Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walking & Skipping & A New Yellow Belt!

On Saturday, my daughter went to a belt test and was awarded her yellow belt.  I am very proud of her.  It is not always easy being one of the only teenage girls training and recently she has been attending a few adult classes.  I was very hesitant for her to step over into the adult class.  Maybe I was scared or nervous or not ready for her to experience some of those things that come with being a girl in the adult class.  You see, in the kids class and even in the teen class, it is a lot easier being the only girl. I guess kids haven't morphed into all the stereotypical male/female roles yet.  They are just kids being kids and having fun doing BJJ.  She's done a few adult classes now, but I can't say that my nerves are completely settled.  I just have all these fears...what if some new dude is inappropriate with her...what if someone is too rough with her...what if someone hurts her.... and the list could go on forever...because I will always be her overprotective, worry-wart of a Mom.  Maybe I shouldn't worry so much.  I know that our Elite instructors will take care of her.  I know that if anyone does anything inappropriate that the "MAT POLICE" will take care of them.  I know in my heart that she is tough and strong and has skills, but I will worry anyway.  But I will learn to let go a little bit at a time and let her make this journey in her own way.  She was just bubbling with excitement after her belt test.  I can't help but share this note she wrote.
"Had the most A M A Z I N G  D A Y  E V E R !  Received my yellow belt in Jiu Jitsu. I'm pouring with amazement & joy & happiness & well I'm just E C S T A T I C ! Thanks to my mom who is always encouraging & has that deep fire in her heart to keep going & pushing me along the way when I want to stop! & thanks to all my instructors who never gave up on me. Who helped me. Who got me to where I am now. Thanks Everyone, who ever gave me any kind of encouragement. You guys at Elite MMA are absolutely amazing."

It renews my spirit and makes my fire burn brighter to hear those words from a 14-year old girl!!  I want that for myself...amazement, joy, happiness...to be E C S T A T I C.  Heck, I want that for everyone.  We should approach this jiu jitsu journey with all those things and more.  If you're not feeling those things anymore, take a break, figure out why, re-focus and start over. 
My Girl after getting her yellow belt!!

On a different note, I've been letting my son take a very long, extended break from jiu jitsu.  He had a very difficult school year and is just plain burnt out.  I haven't forced him to go to class in a very long while.  I think it's important for him to play and have fun and just be a kid for now.  I know that some disagree with my choice to do this, but for our family, this is the right thing for right now.  I know that he will come back from this break ready to train and with a renewed interest.  In the end, it doesn't matter how long it takes each of us to make the journey, what matters is that we finished the race.  My kids are very young, and they have a lifetime to learn and grow and walk their own jiu jitsu journey.  In the immortal words of our coach, "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon".  And in my immortal words, "I've got a lifetime to run the race" (or in my case, walk, because we all know how much I HATE to run). 

A very happy, relaxed 11-year boy having fun at the Science Museum!

I'm going to close with some very wise words from my friend (The Teacher Mom Donut-Eating MMA Lady).  This is from her blog post "I Train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu". 

"I came to martial arts in my own time, at the right time, and I learn in real time. It's not easy, and I have to work hard. I learn at my own pace, at my own level, and I am taking this as my own journey. I think I am close to allowing myself to let it be mine, and to accept myself where I am. I want to accept that it will take time for me travel the rest of the way. I hope that "the rest of the way" takes a long, long time, and that I never stop learning." 

Those are some mighty powerful words.  What are your thoughts on the jiu jitsu journey?  How do you make it your own?   Are you walking and skipping slowly through your journey?  Are you sprinting through it at break-neck speed?  However you choose is okay because it's your journey! :)

Fun times at the Science Museum!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

