Archive for April, 2014

Haikuesday 04.29.14

April 29, 2014 1 comment

My tank is empty.

Seeing my pops get married

will fill it back up.


I’m blue.

April 26, 2014 3 comments
White to blue.

White to blue.

About a week and half ago, I was promoted to blue belt in jiu jitsu. Each time I pack and unpack my gym back and see my new blue belt quietly coiled up, I’m in disbelief. Each time I pull my new blue belt out of my gym bag and tie it in a square knot around my waist for practice, my brain has a hard time registering the crisp, bright fabric that’s replaced my grimy, worn white belt. Is this really mine? Am I really allowed to put this thing on? I’m a blue belt? How the heck did that happen?

I started practicing jiu jitsu in December of 2010. Or maybe it was January of 2011. Something like that. All I remember is that when our judo club moved locations to our current home in South Philly, our head coach started a jiu jitsu program. My coach is an advocate for cross-training and wanted the opportunity available at our club. Since he needed to build the program, he reached out to some of us who were strictly judoka. On a scale of 1-100, my interest in jiu jitsu was about a five. I did not like ground work. I liked throwing. But I also liked my coach, so I began showing up to jiu jitsu.

I tried to be a good student. I really did. But an hour and half on the ground was so boring to me. I spaced out constantly. I imagined myself throwing as our instructor guided us through sweeps and transitions. I never understood what we were doing. I had to be shown techniques 62 billion times. I felt awkward and stupid on the ground. I did not like jiu jitsu. I’d come to class a few times a week for a while, then not go for two months, go three classes, stay away for another month. Every class felt like my first class. I was just a body in a room, with no goal to compete and no vision of myself ever wearing any color belt except for my old judo white belt. It took months of hounding from my coaches for me to sew a black patch on my belt for stripes.

I hated sucking at jiu jitsu, but more than that, I hated hating jiu jitsu. I didn’t like it because I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t understand it because I refused to like it. So maybe around 2012, I decided to like jiu jitsu. I was going to learn. I was going to love groundwork. I was going to love that you couldn’t win a match with a pin, that you had to rack up points or submit. I was going to embrace my remedial learning and view jiu jitsu as a really long, rewarding math problem. And it worked. I found myself asking questions in class, curious how certain techniques might apply to different scenarios. I started to look forward to class. I was bummed out when I had to miss practice. I think around that time, I wound up with two stripes on my belt. I was making progress. Still, I never imagined myself competing and I was pretty sure those two stripes were the roof on my jiu jitsu house.

In January of 2013, I was stressed out. My job was really challenging me and I was feeling weak and sick a lot. Sticking through judo practice until 10:00 PM, getting home near 11:00 PM, and falling asleep around 1:00 AM was starting to grind me into nothing. I didn’t want to cut training out of my life. I didn’t want to be away from my club. So I decided to make jiu jitsu my primary focus for a bit. The work was easier on my faulty hip flexors and since class was done at 8:00 PM, I could get some sleep before heading to work for a day of crisis management. Although I felt like I was cheating on judo, I was having a lot of fun. There are more girls in the jiu jitsu program and we have a handful of light weight guys, so I connected with training partners that were good for me. Last spring, one of the women asked if I wanted to do an all women’s grappling tournament with her in Washington, DC. Huh. Compete in a jiu jitsu tournament? But I said I’d never do that. My new buddy really didn’t want to be the only one to go down and compete, and the tournament seemed like it would be a great event. I decided to jump off the high dive. I registered for the tournament. I had an amazing experience. I even won two matches. I officially loved jiu jitsu. Between May and October of 2013, I competed in three jiu jitsu tournaments after vowing I would never compete in any. Suddenly, there were four stripes on my white belt.

As February approached this year, my jiu jitsu club was getting ready for the IBJJF New York Open. There was a big push for us to compete and get ready for the fight. After some second-guessing, I registered to compete. When we heard a week or so before the tournament that we were going to have a promotion night, my buddy kept saying to me, “Oh, you are SO getting your blue belt!” She was excited. I was nauseated. I earned four stripes on my white belt, but I did not see myself as a blue belt. I did not fee like the other blue belts I worked with. I preferred to stay where I was. Then tournament day came, and I lost my match. I was the only one on the team who didn’t win a match and get a medal. That kind of performance certainly didn’t seem blue belt-worthy. I couldn’t make up my mind if I was happy or sad about that.

