So Many Questions. So Little Answers.

I’m getting pretty tired of all this knee bullshit. It is beyond frustrating.

For the most part my knee feels pretty good. Mobility is really good, I can finally go up and down the stairs without looking like a troll, and I can do a lot of movements in jiu-jitsu that I couldn’t do just a few weeks ago. However, it’s been eight weeks and it’s still not healed. The two biggest things I have to deal with is not being able to fully extend/straighten my leg and experiencing a lot of pain when I go from a bent knee to straightening my leg. Sometimes I can’t bend my knee all the way. It’s like I will get it halfway there and it won’t bend anymore and I have to grab my shin and pull my leg to bend it all the way. At night I am jarred out of sleep at least twice when I go from sleeping on my side to rolling over onto my back and my leg naturally tries to straighten.

But, who cares about sleep? Jiu-jitsu and my mental well being are the things that are taking the most damage.

I can finally roll again, so that’s a win, but it’s definitely not the same rolling that I used to be able to do. At first I was so excited to be able to roll that I didn’t care that it was restricted. That’s all changing now. It’s frustrating. So very frustrating. Frustrating because it’s tiny things and non-threatening movements that are limiting me. Last night I had to tap several times to things that feel so stupid and ridiculous to tap to.

A foot pushing in my hip while my knee is on the mat.

An ankle grab while I’m on my knees.

Being in someone’s guard and having their hips heavy on my knee.

A tripod sweep.

Being in mount and having my knee pushed.

See? Stupid shit.

How is it that I can lock up a triangle, windshield wiper my legs, and go full force knee on belly, but I can’t have someone grab my ankle? Knees are weird.

It’s become a situation where I’m terrified to roll. Half the time I can’t figure out exactly what causes the pain because the movements feel so small and not dangerous to my knee at all. The pain is sharp and sometimes it instantly produces involuntary tears in my eyes, like when you get popped in the nose and your eyes just start watering. And, just to clarify, I’m not a pain crier at all. I’m more of the pain, angry potty-mouth type.

At first I was okay with rolling with my husband because he is aware of the knee situation and is being pretty gentle with me, but even that is becoming a fearful situation. I already overthink and second guess my movements anyway and now this stupid knee shit is making me second guess every little movement. I can’t do what I would naturally do because I’m hesitating out of fear.

Will this movement hurt?

Am I at risk to re-injure?

Is the pain in those moments where I have to tap something I should be concerned about or is it a normal part of the healing process and I just have to work through it?

Will it ever fully heal?

Am I ever going to be able to fully extend my leg again?

If it will fully heal, how long will it take?

If I can’t fully extend my leg ever again, how is this going to interfere with my life? With jiu-jitsu?

Do I look like a wimpy loser sitting there while everyone else rolls?

Can my mental well being take having to sit on the sidelines for another class. And another class. And another class…

So many questions and so little answers. I just want to roll. Without restrictions. Without hesitation. And most of all, without fear.

The Kids.

Since I’m out with a bum knee, I thought I would do a kids post. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about their progress.

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We decided to give both boys a little break from jiu-jitsu over the summer. It was a tough decision, but our oldest, Drew, was really, really struggling. As much as I hate to say it, I think jiu-jitsu was doing more harm than good.

When he started, three years ago, there were two other boys that started at the same time that were also the same age as Drew. Over the last few years the other two boys have grown a lot physically and progressed a lot faster than Drew and even advanced to several belts above Drew. Since they were the two that he mostly rolled with, class became something Drew dreaded. He would plead with us to stay home. He was just constantly getting beat and it was very defeating to him. We tried to help him find the small victories, but man, he just couldn’t see it that way. Eventually he would just pretty much give up each roll. It was a “I would rather lose by my own choice than see you win by your choice,” kind of situation. He’s stubborn like that. And, I have NO idea WHERE he gets it from…

Now, the next part of this story, in many ways I’m glad it happened and in many ways I was sad that it happened. As a mother it’s so hard to see our kids struggle and watch them deal with shitty people, but I also know that it’s struggle and shitty people that teach us some of the best lessons of our lives.

