Almost one year ago, on August 14th, I went to my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, and I've never looked back.
It's hard to even know where to begin, because my first day seems like a lifetime ago and the amount of growth and change I've experienced since then is huge. I was 36 years old, a mom of three, and my cardio was abysmal. I stepped into the academy a scant 117 pounds, one of only three girls total, and without one minuscule clue of what the hell I was doing. Everyone was 30 to 60 pounds heavier than me, ten years younger and hardcore.
At first, I was turned around, backwards and upside down. I did not grasp the simplest of concepts and I felt like I was wasting everyone's time with my inability to learn quickly and unsteady attempts at basic movements. I cannot tell you how many times in those first few months, I'd come home covered in bruises, saying to my husband, "Nope. This is not for me. I'm going back to the gym where I'm safe and I know what I'm doing...." But every time I said I wasn't going back, or that I sucked, I'd put on my gi anyway and go back to class.... "one more time, just to see...."
I said "sorry" so much that my teammate told me, "every time you say I'm sorry from now on, I'm going to choke you out."
I don't know when it happened, but I eventually gained my sea legs. I got positions. I was applying legitimate maneuvers during sparring. I wasn't getting hurt anymore (though I still get amazing bruises!) I was closing my eyes and feeling my opponents movements and countering appropriately more and more often. BJJ got it's hooks in and I have been addicted ever since. I've fallen in love with the art, with my professors and teammates and I've made great friends. It's life, now.
How I've grown this year
- I can make it through warm up and crazy cardio days!
- I can spar for 6 six minute rounds back to back! (or so far...)
- I get the drills and rarely fuck them up too much! (unless they are a totally new concept)
- I can pin dudes down for longer and longer!
- My open guard has gotten remarkably better and I can be a pain in the ass with it!
- I don't get submitted as often anymore! (meaning only a few times in an entire night)
- I worked on position, pressure, posture and protection this summer and it really paid off! I may not be an attack dog, but my base and smash is getting damn good for a smurf!
- I competed twice!
- I can watch matches and understand what is going on! (when I started I didn't even know wtf "guard" was.)
What I want to improve next year
- Sweeps and escapes! I chose the position before submission route. My primary focus is my control and my protection, not fancy chokes and attacks. Now that I feel more comfortable with my chosen guard and with my top control, I need to know how to turn someone else's advantage around.
- Competitions! I definitely want to compete again and maybe more often next year. My problem is I barf in my mouth while I'm fighting due to nerves, and that is really distracting. I'd like to see that problem go away and maybe turn these bronze medals into gold.
- Be more aggressive! I still tend to hesitate and counter with most opponents. While this has helped me improve my bottom game, it also ends up getting me in bad positions, eventually. I don't feel comfortable attacking, but I have to get over it. How else will I know where I stand?
I'll save finessing my attacks for later, maybe when I'm a blue belt.
Starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was the best decision I've made in a long time and it is something I can continue doing for years and years. I'm really excited to see myself and my teammates grow. I plan to go all the way to black belt, even if it takes 20 years. If you are on the fence, or think it might be too much for an older person, or a woman - it is most definitely not! Try it and by this time next year, you, too, will be way more awesome. Cheers!