Promotion night came. My coaches talked about how well our team did at the New York Open and how proud they were of us as a club. I was thrilled for my teammates, but a part of me felt ashamed and disappointed by own performance. On one hand, I know I try, but on the other hand, my results don’t reflect that. It was time for promotions. My coaches handed out stripes. Then it was time for color changes. Our head coach pulled a blue belt out of a bulging envelope. “Who’s this?” he murmured to himself. “Oh, Lori,” he answered himself. I stood up in slow motion. I thought was going to fall down. Or cry. Or fall down and then cry. Although I didn’t have to speak, I was pretty sure I went mute. As I walked over to my coaches, my head coach said that promotions are not always about medals. He said, “Sometimes, promotions are about bodies of work, and no one works harder than Lori.” That killed me. It took all my stubborn, stoic Irish Catholic pride not to cry as he handed me my new blue belt.¬† I still felt the sting of my recent loss, but with the support and recognition from my coaches, I let a little bit of pride creep in.

While I trust the judgement of my jiu jitsu coaches, a part of my brain thinks I shouldn’t be walking around with blue belt in my gym bag. Any time I’ve gotten promoted in judo or jiu jitsu, I never thought I was ready. So I have to make myself ready. If I’m wearing a blue belt, I have to make myself be whatever I think a blue belt should be. It’s time to focus. It’s time to work hard. It’s time to register for that all women’s grappling tournament that my friend and I want to do in June.

It’s time to be a blue belt.


New stripes and new belts, 04.17.2014, Osagame Martial Arts and Fitness.

New stripes and new belts, 04.17.2014, Osagame Martial Arts and Fitness.




Haikuesday 04.22.14

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

No one holds me back

except for me. And this time,

I will cut the leash.

Haikuesday 04.22.14

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

No one holds me back

except for. And this time,

I will cut the leash.


April 21, 2014 2 comments

The thing that scares me most

is my own potential.

What if I don’t let myself be great?

It’s the problem of risk verses comfort,

of loyalty verses stagnancy,

of waiting verses acting.

Don’t I make my own timing?

Or do I leave that up to someone else?

All I know if that my brain is often wrong

and my heart is often right,

and I can’t pass the test

if I never open the booklet.


Haikuesday 04.15.14

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

I want the challenge,

and in my moments of doubt,

I take my chances.


April 13, 2014 7 comments

Yesterday, I competed in the IBJJF New York Open. This was the biggest jiu jitsu tournament I’ve competed in so far and my most unique tournament experience to date. It was one of those things where nothing went how I imagined it, even from five or six months ago when I silently committed to competing in this event.

Back in the November, I was in good shape from my summer and fall tournaments. My conditioning routine was very set and my diet was excellent. Since I wasn’t competing anytime soon, I eased up on the diet a little as we slid into the holidays. Then winter rolled around and not even the threat of death could get me out of bed early enough to do my morning workouts in the dark. I was still practicing four to six days a week, so I didn’t notice any significant changes in my body. I knew the New York Open was coming, but I kept telling myself, “I’ll get it together for February and March. That will give me time.” However, when February and March pulled up, I found myself getting sick constantly, and bad enough that I had to miss days of work. During those two months, I probably missed at least three weeks of practice. When I was on the mat, I felt slow and weak. I didn’t want to know what my scale had to say about all this. I tried to picture myself competing and felt like I would be setting myself up to fail. I didn’t want to do that for this tournament. In addition, my job was exploding in chaos and I wondered if I could handle the stress at work and prepare for a tournament at the same time. I wasn’t sure. So after some thought, I emailed my coaches and told them that I was not going to compete. They respected my decision and we left it at that.

Well, they left it at that, but a part of my brain couldn’t let it go. During practice, our drills and technique were geared toward competition. Our coaches talked to us about being good training partners for the people who were competing. I felt left out and jealous. I’m usually one of the people you’re supposed to help get ready for the tournament! One week, I had a few fun practices in a row. I felt like myself again. I wanted to fight. I told myself I should wait til the next one, but what the hell was I waiting for? I’m still a white belt. I’ve been improving over this past year and there is no better time for me to test myself than right now. So two and a half weeks before the tournament after consulting with my training buddies and coaches, I registered. It was done. Sigh of relief.

