Friday, December 27, 2013

Post-Christmas Epiphany

What good does it do, Gentle Readers? 

What good is it to make a huge Christmas post and not get one thing on your list? This sucks! (Well, not really. I got some great other, non-jiu jitsu related presents. Like tights, and baking sheets, and thermal underwear.)
            Anyway, I could sit here and complain. But I won’t because I did get a jiu jitsu present not on my list.  I got to roll with Cousin of Shark Girl.
            Cousin and I don't get to practice together very often. We were both visiting our parents who live in the same town. Cousin called up a friend from the local gym who obliged us in an open mat yesterday. It was great. And, best of all, I learned two new sweeps that I believe will work for my game. Well, at least one will. And I’m sore this morning. Or I’m sore from sleeping on my parents’ couch. (The beds in my their spare rooms are the worst. It’s like lying on a thick piece of cardboard on a base of marshmallows. I have decided to boycott these beds. When I informed Mother of Shark Girl of this she said, “But you used to sleep on them all the time!” Yes, 30 years ago when I lived at home.)
So tasty in hot chocolate! So uncomfortable as your mattress!
            I also received a revelation. Although maybe I should save this part of the post for Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, if you will. I usually watch jiu jitsu videos and shake my head. Why would anyone watch them? What do they learn from them? I just don’t get it. But I watched one the other night and it clicked. The person in the video had my style of game. Wow! I could see it all clearly. It was making sense. I vowed that I would look up more of this guy’s stuff on YouTube. This could be a breakthrough for me! Cousin also recommended a few other players who have my style. So YouTube, here I come. I think. If I have time.

There you have it: my rambling, after Christmas post. I wish you all a Happy New Year filled with submissions!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Shark Girl's Top Ten: Christmas List 2013

Are you searching for something for that special someone who can choke the Thanksgiving stuffing out of you with her legs? Or maybe you want something really special so that she doesn't choke the stuffing out of you with her legs. Or maybe that's your thing and you want her to choke you out with her legs, but she won't do it unless you get her something really special. Hey, there’s no judging here. Just get her a damn gift, will you?
     If your jiu jitsu lady is like me, any of the following will get you what you want:

1.      A new gi bag. The one Shark Girl has is really spent. It looks like it has been sparring for three years instead of me!

2.      Some good sparring partners. You read my last post and feel sorry for me. Now come and spar with me, damn it! I don't stink or bite . . . too much.

3.      More time. For everything. More time to write, more time to train, more time to sleep. More time for everything in general. Fake things that give me more time not needed. For example, do not give me an afternoon away from my kids because spending time with my kids is my maternal responsibility--I would just have to make that up. I actually want more time than everyone else has. I want everyone to freeze in time except for me for a few hours every day while I become super productive or get more ZZZs. So if you are Dr. Who, or happen to know him, get on it, will you?

4.      New hair ties. Ones that will securely hold my thick, shortish hair, but will not pull it all out when I remove them. Whatever happened to those old Goody elastics? Nothing held my hair like them and I can't find them anywhere, except in my bathroom and these are circa1988. 

5.      Crocs. There I said it. I never, ever thought I would say it. But, yes, I want these  
Crocs. Wait, let me explain: When I go to the gym, I don’t want the hassle of socks. In the summer, I wear flip flops. But in the winter, my feet will freeze without socks. I just want to put my bare feet into something warm and snuggly that I can wear outside in winter and that can handle gym sweat like my summer flippies. These ones come with a removable, washable lining. Remember—I said no judging!

6.      Someone to put my NAGA license plate surround on my car. I'm too lazy to do it myself. And nothing says soccer mom like an “I’d rather be choking you out” license plate.

7.      Healthy snacks. I eat like crap. When I come home from school I am a garbage pit of salty, greasy, corn-syrup injected, nutrient-devoid goodies. I am starving and eat anything in sight. Usually I move from food group to food group, starting with some tortilla chips, then pillaging my kids’ leftover Halloween candy, and ending with some pretzels, throwing in some hummus just to be healthy. For dessert I have cheese and crackers. If I've hit rock bottom, I break out the CheezIts and don't stop until the whole box is consumed. Clearly I need something right there and ready, no prep involved (please don't suggest fruit, that’s insulting). It has to be good and satisfying and warm on my palate because I'm weird like that and it's winter, almost, for God’s sake. Who eats fruit in winter? That's for people living near the Equator or who have enough money to fly in produce from Chile. Now you see why I get so depressed this time of year. It's a freaking carb fest over here.

