Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sweep the Leg


While my first two blogs on jujitsu have been about my experience in trying a new sport, in this blog I hope to show you how stepping out of your comfort zone can be worth the effort. In my blogging history I’ve been quite open about my failures, whether it be in my writing career or firefighting or whatever tickled my ass at that particular moment. This blog is the opposite. This is about a small victory I’ve had in jujitsu and how I hope it can inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve always wanted to try.

As I stepped into Mr. Dale’s gym, I was ready for a new lesson. I’d been at it for a couple of months and was loving every minute of my experience. My friends are sick of hearing me drone on about my latest class which is why I’m now going to bore you. OK, hopefully not bore you.

While I was getting loosened up on the mat, two young ruffians (mid-twenties) entered through the main door. They spoke to Mister Dale for a minute and then took off their shoes and joined the class. I’d like to tell the story like these two newcomers were the villains and Mr. Dale and I were like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san but, to the detriment of this story, these two guys were as friendly as they come. With a skeptical glare, I introduced myself. Who were these invaders to our gym? One of the guys, Jeff, was 6’4 and about 230 LBs. The other guy, we’ll call him Frank, was smaller (maybe my height) with a decent build and a strong handshake. They said they were on leave from the military and wanted to learn some jujitsu. Damnit. Military men? Another kink in my good-vs-evil storyline. These guys were coming off as Mother Theresas and I’m starting to look like the real jerk here. I should probably drop this particular narrative.

After warm-ups, Dale paired off with the big guy and told Frank to roll with me for two minutes. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but figured I’d just try to improve whatever position I found myself in. Frank and I faced each other and he spit on my outstretched hand . . .

Still not buying it? Alright, no spit. So he shook my spitless hand and we began on our knees. He immediately swarmed, aggressive and strong. I tried to draw on my last couple months of training and stay calm. He was stronger than me—I could feel it—as he pulled and pushed. Instead of matching strength, I dropped to my back and let him have the top position. I focused on getting my legs around his hips so he was in my guard.

He yanked at my legs and tried to get around them, but I focused on getting him back into my guard and, amazingly, I was successful each time. I tried a sweep I had previously learned to reverse our positions and end up on top, but he was too strong and not in the right position and fought it off. I stayed calm and pulled him back into my guard. He feverishly tried to pass my legs but by some martial arts magic I was able to reposition and keep him where I wanted. I tried another sweep and that time, somehow, I ended on top of him in the mount (one of the better positions to be in). He immediately bucked his hips and pushed with all of his strength. I calmly held firm and remained in the mount. I used very little strength to rebuff his escape attempt which further emphasized the benefit of technique over brawn.

I leaned my chest close to his face like Mr. Dale had done to me and put my weight onto his chest. I’d say we were about a minute thirty seconds in. While I know about three submissions from this position, and I’m sloppy with all three, I wanted to try something. I isolated his left arm in hopes of securing a shoulder lock. He fought it off well, mostly with strength. Then he whispered, “I need a rest.” I grinned. I knew the feeling from when Mr. Dale had smothered me two months earlier. (Yes, that’s what I’m saying—after two months I’m now as good now as Mr. Dale. Don’t tell him I said that.)

I relaxed for a few seconds. He took a couple of deep breaths and then said he was ready to continue. I spent the last 10 or 20 seconds attempting any submission I could come up with, but I had no luck. Dale called time and we untangled ourselves. We shook hands and thanked each other.

Dale said to switch and Jeff, the behemoth, made his way toward me. “Really?” I said.

Dale nodded.

I was about to be screwed.

Jeff and I shook hands and began. I took the same tactic as with Frank and pulled Jeff into my guard. He seemed to have some knowledge of jujitsu because he knew how to break my guard with his elbows. Plus he was as strong as an ox. . . An evil ox.

Jeff was too big and strong and I was too tired, which caused me to be defensive most of the first minute. I thought I might die. With about a minute to go and since neither of us were getting anywhere, we fell into me showing him a few of the sweeps I’d previously learned.

While Jeff was a beast and I was tired, it was my experience with Frank that I’m drawing on for this blog. Though I didn’t do anything spectacular with Frank, I had more success than I ever could have had merely two months before. It shows me I’m learning a ton. Here was a young guy, stronger and fitter than me, yet with even my limited knowledge and technique I was able to somewhat control him and have success.

And that’s the point of this blog. Not so much as to talk about what could come across as boring jujitsu positioning and technical blah, blah, blah, but more to show you how any ole’ slob could work toward a goal and have some success. It sounds easy but I know it’s not. For a lot of people it’s that first step that’s the killer. It’s the confidence to try something new. I’ve lacked confidence in my life, so I get it. If you’re reading this and there is something you’ve always wanted to try, or maybe you’ve been inactive as of late and aren’t happy with gaining a few pounds, I’m here to tell you to find that something you want and work toward it. Just like I’ve found jujitsu.

Have you always wanted to swim? Go join a YMCA and learn. Take that first step. Or plunge. Don’t worry that you won’t be able to do it, because I’m telling you that you will. Don’t worry about looking foolish or beating Michael Phelps either, because none of that matters. I promise you two months from now you’ll be better than you currently are, and you’ll be glad you tried. You may even enjoy yourself.

It’s not all physical either. Do you wish you could write a book? Go write one. If you don’t like how it turns out after the first draft (no one ever does), work on it until it’s something you’re proud of. Read books on writing. Draw on your favorite authors. Do whatever it takes to work toward a goal.

My friend, Tony, just went to Africa and hiked the trails of Mt. Kilimanjaro. That sounds insane to me. I used to say I could never do something that, but at 44 years old I’ve learned that if hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro becomes my passion one day, I could totally pull it off. Maybe not tomorrow but, if I worked toward that goal, it could happen. You could do it too is the point.

I’m an average guy at best. There is nothing spectacular about me. Just ask my wife. If you’ve had a week of jujitsu training, you might still whup my butt on the mat. That doesn’t matter. I’m still going to work at it for the foreseeable future and maybe someday I’ll actually be good at it. Or maybe I’ll decide to play a guitar. If that becomes my next passion, then I’ll give it my all. I imagine after two months of guitar, like with jujitsu and Mr. Dale, I’ll be as good as the teacher.

I’m just kidding, Mr. Dale. Please don’t hurt me in Friday’s class.

Sometimes I talk too much.

Update: It’s been over a month since the military guys stopped in and I haven’t seen them since. Maybe they found another gym or maybe jujitsu wasn’t as fun as they hoped it to be. Regardless, I’d like to believe it was our stellar defense of Mr. Dale’s gym and the villains have moved on to easier targets. Good guys-1, Bad guys-0.

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