A subculture of its own

Posted in Brazilian jiu-jitsu on November 9, 2008 by canislupy

My uncle and I got into an interesting conversation last night.  A fellow grappler from our school invited us to a birthday bash of his.  When we looked around the table, we noticed that the people he grappled with and the people he spent time with outside of jiu-jitsu differed immensely.  


There’s something about jiu-jitsu that brings people together who would otherwise never speak to each other.  But on the other hand, those people that you grapple with, they’re the only ones who will ever understand this aspect of your life.  The people you spend time with on a daily basis, they can’t understand it.  They fear it, think it’s stupid or just don’t care.  They compare it to karate, aikido or kung fu.  They think it’s just a childish endeavor, nothing more than a phase.  A silly hobby you’ll grow out of.  But little to they know of the impact it makes on someone’s life who truly treasures it.

The release, the ability to let go and be someone you can’t be anywhere else.  Connecting with people you’d never connect with.  When you fight someone, when you roll around a sweaty mat, sweating on each others faces, giving each other bruises and scrapes, and it all adding up to an embrace and a pat on the back and a mutual respect for each other, there’s a special bond created, almost like a family.  It’s a closeness you can’t feel with anyone else.  They’ve seen you sweat, bleed and hair out all over the place.  They’ve seen you at your worst, and they respect you for it.

It’s also so special because such few people do it.  When you really think about it, there are so many guitar-players, basketball players, writers, karate kids, “artists”, but how many people do you know that grapple?  Sure there are lots of wannabes, you know, those “tough-looking” guys who have stern faces, shoulders high, walking around with a “TapOut” shirt on, which anyone who knows jiu-jitsu should know that that immediately signals a wannabe.  There are so few people willing to sweat, to step onto that mat, to be that close and rough with a stranger and most importantly, tap.  There are so few people willing to get their ass handed to them for the first few months till some new fish walks in, and they tell them what’s what.  There are so few people willing to put their egos behind them.

I always say, the girls will quit because they don’t want to be rough and/or they don’t want to be that close to someone.  The boys will quit cause their ego is too much to handle.

Which is why it takes a special person to do jiu-jitsu, grappling, high school wrestling.  It’s not for everyone, but for those who it is for, it is commendable.  

You either love it or hate.  There is no “meh”.  

Another thing which is absolutely wonderful about jiu-jitsu, it really is about the people you’re with.  Being a girl, it’s wonderful to just be surrounded by a bunch of men, they aren’t catty, they aren’t judgmental and they don’t care when you look like a train wreck at the end of it.  I can bleed, burp, fart or be crude, they still love me.  They’re my big brothers, and they’ll always have my back.

They’re are all different sorts of men, middle-aged married men with a few kids, men in their early to mid 20’s, black, white, hispanic, asian, doctors, mechanics, cops, men out of prison, frats, nerds, enginneers, high school kids and wannabe hippies.  But we’re all there for the same thing.  We may never would have spoken to each other outside of jiu-jitsu, but no one will understand us like they will.


a high I can’t relate

Posted in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Federation tournaments with tags , , on October 23, 2008 by canislupy

I suppose I should start from the beginning, when this obsession took hold of me.

World Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Long Beach, California

March 2007

I was down to the wire, 154 1/2, with 3 days left and at least 6 pounds short of making the cut. My step mom told me that I should take the “super dieter’s tea” morning and night. Let me tell you folks, laxatives and a plane ride do not mesh well.  A couple days before my flight I broke down mentally and physically.

I was exhausted and utterly drained. I wasn’t losing any weight, yet I was eating hardly anything and working out like a mad women, doing an hour and a half of cardio, plus grappling/cross fit sessions. My dad left earlier than I for California due to my university’s freshman orientation. So there wasn’t anyone to teach the [jiu-jitsu] classes. It was just an open mat with a few of the leading belts guiding people along.  One of the guys thought he was the most qualified to teach the new guy, despite training for less than a year.  This of course irritated me.

I just couldn’t take being there. I was too tired, too frustrated. I went to the bathroom and broke down, picked up my gi and flew out the door, heading straight for the gym. That was the night I started to take the laxs morning and night…I lost 6 pounds in 2 days…

I sat next to 2 people on the plane, a large robust man in the middle and a tiny middle-aged woman. They were both very friendly, but I was running on little calories, ripping apart my insides and mentally preparing myself for the biggest tournament of my life- I was not in a good mood and small talk was completely out of the question unless you wanted to get a right cross to the face.

