Archive for the ‘Brazilian jiu jitsu’ Category

Haikuesday 11.22.16

November 22, 2016 2 comments

Jiu jitsu is hard.

Everything is hard right now,

so I’ll step it up.


All these losses.

October 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Our jiu jitsu team, competitors, coaches, and cheerleaders.

Yesterday, I competed in the 2014 Diamond State Games, a jiu jitsu tournament in Newark, Delaware. As I sit down to write this little post, I find my eyes welling with tears as I reflect on my performance. I cried yesterday after my matches and I thought I was done with that. I guess not.

Let me clarify: Yesterday was not a bad day. In a lot of way, yesterday was an awesome day and one I will remember. My team had seven competitors and at least as many others with us to coach and support. That’s a great feeling. For some of my teammates, it was their first tournament and they killed it. It was really incredible to be there and watch them realize that their work is paying off. However, I found myself at another tournament where I walked off the mat feeling lost.

I was looking forward to this tournament. For the first time that I can ever remember, this tournament was serving as stress relief. That never happens for me. Usually, tournaments are something I worry incessantly over and run circles through fear and doubt. But for the last couple of months, I can’t even let myself fully process what’s going on with me. I am struggling with work to an extent that deeply worries me. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking about my step-mom as she copes with breast cancer. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking about my dad and how he’s holding up. I can’t seem to let myself stop and feel all of these things. I’m fighting not to let myself crumble. So I just throw my focus and nervous energy into the gym, into yoga, into riding my bike, and of course, getting ready for the tournament. I wanted that day to just be with my buddies, cheer them on, and then have my time to give everything in my mind and body to that mat.

I felt so calm leading up to yesterday. I even felt calm in the car and at weigh-ins. It was so unique and a relief to feel that way. I got excited watching my teammates destroy their opponents. It was looking like a great day for us. As the clock inched closer to the start of the women’s blue belt division, my muscles started to tense and my focus was set. I wanted my matches. I looked around at the other women, trying to figure out who might be in my division, but also wanting to be surprised. Soon, my buddy, who was also competing in women’s blue belt, but in a different weight class, told me that there were only three of us lighter weight women, so they put us together. So now it was me, my buddy, and a stranger. Normally, I would have been upset to have to fight a friend, but yesterday, I welcomed it. I knew we were both going to fight hard, and we both wanted to win. I also knew nothing that happened on that mat could damage to the bond we already have.

My buddy and the other woman fought first. My buddy lost, and my heart sunk. She had already done two no gi divisions and was having a rough day. I wanted something good for her. Then it was my turn to go against the other woman. She was tall and lanky, especially compared to my short and stocky, but I didn’t want to get psyched out by the body type difference. I struggled though. Man, I really struggled. I don’t think I’ve worked so hard in any match in recent memory. I hung in there the whole six minutes, but I know she killed me on points. There was no time to get caught up in the loss though. My buddy and I still had to fight in less than 10 minutes. My buddy is small, fast, and agile. I had to be a step ahead of her. We were called to the mat and I felt ready. But again, I struggled in a way that I never have before. It seemed like every time I made some progress, I got knocked back light years. We fought the whole six minutes and finished with an exhausted, relieved hug. The ref held my buddy’s hand in the air, indicated her win. I was happy for her. I was. But I was so frustrated with myself. What am I missing? What am I doing wrong? All these losses.

All these losses.

My coach says I’m not really doing anything wrong. Are things I need to improve? Yes. Some missed opportunities? Yes. But he says I’m on the right track. He offered some perspective, noting that I’m a new blue belt, and the other women I fought have the advantage of time and experience. I am trying to let his words settle in. There’s just something in me that knows I can win, and I keep trying to figure out what has to change. Is it something in me? Is is mental? Do I not believe in myself enough? Was I too calm? Was I not taking it seriously enough? What is it? What am I missing?

All these losses.

I felt alone, but I was not alone. One of our teammates showed up with a bag from Wawa and he had some water and dark chocolate waiting for me. My dad couldn’t make it to the tournament, but by chance, my first sensei from when I practiced judo as a kid was there. It was the next best thing, as he makes a great Mr. Latimer stand-in.There was a point where I needed to sit by myself and relax after my matches, and one of our long-time club members came over to talk with me, checking in on how I was feeling. We’ve never really had a talk like that. I appreciated his presence. I gathered myself up and went to sit matside by our white belt girls who were competing. As I sat and watched, I found myself getting lost in my head again and the tears started falling. My soul sister, Joy, sat down beside me, patted my back, and listened. It is a small moment that I will hold in my heart.

