Friday, July 24, 2015

BJJ: Breaking Down Stereotypes!

Last week, I took my son to summer camp in another part of the state. It was at an elite, private school frequented by highly educated liberals. It was tucked away in the intricate byways of a small, rural New England town. 
I wasn’t familiar with the school’s neighborhood. I was looking for a right-hand street sign that I had seen on Google maps the night before. When I came to a bridge and turned left, I realized I had gone too far, but surely there had been no street sign!
“I think we got to turn around, Honey,” I said to Nine-Year Old Son. “We passed it.”
I went a bit further and switched back on the street. It must have been one of the side streets without a sign that we passed, I thought to myself. But I didn’t see the sign!
As we neared where I thought the turn had to be, a school bus was picking up children. I stopped for it. It was the last day of school in this community. There were a bunch of kids getting on the bus, and I noticed one parent turning back to his house from bus duty.
The man was shaven-headed, bearded, muscular and stocky. He was wearing shorts which exposed his tattoo-covered legs. He looked pretty tough.
I flagged him down, and holding up the traffic behind me.
     “Hey,” I asked him, “where can I find [this elite private school]?”
       Here I was, a suburban mom in an outlet store dress, driving a family vehicle, looking for a high-priced school where people send their kids because they think they are too good for the public schools and they have no idea what else to do with their money. I was lost driving in his neighborhood, probably another one of those tourist types.
     “It is right up here,” he said. And pointed down his street. 
     “Thanks! I didn’t see the street sign.”
     “It just came down this morning.” And he motioned to the sign, knocked over on the side of the road.
I executed my turn and dropped off the kid. Then I went to a high-priced spa nearby and spent the day getting a facial and a pedicure, drinking cucumber water and soaking naked in a big pool of hot water before returning to pick up my son at the end of his day. 
Aah! So refreshing! Especially when there are no children around!

I saw the man on the way back, picking up his kid from the bus. I beeped and waved. It seemed like the friendly thing to do.


The next day, I dropped my kid off at camp and visited a local jiu jitsu class. I walked on the mat and said hello to a very welcoming bunch of folks.
”Hey!” One guy said. “Were you looking for [the elite private school] yesterday?” And there he was, my man on the street, gi pants covering up the tattoos that I would have recognized.
A mom from suburbia is also a Jiu jitsu player; a big, tattooed jiu jitsu strong man is also a suburban dad. Aren’t we all the same really in the end? We are human beings making our way in the world. Jiu jitsu can show off our differences, but more importantly it can highlight how we are the same.
What we look like on the outside . . . may not be what is on the inside!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Saving the Male Ego, or We Both Know I Had It

When on vacation, Shark Girl likes to train at other gyms. It keeps me sharp. Plus, the foreign warm-ups make me feel like a white belt again. I also have many interesting experiences when I roll on strange mats. Like this recent one:
My partner was the same belt as me, but lower in stripes. He was a young buck: spry and muscley, on the smaller side. We had a good go around for while.
He got me in open guard; I passed.
He went for a footlock; I escaped.
Finally, I got on top; he escaped. He was tiring out, though, because I quickly wound up back on top.
He escaped again, and we went back and forth a few more times until he could no longer find his way out of my top control.
I went for a choke.
I could see in his eyes he was defeated. They were the eyes of a scared animal, darting back and forth, unsure of what path leads to safety, but sure that staying still is death (by suffocation).
I tightened my choke. He started breathing more deeply, trying to get more air with each breath.
I tightened my choke a little more. His face was getting red.
At this point, I realized this man was not tapping. At all. He was going to do something really stupid, like pass out.
            So, what did Shark Girl do? I saved his ego. “Do I have this?” I asked demurely.
            He sputtered.
“What? Was that a ‘no’?”
            He sputtered some more and shook his head.
           “Okay. Darn. I thought I had it.” I let go and the buzzer rang. “Thanks for a great roll,” I smiled. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Shark Girl’s Top Ten (Minus Two): Tips for Rolling Respectfully & for Good Global Relations

This is the segment of my blog where I offer you advice not just on jiu-jitsu, but on life. These little tips are good for rolling on the mats plus you can use them in your next conflict resolution summit with your favorite enemy nation. You’re welcome!
1.      Avoid travel to “hot spots.” There are some places where if you go, you are just asking for trouble. You won’t see me buying a plane ticket to Libya or Syria anytime soon, and you won’t see me intentionally placing a hand on a boob, a butt, or a testicle. You know that shit’s about to blow up. Sometimes, in the normal act of sparring, we do get a handful of something unexpected. Move on quickly. No one probably noticed.