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Awhile back I wrote a post about a few kids prank calling Drew and saying awful things and even suggesting that he kill himself. One of those kids involved in that situation, we will call him Ringleader McShittyPants, about a week before school started, sent out a Snapchat asking his friends to harass and threaten Drew. Drew ended up getting about 15 messages from kids at his school threatening to kick his ass. To say he was terrified is an understatement. He woke me up at 1:00 a.m. one night because the texts wouldn’t stop and he was scared. When we confronted Ringleader McShittyPants’s parents and they decided to do absolutely nothing about it, (I wonder why this kid acts this way…) Mike went into Scary Dad mode and squashed the situation pretty quick. However, Drew was still really nervous about going to school and what other kids might do to him in the hallways. I remembered dealing with a few girls in my class that harassed and threatened me a lot so I sympathized greatly with him. It’s terrible to be scared that someone, or many someones in Drew’s case, is going to try to physically hurt you.

And, this is why you do jiu-jitsu, kids.

After we comforted him and talked about the situation, we explained to Drew that we know that you have been having a rough time with jiu-jitsu, but jiu-jitsu can help greatly with calming those fears of people threatening to kick your ass. I think about how differently the situation with my school bullies could have been had I been equipped with the skills I have now. If only I could get those girls to come to SFC…

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Now, I would never encourage my kids to start a fight, but I will tell them to defend themselves if someone else starts one. We reminded him that because of jiu-jitsu, if a kid did try to fight him, that he has a set of tools to help defend himself with. We told him if someone attacked him, if he could, take it to the ground and choke him. We also told him that this could give him purpose in jiu-jitsu class now. Bullies suck, but now he has a valid reason and a good source of motivation to learn jiu-jitsu. He took it seriously and came back to class with a great attitude and has been putting in lots of great effort.

While all of that was good, we came up with some other ideas that we thought might help him (and his brother) as well. The benefit of us, as parents also doing jiu-jitsu, is that we can relate to everything he goes through and struggles with in terms of jiu-jitsu.

The first thing we told him was to roll with at least one white belt each class. This was advice I had gotten many times as a way to measure my progress. It worked so great with me that it made me feel a little stupid that we never thought to tell the same to our kids until recently. Drew always felt like he was stuck rolling with the kids that were always just a step or two ahead and so he was constantly getting defeated and never getting an opportunity to work on his submissions. It was also so hard for him to see and recognize his progress when he was always getting beat. Rolling with white belts showed him how far he has come and he has been able to work on so many different submissions, sweeps, passes, etc. It’s been a great source of motivation and instead of walking off the mat sad and defeated, he’ll say, “Did you see that triangle I got!” It’s made a huge difference!

The second form of motivation might be a little controversial, but hey, it’s working for us so…whatever. We have what we are calling the $5 Challenge. I give the boys a challenge for class and if they complete it, they get $5. It could be things like getting a particular submission, sweep, or pass or not getting mounted or taking the back. The challenge stays in place until they complete it and earn the money, then we find a new challenge. What I like about it is that both boys were kind of stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over, especially the same submission.

Americana, Americana, Americana.

They both had also gotten really lazy and just completely lost the fight they used to have when people would try to pass. The “not getting mounted” challenge has been amazing!

So, it might sound bad to some that we are paying our kids to do jiu-jitsu, but honestly I’ve never seen them so motivated or working this hard and also progressing much faster. A lot of times we base the challenge on what they are learning in class. When they were working on triangles, that was their challenge, to get a triangle. It took both of them many classes, many attempts, many failures, and many adjustments, but eventually they both got it. It was so much fun to see them finally get the submission and watch them work through the adjustments to get it. It has been a great opportunity for them to learn that you will probably fail a submission many, many times before you get it, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying. Another great thing about it is how much it adds to their toolbox of skills. I’ve seen both of them continue to use and build on the challenges they have completed and they are attempting so much more each roll.

We, as adults, can understand how beneficial getting out of your comfort zone is, but that’s not always a concept that kids easily get. I feel like the $5 Challenge has been a great source for them to learn about getting out of your comfort zone and how rewarding that can be.

I’m really happy with where our kids are in jiu-jitsu right now. More importantly, THEY are really happy with jiu-jitsu right now. A few months ago we couldn’t mention anything jiu-jitsu related without Drew rolling his eyes or groaning. A few weeks ago we couldn’t get Drew to stop doing flying armbars on his dad in the pool. Jiu-jitsu is tough, we all know that, but I think, if we can find motivation, give ourselves challenges, and step out of that comfort zone, it’s the best thing we can do for ourselves.

