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.

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