Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dispatches from bottom cross-sides: A girl's guide to BJJ

(Author note: This is a sad attempt at humor, and definitely not an approach I recommend you take on your path in jiu jitsu. It's simply the truth dispatched from from my tiny corner of the world's jiu jitsu mat--where I'm usually pinned beneath an opponent with plenty of time to mull over things like this. True story.)

I've been a part of the art for five years now. Can you believe that? I started out as a chubby newly-minted Judo brown belt (sankyu) with nowhere to train. Over the course of the years, I've dabbled in MMA, had a baby, had a brain surgery, had another baby, had a few temper tantrums, had some fun at Worlds, and picked up a few tricks along the way for surviving your occoasional "off day."

I hate to admit it, but the road back from LONG, LONG months off is tough. It actually sucks BIG TIME most of the days of the week. In fact, I was lying on the floor of our living room the other night, talking to P about what a crap-tastic night I had on the mat and I had an epiphany.

"I want to be good," I said to my husband, a blackbelt who hasn't had a bad jiu jitsu day in five years (he's been doing the art six, I think. Poo on him.)

"I just don't want to get good."

He nodded in his sage-like fashion and shrugged his shoulders in that "what can ya do" manner he does so well. (Well, for starters, you can give me that "get good quick" guide you're hiding from me....)

Does that make sense? It did in my head at the time, and I guess that's what counts anyway. So while I've been pinned beneath Brendan, or backpedaling like my life depended on it from Bo, I've come up with the following survival techniques. Hope they come in handy for you sometime. They sure get me through the agonizing hour or two....

A Girl's Guide to Jiu Jitsu: Surviving the Occasional Bad Day

1. Learn the gift of gab

We could be total strangers when the match begins, but if I'm stressed or at a loss of what to do, you can be certain I'm going to become your best friend. I'm going to ask you about your family, your favorite color, any good movies you might have seen, your pick for Sunday's game, or whether you'd take Big Bird over Grover in a cage match.

I'll talk faster and with more focus the more you push the pace. I'll comment on my toenails and their fabulous green color. I'll ask you to look and when you do, I'll increase the distance between us and shrug when you realize I've just talked my way out of a potential foot lock.

2. Choose your opponents wisely

Listen, you might be the next Dalai Lama with a pure soul and the cure for cancer somewhere in that brain of yours. But please believe I'm watching your roll, and if your a grabby, limb yanking maniac, well, chances are high that we'll never occupy the same 10-foot radius of mat together. We'll be like opposite ends of a highly-charged magnet...the closer you come when looking for a partner for the next round, the further I'll scoot away. We'll keep the same twenty feet of space between us no matter where you go.

It's nothing personal, it's just that since I turned 30, my joints are made of glass and my skin screams in protest whenever its pinched. What I used to be able to power through and return in kind when I was 29, now makes me weepy at 33, as though you meant it on purpose and had no other goal in that match other than giving me a thumbprint bruise on the fat part of my arm. And then I have to tattle on you to my husband, and then he as to address the situation...I'm kidding. Sort of...

3. In case of emergency, deploy "girly scream"

God, this one is embarrassing to admit. But I do it so often it has to count...and when I see my sisters on the mat out there doing the same thing, well, I understand its power.

When I say scream, what I really mean is that sort of shriek-slash-laugh we do when we're suddenly hoisted up in the air in a mega-sweep.

Usually when I've been caught unaware (which is always)...the moment I'm airborne, I'll let out this banshee-esque squeal that serves two purposes: one, it'll alert everyone in earshot that I'm up in the air and could end up warned.

Two, it lets the sweeper know that I'm terrified and have the expectation that when I land, I will have my spleen and kidneys still intact. It's a sort of "OMG" shriek that hopefully sends the message that I'm about to pee my pants in fear and for you to reconsider that the next time you catch me off balance. I'm like a cat and my claws will stick in the ceiling if you keep it up...

The girly scream's close cousin is the slipped expletive. I use this one mostly as I'm crashing to the ground in a failed take-down attempt. They slip out, unintentional, but make me feel better just the same. Therapeutic even, as my face is ground down into that smelly blue mat while you perfect your awesome sprawl. (Have I mentioned how much I hate your sprawl? Almost as much as I hated your jab when we used to spar, but nearly as much as I think your triangle is the Spawn of Satan.)

4. Embrace the power of distractions

Do you think it's a coincidence that I bring my beautiful kids with me to training? Sure, it's partly because nobody in the city of Anchorage wants to babysit all three of them at a time five nights a week...but it's also that they come in real handy at about the 42 minute mark of the 60-minute class.

You know, that point where you heart is hammering in your chest so hard you can't keep up with your your lungs are sucking in while you're trying to push out and all you manage to do is make a lot of noise and NOT get a lot of air in?

The point where you can no longer sip water and you just sorta douse your face with half your water bottle and hope some ends up in your mouth?

Yep, that point.

It's no secret that my baby girl doesn't cry, but I still pick a point in practice to hover over her like she's wailing and hollering in panic. I'm not above pinching her foot to garner the desired sound effects.

In gi class, my favorite trick is the ol' belt/pants emergency. Just flattened me out for three minutes straight? Suddenly I have no mission in life save one: create the perfect obi (belt) knot. I will tie, retie, tie again, retie a fourth time until that darn thing looks so good Sensei Jigoro Kano would give me the thumbs up from his grave. After that, I'll redo my ponytail. Fix my eyebrows, and trim my toenails.

Beep beep!

Round's over? My bad. Next time, my friend, for sure... Ha!

5. Dish out "grossio jiu jitsu" and learn a few dirty tricks

I am not above the "accidental" elbow drive into your thighs to loosen a guard.

Have you ever watched two women roll? Especially two women who are'll see moves that would make Ric Flair proud. I've been in matches with Lauren that have ended and I have about a quarter less hair then when I started.

I've used a friend's ponytail as a means to keep her head pinned to the ground (a move we've dubbed the "hair bar") and I'm not above "accidentally" kicking you in the sportsbra if the situation calls for it. I've spit in Jayson's eye (not on purpose, but it sure helped the situation out a lot), pulled Patrick's leghair, and used Jordan's forehead as a post to help me stand up.

I'm ruthless, it's true, but what I lack in technique and gas tank, I sure make up for in creativity.

See you on the mat...


1 comment:

  1. Yikes! I would surely, surely suck at this kind of thing. I'm wincing just reading this!