With papers to grade, stories to complete, and a mind-heart fusion that wants to focus on only one area (i.e., person, i.e., woman), the last thing I wanted to do was put aside an hour for jiu-jitsu, the gentle art of fierce joint manipulation. Okay, you got me–the last thing that I wanted to do was to grade Comp essays. Regardless, much like getting up early and taking a cold shower, I always am glad that I did after the ordeal.
I currently rank as a blue belt with three stripes. My instructor says that the primarily qualification for a purple belt is to make his life miserable. Lately, I have been bringing him much grief. Tonight I rolled with an assistant instructor who is a purple belt, thirty pounds bigger than I, and twenty years younger than I. Toward the end of our non-stop twenty-minute roll, he released a hoary sigh of frustration. After he eventually made me tap with an arm bar (and he did), he said, “You are, by far, the most difficult person to tap.” Though I lost the bout, I will claim the moral victory. I told him that, at my age, that is all I need to hear.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has truly transformed my life. Not only has it molded my body and bolstered my cardio, putting me in better shape than most of my students half my age, it has brought me improved self-confidence through, often brutal, physical struggle, and has allowed me to master my body and its movements in ways I would have never before imagined that I could. This beautiful art has revealed to me the strategic importance of leverage, angle, and frame. Recently I was able to tap out a newbie. Big deal, right? Well, considering that this dude was, at nearly three hundred pounds, nearly twice my weight (not to mention his height advantage), I find that victory inspiring and a testament to the art itself, especially considering that for the majority of the fifteen-to-twenty-minute roll, he lay on top of me. Excruciating. (As an aside, for those not initiated, you may wonder what makes a twenty-minute roll anything to write/blog home about. Oh, dear reader, try grappling with anyone of any size for more than a few minutes without rest. Trust me, you will find that three minutes can be exhausting, let alone twenty or, as I did recently with my instructor, forty minutes.)
Given that I started my odyssey, sadly, later in life, I know that I will never reach the heights that I could have reached had I started as a child. Still, as Jack Donovan so poignantly points out in his Becoming a Barbarian, manhood is essentially a tragic affair, for we are born to struggle, as stacked as the odds may be against us, and only the cowardly and effeminate attempt to defy this noble fate of ours.