8.      Ibuprofen, the Big Bottle. Shark Girl’s migraines are back with a vengeance.

9.      A dark navy blue gi for women. I salivate every time I see this color. I have to have it! The only navy gi I’ve seen for women is this Fenom, and it’s out of stock. I like the Tatami even better with its contrast patches, but alas, they have kept the ladies out of their navy party. Is there anyone else who makes that sweet, sweet color I crave so much?
10.  New Gi “Undershirts.” The go-to safeguards of Shark Girl’s modesty (i.e., the tank tops she wears under her gis) have seen better days. They are tattered and torn, ripped and shredded from my crazy mat tumbling and awkward take-downs. (just like SG, lol!) I prefer my tank tops simple and white [If it weren’t offensive, I would insert a joke here about how I like my men.]. Also, don’t give me any of that polyester crap. I had enough of that in the ‘70s.
Old Sharky’s under-gi wear preference is a tank top so she doesn’t overheat.

So, take my list and run with it. Let me know how it goes, and, Ladies, please add your most desired items! Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Same Shit, Different Year

Right about now you are probably wondering what to get me for my anniversary. My jiu jitsu anniversary. This month marks my third year! Don’t worry; I'll give you some gift suggestions in my next post.
I'm gearing up for my holiday list. I’ve been really nice this year!
Yep. Three solid years. I've come so far. I’ve learned so much. I've gotten so much stronger and more confident in my abilities. But one thing still hasn't changed.

I still feel like the consolation prize.

In the three years I have been training, other people (both men and women . . . maybe even more men; take that, Keith Owen!) have come and gone. I am now one of the senior members of my gym. But when it comes time to roll, some nights, depending on who is there, I still sit on the sidelines like a wallflower. When it’s time to partner up, eyes still dart wildly about the room trying to make eye contact with someone else before me. Not the ladies, mind you. The ladies seek me out, they come over with smiles on their faces, happy to train.

There's no one on this whole Internet who could analyze this more than I have. Do I have a stinky gi? I bleach regularly, even if it means my gi won't last as long. Is my breath less than fresh? I brush and use mouthwash before training. I even soak my mouth guard in mouthwash. I wash my feet, and other parts, before class. Am I a spaz? Who isn't from time to time? I admit I have a small person’s game which could throw people off. But in three years I’ve never hurt anyone more than an occasional misplaced knee or head, maybe a bruise here or there, and usually my partner’s had something to do with it, too—a confluence of wrong moves.

I saw Cousin of Shark Girl the other day.
“Hows jiu jitsu going?” he asked. CoSG recently earned his brown belt. Hooray!!!!
I shared with him my frustrations.
“That's too bad.”
We talked about ways an instructor can, and should, guide the class so that this doesn't happen.
Brother of Shark Girl overheard the conversation.
“You know what it is?” He chimed in. “It's that when you roll with my sister, you never win. You can't win. Even if you win, you haven't really won. She’s 100 pounds. And if you lose. . . .”
I laughed. Whether his statement is true or not, this condition stunts my progress, frustrates my training, and just plain makes me feel bad. I have never cried on the mat from pain or fear or humiliation, although I have felt them all. The other night after waiting for a partner to switch in with me, I left the gym, got into my car, and drove home crying.
     “Have you thought about going to another gym?” CoSG asked.
“I have.” But even though I feel passed over, this is the gym I've come up in. I know these guys. I've been working with them for a long time. The next gym will most likely have the same problems and it will take three years to prove myself all over again. Same shit, different gym.
      Sigh. And so it goes. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The more I make headway, the more I am reminded that I am really on the sidelines in this sport.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jiu Jitsu Therapy

Recently I rolled with one of my favorite training partners (FTP). I love rolling with him because whenever we finish, he compliments me and then points out part of my game that I could work on. Usually he gives a small piece of constructive criticism that might change my game completely. He is a natural teacher, and he rolls with people with an eye to improve their game. How nice of him!

We had a great session and it was only the ticking of the clock and the fear of  Husband's "Where the hell were you, you were supposed to be home a half hour ago," that pulled me off the mat. When we finished, FTP made one of those observations that, well, seem more like therapy than jiu jitsu.

I don't know if anyone else experiences this. But sometimes where I need to go to improve my jiu jitsu game isn't about jiu jitsu at all, but more about my own mental state. Its more about those bad habits that I have to change. More about the comfortable places I retreat to no matter how much I know they aren't working for me. It's about letting go of things that feel so right but are actually not in my favor. It's like therapy.

Sometimes critique isn't like that at all. Sometimes critique is more, "Holy cow! I never saw that before! That's a total game changer. How do I incorporate that into my repertoire?"

