Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Back in October I competed for only the second this year. This is way less than in previous years, especially compared to how much I competed as a white belt. But there were also different factors at play. There were three tournaments that I wanted to do but ended up missing because of injury or scheduling conflicts. The fight team was really active this year and a lot of those tournaments coincided with days the guys were fighting so I didn’t have a coach and still get nervous about going to a tournament alone (this is actually a nightmare of mine and I hope it never happens). And the most whiny excuse as to why my competition presence was so low is because I just didn’t feel ready and all the frustrations I was dealing with BJJ in general resulted in my heart not being in it. Also, I sprained my calf at muay thai and that took months to heal.

But! Eventually my disillusionment subsided and I fell back in love with jiu jitsu. It took some time and me stepping far outside my comfort zone. Jiu jitsu is a long journey and filled with lots of bumps, peaks and valleys, and so on. Most of mine had been limited to my home gym and training partners. I hadn’t gone to an open mat or a seminar that wasn’t at my own gym so once I finally did that, a new world opened up to me. Open mat at another gym exposed me to different styles of rolling that broke up some of that staleness/frustration and I was able to make some new friends! I also attended to seminars. One with The Canutos, Renato and Raquel, and the other with Lucas Lepri. Each of these deserves their own post and I will try to get to that in time. All of these things were super invigorating and made me feel more serious about my training. It became less about going to the gym and being with my friends, even though that it a major reason I go. Training and the gym is my refuge and to an extent it is like a religious experience and I get to spend time with people I enjoy. But this wasn’t enough at the time and to avoid becoming one of those storied people that gets their blue belts and dips out I needed that shift in focus.

So I set my sights on a tournament in the fall. The AZBJJF’s Southwest Classic. It would be my second appearance there and hopefully redemption from my awful performance the year before. I was stronger physically and mentally. I really should not have been competing at the end of 2017. I was broken hearted and so unhealthy. I showed up to that tournament weak and unfocused. I had been trying to do too many things at once so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain I was feeling. I was studying for the LSAT and took that 3 weeks before the tournament, the weekend after that I took a trip to Montana, and then competed following week. In sum I wasn’t training like I wanted to win and didn’t have a plan.

Fast forward to this year and my new mindset. I trained harder and in a more concentrated way. I tried to focus on what my weak points were in the last tournament and that turned out to be getting caught in side control. My teammates and I just worked that and my coach even had a few classes where that was my sole focus. Also, I was attending a women’s only competition class over the summer that was really tough and had lots specific training. All of this really paid off when I finally did step on to the mats.

The tournament itself was a bit a change from previous ones. My coach couldn’t make it because again, the guys were fighting (!), but I was lucky enough that one of our brown belts, Danny, who is also a good friend was competing and able to coach me. We drove up together, also good because it was raining horribly that day. Danny competed first and ended up being moved into a different division and lost on points. My division was a little bit after and there were three of us. For once I had the buy and tried not to focus too much on the match between the other two girls. I ended up with two matches that day and placing second! I won my first match with a cross collar choke from guard. It was tough but I felt good throughout. I don’t remember much though because this was back in October but I pulled guard and I think there was a scramble that ended up with her back in my guard.

The second match was tougher. I had competed against this girl last year and she took first in our division. Overall, my performance was much stronger. I’m not okay with having lost but to see an improvement is important. Last year I got caught in side control and hit in the mouth and started to flounder once I tasted blood. This year it was a better match. I didn’t concede like I did then and was able to escape side control but unfortunately I got caught in mount and ended up giving up my back to tapping to a bow and arrow! It was so frustrating because it felt like I forgot mount escapes. Nonetheless, I’m still proud of myself for the gains, small as they were, and not having given up on jiu jitsu or competing. I’m hoping to compete more next year and hopefully make it to Pans or the Las Vegas Open. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

Books: After finishing Emergency Contact I ended up doing a lot of rereading. I’m planning for future posts on those books because rereads always give a different perspective because hopefully between each reading of a book you’ve grown as a person and are able to take something different away from the book. I’m sure if I read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening I’d understand in a totally different way at 28 versus 21. My rereads were: Harry Potter 1-3 and The Shadow of the Wind (one of my all time favorites!). I’m also still working my way through the Labyrinth of Solitude and have added True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx. The latter is a quicker read but still slow and maybe I need a break from nonfiction.

Advertisements
Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Emergency Contact

20181202_215658.jpgI took a break from slogging my way though nonfiction and a bunch of other things, like writing (!), and read Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi. This was prompted by my need to read something that was  1. just going to be fun and also bring me some joy from the frustration I’d been experiencing at the gym (note: I read this over the summer when things were still bad, more on later) and 2. This passage that I saw posted somewhere on Twitter right after it came out.

Continue reading “Emergency Contact”

Emergency Contact

Grand Canyon Open 2018

FB_IMG_1523155032706.jpg
Trying to maintain my guard despite getting caught with “the spliter”.

