Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I cried this morning.

It's been a long, long time since training made me want to cry. So long, in fact, that I thought I was getting better enough at the zhu zhits' that perhaps I wouldn't have to cry again. Ha ha ha, funny girl.

At least I knew from prior experience that this is best done in the bathroom.

Of course now I'm spoiling it by blogging about it, but I doubt the people present at the time read my blog, so I think I'm okay. I'm just confessing to you, my brethren and sistren of the net.

Our school has an "official" class three mornings a week at 6am, but one of my fave training partners has a key and permission to come in for dedicated drilling sessions on other mornings. I inveigled my way into this bonus training, and reward his patience by picking him up on the way to the academy and giving him a ride home on my way to work. That kind of spread into picking up two others and giving them rides home too-- silly university students without cars!-- but I don't mind, they're all within 30-40 lbs of me or less, they're all very skilled and technical, and they're all funny as shit, so it's win-win for me.

This morning there were a couple other guys as it is an official class morning, including a purple who just came back to training after tapping out testicular cancer. Woot! I had some good rolls, trying to implement bits and pieces of advice people have tossed my way. (Last night, another purple schooled me a bit on my half guard passing, and it worked decently well.) I really enjoy playing with a new guy who just moved here from a Machado school out of state, because he has that rare, delicious ability to ratchet his resistance and speed to be just two notches above my own, and he gives hints, suggestions, and encouragement here and there. He doesn't critique the whole time; he doesn't wait till you almost have him to tell you how to do it better, he just fights you, convincingly, until you walk right by the $20 on the sidewalk, and then he points at it. And then afterwards, he always has some kind words.

So I was feeling challenged and successful, but humble from watching my betters tear each other up on the mats. It was good stuff. Then, one of the best blues in our group asked me to roll. [cue ominous music]

I'm usually pretty good at identifying a goal to suit my opponent. If I roll with a noob, then success might be submitting them with a particular submission on my bad side without going to a particular position to get there. With an upper belt, success might be just not getting submitted or avoiding submission for a certain number of minutes. With this particular person, I was hoping for success in the form of passing his guard. (And to my delight, it did happen, once. I did something Dan suggested to me yesterday, and it worked, I landed in side control, and grinned like a fool.) The flipside was, if I got swept, I knew my guard would be pretty easily passed, so I would shift to a "don't get submitted" defensive paradigm.

This is all standard stuff and I imagine it sounds familiar. So why did I cry? Because at a certain point, I felt like it was getting to be a beating. Humiliation. Not necessarily the intent of my training partner, who's a swell guy.. but it reminded me of this video of Galvao, I think, against some JJJ black belt who thought he could hang with BJJ black belts. Galvao gets him all turtled up and then just dances across his back, stands on him, does acrobatics, even a little break dancing, the whole nine yards. I tried to find it again on youtube and couldn't, dammit. Edit: Yes, thanks Steve, that's it. Here it is:

Andre Galvao Jiu-Jitsu Pwnage - Watch more Funny Videos

Specifically, I didn't have an answer for some positions. One being me in sit-up guard, wrapped around his leg, but unable to get up because he had good hand pressure on the top of my head. Looking back I should have just gotten a cuff grip, pulled his hand off my head, and held that grip behind his knee. But I felt like the prototypical little brother, swinging madly and ineffectively at his big brother who holds him at arm's length with a hand on the forehead.

Another trouble spot being turtle. I can turtle up pretty tightly, but when they just kneel on my back and wait, it sucks. I feel so weighed down that I don't even try to roll forwards. The process of rolling to guard is sloooooowwwed down and I feel totally vulnerable at all stages along the way. If I just sit there in a hedgehogy ball, he does all those Galvaoist antics on my back. This happened once, and I eventually got my back taken. (Fine, it happens, I actually escaped, but I'm pretty sure he gave it to me.) Second time, I tried to roll to guard, but that sucked; it took me a year or so, and he passed like knife through proverbial buttah. Third time, I was pretty close to tears, so I just tapped, thanked him for the roll, and went to the bathroom.

I was thinking, I don't deserve to be a blue belt. I am utterly failing to represent my instructors. I am so far behind the other blues I train with. Training seven days a week does me no good at all because I have the memory of a goldfish. (Every eight seconds it's all new.) Seems like rolls all go so fast-- positions change in a heartbeat and I don't have photographic/videographic recall. I can't remember where grips are, where my base is, what my posture was, so I can't later reflect on where things went wrong so that I can even ask others for help. I'm flailing. It's fun to roll, sure, and it's zen to let it all go and not dwell. But if I can't remember, if I can't masticate later, if I can't fucking DWELL on my mistakes, I can't fix them. And if I do something right, I can't be sure of repeating it.

