“The world is dying.”

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Courtesy of Marlin Wheeler Photography

This seems a little disingenuous to say now given the current state of affairs and what what thew news has offered but this was also my response when my stepdad asked me why I decided to take a muay thai fight. He wasn’t too happy with my answer and decided that it was because I was bored. He was not wrong. I think my motivation for the fight was a combination wanting to challenge myself, having nothing to lose, and maybe a little boredom.

When I decided to take the fight, I had been training BJJ almost exclusivity for years and competing and not really making any progress (see previous posts for evidence). The majority of the tournaments I enter, result in me being eliminated during the first round and part of it seems to because of some mental blocks. One teammate even told me, “your problem is, you’re afraid of winning.” I’m not sure how true that is but I have noticed that there was something in me that would give up once I ended up in a bad position, usually side control or mount. I would wilt. Part of me also felt that training for and actually getting to a muay thai fight would help me overcome whatever was getting in my way just because of how rigorous training for muay thai is. I don’t slouch on my bjj preparation but the stakes are much higher in muay thai because no one is punching me in the face or trying to kick me in the head.

Training for this fight was one of the hardest things I’ve done physically and mentally. For a long time, I considered getting my life guard certification to be it. To take the course, you to be able to swim 500 yards and I’m not a swimmer but my stepdad was a triathlete and got me into shape so I could pass the pre-test. I think we spent four weeks getting for that. Getting ready for the fight was 10 weeks! This was 10 weeks of hitting pads with my coaches 3-5 times a week, sparring two nights a week, and running 12-15 miles weekly. As the camp progressed so did the intensity. I remember when one of my coaches texted at the beginning of weeks 7 to say it was time ramp up training, my mind almost exploded. How was that going to be possible? It ended up being longer runs and two extra pad sessions. The whole thing was exhausting. This was good and bad because it didn’t give me much time to really dwell on the fight. I just didn’t have the brain space to really think about it. I could only focus on what as in front of me.

That being said, the entire training camp began to blur but having such a strict was super nice except for the part where my five year streak of not crying in the gym was broken. This was a matter of personal pride – not that I don’t cry when training is tough or frustrating, I just try to wait until I’m in the parking lot. It was okay though. My coach emphasized that it was perfectly normal and almost expect because fighting and training for fights is super hard. But he also said, I need to keep my hands up so I don’t get hit so hard again. Even though training was super hard and I had to do things I hate, like running, there was one saving grace. I didn’t have to really cut weight. My fight was set to be at 140lb and I had just come off training for the Vegas Open and moving to 137lb. So I mostly had to maintain my weight and try not to lose too much. I ended up weighing in for the fight at 138lb.

The fight itself was blur in the middle of a day that consisted of lots of waiting. I felt super lucky that I my fight was at the top of the card because I have a tendency towards impatience and just wanted it to be done. It was also nice to be out of the green room and away from all the anxiety coming off all the other fighters anticipating their turn. I did start to get nervous while I was warming and started to worry about getting to tired because my coach/future brother in law kept pushing me. I was also trying not to agitate my left hamstring which I conveniently pulled two days before. When it was finally time to be on deck, I felt ready. My coach gave me one last pep talk and told me that I had done everything I could do to succeed and there was nothing left but to go out there and give it my all.

Time has not really made too much sense for some time now and the fight was the weirdest space of time. It was simultaneously super fast and painfully slow. After the first round, I was dead. The amount of running and padwork and what I thought was a decent level of cardio didn’t matter. It wasn’t a match for the adrenaline dump which was different from the one’s I get from competing at BJJ. I just felt so tired and it took everything I had to keep going. The only good thing about the adrenaline is that getting hit didn’t actually hurt while it was happening. The fight went the distance and I won via split decision. I think the first round could have gone either way, the second was my opponents, and I think I got the third. I haven’t really watched the fight again since the day after but that sounds about right. I just remember Chis telling me before the last round, “It’s just two more minutes, it’s nothing. Two minutes! You can do this!” I think that’s what powered me through the last round. Winning, especially in muay thai, which is a sport that I haven’t dedicated myself to like I have jiu jitsu, was surreal. It felt really good to win and to see all that hardwork pay off.

