Quick martial arts lesson: Rolling is to Jiu-Jitsu as Sparring is to Taekwondo.
Quick blog lesson: Instructor is to Jiu-Jitsu as Sensei is to Taekwondo.
I’m now at the point of my Jiu-Jitsu journey where I get to attend Reflex and Development class. Your opponent gives indicators like step back, push away, post a leg up, etc., to let you know what move you need to do.
Often I ask, “What do I do?” because I’m not very good at this. The answer is usually Arm Bar or Elevator Sweep or Americana.
“Oh, right, yeah,” I’ll say then do the move.
At the start of 99% of the regular classes, we practice The Clinch. It’s a standing move that leads to getting the bad guy on the ground. We do this so often, I could sleep through this part of class.
Then in Reflex and Development, Instructor stood in front of me.
A blogger shared with me what she overheard on a podcast discussing martial arts:
“The guest had suggested that when ladies learn martial arts (like JJ) it can help them have more confidence and experience to fight with an attacker (sounded like a good point) but then Rogan noted that it would take years and years of training and then even with that – ‘basic anatomy’ plays a role in determining how most women would do if fighting with an attacker.”
“So while great for self defense and good for mind and body coordination and stability – the best advice is for people to put distance between themselves and the attacker (as opposed to someone with a certain level belt assuming they can take down someone twice their size).”
This is a good reality check. And I don’t disagree. Sure, I found it a little discouraging, but then I thought about my reasons for doing Jiu-Jitsu and Taekwondo:
Am I expecting to get attacked at every turn? No.
Do I intend to don a cape and spandex to fight crime vigilante-style? No.
Do I think it would be nice to have some ability to defend myself should I need it? Yes.
Am I largely just doing this for the fun of it? Also, yes.
Do I enjoy the challenge of learning something hard? Yes. (It helps that I have realistic expectations of myself. I never thought I’d be a natural at this.)
Does it give me greater confidence in general? Yes.
Is teaching what I’ve learned to middle school girls fun, fulfilling, and challenging? Yes.
Do they enjoy the class for all or most of those reasons above? I believe so, yes.
It has been pointed out to me more than once that the best option, when viable, is to simply run away. I joked that I should hang up my gi and work on my speed instead.
How am I doing?
I saw an interview with actor Ed O’Neill (Married… with Children, Modern Family), who has a black belt in Ju-Jitsu. He used his knowledge twice to put a rear naked choke (RNC) on men who had become unruly. This move is a good go-to, and I’ve already proven that I can, with a bit of struggle, successfully get the job done on a male blue belt (Surfer Dude 1). I don’t hope to need this skill in real life, but if I do, I’ll have it.
Fun side note: Hubs and I recently saw The Lost City. Brad Pitt used the RNC on several bad guys. I whispered to Hubby, “He’s using perfect technique. It’s nice the writers did their research.” Later in the film, Channing Tatum tries to imitate Pitt, but does so humorously wrong and unsuccessfully. It was a cute movie, and I’ve been a fan of Sandra Bullock ever since While You Were Sleeping.
My shoulders hurt after Monday’s Jiu-Jitsu class, so Tuesday night I thought to myself: I gotta bandage my shoulders before tomorrow’s class.
Wednesday morning: I gotta bandage my shoulder’s before tonight’s class.
Wednesday afternoon: I gotta bandage my shoulder’s before tonight’s class.
Wednesday night’s class: I didn’t bandage my shoulders.
Because I simply refuse to wear the thick hot heavy gi top, much to Jiu-Jitsu purple belt blog buddy Tom’s consternation, I knew my shoulders were going to take a hit.
It was 80 degrees yesterday, okay?! And even hotter in the gym. I put both fists up to bump Surfer Dudes 1 and 2 as I slid between them against the wall.
“It’s hot in here,” remarked SD2.
“No kidding,” I said.
“Hi, Betsy,” said SD1, clearly harboring no grudge for last class’s rear naked choke.
This class was Elbow Escape, which requires “shrimping:” moving away from your opponent by pushing off the floor with one foot and rotating on the opposite shoulder. Basically, we’re curling then straightening our bodies to move backwards, much like how a shrimp swims when it wants to get away quickly.
To add injury to injury, Instructor had everyone lay down and practice shrimping from one side of the room to the other and back again. I was feeling the sting immediately. Here’s where the gi top would’ve helped, but I had planned to have pre-bandaged shoulders! And that was before I knew this class would involve any shrimping, let alone a TON of shrimping.