But the real, deep observations make me feel like I am talking to a mental health professional. "Yes, I know I shouldn't do that, " I say. "But I can't help myself. I don't know how to stop."
Sometimes when I explore the critique, I realize it is rooted not only in bad jiu jitsu habits, but also in some personal tendency that I have in real life. For example, why do I always stay in guard and not try to escape? Is it because I would rather react to someone in real life than take charge and lead? Because I am more of an introvert? Because I feel that to successfully defend a challenge is better than to make a challenge and have it defeated?

This when jiu jitsu for me becomes very personal, a spiritual journey if you will. One that is best taken with kind, generous, and gentle training partners who are willing to talk, not just about moves and youtube videos, but also about intent and motivation, growth and challenge, success and failure, and all those other things that make jiu jitsu more than just exercise or a sport. Or, we could just smash our way through our day-to-day drills and open mats. But then we miss the real power of jiu jitsu, the one that bring us face to face with who we really are and asks us to decide whether we want to be the same, or whether we want to change, with the help and support of all our FTPs.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Kick-Ass Pumpkin Pie

Tree Frog is celebrating Thanksgiving early, and has requested a pumpkin pie recipe to knock his relatives’ collective socks off. Actually, he demanded it from me in exchange for some very unorthodox advice. You can see that in the comments here.
     And, since I’m kind of in a lull right now, I thought I’d humor him. So here goes.

There is no better pumpkin pie than the one my Zia makes every November. We have an Italian Thanksgiving, which means we start with pasta. But we end with the traditional pumpkin pie. My Zia is the best baker . . . ever. I don’t know what she does, but I can never quite replicate the awesomeness of her confections. She gave me her recipe for pumpkin pie several years ago when I was faced with Thanksgiving at my in-laws, which meant <gasp!> no pasta, and certainly not my Zia’s pumpkin pie.

First of all, don’t even bother making a pumpkin pie from that mash they sell in a can at the supermarket. It’s usually not even pumpkin—it’s some other kind of orange squash. “Would you like some pumpkin pie?” sounds so much more festive than, “Would you like some orange squash pie? I dumped the can out myself.”
Sorry, One Pie. Maybe you are really pumpkin, But I like the look of your label.

I know it’s a pain in the ass to cook pumpkin. I’m not even going to give you hints on how to do it. Search the Internet yourself, because that’s what I did. But you need to get a real sugar pumpkin, split it, maybe even with a chain saw or your bedside machete, and cook it up. Don’t get a carving pumpkin from your local farm stand. GET A REAL SUGAR PUMPKIN!!!!! I can’t say this enough. They are small and cute, and can be hard to find if you are not fast.
Regular pumpkin on the left. Sugar pumpkin on the right.
They appear only in grocery stores right around Thanksgiving, and when they are gone, the store does not order replacements. One year Husband had to go to call every store and stand in town to find the last sugar pumpkin, so buy yours early.

Here’s the recipe.

1 ½ c. cooked, mashed pumpkin
¾ c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ¼ c. milk
1-6oz. can evaporated milk
1-9” unbaked pastry shell (Zia makes her own, but I’m too lazy. Pillsbury for me!!)

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices. Blend in eggs, milk, and evaporated milk. Pour into unbaked pastry shell (crimp up edges high; you will have more filling than you need. You may be able to make another smaller pie!) Bake for 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Your pie will come out a lovely yellowish-orangish color never before seen by Mrs. Paul’s. Now, I know Tree Frog hates whipped cream, but we serve this one up completely covered in homemade cream whipped without too much sugar. Perfect with an espresso!

I will post my pictures after I make mine this year. (I’m eating at the in-laws again! I wouldn’t ever dare to compete with my Zia’s pie.) If you make this, post your pictures for us here on the site.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blah . . .

Not much to say here.

Training has been kind of blah.

Gym’s been a little blah.

My favorite training partners are coming less frequently.


I need something new.

Monday, September 2, 2013

No Mercy

Big Dude was crushing me. Completely. I was trying to stay alive on the bottom, keeping my elbows in tight. Big Dude was forcing his hands between my elbows and legs. I was holding on tight. Big Dude was crushing my chin to get a choke. I held firm.

As a little person my strength is my speed and agility, and well, my tininess. Just a little space, that’s all I needed, to wriggle out of this mess. This Big Dude in particular is good at closing the gaps. Our rolls usually end up with me on the bottom of mount trying to fend off his attacks which are always backed by muscle. This is where I was now.

