Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cousin of Shark Girl Reviews Scramble Bushido Athletics Shorts

When Shark Girl received the Scramble Bushido Athletic Shorts from, they were cartoonishly large. “I can’t review these!” I thought. “If I can’t find someone else to review them, I’ll have to send them back.” I did some recon and found this description of the shorts at the Scramble website:

“Scramble shorts are here to pimp up the lower half of your body! Featuring side split seams and a spandex crotch panel for Muay Thai / guard players and the well endowed.”

Whom did Shark Girl know that was interested in pimping up the lower half of his body? It was obvious: Cousin of Shark Girl. You have read about Cousin of Shark Girl before here and here.
Actually, Cousin of Shark Girl is quite modest and I didn’t think he’d want to pimp up his body at all. Nor does he do Muay Thai. But he is a guard player and I’m pretty sure he is in favor of spandex crotch panels. As for well-endowed—chill out, he’s my cousin, already! This along with the fact that Cousin of Shark Girl is the only BJJer who knows Shark Girl’s real identity made him the perfect candidate. The only candidate.
            Cousin of Shark Girl accepted the challenge and has been wearing the Scramble shorts tirelessly. Dear readers, I introduce to you my very first Guest Blogger: Cousin of Shark Girl.


While visiting my cousin, Shark Girl, she let me try out a pair of grappling shorts, the Bushido by Scramble. These shorts came to my cousin via, a great site that keeps me up late at night, refreshing my browser, looking for deals on grappling gear. is very popular where I train so I’m happy to help them out with a review.

The shorts are purple with bright yellow lettering. I must admit that I was a little concerned when she first showed them to me. I’m the kind of guy who does not like to stand out in a crowd.  
My greatest fear
The yellow lettering includes some Japanese kanji symbols for the word “Bushido” which roughly translates to “the way of the Samurai.” Thanks, Wikipedia.

The shorts are a size Small and Shark Girl said they were way too big for her. I have a 32” waist and when I put them on, they were snug around the waist but not constricting due to the fact that they have an elastic waistband. Once I cinched the Velcro strap and drawstring, I actually thought they fit very nicely.

I’m about 5’9” and they do show a little more leg than my other grappling shorts, but I actually liked that.
Shark Girl says, "Ooh la la!"

I have a few other pairs of grappling shorts that are longer, baggier, and clumsier looking in my opinion. The Bushido shorts also have a small slit along the outside of the thigh that helps with leg mobility. In addition, they’re 100% polyester which makes them slick and light.

Sure, they felt great while I was prancing around my living room, but the true test would be how they held up going full speed at the gym. They are light and thin and my biggest concern was that they wouldn’t last too many tough grappling sessions. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve worn them dozens of times and not a stitch is out of place. And they are so light that I feel like I’ve gained a step on my training partners—if I can only convince them that that’s the case. One last comment: I actually received a handful of compliments on how the shorts looked. I’m still not a fan of the colors, but they are currently my favorite grappling shorts as far as performance and feel are concerned.

  • Super light and thin
  • Durable
  • Snug but comfortable fit. I’m 5’9” and 175 lbs. and the Small fit me just fine. (If you’re concerned they might be too small, you should obviously go with a larger size.)
  • The colors−purple shorts with yellow lettering. If you don’t mind standing out a bit at the gym, these colors are for you.

I hope you found this review helpful. That's all for now folks!

Respectfully Yours,
Cousin of Shark Girl

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Escaping Side

Sometimes people write to me, “Shark Girl, you never talk about technique. Are you even ever actually on the mat?” It’s funny you should ask. Yes, I am on the mat, as much as possible. But every time I start to write about technique, it goes nowhere. I stop, start, I shift focus. I can’t sustain it. Tonight, just for you, I’m going to talk about technique. Here goes. [deep inhalation] I can do this, I know I can.

I titled this “Escaping Side” not because I am going to tell you how awesome I am at side escapes. I am not going to give you my foolproof method to get out of it. If you came to this page looking for answers, I apologize. I’m the one who needs answers.
I can’t escape side—or mount or scarf, for that matter— to save my life. Basically, I can’t escape. I spend most of my time trying not to be on the bottom. And when I am on the bottom, forget it. I might as well tap immediately.

Tonight we drilled side escapes. I’ve practiced them many times. I still can’t figure them out. Sure, the drilling goes fine, but in practice, I can’t make ‘em happen. Here is a typical roll with Shark Girl:

  • Shark Girl and Opponent do the Tap of Cordiality
  • Shark Girl and Opponent shift around on knees until, usually, Opponent takes Shark Girl down
  • Shark Girl gets guard; Opponent tries to pass guard
  • Shark Girl opens guard; opponent is ensnared
  • Opponent tries to pass guard; Shark Girl reguards
  • Opponent tries to pass guard; Shark Girl reguards
  • Shark Girl tries to sweep, fails, reguards
  • Opponent tries to choke, Shark Girl scrunches chin down
  • Opponent gives up on choke, tries to pass guard
  • Shark girl reguards
  • Opponent goes for something crazy, Shark Girl seizes opportunity to get on top
  • Shark Girl floats around on top for a while, looking for something to attack
  • Opponent sweeps Shark Girl, finally passes guard
  • Shark Girl flails arms and legs like a dying cockroach
  • Opponent grabs an Americana.
  • Ouch. Shark Girl taps (which she hates to do)

