Sunday, December 28, 2014

Modern Zealot of Exercise?

Back in October, I read Why Are Americans So Fascinated with Extreme Fitness? It wonders why people do extreme sports and calls those involved in them “modern zealots of exercise,” claiming they feel that
 It’s not enough to look good and feel good if you’re not prepared to lift a Mini Cooper off an injured stranger.
It got me thinking: Am I a modern zealot of exercise? What the fuck am I doing, doing Brazilian jiu jitsu? Does a middle-aged Mom really need to know how to break someone’s arm and choke the breath out of them? Really? I mean, I understand it is a useful tool in case I were physically threatened. And it does give me confidence. But sometimes I wonder if this confidence is misplaced: What could I really do if a huge dude attacked me? Not much. 
Tauriel may rock as a fictional fighter, but in real life, her arms would have been broken so many times in this scene. Trust me.
Now, if Mr. Furley from Three’s Company tried something, I’m pretty sure I could do some damage.

Let’s face it, besides exercise, I basically use jiu jitsu to intimidate Husband when he tries to get frisky. Oh, really, are you sure you want to put one arm in, one out, Love? You know what that leads to, and it is NOT a smile on your face!
So, why the hell do I do it? Let’s see, when I did aerobics, I worked out two hours a day (back in the 80s, pre-kids, pre-job, and nothing else to do). As a runner, I started doing marathons and half marathons. Yep. That pretty much sounds like extremism. Of course I would be drawn to the martial art that pits me mano a mano against everyone in the world, no matter what their size, shape, or sex.
  The article goes on to imply that sated and safe humans are looking for ways to recreate the thrill of the wild. That’s kind of my take on amusement parks—why would anyone want to pretend they are free falling from a 20-story building? How is that fun?
It's not fun. She's terrified!
For Shark Girl, I am not recreating primal urges or satisfying an ancient calling for the exhilaration of the hunt. Dear Readers, it is about power. As someone who stands under 5 feet tall, who has always been the smallest everywhere, whom people, in their “charming” way, patronizingly measure their children against to check growth: “Oh, Six-Year Old, stand next to Shark Girl. Wow! You are almost as tall as she is!” (Yes, I, an adult woman, am constantly asked to measure myself against very young children to show that they have surpassed my stature. *sigh*)
For SG, running marathons and training jiu jitsu are about having the power that in the larger society I feel I lack because I am a small female. I may be tiny but I can run a marathon. I may be a full-grown adult who is smaller than your elementary school child but don’t mistake that for weakness.
And of course, the person I am trying to convince most is myself.

Everyone gets on the mat for different reasons. When I realized what mine were, it helped me lighten up about my training, become less hard on myself, and enjoy it more. It gave me the power I was looking for--power over myself and my choices.

Happy New Year, and Happy Training. May you all find what you are looking for in your extreme practice!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Not Your Mama's Soccer Mom

Note: All of the events you are about to read are real. They really happened. I am THAT bad.

Son of Shark Girl plays soccer. Son #2, 8-Year-Old to be exact. 
Husband usually takes on the soccer responsibilities, toting Sonto practices during the week and games on Saturdays. Whew! He loads up the car with a chair, water bottle, Son’s ball, etc., before each practice and game. Husband knows all the moms and families, knows the name of every kid on the team. He is good like that. 
I, however, am not. And it is glaringly obvious on those days when husband can’t do a game or practice. Like last weekend. Husband had some churchy event to attend, so I, Shark Girl, was on soccer mom duty.

I suck at being a soccer mom.
Luckily, 12-Year-Old Son is old enough to stay home by himself, so I didn’t have to deal with him during the practice. One problem solved. 
“Honey, I put Soccer Son’s soccer ball in the car for you!” Husband shouted on the way out. Check. Problem two, remembering to bring the soccer ball, solved.
“Mom, can you help me?” Soccer Son yelled from his room. “Oh, crap. What now?” With 8-Year Old, it could be anything, really anything . . . from a renegade spider cornering him in his room to a poop in an unexpected place. 
“I can’t get my socks on.” Oh, I got this. I put on so many tights for dance class in my day. I can do this. Bull shit. These soccer socks are like Chinese finger traps.
Asian finger traps? What's the PC term for these dang things?

