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.


  1. I wish I had something all rah-rah to say to make you feel better, but yeah..... we're all in the same boat. That is, you don't have bad breath, but you have ovaries. You can't fix this.

    I still end up the last kid picked for the kickball team many days, and it sucks.

    I always do my best to be a good partner. I never fail to sincerely tell my partner at the end of class that I appreciate him (assuming I wasn't working with a total jerk that day). If he gave me good feedback, or if I feel safe with him because he never squashes me even though he weighs 300, or he has great guard and makes me really focus on my passes and try new stuff, I tell him that.

    Another thing I always do- when we're working speed drills, and he's puffing and grimacing through reps #80-90 of that spinnning armbar, I cheer him on. "Almost done... nice and smooth.... five more real clean ones... go go go! Awesome work!" I've had a lot of people comment that that's helpful, and it's certainly helpful when they do it back to me.

    Often in the few minutes before or after class, I'll grab one of the guys and say, "Hey, I'm trying to get in 30 reps of this new armbar every day... can I use you?" Then ask if he wants to drill something on you in turn. Thank him. This is a good way to "break in" a guy that you haven't worked with before. Now he's worked with you, and he's not so weirded out.

    Things like that help build a team spirit relationship.

    I now have a decent selection of guys that might not lunge for me as their first choice, but I feel confident that they aren't actively bummed when we end up together.

    Once in a while when I'm just not up for finding myself standing alone on the wall, I'll go to one of them before class and say, "Dude, will you drill with me today? It's been a long week and I just cannot deal with getting stuck with a spazz today." or even, "Dude, I torqued my right elbow pretty hard yesterday- will you please drill with me today so that I don't end up with some meathead who's going to fling me around?"

    It's important to not wear out your welcome with those nice guys, either.

  2. Also in the boat. Have cried about it in the last 6 months.

    "I now have a decent selection of guys that might not lunge for me as their first choice, but I feel confident that they aren't actively bummed when we end up together."

    This, *and* I make sure to end up with them. I do not wait for them to ask me to roll or drill because they rarely do; not, I think, because they don't want to, but because they are not actively thinking about my training, they're thinking about their own. Shifty eyes or not, I ask them to roll or drill.

    I have also quit worrying about wearing out my welcome, and I don't consider anymore if they've just rolled with all the other women or the white belts or who; I ask them anyway. Not that I'm rude or demanding, and if they ever said no I would let them go and move on, but I have not had a single one turn me down (or try to avoid me later).

    And yes, it sucks that I have to be the one to put in the effort all the time to get drilling and rolling partners. It sucks that it feels as if no one is excited about working with me except the women. It sucks when I'm tired and excessively introverted and just don't want to talk to anyone that I still have to get myself psyched up to ask guys to work with me. And some nights I don't put in the effort, and I get spazzes or get passed over and get ignored. I go home bummed, realize it was my own fault, and go back next time determined to get what I need.

    1. Thank you both for your thoughts on this. While I am not happy that you still experience this, too, it is a relief to not be alone. I know it is my responsibility to get the training I pay for. It's just frustrating and exhausting sometimes!

  3. When I say "don't wear out your welcome," I just mean don't pounce on the same guy right at the start and monopolize him every single day.

  4. I'm sorry to hear that is still happening to you, SG. I don't have anything to add to the excellent advice from Kitsune and BJJ Grrl, except that I can guarantee I will definitely drill and roll with you if you're anywhere near Florida, Virginia or Texas next year when I fly over in April/May. ;D

    1. Oh, would that I were! Some day, slidey, we will be in the same part of the world together, and we will drill and roll, and it will be long overdue! No chance of being in Spain in the next 6 months?

    2. I might be in Croatia in the next 6 months, but not Spain, unfortunately. Though I'm sure I'll be back in Spain at some point, as my girlfriend and I are both big fans: her dream would be living there half the year. ;)

    3. Well, then I will have to wait patiently for our global paths to cross. That will be a great day!

  5. Very new to this (about 3 months) and face this every day. I know it's compounded by being new and crappy at the sport but it is very demoralizing. My partner teaches at the gym and tries to encourage change, but it is very hard to change the knee-jerk responses of the gym members.While it makes me sad that this happens across the board, I feel more resolve to just suck it up and keep blazing a trail for other women locally so that it isn't so much of an anomaly. Thanks for sharing all your experiences.

    1. Hang in there! While this aspect of the sport seems not to change, I have definitely improved and gained (some) acceptance. Good luck!


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