If you close your eyes and picture yourself as Opponent, you’ve just had a virtual roll with Shark Girl. Hope it was good for you. It sucked for me.
I recognize that usually I am with a bigger, stronger, and mostly more experienced opponent. When I am matched with someone less skilled and my size or smaller I can usually jerry-rig some kind of escape. It may not look pretty, but as long as no one’s filming, I’m okay with that. 

Here’s where I need your help. Can you let me know at what point in your jiu jitsu career you started to master your side and mount escapes? Or is the point, as a weaker, smaller opponent, to avoid that position as best you can? I’m starting to get a complex about this.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shark Girl’s Top Ten: What to Get Your Jiu Jitsu Girlfriend for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Any Other Gift-Giving Occasion Coming Up in the Next Few Weeks

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But if you don’t get your Jiu Jitsu Girlfriend (Lover, Spouse, etc.) the right gift, you’ll pay for it in armbars. Here are some suggestions from Shark Girl’s list this year.

1.   A new gi.
Hers is getting stinky. (When in doubt, buy the smaller size. Trust me.)

 2.  Frilly Underwear.
For her and you. Do not get her “sexy lingerie” unless she is under 30. To a 20-something, sexy lingerie says, “He wants me!” To anyone older it says, “We don’t do it enough,” and is really a criticism. Besides, the work required to put on some of those contraptions and all the effort they demand post-donning will make her run to the nearest women’s-only relaxation room. (See #3 below.)

3.   Gift Certificate for a Massage.
Her muscles are tired from all that jiu jitsu! Usually there’s a relaxation room, so she can recover if you did not listen to Shark Girl’s advice in #2.
Please don't do the home version. You're not that good, and she knows what you expect afterward!
 4.  Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro.
I can’t believe she doesn’t have this yet. But she doesn’t, and who doesn’t love Saulo?
5.  A Snarky Jiu Jitsu T-Shirt.
She’ll never buy it for herself, but secretly wants to wear one. Get her a Ladies’ size. Men’s (or “unisex”) makes her look frumpy. Shark Girl is extra small, by the way.

6.   A new sports bra.
You are probably thinking, “Nothing says I love you like a new sports bra? WTF, SG?” First of all, stop talking in texting, you are not 13. (Unless you are 13. But then you should find a different list for your girlfriend. This one is for mature audiences only.) Second of all, she needs one and will be glad that you are thinking of her breasts not in that way. Plus, a sports bra beats the potholders Husband got me a few Christmases ago. (Unfortunately, Shark Girl is also extra small here, but when in doubt, buy the bigger size.)

7.   A great nail clipper.
A jiu jitsu girl has to keep her nails trimmed constantly, and if she bought a cheap clipper like I did, she’s tired of putting it back together after every use. (Stocking Stuffer only.)

8. Gift Certificate to Her Favorite Hair Salon.
She needs a cute, short-do so she doesn’t have to tap for pulled hair. Shark Girl’s salon bill has tripled since she had to add “dye job” to the construction list. Looking this great takes cashola, baby.

She's got jiu jitsu arms!
9.   A babysitter.
Then take her out to a bitchin’ dinner. All that jiu jitsu makes her hungry. If you couple this with #2 and some wine, there’s no telling what could happen. Just bring the babysitter home first.

10.   A portable mat.
So she can practice on you at home without your complaints that she’s hurting you because there’s no mat. Man up, or pony up, bro!

Ladies, please add your suggestions. Gift Buyers, if you choose something from the list, keep Shark Girl posted on how it goes!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weight Problem

Like many women, weight is not my favorite topic. I don’t own a scale. I don’t need to know that number on a daily basis. If I had access to a scale in my home, I might eat a lot less, but I would obsess a lot more. I’m not a numbers freak; I’m just competitive. What? I weigh how much more than before breakfast? Maybe I should walk up and down the stairs a few times and then recheck. It’s the same reason I stopped keeping a training log for my running many years ago. It pained me to write lower mileage in than the previous training session. So, I did away with training logs and scales and I’m much happier for it. Heck, my body knows when I’m overtraining or undertraining, and it sure knows when I need to cut down on the snacks (that’s pretty much always). I check my weight at my occasional doctor’s appointment or when I visit The In-Laws. Everyone’s happy.