Suddenly, there was some space. Enough for Shark Girl to slip out. Quick as I could, I torqued my body and got to my knees. What I saw I couldn’t believe. It was Big Dude’s back. And he wasn’t moving. Why isn’t he turning toward me? I didn’t know, but I didn’t have much time. I threw my right arm around his neck. Is his chin really up? Am I really connecting with his throat? I grabbed my left biceps. Am I getting a choke? There’s no way. There’s no way. He’s going to throw me off of him. But his chin was up. It happened too fast. He made a mistake. I had the choke. I knew it. I could feel it.

So, what was the point in choking? I had it. Most of the time, if I have a sure submission, I just go through the motions and let it go, continue the roll. Plus, choking him could possibly emasculate him, make him feel bad, drive him to use more muscle the next time we roll.

I know, in a perfect world, our guy training partners wouldn’t feel that way. They would be excited for our victories, our triumphs, our progress. But let’s face it, no matter how much we say, “If a smaller, weaker, skilled person couldn’t tap out a larger, stronger opponent, then it wouldn’t be jiu jitsu, it wouldn’t be worth studying, it wouldn’t work,” most guys have a thing against women tapping them out. I’ve learned this in my time on the mat.

So here Shark Girl was. This was what was going through my mind. I had the choke. Solid. It was a victory, I knew it. Did he need to? To choke or not to choke. I pushed my elbows together just a bit to see the reaction. He was fighting. Hard. I pushed them a little more. Maybe he’ll acknowledge that I’ve got it. He braced. I pressed my elbows together more closely. He was still resisting. Should I finish it? Or let it go?What should I do? I’m guessing most guys when they roll don’t have this internal conversation with themselves. I’m guessing if they have a submission, they finish it. Maybe I’m wrong. I wouldn’t know. I’m not a guy. But Shark Girl was thinking fast.

I thought of how often I’ve had to stop reacting to him for fear it would encourage a muscled response that might injure me. How many times had I avoided rolls with him because I knew it would wind up with him on my back with his long legs twined around mine while I bucked and struggled and he used his muscles to force my chin up to get a choke he didn’t have because my chin was down? How many times had I lain motionless for minutes at a time underneath him while he tried to break my solid defenses to no avail, yet continued to stay on top forcing himself, wasting my roll completely because he wouldn’t move from his dominant, albeit useless, position, and upon realizing this, resorted to crushing something—anything—of mine to get me to move an arm or a chin?

Oh, I remembered, Chest in. And I tapped that motherfucker out.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Too Legit to Quit

“I usually try to visit another gym when I go away,” I told my gym-mate last night. “I’ll do it alone, but it’s much more fun to go with someone.”
            “I hear ya,” replied Gym-Mate, a largish, solid, shaven-headed man whom I could be afraid of (if I didn’t know him or jiu jitsu) and saw him while walking down a darkened, deserted street. In reality he is my sweetest, gentlest, and most good-natured classmate.
            “It can be awkward,” he continued, “going alone. Everyone else knows each other and they always pair up.”
            “Plus, they have their own warm-ups . . .” I added.
            “ . . . and everyone knows them except you . . .” he finished.
            “Yeah, and there I am, looking like a fool, trying to get the crazy warm-up right. Oh, I’ll go, but it’s much more fun with, say, Cousin Of Shark Girl. At least if there is someone else who feels the same out-of-sorts, it’s more comfortable, easier to laugh about. Plus,” I said, “as a woman, I often get really weird reactions when I go alone.”
            “Really?” Gym-Mate asked.
            “Really.” I recounted some of them, (including this one.)
            “Wow. That’s crazy. ”
            “I know. People are like, ‘Who is this tiny, middle-aged woman, and why is she here?’ They think I’m spying for the NSA or something.”
            “Yeah, but then when they roll with you, they know you’re legit.”

Wow. Legit. That word made my day. You see, I am a tiny, middle-aged woman. And I’ve never ever been remotely legit in any athletic context. Sure, I have done some marathons and half marathons in my day. But I wasn’t ever legit. I couldn’t hang with “real” runners. I’m slow and plodding. I get the job done, sure. But that’s about it.
Growing up, I was the four-eyed kid whom noone wanted on their team, because, well, I sucked. Hell, I wasn’t even legit in my kindergaten dance class. Mrs. C., my instructor, tried to hide me behind the hulking, ogrish girls because I “didn’t know the steps.” (“But I can’t see her,” Mother of Little Shark Girl complained.)
Maybe I would have been legit in aerobics. I went to town on them in the ‘80s, but in the late ‘90s the dance steps got too effing fancy for me. Give me some Paula Abdul and a hot pink and green step and I am so legit—except when I miss the step on the way down and roll an ankle.
 That's me wayyyy in the back. . . . This is long but hold out for Alan Thicke's painful jokestering.