“You just roll them up like this . . .”
“Like this?”
“No, like this. Then you pull them on . . . No, with your thumbs outside. Don’t turn them inside out. No, not like that. Wait, let me show you again.”
“I can’t doooooo thiiiiiisssssss!” Screamed Son.
 “Sure, you got it.”
“But I can’t pull them up. Now they’re on backwards!” Off came the socks again. Back to square one.
“Let me me do them,” I said, pulling them over Son’s feet.
“Ow! You’re hurting me!”
This went for a good seven minutes until I was sure we would be late for the game.
Running out the door, I made sure I had my cell phone for Oldest Son to call if he needed me, my purse in case the cops stopped me (you never know what will happen on the mean streets of suburbia), a book to read (cause that's the kind of soccer mom I am . . . one that doesn’t really watch the game. I know you are all booing me right now. But, I do Jiu Jitsu, for chrissake. If I’m gonna watch something, chokes better be involved.)
I shepherded Son to the car, which was not as easy as it sounds, because 8-Year-Old is like a moth, easily distracted by any stimulus along the way.

I congratulated myself on remembering to bring a chair to sit down on, and drove off across town. We made it! We will be on time . . . if I can find the field.
Shark Girl parked the car. “Where is your field, honey?”
“I think it’s there.”
“Do you recognize any of the kids?”
“I think so. No wait, over there.”
“Are they wearing your shirt? Is that your coach?” Because Bad Soccer Mom does not know who the coach is.
“Yeah. That’s them.” 8-Year-Old runs onto the field. I follow slowly behind, dragging my chair and my 1200 page book with me. 
I surveyed the landscape as I moved toward the field. Do I know anyone here? I saw groups of soccer moms, clinging together, knowing each other either from the community or from soccer practices gone by. I eyed one group, the one closest to me at the edge of the parking lot. I couldn’t tell what they were talking about, but the woman on the left had a sneer on her face and her eyes were darting back and forth. Her tone was spiteful and superior, and the other mom was nodding in approval, a scowl on her face as well. 

“Ugh,” I thought. No wonder I never talk to anyone at the things. They are probably complaining about their son’s teacher, or describing how difficult it is to get the cleaning woman get all the cobwebs from the corners. “Double ugh. I’m gonna sit and read my book and be antisocial. If I don’t make eye contact, maybe I can get away with it.”
I positioned my chair a comfortable distance from all interlopers and sat down. I scanned the field every minute or so to see if Soccer Son was playing. Nope? Back to the book.
Wait . . . is that a Jiu Jitsu sweatshirt I see? Why yes, it is! Right in front of me was a soccer dad wearing a Jiu Jitsu sweatshirt. 
I got up and said “Excuse me. Do you practice Jiu Jitsu? So do I.”
And there ensued a long conversation about where, when, how long, we each practiced. Favorite techniques and name dropping. We knew lots of the same people in the Jiu Jitsu community, it seemed.
Well, maybe I do belong here, I thought. Maybe a Jiu Jitsu Diva can be a soccer mom, too. Maybe this is my niche.
My confidence in my soccermomdom was growing. I puffed out my chest like I was victorious, or like I was rear-naked choking someone . . . really what’s the difference? I belong! I crowed silently to myself. I belong!
Then I saw Son running toward me around the perimeter of the field. He was just subbed out. He ran up to me, red-faced and breathing heavy.
“Water?” He held out his hand.

“Water?” Oh shit, water! And at that moment I knew I could never belong here. I had forgotten the most important job of the soccer mom—to bring the water bottle.
“Oh, honey. I forgot it,” I said sheepishly. “ Can you make it?”
“You forgot it?” Son said, his voice tinged with disappointment. Husband never forgot the water bottle.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, okay,” Son chuffed, then ran back to his team.
Then my cell phone rang. It was Son #1. “When ya coming home? I thought you’d be home by now.”
“Nope. Another half hour at least.”
“Can’t you come home?”
“What, you bored with video games already?”
“Just come home.”
“When your father gets here.” And believe me, he couldn’t get there soon enough.
I turned back to my new Jiu Jitsu friend and we talked about guards and submissions and techniques—things I could relate to—until Husband showed up at the field.
Goodbye, soccer field! I said with relief. Perhaps next time the water bottle will not elude me! 

Post Script: With the change of seasons, Soccer Son has transformed into Basketball Son. Last night was his first practice, and guess who forgot the water bottle? Yep. I suck at being a Basketball Mom, too!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Saulo is My Jiu Jitsu Boyfriend

Someone sent me this video of Saulo Ribeiro and it reminded me of why Saulo and I are secretly dating in my head. 
You can watch it for yourself, but I will give you Shark Girl’s highlights below, because, hey, isn’t that why you are reading my blog?

