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.

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