Since starting BJJ–which incidentally was one year ago last week!—I have been pleased with how it has changed my body. Mommy Belly? Gone. I even splurged for some bikinis this summer. (Yes, I was that Forty+-Year-Old trying to rock the bikini on the beach. I apologize to all those I visually offended. To the person who shouted, “Put on a cover-up, Old-Timer! We’re not in Europe!” shame on you for your rude American stereotyping.)
Where is this going? Well, I did this 20k in September after training all summer long. Immediately after the race, I was at The In-Laws. “Great!” I thought. “I bet I’m totally low on the scale!” It was a humid day and I sweat pounds of water out of my body. The mileage I put in over the summer coupled with my new jiu jitsu habit was surely going to give me a nice, happy number on the scale. I showered from my race and hopped on naked, not even a sock to muddy the calculation. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Now, I would have been happy if the scale said the same or slightly higher than it did last year. I’ve gained a lot of muscle! But . . . the scale said I was about 6 pounds heavier than last year. SIX Freaking Pounds! (This is where I remind all you tall people that 6# is almost 6% of my body weight.)

A six-pound chicken, for comparison.
            Something clearly was wrong. The scale was probably uncalibrated. I tried again. I moved it away from the wall. I turned it around. I stepped on one foot. I repositioned my feet. Nope. Same answer. Clearly the scale was broken. I left confident in my assessment, or at least too dehydrated to come to a better conclusion.

Over the Great Power Outage, I visited The In-Laws quite a bit. I was curious to meet up with The Scale again to see what it had to say this time. I braced myself and stepped on. The number was even higher. It was time to take this thing public.
            “Mom-In-Law, is your scale accurate?”
            “Yes, It’s accurate.”
            “It’s not broken or off by a few pounds?”
            “No. . . .Well, yes, it is off by a few pounds.”
            “That’s what I thought. How much?”
            “It’s a little low—I’m always a few pounds heavier at the doctor’s.”
I called Husband in for back up. He got on the scale. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “It’s where I’ve always been.”

You are freaking kidding me. I’ve busted my hump for the last year, and I’ve gained weight? Who does that? All I read are the stories of people losing weight to jiu jitsu. “Girl starts Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Girl loses weight. Girl feels healthy, strong, and confident.” (Rock on, ladies.) So, what the eff is up with me?

I’ve calmed down a bit since then, and I’ve come to terms with The Scale. I will no longer step on it, and it will no longer give me numbers I don’t want to see. Despite The Scale, I’ve had a few comments recently from people I haven’t seen in a while like, “How do you stay so in shape?” Hey, I do feel healthy, strong, and confident. What do numbers mean, anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Eat up!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shark Girl AWOL

Or, AT&T-WOL. It has been 20 days since that wonderful October nor’easter wreaked its havoc and stripped my home of electriciy for ten days. Alas, although power was restored, my Internet has been down, or spotty at best, since then. I have been learning to live without the World Wide Web. It’s not pretty, folks. Did you miss me? I certainly missed you.
            What have I been doing in my Netflix-less nights, devoid of all instantly-streaming content? I have caught up on a little reading. I have spent hours on the phone with American Telephone & Telegraph saying, “yes, yes,” to technicians who tell me I must must have filters on every phone jack (although my DSL worked fine for 8 years without them, but suddenly after a winter storm rips the wires off my house, all of the phone jacks now demand a filter), then being transferred and hung up on. I have daydreamed of the purchases I would make and the Shipping I would Super Save on and the things I would add to Shark Girl’s Wish List, if only, if only, my modem had a third green light. And I have been missing my connection with my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. *Sigh*
It’s good to be back. Let’s hope I stay connected.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Posting from Exile

Shark Girl is in exile. No, I have not committed a heinous crime, nor has my past finally caught up with me. The recent winter storm has driven me out of my home and into the arms of the In-Laws. (Yes, Tree Frog, I live in the Northeast!)
            It all started on Saturday, when we were hosting a Halloween party. As the first guests arrived, the power went out. “Cool!” shouted one of my son’s friends. Shark Girl, however, was wondering how to keep fifteen 4 to 11 year olds entertained for three hours without going outside or using electronics. Just when Husband and SG were resorting to tricks like, “Honey, dress up like a fortune teller!” or “Give them a tour of our dark basement!” power mercifully returned and we put on Little Shop of Horrors.  When the power finally went off for good, around 7 PM, I was exhausted anyway and glad to retire early to the comforts of bed.
            I awoke to a disaster area—limbs down, and a whole city in the dark. It has been this way since Saturday night. No electricity for 5 days. Our utility company’s best estimate is that we will have power restored by Monday afternoon.
            I am not complaining. My family spent Sunday afternoon discussing how we are fortunate in this storm: our old gas furnace provides heat to our bedrooms and scalding hot water.  We also have a gas stove. Many people are without heat and water all together. Given our fortunate circumstances we can stay “unplugged” in our home. We have retreated to the comforts of the In-Laws several times, because, well, 9-Year Old and 5-Year Old have discovered that fighting is a great way to pass the time when there’s no E. Wait—they fought before. The difference is that now, since school is cancelled, I am home with them constantly, confined to the bedrooms, and have to deal with their assiduous brotherly aggression. It brings out the worst in my parenting style: screaming, bulging neck veins, bug eyes, unexecutable threats.
            So I write to you today from exile at the In-Laws. In a fit of optimism, I brought my gi down for this trip and tried to find a place to do some jiu jitsu. No luck. Maybe my gym will be open tonight? Not likely. My daily runs have taken me past downed trees and power lines. Yesterday, four days into the storm, even on foot I had to pick through debris on the roads, hop over cables and duck (yes, at 4’11”, duck) for low-hanging wires. I wanted to post some pics for you, but my camera has either been broken by 5-Year Old (most likely) or is out of juice (less likely). Last night I did a frantic search by flashlight for its charger. The shadow play on the office clutter made me motion sick, so I gave up. You’ll have to get your disaster pictures elsewhere. Sorry!