Saulo makes these points in the first few minutes:

Champions are those who get up and try to be better everyday.
It doesn’t matter how good you are; it matters what you are trying to do to get better. I believe this not only physically, but also for our mental and spiritual selves, in our jobs and in our relationships.

When we all put the gi on, what makes us different is our personalities.
My Secret Boyfriend goes on to say [around 2:02],
“ Today you can hide yourself behind money, you can hide yourself behind clothes, behind cars . . . but who you really are I’m gonna see as soon as I start to choke you, you know.”
It's talk like that that makes my heart skip a beat!!

I’ll be honest, Shark Girl’s mind starts to wander about half way through the interview. But that’s okay. Then I just concentrate on Saulo’s soothing voice. No need for yoga today!

Finally, I love the way Saulo talks about his competition. [6:30] He displays such profound respect. None of this low-brow trash-talking.

Given Saulo’s philosophy, it’s no wonder I see lots of women on his mat. Saulo is not pushing ego-trippin’ bro-culture. He is pushing discipline and respect. Those are things the ladies can get behind.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What Shark Girl Has In Common with the London Sewer!

Husband came home the other day and said, “Have you heard about the fatberg in the sewers of London?” No, I hadn’t. Checking out the status of the London sewers is not on my daily to-do list.  
            “Well, let me tell you all about it!” said Husband, a little more fascinated than he should have been. “You see, they’re formed when people throw fat and wet wipes down their pipes.”
            “Oh, really? That’s nice . . . “ I nodded and smiled, half-listening, half trying to figure out 7-Down on the New York Time crossword puzzle.
            “Yes, and apparently those flushable wipes aren’t so flushable. The fat sticks to them, and then everything else sticks to that, all the waste and stuff, and it all forms a big blockage in the sewer.”
            “Uh-huh …” Here goes Husband, demonstrating that “boy” fascination with poop. This morning 8-Year-Old Son had a sixteen-minute guffaw attack at the slight probability that there was diarrhea in a toilet. During breakfast, no less.
            “Yep. It was the size of a 747.”
            “Wait, what? I can’t use those flushable wipes anymore?” Reality was starting to hit me. I love those flushable wipes.
            “Yeah, not so flushable.”
            “Wait, but are people throwing the not-flushable ones down and that’s what’s causing the problem? Or are the flushable ones causing the problem?” I really love my flushable wipes, and it would be nice not to feel guilty using them.
Next they'll tell me I can't flush these!!
           “I don’t really know.”
           “Can they remove the fatberg?”
"Yeah, I guess they go in and unclog it.”
I think I understand how that sewer felt when they decided to Roto-Rooter it Terminator-style. You see, right now I am dealing with my kidneyberg, and it’s pretty much the same procedure. But my pipes are a lot smaller, and I’m a little more fleshy and have a few more nerve endings than a sewer pipe.

“Of course, you’ll be able to do whatever you want with the stent in,” the doctor said. “It may be a little uncomfortable, and you may bleed a little..”
            “Even contact sports?” I asked, hopeful not to miss out on too much jiu jitsu.
            “Even contact sports, as long as you are not in pain.”
So, with that, I got the stent in.

And let me tell you: doctors lie. To your face. And that is what I have in common with the London sewer. Neither of us can practice jiu jitsu right now. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Coming Soon . . .

Shark Girl will be back and as bad as ever! Never let me leave you again!

I know I've been a bad, bad girl. But I promise I will be back to choke you out very shortly. I've thought about you a lot over this past month or so. Oh, I know you don't believe me, but it's true. I'm sure you can't wait to hear my excuses, and what I have to say for myself. Just take me back, please, and I promise I will never leave again. I promise!

Oh, and your mother says "Hi."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer . . . Interrupted

Well, I’ve been away from Jiu Jitsu for about a week. That makes me mad. Mad, I say. Mad with Hulk-like rage and anger.
Things were going well. Too well, if you know what I mean. My physical therapist had graduated me from my knee instability sessions, which were starting to bore me anyway. Their only saving grace was that the therapist watched The Food Network. Shark Girl, who lives without the magic of cable television, could drool over Ina Garten’s latest food fetish, or wonder why Rachael Ray didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic as she had in years past. Was it Botox keeping her from emoting over that swish of EVOO?
I had started my summer regimen of running, too. The miles were creeping up every week, and by golly, my middle-aged belly was starting to show signs of a kind of 6-pack, albeit one with some plushy insulating material around it, just to keep it cold.