So, thank you, Gym-Mate, for your unassuming compliment. It meant so much to me, perhaps because I have always struggled with the mediocrity of my athleticism, and because now, in my 40s, I have found, quite by chance, a sport that suits me, and I long desperately not to be mediocre in this, too.

Folks, in the coming weeks Shark Girl will be going on vacation, and you know what that means. If you see a tiny, middle-aged woman coming in to visit your gym, she could be legit!

Added Bonus
Here's another tidbit for you. I definitely see how the 1988 Crystal Light Aerobics Championship influenced early-90s dance moves.
  Don't you wish the godfather of jiu jitsu would give you gi pants?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tonight Rocked!

It’s not that I was a crazy submission machine. Not even close. It’s not that I got every move right, or showed technical chops that would make German engineers proud. No, it was none of those things at all. But tonight’s class rocked.

For the first time since my injury six months ago, Shark Girl felt back. I rolled round after round, not worrying about submissions, just working my game. Trying to weasel out of stuff, trying to put my opponent in a bad position, and just maneuvering from where I was. It felt great. I felt–dare I say it?–almost back to my old Shark ways. At the end of the night, I collapsed on the mat. flail-armed and exhausted, sporting loose and limber joints that allowed me to do back flips in celebration of an evening well spent.

Gratuitous cute cat photo
In the three months I have been back to training, I have had doubts. Maybe my time is up. Maybe I can’t go any further in my practice. Maybe this jiu jitsu thing has run its course.

Returning to the mat has been like meeting an old friend that I used to know really well, like in college, but we have drifted apart. There’s not much to say except to reminisce about how things used to be. Then we say goodbye and I get a Christmas card to remind me that Friend was once an important part of my life, and look how her children have grown! It always works the same with me and those friends—it’s hard for me to live in the past, and I’m not really good at maintaining friendships. I have admitted that many of my old friendships are things of the past.

But tonight. I belonged on that mat tonight. Tonight I was creating new memories and having new experiences and jiu jitsu was a vital, necessary part of my life. Just the way I like it. I suppose it can stick around for a while. We’ve got a lot to talk about, the two of us.

Of course, I am still vigilant about my injured limb. I probably will be for a long time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Kissing and Catching Fire

I recently read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Perhaps you have heard of it? Or have you been living in a fallout shelter for the last few years, or Under the Dome, or in a fallout shelter Under the Dome?

Anyway, I was happily reading along, minding my Shark Girl business, when something came out of the book and slapped me in the face like it was my sassy, gay friend:

I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite.   —Katniss Everdeen

What? Did I really just read that?

That stung. Before I read that sentence, I could deny that Catching Fire was a teeny-bopper novel. That sentence clanged like a cymbal: this book was for people who could relate to someone weighing these equally: Should I kiss Gale back? Or should I rebel against the Capital? Hmmm . . . This is a tough one!

Yes, I, a grown Shark Girl, was reading a novel geared to people who have spent less time breathing than I have flossing my teeth. To be fair to Suzanne Collins, my 11-year old’s constant, “Did ya’ read it? Did ya’ read it? Did ya’ get to the part when. . . .” should have gotten me there first. “I did read it, but I didn’t know it was a kissing story. . . .” was my usual reply, to which 11-Year-Old rolled his eyes to say that I was so immature.

"The weakest of the trilogy," my newly-teen nephew offered me his literary critique.
Sometimes I look through my Google search terms or read BJJ forums and I have the same 6th-grade, Catching Fire feeling. There are countless queries wondering whether women (and men) experience sexual urges during grappling. Most (post-middle school) women (and men?) say the same thing: We’re too busy fighting and surviving to be aroused; it’s not really there.

So, seriously—Katniss weighing whether her thoughts should be on kissing or kicking ass? Totally 6th-grade. I shook my Shark head and moved on. Whatever. . . What happens next? And then I stayed up for two nights after the kids went to bed to find out that . . . oh, hell! Read it yourself. It’s a good story! 
It's so hard to decide!

Shark Girl’s reading has taken a hiatus while she plays Clash of Clans, also with people one-third her age.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's Finally Over!

School, that is. Writing and grading final exams and projects, attending end-of-the-year events for my kids . . . all these things have taken Shark Girl away from you, Dear Readers, and I am not happy about that. Today I am finally free. School is out. Hooray!