 

The Jinx

I think I jinxed myself. Twice.

Let’s take a little look at an Allison timeline of last week.

• Wednesday, approx. 11:00 a.m. – quote from Ground Girl blog post:

“…I’m finally at a point where there should be no more large breaks in the foreseeable future.”

• Wednesday, approx. 8:00 p.m.

Sees a poll in a Facebook BJJ group about most common injuries. Top runner on the poll – knee. Thinks to myself, “Lucky me! I haven’t had any knee problems!”

• Thursday, approx. 6:15 a.m.

Almost has lower leg pulled off at the knee like it’s a chicken wing. Hears a loud pop and experiences what I can only describe as the most disgustingly painful feeling I’ve ever felt. Lays on mat seeing how many times one can say, “Fuck!” in a 10 minute time frame.

Oh, Universe. Why must you mess with me so?

After I got home, I spent the first few hours very hopeful that this would heal quickly and I could be back to at least drilling in a week or so. I had very little pain and mostly just felt pressure in my knee. I figured my early morning class and injury earned me a little nap on the couch so I laid down for a snooze-fest. To my surprise, I woke up in pain and with very little mobility in my knee. It stayed that way for about three days, by Saturday night I had a little bit more mobility in my knee where I could actually get out of bed and very slowly hobble/walk. On Sunday I managed to hobble to open mat with my husband and kids in an effort to help the boys clean up some techniques they have been working on. It was torture watching everyone roll, but I was happy because Sunday felt better than Saturday. I was pretty hopeful at that point that things were looking up. Slowly, since Sunday, that hope has faded away when each day there is no change in pain, pressure, and mobility of my knee.

But, wait. There’s more.

The stairs in our house are, at this current moment, a bitch. I have to very slowly take them one step at a time and even that is difficult and painful. I have to use the railings to help pull myself up the stairs or steady myself on the way down. That’s why it was completely stupid of me to try and walk down the stairs with my hands full. I made it down to the first “landing” mid-staircase when I managed to skip the last step and because I was falling with my hands full, can you guess what stopped my fall?

My stupid knee.

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I thought that thing wasn’t even fully bendable, but I guess when you pack my weight behind it, she’s gonna bend all the way whether you like it or not. So, I’m sitting here, swollen, in pain, feeling pretty defeated about how long it’s going to take to heal. I’ve spent the last week beyond frustrated. Every time I walk a little too fast and get a shot of pain. Every time it feels like my knee is going to explode when I try to bend it. Every time I wake up in the middle of the night because I tried to roll over and my knee said, “Nope.” Every time I try to sit, stand, or just go up and down the stairs…

Sigh.

We definitely take our healthy, mobile bodies for granted, that’s for sure. I know I do. Ahem. Did. I mean, I guess at least my pistol squat is getting pretty good.

#brightside?

I have no idea how long I’m looking at being out. I have no idea if I should be going to the doctor. I have no idea, period. The only thing I know is that this sucks. I can only guess that I’m in for a longer recovery than I had originally hoped.

Ending with a PSA: When rolling, take care of and respect your body. Respect your training partner’s body. Obviously, we are human and our bodies have limits. It’s not worth the submission/pass/domination if someone gets injured.

 

Early Bird Gets the Sweep.

Back from vacation and back to the normal life where there isn’t a beautiful beach just a few steps out the back door.

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I was trying to get a picture of the boys with the ocean view in the background when Jackson made the mistake of telling Drew that his jiu-jitsu sucked. Boys.

 

I’m glad to be back, but I always have a little struggle coming home after being near the ocean. I am in love with just sitting there and looking out and seeing endless water. Every day of our vacation I spent hours just staring at the water. There’s just something so refreshing about being in a place that can make you feel so small and the ocean always does that for me. It always helps me to see my problems in a different perspective and consider that I might be a little bat shit crazy about silly, trivial things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

As much as I loved sitting there, enjoying the view, and pretending that I was wealthy enough to afford the mansions on the beach for more than just a week, I spent a lot of time excited to get back to jiu-jitsu. Some due to the fact that after almost of year of inconsistent attendance I’m finally at a point where there should be no more large breaks in the foreseeable future. But, mostly, I was excited in large part to a super motivating experience in the Thursday morning class.