When you're all hot, and sweaty, and your breath is coming a little fast, crying isn't even easy. And it doesn't feel much better while you're crying, or after. There isn't that release, that catharsis. Your hands are on the sink, your head is hanging, and all you can smell is the warm humidity of your own sweat and the faint scent of your laundry detergent rising like mist off a swamp. You're trying to be quiet, and you hate that you're crying at all because it seems like the ultimate in submission. It's not a momentary "you got me"-- instead, it was for me a confession of elemental inadequacy. A complete collapse of confidence.

I peeled a stripe off my belt and threw it away.


Steve said...

I've felt the same way. After a roll, I sometimes sit there on the mat and relive every single mistake I made. I don't cry, but all the same, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It's pretty clear when I'm happy and when I'm not.

But, you know, we love this art that is hard. It's difficult and uncomfortable and technical. It's also not for everyone. We persist because it's also addictive and a lot of fun and, I think, for most of us, because we couldn't imagine NOT.

Take it easy, Georgette. There's not a single doubt in my mind that you deserve every piece of tape you've been given. So, now you're sandbagging. :D

Steve said...

Does that link still work? You're talking about the Mundial 2008 match. Right? Where the dude tried to heel hook Galvao and pissed him off. I can't view the link at work, but if it's still there, that's where I saw it.

Dev said...

Steve is exactly right. However, I'm going to take the opposite tack. I'm not going to tell you how awesome you are. I've already said that too many times to count, and if you don't know it by now, me saying it one more time won't help. I'm not going to tell you you deserve that stripe, because your coach, the black belt that gave it to you, certainly knows better than me. And I'm not going to tell you not to get frustrated, because, goddammit, I understand exactly what you're feeling, why you're feeling it, and why you think you should take that stripe off.

So what I AM going to tell you to do, given all of the above, is go get that stripe out of the trash, put it in a small frame, and put it wherever you're going to see it the most - above your computer, in the bathroom, doesn't matter. Stare at it every time you sit on the can. And think about it being in your bathroom every time you roll.

Then, next time you completely control a white belt or baby blue, execute the things you want to execute, and act like you've grown back up, put it back on your belt.

This is not an easy thing to do, like Steve said. So take your time, recover mentally and physically, rededicate yourself to just improving your game one day at a time, and get your sandbagging ass back on the mat. :)

You'll be fine. I promise.

Georgette said...

Love you guys :)

Lynntropy said...

I second Dev's suggestion about framing that stripe. ;-}

Anonymous said...

Look at how much you learned. It certainly was not a wasted time. I'll save the cliches but you are right where you are supposed to be. Its growth sister and growth isnt always painless.

A.D. McClish said...

Georgette, I wished I lived closer to you for two reasons. (1) I love reading your blog and think you would be an awesome person to know. (2) You would get to grapple me and would then feel a lot better about your abilities. How can I be sure of this, you might ask? Well, let's just say that yesterday, I got owned by a fellow blue belt who was fighting me...with one hand tied in his belt. How the heck do you get owned by a one-armed grappler??? lol

I know how you feel. I have been feeling that way a lot lately. Yesterday, I almost had a bathroom tear session myself right after class. I don't even know what to say to make you feel better (apart from all the stuff Dev has already said) because I struggle with the same feelings as well.

Probably both of us are just too hard on ourselves. I haven't ever grappled you, but I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that you are a lot better than you give yourself credit for.

Anonymous said...

Georgette, It takes guts to post this openly and honestly on your own blog. Good for you. I have been through this many times and will continue too many more times. It's a lifelong journey. We swallowed the pill and have gone down the rabbit hole with no turning back. Nothing great can come without some kind of contrast. Be in the contrast and in spite of what your head is telling you, keep on keepin on. Jean Jacque Machado told me that he's just a White Belt that has put in a lot of time.

now, go and tape that stripe back on!

Meerkatsu said...

I secretly peeled off a stripe from my blue belt (so I was a one stripe not a two stripe) when I was still quite new at my current academy. My instructor noticed the faded white sticky residue on my belt and told me off. He said you go and put that stripe back on because it is disrespectful to the person (not him...Royce Gracie btw) who gave you that stripe.
Thing is I was feeling really low at the time (so I know how you feel)...I was getting owned by quite a few white belts and most blues and felt I did not deserve even to wear the blue belt let alone stripes.

I've learned a valuable lesson out of my experience...use sticky tape residue remover. LOL!

Seriously though, these moments of self doubt are what make our sport the great character building thing that it is. Look at the TKD club down the road. Or the shotokan club. You'll get a new colour belt every two nanoseconds just for turning up. The only tears there are the tears of regret as it slowly dawns on students that they've been wasting their time as they sign up for BJJ class!