And in this freedom, Shark Girl has finally posted all of the pictures and measurements for my gi review, so please check them out here if you are interested.

But I have a confession to make. I can hide behind my professional and parental responsibilities only so much. There has been something else consuming my time, inching in on precious BJJ territory, slithering into the corners of my life. I am about to go very off-topic, so if you are reading this blog purely for jiu jitsu technique (and I wonder why you would be, since I have never written about one technique in all my years of blogging), it's time to stop reading and go somewhere else.

I hinted at this previously, but when I returned from the land of espresso, I decided I wanted to upgrade my at-home caffeine-making abilities. I have spent hours and hours pouring over the fora at (great folks over there, by the way), deciding on the perfect new machine for me, and learning proper foaming and extracting technique. I have a long way to go, but here’s some food porn for you:

Please feel free to give helpful advice on technique!

I know that I should have been poring over YouTube grappling videos in my recovery period, but instead I have been focusing on barista videos. *sigh* Maybe this is why my return to the mat has been rather stunted. I am glad to report that I am back up to full speed. The sad news is that while I learn to protect my healed injury, I feel a little awkward and spazzy on the mats. Hopefully this too shall pass. Or perhaps it’s all that espresso I’m drinking.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Shark Girl is Back . . . In Her Newest Gi Ever

Yes, Shark Girl is back and ready to talk about her newest gi—the Tatami Ladies Estilo 3.0 Premier. My initial reaction upon taking it out of the box was this.

I’m not usually a fan of patches or blue gis, but something about this patchy, blue gi is charming.

I like putting on this gi. I don’t feel like I’m wearing some baggy, potato sack or ill-fitting “boyfriend” jean. I feel like it was made for a woman’s body. I don’t want to say that it hugs my curves, although it does. I don’t want to say that I feel like a woman in this gi, although I do. To say those things, unfortunately, implies a sexiness in our culture that is not there in this gi. It’s actually a womanly power that I feel—that my body is not hidden away, but it is also not on display. This gi makes me feel like a female super hero without the gigantic breast handicap. Is this a feminist gi? Is Tatami rocking a radical, grrrl power? My first guess was no, because what martial arts company wants to do that? Usually they are objectifying our asses. But then I saw that they supported the Slideyfoot’s GrappleThon for the benefit of Rape Crisis (England & Wales) and I was impressed.

Here’s what I like about this gi:

  • styling and fit
  • low-slung pants sit below the hip so I don’t feel like I’m wearing granny pants
  • close collar—my teammates hate this collar. They complain it’s hard to grab. Yay!
  • durable. I’ve been wearing and washing it for three seasons now and no problems.
  • stay-tied drawstring

Now I don't have to stop my roll to preserve my modesty! This baby stays tied.

I wouldn’t mind a slightly longer skirt. It comes out of my belt too often for my liking.

Yes, those are wine blotches. Don't judge.

I was pleasantly surprised by this gi. I think Tatami did a great job of tailoring it for a woman’s body and not just taking a man’s gi and making it pink. Way to go!
Look! It comes with this cool satchel!

Thanks to Martial Arts Supplies for giving me the opportunity to try out this gi.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Shark Girls Family is Expanding!

Tomorrow I am becoming a foster mother. To two kittens. Shark Girl's family is volunteering with our local no-kill animal shelter to open our home to homeless cats awaiting adoption. And tomorrow we get our first ones.

Every mother dreams of sharing her hobbies with her children. Yesterday I saw this video and thought, "Just maybe! Maybe our new little bundles of joy will have my same nose, oddly-placed fur, cuddly qualities, and a love for wrestling!"

If so, it will be hard to say goodbye when they do find a loving home!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's About Time for a Gi Review . . .

So, I was rolling the other day in my “new” gi, and I realized, “I really like this gi. I think it’s my favorite. Maybe it’s time to write my review?”
Did you hear that? I was rolling. I. Me. Shark Girl. Rolling. On the mat. Doing jiu jitsu. Again. After three months. If you think three months is a long time to wait for jiu jitsu satisfaction, think about poor Martial Art Supplies, who sent me this gi in good faith last summer and has been patiently awaiting a, some, any review. Babies have been born, governments have toppled, terrorists have plotted and fallen, and yes, Shark Girl was injured and . . . recovered? I surely hope so.
            Doc gave me the go-ahead—unexpectedly!—and I wasted no time, running off to BJJ class and hitting the street to get my running legs back. Will I be able to do that half-marathon this fall? Can I actually pretend that this injury never happened? I’d like to.
            During my time off, I didn’t troll the Internet watching video clips or DVDs on BJJ technique. I didn’t read up or otherwise edify my atrophying practice. But I did learn a lot and I’ll share it with you here:

1)      I will not turn into Jabba the Hut after three months. While I definitely gained a little fat, I am happy to still fit into all my pants, albeit a little more snugly.
No, that's me . . . in the bikini!
 2)      Muscles weaken rapidly. While favoring my knee, my hips and quads lost strength and then my IT band got tight which tweaked everything. It takes months to gain back the strength and flexibility lost in only a few weeks!