And then it hit me: an elbow. Right at the back of the head. With a loud thwack. No pain. No spinning, just, well, weirdness.
I sat up to see the couple-next-door looking at me concernedly.
“Are you okay?”
“What happened?” Shark Girl asked.
“We rolled into you. Sorry!”
“Oh. I think so. I think I’m okay,” Shark Girl responded tentatively. “I’m not hurt. I’m not spinning. But something doesn’t feel right.”
Shark Girl went home.

“That’s it,” I said to Husband. “I’m done. I can’t do BJJ anymore.”
“No you’re not,” said Husband.
“Yes, I am. The universe is trying to tell me something. I can’t be doing this. I’m a freaking middle-aged woman with kids. I’m killing myself. Probably giving myself brain damage. I was fine and healthy before I started BJJ. Now it’s always something. It’s either a sprained finger, or an unexplained rash, or a storm of kidney stones, most likely jostled loose from some damn mat throw. Now I’ve gotten a concussion, probably. This is ridiculous. I’m too old for this. I should take up tai chi. I’m going to take up tai chi.”
“No, you’re not,” replied Husband, gently.
“Yes, I am. . . . Why not?”
“Because. You’d be bored.”
He’s right. That’s the problem. I’d be bored to death. I would die right in the middle of one of those graceful, peaceful, arcs of the arm. On the spot. Dead. Dead of boredom.
Which one will Shark Girl be?

But, what the fuck? A week after that fateful elbow thwack, here I am, feeling much more like myself, but experiencing strange head and neck twinges. Certain pitches rattle my left eardrum painfully and I have to keep yelling at my kids to stop yelling, even though they are using their indoor yelling voices, which wouldn’t usually faze me since I have pretty much given up on parenting.

Last week Husband forced me to see the doctor. “It will ease your mind,” he said.
After relaying some epic tale of his father having a strange household head injury that left him foaming at the mouth, the doctor proclaimed I had a “boo boo.” Yes, a “boo boo,” like I was a three-year old who skinned her knee on the playscape.

There is nothing that pisses me off more than interrupted training. I’m not good at taking time off. I’m even less good at relaxing. Why does this always happen to fucking Shark Girl? Why can’t tai chi be more interesting? Oh, well, I guess some mysteries will never be explained. And that’s why Shark Girl is so mad!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Adventures in Gym Visiting

This holiday weekend, I visited family. Cousin of Shark Girl was there, too.
            “Hey, Cous,” I wrote him in an e-mail sent while I was packing, “Should I bring my gear or what?” We like to train together at nearby gyms when we are together.
            “Absolutely! My friend’s getting some people together tomorrow.””
            I packed my gear bag and hopped in the car.

When we are in our hometown, Cousin and I usually train at a local gym that an old high school buddy of his goes to. They are welcoming and friendly, if not a little aggressive in their jiu jitsu style. Cousin’s friend always sets up impromptu open mats for us, inviting whoever can make it. No mat fee required, just collegial rolling.
            The next day, Mother of Shark Girl fed my kids breakfast and I made sure that Husband was awake. I threw on my gi and drove to the basement gym where we were meeting. I was a few minutes late.
Three bowls of Lucky fucking Charms? What kind of nutrition is that, Ma?
Down in the basement, things were just about to start. The music was playing, Cousin and his friend were there, and two other white belts, one a woman. Cousin had dragged along his elementary-aged nephew to get him out of the house. Everyone was warming up on the mats, so I joined them in mid-stretch, trying to catch up.
            Cousin is a brown belt and was the ranking person in the room.
            “How long do you want the rounds to be?” his friend asked him. “You are the guest.”
            A couple other folks trickled in and I was pleased we had a good number for some round changing. The last time I was here there were only four of us and I went back and forth between Cousin’s friend and this crusher of a dude who pretty much made me hold my breath the whole time.
            When the round started, I was standing closest to this twenty-something, buzz-cut-wearing, goatee-bearing, tatt-sporting dude with an unadorned white belt.
            “Hey,” I offered with a tilt of my head. “Wanna go?” Around the room, the others were doing the same pairing dance.
            “Uh . . . ye-aah . . . I wanna see who’s open,” he said, looking away toward the others.
            You want to fucking see who’s open? Dude, I’m open! Shark Girl thought. But Shark Girl just looked quizzically at him as he moved on to see if my brown-belted cousin was available. Cousin had already partnered with his friend, and so Buzz Cut snagged the other white-belt female. Shark Girl, stunned by his words, had lost the chance to partner up.
            Cousin’s nephew was punching the bag, so I joined him, giving him pointers and he showed me the elementary jiu jitsu moves his uncle had taught him. Well, at least I can bond!
            The next round, I rolled with Cousin’s friend, a lovely, large man who knows enough jiu jitsu to rely on it and not his strength. I ended up working my guard, which he had trouble passing, and when I got on top, he was quick to prevent my side control. Buzz Cut rolled with Cousin.
            At this point I was chastened to ask others to roll. Hey, I'm no brown belt, but I was the second ranking person in the gym, by quite a few stripes. Looking around the basement, I saw Buzz Cut orbiting Cousin like he was some hot, A-list celebrity.
Slap a brown belt on that, Justin, and Buzz Cut will become a Belieber!
 A one-stripe white belt bounced up to me. “I’m Luke!” He smiled and asked for my hand, er, to tap hands. He rolled like an eager puppy, and I had him ready to choke in about thirty seconds, but I let him escape out of it. No need to crush that enthusiasm!