I hope I can fight again this year and try to better collect my thoughts to talk about how training totally changed my mindset towards a lot of things. One of those things was that I felt an increased sense of gratitude. I felt so grateful for all the opportunities that made up the minutiae of everyday life. I was grateful for my health, my gym, training partners, the fight, my opponenet, my family. I don’t know. I felt super emotional the whole time and wanted to cry because I just loved and appreciated everyone in my life so much more. All of the trivial stuff just melted away and it was freeing.

For now, I’m looking forward to competing next month and continuing to work on the holes in my game and trying to apply the muay thai mindset to jiu jitsu.

“The world is dying.”

Old Pueblo Open

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I competed again this past weekend. This time, I was able to stay in Tucson and not drive to Phoenix which was great. I really hate that drive and really only go up there for tournaments. The good thing about staying in town was that I was able to sleep in and just not worry about the drive or monitoring what I ate and drank to make weight. This tournament had weigh ins the night before which was a godsend! The bad thing about competing in Tucson is that the number of women competing is much smaller. I had one other woman in my bracket compared to the 7 total from last weekend and this one is my friend! So competing against her was really weird.

Since there were just two of us, the winner was determined by best 2 out of 3. I lost bought my matches. It was super disheartening but still not as bad as the previous weekend. I’m still trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between how I train and how I compete. Those two facets of my jiu jitsu are still worlds apart. When I’m rolling at the gym I can go several round and be super aggressive and not get tired but when it’s time for a tournament I start to panic and literally choke. My nerves have been subdued the past couple tournaments which is an improvement but my actual performance still leaves a lot to be desired. I hate this about myself but sometimes, about midway through a match, a part of me just dies and doesn’t want to be there anymore. This feeling started to creep up on me this match and I was able to edge it out but I ended up getting caught in mount AGAIN (!!!!). The pressure was unbearable and I felt that I was going to throw up or have a rib crack. It’s wild. That was the first time in a super long time I had felt that closed in and trapped in jiu jitsu. It scared me and I panicked. I need to learn how to redirect that fear into the will to keep pushing.

The second match went a bit better. I was less stuck and able to transition a bit better and not get as stuck. But I still got stuck, in dogfight, maybe. I don’t remember. I just remember having an arm around my neck. I haven’t had the will to watch the videos but I’ll get around to eventually. Competing is still super frustrating but I don’t see myself giving up on it. I truly do want to get better and the only way that’s going to happen is through repetition. I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete this weekend. I had originally only signed up for no gi but ended up with a gi match because that bracket only had one competitor so I was offered that one so we’d each be able to compete. Unfortunately, during the gi matches, Reina, my opponent hurt her rib and the no gi bracket was scrapped. I probably won’t compete again until the fall. I need a break and want to focus on just getting better at jiu jitsu and also trying to get ready for a muay thai fight.

As usual, I learned a lot. One thing that stands out is that maybe competing back to back is not for me. I am so exhausted but also super excited to train. Sometimes, it takes losing to really cause on to refocus. It’s given me something that feels more concrete to chase after and I’m glad for that! ❤

Old Pueblo Open

Copa Bella 2019

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This past weekend, I competed in the AZBJJF’s Copa Bella Tournament, the organization’s only all female event. This was my first time entering this tournament and my first time moving down a weight class. I  wanted to attempt to drop a weight class was to get out of the “it’s just jiu jitsu” mentality that I seemed to have developed. It was flippant and very stupid and makes it seems like competing in jiu jitsu is not as serious as competing in stand-up or MMA. Which to an extent, is true because no one is punching you in the face during a jiu jitsu match but shouldn’t preparation be treated in a similar way? I think some of these feelings stem from the fact that I do train at an MMA gymn and there are some people who don’t take it as seriously because it involves less risk but it takes just as much work and sacrifice to get good at. Luckily this attitude isn’t super prevalent and I love my coach, gym, and teammates. My sister has also commented on what she sees as a lack of seriousness on my approach to competing and has even said, “I don’t know why you don’t train for your tournaments they we do for a fight.” She fights muay thai, is very good, and one of those most disciplined people I know and I guess I also wanted to prove to her that I could do it.