But no, no sigh of relief. If I know one thing about myself, it’s that I don’t like things to be easy. How did I make registering for a tournament hard? Well, I decided to go down a weight division. When I finally got brave enough and stepped on the scale, I was 131 (I normally hover around 125). This was a relief, since I was certain I was pushing 140 during my lazy/sick period. With my walking around weight, I would be in the light weight division. But feather weight went up to 129. I could get down to 129, no problem. Yet there was a problem because for IBJJF tournaments, you have to weight in with your gi, which could add anywhere from four to eight pounds. My gi added four. So for me to hit 129 with my gi, I’d have to get down to 125. Seven pounds in two and half weeks. In my head, that sounded easy. In my head, as soon as I started doing the extra workouts and went back to my training diet, all that weight that wasn’t supposed to be there would just fall off. Two and a half weeks seemed like plenty of time. The next day, I got on the scale. It said 132.


Despite cutting back my calories and adding my conditioning back in, I was stuck for a whole week at 129. I was so mad at myself. Why did I always have to make things harder? Who was I kidding? I can’t lose that much in two and half weeks. I have the slowest metabolism on the planet. I missed the deadline to switch my weight division. I started have a psychological melt down. I had wanted to test myself. I was feeling so good about where I was skill-wise and it seemed like the right time. The thought of getting disqualified for not making weight turned my stomach. That would be so humiliating–to lose before you even got on the mat. That wasn’t going to be me. I had to go hard. I was going to make weight. That was it.

On the Monday of tournament week, I weighed 127.6. I had to be at least 125, but ideally lighter since I didn’t know what the scale at the tournament would be like. Each day that week, I did kettle bell swings in the morning, trained at night, and did more swings when I got home. I lived off of bullet coffee, greek yogurt, and apples. I was certain this weight cut was going to make me angry, tired, and emotionally unstable. Surprisingly, the opposite happened. I felt clear. I was focused and alert. I was pumped to get up in the morning and start my workout. Each night on the bus after practice, I silently repeated the mantra to myself, “I am lighter.” I imagined myself shooting through outer space in my gi with bad pink and red energy waves bursting out of me. I was losing a pound a day. Yesterday morning, I was 122.8 without my gi and 127.0 in my gi. Two pounds under. I was so relieved. Even if the tournament scale was a little heavy, I’d be fine. I won the first fight. I happily scampered off to go meet my teammates so we could caravan to New York City and fight. I was excited. I was ready.

When I finally fought at 4:00 PM yesterday, all my excitement and confidence dissipated in an anti-climatic cross-choke. I was told the girl who beat me is an accomplished competitor and took gold in another IBJJF event the weekend before, but that doesn’t change my disappointment. I imagined myself fighting more matches–good matches where I could show my skill–but in less than five minutes, I was tapping out, walking off the mat, and not even trying to hold back my tears. I am still working out what the lessons are from my match, but one thing I am happy about is that I finally have some confidence going out there. I need to hang on to that.

Even though I lost, I have no regrets. I don’t regret the weight cut because it really made me feel like I can do anything. Yesterday was the right day for me to do the New York Open. My team had eight competitors, plus our coach and a new girl at our club who wanted to come and support us. I felt like I was rolling up with an army plus a family. It was also fantastic because some of the Philadelphia-area girls that I train with¬† where there, too, so we got to cheer each other on. This was the first tournament I went to since I was a little kid where I really felt like I was a part of something bigger. Yes, I went there to fight my own battle, but man-to-man combat is easier when you know you have back up. This year was the first year that my club had members of our women’s team compete in the New York Open. There were three of us, and while I had a sucky match, my teammates took home three medals between them. Overall, my team got ten medals for our eight competitors. I was the only one who didn’t medal yesterday, but I think that speaks well of our club. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of my team, and I know with certainty now from the work and the tears that I really do love jiu jitsu.


Osagame team at the New York Open, 04.12.14

Osagame team at the New York Open, 04.12.14. That’s me, second in on the left, with my girls.