Updated: Aug 13, 2022
My first memorable exposure to martial arts was watching the movie The Three Ninjas, with my brothers in the early 90s. After watching this cheesy ridiculousness, we pretended to be ninjas and save the world! It wasn't until college that I truly began my martial arts journey though. My senior year of college I needed a gym credit to graduate. I was scrolling through offered courses and came across Karate. I figured this would be a fun way to earn a gym credit, and something I had never done. I convinced a friend to join me, and at the end of the semester we successfully went through our first belt test. Soon afterwards, I graduated, and my martial arts journey was paused briefly.
I went to graduate school and during my final semester found out that a local Judo group traded mat space in the school's gym in exchange for allowing students to participate for free. I learned a basic shoulder roll, a few throws, and a humbling new way to use my body before my final semester ended. I again had to push the pause button for my next scholastic endeavor.
The year I finished my doctoral degree and moved home with family I was gifted a Groupon to a Karate Dojo, from one of my Three Ninjas watching brothers. I gladly, even excitedly, stepped back on the mats, starting essentially from scratch as it had been 7 years since my last Kiai. I attended classes on an "adult" schedule, juggling class with my work schedule and family time. Admittedly, I didn't attend class as much as I wanted to. I truly enjoyed the dojo and the lessons provided there. This is also the year that I met my husband, Tim. Not long after my first Karate belt test, I moved in with my future husband. This drew me miles from the dojo and forced me to look at other martial arts options.
I knew Tim did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I inquired about his experience. I had a base understanding of BJJ, as my youngest brother started practicing while he was in college. Soon after, I found myself humbled. Humbled is the best word I can think of for my Jiu Jitsu journey. I entered the gym with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Trepidation because I don't like being bad at anything. Excitement because I was ready for this new challenge.
For three years, through building a house, getting married to a wonderful man and his three children, adopting two dogs to form a pack of three, a few job changes, forming stronger familial bonds, a global pandemic, a partridge in a pear tree, I got to the gym as often as I was able. I struggled. I cried. I was frustrated. I was bad at Jiu Jitsu. I accepted. I persevered. I grew. I earned. I was awarded a blue belt. I cheered. It wasn't easy, but nothing worthwhile is.
I promise all of you ups and downs. There will be times of frustration but never defeat. This is why community is so important. The support that your Jiu Jitsu family provides is key to your success. Your community starts in your local gym but is so much greater! The international network of Jiu Jitsu practitioners is vast and supportive through visits at other gyms, posting blogs, online video instruction and Q and A.
Your confidence will build over time. There are days where I feel amazing on the mats, and days where I don't feel as secure. Over time though, I have built my skills and my timing. I can see vast differences in myself from day one until now. Some days you have to celebrate small wins, such as I will not be submitted by a kimura, or I will pass guard 3 times during this class. As you build these small wins, you progress, build you game, and advance your practice. You cannot start by submitting a black belt; if you do they let you mark my words on that.
I have found that my greatest challenge has been control of my emotions. I'm not used to being bad at anything. I learn quickly, and I am hard on myself if I am not perfect by the third repetition. I struggle sometimes not to get down on myself and have cried more than once on the way home. This is my biggest challenge, learning to take the good and leave the bad on the mat. Learning to give myself grace.
A new journey has now begun. My husband and his longtime friend and training partner opened this gym. I am elated and proud of them. I am excited to continue learning from them, sharpening my technique, and progressing my abilities. I welcome all of you to join us on this journey!
- Living, Loving, Rolling