2.      No nukes! (Or at least promote disarmament.) There’s a reason no one wants to play with the nations that are hiding their nuclear warheads. It’s the same in jiu jitsu. You can be talking with a partner all friendly-like three minutes beforehand, and then suddenly, after you tap hands, they go all North Korea on you. Remind yourself that your sparring partner is your friend, not your enemy. You have common goals. No one wins if you are such an aggressive asshole that you nearly break your partner’s arm, or launch a missile that destroys the northern hemisphere.
You just know this guy's got a nasty omoplata!

3.      Don’t spread your communicable diseases. If you have the sniffles or ebola, it’s time to stay home and cross train. Break out that old Jillian Michaels DVD or Richard Simmons if he is more your style (hey, I don’t judge). Perhaps go for a run or, hell, I don’t know—anything else that does not put you in body-fluid-swapping distance of another human being. It’s nice that you have learned to share, but a global epidemic is not what your kindergarten teacher had in mind.

This is the second time RS has made it into my blog. Coincidence? 

4.      Eliminate (Greenhouse) Gases. Being a good global neighbor involves caring for the environment. You should care about your gym’s environment, too. “Emissions” on the mat can make for a very unpleasant habitat. Now, of course, sometimes we can’t help it. My middle-aged intestines cringe when someone knee-rides me. I regularly compromise rolls for fear that extra exertion would expel something unpleasant-smelling. But we can reduce our “fart footprint” by eating foods our bodies digest without problem. And for all you who climate-change deny it, we know you are supplying it!
This kind of cauliflower is allowed!
Not okay pre-class.

5.      Stay within our own territory. Annexing the Crimea may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it only pissed off the neighbors. Likewise, stay on your section of the mat and tread lightly into the territory where others are already rolling. It is frustrating to constantly interrupt one’s roll and move to uninhabited territory because some Putin decides his roll is so powerful that he doesn’t have to pay attention to anyone else around him.

Who knew? Putin is a black belt in judo! I bet no one crowds him on the mat!

6.      Ban Torture. You are in deep on a choke, or so you think. But your partner’s not tapping. You may be saying to yourself, Damn him! He is supposed to tap when I choke him. I’ll choke harder! Yeah, and while you are at it, why not waterboard him to really show him who is boss? Chances are if your opponent doesn’t tap fairly quickly from your submission, you don’t have it. A properly executed sub needs no muscle to receive the tap. So if your opponent is not tapping, move on to something else. Or, better yet, communicate with him. It never hurts to ask, “Do I have this?” “Am I close?” or “Is this simulating drowning for you?”

7.      Clean Up Your Biohazards! It wasn’t nice for companies to dump their PCBs into the nearby river just because they were too busy and cheap to clean up after themselves. Likewise, if you recognize your blood on the mat, clean it up, and put a Band-Aid on that scrape. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all fun and games until someone contracts Hep C. On a less lethal note, wash yourself and your gi. It’s just common courtesy.

8.      Don’t (publicize that you) buy knockoffs. I’m not sure why this one really matters to international relations, but companies get pissy when other companies sell versions of their overpriced goods for much less. And when companies get pissy, governments listen. I’ve noticed the same thing in jiu jitsu. Most instructors get proprietary about their moves and their schools, even when they say otherwise. So, if you visit a new gym and learn a great move, don’t announce it to the class. Oh, sure, you can use it, but don’t reveal where you learned it unless it was at an instructor-approved seminar. In my experience, no matter how “open” your instructor says he is, he really doesn’t want you talking about how great the move you learned at the gym across town is.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Desperately Seeking Fresh Meat

 Oh, get down off your high horse. You know you feel the same way.
     Last night, I practically salivated when I saw a family come in, looking to sign up. An older dude, kind of on the small side, and his youngish son, destined for more muscle but right now stuck in that awkward puppy stage, with too-big paws and a gangly lope. The promise of their mother, too, a new female partner. Will she be small and wiry, or Swedish-masseuse burly? Who cares?!? Fresh Meat!
     I am at the stage of my jiu jitsu career where I might as well be pregnant. You see, I don’t really eat a lot of meat, and never beef. But when I was pregnant, I couldn’t stop shoving the stuff down my gullet. My body was saying, “Give your brat some protein!” And I did. That year, I think I single-handedly ate the whole Thanksgiving turkey.
Mmmm! I love me some unicorn!

     That is how I feel right now about newbs—the more the better. Yes, I am frustrated when they come in with their hefty muscles and their guns blazing. But, they can’t all be like that, right? And even if they are, I figure I’ve got a couple months tops to outsmart them before they figure out enough technique to add to their strength and foil my jiu jitsu plans.
     Right now, I need practice, I need to play around. And with the boys at my gym, I can’t really do that. I just hold on for dear life. I need some training partners that I can dangle on the end of my paw while I try to figure out exactly the right angle I need to get that sub just right.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jiu Jitsu Porn?