I competed in the NABJJF Grand Canyon Open for the third time early last month. This tournament makes me a little nostalgic since it was the first one tournament I ever signed up for and the only one time I’ve signed up for two divisions. Last year I signed up for gi only and came away with a silver medal. This year, my first as a blue belt, I competed in no gi, a weaker area for me, and did not make it to the podium. I’m not upset that I didn’t place. I think it’s great that there were more women in my bracket than usual. Usually, it’s so small that everyone places by default, so this is good for the sport and competition but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I was disappointed in myself and frustrated. I’m still adapting to being at the bottom again and the competition at blue belt is very different compared to what it was as a white belt.

____________________________________________________________________________

I wrote that paragraph at the beginning of May. Tomorrow is the first of June and my frustration has continued to grow; not just with being a relatively new blue belt but maybe, unfortunately with jiu-jitsu itself. I think I’ve been avoiding coming to terms with that and as a result, writing the original post, because of how much stock I have put into my training. I started martial arts right as I was entering a turbulent time in my life that had lots of change and I’ve jokingly referred  it to as my quarter life crisis. Jiu jitsu was there for me through what amounted to lots of ups and downs and some very low downs. I don’t really wanted to get into the details about that right now because some of these things are still painful to talk about but jiu jitsu was my anchor and as long as I dragged myself to the gym and got some good rounds in, I knew I would be okay, even if it was just until I get back onto the mats.

It’s entirely possible that this wasn’t a healthy way to cope and now I’m paying for it. Lately, I’ve been struggling to be motivated while I’m at class. I feel like I’ve plateaued harder than I ever have over the past three years and I hate it. I hate not being excited to go the gym and work on improving my game. I know some of this comes with the constant change in training partners. My original cohort has dispersed and my personality doesn’t mesh well with some of the newer ones. The whole atmosphere has been different and despite my best efforts to hold fast, I’ve flirted with the idea of quitting all together. It just seems easier to go back to just striking but I think I would also feel weird if I did that. I’m not sure if that weirdness would be the result of shame but I do think I would be very disappointed in myself. Jiu jitsu is the first activity that I’ve picked up and really poured myself into with the intention of being the best I can be and not giving up. To move forward, I’m going to try to keep this sentiment in mind and compete again soon. Hopefully that mental reset will do me some good and pull me out of the funk. I hate being so whiny.

As for the books: I’m currently working on The Labyrinth of Solitude  by Ocatvio Paz. It feels very academic but is still readable and enjoyable. I’m not sure what’s the best way to talk about it, just as I’m not sure how to talk about Vonnegut’s Mother Night, the last book that I read. It was good, like everything else of his that I’ve read, but I don’t have the words to properly describe how it made me feel.

Grand Canyon Open 2018

20180211_140321.jpg

Where does the time go? The past few months have been such a blur. Time has alternated between excruciatingly slow and zooming past by me. I retook the LSAT this past Saturday and since I woke up that morning at 5:45, I have not stopped. Immediately after the test I went over to weigh-ins for Rise of the Prospects 3: Sanctuary, went home and tried to nap, met up with my family for post-LSAT and birthday celebrations, stayed out too late, woke up the next day and went run the timer for the grappling matches and watch the muay thai fights, got up the next day for work and just started training again. It’s been insane but I’m so relieved to be done with the LSAT.

I have not been able to relax since I decided I needed to retake it. Every time I was doing something that was not studying, I felt guilty and couldn’t enjoy whatever it was I was up to. This especially happened when I was at the gym and trying to train. The motivation wasn’t there and I wasn’t having any fun. I would show up and drill and maybe roll three rounds on a good day. This same mentality was also impacting my studying. I had such a hard time focusing and productively studying. I think I was burned from all the studying that went into the September test and disappointed in how it turned out. But despite all of this I didn’t give up! I did the studying for the LSAT equivalent of biting down on my mouth guard, which basically amounted to chaining myself to my desk until I finished whatever study goals I had set up for that day.

Test day finally arrived and it has been such a weight lifted on my shoulders! I can’t really say how it went one way or the other. I was mentally wiped out by the end of it. In September I felt very calm throughout the test and afterwards. This time, I felt that I had been pushed to my mental limits and was put through the ringer. I was so happy to be done and basically sprinted to my car so I could get some food and go to weigh ins for Rise of the Prospects.

Weighs in were held at Gentle Ben’s so there was food which was great! I didn’t realize until after I ordered my food that it was probably not very considerate to order food when I was sitting at table with a bunch of people that were cutting weight. I may have been called a few names that weren’t very nice but it was in good fun.