In the past, I’ve competed at middle weight (141.5 – 152.5) and end up being on the lighter side of the class and tend to fatigue early in my matches. I’d thought about moving down to lightweight before but hadn’t been able to devote the time to losing the weight in a smart way. My original plan for this year was to try to sign up for Pans and eventually get myself ready for a muay thai fight. Because of this I started taking more muay thai classes and running on the weekends whenever I had the time. The increase in cardio pushed my weight down to around 143 but I still had to drop to about 137 to make up for the gi since weigh ins are same day with the gi  to discourage extreme weight cutting. Dropping those last 7 pounds seemed easy enough. Or so I thought. Last Monday I got to 139 and my body seemed like it had decided we were done and it wasn’t going to lose anymore weight. I spent most of the week stressing over the thought of not making weight and getting disqualified and dreaming about the food I was going to eat afterwards. I was also stressed out because my coach wouldn’t be able to be there but I was lucky enough that one of the upper belts was able to coach me since his fiance was also competing, just out of a different academy.

The night before I was able to get my weight were it needed to be by taking a bath. The day off, I ate breakfast and sipped on water. Then took another bath to sweat some more and make sure I was able to maintain. The worst part about this was that I wasn’t set to compete until 5. Waiting was miserable. I was super thirsty and my coach had instructed me to just take sips of water to wet my mouth. Every time I heard this, I’d visualize myself as Munch’s “The Scream.” As always, waiting for my bracket to start is the worst part of the competition. This one had a longer wait than normal. I didn’t weigh in until 4:30 and my match was at 4:45. The match itself was frustrating. I lost via arm bar but there were some good things to come out of it. I made it past the 2.5 minute mark in which I usually get gassed and it wasn’t an immediate tap. The last time I faced this opponent was the second match of my first tournament, ever. She pulled guard, straight into a triangle. This time, I was able to stop the guard pull and manage to stay on top until I started to lose my balance and tried to ankle lock her. That was very dumb of me because I don’t play legs at all and I primarily use it as a threat to create a scramble. I ended up getting caught in side control and then mount and then the arm bar. Very basic positions that I seem to get caught in every single match that I lose. So I need to continue to work on those. Losing this match was so frustrating it made me angry and I ended up crying afterwards. I felt that this was the best that I had prepared for a tournament and to only get one match stung to end. It also felt like all that work and sacrifice was for naught. But that isn’t true at all.

I did learn a lot. I learned that I do have the discipline to diet and run in order to move down a weight class, I didn’t get caught in the same guard pull, and I’m learning to manage my competition nerves. Now I just need to continue to work on those big areas that make up me weak points: getting caught on bottom. I’ll have another chance tomorrow. I signed up for another tournament. I’ll be competing in no gi for this one and luckily weigh ins are tonight. I’m so excited to be done with dieting for now and to go back to eating like a normal person!

 

Copa Bella 2019

Palette Cleanser – Fire in the Blood

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After finally deciding to give up on the- book-with-the-bad-writing-that-will-not-be-named I needed something to wash out the disappointment and frustration. I decided to reread one of my favorite books. Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a rereading bend and that’s what I had been up to before starting the bad book. At the end of last year I reread The Shadow of the Wind and Harry Potter 1-3. I plan on going over these eventually.

I know that it can be considered silly to reread books, especially when there are so many books out there that I haven’t read and will probably never read but there is comfort in revisiting a beloved book. It’s like catching up with old friends. I tend to get very attached to my stories. Rereads also offer us an opportunity to see how we’ve grown. It’s possible to read one book when you’re young and come back to it years later and get something totally different out of it. For example, I’m sure if i reread The Awakening today I would feel very different about it than I did when I was 20. I didn’t understand her motivations but with almost ten years and a trail of failed relationships between I could probably understand it a little more.