I woke up this morning next to a warm and willing body. Husband nudged closer and wrapped his arm around me, pulling himself on top. He painted my lips with gentle, luscious kisses, the kind that arrive in the morning when, after a night’s repose, everything feels intimate and tempting, the bed and bedclothes a cocoon of velvet. Husband’s body was a study in contrasts— supple yet taught against mine, soft but unyielding, tender and aggressive.
            I was caressing his rough, morning-bestubbled cheeks when it happened. It was like a violation. An attack at the most vulnerable of times. His hand crept around and I tensed up, drawing my elbows in. He tried to embrace me lovingly, moving his hands underneath my shoulder, but he couldn’t; he was blocked. He stopped, regrouped, then tried again. A second time he was blocked. He looked at me quizzically, his expression saying, Am I doing something wrong? Why are you refusing my touch? My elbows drew tighter to me, and I laughed, realizing that my body was acting of its own accord.
            “Were you trying to get the underhook?” I asked.
            “What?” asked my jiu jitsu-clueless Husband.
            “Cause you can’t have the underhook.” I said matter-of-factly.
            And I pummeled my arm under his, gaining control of his left shoulder.
            ‘Okay,” he said, and relaxed his arm over mine, unaware of the advantage he was giving me, returning my words with his beautiful, pliant kisses.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Jumping on the Cup Wagon . . .

Georgette, our favorite Female-Over-Forty blogger is tackling the issue of men wearing cups.

G. and her readers are discussing the technical advantages of cup-wearing. There is also a healthy debate about whether men should or should not roll with them and why. You can read it all here. I thought I would add my two cents on Cup Culture, among other things.
Insert junk here.
I’ve never thought much about the technical “advantages" or "disadvantages" of my male partners wearing a cup. I’ve also never been hurt by a cup sparring, though it seems many people have, including the wearers it was meant to protect. Usually, I do not think about my male partner's junk at all while grappling. I like to pretend they are Ken dolls. Neutered. As far as I’m concerned, they have no junk and I’d like not to be reminded otherwise.

Most of the time I am successful in ignoring my male partners’ genitalia. But there are several times when Shark Girl is oh-so unfortunately reminded that she is not sparring with the anatomically censored. And by Jesus, it really fucks with my concentration.

When I feel the cup, all of a sudden my little, private, no-gonads reverie is smashed. My partner is not a eunuch, and what is more, now I have to decide if he is a creep. Because the first thing Shark Girl thinks when she feels something hard down there is, “WTF? This dude better be wearing a cup!” I do not know whether to avoid the crotch region lest I contribute to this “excitement” or to do some recon into the area to make sure it is indeed a cup. All of this decision-making wastes precious time. In addition to thinking about grappling, now I have to decide whether my partner is “rolling for pleasure” and that butt grab was really NOT an accident, or whether he is just over-protective of his balls. Then I have to figure out what course of action will make me most comfortable in finishing this roll. My partner? He is just thinking about grappling. He has the advantage.

Dear Reader, this next section is not for prudes. If you continue reading, you were forewarned!

There is another thing that distracts me in the same way as the cup. Let me describe a recent scenario:

I was rolling with a male partner. We were having a splendid, technical time. I moved lithely around his body to maintain position, and my face happened to end up near his nether regions. On the next inhale, what did I smell? Semen. Yep. So, either this dude is pre-ejaculating to my fancy jitsu moves (I can’t be that good!), or he had a grand old time before class and forgot to wipe the sex off. I sincerely hope it was the latter. But, color me distracted. Instead of thinking about how to finish my move, my mind was going back and forth between creep alerts and visions of my partner in some afternoon delight:

Okay, this original is even funnier than the Anchorman clip. Watch for: the air guitar from the female lead, extra-large corsages, a prairie skirt, and two ladies singing to the smarmy 70s dude. I dare you to watch and not laugh.

I imagine that these things distract both men and women alike, providing a distinct technical advantage to the cup wearer or the pre-class sexy-timer. And there are hundreds of other little distractors that give advantages, like a period or a fast-food smell.
Yes, I want fries with that!
Or, maybe I just have ADD. . . .

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Age is Catching Up With Shark Girl!

I am feeling old. It’s not my high cholesterol or failing eyesight. It’s not my kidneyberg and all that’s put me through. It’s not that even now, two years after my LCL tear, every once in a while my knee tweaks and I have to take a break from jiu jitsu. It’s not the milestone birthday—45—precipitously approaching. It’s not even my training partner at the gym calling me “Old Bag.” Nope. None of those things. Dear Reader, what has pushed me over the edge of realization this past six months is . . . fat knees.
Why don't mine look this cute?
Yes, you read right. Shark Girl has fat knees. Not phat knees. That would be okay, welcome, actually. No, fat-with-an-eff knees.