I will leave you with a recent jiu jitsu exchange between Husband and me. It was a tender moment, a warm embrace. Unfortunately it occurred just after I learned some judo foot sweeps, and I was trying to keep them fresh in my mind. Husband leaned down to kiss SG gently on the lips.

     SG:              (practicing foot-sweep motion) I could take you down right here.      
     Husband:     You have a one-track mind. (Another gentle kiss.)
     SG:              So do you.
     Husband:     Yeah, but mine’s normal.

Sigh. Husbands just don’t understand!
This is Shark Girl signing off from an undisclosed home somewhere in the Northeast. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review of Vulkan Jiu-Jitsu Gi Backpack, Or, Shark Girl Sells Out

The bag came via a third party intermediary. Shark Girl can’t receive swag directly. It compromises my anonymity. Yes, it was only a matter of time before Shark Girl sold out. The good folks over at (aka BJJ Headquarters) sent free stuff my way, and all I have to do is write as many times as I can in one blog post. I can handle that. I would like it to be known that I have also been talking up to my fellow jitsers at the club. The conversation goes something like this:
            “Yeah, I hate this gi I’ve been wearing. I’m looking for a new one. But they’re so expensive.”
            “You should try They have a Deal a Day. When it’s sold out, that’s it. But the deals are pretty good.” Little do my classmates know that I have been underwritten by, or that they are talking with the infamous Shark Girl. Sigh. Marketing is everywhere these days, and so insidious.
            Oh, back to the bag. The clandestine package arrives and I open it excitedly. Perhaps I can quit my day job and just work for jiu jitsu goods? I pull it out of the packaging.
            “That’s a nice bag!” Husband remarks.
            You ain’t kidding. It is a beautiful bag.

It’s made of black gi material, the softest I’ve ever felt. The bottom is some sort of rubberized plastic so when you put it down on the ground it won’t soak up the ick of the floor. This same plastic lines the lid.
It has two adjustable straps that go over the shoulders. One of the straps has a little Velcroed pocket that I’m guessing is for an iPod or some such other electronic device that I have no need for. Being a classics professional, sometimes I eschew the new and wildly popular, like social media sites and Real Housewives; other times I embrace it wholeheartedly, like Glee and ending sentences with prepositions. Anyway, I do own an iPod shuffle that I run with. I just don’t need a special pouch on my jiu jitsu backpack that I carry to and from the gym in my car. I suppose if I lived in New York City and walked to my gym, I might appreciate this feature. Mother of Suburbia finds it unnecessary.
            On the front of the backpack, the side facing out when one straps it on, are some pouches. Husband would insist that this is actually the back of the backpack, and this has ended us up in some interesting arguments in our 15 years of marriage. They sound something like this:
            Shark Girl:        “Did you find it?
            Husband:          “No, it’s not there.
            Shark Girl:        “Did you look in the pouch?
            Husband:          “Which pouch?”
            Shark Girl:        “The front pouch.”
            Husband:          “Nope. Nothing in the front pouch.”
            Shark Girl:        “Okay, let me check.”
Shark Girl stomps upstairs, exasperated that Husband can’t find it.
            Shark Girl:        “Here it is.”
            Husband:          “Where was it?”
            Shark Girl:        “In the front pouch.”
            Husband:          “But I looked in the front pouch.”
            Shark Girl:        “It was right there.”
            Husband:          “Show me.”
            Shark Girl:        “Right here.” (Pointing to front pouch.)
            Husband:          “Oh, that’s not the front pouch; that’s the back pouch.”
Okay, back to the pouches. The front pouches. There are two and they are spacious enough to hold my mouth guard and hair ties, and a hand brace. If I had a wish for these pouches, it would be that there were sections inside of them, so that when I forget to close them, stuff would not fall out all over my car seat.

            The top pouch is open and can be secured with an attractive drawstring that says “Vulkan.” This is the main section of the bag and it is quite large. For the most part, it is larger than my needs. I wear my gi to class, so the only thing I put in there is an extra shirt and a towel, sometimes my purse. This give the bag sloppy form and it slouches sadly, as if its purpose in life is unfulfilled. On a few particularly hot nights, I put my gi top in the bag and it was much happier, perky even. It stood upright and proud, as if to say, “Hey, I’m holding a gi!”
            On the sides of the bag are two mesh thingies, presumably for holding water bottles. When the bag is un(ful)filled, there is not enough tension to hold the bottles in, and these, too, fall out. When the main pouch of the bag is filled, the water bottle stays nicely in its place.

