This has been a very busy year of transitions for me… one of the big ones has been being promoted to my purple belt in February! I tried to write this post right then and there… but life happens in its overwhelming way. I’ve since then gone from one crazy phase to another. Things are finally starting to become clear and I can start sharing again.
A lot has happened and changed in the past 6ish years of training. There have been some pretty awesome “on top of the world” days, and there have also been periods of time where I was within a hair of throwing in the towel and calling it quits. The past two years have been more of the latter than the former. However, it has been long established that I am far to stubborn to quit.
Goals have shifted around a lot from when I first started training in Jiu Jitsu. Today, I feel like sharing the story of how I actually got started (and hooked) on this life.
It was sometime toward the beginning of 2011 when I realized that I was out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs. I had one of those epiphany moments when I realized that I needed to do something to change this for the sake of my own health. So I started going to train at a gym several days a week. However, I soon became so stinking bored. I had no goal. I didn’t care about my weight, or aesthetics – and didn’t even own a scale at that point in my life. I was also severely intimidated by all of the equipment at the gym and couldn’t ever do any sort of exercise when other people might be around (I still fight that insecurity today).
I quickly determined that I needed something somewhat familiar, challenging, and with a more concrete goal structure that I could relate to. My mind went back to the years I spent training Taekwondo and Hapkido as a teenager, and it just seemed like a good idea! Of course, I wanted something more physically challenging as an adult… and I remembered hearing about this “MMA” thing and decided that sounded like a good challenge! So I just did a google search for MMA in my area, and went to check out the first place that popped up on my list.
Let it be known, I was absolutely terrified walking into the gym for my first meet and greet. I’m amazed I even walked into the building in the first place! Yet somehow I ended up not only walking in, but hitting some pads and then signing up for a membership using the last of my paycheck. I started out in the MMA program, thinking that I would gravitate more toward the Muay Thai classes as opposed to Jiu Jitsu (it looked weird!)
My first class was rough physically. I remember being so gassed after the warm ups that I was legitimately disoriented during the instructional portion of the class. That is really all I remember about my first week of training: dying during the warm up and then blinking like an idiot for the rest of class because I didn’t have enough oxygen in my brain to do anything else!
When I finally got to the point where I was actually aware of my surroundings, I discovered that they had sneakily been teaching me Jiu Jitsu moves along with jabs and crosses. I realized that I was okay with this! I also wanted more than two training classes a week, so I asked to join in with the beginner Jiu Jitsu classes for more training hours. At the end of two months, I was training at least once, sometimes twice a day. Still dying every class – but enjoying finally feeling like I was being challenged and seeing myself making concrete progress with something!
At this two month mark, I was told I could start attending the more advanced classes with the option to begin sparring. I would, however, have to purchase appropriate equipment. My decision was made to officially begin Jiu Jitsu training for a very simple reason. Once again, I was in between paychecks, and it was cheaper to buy a Gi as opposed to Muay Thai gear.
Seriously, that was the reason.
I took my first full fledged Jiu Jitsu class on January 22 2011, and it did not take very long at all for me to become completely addicted. I would attend a 6:30 am class, go home and nap until the 11:30 class, and then return for the evening training class as well. My first competition was March 11 2011 – and I remember being absolutely petrified. There were 4 girls total, and my first opponent was a 214 lb blue belt. The only thing I knew how to do was a triangle from spider guard. I remember my team mates in the corner yelling for me to “sweep her!” and I yelled back “What’s a sweep?!” I survived the experience and actually managed to win one match with my triangle from spider guard for a bronze medal. Going out to eat with my team mates afterwards, I felt like I belonged – which wasn’t a familiar thing for me. But I liked it.
So yes, Jiu Jitsu is addictive – but I think the people you meet are the ones who make it so.
So thank you to my Jiu Jitsu family! You are spread out all over the world and I love it! I can visit other countries, and have instant connection with people because of Jiu Jitsu – regardless of language, culture, or religion. My coach, Shawn Hammonds, has been my first experience of ever having a coach to push me – and I love him for it! My team mates in Nashville have been a driving force for me on those days when I just can’t find my moxy. I also get the privilege of Jiu Jitsu family in Maryland with Master Lloyd and all of the amazing people at Team Lloyd Irvin – even though I don’t get to see them every day, they are always constant sources of inspiration to do the best that I can every day! My goal is to be able to be as valuable to my team mates as they are to me – I don’t know that I will ever be able to give back that much, but I am going to do my best!
Of course, what sappy thank you post would be complete without mentioning my family! I’ve really been learning a lot about the value of family in the past couple of years. Do we get along all the time? Nope. Are we perfect? Not in the slightest! However, my family has unconditional love and we care about each other. So even if we don’t always agree, we always have each others backs and will fight to the death for one another. And that’s what family is. Whether it’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins… or my Jiu Jitsu crew; We are family.
(If you sang those last three words, whoever you are, you can count yourself an honorary family member!)