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.
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.
As usual, some time ago, I finished up reading a book. Eventually I hope I will get better about posting things and actually figuring out where I want to go in the venture but in the meantime, my thoughts on John Connolly’s A Time of Torment. I’ve been a fan of Connolly’s since discovering The Book of Lost Things at a used book sale in my home town. I’m due for a reread on that so eventually, hopefully, you’ll have something on that.
A Time of Torment is one of the more recent installments of Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels. This book follows Parker on his investigation into the framing of a local hero in Main who believes the people that framed him are still after him. The investigation leads Parker and his friends, Angel and Louis, to The Cut, a small community within West Virginia known for secrecy and hostility towards outsiders. Since it’s been over a month since I finished the book and I gave it to my dad to read, my memories are pretty hazy. So rather than bore you with a synopsis of it, I’m just going to suggest that you read it. Especially if you like that feeling of not being able to put a book down because the suspense is killing you. I was spending every spare minute I had reading just to get to the end. This even led to me staying up close to midnight one night (I wake up at 5:30) and being spooked when something fell off my kitchen counter. That was the scariest moment I had experienced in a while and it probably didn’t help that when I wasn’t reading this book I was catching up on My Favorite Murder at work. If you happen to be looking for podcast recommendations, MFM is amazing!
Jiu-Jitsu updates: Not competing this summer after all. I was really hoping to compete in a local tournament this weekend but life gets in the way. After that tournament last October, I learned that I really shouldn’t be competing if my mind and heart aren’t in it.
As usual I’m updating almost a month after my last competition*. In April I competed in the NABJJ Grand Canyon Open for the second time. This was exciting for several reasons: The Grand Canyon Open was my first tournament last year, I got to compete with more of teammates since it was a one day tournament, and it was the first time in a long time where I actually felt really good about my performance and the experience as a whole. This isn’t to say that there weren’t any bumps in the road but it was a complete 180 from my worst performance (s far) at Nationals last October and I had a better bracket than at NAGA in February.
I ended up with second place in a bracket of 4 so that was fun. Especially after I called my dad to let him know I got second that that it wasn’t out of two. I won my first match off of points which is great but also a little frustrating. I feel like I should have been able to get a submission but I tend to have a hard time settling into position before attempting to submit. I need to work on that for future competitions. I think the final score ended up being 26-3. Despite the score that match was exhausting and I felt so shaky and drained afterwards and wanted to cry. This is probably because of the adrenaline from the match and how I was so used to only having one match and losing. Winning was weird! My coaches also missed that match. The tournament was running ahead of schedule (my only complaint as far as organization goes) and that was frustrating but luckily my friend and teammate Stefan was able to coach me and I’m super glad he was there for that. He also drove us home and prevented me from falling asleep at the wheel.
I’m not sure how much I waited before my second match but t felt like an eternity and one of my teammates competed in that time. When it was finally my turn to go again; I was not feeling well. My body was worn out from the adrenaline dump and I felt nauseous. I got caught in my opponents guard and had the hardest time breaking it. I could barely concentrate and felt really hot and dizzy. I think I finally did manage to get out and there was a scramble but I ended trapped in an omoplata and tapping. I was really hoping to win but wasn’t crushed with my loss.
I felt good about my training before and was focused and ready. The best part of this tournament was my family coming to watch. Several of my cousins were able to make it and it was so nice to be surrounded by so much love afterwards and they were proud and impressed which in turn made me very happy and gracious.
There are a couple tournaments coming up this summer and I’m looking forward to competing. Each time I compete I learn something new. Previously, that lesson had been the need to not get caught in mount and learn how to escape. This time, I think my main take away is that I need to be more patient and take my time once I get to a position rather than relying on constantly changing positions.
*At this point it’s been two months since my competition and one month since I first wrote all of this out. Why am I like this?
Well it happened and it’s over. I have so many mixed feelings about how it all turned. Going into it I didn’t have the same frame of mind that I had with the previous tournaments. A lot of my personal relationships have shifted and I think my feelings about that definitely came into play and distracted me but it wasn’t all bad. My dad was able to watch me compete and that was a delightful surprise. The morning of the tournament he called and told me to cancel my plans with my friends for the ride to Phoenix because he would be taking me. My sister also joined us!
We got to the tournament early and ended up with a lot of free time. My family got to eat and I just got to deal with more anxiety about my match. I just felt so much more nervous this time. As I’ve had time to think about it, I think that nervousness may have come from pressure I had put on myself to do well based of off how the last two tournaments had gone. They went well and honestly, those successes felt like flukes since I’m so used to not doing well athletically. I played basketball and softball as a kid and was never that good but that may be because those weren’t the sports for me. Anyhow, back to the tournament! So all the time I had before the match evaporated once it was time for weigh ins and everything was a whirl wind.