Sad Bag, Tumbling Water Bottle

Perky Bag, Snug Water Bottle

The dimensions a little hard to measure because of the bag’s free-formness, but I will do my best.Please note that the tiles in the picture are 16"x16", and, yes, I did help my dad lay them.

General Bag Dimensions
Height: 16.5”, with a little flap that could extend this some; Width: approx. 19”; Depth: About 12”

(Front) Pocket Dimensions
Height: 7.5”; Width: 9”. Both of the front pockets are approximately this size. The main pocket has a zipper that goes around the perimeter of the pouch. The secondary pocket is inside the flap that unzipping the main pouch creates, and zips horizontally at the middle.

In Conlcusion
iPod holder and the flames of Vulkan
This is one capacious bag. When I walk around with it, well, I feel like a mother. Not like, “Hi, I’m a mom of two,” but more like, “My bag is from Brazil. It’s large. And it means I can motherf--- people up.” That’s about all I really want to say about a backpack. That’s the most I’ve ever said about any backpack. I am obliged as a Latin teacher to give a shout out to the brand name “Vulkan,” since he is the god of the forge, and there are little flames on one of the patches. He is also a lame god, since he fell from Mt. Olympus as a baby. Recently I’ve felt a lot like Vulkan—spitting out a lot of fire, but a bit creaky in the joints. Sigh.
If this wasn’t enough to get you to go to, I leave you with one final reason, my favorite one. Aaron, who runs the site keeps all the comments up and they are a hoot to read. This is one of my recent favorites.

UPDATE May 2013: While this served me well, at this point the zipper on the larger pouch has broken and I can no longer use it to store stuff. I am limited to the small pouch which can hold a small bottle of aspirin, some adhesive tape, a couple of hair ties, and my mouth guard. This is kind of a bummer. So, a year-and-a-half of good service. It was a sweet ride while it lasted!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh, No! It's Ringworm!

But not on me. On Son #1. Oldest Child who puts his hands into everything and then into his nose, and for the finale, into his mouth. Nine-Year Old who is clearly made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails and anything else that crawls around on the ground.
            At first it looked like a scratch on his face, on his right cheek. Then it started getting bigger. This is his second battle with ringworm. The first time I was grossed out because of the name. I wasn’t concerned about getting it myself. This time, I’m frightened. I don’t want to lose mat time!

            Don’t come near me!” I find myself screaming scaredly as he hurtles his body at me, a jumble of arms and legs, no telling which of his body parts will make contact with me first.
He crawls into bed with me every morning before sunrise, but now I kick him out.
“You’ll get ringworm on my pillow!” I say forcefully, but not loudly enough to wake Husband, shattering all images of me as that unconditional-loving mom, hugging her child whether he has a skinned knee or lice are popping off his head. I do not want to lose mat time!
Son #1 is disappointed at my hands-off policy. “But Mom, how did I get ringworm?” he asked dolefully. Really? I think to myself, How did you not? You are like a sewer rat! Instead I said,
“Well, honey, perhaps it’s your tae kwon do. Ringworm can be spread on the mats.”
“No, Mom. That can’t be it.”
“Why not?”
“My face doesn’t go on the mat! Only my feet.”
“Really? You never sit on the mat?”
“Well, yeah, I do.”
“And do you pick your toes on the mat?” I already know the answer to this question.
“Yeah, sometimes.”
“And your feet touch the mat, right?”
“And then you put your hands, which have just picked your toes that have been on the mat, to your face, and possibly into your nose and mouth?”
“Mom, I don’t think that’s it.”
He may be right. He may have gotten it some other way. He was not a martial artist for his first bout of the old r-w. (That was near his ear.) But I am not passing up a chance to give him reasons to keep his hands out of his orifices.

Tonight at the church potluck, the barbecue chicken legs came out and Son #1 ran over to them and stuck his ringwormed face in the dish, millimeters away from the drums, hair brushing barbecue sauce. “Ack!” I scream. “Get away from the legs!”
“But I want to smell them!” he insists. He grabs a leg and takes a big bite of it, then smears the sauce across his face with the back of his hand to “clean” his mouth. When Son is finished, his face is covered in barbecue sauce, and his fingers have been licked clean and wiped on pants (or passersby) countless times. Husband sees Son’s messy face and moves to wipe it. He cleans away the sauce from most of Son’s face, but strategically leaves the sauce covering the patch of ringworm. Nope! No ringworm here! Only barbecue sauce!
If I get ringworm, I don’t think I’ll be able to use the sauce trick to keep me rolling. Until Son #1 is fungus-free, I will keep The Bearer of the Ringworm at a safe distance.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Last Tournament Post, Really!

