Let the Good Times Roll


The battle wounds are piling up. I currently have a black eye and my bingo wing got smashed last night. (I really, really hope that you read that with a thick, redneck-y accent because that is the main reason I wrote “bingo wing” and totally how I said it in my head.) The underarm bruise was a result of my arm fat being pinned to the mat with a knee. It felt wonderful.

Don’t take that paragraph as a complaint. I welcome the bumps, the soreness, the bruises. It’s proof that I show up and that I survived.

Over the last week I overcame one of my biggest hurdles in front of me with BJJ. Rolling with other people.

I’ve always been super weird about my personal space. I guess really it’s not weird so much as just straightforward.

I like it.

I don’t like other people to be in it.

I knew from day one that this whole personal space issue was going to be probably the biggest hurdle for me. I’m sure that it’s a big hurdle for a lot of people when they start jiu-jitsu. When your goal is to eliminate the space between you and another person, you just can’t get much closer to another human being than jiu-jitsu. I mean you can but then that might be frowned on while on the mats.

The personal space issue isn’t really a problem with my husband. Obviously. While I am comfortable with him, I admit that there were still a few positions that were a little uncomfortable and weird at first. What can I say? I have the sense of humor of an 8-year-old boy.

‘Nuff said.

I was surprised though how quickly the uncomfortableness of a lot of the positions faded away and my sole thoughts were focused on escaping and surviving. Who cares about cups and butts when your arm feels like it’s going to be snapped in two?

For the first month I only rolled with my husband. It didn’t take long for me to realize though that I was ready to roll with other people. (That almost sounded break-up-ish.) It registered pretty quickly that rolling and rolling with many different people is vital to improvement. I can do the math. If I’m only rolling with one person, I’m probably not going to improve that much.

I was envious of my husband and how he basically had a buffet of people to roll with and I had him. And, just him. I know I shouldn’t compare myself and my progress to someone else but I knew that if I didn’t get over the uncomfortable hurdle and roll with other people, he was going to move forward and improve so much faster than me.

Now we can’t have that, can we?

Competitive Allison, (imagine me with war paint on my face and gritted teeth), answers with a stern, “No.”

Part of my struggle was I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask someone else to roll for fear of rejection. I have read a lot of stories online of women having trouble with men not wanting to roll with them. I remember one that said she didn’t roll with someone other than another white belt for nine months because no one else would roll with her. Nine months! There were stories of men saying that their wives wouldn’t let them roll with girls and other men being just straight up assholes to the women. There didn’t seem to be a lot of positive experiences for women white belts and finding people to roll with.

I get that those struggles probably made those women stronger. That overcoming those obstacles made them better. I totally get that. But, I am glad that my story is different. That it doesn’t have to be that way to make you stronger, to make you better. I am lucky to belong to a place full of people that don’t hesitate to roll with me or to help me. As far as I can tell, it’s an asshole-free place.

Over the last week, I am extremely happy to report that I have faced and gotten over the fears and rolled with many other people. I was shocked at how much more I learned. Each person helped me in a different way and I found that I was leaving class with so much more information to process. I can feel the improvements already.

I really thought that the personal space issues might be a deal breaker for me. If anything was going to make me quit, it was going to be that. This last week feels like a giant victory for team Allison.

“You are brave.” Works every time.

I have had several girls come up to me over the last two months and ask if I’m liking the BJJ class. It’s almost like it surprises them that girls can like and be comfortable with BJJ too. They all say something along the lines of being intimidated by the closeness of it.

Ladies, I understand that. I was there and I thought those same thoughts. My message to all of you is that if I, of all people, can get past that, you can too. Simple as that. I’m more concerned with escaping an armbar or triangle than if my arm or head is touching someone’s cup.

It’s all about pushing past the uncomfortable, getting out of that death trap called your comfort zone, and being brave. If I can do it, so can you.

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