Some weeks are more emotional than others. And some people choose hobbies that calm them down. I choose to train a sport that makes me face myself several times a week.
I’m excited for class, we will practice attacking from the back. Wednesday’s instructor takes warm-ups seriously, and the bear walks, shrimping and other moves make me a gasping wreck before we have even started the techniques. My training partner is a Swedish-speaker, so we switch to Swedish on my accord. Every move feels hard to duplicate. Connecting several moves into a technique feels impossible. The instructor comes to help every now and then. My training partner feels that opening his turtle is too much for me, so he starts to teach me how to control someone in turtle properly.
I’m already feeling exhausted when another training partner comes to inform me that my gi bottoms are slipping down and I should probably pull them up.
“I just pulled them up.” I reply like a moody four-year old. I’m not thankful, I’m annoyed. I don’t give a crap if my crack shows, why should anyone else? (Disclaimer: I was tired and already a bit miserable. I can see the benefits of dressing appropriately for activities.)
“Yeah, ok. I didn’t mean any harm by it”, the training partner says. I nod and fight back tears. Now I can’t even keep my pants high enough.
I dive into the turtle, because that way no-one can see me crying softly into the tatami. The feeling of not being able to do anything right doesn’t pass easily. The training partner of this class keeps chatting away with his advice, either not seeing my discomfort or just ignoring it. I do manage to armbar him with my legs during the drill, even though it takes both him and the instructor talking me through it.
Sparring clears my head. I get punched in the jaw. Someone else gets kicked in the head, luckily without serious injury. My friend calls it accidental MMA, as you’re not supposed to kick or hit in BJJ. When class ends, I train the infamous little children’s forward roll on my own. Another training partner gets to hear about me crying and can relate. “I also cry about everything.” I limp home overtired.
I wonder if half-guard is in vogue everywhere, or just at our gym. I follow the techniques a bit better than on Wednesday. After fundamentals, I stay around for half of the sparring. A friendly blue belt teaches me to pass the half guard by blocking his thigh and compliments me on my back escape. I don’t mind when another round begins, everyone else has paired up, and Head Coach must roll with me. After all, his private classes are out of my price range.
“Come on, keep fighting till the end”, Coach says when my grip loosens too much shortly before the round ends. It gives me the energy to flounder about until the timer goes. I wheeze on the mat, and my sodding gi bottoms are riding a bit too low again. Coach says something encouraging, something that regardless of obvious holes in my game, I am doing some things right.
We are still down on the tatami, and I am an awkward, dramatic person. “Can I say something?”
“I’d like to compete someday.”
Coach is a decent human being, I presume, so he doesn’t laugh in my face. “Okay, then we’ll keep training.”
BJJ makes me often forget my principles, like not apologising for being on the mat. “I just feel silly for wanting to compete cause I’m so bad. I was worried it would be embarrassing for the gym.”
Coach shakes his head. “You’ll get there to exceed yourself first and foremost, not anyone else.”
I slip away in a better mood than Wednesday.
Open Mat at GB Gym again, with less people from my own gym than the previous time. I have finally complied and put spats on underneath my gi. I’m not afraid of sparring the way I was in January when I last was here. Some rolls are intense, others become more like training sessions as the more experienced partner starts to coach me. A stripeless white belt teaches me the Americana, which I have not been taught at my own gym yet. Later I submit another white belt twice with the same move! This is so not who I am. Of course, I can’t pull it off the third time with another partner, I start to overthink.
After the spars, I’m elated and overly chatty in the changing room. I look in the mirror and notice the bruise on my jaw for the first time. It’s from Wednesday.
This was a good week, even with the intense parts. I couldn’t tolerate every week of training being this emotionally taxing though. It is probably a good thing I only have time to train twice next week. Another of those classes will be no-gi, which I have ignored way too much this Spring.