I  love Husband. Really I do. But sometimes we clash over our ideas of time. I like to take deep breaths between life's little excitements. If I have a bunch of things to do in a day, I try to space them out and relax in between. Husband, he's different. Here's an example: If we were (hypothetically) going away for a few days and had to (hypothetically) leave by 6 AM, he'd be okay with us throwing a (hypothetical) huge, 5-course dinner party for ten the night before. Me? I don't like to be rushed. "Why is this relevant," you may ask? Because I want you to understand the rest of my tournament story. Plus, I wouldn't mind some, "Wow! You are a saint!" comments.

BJJ is often compared to chess. So, here's one more way they are similar. Their tournaments, inexplicably, last far longer than one could ever imagine they need to. It's pretty much sit around and wait. Fight. Fight. Sit around some more. Fight. Before you know it, your skin is vampire-pasty from spending all your daylight hours indoors. I was forewarned, and thought Husband knew that I would be pretty much out of commission that day. He, however, had other plans.

You see, we were invited to a pool party. At 3 PM. (Actually, there were two pool parties, but the one at noon was canceled because my son's friend was barfing.) It was kind of a work pool party in the sense that we were invited by some of Husband's parishioners. You know, the people who employ him and pay his salary. I really wanted to go to the party, just maybe not that day. According to Husband, every other day this summer was out of the question. Husband pushed it back from 3 PM to 4 PM. I was still skeptical that I'd be able to go. Really. Who schedules a social engagement the night of a tournament? I guess the same dude who books himself to officiate a wedding a few hours after he's run a half marathon.

During the tournament, it became apparent that I was not going to make 4 PM. Husband called and said we'd be there at 5. That seemed kind of doable, except for one thing.

"Honey," I said, "I could leave now and we'd make it by 5. But I have to go home, shower, and change."
      "You can't do that. We don't have time. And I can't push it back further."
      "But I have to shower. It's just unsanitary."
      "You can shower there."
      "No, I can't!" I'm not really on an I-can-show-up-at-your-house-totally-disguto-and-shower-in-your-master-suite basis with this couple.
      "Sure. They won't mind."
      "Hon, I can't do that."
      "[sigh] . . . then you can't go. We can't really talk about this because we have to leave now or not even bother going."
     "Fine. I'll do it, if you call and ask them if I can shower there."
     "They're totally fine with it."
     "Did you ask them."
     "No, but they'll be totally fine with it."
     "Okay. Can you ask them first before I show up there all sweaty looking to use their shower?"
     "Okay. I'm coming to pick you up now."

So, after Shark Girl's first tournament, I apologized to Cousin, left him behind to finish his section alone, and went off to a pool party, where, it turns out, no one had been forewarned that I might urgently need a shower. And then I had to explain why I needed a shower. This all made for "fun" conversation and I, of course, got the first audience for my tournament videos.

I challenge you all to relate a more awkward work-party story than that!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to School

Summer Shark Girl is gone. Now there is only School Shark Girl. What does this mean? Well, I get up a lot earlier. And I have less time. Way less time. So I apologize for the lapse in posting. But I will finally (finally!) finish my tournament posting. Over the summer I had too much time to think. New, timelier ideas would come to me and I would have to write about them, pushing the tournament further into my past. Now I’m lucky if I can even get a chance to sit down at the keyboard. So, I am happy to have something to write about.
            Okay, long story short: Cousin and I went to the tournament. I fought some matches. The end.
Hah! Only kidding! Nowhere near the end. Did you think I would let you all off so easily? I am too tired not to ramble. I’ve been up since 5:30 AM preparing and teaching the leaders of tomorrow. (I have seen the future, folks. It’s not pretty. Actually, it’s very pretty. Prettier than me and also skinnier and blonde. It can text like an m-f-er.)
Okay. Where was I? Tournament. Well, it was quite interesting. I’m using that word because it is accurate and it pisses my husband off. “What does interesting mean? It doesn’t mean anything!” he will shout as he reads this. (Who am I kidding? He doesn’t read my blog.)
Focus, Shark Girl, focus. The tournament. I was the oldest by far in my grouping. A couple higher belts looked like they could be approaching my robust age. But all the ladies in my division were nubile moffets; lithe and energetic, radiating a healthy glow from their pores instead of the middle-aged acne that graced my chin. There was no Executive Division as there was for men, so my 41-year-old ass was placed in Master’s. There was only one other Master. (She was 31). So, Shark Girl competed in two open divisions and one Masters. To add to that, my weight class was 120# and below. I weighed in at 104. So, if you can picture Shark Girl fighting fresh, young faces at least ten years her junior and with as much as 16 more pounds on them, you will begin to know the terror that crept inside my heart that morning. Let me just say that after my first match, I was just happy that I didn’t pee all over the mat. ’Cause that was a possibility.
It’s not my style to give you a statistical breakdown of my wins and losses. If you must know, I’m happy to tell you privately via e-mail. I will say this before I continue on: I did not lose all my matches, nor did I win all my matches. There. However, I fought five times. There were two no-gi matches, and three gi. When I finished, I went over to cheer on my cousin (who by the way, rocked both his divisions. Way to go, Cousin of Shark Girl! You know who you are!).
In the end, I think the tournament was a good experience and I don’t regret it. But it was super stressful. It reminded me of my son’s chess tournaments. I sit on the sidelines worried the whole time. When he’s in a match I worry that he’ll lose quickly and not have a good game. When he’s waiting for a match I worry, too. Son waits patiently for his next match and plays without a care in the world. Some people are just like that. If I felt less stress at the tournament it might have been fun. Instead, I think I can skip this year’s Haunted Corn Maze.
            After the weeks I’ve had to reflect, I want to share with you what I took away from the tournament. Here goes:

1)      People sandbag. Either I royally suck or some of these folks are not so honest about their experience.
2)      A cheering section helps. I did not have one. Biggest mistake ever, because the other girls did. It was demoralizing to be in a tooth-and-nailer surrounded by people cheering for the other person. I felt like the bad guy. Plus I could hear their suggestions and see my own doom coming. Not as fun as it sounds.
3)      It’s all about the take-down. The person who lands on top has a much easier job of it all.
4)      There is no number four. Just wanted to see if you are still paying attention.

And so, my dear web-friends, after all this I feel like I could be convinced to compete again, but I’m in no hurry. I appreciate what I learned as well as the street cred it gave me with my gym-mates. My sense is that at our own, familiar gyms, our game gets complacent. In a sense, a tournament is like going to a new school. One where everyone wants to kick your ass. It shakes things up and lets you see your weak spots. So for me, first day of school, facing 100 teenagers? No problem. I’ve definitely been faced with worse.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Finally—An Advantage to Being Over 40

I’m a petite lady. I have confessed that I stand 4’11” and weigh 105# on a good day. I do not have a lot of extra fat on me, especially since I started BJJ. I’m not skinny—rather I am muscular, in a petite sort of way, not burgeoning, but strong for a woman of my age. I have been genetically endowed with the calves of one of those old ladies you might see walking the webby streets of a hilly, rural Italian town—calves hardened by years of walking up and down stone medieval steps. If you cut these ladies’ legs off at the knees, you could club a barbarian to death with the meat of their calves. Yep. Those are my sexy, sexy, calves.

I need this preface because otherwise those of you who know Shark Girl—or have ever looked at my profile pic—will uproar protest at what I am about to say next. You will think I have that “little girl fat complex,” but I don’t have it. Not today, anyway. What I do have is a muffin top.

A muffin top can be common over 40 and when one has had two kids. I’m not making excuses for my muffin top. In my opinion, anything even tangentially related to real muffins needs no apology. When I was 20, I had no muffin top. Now my skin hangs awkwardly from my body, much like the clothes I wore in my 20s fit me now—odd drapage in all the wrong places. Up until last night, I hadn’t seen the muffin top as a benefit.

Last Night
During nogi sparring, I found myself in a pickle. A jam. My opponent had isolated my arm! How did I let that happen? What could I do? My other arm was too slippery to grab. My pants were too tight. So, I grabbed . . . my flab roll. I am not kidding. I grabbed my flab roll to keep from getting kimuraed. Or Americanaed. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Did you read me? I grabbed my effing flab roll. I can’t tell whether this was a high point or a low point in my jiu jitsu career. Was it a creative use of resources? Or an act of desperation? Genius? Or idiocy? I don’t really know.

I hope this opens up a whole new world of escapes for you. For me, once I realized what I had done, I busted out laughing and the roll was over. Not the flab roll. That’s still there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Good, Old-Fashioned Fanny Kicking

I’ve been away. Unfortunately, my BJJ is suffering. I’ve been to one class in three weeks. I could barely remember anything. That’s why when I travel, I like to train at other gyms. I lose my practice so easily.
School starts soon and I’m pretending I don’t go back to work in a week. In my dodging of real life, I realize I have not yet finished updating you all on my tournament.

So, where was I? Oh, yes. The tournament. Since Cousin of Shark Girl was competing, Shark Girl’s aunt and uncle came to visit. What does this really mean, you may ask? Well, it turned into an Italian extravaganza. While Uncle of Shark Girl was preparing many and varied delicious items from his lovingly-tended garden, Cousin and I weighed in. We had to weigh in before we ate that night.