The next day was Rise of the Prospects. I was really looking forward to it even though I wasn’t competing because it was the first thing I’d be doing without the LSAT looming over my head. I also had the pleasure of running the timer for the jiu jitsu matches which means I got to watch all the matches! Oh my goodness, watching so many matches was so inspiring and it made me fall in love with jiu jitsu all over again! Training has turned fun again! Even though the matches were great to watch, running the timer all stresses me out. I get nervous about losing track of time and if I’m going to hit the bell right when the referee calls starts the match. Overall it was a success and I get to run the time for future events as long as I’m not competing! As far as competing goes for me, since I’m free, I’m looking forward to getting back on the mats in April and hopefully taking part in the next Rise of the Prospects.

 

 

Promotion

20170707_195957.jpg

I was promoted to blue belt last night! This means so much to me because through jiu jitsu I’ve been able to find something I truly care about and am passionate about. Something that had been missing from my life for a long time. I love that it’s something that doesn’t come naturally or easily for me because it does push me to improve and test how far I can go physically and mentally, rather than quitting. I also really love the sense of community I’ve been able to build with my teammates even though they said when I roll there are only two levels: sack of potatoes or monster. I’m excited for this next step on what I’m hoping is a lifelong journey. Thank you @chriscariasomma for being an excellent coach and believing in me and thank you @risecombatsportstucson. And thank you to my teammates who have become some of my closest and best friends. 💙💙❤

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I was actually promoted in July! This is what I posted on my Instagram the day after I was promoted. The promotion itself came as a shock even though I knew it was eventually coming. My coach had consistently been commenting that I had been improving and was able to gain opportunities for submissions from several different positions. The timing was also, I guess serendipitous. I was in the middle of one of the worst weeks I’ve had all year and the promotion was just what I needed to shift things back into perspective and get my to stop feeling so sorry for myself.

Shortly after this, I ended up taking the most time away from training since I got my wisdom teeth pulled in 2015. I was out for two weeks then. This break resulted in me limiting my training schedule from 5-6 days away to 2-3. I needed the time off so that I could study for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). It’s always been my dream to go to law school but it’s something that I want to do on my own terms as much as possible and that means going to the school of my choice. I have applied to it twice in the past and was placed on the wait list both times. After this first time, I began to doubt if pursuing a career in law was something I really wanted. I was accepted into a few other schools but for a variety of reasons chose not to go but that main was that none of those were the school I wanted. I don’t want to  too get into, “Well, if you want to be a lawyer, why are you letting where you go to school dictate whether or not that happens?” But this comes down to: law school is expensive, in-state tuition would help offset some of that cost, and I’ve built a life for myself in current city. I think I may also have a bit of stubborn streak.

Anyhow,  I took the test earlier this month and am waiting on my results. I should be seeing those in about two weeks. Fingers crossed that my score has improved! Comparing the difference between how I felt taking the test in 2011 and earlier this month is almost night and day. I took the LSAT in 2011 twice within a two month span and was just a nervous wreck. I felt as my entire future and self worth were wrapped up in that score and if I didn’t do well, I was worthless. I didn’t do badly but my score was extremely average. The stress from the exam an application process really did a number on me. I was so focused on that that I would feel guilty if I wasn’t studying and eventually stopped working out which led to a steady weight gain of 30 pounds and my self-esteem was shot.

This last round was so different and not just because I knew what to expect. I was expecting to be anxious, losing sleep, and miserable going into the test. This time, when I was actually sitting in the exam room, I felt really calm and zen about the whole thing. I didn’t panic about time and afterwards wasn’t agonizing over what I could have done better. I also kept telling myself, it’s just a test and it doesn’t define who I am.  I think a lot of this has to with jiu-jitsu being part of my life. Jiu-jitsu has been a constant study in self-improvement and has really helped rebuild my self-esteem. Every training session teaches me something new even if it’s reminding me not to give up even when I have a bad day. Competing also definitely helped with nerves an the actual test day. It’s way scarier trying not to get strangled by another girl.

As for reading, I haven’t done much. I read Michael Connelly’s, The Closers, right before I got super caught up in studying and that was a fun read.  I’ve also been working my way through Hunter S. Thompson’s The Great Shark Hunt. I haven’t read too many of the essays but each is super revealing and engrossing. Currently, I’m reading Malcom Lowry’s Under the Volcano, which I bought with several other books as treats for after the LSAT and when I had more time to read. I also treated myself to a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana and this was my airplane book.

20170921_123340.jpg

 

Promotion

A Man Without A Country

20170718_194834
The cover matches my marigolds that also match my tattoo!

Ever since reading Sirens of Titan, I’ve been meaning to read more Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five is on my list and would have been the logical next step but last time I was at my local used bookseller’s and the only Vonnegut book available was A Man Without A Country. I finished it last night and no regrets! It’s not really a novel so much as it’s Vonnegut’s reflections on life and the political climate at the time. He was writing in 2004 and commenting on the Bush administration, such simpler and gentler times! I honestly never thought I would look back on that presidency in that way and can’t imagine what he would have to say.

I’m not sure I have much else to say besides go read the book. I feel like I am the better for it and it just has lots of great advice and me a little misty. Here is one of many of my favorite quotes:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what it is.”

A Man Without A Country