The elbow escape itself requires not one but three shrimps, or in my case, four. My opponent was on the short side, so I needed to shrimp an extra time to create space for my foot to get out from behind his knee.
One blog name suggestion during the “contest” was “Crazy with a Yellow Belt.” If we had gone with that, it would need to be updated now.
The green belt test was not nearly as embarrassing as my yellow belt test. Did I still screw something up?
Of course I did.
When the testing was complete, Sensei instructed my partner and me to return to our starting line. I began jogging to the spot I’d been seated before being called up for the test. I realized halfway there that he meant our starting line from which we DID the test.
I turned around and smiled at him sheepishly as I returned to the appropriate line. Fortunately, he smiled back. It’s a good thing we’re friends or he might have instead been irritated, annoyed, or given me a reproving look.
I later considered that it pays to be a nice, friendly person. That greases the skids of forgiveness for my flubs. If I weren’t nice, he might have reacted differently. I synthesized that thought process down into this text exchange:
Soon after, the girls and I got the flu. I was worried we might have spread it to him, so I gave him a heads up and suggested he take preventative measures. Then it occurred to me that I had an opportunity to get back at him for his snark and maybe get a leg up for a change. Here’s what I wrote post-testing, pre-belt ceremony:
I’ve mentioned that I teach middle and high school girls self defense after school once a week. My Partner in Crime (PiC) teaches the boys. We’ve been doing this in a classroom, pushing the desks and chairs off the to side, and laying mats on the floor. The teacher of that room often comes in, carefully skirting the mats (we have a strict no shoes on the mat rule) to get something from his desk.
It’s also the classroom where teacher meetings are usually held. One afternoon the principal got on the intercom to announce a teacher meeting. Just before he could say which room to meet in, this particular teacher rushed into the principal’s office and said, “Not the 8th grade! They’re doing Fight Club in there!”
I was so glad someone witnessed this and told me about it later.
Before weather was less permissive, we stretched the mats out on the grass in the courtyard. Frequently teachers, sometimes parents, would walk by, staring. It undoubtedly looked weird. I’d wave to them from the ground as I had their child or student locked up in Punch Box Stage 1, for instance.
“Nothing to see here. Just teaching your sweet girl how to hurt people.” (Didn’t actually say that. But it was implied.)
Recently a girl showed up late so one of my students got her up to speed. “Come here. Let me show you. First you do this, this, then this, this,” etc.
I stood there watching, hands clasped to my chest, fighting back tears (just kidding), but I was so very very proud.
Because I brought Neighbor to class, Instructor offered me a free t-shirt with the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu logo and the name of our local gym. He didn’t have an adult small, so he offered me a child’s large.
The child’s large was too big for me.
I relayed this story to PiC. He said, “You need to eat more.”
So he prescribed me this “diet:”
I shared the t-shirt story with another friend and told him of PiC’s prescribed milkshake routine to bulk up. He said, “Well, yeah,” and pointed at my arm.
So I punched him in his biceps.
He rubbed it. “That was a good hit.”
Because he knows I do Jiu-Jitsu, I told him, “That was my Taekwondo training. And if it bruises, I want to see it.”
I texted this story to my sensei because I realized afterward that I had proper form without having to think about it. I thought he’d be proud. Instead:
I also told him about my other friend and the milkshake diet. He responded:
It’s great that both my martial arts instructors are funny.
So I’ve been trying to eat more and drink my milkshakes, which are quite yummy. Too bad they are meant to be in addition to other meals, but they usually wind up being the meal.
Then, of course, because nothing can go my way for long, this happened:
Monday was a great day. For starters, guess who joined me for class?
Here’s how this went down. As you can see, I really had to twist her arm. (Kimura arm lock or Americana–still not a kind of coffee)
She responded before I could even hit the home button on my phone. It’s like she was staring at her phone, waiting for me to text.
I don’t know if you love it, per se, but hopefully you’re getting a minor kick out of it. (front, side, or round kick, appropriate for the Taekwondo gi)
When we rolled into Jiu-Jitsu class (that was also a pun), Instructor started to pull out a gi, but stopped.
“I see you have a gi. Do you do martial–Oh, is it Betsy’s?”
Heehee. Déjà vu.
