supposed to put that arm? Oh, the sweep won’t work unless the foot is placed exactly here? I’ve been told so many times, but can’t seem to get my body to remember. And I hate being the newbie that you know people are reluctant to pair up with, never mind the newbie girl.
I made it through tonight with minimal injuries. Just a tiny pulled muscle on my right side. I did clock one of my partners in the teeth. Hooray for mouth guards . . . I should get one of those.
They say it takes one month to habituate a practice. Next week will be my one month mark. Perhaps the fear will be gone then? I’ll keep you posted.

Shark Girl Is Ready to Pull the Plug on Her "New" Gym

I need your jiu jitsu therapy again, o vast and all-knowing readers.  About a year Before Covid (BC), my native gym closed down--the one whe...