The next round, everyone had paired up except for me and Buzz Cut. Was he going to approach me? I thought? What would I say? Would I accept, or find a reason to refuse? He was on the other side of the mat and without making eye contact, I headed back to Cousin’s nephew and worked with him on the bag. No need to worry—Buzz did not come anywhere near me. If I sit out two rounds in a row, I’m going home, I planned.
            At the buzzer, Buzz Cut started making his way into Cousin’s gravitational pull. Cousin looked up at me and said, “Let’s go next!”
It’s always a good roll with Cousin. A larger, much stronger, and more skilled opponent, Cousin knows how to roll with a person half his size without compromising the integrity of either of our rolls. Or perhaps he knows that if I get hurt rolling with him, his father will give him a kick in the fanny.
            I rolled a second time with Cousin’s friend and then with another white belt who had showed up. I asked Cousin to help me with a technique that has been clinking around in my head, and he gave me a pointer on defeating side control (bane of my existence).
            Sensing that I had rolled with everyone interested, I recused myself before the next pairing. I cited family statutes of limitations and anger thresholds about to be crossed by Husband if I didn’t return to help rein in our two sons in the toyless and short-tempered environment of their grandparents’ house. I thanked everyone, especially Cousin’s friend for organizing the open mat. I stuffed my mouth guard in my bag, swigged some water, and climbed out of the basement, gi damp with the sweat of several people. Not a bad Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fresh Meat

We have a new guy in class, one I like to call Tommy Tae Kwon Do. Tommy comes to jiu jitsu with multiple degrees on his tae kwon do black belt. He is starting jiu jitsu for “something different.” And, he is a Big Dude.
It pretty much always matters.
I am in a good place with one of my Big Dudes. After years of unproductive and difficult rolls, he has loosened up. Instead of imprisoning me in a horrible, crushing mount, he now tries to get his submission du jour on me. This is infinitely better, because I can actually work on some defense. On the down side, I usually wind up in a weird position where, if he hips in, my spine will crack, or my hip will dislocate. But, I just tap.
            “You’re tapping?”
            “For what? I didn’t think I had anything.”
            “If you hipped in, you would have broken my spine.”
            “Nooooo. That’s not possible.”
            “I’m pretty sure it was.”
            We even have this meta-tap. When I’m in such a position, I say, “Wait!”
            “What is it?”
            “I just want you to know that if you hip in, you will break my spine. I don’t think that’s what you are going for. So, please continue your attack trajectory, but DO NOT hip in. Good luck.”
            And then I concentrate on staying immobile while he figures out his move. Sometimes afterwards, we work on a particular point or explore an alternate scenario.
            This guy is large and strong, with those clearly-defined muscles unwrapped in body fat. He is what my boys would call, “not soft.”
Last week Oldest Son said that I had “fat thighs.” Oldest Son is twelve and 50 pounds soaking wet, so “fat” is a relative term here.
            “You think my thighs are fat?”
            “Yeah, but that’s what makes you soft.” He said approvingly.
This big guy is not soft. And he is really tall and leggy. He usually ends up clinging to my back, wrapping his hard, fibrous legs twice around my midsection.
            The other day we were in such a position. I think he had figure-foured my midriff  up to his knee.
            “Tap!” I screamed, before lungs popped out of my mouth and I was no longer capable of speech.
            “What? That’s not even a submission!”
            “Apparently it is, ‘cause I am tapping!”
He stopped and we started over. See? This is much better than being compacted like yesterday’s trash.

