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.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shark Girl Competes, Part 2: Avoiding the Fashion Police

When I first started nogi, I stressed out about jiu jitsu fashion. At that time, despite plaintive urgings that I get board shorts, Shark Girl went to the local TJ Maxx. No board shorts in sight; many yoga shorts on the rack. Could these work? I decided to try them. Yoga shorts were made for keeping modesty in awkward positions. And they are really comfy. So, Shark Girl has several nice, comfy, pairs of yoga shorts that she jitses in.

In preparation for my first tournament, I read the clothing requirements for nogi. I worried that my beloved yoga shorts were not legit. I’ve been in all sorts of crazy positions in them, and not once has “France” peeked out, as they say. But they had no drawstrings.
I consulted Cousin of Shark Girl. Cousin of Shark Girl is a veteran to BJJ tournaments and would be accompanying me as a fellow competitor and a support. Cousin of Shark Girl had never seen anyone disqualified for the wrong attire. But I was still nervous. I certainly did not want to be the first. DQed for inappropriate use of the yoga pant? It sounds so wrong. I only had one day to find the right shorts.
With the complaints of my stomach subdued, I set out to find the proper attire for the tournament. I went back to TJ’s, hoping they had received some board shorts. The answer was still no, but I did find a pair of yoga pants that had a drawstring. Technically, they did not break any rules, and I felt confident I could wear them. I showed them to Husband on the way out of the store. “Ooh,” he said. “Sexy.”
“You think?” I replied. “You haven’t even seen them on. Do you think they’ll be okay for the competition?”
“Oh, yeah. They’ll let you wear those. They’ll want to see you fight in those.” I’m not sure who “they” are. I think when Husband said “they,” he really meant, “I.”
Now the only thing left to buy was a new pair of frilly underwear. Who can compete without a new pair of sexy skivvies? I went to my local purveyor of lacy lingerie and picked out a competition-appropriate pair of panties. I was so ready to rumble.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where Shark Girl discusses her pre-competition fuel.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shark Girl Competes, Part 1

You may not believe this, but Shark Girl is shy. Sure, I spill my thoughts and feelings out in a public blog, but have you noticed that I am anonymous? Well, I am, and I hope to stay that way. Even to those who know me as FirstName LastName and not Shark Girl, I can be shy. So, at first I didn’t tell anyone in my real life that I had registered for my first tournament. To be fair, no one asked, and I didn’t say. And life was good.

A few days before the tournament, it came out that I had entered. From that moment on, the nerves set in. It was like Shark Girl’s stomach had put up protest: “No! Enough fighting! You are forty-one years old!” I tried to quiet the complaints of my stomach with these:

But Stomach was not falling for that. “I know you are competing! What if you suck? All your classmates know. You’ve got to bring it now! And you really better start paying more attention in class. Heh. You think you can compete.”

Well, it was either that, or Stomach was trying to tell me to stop eating garden-fresh tomatoes by the bushelful. That acid will kill you, but they’re only here a few weeks a year, so you gotta eat ‘em while they’re good.

Either way, Shark Girl had to bring out the big guns to quell the complaints of my stomach—an Italian girl’s best friend:

There. Take that, Stomach.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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...