I’m a month into this jujitsu training and, while my body is a wreck at times, I’m loving it. So far I’ve had a slight ankle sprain from rolling on it wrong, a catch in my back, a slight groin pull from, I assume, slacking in my stretching, and the typical aches and pains from pushing a 40+-year-old body into a new physical endeavor. In the month or so since I started, Mister Dale has taught me a ton but I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Tonight’s class was going to be a bit different than previous classes. Mister Dale was on vacation and a friend of his joined Mister Steve to lead the class. The new guy—Ben—was a 22 or 23-year-old, 2nd degree blackbelt, sporting long hair and a calmness that comes from knowing his craft. He was my size, only more fit from being 20 years my junior. After the warm-ups and stretching, Steve announced we were going to have a little open grappling to begin. He paired me with Ben.
Have you ever had that sinking feeling you were about to be in a world of hurt? Yep, I had that feeling.
We shook hands on our knees and began. Like Mister Dale had done a month before, Ben eventually lay onto his back and pulled me into his guard. Using my elbows like I’ve been taught, I pushed down on the insides of his thighs to break his lock on my waist. It worked. Sorta. He repositioned as I tried to pass his left leg and I was back in the guard with his legs tight around my waist. I was intensely focused on trying the most basic techniques I’ve learned, while Ben casually allowed me to attempt them. Ben was awesome. As I tried a particular escape, he’d either let me do it or he’d make me pay. But then he’d show me what I had done wrong. If he rolled me to my back, he’d teach me a way to avoid what had just happened. That’s not to say I could avoid it, only that I learned one way to try.
At one point I was on my knees in his guard (his legs around my waist) and my hands were on his chest. I felt a slight ramping up of his effort as he pushed one of my hands between his legs, threw his legs over my shoulders, and pulled my other hand toward his chin. I know this sounds confusing but think of a pretzel and then think of me as the pretzel. I knew from watching the UFC that he was putting me into a triangle choke, but I was powerless to stop it. Though Ben moved slow and methodically, I couldn’t resist. He locked his legs around my head. There was nowhere I could go. Calmly he squeezed. My first thought was, “Shiiiit!” I knew if I didn’t tap (surrender) then he could put me to sleep.
My second thought was, “Let’s see how bad this can get.”
Now understand, Ben was being very kind and soft on me. It was probably a little dickish on my part to not tap when he was being so kind but I was curious to what would happen. I tried to remember how UFC fighters escaped this triangle choke but nothing came to mind. Ben, realizing I wasn’t getting the point, repositioned a tad and pulled my head toward him. At the same time he pulled my head down he pushed my extended arm from his chest to his side where, now, I was not only being choked but my elbow was being hyperextended. Oh, did I mention that he squeezed his legs a little tighter? Yeah, that sucked too. At this point I had no choice but to tap. So, that’s what I did. And mercifully, Ben released his hold.
Next, I was privy to a guillotine choke which is as unpleasant as it sounds. Yep, I tapped that time also. This entire experience is humbling. Try imagining a game of basketball against Lebron James and then imagine you’ve never touched a basketball beforehand. That’s what it can feel like at times, only with a little more pain. I’ve heard Joe Rogan call MMA “High-level problem solving with dire consequences” and I think that is a brilliant way to describe the sport. I’m currently experiencing the consequences part.
We ended the open grappling session and then Steve led us through a couple different techniques. I was fortunate to stay paired with Ben to practice those new techniques. I was in Heaven if Heaven was having constant pain and choking.
Toward the end of class Ben had a chance to show off a little. He lay on his back and told me to try and pass his legs again from his guard. As you’ve read in this blog and in my last blog I’m not having a lot of luck doing this. There was one difference this time—he didn’t use his hands. As if to further demonstration my ineptitude he locked his fingers behind his head like he was resting in a hammock. I used two legs, two arms, my head, a baseball bat, three knives, and the jaws of life and couldn’t get past his legs. I coulda sworn that guy had more legs than a spider. We played this game until time was up (roughly a minute or two) and I loved it. I have learned so much already, despite what you’ve read so far.
Class ended yet I wanted it to go on for hours. Ben was fantastic. I’m having a blast in this new endeavor. I hope to keep it up indefinitely. Now, it’s time to find an icepack and a chiropractor. Before you go, can someone please help me get out of this chair?