It has been a long road to this level of understanding. So when a newb comes in, threatening to bust out his crazy speed and strength on my 0-Petite ass, you can bet that I sigh great “here-we-go-again” sighs. How many injuries or near misses will I have to sustain before he gets it?
            Some people refuse to train with the newbs. I want to educate him. I want to teach him how to roll with me, because we are a small gym and I can’t afford to have another bad training partner. So I find myself saying, “Slow down,” a lot, and, “Remember, if you find that you need to use a lot of strength and power, you probably need to work on the technique.” That’s my nice way of saying, “If you have to blast it on a 100# short girl, you don’t fucking have it, dude! And, it means I won!” Of course to Tommy Tae Kwon Do, it probably sounds like I am saying, “I’m a girl, and I can’t win unless you go easy on me.”

It is always great to see new people in the gym. New sparring partners. New possible people to practice on. It can also be a little scary, if they are big dudes that are not sensitive to a wee lass and her bird-like bones. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Shark Girl Doesn't Get Lucky

Shark Girl woke up, and went to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and my jaw dropped in horror. Oh, no! I thought to myself.
            Staring back at me, besides my drawn and tired face, was a red splotch on my neck. A red splotch! That could only mean one of two things. Hickey. Or rash.
            It is a sad statement on my life that, when posed with those two options, rash is the more logical one.
I thought back to last night. I racked my brain. Is there any possible way I could claim hickey? Was I involved in some midnight tussle that I knew nothing about? Not only because it would make a way cooler story, but really, more importantly because it would mean I wouldn’t have to cover up my neck at jiu jitsu this evening.
Alas, no such luck. And even if so, Husband is not the neck-bruising kind. But, I’ve got two young boys. One of them refuses to wear shoes outside. But keeps on his socks. The other thinks that cooked spinach tastes better when eaten with one’s fingers Who knows what crazy shit they drag into my house. And with my medical luck these days, well, I am sure to catch it. Sigh. There will be Band-Aids and bandages, and lots of explaining tonight at jiu jitsu.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Confessional: Little Shark Girl Was a Bully!

Hear, hear, Georgette.

Georgette shared an insightful perspective on rape culture.

In years past, bullying was treated similarly. The victim of bullying was blamed. He or she was told how they should protect themselves from bullies, or retaliate. Or they were told what they should do to not become a target of bullies. Dress a certain way. Speak a certain way. Look at people a certain way. Never be alone.

Back in my day and community, it was considered appropriate for people to make fun of others for their differences. If someone looked or acted differently, then they should be able to “take” the criticism. If they didn’t like it, well they could stop acting so weird. I am not proud of the bullying behaviors I know I participated in when I was younger. I’ve said some terrible, hurtful things to people who deserved my respect. I have reflected much on why I, who consider myself a good person, would have said or done such things. Honestly, at that time I didn’t feel like it was wrong. I never physically hurt anyone! I knew that was wrong! And other people did the same thing, so I felt entitled. I’m not making excuses for Little Shark Girl. I take full responsibility for my 14-year-old actions. I have learned and grown a lot since then, and I promise if I meet you, I will be accepting and tolerant, no matter how fringe you are!

Not that kind of fringe! But I promise, if you are wearing these, I will keep my goddamned mouth shut--no matter how hard it is!

In our schools today, education around bullying focuses on getting the community to be intolerant of bullying, to call out bullying, and to make "bully" a negative word. People are still taught ways to keep themselves safe and not become a target of bullies. But children are encouraged to speak out against bullying and to stand up for people who are being bullied. Does this eliminate bullying? Not at all. People can still hide behind their computer screen and bully away. There are subtle forms of bullying that cannot be seen by onlookers. It does create an environment that is less forgiving and fertile for bullies. It shows “good” people what those “grey” behaviors are so they are less likely to engage in them. If Little Shark Girl had known how hurtful calling someone “gay” was, or how she made that girl whose name rhymed with “vagina” feel, I like to think she would have kept her mouth shut.

The culture we have now can sometimes glorify and condone rape, and I bet there are many "good" men out there that I love and respect that have gotten caught up in the grey area of rape, just like Little Shark Girl did with bullying. Sometimes I think that's why some people protest so much. They are good people, not rapists, and if that grey behavior was rape, well, they have to redefine themselves as a "bad" person. Believe me, it took Shark Girl a long time to come to terms with her past-self's inner bully. This is the first time I've spoken about it in 30 years.

We do both men and women a disservice when we do not educate the entire community about rape. After all, it is not just a woman's or a man's problem. It affects all of us. It is not just a male vs. female problem. It can happen in any combination. To call it a feminist issue is reductionist. It is our issue. And if the way we are dealing with it isn’t working, then we have to try something else.