At least they had 300 as a movie option on the flight, prepping me with its gung-ho battle morale.

Which I continually paused.

I would stay in the tiny bathroom, waiting for the next spontaneous movement to take flight. The woman sitting next to the big man asked, “Are you all right? I have an alka seltzer.” Never thought I’d hear myself say this Southern phrase, but bless her heart she had no idea that I was doing this to myself.

I was popping sugar-free gum into my mouth like it was candy. When we got to the hotel where my dad, “Lando” and I were staying, my dad asked if I wanted a beer. My jaw hit the floor. I was a night away to making or breaking it, how could I drink a beer?! Plus, it WAS my dad asking me. He saw the shock spread across my face and told me to relax, that it was just to dehydrate me.

The next morning I weighed myself, 148.5 in my birthday suit. My gi combined with sports bra and underwear weighed 4 pounds. The limit was 152, and yes, they WILL disqualify your sorry ass over a half pound. I’ve seen it happen. We headed over to the nearest sauna where I could sweat out a pound.

I have no IDEA how some people stay in that hell hole till they bleed 5-10 lbs. One pound nearly killed me. I would go in for 15-20 mins, exit looking like a wet seal, weigh myself and enter the inferno once again. Brutal is an understatement.

148 in a bathing suit-I called my dad and asked if I was ready to hop on the scale. He asked me how I felt. The only thing that came to mind was, “Dizzy…and light-headed…” He told me to come out. I was a little nervous as to whether or not it would be enough to make the cut.

When I got in the car, my dad told me, “If you don’t make weight, it’ll be my fault, but I don’t want to push you too far.” We had had an agreement before this all began, if I didn’t make weight, I would have to reimburse him for the entry fee and ticket to Cali. But I guess he realized that I really did do everything in my power to grovel through my deadlines.

The tournament was held in the Cal State gymnasium. Man it was nice, filled with stadium chairs and a pretty decent workout area on the outside (like an actual gym you pay membership to), held in a dome-like structure.

Tons of Brazilians were there, of course. Along with lots of Japanese players, some English, Australian, Dutch, Danish, Argentinian, Israeli, Norwegian and New Zealanders. It was all so surreal. This was it, the cream of the crop.

I waited until 2:30 to weigh in, right before my match. I was popping trident gum like a junkie. While I waited and warmed up, I met up with some familiar faces. It’s sort of ironic, no matter how far you travel for these tournaments, you always end up seeing the same people.

Sitting there stretching, I kept telling myself that I just wanted to get this over with so that I could eat again. But I was lying to myself like I always did. I was freaking out on the inside, praying to the good Lord that I wouldn’t screw this up. That all those late night gym visits and agonizing nights of going to bed on an empty stomach wouldn’t be for nothing. That maybe one day…I could make a name for myself in this sport.

Before my first match my dad told me, “I want you to look at the first girl you fight and imagine that she’s the reason you went through all you did. She’s the reason you couldn’t eat.” That’s all I needed and the bitch was going to go down. Prior to going in I told myself, “I just want one.”

And then I won. And then another one came. And then there was the finals.

My dad was there with the honey, water, banana and muffins. As soon as the first match was up I screamed, “Where’s my muffin?!”

Yet after being deprived of any real fats or carbs for 2 months, the thing wasn’t nearly as appetizing as it looked, it actually made my stomach turn.

But pumped up on honey, water and my naner, I was headed into the final match, against a Brazilian from Denmark. This was it. I was so close.

I lost by 3 points…
Looking back on it now, I might have won if I didn’t have to make such a ridiculous weight cut in such a short amount of time, but there’s no use crying over what’s already been done. After all, in the beginning I just wanted to make weight, and then the goals kept creeping higher.

I don’t think getting married could nearly have felt that good. I’ve never felt such a high, only a bit comparable to other successful tournaments.

As we stood on the podium, having our medals placed around our necks, I said, “I feel like we’re in the Olympics!” It was for me, it was my Olympics, my achievement in life, however different, strange or mediocre to some people, it was all mine.

Now everyone tells me I smile a lot more. People who work in the mall (where I worked) think I’m new, even though I’ve been there for almost a year. Even the janitor made a comment about me smiling. I smile because I’m second in the world in my division (blue belt). I smile because I’m happy.

The night before I flew to Cali, my step mom gave me a card that said, “The Lord has promised never to put more on you than you are able to handle.” I’ll never doubt that ever again.

35 pounds…in 7 weeks