[No offence to shotokan and tkd students, I'm sure you shed tears too].

Tony said...

Georgette, I don't think Phil would have gave you the stripes you have if you were not ready for them. I feel the same as you every Sunday. I just tell myself that I got to step it up.

When I roll with you I can tell your getting better with every roll. Remember we started out white belts together and you totally out class me.

About a month ago we had a white belt for outside the academy come in to train and we rolled I was not up to par that day but,he got mount an I was not able to get out of his mount. I was so f-ing mad I just wanted to throw my blue belt in the trash and kick my gym bag across the parking lot. Believe me it was a long drive home that day. But,it's a day I will never forget.


leslie said...

This is exactly the same way I've felt for the last few months. I finished many rolls through, in, or near tears. Even when I did the "right" thing, my partners always somehow turned it into the "wrong" thing. I couldn't think fast enough to do anything. Rolls seemed to become "how fast can she tap?" contests. Any time my belt fell off, I'd throw it to the side, and the voice in my head would say, "Yeah, that's right, throw it away. You don't deserve it anyway." (If we had stripes, I'm sure I would've peeled them off, too.)

At the grappling camp this last weekend and in talking to my coach when I got back, I was able to sit back and get some perspective. I now believe that the belt fits... even though I got thrashed at camp, and got back and got thrashed by a blue belt. And then by two purples tonight. But, the belt still fits.

Try not to put so much pressure on yourself to prove yourself (to yourself!). It's not up to you to award the belt or the stripes, or whether or not you deserve them. You're a blue belt. You don't have to know everything yet.

Rick said...

This post raised a tear. No joke. Thanks for sharing. Really.

Liam H Wandi said...

Chica! ¡Est├ís loco! :D

fenix said...

Georgette, you post is so close to how I sometimes feel. Thank you for having the balls to write about it.

I had a near-tear experience only recently for very similar reasons. While I only have a white belt, I certainly felt unworthy of the stripes on it. But like you, I was back on the mat at the next opportunity.

I have never had the pleasure of having a roll with you but I don't doubt for one second that you earned your belt and every stripe on it.

Some days we aren't at our best, for whatever reason. Some days, things come our way which push us to - or beyond our limits. How we rise to that challenge is one measure of our ability and mindset. How we bounce back after a disappointment is also a measure!

BJJ puts us though a tough school, not just physically...

I think the other comments here are fantastic. I hope you follow Dev's suggestion about framing the stripe you took off :-)

Off you go, don't be so hard on yourself and have fun!

Anonymous said...

After recently getting promoted to purple, my instructor took me aside and laid out his expectations for me. I wasn't a competitor blue belt (I lost tournaments albeit getting gradually better at losing - you know what I mean) and I'm not athletic. So I was worried what he would ask of me - start submitting all the blues?

Naw, he was very reasonable. It's ok to be tapped by blues. But no more tapping to white belts. Stall if need be, control the pace, but even if the white belt is a lot bigger and stronger, don't get tapped.

Ok, that I can live with, because I do have relatively strong survival skills.

So the first day back to class after promotions I promptly (I mean promptly) got tapped by a white belt.

The only thing that helped me laugh it off, was when 10 seconds later I heard the academy laughing - at a new brown belt who just got put to sleep by a purple belt.

Yeah, shit happens. Put the stripe back on. And remember venting is ok but whining isn't (you haven't crossed that line). We are bjj people and ALL represent well.

Sean said...

I won't name the name (since I wasn't sure whether it was meant to be a private story), but I heard a ridiculously sick & decorated black belt tell a story to a group, about when he was a white belt being tapped over and over again by other students one day, he went to the bathroom to cry, feeling humiliated. He refused to return to the academy for a little while, but eventually regained perspective, and went back (obviously).

Based on the number of spot-on comment responses, it's safe to say that we've all not only 'been there', but, are often did an amazing job articulating those frustrations and feelings sincerely-- thanks!

Frank said...

So I have seen (and been the cause of) people crying after a hard class, and I've come pretty close myself. One purely practical thing I've noticed is that if my blood sugar drops I (and my female friends) tend to get way more emotional and down in the dumps after a hard train. Especially if we're cutting weight or dieting. So maybe you just didn't eat enough breakfast. I'm sure you'll feel better after a break, some carby food and a rest.

The other thing is that for me at least, the hardest thing about BJJ is emotional self-control. Both blackbelts at our school are freaky calm in daily life and even when competing at the highest levels. It comes easily to them, or at least easier to them than it does to mortals like myself. It's hard to to complain and make excuses about bad training. The path of a warrior is to suck it up and use it as grist for the mill and keep training and improve. It's hard but that's why we do it, and that's the real lesson we take away from the art.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog, and many of your posts are spot on and inspirational. However, this behavior is simply childish. To throw away your stripe is to disrespect the person who gave it to you, because it means that you don't trust their judgment.