This is where you all go, “Shark Girl. You are crazy. I’ve seen your profile pic and you are about as fat as Meghan Trainor is ‘All About That Bass.’”
At least she's got all the right junk in all the right places!
If you look at me—or my profile pic—it is hard to miss that I am small. Tiny. Minuscule, really. So tiny that third graders feel compelled to comment on my stature.
“Your mom is really small!” A friend of my 8-Year-Old Son commented to him. Great. I thought that when I left elementary school I would stop getting picked on by elementary school children. Apparently that was not in the cards for me.

But however small I may be, the other day when I was in downward dog, I noticed some skin draping gently down from my thigh and cascading over my kneecap. It was like my knee had a muffin top. I touched it. It was jiggly. It felt like whale blubber. I lifted it up. It fell back down. What the fuck! 

I’ve always had meaty thighs. It’s part of the Mediterranean childbearing curse. But my thighs are strong and muscular and nothing has ever drooped on them before. Now, apparently, they have mud flaps.
“Honey,” I lamented to Husband.
“What is it now?” He replied.
<sigh> “I’ve got fat knees.”
“No, you don’t”
“Yes I do.”
“Show me.”
“Here.” And I pointed to my little puffs of flesh.
“Hmmmpff,” he commented, putting on his reading glasses to get a better look.
“That’s nothing,” he replied, putting his glasses away.
“And look at this cellulite!” I added, because clearly he wasn’t giving me the reaction I wanted. (Does he know better, or has he learned from experience?)
“Honey, that’s always been there.” (Nope. Nothing learned from 18 years together.)
“Well, what the hell am I going to do about my fat knees?”

I don’t think there is anything non-surgical I can do about my fat knees, and that is why I feel old. I am not fat. I am not out of shape. I am old. My skin is stretching and sagging and forming new shapes. I am not sure what this means for my bikini bod, but it can’t be good news. Thankfully, gis cover the knees.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Where Have All the Small Dudes Gone?

My gym has had an influx of new people coming in to try out BJJ. This is always an exciting time—new people to test our skills!

It’s not that I don’t like the old, regulars, but as my skills improve, so do theirs and sometimes it feels like I am standing still. You know, like when you are driving alongside another car that is going the same speed and if you look out quickly and don’t see the trees whizzing by, it looks like no one is moving at all. It’s like that.

So when the fresh meat comes in, I get excited. ‘Cept for one thing. I swear, every person to walk through my gym’s doors in the past month or two has been HUGE. I mean MONSTROUS. GARGANTUAN. Like, picture that skyscraper in Dubai:
now add some girth, maybe to equal the width of , oh, I don’t know, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? 

Strap a gi on him and he looks just like our new guys!
Shark Girl is petite. Think of the smallest person you know. Now shrink that person down about half size, and add extra-large calf muscles and some child-bearing hips, and, if I’ve been neglectful in my waxing, a little Mediterranean fuzz on my upper lip. Now, close your eyes and put the two images of me and The New Guy side by side. *sigh* Here we go again.

I love new people. I just wish some of them were smaller, so I could actually practice a damn sweep. Or roll with them and not worry about cracking a rib or breaking something important. Big Dudes take so goddamned long to train, and it’s not a given that I will ever be able to train safely with them, to trust myself to them as a training partner. And if I do train them well (‘cause it’s usually my responsibility) then I always wonder, What am I really capable of? Am I getting an unfair advantage? I know it is silly, but if you read my last post about being a zealot, you understand that it is not enough for Shark Girl to be a bad-ass jitser (which I am definitely not, but I can dream, can’t I?), but I have to be bad-ass against the biggest, toughest, most fearsome foes that walk the mat, and not get hurt. See? I may not have the typical female issues, but mine are almost as impossible as looking like those girls in the magazines with their airbrushed facial lines and their plumped up, oiled body parts and their digitally-whittled waists. 
Wait 'til Paper Magazine gets a load of my sick Jiu Jitsu moves! Imagine the centerfold they will do of Shark Girl!
I was sparring with a man on the larger side the other day. Someone who has been working hard to train well with me and I am grateful for that. He had a worrisome look on his face.
     “Hey, what’s up?” I said.
     “Not much,” he replied.
      (Tap of Friendship)
      He sighed, looking me up and down, not sure where to start.
     “You know,” he said, “you are the hardest person here.”

For those big guys who really try to spar well with us little people, I understand it is difficult to suppress their God-given muscle and strength. And I want all you big guys who try to know that I, Shark Girl, appreciate your efforts immensely. Thank you, Big Dudes who really try to roll well with the wee folk, thank you.

However, I still hope when I see a new car in the parking lot, it’s owner will be under 175 pounds. And I am looking forward to the return of some good (small) friends who left the gym a few months ago for financial reasons and have promised to return in the new year.

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...