My husband and I decided to take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) later in life, because what is better for old bones than crushing them, repeatedly, into a mat? Our girls take jiu jitsu, and our son is going to take jiu jitsu, so we figured we might as well make it a family affair and spend time together making our bodies fitter, healthier and stronger. We signed ourselves up, got our sweet gis (the bjj uniform) and rashguards, and joked about becoming the family that can take down all the other families on the block.
And then we got our asses handed to us, like we knew we would.
BJJ is a sport of leverage and technique, where even smaller people can submit larger opponents. It is a grappling art that ends in submissions and chokes. There is no kicking or punching. This is no McDojo. You don't get a new belt by performing a solo dance without a hitch. You earn it by putting in time and performing techniques in real situations. For me, the rule is the same as for lifting weights: if you truly want to learn and get better, you have to check your ego at the door and get defeated. Then you have to get up the next day and do it again. And again. Slowly, you add plates to the bar or another move to your repertoire, and, one day, you realize it has sunk in and you are performing movements you never thought you could. Things that made you feel like a newborn deer on ice day one are now as comfortable as walking. (For the record, I'm still the newborn deer on ice during bjj class.) But it takes practice, practice, practice.
I have to admit, the first week had me wanting to quit. Everyone, even the few girls, is bigger than me by at lest 30 pounds. Nothing was sinking in. I was covered in bruises and mat burn. Everything hurt. It was a demoralizing week, to say the least. All I wanted to do was lie in bed with a tray of lasagna and marathon the Mindy Project. But I knew I wouldn't do that. So I kept showing up to class, promising myself the lasagna another time.
"Why are you doing this to yourself?" Is the question I get asked a lot.
Because, in November, I am going to be irrevocably in my late 30's. This is my last shot to see what my body is capable of in it's prime. This is my last stand to say I did something. As far as I know, this is the only life I get to live and I would rather laugh about bruises and beatings than sit on the sidelines with the wouldda, couldda, shouldda's, pretending to brag about all the stuff I could have done if only I wanted to. That kind of attitude has never satisfied me, intellectually or physically. I try to live by the phrase, "If you're the smartest/strongest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." In short, I'm entering a new room, perpetually challenging myself until the end.
Besides, it's not really a challenge if you don't think about quitting at least once.
Because we stuck with it, we are already feeling more comfortable. I'm still nervous before class, and my conditioning is still garbage, but I am getting better at drills. I recently started sparring a bit. And if you are dead or incapacitated, I can perform a very slow armbar on you. Progress. We may not be the family that can take down all the other families on the block yet, more like the family who can barely get out of bed in the morning because we are so stiff and sore, but we like it. Give us a year and we will be unstoppable.
Don't fade out, guys. Find something that will challenge you and do it! Sit around the fire in your old age and tell your grandkids raucous stories of triumph and defeat. Don't say you would've, could've, should've. And if your punk-ass great grandson says he doesn't believe you, choke him the f*ck out.