BJJ Seminar with Charles Oliveira

On Friday, June 17th I went with my friend to a jiu jitsu seminar with Charles Oliveira at Gold Team Texas gym in Sugarland.  For those of you who don't know, he's a 21 year old UFC fighter and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.  I was sort of on the fence about going to this seminar, but my friend really, really likes him and wanted to go, so I decided to tag along.  It ended up being a very small seminar, maybe six people total.  It was like getting a semi-private lesson, except the instructor doesn't really speak English, just Portuguese.  I just kept thinking to myself, "How in the world is this going to actually work?"  I was pleasantly surprised by how well things went.  Most of how I learn jiu jitsu is by watching, over and over and over again, trying it myself a few times, watching it some more, and then trying it some more.  What do you know, it didn't matter (to me anyway) that he didn't speak English.  I know a little bit of Portuguese and little Spanish, and it turns out that's all I really needed to know.  We did about an hour of gi training and then we moved on to no-gi training for a little over an hour.  This was my first real chance to try no-gi.  What a delicious surprise it was for me...I actually loved it!  Overall we worked on some great stuff (interesting that we did several techniques that required rolling...which most of you know is one of my biggest fears...that day I won the battle).  I also think that I might have a new favorite choke.  Not going to tell you about it just yet, I'm going to try it out in class first.  I am super excited to train this week.  Can I translate what I learned at a seminar into real time moves on the mat??  What about you?  Have you gone out and learned anything new you would like to share?   Have you attended a good seminar, read a good book or watched some really helpful videos?  Let the sharing begin!    

I would like to extend my appreciation to the following folks who made this seminar a wonderful experience for me and my friend:  Charles Oliveira, Jorge "Macaco" Patino", Ericson Cardozo, Alvin Tillman and Gold Team Texas gym.  Obrigada!  :)

Me and Charles Oliveira after the seminar!

Monday, June 13, 2011

On the mat with Leticia and Beatriz :)

Was it just a dream?  Were we really on the mat with Leticia Ribeiro and Beatriz Mesquita?  Yes we were...and here are the pictures to prove it!
I went to Austin on Sunday to attend my very first women's jiu jitsu seminar.  I brought my friend and my daughter.  We had no idea what to expect because we had never been to a jiu jitsu seminar before.  It was above and beyond what we could have ever hoped for.  It was literally more than 3 hours of instruction and working technique.  I took a few notes and a few pictures, but the memories of this seminar will be with me forever.  We worked on takedowns, and spider guard sweeps and even some advanced x-guard stuff.  I even had the opportunity to work with Leticia once (yes, it's OK to be jealous)!  In class you usually only work technique for 10-20 minutes...we worked technique for more than 3 hours!!  We've all heard this before, but it warrants repeating, so I'm going to paraphrase what Leticia said in her beautiful Brazilian accent..."you must do the simple move over and over again...until it is reflex...until you have the simple move down, you cannot move on to the advanced move".  

The whole experience made me realize how important it is for us to train together as women.  A lot of us have built in training partners with our daughters or our friends.  Make the time to train together.  Go early, stay late, train at home, but train.  Today I sit here very tried, very sore, fingertips raw from gripping gis for 3 hours, but oh so happy.  I got the rare opportunity to share the mat with more than 30 ladies that were black belts and brown belts and purple belts and blue belts and white belts...ladies of all ages and shapes and sizes and backgrounds...and what a beautiful, breathtaking experience it was.  I do not think I could have come up with any better way to celebrate my one year anniversary with BJJ!  Now, someone please tell me, where's the next women's BJJ seminar? 

I could not end this post without a special shout out to Triin Seppel (owner of Fenom Kimonos) and Georgette Oden (whose blog I follow - Georgette's Jiu Jitsu World).  It was great to meet you ladies in person!  :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

First, thanks for all the hugs!  They were just what I needed.  I may not be "feeling it" right now, but my game is improving, one little tiny baby step at a time.  I have to be reminded sometimes about how far I've come since I started.  Tomorrow will be one year since I first stepped on the mat to "try" jiu jitsu in the women's only class.  Little did I know that I would be completely and utterly in love with this sport twelve months later.  I can remember thinking during that first class that I would never, ever understand how to do an armbar.  I never dreamed that I could make it through the adult class warmups and still be standing.  I didn't think that I would ever learn anything as fantastic or amazing as a "BREAD AND BUTTER CHOKE"!!  If you train with me you know that it is my favorite choke and if you roll with me I will at least attempt it on you once!!  There have been many ups and downs in this last year.  I have felt beat up and bruised and exhilarated and empowered all at the same time.  If you love this sport, you know that feeling.  So, I think that it is appropriate, in celebration of my one year anniversary with BJJ, I am traveling with my friend and my daughter to the Leticia Ribeiro Seminar for Women in Austin, Texas.  I am so excited I can't hardly sit still today.  We get to be on the mat with ladies who are black belts and brown belts and purple belts and blue belts and white belts (OH MY!).  I will be taking notes and lots of pictures to share with everyone next week.  Until then...Tchau!! :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tears and Hugs and Jiu Jitsu