Of course, there will always be people who will do the wrong thing, but when the larger community actively and publicly scorns a behavior, "regular" people who consider themselves "good people" will not engage in that behavior, and maybe others will think twice. It is clear from the comments Georgette received that our larger community is not at that place yet. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

BJJ's Man Problem??

The Internet has been abuzz this year about why more women do not train jiu jitsu, whether there should be more women who train jiu jitsu, or if the ladies "just don't like" or "can't handle" that Olde Tyme Jiu Jitsu.
     Yesterday I came upon an article in the New York Times that reminded me of our discussion, and I thought, "Does jiu jitsu have a similar problem?"
     The article is about "bro culture" in the tech industry, and how that culture either keeps women at arm's length or drives them away.
     On the Bro Culture Scale, my gym is pretty low. If it weren't I am sure I would have left. My experience at gyms is limited, though, and I thought I would share this perspective to get your thoughts and input.

Happy Reading!

Technology's Man Problem By Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times, April 5, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring . . . Backwards?

Dear Readers,
I was going to write this post as a glorious triumph, one of those rare BJJ moments that we work for and dream of. But it seems there is never triumph without setback.
            I was going to write about a beautiful roll I had that confirmed my progress, progress long in the making and progress I doubted I could ever achieve. But then I rolled back to a place I hoped I would never find myself in again, in fact the old aphorism of “two steps back” is more appropriate.
            I wanted to write about how for the first time, I floated outside my body as I rolled and I watched myself and my partner, and I calculated my move. How I trapped him in my guard and eyed his left arm for my Kimura. How when I put my hand on his wrist he pulled back. He was much stronger than I was. I was never going to get that Kimura. But I went for it anyway, knowing it gave me the chance to move my hands to his unprotected neck while he dealt with my threat. I went for his neck, never hoping even to get this choke.
            “When he moves to protect his neck, I’ll try for the Kimura again, and then when he hides his arm by grabbing his pants like he did last time, he will expose his neck. That’s when I will make my move.”
            Well, that’s what happened, and that’s what I did. I successfully set up a decoy and a real attack. I saw all of this from afar, I thought faster than I was rolling. If you are steps ahead of someone, your setup can work. I had never done this before. I know . . . I’m a slow learner.
            That’s what I wanted to write about for you today. But it seems that the Jiu Jitsu Fates have other plans for me, because I find myself back where I was last year, and two years before that, with a knee injured I-don’t-know-how and the Kidneyberg making a feverish comeback. Yes, now, when I can see success and progress more than ever, when I want it more than ever.

Sigh. Bring on the Ben & Jerry's!
NYSFC is my favorite!!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shark Girl’s Top Ten: Things I Thought (But Did Not Say) This Week at Jiu Jitsu

10.  Oh, my God! Will you chill out?! This is not the UFC!

9.    Now, what was that headlock escape again?
8.    I hope I don’t get picked last!
7.    How the heck can he be so sweaty?
6.    Please not the sweaty guy! Please not the sweaty guy!

5.    Thank God I’m am A cup.
4.    I wish this song had a few less “bitches” and “hos.”
3.    You’re on a special cabbage diet, aren’t you?

2.    Wow—your hands are all over his ass!
1.    This is a little something I like to call the Husband Guard.

PS: Check out Shark Girl's new shadow pic. Can you guess where I am??

Sunday, January 12, 2014

These Feet Are Deadly Weapons!