3)      I learned some great and terrifying strength exercises that will serve me, and my guard, well. My legs were on fire for days afterward, but the exercises targeted my weakest muscles. The burning was a reminder of how much strength I had really lost.

4)      Walking rocks. A good bout of walking in Europe over cobblestoned streets really challenged my muscles and stability, and put me on the path to recovery.

5)      I love espresso. This has nothing to do with my recovery, but being overseas reminded me that it’s time to replace that broken espresso machine I threw out last year. Any suggestions? 

6)      All PTs are not equal. They will bounce you from one to another like they are. Find one that understands that you want to do more than watch TV, or you’ll be stuck doing crappy exercises that prepare you to lift bland, mushy food to your lips while watching “Matlock” reruns. Lucky me—I had a session with a woman who was learning our unique jiu jitsu moves—like omaplatas—and how she could strengthen us gradually to do them again with confidence. What a woman! (She’s the one who kicked my ass with the exercises in #3.) 

7)      Jiu jitsu takes up a lot of my time. I’m writing this from Oldest Son’s tae kwon do class. In the past I would have found a way to get around this so I could do jiu jitsu. But after three-months off, what’s one more class? For an exercise-addicted, married, workaholic-outside-the-home, mother of two, that’s a profoundly healthier way to look at class. 

8)      IT band stretches suck. No other words needed.

Well, now I’ve rambled far too long to review this gi, so Martial Art Supplies, and gentle readers, you will have to wait until next post but here’s a preview of what’s to come. I’ve taken some sniuppets from my review, rearranged them, and come up with an interesting sentence:

 Pleasantly surprised, my curves can attest to grab some baggy potato sack hidden away 
out of the box—sexiness in a man’s gi.

 gigantic breast

  (That last part I just added for prurience.)

What does it all mean? Is it a message from ancient astronauts? Whatever it is, I hope it entices you to tune in next time. (Or maybe you’ll share your own "review sentence scramble"?)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quick Update From SG

Wish I had time to write a real post or even that gi review that I keep turning around in my head. A quick update on my knee will have to suffice. Here goes:
     The other day I put my PT on the spot and said, "So, running, maybe soon?"
     "Yes,"she replied. "I think you're strong enough. I think when you go back the the doctor he will say you can start running."
     Then I pulled out the cow eyes. "And jiu jitsu?"
     She looked at me like I was a little kid she had to disappoint but didn't want to. "I don't know. . . ."
     "Well, ballpark?"
     "Jiu jitsu. . . . That's unpredictable, isn't it?"
     "A little bit," I lied but didn't fool her.
     "Yeah . . . That's going to have to wait."
     So, two-and-a-half months and counting. It's not worse, but there's no real sign of progress. I'm strengthening my muscles, but the ligament is loose. Will it ever heal? When can I stop these horrible, horrible injury updates? And finally, the question that Shark Girl fears the most and loves to pose when she's feeling old and dramatic . . . "Could this be the end of Shark Girl?!?!"
     Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Official Watcher

In a span of seven years my mother had four children, and I was the last, trailing several years after the penultimate one. I grew up when good, suburban mothers stayed home and talked on the phone all day while their children whiled away summer hours in backyards filled with neighborhood kids making up games, getting in trouble, and resolving conflicts until we were all called in for dinnertime soon before our fathers would come home from work.
     Not only was Little Shark Girl the youngest of her own brood, but she was also the littlest kid on the block. It goes without saying that I wasn’t picked last for the neighborhood games. I wasn’t picked at all. There was always one less spot on the makeshift baseball team, not enough tokens for the board game.

Like any good little sister, I learned how to do two things when slighted: scratch really hard, and tell my mother. I reserved my scratching for the inevitable fist fights—at that time my only defense against larger, stronger opponents and my training ground for a martial arts practice that would not come for another thirty-four years. But when I was left out, I would go inside and complain to my mom, who in turn slid open the door to the patio and shouted out to my oldest brother, “Can’t you let your sister play?”