Just parking in the garage was interesting. Few women. Many tattoos. Not much hair. Big muscles. At registration, no one seemed to think I was competing. The registrar asked Cousin for his bracket. Cousin got his cards. I stood next to Cousin, looking straight at the registrar. “Ahem,” I cleared my throat. He looked at me and smiled. New Guy approached the table and asked for his cards. I waited politely and said, “I’d like to get my cards, too.” “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were the girlfriend.” I smiled at this. Cousin is younger than me and quite a hottie! (He’s blushing if he’s reading this. But it’s true!) I was flattered to be construed as Hottie Younger Cousin’s Girlfriend, but maybe that underscores the lack of women in the sport—this old bag must be this poor sod’s girlfriend, because old bags don’t compete.
With cards in hand, we went to weigh in. Cousin weighs in, no problem. Although I am standing in front of the weigher, clasping colored cards, I have to physically shake the person in front of me to get him to weigh me. Strange, I thought, I can’t be the only woman here. Am I that much out of the demographic?
And what a demographic it was. The tournament was combined with a bodybuilding event. There I was, dressed in my Gap khaki shorts and a red cardigan sweater (that sweater screams “I’m gonna kick your ass, bitch!” like nothing else I own). Most of the other ladies I saw were wearing black and spandex. High wedge heels. I did not see a real boob in the house (other than mine, and you can’t really count those as boobs, and I wasn’t looking at them). Most of these boobs were encased in very tiny bejeweled bikini tops. There was a septuagenarian woman who had wine barrel arms with veins popping out like caterpillars. As I stood there feeling quite out of place, I realized, “Wait! I signed up to be here with these folks.” Even though I’m a 41-year old plastic-surgery averse, conservative-clothes-wearing, suburban mother of two, I fit in here, maybe more than in suburbia.
After a tour around the exhibit hall, Cousin and I look at each other. Aunt and Uncle of Shark Girl were planning to come to watch the tournament the next day. Conservative, old school, Italian Aunt and Uncle of Shark Girl. Here’s an example of how it works in “the family”: Once Uncle of Shark Girl met some Dead Heads in a public bathroom. The Dead Heads were camping. They were washing their feet in the bathroom sink. There were probably other hijinks involved. Cousin can flesh out anything I’ve missed. But when Uncle got home, he said to Cousin, (read with Italian accent for correct intimidation factor) “[Cousin of Shark Girl], heef you hever go to one a dose concerts han’ act like dat, Hi kick you in da fanny. Han heef [Brother of Shark Girl and Reputed Dead Head] goes to dose concerts han' hacts like dat, Hi kick him in da fanny too, because ee’s a relative!”
“Maybe we should discourage them from coming,” Cousin and I both said on our way out. “I can’t have my mother shouting ‘O dio!’ while I’m on the mat!” Cousin exclaimed. I was more worried they would think it improper for a nice Italian girl to submission grapple. I didn’t want to risk a fanny-kicking from my uncle after a fanny-kicking on the mat.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shark Girl Rejected!

I am taking a break from narrating my first tournament to bring you a special Brazilian jiu jitsu news update.

Some of you may remember the last time I cheated. I had been practicing jiu jitsu for about 3 ½ months. I was going to an out-of-town conference. I found a gym near my conference and sent them an e-mail request to visit. I thought the gym might raise their eyebrows at an e-mail from a woman. I sent it from FirstInitial LastName, so my sex would not be divulged. I knew, of course, that the recipient would think I was a guy. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t want to reveal my sex. Was it because I was afraid they would reject me? Was it my own feelings about being a woman in a male-dominated sport? For whatever reason, I went to the gym, eyebrows were raised, but in the end everything worked out very well.

Fast forward to August. Shark Girl is vacationing. I have been without jiu jitsu for almost a week. I found a place near my rental that has BJJ classes. I e-mailed them and asked if I could visit. This time, feeling confident that I have some jits cred (heck, I’ve competed!) I proudly announced my femaledom. Their BJJ classes were listed as men’s, but they had other women’s martial arts classes. I asked if it would be possible to visit, and if it wasn’t, could they recommend a place nearby.

I received no response. I waited three or four days. I decided to call. No answer. I left a message. I said I would call back. Tonight, I called and here’s what happened.

“Hello, Mixed Martial Arts School, Guy speaking.”
“Hi. I left a message yesterday about your classes.”
“Oh, yeah. To be honest, where do you train? We don’t really train women here.”
“Yeah, there’s no interest. We haven’t had any interest from women.”
“That’s interesting.”
“Yeah, and we have, like, classes every day.”
“Well, I guess I was the first woman at my gym. I’m comfortable training with men. I noticed that it says you train only gi. Is that true even in summer? I only brought stuff for nogi.”
“Yep, only gi.”
“Okay, well could you recommend a place nearby that would be able to accommodate me?”
“Hmmm . . . there’s a place [too far away] . . .”
“Okay, thank you.”

I am going back and forth in my head about how I feel about this.

Should I feel:

·         Annoyed that he didn’t take a request from a female seriously
·         Pissed that he doubted my jiu jitsu commitment
·         Upset at a missed opportunity to train
·         Disappointed that I didn’t push further; he could see that women can really like BJJ
·         Cowardly for giving him an out with the gi
·         Relieved—I dodged a bullet; obviously women aren’t welcome there for BJJ
·         Other:                                                                                      ?

I suppose the answer is that I should feel what I do feel, and that is all of the above. Plus I feel a little dirty. In his tone of voice there was something that said it was wrong for me to want to train. We haven’t had any interest from women. (Ummm . . . you’re getting interest now, Guy.) It was like he thought I had some creepy ulterior motive. Like I got my kicks from having strange men in my guard. Like I was some kind of deviant.

Sigh. This will be a good time to rest my joints and tendons. But the truth is, I don’t want to.

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...