Mornings, throughout my life, have generally been a nope for me.

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I’ve always been a night owl and in my younger days I very much enjoyed working from midnight until the sun came up. I think that’s just the typical creative-type golden hours of productivity. It was my favorite time of day. Over the years and two kids later, I’ve adapted to normal hours, going to bed early and getting up every morning at 6:00 a.m. without a struggle or even so much as a tap of the snooze button. I actually kind of, sort of enjoy mornings after the initial “I’ll-throat-punch-you-if-you-talk-to-me” pre-coffee time. I see myself as someone who has made the successful switcheroo from night owl to early bird.

Look at me! Adulting and stuff! Getting the worm!

Just when I’ve gotten all comfortable and confident in my early rising abilities, and after a post about my jiu-jitsu struggles, it was suggested that I try out the 5:00 a.m. jiu-jitsu class. With all my newfangled morphing into a morning person my first thought is that 5:00 a.m. doesn’t sound too terribly awful. But then, I start doing the get up and get ready math and suddenly 4:00 a.m. sounds like a time when only lunatics would get out of bed and start their day.

FOUR A.M.!

I think I’ve only gotten up that early in my life for two things: screaming, hungry babies and once when I was like 12 and my step-brother talked me into going to some sunrise church service on the top of a bluff. Full disclosure: I only went because he said they would be serving pancakes afterwards.

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Does my alarm even go all the way back to 4:00 a.m.? Could I walk into and participate in a class all by myself? What if nobody wanted to partner with me? Do they serve pancakes afterwards? (It was vital that I asked myself the important questions.)

It came down to a mix of “Fuck it! Just do it!” and knowing that I’ve always understood and appreciated the way the Brett breaks down and teaches a technique. For almost three years I’ve watched him teach the kids class and because of the way he breaks things down I have been able to take something he’s taught and execute it in rolling with no drilling. I knew that I would never regret taking one of his classes.

Even if I had to get up at 4:00 a.m.

So, Thursday morning rolled around and I discovered that my alarm actually does have the ability to work at 4:00 a.m., that I can walk into and participate in a class all by myself, and that I had zero issues with partners. While there weren’t pancakes, the instruction, conversation, support, and motivation was more than enough to have me walking off the mat feeling full and satisfied.

So many details actually stuck with me, even with a week off for vacation, and from just that one class I went from half-guard smashed-ville to half-guard sweep-town. I hit the sweep a couple of times on men bigger and stronger than me. I even got smashed down, flat on my back, and managed to work each step to get the sweep.

That, my friends, is when I fall deeply in love with jiu-jitsu. When those tiny little details can make it possible for me to push over a strong, athletic man with minimal effort. I’ve still got a lot to work on with these half-guard sweeps. Obviously. But, I felt like I had a much better handle on what to do and in those moments when I did make mistakes, I could instantly recognize the detail I had messed up.

I can’t believe I’m saying this…but I can’t wait for 4:00 a.m. tomorrow! (And there’s not even pancakes involved.)

Thank you SFC.

We leave for a week-long family vacation in Florida today and I wasn’t originally planning on writing a post, but it kept bugging at me and I felt like I had to. It’s going to be a short and sweet one today.

The way I felt at this time last week and the way I feel right now is drastically different. And I have to give a large portion of credit to the people of SFC. This is my I-can’t-thank-you-all-enough post to the coaches and people that train at SFC. All morning I’ve been constantly thinking to myself, “How lucky are we to have a place like SFC in our area?” The coaches care about us, all of us, on a level that I just never expected from a fight gym when we signed up almost three years ago. And, I’m not even a fighter.

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The amount of support, encouragement, private messages, and help from not just the coaches, but the members of SFC has blown me away this week.

This whole BJJ trek has been a very bumpy road. My headcase crap slows my progress and gets in my way a lot, and for years I’ve always just assumed that eventually everyone would lose hope with me and just give up. I’m a mess 90% of the time. This week proved to me that as long as I’m at SFC and I’m not afraid to ask for help when I need it, no one is going to give up on me. I feel like the coaches and training partners want to see me reach my goals and my potential just as much as I do.

It was a good week. It was a great week. Thank you SFC.

 

Half-guard.