No one wanted the runt on their team. Plus, both teams had like-aged and –skilled pairs. Not only would I suck at baseball, but I would throw off the balance. After arguing with my mom about this for some time, Oldest Brother got wise. He told me I could be the Official Watcher. To a six-year old, this seemed like it could lead somewhere. But soon enough, Little Shark Girl realized that she was sitting on the sidelines, ignored, while all the other kids were participating and having fun.
Even still, I stayed there, watching. Why? I suppose that forcing other kids to play with you isn’t fun at all. But leaving to do something else, well, what I really wanted to do was be there, hanging out with all the other kids. I didn’t want to miss the jokes, the laughter, the fights, the camaraderie. I wanted desperately to be a part of that group, even though I couldn’t be.

It’s been two months since my injury. Although I can’t do jiu jitsu for another month at least, I go to class every so often to watch and keep my head in the game. The first time I visited, tears sprung up. I wanted to “play” so badly. It was hard to be there. 

When I observe class, I don’t wear my gi. I know if I do, I’ll get sucked in. So, I have become the class’s Official Watcher. And I feel just like I did when I was six: too emotionally drawn to the activity to leave, and heartbroken when I stay.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Women in Jiu Jitsu

There have been some really good blog discussions lately about whether women should be in jiu jitsu. I’ll admit that I have been paying attention half-heartedly. I feel a bit guilty about it, like I should be putting in my own two cents. But I’ve got my own drama playing out in Shark Land.
 I’ve hinted in my past few posts of a mysterious injury. Nothing to elaborate on, I thought, so I didn’t. Well, it’s been a month and The Injury, perhaps looking for greater billing on my blog, not used to taking a back seat to vacations and margaritas, has started to make some noise.
            I’m not quite ready to describe the incident yet, but I am ready to describe my feelings and my fears.

The Injury was partly my fault and partly my partner’s. When it seemed like The Injury would be minor, I chalked it up to training. But weeks later, as it grows worse and not better, as I wait for results of X-rays and MRIs, as Husband says, “I hate to say it, Honey, but this could be the end of jiu jitsu for you,” as RICE and ibuprofen do nothing but alleviate discomfort for a short while, as all of my cross-training exercises fall off the list of things it seems my body can handle, I have to face that surgery and an extended jiu jitsu hiatus are on the table for me, even if I try to be optimistic.
With every passing day, the chance that my orthopedic surgeon will say, “Just a sprain, just a sprain,” gets smaller and smaller. And this is where it gets complicated. I am starting to resent my partner. Even though it was partially my fault, even though there was no harm intended.
            I fear Husband is right, or that if he is wrong, my jiu jitsu game will be drastically changed, or I will be so changed in my practice that it will no longer be satisfying to me.
            So, should women be in jiu jitsu? Right now that seems like a silly question. My feeling is that this woman, me, should be in jiu jitsu right now. But I can’t.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jiu Jitsu, Bahamas-Style

I have been sunning myself like a reptile in the Bahamas. Here is the extent of my jiu jitsu over the last week.

Shark Girl, ever the good wife, decided to surprise Husband with a frozen margarita. Besides, they were on special for $4.95 each. Booze, a bargain, and brownie points—three Bs I can’t resist. Of course, I had to get one for myself, too. Truthfully, the only reason I got Husband one was so he wouldn’t complain about the one I was most definitely purchasing for myself. Such is romance in a 16-year marriage.

Balancing one frosty, foofy glass in each hand, Shark Girl carefully maneuvered to the elevator, spilling only a little of the liquid emerald.

I got off the elevator. Daring to look up, I spotted a man and woman walking toward me.
            “Hey, is one of those for me?” the man said with a smile.
            “Ha ha. . . .” Shark Girl replied. No. But I noticed he was wearing a “Tapout” shirt. As he stepped on the elevator, I chanced it.
            “You do jiu jitsu?” I asked, pointing at him with a carefully controlled nudge of my margarita.
            The question surprised him. “Yes.”
            “So do I,” I replied. Probably not what this muscular, testosteroney poster-boy for whey powder was expecting to hear from a tiny, middle-aged mother drinking fruity drinks in a tropical paradise.
            “Oh . . . where?” he asked.
            “In                                .* You?”
            “New York.”
 The elevator doors closed, and I brought My Beloved his drink.

Here ends my week’s worth of jiu jitsu. I hope you have enjoyed it. Plus, I’m still nursing that injury and, frankly, a little nervous to get back on the mats.

 * You really didn’t think I was going to give it up that easy, did you?

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