“You’re just oscillating between two options until you find your opening.”

I don’t know how where to start but I had become really disillusioned with jiu jitsu since the pandemic started. It revealed so much ugliness is some people who felt that by virtue of practicing they were some, I don’t know, for lack of a better term – morally superior. They just had to train and compete and not being able to do so caused something to break in them. These observations stem from watching what people post on social media and on a local level, the vitriol that came out of my city’s BJJ community page on Facebook. I know this isn’t true of everyone that jiu jitsu but the ugliness made me questions what was I even doing, along with the normal ups and downs that come with the sport. The pandemic has been taxing and traumatic for everyone and jiu jitsu is the outlet that enables a lot of us to keep the hinges on and go along with our daily lives.

Not having this outlet has also been revelatory. I don’t think practicing is something that defines me but I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt unmoored not being able to spend 12-15 hours training and trying to improve. It has been really weird trying to fill that void but the universe abhors a vacuum and watching copious amounts of television, cooking, and trying to find different ways to stay in shape seem to have taken up that space. But its’ not the same. I’m not fulfilled in the same way that I am after really hard training session where there are no easy rolls. Over the five years, that I’ve practiced jiu jitsu, I’ve often thought about the things I could have spent that time doing and maybe the things I’ve missed out. I could have spent more time reading, going out with my friends, trying to foster a romantic relationship, there are so many possibilities! But at the end of the day I don’t regret how that time was spent. Some friendships may have run their course but I’ve also formed new ones with my team and those are so strange when you think abstract them. I know how each of my teammates weighs, smell, and the density and composition of their bodies. Jiu jitsu has also given me self-esteem and confidence that I previously didn’t have which may have led to me having chosen romantic partners that bordered on abuse and took advantage of what used to be my meekness. These are things I wouldn’t change for the world and I’ve learned so many lessons and continue to learn new things about myself.

I’m really looking forward to returning to training. At the moment, it’s pressure from my family that has kept me away but I’m not sure how much longer I can go and am beginning to wonder if a calculated risk is worth while. My mind is honestly a mess without being able to balance it with the work and dedication that jiu jitsu demands. Work, so far as it being the good kind, where there something tangible at the end. Luckily, I haven’t been without being able to train for the past year. It’s crazy to think that it’s been a year since my last competition, something I’m not sure if I want to continue to pursue. I briefly went back to training at the end of the summer and even though it was great to be back, my mind wasn’t 100% there and that affects my training. I guess the heaviness that has come with the pandemic was distracting me. Right now, I’m training with my team mates, Joseph. He has mats at his house and I feel very fortunate for this opportunity.

Our current approach is a stripped down approach that is very heavy on fundamentals and the occasional Iminari roll and foot to the face. Each session begins with guard passing and retention. One way to look at jiu jitsu is that passing and breaking are the origin point. Once your guard has been passed, each subsequent action is trying to make up for the ground you lost there. From there, we move on to positional movements and this week was mount escapes. Joseph is constantly drilling into me how important it is to create options in your game so there are primary and secondary actions. For mount escapes this alternating between shrimping on one side and trying to trap & roll on the other. So we just drilled and drilled and he emphasized that “you’re just oscillating between two options until you find your opening.” We joked about how this is one of this lessons that applies to real life and it’s one I needed to hear.

This weeks sessions was one of those nights which reminds why I absolutely love jiu jitsu and am hell bent on getting to black belt. I felt that I had finally shaken off my pandemic ring rust but Joseph said that I’m actually improving. This is a small thing but also a huge compliment. For the longest time I had been feeling like I had plateaued and maybe it was because jiu jitsu hadn’t been fun for a long time but to feel fluid and the puzzle feelings is truly one of the best feelings in the world and one that keeps me coming back. It felt rally good to maul someone in a way I hadn’t in what felt like since I was a white belt.

Anyhow, as far as books go, I’m currently reading Moby Dick. It’s so long but also good because of Ahab’s determination to seek revenge of the leviathan that took his leg.

I also have a stack of books that I started at the beginning of the pandemic and am learning that non-fiction is perhaps not for me even though there is so much to learn! My stack of shame consists of: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Excellent Cadvaras, The Way of Zen, True Tales from Another Mexico, and The Labyrinth of Solitude.

“You’re just oscillating between two options until you find your opening.”