Last night I had a breakdown after Jiu Jitsu class.  This does not happen very often for me.  Even though I am a big "scaredy cat", I almost always feel empowered after I train.  Something was different yesterday.  I don't think I can really put my finger on exactly what was going on, I just know that I felt the tears coming halfway through the warm-up and I had to fight them back the entire class.  I was frustrated with myself during technique.  We were working on a really cool half guard escape where you end up in butterfly guard, but I shut down almost from the beginning (too much going on in my head...you want me to put what where and then do what??!!...holy crap, I can't do that...OMG, I will never be able to move this guy...and so on and so on).  I did finally, sort of, do the technique once, with lots of coaching and help.  Thank goodness for our amazing instructors at Elite.  Then we rolled twice.  My first roll was with my 14 year old daughter, who proceeded to royally kick my butt (even though I have 50 pounds on her...so much for my theories on being able to use my weight against my opponents...and note to self, do not use open guard against your daughter, she is too fast and too good and will have you in side control and/or mount before you can blink).  My second roll was with another newer lady that had been just coming to the women's only class (but I believe she had trained before and stopped).  It was a good roll.  She definitely challenges me, and she is crazy strong for a woman.  I spent most of my time defending and trying to break her crazy strong grips. 

Then we are lining up and bowing out and I am trying to get to my stuff so no one will see the tears coming.  I guess sometimes the stress of everyday life and work and taking care of a home and kids and a husband and training just start to overwhelm me and there's something raw and emotional about jiu jitsu that can just bring on the tears.  Maybe I just needed a good cry to cleanse the toxins from my body.  Whatever it was, I just went into the dressing room and sobbed like a little baby and then I had a good heart to heart with my coach.  He always seems to know what to say to make me feel better and manages to make me look at things in the right perspective.  He said that there will be hills and valleys in my training.  That it is perfectly normal and that everyone goes through that at every level (from white belt to black belt and every level in between).  He told me to quit listening to that little voice in my head so much, and just do what comes naturally.  Like I said in my previous post "Most days I win those battles, but sadly, some days I do not.  But every day I get back up to do battle again and again and again and ultimately I will win the war! ".  I guess yesterday I lost the battle.  But today's a new day and a new opportunity to fight the good fight.  I will make the most of it and go to class and train hard with an open mind and a full heart and hopefully no tears!

p.s. After our heart to heart, my coach did the unthinkable, he said "I think you need a hug"!  Well, let me tell you, that was just what I needed.  I think Mrs. Ibarra might be rubbing off on these tough Jiu Jitsu guys!  As a Mom, we all know that a hug is like magic (it can heal boo boos, dry tears, and mend a broken heart).  I love to give out lots and lots of hugs to whoever will let me hug them (on and off the mat), but every once in a while I need a hug.  :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jiu Jitsu vs. the Scaredy Cat

