Friday, May 20, 2011


So that whole "be careful what you wish for" adage?  Not entirely off the mark.

I finally got back to class tonight.  I was there Monday, and we are focusing on escapes from side control this week.  You know, those terrible things that everyone always needs help with and that no one ever enjoys.  Also, Andy competes this weekend, so training afterwards was directed mainly at him, giving him fresh guys to put him in bad spots.  So we worked for him a while and tried to get him thinking in a competition mindset.  Then the restaurant I'm working at opened and I've been working too often there, so I didn't get to train Tuesday or Wednesday.  By the time I got to class tonight, it felt like I hadn't done jiu jitsu in two weeks.

We still worked side control escapes.  I had some trouble with a few of them; part of that is that I'm kind of lazy on the bottom of side control, and part of it is that my partner is very strong in that position.  So it wasn't good, but it wasn't all bad, either.  Afterwards, I worked with Zach first.  I let him get to advantageous positions for me to work out of.  That lasted for probably ten minutes.  He's finally back to training after his knee decided to fail him, and he's trying to find his lungs again.  Also, he's still gripping with all his might and muscling a lot, so that will come with time.  Klint had been training with Vance, and when Zach was done I stepped up for a little whupping.

And what I got was much more than a little whupping.  I got stomped on.  Nineteen different ways.  He played an aggressive game, and it was apparent that it was going to be that way all night.  At the beginning of class we did a few "real life self-defense techniques":  elbowing to the top of the head from guard, eye-gouging, throat-grabbing (the Roadhouse, as he called it).  His reasoning is that in real life situations, the rules we impose on ourselves in the academy do not apply, so we should be ready for anything.  And that means that if we have to get up to prevent someone's friends from running over and having a boot-party on our face, then worrying about his eyes or throat are less important than getting right the hell out of Dodge.  So that's the mindset he was in at the start, and his training reflected it.  We weren't (and he didn't) actually eye-gouging or elbowing or anything like that.  It was more to build familiarity with that movement.  On the mat training, he didn't give me any quarter.  At least, it didn't seem like I got any quarter.  It was one of those rolls where the black belt decides he wants to work a few things, and you don't get any say in it.  It's humbling, it's painful, and it reminds me exactly where my game isn't.  In short, it sucked.  And it made me feel like I've never done jiu jitsu in my life.  I couldn't get out of mount.  I couldn't come close to passing his guard (which is nothing new).  I couldn't protect my arm.  I felt my body resorting to pure survival and my technique packing up and running out the door.  After the first tap, I realized this was how the roll was going to proceed.  After the second--where I still couldn't do anything--I felt some control slipping.  I suppressed the tears and slapped in for the third.  Repeat.  And again.  And one more time (I think; I don't know how many times we went---I know only what happened).

At the end, I was demoralized and reverted to the five-year-old that part of me never stopped being.  So I bowed, thanked, and curled up in a ball on the side to try to regroup.  I refused to leave the mat in a blubbering mess, so I stayed there for much longer than was comfortable and, quite possibly, much longer than was appropriate.  I stayed there as Gina and Klint rolled, and he did the same thing to her.  She is much, _much_ better than I, and he played the same game.  It's even possible he gave her less quarter than he did me, but I have no real idea.  I was trying too hard not to embarrass myself to really measure Klint's degree of ferocity.

This is hard.  And we as practitioners are deeply invested in our technique and our progress.  And when it seems like we have made no progress despite the hours and hours of hard work we have put in, it is hard on our self-esteem.  It is emotionally draining and defeating.  And last night, I was both drained and defeated.


  1. Oh man, my heart goes out to you... that is me so often. I just know that it was also Klint (and easily can be Klint even now)... there are ALWAYS people out there way better than us. I don't know why we keep needing to be humbled? Maybe that's not it. Maybe we just need to be cannon fodder for the people ahead of us...

  2. Hey Christopher - I don't check in too often to comment but I just wanted to say I really enjoy your writing style. It's genuine, honest and almost therapeutic to read, actually, since I find myself thinking the same things. Great post - I have been feeling on a high myself lately and this reminds me that some day soon I'm likely to have my face smashed into the dirt again.