“What are you doing?” Husband asked.
“I’m soaking my feet.”
“You’re soaking your feet?”
“Yes, I’m soaking my feet,” Shark Girl replied.
“Right now?”
“Is it a problem?”
“Well, no. It just seems a bit weird.”
“That I’m soaking my feet?”
“I’ve never seen you soak your feet before.”
“I’m just full of surprises after 17 years of marriage.”
“But you’re soaking your feet now?” Husband asked.
“What’s wrong with now?”
“It’s first thing in the morning.” This meant Husband was offended that the pull of soaking my feet, which to his eye I had never done before, was stronger than the pull of his warm, supple, enveloping, marital-bed embrace. How insulting that I would choose to soak my feet instead of luxuriating in a few more minutes of un-child-disturbed conjugal bliss!
“When would you like me to do it?” I queried.
“I don’t know . . . never? Because I’ve never seen you do it before.”
He’s right, he hasn’t seen me soak my feet before. The peppermint foot soak I strewed into the tub is about as old as Son #1, perhaps older; I can’t remember when I received it. As a gift when I was pregnant with him 12 years ago? I haven’t needed it before.
In my 43 years, I have tortured my feet more than most people I know. I have run marathons and half marathons and 10ks and 5ks and completed days of aerobics, with step and without. I have done yoga and danced the night away with others and alone in my basement, sometimes wearing tap shoes or high heels, sometimes not. I have spent weeks in chlorine-filled pools. I have been standing on my feet for most of my working life, from waitressing to teaching, taking a break only to be an administrative assistant for three or four years, but still choosing to walk up the six flights of stairs to my office. Let’s face it . . . these tootsies have seen some action. And not once, not once, have I felt the need to soak my feet. 
I have looked at others’ feet and shuddered: what was that on their heels? What was that rough, calloused-looking, cracked white crap on their goddamned heels? How did it get there? I prided myself on my thickened, but still pinkish and soft, feet. I would try to judge whether my feet would ever succumb to that scourge of foot-tractiveness: She’s much younger than me, and she doesn’t exercise nearly as intensely! That means I’m in good shape! I will NEVER get that disturbing foot look, NEVER! Bwa-ha-ha!
Well, call it the poetic justice of the smug, but I recently noticed a white film forming on my beloved heels. Not to worry, I thought. Not to worry, heh heh! I don’t have those feet! Until, my dear friends, until the night before that conversation with Husband.

Lying in bed, settling into a pre-sleep snuggle (my favorite part of the day) I swept my feet along Husband’s downy legs, creating that beautiful, warm friction that defrosts my cold tootsies.
“Ow!” Husband cried out. “Stop it!
Ow? Ow. Shit just got real.
Why now, after 43 years of foot abuse, are my feet hurting Husband? I’ll tell you why, goddamn it, and I don’t even care if it’s true, it’s what I’m blaming it on. Those goddamned mats. Yes, those mats. Those mats that are cleaned (thank god) with bleach. 43 years of punishment, but it took only 3 years on those g-d mats to turn my feet into scaled dragon talons. WTF?

Does it work on feet, too? I could take a tip from Madge the Manicurist!
When I finally confided in Husband why I was soaking my feet, he said, “That was your feet? I thought it was your toenails.” So, my friends, soak my feet I must. And get out that foot butter. I’ll be using it religiously until my feet are no longer considered a lethal weapon other than for the sick chokes they deal out.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Blue Belt Blues

I am sitting here on a snow day from school, a snow day that should have been worse, that could have had me up and out the door at 7 to teach the children, and I am wondering what I should write about. These days meaningful tidbits come up less often. When I first started BJJ, everything was momentous. Everything was something to write about. I needed help and support and cheerleading for every little thing, from which undergarments to wear to how to wash my gi. I would drive home from a class with ideas for posts sprouting out in all directions. But now, well, my training has become mundane, in the sense that on a daily basis it is nothing special.

I once read some snide poster on some BJJ board write that all female white belts started a blog and then dropped it once they became blue belts. He was belittling our women’s voice in BJJ. I interpret the phenomenon differently. It speaks to how isolated women who start BJJ feel. At the beginning, there are few people, if any, in their gyms that can give them the help and support they need, so they turn to the Internet. That’s what I did. But, if they haven’t dropped out by the time they make blue belt, guess what? They must have found some support and guidance, found a place where they belong. Because really, who, guy or girl, could make it to blue belt without support and guidance? So I get it. Since I’ve become a blue belt I’ve had less to talk about, I’ve needed less day-to-day support.

As I look through my blogging archives, I see that my posts have become less frequent. Either that means I am really supported, or I am uninspired. Perhaps a little of both. Some days I wonder whether it’s time to pack up the blog. Do I really need it any longer? Is it serving a function? If I shut it down, am I just another notch on that douchey poster’s 2-stripe white belt (although he’s probably quit by now)? Am I just another female blogger that stopped after she hit blue belt? I gotta say, I am motivated more than I should be by proving douchebags wrong. That’s part of what appeals to me about BJJ.

I notice that other female blue-belt bloggers who are still in the game sometimes change their focus. I started this blog to make sure I didn’t quit jiu jitsu. It has served its purpose. I’m not sure I have another focus. If I do, it’s not yet clear. If you start to hear less frequently from Shark Girl, don’t panic. I am still here. I may decide to sunset Shark Girl BJJ, but I will never sunset Shark Girl!

Happy 2014!

Shark Girl Is Ready to Pull the Plug on Her "New" Gym

I need your jiu jitsu therapy again, o vast and all-knowing readers.  About a year Before Covid (BC), my native gym closed down--the one whe...