I have been my whole life a "scaredy cat".  I was always afraid to try new things.  I never wanted to go first and I never raised my hand in class (even when I knew the answer).  What do you think makes a person such a "scaredy cat"?  I've really spent my life up until now trying to figure out how to wrangle that fear.  I've thrown myself into my work so I would be so good at it I wouldn't ever be afraid (I would always know the answer, always be on top of things and always be the go to gal).  I played it safe so no one would ever see that fear.  I sat on the sidelines and didn't participate (even when I wanted to).  I let myself gain a lot of weight because I was afraid to exercise, telling myself that I might get hurt or embarassed or people might laugh at me.  I could go on, but you probably get the point. 
This is the old me...a big, fluffy scaredy cat!! :)
So what changed?  Well, sadly, my sister died a few years ago very suddenly.  Something inside me changed when that happened.  She was young and it made me realize that all those things that she might have done or wanted to do, she would never be able to do.  So I decided that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life sitting on the sidelines.  I wanted to live out loud.  I absolutely did not want to be controlled by my fear.  It is a slow progression for me, like crawling up out of a dark hole (and it is a deep, dark hole that I spent 44 years digging).  When I started at Elite I can't explain how scared I would be before each and every class, plus the anxiety in between.  I started with cardio kickboxing in November of 2009 and then moved on to women's only Jiu Jitsu class in June of 2010.  Then the unthinkable happened, I fell in love with Jiu Jitsu.  So, with a lot of encouragement from everyone at home and at the gym, I started the adult BJJ class in September of 2010.  I do not think I can even put into words how empowered I felt after making it through that very first adult class.  It was a major milestone for me.  I am still scared (heart pounding and nerves rattling) before and during every class.  But the exhilaration I feel after completing a class is what keeps me going.  It's what tells me I can do this.  I can go out there and try things that scare me and I'm still standing when it's over.  I am not such a "scaredy cat" anymore!!
This is the new me...a lean, mean fighting machine!! LOL...not quite, but I will get there!!
I still get paralyzed by my fear sometimes (just ask anyone who trains with me how I manage to get out of doing Judo rolls or backwards rolls or any kind of roll because they absolutely terrify the holy heck out of me!!).  But I keep going to class.  Even when my fear tries to talk me out of it, I keep going to class.  I will not let fear control how I live my life.  I have absolutely found something I love and I will not let fear stop me from being in the game.  I refuse to sit on the sidelines.  So if you see me in class and I stop dead in my tracks with that deer in the headlights look on my face, don't think I don't understand what we are doing or don't know how to do it or can't do it, it's probably me just having a little mini-battle with my internal fear demon.  Most days I win those battles, but sadly, some days I do not.  But every day I get back up to do battle again and again and again and ultimately I will win the war!  So, for the rest of you out there, what's holding you back, keeping you on the sidelines, or making you stop dead in your tracks and not move forward?  Life is too short and too precious to hide in the shadows and never fully live out loud!!  I am happier and healthier for having found jiu jitsu.  It's my weapon of choice in the battle against fear.  I encourage each and every one of you to find that thing that brings you such pure joy that you forget about your fear and just start living out LOUD!!  :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

To compete or not compete...that is the question??

I want to compete again on June 18th.  I'm having a little bit of trouble getting my head and my heart back in the game.  I don't know if I will be ready in time.  I don't know if I'm cut out to compete.  So I ask myself, what makes a good competitor?  Is it someone who's a natural born athlete?  Is it someone with that competitive fire burning deep in their belly to win?  Is it a little bit of both?  Can it be a little old lady who just loves BJJ and wants to push herself to another level??  I hope so...I believe so.  I know that it seems odd to some that I want to compete.  As a woman it's a very different thing to compete.  There aren't that many of us so we aren't broken down into the same categories as the men.  I'm 44 years old and I could go up against someone more than half my age (or worse, a white belt teenager...now that puts the fear in me)!  It means I have to train hard, be super prepared, and as my coach put it "go balls to the walls" this time!!  I was not a natural born athlete, and to say the least, I am more than a little bit clumsy.  But even someone like me can do BJJ and actually progress and grow and get better (maybe a little slower than most, but still progress).  The thing that compels me to compete is that you have to be brutally honest about your BJJ.  For me, it's this brutal honesty that will take my BJJ to another level.  Open your mind to the constructive criticism of your coaches.  Ask your coaches and instructors and teammates for help.  Don't be afraid to train like a mad scientist in a lab.  Find a partner in crime...someone to train with and talk to and someone who can be a sounding board for your BJJ.  I particularly loved Georgette Oden's blog piece on the Sorcerer and the Apprentice.  It actually struck a cord with me, and I'm actively looking for my Sorcerer...beware...it could be you!  So when you look at me and think why is that crazy old lady competing, maybe you will give it a second thought, maybe you will think about competing.  Because I believe that beating inside all of us is the heart of a champion!