These sports, these silly sports. They mean so much to me. Judo and jiu jitsu keep teaching me things about myself–things I don’t like and things I do like. Competition works so well for revealing these parts of ourselves, which is why I do it. The test is important to me. Sometimes I leave the mat feeling crushed, but I know I’ll step back on again since I owe the mat too much.


Me and Courtney, friendly fighters.


Me and Courtney, fighting friends.

In the moment.

There are certain nights when I leave judo and jiu jitsu and my body is peppered with finger print bruises. I’ll turn my wrist, glance at my ankle, and there they sit. I can usually tell which of my training partners left each mark. On a few occasions when I’ve remarked on my bruises, nurturing individuals in my life express their concern, uncomfortable with the proof of pain. Their discomfort always confuses me. I think, “No! The bruises are good! I love them.”

Tonight, as I showered after one of those electric nights of training that left me covered in bruises, I spent time thinking how to explain my satisfaction with those little black and blue marks. My bruises are the physical proof of time well spent. They are symbols of hard work and getting lost in the moment. Bruises to practitioners of judo and jiu jitsu are like smudges of paint on the face and hands of an artist–a sign of blissful, possessed consumption.In moments off the mat, when I feel frustrated, discouraged, or trapped, one glance at my bruises reminds me of the joy and passion that awaits me.

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.




This is me.

March 25, 2014 Leave a comment

It first happened after breakfast. Then several hours later, it happened again. The gagging. The nausea. My insides felt like they were wrapped in barbed wire and I felt hands on my neck from behind, choking me. I wanted to cry. But at this point, I was waiting for the bus to go to jiu jitsu. This is what I wanted to do. I was away from judo and jiu jitsu for four days while I visited my best friend. Away in the mountains with my childhood friend and her family, I was softly wrapped in hope and contentment. I was excited to get back to my world on the mat. However, I felt scared to go back to rest of my life. My job is in the midst of a big transition. I have decisions to make and I don’t know what path I’m supposed to take. The uncertainty is starting to get to me. During this inopportune moment while I waited for the bus, my anxiety began to corrode my spirit from stomach to throat. As I tried to slow my breathing and blink away the tears, the bus came. I got on and twenty minutes I was at my club. I all but ran into the women’s changing room so I could close the door behind me and hide before class.

After I got into my gi and stepped onto the mat, I still felt shaky. I tried to keep my face blank, but my mind was disjointed. I felt like my skin was on fire. We started our warm-up jog. I breathed. We started to drill. I breathed. I felt calm. Then I felt curious. Soon enough, I was laughing. When we rolled at the end of class, I felt light and free. I was ecstatic as fireworks. As I walked back to the women’s changing room at the end of class, I wanted to cry again, but this time is was from relief and joy.

Tonight was another time where judo and jiu jitsu saved me. When I am on the mat, I am most myself and all parts of myself. I’m the student and the teacher. I am a fighter and a mediator. I am the victor and the defeated. I’m a teammate. I’m a friend. I’m a clown. I am one girl diving head first into my fears just to see if I can make it back to the surface for air.

I am not a great athlete. The world will not remember my name for judo and jiu jitsu. But I don’t care about that. At this point,  I can’t separate what I learn from judo and jiu jitsu and the rest of my life. I cherish what these practices have given me, and with time and experience, I hope I can give back to judo and jiu jitsu all they have given to  me.

Haikuesday 01.14.14

January 14, 2014 Leave a comment

January Tuesdays

I’ll face my fear my three hours.

Kata guruma.

I lost.

August 4, 2013 4 comments

Yesterday, I competed in a jiu jitsu tournament. I love to compete, but it also envelops me with fear. What if I lose? What if I lose badly, with people watching? What if all that training reveals that I’m just super mediocre and all those hours are pointless? Wait, why did I register for this tournament anyway? I hope there is a some kind of natural disaster in which no one gets hurt, but results in the cancellation of the tournament.

In order to combat my fear, I give myself a series of animalistic pep talks and visualize my game over and over again. I hype myself up so I simply cannot wait to get on that mat and make some other girl’s life miserable. Let’s face it– I like to fight. A lot. And I want to have a vicious win when I fight. Winning feels awesome, obviously.