You are definitely better than this. You need to suck it up and put the stripe back on.

Kopi Luwak said...

I think actually that's the best that coud happen to you training :).

Everytime I think I am becoming much better than I used to be, and someone from the School comes, and totally powns me, makes me smile because it's a priviligue to have these people there to expose all this holes in your technique, then you have alot of stuff to work.

I dont think you should cry or to get depressed, but, all the opposite, you should feel happy because you know where you need to improve now, instead to be thinking you are becoming better until someone comes and kicks ur butt :D.

It's all part of the learning curve.

2 weeks ago I was rolling with the blue belts and 2 purples, and I felt I was doing great. Would fight more than 4 minutes without to get killed, I even finished matches by time without to tap, and defending very well from some attacks.

Then, this white belt from the evening classes came, we rolled, and he got me tapping every 45 seconds. I felt owned, and yes, a little bit depressed, above all with his triangles because he was tapping everyone with them.

Now, 2 weeks later, I can roll with him alot more, and I even made him to tap 2 times, because every morning, I requested him to roll, and to roll, until I would figure out his game.

So now, I think, everytime someone comes and powns me, humilliates me, etc, the real winner it's me, because I have there someone which will make me better for sure, if I keep rolling with him until I figure his game, her game out, and always, they give you a hand to figure out how to beat them, which makes everything even cooler, the reciprocation from teacher, student, student, teacher, student, student link :D.


Anonymous said...

I was thinking, I don't deserve to be a blue belt. I am utterly failing to represent my instructors. I am so far behind the other blues I train with. Training seven days a week does me no good at all because I have the memory of a goldfish.

Hey. Get out of my head. :-(

Anonymous said...

Six or seven months into my BJJ training, my instructor double-striped my clean white belt. I felt like I barely knew which way was up, and certainly did not feel worthy of one stripe, let alone two. The next day, I went to another class- I knew that it was a different teacher teaching that day, and nobody would be there who knew about my promotion- so I wore one of my spare clean white belts. I just felt like such an outrageous poser walking around with that striped belt on, and I couldn't bring myself to walk into the school with it.

Well, teacher #2 was doing some promotions after class. Yep, you guessed it, I walked out of there with 2 stripes on my SPARE white belt. Nowhere to hide.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted this. I started in BJJ on June 1 this year and competed in my first tournament on July 18. After getting a gold medal for attendance (single in my weight category for women) they let me compete against a guy in the student category--so he was around 18 years old.

I was armbarred (is that a term? :) in about 30 seconds and he wrenched my arm so hard that I screamed out and cried. Yep, right on the mat in front of my instructor, in front of all my male teammates. Cried like a toddler. Then when I got home cried because I felt so humiliated, both for the 2 unearned medals (I got a silver for that craptastic match because we were the only 2 competing in that category) and for bawling in front of everyone.

Glad I'm not the only one who breaks down. It was a shock for me, though. Really, thank you for posting this.

Georgette said...

Julia, you rock. Most of all, for competing with less than 2 months of training! That is sheer awesomeness. I can't wait to read your blog (next!). And yes, "armbarred" is the word. I am very familiar with this word. I am receiving this word (and other past tenses like "shoulder locked" "wrist locked" "kneebarred" "toeheld" "cranked" and "choked") on a daily basis.

I feel the same way when I get medals for losing a match (haven't gotten one for just showing up yet) but it WAS tournament experience so that's valid in terms of easing the nerves for the future. Take it easy, you have a long long road ahead, many many opportunities to win multiple matches and feel you earned the bling. I have no doubt you will.


Anonymous said...

Okay okay okay Georgette! I started my darn blog :) I have an interesting take on things, as I am an ESL professional. I really see huge parallels between ESL and BJJ and I haven't seen them discussed much, but then again--I've only been doing this for 2 months, so who knows--maybe it's a topic that's been beaten to death.

Georgette said...

@Julia-- I don't think anything has been beaten to death in jiu jitsu bloggery, not even the age-old "gi vs. nogi" question. I look forward to your insights from that interesting angle.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this:

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Thank you for writing this and sharing this. I've felt like that a lot lately but haven't had the guts to talk to anyone about it but my boyfriend. I'm still kind of new ( year and a half in) and a female and don't want to make myself a bigger ( or is smaller?) target. So thank you.

Georgette said...

I am happy to have helped you feel less alone! and from my "lofty" position five years further into the art, I can tell you with assurance, it DOES GET BETTER. And you will get better. It's going to feel really really good sometimes! Keep up the good work, keep rolling, keep training.