It’s been nearly a week since I had an MRI. The MRI itself lasted only 20 minutes, and with rest and progressive exercise, the world doesn’t seem to be crashing down around me. In fact, I want to kick it up a notch and begin to go to class again, but with a more conservative attitude. After all, to achieve great things in BJJ it takes time and a lot of effort.
Without BJJ everything else somehow feels less important. My life is reflected in the mat. My face stares back at me and the eyes are the truest window to the soul. What my soul wants more than anything else is consistency and progress. When I hit a new technique, or am recognized by a coach for a job well done, I feel like I am moving upstream, rather than against life’s current. Life delivers blows and somehow my attitude changes.
Sometimes I run with the wind at my back and smile; other times I run against it and whisper under my breath, “Bring it on.” I don’t care how I look when I’m doing the crazy athletic antics I’ve done since I could walk, I never did. My only care is if the technique is correct. So, the more time I miss away from the mat, the bags, the environment, and the people, the more I wonder how far I am falling behind and out of touch with life. What I know, without a doubt, is that every time I fall behind, jiu-jitsu and I eventually catch each other in a grip of pride.
The Pride Of Jiu Jitsu
During the MRI I experienced the ironic oddity of claustrophobia in that narrow machine. I could easily have shrimped my way out of. The irony passed, and I began to stew in my own juices with a few tears, memories, and fears. What if I they didn’t fuse everything they could have before, and so on? The worries mounted into a pending catastrophe.
I had to bear with one of the technicians who had been anticipating a free UFC card on television the same night. Most of my readers know, or have met the type. I asked her where she trains, and she responded, ”Oh, I practice with my husband.” I replied, ”Where does he train?” “Oh, he used to train at uhm . . . this place a little outside town.” I name some possibilities and she responded, “Yeah, yeah that’s it. It’s just a money thing, and stuff.”
Of course, she presents herself as an expert on the entire fight scene. She asked me if I was as strong as Rousey, Cyborg, or Kaufman, and then added that she would not be surprised if a, ”wild arm bar,” or “nasty omoplata” was the culprit of my nerve pain. She continued in a deep voice, “Yup, we need to get you better so you can rumble with me. I just don’t like getting punched in the face and, according to your chart, you’re 5’ 7”, that might be a reach problem for me.”
This little side show illustrates how ignorant people really are about athletics they seldom engage in. It also brought to front and center in my mind just how many of you are working, managing family time, and dedicating your entire training program to jiu-jitsu alone. I am in awe of people who dedicate 100% of their training time to refining this one style alone. Although I attempt to inspire, educate, and promote jiu-jitsu for you, you do it for me as well.
One thing we Vale Tudo and BJJ types have in common are families and friends whom we love, and many are fortunate enough to have that love reciprocated. In fact, some of you may not have even known that type of kinship and loyalty until you began your journey into BJJ. You must love BJJ to keep coming back for more, risks and all. Despite potential herniated discs, sprains, strains, overtraining syndrome, and emotional ups and downs in competition, there is only one explanation: you love it.
However, when down and out or injured, you may find yourself having to defend your passion. If you’re as rambunctious as I am, you may point to your cauliflower ear, the fingerprint bruises in your biceps from opponents attempting to keep you in guard, and fusion scars like I have with glee! But some people will roll their eyes, thinking your actions are selfish, expensive, risky, or foolish.
They don’t know the particular sense of pride jiu-jitsu provides. That lab technician is going to have to adjust to more than a couple of hard rights to the face if she’s ever really going to experience one roll. Jiu-jitsu has, on many occasions, brought me to my knees with frustration and injury, but the art catches me before I hit rock bottom. My team becomes my family. Loved ones must understand that anyone who trains on the mat for health, intellectual stimulation, socializing, and pride in one’s achievements is not to be attacked for all their efforts. Perhaps, to avoid a shouting match, find a comparison with a supervisor or parent. Tell them what you need, and listen with an open mind and empathy to their concerns.
To be honest, there are some things about jiu-jitsu training I don’t like, and I often catch myself clock watching or thinking I’ll get through a fifth round some nights. Then, just like running against the wind, I bear down, smile, and think to myself while looking at the opposition, ”Bring it on!” I know there is an end, but hopefully I’ll be quite a bit older, and get up on my own with pride and dignity when I’m finished. After all, I owe the art and my fellow practitioners who have caught me and helped me up — both literally and figuratively — a thousand times over.
June Louise Elliott, MA
American Council on Exercise-CPT (Training out of Gracie Raleigh, Raleigh, NC)
Have you had the same experiences? Do you share the same pride?
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