A little while back I decided to pick an position that I feel I’m really lacking in and put a lot of focus on improvement in that area. It took about a millisecond for me to hone in on the position that I know could use a lot, lot of improvement. I mean technically every position needs lots of improvement, I am only a blue belt after all, but there seems to be one position in particular that I find myself in often and seldom execute what little I know.

Half-guard.

Top. Bottom. Either or, my half-guard sucks. Su-ucks. I either get stuck, can’t pass the leg or end up getting swept, or I get smashed flat on my back and passed.

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Lucky for me, the last few weeks have been all about half-guard in class. We’ve been working a few variations on a basic half-guard sweep. I remember this half-guard sweep being one of the very first techniques I learned. I don’t even really know if I can accurately say that I “learned” it because those first few months of technique and drilling felt like I was learning something in a foreign language. I’m also pretty sure I filed the sweep away as a “not gonna happen, I’ll never remember this, impossible for me” category. I did that a lot in the beginning.

But, I’ve learned, as the time goes by, each time you revisit a technique it suddenly seems so much easier than you remember. I remember the second time I worked on this half-guard sweep quite vividly. It started with a slight feeling of dread because I quickly remembered the struggle from the first go at it and then after I went through the technique I found myself asking, “Why did I struggle with this so much last time?!”

So over the course of the last three years I’ve drilled this half-guard sweep many, many times. What I like and notice most about drilling is that each time my technique improves, I can focus on a different, smaller detail. At first it was just about learning the moves, now it’s down to sharpening the finest details. I like that. It makes me want to drill more and more.

With all of that said, even though I’ve drilled this particular sweep many times and feel confident in my detail, I can never execute it in live rolling. I get smashed flat on my back and passed and crushed.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But, over the last few weeks I’ve kind of had a revelation. I get smashed flat and instead of focusing on the one detail I need to achieve in that moment, I go to “Oh shit! I need to get the underhook, shift my hips, get on my side, and get to my elbow!” I put all my focus on the technique as a whole instead of focusing on that one detail that I need to get first in order to continue on to the next step. It doesn’t take long to figure out that a technique in live rolling doesn’t always go down like it does in drilling. In live rolling, there is a good chance, I’m going to have to work really hard for that underhook. Once that kind of sunk in I found that instead of getting completely smashed and lost, I was finally starting to work and get to that underhook. So far, for me, it hasn’t been a one-step motion like it is in drilling. It’s been actually working to get it, sometimes inching my hand little by little through a pocket of zero available space to get to that underhook.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt a victory as grand as finally being smashed flat and working to secure that underhook in live rolling. Twice. In one night. It felt pretty amazing.

And that whole scenario really drives home just how difficult jiu-jitsu is and a good reminder that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. My victory of last night’s class is getting one step, one small detail down in one technique. I can’t even finish the technique yet in live rolling, but I’m extremely proud of finally executing that one detail and seeing what it takes to get it. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll make it to the next one and then the next one and then before you know it, I’ll be a half-guard sweeping machine.

blah blah blah

I woke up this morning teetering on the edge of becoming another blue belt statistic. Last night I was positive I would join the many others who have been plagued by the blue belt curse. I was done. I mourned my jiu-jitsu life the whole drive home, so much so that I could barely catch a breath.

The only surety that I see right now is that I tend to be an incredibly stubborn and defiant person and just like how I will hold on to certain grips longer than I should, I typically won’t quit even when I probably should. Plus, I really want to try out the morning class before I give up. (I don’t even like typing the words quit and give up. Yuck.)

Jiu-jitsu is one hell of a rollercoaster. There are times that I feel like it helps me tremendously and then there are times that I feel like it does more harm than good. It’s crazy that I could go from so happy, so excited about jiu-jitsu, even excited about competing again to feeling like I want to quit two days later. I love jiu-jitsu so much and just want to get better at it, but there are some days that I just don’t have the energy to deal with certain aspects of it. It is hard to be a part of a group, but at the same time feel so alone.

I’m just trying to remind myself that the things that will continually be my struggle and repellent (shy, socially awkward, old, fat ass, woman) will also be what makes my successes that much sweeter and my story unique and great. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t know how much more my sanity and well being can take. I already struggle so much with depression and anxiety and whatever headcase bullshit I put myself through, I don’t need to pile more on top of it.

I’m a mess.

There will be a day that all of this struggle will be worth it, right? Cause this might be the first time that I wasn’t so sure of that when I woke up in the morning.