Instructor had me sit nearby while he onboarded Neighbor. Thus, her first class experience was not nearly as creepy as mine. She took to it well and had fun but can’t sign up for anything until her home remodel is done in a couple of months. At least she got a taste. Maybe when her house is finished, I’ll invite her again and she’ll respond with an affirmative just as quickly. Here’s hoping!
But! Are you ready for this? Another guy poked his head in ten minutes late, explaining that he had arrived too early for his trial class so he got a haircut while he waited. I chuckled inwardly remembering what I’d written in my second JJ post: “Each time movement outside caught my eye, it was an old woman passing. I haven’t checked out the other businesses in the strip, but I’m guessing a hair salon is one of them.” It is. With a barbershop. Right next door.
Here’s the part I wanted you to ready yourselves for:
On Wednesday afternoons, a buddy and I co-teach a self defense class at our kids’ school. He works with the guys; I work with the girls. I was teaching the Elevator Sweep (originally mentioned here, though I had the name wrong), when the girl stuck her arm out last second and rolled me over onto it. I got up, paused, breathed, and this should tell you how much it hurt: I used a CLICHE!!
“That’s gonna leave a mark,” I said.
I’m so ashamed.
Her arm was fine, but by side hurt worse than my gnarly ugly foot.
So far I have been to class twice this month. Twice!
Every 20 classes, you get a white stripe on your belt. (Anyone else hearing Seven Nation Army in your head all of a sudden? M?) In my last class, Sweaty/Indifferent Man earned his fourth stripe, and we all clapped. Instructor then pointed at me with a broad smile and said, “You’re next.”
All you with gentle sensibilities, please forgive me, but from the rest of you can I get a “Hell, yeah!”?
Seriously, as much as Jiu Jitsu is fun, it is also flippin’ difficult. I enjoy everything except the frustration of not remembering the various steps involved in each move.
Today we learned the elbow sweep. I think. Even the name I’m not sure on. But I’ve found that saying the steps out loud as I perform them helps. Instructor, witnessing my success, said the words in this post title, adding, “That’s one of the two hardest moves to learn. The other is [insert several words that were nonsense to me], but you haven’t learned that yet. [Enter mental sigh of relief that I wasn’t supposed to have understood whatever the heck he just said.]
“Wow, thanks,” I responded, and tried not to beam too brightly.
This was Day 5. I don’t normally go on Saturdays, so it was mostly a new cast of characters, and more of them. Most notably, two older gentlemen. One with experience, one fairly new. This one I will call “The Commentator.” When Instructor demonstrated something, it would frequently elicit an “Oooh,” “Ohhh,” and even, you guessed it, “Ahhh,” from The Commentator.
After one of these, Enthusiastic Teen next to me snickered.
He was also enthusiastic in trying to help me out by adding his own instructions in stage whispers while Instructor did his thing. Was it irritating? Oh, yeah, you betcha. “Let me listen, punk!” [More internal monologue.]
Remember these bad boys (or should I call them good girls?) that I swapped in for my diamond studs, thinking they’d be “safer” for my first Jiu Jitsu class?
They were not.
In the first class, the backs did indeed get shoved against my head–not really a big deal. Second class, same thing, which elicited a weak “Ow,” from me. Still not a deal breaker.
But in the third class, during a guillotine head lock, I said, “Stop!”
[Brief sidebar: You don’t say “stop” in Jiu Jitsu. You tap, usually your partner, or, as I found out when putting my instructor in a choke hold, you can also tap yourself. “It’s a good thing I heard you,” I said after releasing him. Fortunately, slapping a rash guard is loud. Since I wear a gi, I’ll be sure to always tap my partner before I pass out, to be safe.]
Now let me back up.
On my second class, there were three male students, as in the first, but three entirely new men. “This is going to make it tougher for me to win them all over,” I thought. “I still want that drink.” 😉
One guy announced that he had just turned twenty-eight, was boisterous and talking jovially and familiarly with the other men. He readily introduced himself and shook my hand, which struck me as weird, since this seemed to be a strictly fist bump establishment. This guy was so 2019!
The second guy was maybe thirty and paid me no attention.
I kept a sharp eye on the door for Surfer Dude, but no luck. Instead I was partnered with the third man, “Lopez.” Saying he was merely twice my size would be flattering to him. I may have gulped a little when Lopez faced me.