Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Girl On Top

Okay, I admit it. Husband made me use this title. But it’s true: I have been getting on top a lot more lately. If only I knew what to do once I got there.

You see, for the past 18 months, Shark Girl has been a bottom dweller. I started as the only female in my club. I have been routinely crushed and pancaked, flattened and steamrolled. 

I have been muscled and maneuvered, manipulated and manhandled. 

And now, a year and a half later, I feel pretty comfortable on my back, thank you very much. My legs wrap and wriggle with ease and my body twists in the correct angles to prevent an attack and facilitate an escape.

But put me on top . . . and I’m a newbie all over again.

Take this recent roll, which is indicative of many. In it, a new teacher-type rolls with me to assess my abilities.

  • Teacher Type lets Shark Girl (SG) get on top.
  • Shark Girl sits there and waits. Isn’t he going to do anything? How can I defend if he doesn’t do anything? SG thinks to herself.
  • Shark Girl realizes Teacher Type wants her to attack.
  • Shark Girl looks down at Teacher Type, catches a flailing arm, and then pauses . . . Now what am I supposed to do with this? I know there’s an armbar here somewhere! Do I have to get this from side or swing my leg over? Why can’t I just choke him? Oh, crap! I wish he’d sweep me already so I can get back on my back!
  •  After many awkwardly embarrassing moments of Shark Girl pressing herself against Teacher Type to hold him down and stare at him, SG confesses that she has no idea what to do.
  • Teacher Type laughs and comments that Shark Girl’s teammates must beat the crap out of her.
  • Teacher Type mercy-sweeps Shark Girl
  • Shark Girl springs into action.
  • Teacher Type says, “Wow—now you are in your comfort zone!”
  • Shark Girl pulls a rad sweep and winds up on top . . .
 Recently, probably due to the influx of like-sized women, I’ve started to catch some of these sweeps and get myself on top. Queen of the hill, if you will. Sounds great, right? But it’s a totally new experience for Shark Girl and I feel more like a flounder.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sometimes You Get What You Need

In a commentary on the rush of superhero movies that have flooded our theaters in recent years, this excerpt from Manohla Dargis caught my eye (You can read the full article here):

I like some comic-book movies very much, dislike others. But as a film lover I am frustrated by how the current system of flooding theaters with the same handful of titles limits my choices. . . . The success of these movies also shores up a false market rationale that’s used to justify blockbusters in general: that is, these movies make money, therefore people like them; people like them, therefore these movies are made.

So, in effect, movie studios pour huge money into these films, market and merchandise the hell out of them to recoup their budgets, and when they are successful, they use that as proof that they are giving people what they want. And perhaps they are. But, let’s face it, a lot of what they are putting out is just the same old story with a different costume and different effects. We might prefer something else, but the studios won’t chance losing their cash on a “maybe.” They stick with tried and true and we go to the trough.

Anyway, Dargis got me thinking, “Do we get what we want or want what we get?” Are people asking for these movies and getting them, or are they being fed to us and we are just playing along? And then I read this last piece:

The movie industry . . . persists in recycling maddeningly troglodytic representations of women that its embrace of superheroes has only perpetuated and maybe exacerbated. For all the technological innovations . . . superhero movies just recycle variations on gender stereotypes that were in circulation back in the late 1930s, when Superman and Batman first hit. The world has moved on—there’s an African-American man in the Oval Office, a woman is the secretary of state—but the movie superhero remains stuck in a pre-feminist, pre-civil rights logic that dictates that a bunch of white dudes, as in “The Avengers,” will save the world for the grateful multiracial, multicultural multitudes.

And that’s when I thought about jiu jitsu. Some of you may remember that last year on vacation I called a gym to visit a class and was told by the Gym Leader that I wasn’t welcome because, “well . . . women aren't really interested in jiu jitsu.” 

That man, I’ll call him Douche Bag Gym Leader (DBGL for short), DBGL was asking me to want what he was giving me rather than giving me what I wanted. He wouldn’t even let me be the super sex-symbol chick on the sidelines (which you know I would be). No, he gave me the 1930s “let-me-tell-you-what-you-want, little woman” (which never ends well with Shark Girl).
With a larger society (and some DBGMs) telling us that “strong” women are bitches, aren’t sexy, or at best are sexy but really not effective, is it any wonder that more women are not practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

For most people who start BJJ, practicing jiu jitsu is about gaining strength. Women who join jiu jitsu classes have to gain a lot of strength before we even step out onto the mat. For me, I had to realize that what the larger world was saying about myself was not what I wanted. It goes against all cultural norms about what a 40-year-old, suburban mother of two should be doing with her spare time. For a while I hid it from friends and family—heck, even my blog is anonymous! I had to be willing to go against that cultural narrative. I had to look Hollywood square in the face and say, “I’m the superhero, thank you very much.”


Manohla Dargis in “Super-Dreams of an Alternate World Order: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ and the Modern Comic Book Movie.” Published in The New York Times Magazine, June 27, 2012.

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