Anyhow, the book I reread was Irene Nemirovsky’s Fire In The Blood.I first read it when I was 18 and it was fun to see the parts that I underlined and how despite growing so much since then, I still felt the same about those parts. The story takes place in a rural village in France during the interwar years and is told from the perspective of Silvio, a prodigal son of the village just returned after several years away. It consists primarily of his observations of his relatives and his recollections of his life when he was at that age and you and in love. I feel like this story is too hard to talk about without wholly giving it away but in a sense, it is also a reread for Silvio. He looks at his relative, Colette – recently married, and a young widow in the village, Brigitte, and is reminded of his youth and passions. One of the parts that I underlined on my initial read comes after Silvio has an argument with Colette and reflects:

When you’re twenty, love is like a fever, it makes you almost delirious. When it’s over you can hardly remember how it happened . . . Fire in the blood, how quickly it burns itself out. Faced with this blaze of dreams and desires, I felt so old, so cold, so wise. . .

One theme that does come up in the book is the choice between a complacent happiness that leads to material security and choosing that feverish and reckless love. At this point in life, I’m at a midway point between twenty and Silvio’s forty-some years and I can see where he might feel so old faced with that type of love but I also still understand it. As troublesome and dangerous as that type of love can be, I still think it is worth the blaze because to me, being with someone without that spark does not seem worth the time. Even Silvio despite, his weariness agrees, “I’m undoubtedly wrong to generalize; there are people who are sensible at twenty, but i’ll take the recklessness of my youth over their restraint any days.” Me, too Silvio, me too!

I’m starting to ramble and wish I had the time to write about this book as soon I finished it. I just did not have the time. This is the first weekend I’ve had without any other obligations outside of me, to do anything. It has been great. I want to read more of Nemirovsky’s works.  Especially since this one is one my favorites and means so much to me and it’s a miracle that this book even exists. It existed only as a partial text until the rest of the manuscript was found in a suitcase by one of her daughters. Irene Nemirovsky was deported to Auschwitz in 1942.

BJJ: I’m competing the next two upcoming weekends. As usual I’m nervous and I’m moving down a weight class into what has turned out to be a way more competitive bracket for one tournament. Usually there are 3-4 women in the bracket but next weekend’s has 8! I’m excited for the challenge and to eat afterwards.

Palette Cleanser – Fire in the Blood

Unfinished Books are theee WORST!

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Unfinished books are something that I try to avoid and that is because they haunt me. As a result there are only a handful of them and I can remember why I gave up on them: nothing is happening, this is terrifying and I’m too young to be reading this, I have a book report due next week and this is taking too long! Well, I just added one more to that list and I won’t name it but the reason I gave up was the writing irritating me and one of the main characters seemed to only wear gowns and never dresses and honestly, that is just realistic, even for a story set around Victorian/Belle Époque eras. Day dresses were a thing and not every garment worn by a woman is a gown. I know this is super dumb but it just started to grate on me. Not deciding to definitely not finish this book was a bit of a struggle. It was a Christmas gift and the person that gave it me really loved it and I think there is meaning is sharing books with other people. Whenever I give someone a book or lend one out, it’s because there was something in that touched my soul and I want to see if it stirs something similar in them. As a result, I get a little sad if whatever I give/suggest isn’t read and want to try to avoid having someone else feel that way.

But it just wasn’t going to happen. Overall, there was potential for this book to be something that I liked but I don’t know, it was too YA in a bad way.  There was one subplot that I was really interested in and maybe I’ll go back to it but honestly, I just have the right now. There are too many other books I want to read, the ones I need to resume, and writing to catch up on.  I have had what feels like way less time than usual for these pursuits because this year has been insane. I bought a house and the past three months have been dedicated to organizing for my move, cleaning out the old apartment, and setting up my new house! Not to mention the actual process of buying a house. It was a bit impulsive and I didn’t know what to expect and it was lengthy. On top of this, it seems like everyone I know is getting married this year so I’ve had to go some weddings and other related events! It’s been fun but I’m tired and hopefully now I can have more time to read and write! AND TRAIN!

Training has been going really well lately and I’m glad to be on an upswing. I’ve also thrown in muay thai and have worked my way to sparring, which is a whole different animal than bjj and rolling. It’s been great to be at the bottom again. There is so much potential since there is nowhere to go but up and it’s deeply humbling to be a total beginner again!

Unfinished Books are theee WORST!

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.

Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Grand Canyon Open 2018

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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.

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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