My teammate and I arrived at the Wildwood Convention Center around 9:15 AM. The women’s divisions were supposed to start at 10:00 AM, but they didn’t really get going until almost 11:00 AM. As the clock crept past 2:00 PM, my division still hadn’t started. I was told over and over again before the tournament that time would drag out like this, but I was in some sort of denial. I’ve had to wait at tournaments before, but no more than an hour and a half or so. I kept telling myself that time was no factor. I will stay warm. I will play my game. I will fight. I will win. However, around 2:30 PM, serious doubt and discouragement started teasing my fighting spirit. I was hungry. I wanted to go to the beach. I just wanted this thing to be over with. I also did not want to let myself think ANY of those defeatist thoughts.

Shortly before 3:00 PM, I heard the ref call my name. I was supposed to fight in the next few minutes. I mentally scrambled to remind myself I was there to fight and I was there to put some girl in the ground. I was going to do this. I stepped on the mat. I could feel my heart. I could feel that light, floating feeling in my feet and arms and my stomach was on the floor. But I was there to fight. So I told myself my plan again: Get my grip. Get my take down. Side control. Mount. Submission by Americana.

This was my match.

But I didn’t get my grip; she got hers. Then I didn’t get my take down; she got hers. I was on the bottom and had her in half-guard, which is a weak position for me. I don’t have great answers from the half-guard. When she took the mount, all I remember was thinking that this match was not going to end with me on the bottom. As I was trying to get to a better position, she took my back and tried to choke me. I was not going to get choked. I managed to escape and then wound up in her guard. For rest of the match, I fought to pass her. There was a voice inside me yelling, “You can turn this around. Keep going. Keep going.” But time ran out. She had the points. She won. I lost. The ref said I had one more match. I told myself that loss did not define me. I am not that loss. I can turn this day around. Minutes later, the ref called my name. I walked into the ring. I was ready. Then the ref told me that the girl I was supposed to fight broke her finger and had to pull out. She told me I was getting third place. I half-smiled, thanked her, and stepped out of the ring. There went my shot at redemption. So what next?

The first thing I did was text my dad to tell him what happened. My dad competed in judo for years. He won a bunch, but he lost, too. He would understand, He could talk to me without being patronizing and without further crushing my spirit. In an empty corner of the convention center, I sat crouched on the floor with my ear pressed against my cell phone so I could hear what my dad had to say. He told me, “You learn when you lose. You don’t learn shit from winning. ” On one level of my consciousness, I know this and I’ve told myself that before, but it was good to hear that in my dad’s patented no-nonsense growl.  Moments later, the other girl’s coach came up to me and shook my hand. “That was a good match,” he told me. I don’t know why he did that. He certainly didn’t have to. I decided to believe him.

I competed with three of my teammates yesterday, and 3/4 of us did not finish the day with a win. I wanted to respect our anger and disappointment, but I also wanted us to honor our commitment to training and recognize that we all decided to compete despite any fear or doubt we had. My one teammate lost 20 pounds over about two months for this competition, which is mentally taxing and adds another layer of intensity to an already intense experience. So as I sat with my teammates, I didn’t want to be overly-cheery since that is really fucking annoying, but I also refused to be a sore loser. We weren’t losers yesterday. We were fighters who lost our fight, and I’ll be damned if we lose our spirit, too.

After all of our matches were done, we hurried to get to the beach. It was almost six and everyone else was leaving. We ran into the freezing cold ocean, splashed around, teased each other, and attempted water grappling. Then we ate our weight in fried food, and took a stroll up and down the Wildwood boardwalk. My one teammate and I watched a dance troupe of little girls somberly perform on a beach front platform to Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World”. In the most surreal moment of the dance, one of the little girls popped two black balloons. It was pretty weird, but it made me so happy. As my teammate and I walked away and continued down the boardwalk, I felt giddy and alive.

So I lost yesterday. I’m upset about that. Losing confirmed the weaknesses in my game. My job now is to not get lost in that weakness. My job now is to find an answer to those holes. I also have to give myself a moment to recognize what things I did well, no matter how small. Losing sucks, but quitting is worse. And I’m still here.

Two weary warriors.

Two weary warriors:  Even in defeat, I can’t resist making a Muppet face.  And Joy is amazing for indulging my need to capture our disappointment in a photograph.