No gi today.
I pull out one of my favorite compression shirts—camo with a large yellow Batman logo on the chest. I bought the XXL because if I bought my usual large, it would suffocate me.
And that’s what these guys are here to do.
Class begins differently. David is sick. Ethan’s instructing today.
“I want to teach you some warm-ups you can do in place. Warmups you can do if you are waiting for another class or if you are at a tournament.”
We shrimp, breakdance and then learn (for me) a new movement. It’s called a sweep and the one today is a Kimura. (There are many sweeps in jiu-jitsu). Little do I know I’ll be doing this about 40 times in the next hour.
The move is something like this: on your back, feet on the floor; sit up and post one hand behind you, then push off with the opposite leg and turn over toward the side the arm you posted is on. Now you’re facing down. This is the drill, we’re not working with a partner yet. With a partner, you trap your opponent's arm with arm not posted behind you.
This sweep is one way to get out of your opponent’s top guard.
We practice this sweep and then a bottom guard break.
Bottom guard: your opponent is on his back, but has his legs wrapped around your hips—not good for you. He has lots of control.
“Get your arms close to your body. Sit on your feet; get your posture. Hands on his hips. Then clear a little space, turn your hips a bit, step up with one foot to under his butt; then over his leg with your shin until your knee hits the mat on the other side of his leg. Then move to side guard.”
Side guard: You are at a T on top of your opponent, chest to chest, one arm under his head, one under his shoulder, hands clasped together. Shoulder into his chin, all your weight is on him.
We practice the sweep and the guard break with a partner after warming up.
Then we roll.
Ethan takes me for the first round.
I wonder if the more advanced guys ever get tired of working with the new guys? It’s a self-centered thought. There goes the brain again. I don’t want to seem a burden. I’d rather give than receive. Up to this point, I can see that learning jiu-jitsu is all give AND take.
And I’m sure I’ll be given a lot of chokeholds and armbars soon enough.
I roll with C next. He’s at least 6’5” and been practicing at least 10 years. Rolling with him is like rolling with a tree. Immediately, I’m taken back to jr. college and a friend I had. He was close to 7’ and 300 pounds. We would “wrestle” in his living room. Mostly, he would pick me up with one arm and take me back and forth over his body like a rag doll, like watching a cartoon.
Jiu-Jitsu is designed to make size less of an advantage. Still, rolling with a guy who has arms the length of tree limbs and hips bigger around than what my legs can grasp is intimidating.
C is a patient and kind opponent/teacher.
Learning something new takes thought. Jiu-Jitsu is really a dance, when you break the moves down. Like learning to jitterbug or tango.
They say the brain is the energy hog of the body, consuming many times more calories than any other organ or system. My brain must be working hard because I’m sweating, and not a little.
I’m slick, like I rolled in petroleum jelly. This almost makes it easier to get out of holds and guard, just slide around. Sweat also makes it more difficult for me to get a grip.
The profusion of sweat is embarrassing. During my college years, I raced road bikes. In the winter, I trained on stationary rollers in my mom’s living room. Imagine three aluminum cylinders, two closer together under the back wheel, one directly under the front wheel. This arrangement gives you full steering control and the ability to fall off and hurt yourself. Smooth pedaling lets you stay upright.
My niece would watch me ride/train while I went nowhere.
One day she says, “Grandma, Uncle Joel is raining.” Sweat was falling off of me like an overflowing plugged up rain gutter. Yep, I’m a sweat-storm. There’s my superpower. I’ll sweat you to death.
Does Sweat Storm wear a cape or a towel?
C reminds me to breathe and slow down. “You can wear yourself out while the other guy is resting, so learn to rest.”
There is a chess-like quality to this martial art: the honoring of the opponent--your partner in a dance to submission; the reasoning between the ears while making sure the guy you’re squeezing with your legs or arms doesn’t get away from you; the way the upper belts patiently teach the newbies.
C tells me, “Don’t turn your back to me. You don’t want to do that. If you do, you’re done. Always face your opponent.”
“Always face your opponent.” A good lesson for life.
A few years ago, I finally realized my greatest opponent had been myself. I dealt with my fears, my disappointments, my failures by blaming and shaming myself. I tried to turn away because I was afraid of what I might see when I looked myself in the eye. And when this was the case, I lost every time. I went further into a black hole. Only when I finally faced myself, sat with those thoughts, fears, disappointments, and didn’t turn away, did I begin to see victory.