I arrived late to Jiu-Jitsu Monday night, which I don’t mind, as I want to avoid the practice-before-class-officially-starts part. I was not late enough, however. The only un-partnered person on the mat was the only one who scares me. Not because he’s big, but because he looks like a dude who would be typecast as the bad guy. He’s the Danny Trejo of Jiu-Jitsu.
The guy in my class is young, though, long haired and with knuckle tattoos. He looks like he’d be one of Chicken Man’s henchmen in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul.
I was more than happy to stretch out waaaaaay on the other side of the mat from Li’l Trejo until Instructor spotted me and suggested I jump in with this guy. Fine. I greeted him and offered a fist bump. He lifted a hand to shake. We both smiled. He closed his hand for a bump. I opened mine for a shake. We laughed, we smiled, we gave up on a third attempt, and I realized he’s not the classic villain, he’s the family pet, namely, the sweet puppy dog.
I wasn’t paired with him during class but with a guy who had the darkest blue eyes I’d ever seen on a human. He was also a bit rough. When trying to do the move, he made me work for it. I’m used to guys taking it easy on me. Maybe I should be grateful that this guy didn’t treat me as anything special.
He also gave me my latest war wounds:
Instructor is great about including me. Months ago, when there were more people in the 11:00 class, he was angled away from me as he told a story “to the guys,” but then he turned his head and made eye contact with me as well, bringing me into the group. It was then that I truly felt I’d been accepted as one of them, at least by him.
In our recent one-on-one classes, he’d say, “When you get to Master Cycle…” which comes after this beginners’ Combatives course. Notice the “when,” not “if.”
Tonight he twice said “man or woman.” For instance, “…with your thumb pointed back at yourself because you’re the man or the woman.”
A couple funnies: He was crouched over his opponent, calling it “Spiderman pose.” Then he put both hands out, middle fingers pressed to his palms. This must have been a new one, not only to me, because the literal actual black belt next to me chuckled along with me.
Another time he said, with a completely straight face, “You want to go fast, not only because it’s smoother, but because it looks cool.”
Next he talked about doing the arm bar on someone much stronger. “If you need to, you can grab the top of his hand for greater leverage, but I’ve really only needed to do that twice.” He continued instructions and asked if anyone had questions.
A guy raised his hand and asked, “Was I one of those two?”
Instructor thought for a moment. “You might have been, yeah.”
And in the brief moment of silence that followed, I was feeling comfortable enough to be silly. See if you can guess how.
Without raising my hand, I said, “And I was the other one, right?”
I didn’t hear anyone laugh, but that might be because I was laughing myself, since I’m always the first to laugh at myself. (Right, CM? 😉 ) Instructor smiled and said, “Yep, you were the other one.”
Immediately after this, we returned to the mat to try the new move, and Instructor said to me with mock urgency, “You weren’t supposed to tell them that.” Then he gave me a fist bump.
Earlier, I was the last to finish the move with Blue Eyes, who was Instructor’s demo partner. Everyone was already back at the wall. Blue Eyes stayed on the mat with Instructor, so as I made the solo walk to the wall, Instructor put his arm up and said, “High five.” I hopped to reach his hand and smiled on my way to the wall.
In the future, I must remember this: I did not feel up to going to class tonight. It had been a long day. I was tired and unmotivated. Then I reasoned that I shouldn’t miss the opportunity to get classes in. I could stay home and continue feeling tired and bleh, or I could go, have fun, learn, workout, and come back happy.
I’m glad I chose the latter.
Also, just before I left, because I remembered his name and he was near the door, I said goodbye to Li’l Trejo. He wished me a good night.
And that is how you make new friends.