I was where I needed to be with my weight but my gi was too short! Luckily, thanks to the advice of my coach, I packed an extra. As soon as I passed my check, I was up. I hated running late and was still readjusting my belt. Then it was time to get on the mats. The match started off alright. I pulled guard and tried to arm bar my opponent from there. Details are hazy but the first half of the match went well. I wasn’t able to get the arm bar but was in control and managed to take her back. I couldn’t get my grips right to complete the choke we had been working on in class. I lost my position and may have moved into side control and then mount. I need to watch the video again but at some point I decided to move from being on top to bottom and everything went south after that. I was pinned in side control and mentally a switch went off. I just didn’t want to be there. I started to feel like I was going to throw up and cry. I think all the stress and anxiety I had going into the match got the best of me. From what I heard after, it looked like I totally forgot the basics, like how to shrimp! My opponent then got an Ezekiel choke on me. I was able to sweep her and get on top but she still had the choke and I was beginning to cough and gurgle. I tapped and placed second in our division. We were the only competitors.
I still feel weird about the whole thing. I hated disappointing my coach and not having a decent answer for when he asked me, “What were you thinking when you went on bottom?” One of teammates volunteered answer for me and suggested I probably felt more comfortable on bottom. This is true. I still don’t feel very confident in my top game even though that teammate has been helping me with my arm bar from mount. Besides all of that, I think the loss was a necessary experience. I’m still figuring what I’ve learned from it besides confirming my suspicions that I don’t love competing. Even though it’s not my favorite thing, I still plan on competing in the future because I think it’s really important for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and take risks. I hate when I feel like my life has become stagnant and competing helps keep those feelings at bay and gives me a chance to test what I’ve been working in class. At the end of day, I feel so lucky to have found something that I’m passionate. I love how deeply humbling jiu jitsu can be and how that humility feeds my drive to learn more and continue to improve.
I meant to write an entry about my feelings leading up to my first tournament. “I meant” seems to be a common theme here and I had planned to post several updates in real time so that training would have also been included. To an extent, I think fear keeps me from posting as regularly as I plan to. That and time constraints. There are only so many hours during the day and between working full time, training as much as body can handle, and applying to school, sometimes I just want to watch TV and zone out. But the fear. I have always been afraid about opening myself up to criticism and generally tend to be shy and quiet but fear is important and has definitely played a role in my jiu-jitsu and my decision to compete.
This past April I competed in the Grand Canyon Open hosted by the NABJJF. I entered two divisions: women’s white belt at lightweight for gi and no-gi. I decided to sign up in December of last year when my gym first announced the tournament and my coach suggested I sign up and do gi and nogi so I would have more matches and experience. I didn’t really have a plan for my training besides showing up to as many classes as possible and hoping to retain the information I learned.My approach to the tournament was kind of like how I went into the first few months of jiu-jitsu: try to survive. Haha. I didn’t even really have an idea of what to expect once the tournament came around because it was my first time I had ever competed individually. Not knowing what the expect may have been the thing for me even though I was dying of nerves when I finally stepped on the mats and the pictures show me looking like I was about to throw up.
I don’t remember much from that tournament after the first match. Details are foggy but I mostly remember how I feel. I won my first match via submission. I think it was with a simple choke. After the match while waiting for the next one to start I was doing my best not to panic, cry, and throw up. It was my first adrenaline dumb I had never felt anything like it and it was just horrible. I had also jammed my thumb but that wasn’t immediately obvious until after my second match. I lost that match to an arm bar or trianlge, I don’t remember anything except the other girl was super strong. I placed 2nd in gi.
There was time for a brief break after gi before the n-gi division started. I was so happy to see that so many of my friends and some of my family were there.It amplified me wanting to cry even more. I don’t know, I guess the adrenaline just had me feeling super emotional. Also exhausted. I remember trying to get outside as fast as possible and tearing off my gi and using the jack as a blanket to lay on outside. I was just a mess. Again, the adrenaline was too much. Luckily, we had enough time to get some food before the next match. My coaches recommended I eat but unfortunately, we went to a burger place. I only had a bite or two because I was still feeling weird and the pain from my jammed though was becoming noticeable.
I got my finger taped and was ready to go for the no-gi rounds. Or at least i thought. I think by that point my body was just giving up. My opponent during the first match was really tough and she ended winning 1st place. I remember trying my hardest to do well but the right side of my body started to cramp up and I just wanted it to end. Eventually it did end. I don’t remember how I lost and I still haven’t looked at the video from that match. I think I ended up with five matches that day and got 3rd in no -gi. I was so relieved when it was over and felt so proud of myself for having gone through with it.
Anyhow, none of this matters right now because I’m competing again on Saturday and am feeling super anxious about it. I’m not even sure why. It’s not my first tournament and I’m only signed up for gi but I can’t help but feel nervous and almost sick. I guess this is normal. I can’t wait until it’s over. I’ll update after that results and more thoughts on competing. I also finally finished Far From the Madding Crowd and will have something up on that eventually.