Work and Play

I am a huge advocate of the “work hard, play hard” philosophy of life. It seems to have worked for me so far!

Work Hard:
There is an intensity wall for me when it comes to training. If training is easy, I’ll just goof off. If it is medium… I have to fight the urge to slack off. However, when the intensity levels turn up, that’s when I feel alive. It is really odd how I can be tired after a normal class, but when coach is all fired up and putting us through his cycle of terror it is a whole other story.
When I get done with one of those training session, instead of gasping and twitching on the mat, I find myself bouncing up ready to go again. In those sessions, I am sad to hear the last buzzer go off. There is just something about pushing myself mentally to go beyond what I think I can do that just gets me fired up.

Work hard also covers more than just training. It also covers… well… work.

I picked up a part time job working at a grocery story down the street from my gym. My goal with any employment is to be dependable and take pride in doing my job to the best of my ability. The beauty of this, is that since I have proven myself now to be dependable and a valuable team member, they have been enormously flexible with my scheduling. This allows me to go to the competitions that I want to go to, and even to take off for a month to go to training camp. They know that my training is my priority, but they also know that they can count on me to get my work done when I am on the clock.

Play Hard:
Because I work hard, I am able to do the things that I want to do with my life. This doesn’t mean things are perfect – but if I want something badly enough, I will find a way to make it happen.

I guess to me, a lot of my work time, I kind of turn into play time. And vice versa. I am a HUGE Disneyland freak (totally going to the Tokyo Disneyland in September!) and love biking back and forth across town. Jungle gyms are AMAZING as are any remotely climbable trees, cliffs, or rocks.

When I go on a trip for a competition, I always plan extra time to enjoy whatever location I am visiting. I will usually plan my arrival for a day or two before I compete, and then say for a week and explore. In January I spent 10 days in Lisbon, Portugal and last year was in Tokyo for a week. I will be going back to Tokyo again in September and have booked my flights for a two week stay. After I compete, A nice night time climb of Mt. Fuji will be icing on the cake. I also plan to visit some Jiu Jitsu schools, as well as the Kodokan (I will remember a white Gi this time!), and hang with some Sumo fighters.

In Conclusion:
This hasn’t been the most organized update I have ever written, it is more just something I felt I wanted to get out of my head and written down somewhere.

I guess I kind of blur the lines between play and work. I even make games when I’m working at the grocery store – to see how many grumpy people I can make smile and such like. As long as I find a way to make everything I do into something fun, I can do anything. And then of course, it becomes a game to see if I can make everything into some sort of work as well.

At the end of the day, I am then ready to “sleep hard” as well. I’m a ferret in that regards, but that could be a whole post by itself!

My Inspiration – Ironman Issue

A lot of little girls grow up believing their Daddy is a superhero.

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One of the things I remember as a constant, is that Dad always ran. He would do several marathons (26.2 miles) a year, usually qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon.

This past weekend, dad finished his second Ironman Triathlon in 105 degree weather. Not bad for a gray haired, 55 year old grandpa! I definitely get a good portion of my competitive drive from him! (creative writing skills come from Mom!)

Dad wrote up an article for his tri club newsletter about the whole experience, and I asked him if it would be all right to share here – so here it is! Enjoy and please share what/who inspires you!

And yes, my Dad is cooler than your Dad!


This is Craig’s 140.6 Race report for CDA.

For months I have been preparing and planning for this race. I thought I had a good plan until found out what the temp was going to be and had to do some major changes to my strategy. But I am happy how well I did and running in 105 heat I can truly say “I Am An IRONMAN”.

Prepping for the HEAT:

On Monday before the race I started the process of hydration by drinking Smart Water and downing a bag of pretzels each day. It may be in my head to use Smart Water but for past 4 years I have done this for Marathons and have not had issues with heat. I also popped a Salt tablet each day. On Saturday I switched to PowerBar Perform and two Salt tablets. Friday Jim and I went on 30 minute swim and then 20 minute run (in the morning). In the afternoon I went back to the Expo and at the Active Release Therapy tent one of the therapist worked on me. He spent around 40 minutes on me with focus on knee, hip, hamstring, and neck. Note: for 5 days I had bad headaches each day but after the ART session I have not had a headache for 6 days.

On Saturday I did a 10 minute ride to make sure Bike was ready and then checked in the bike around 9am. I then went to the ART tent again and was worked on for 30 minutes. I felt very relaxed and loose after this session. After a big breakfast I crashed in my Mom’s Motorhome for the day to prepare for the race. I tried to minimize time outside as even in the shade was very hot. In the afternoon Jim and I drove the bike course and this was good that we did this. We could see were the long grinder hills were. After good pasta dinner I was ready for the next day.

SWIM (2.4 Miles)
1:31:33
Age Group Place: 56

Was able to get a nice warm-up and then got into my starting position. At CDA use a rolling start and I was in the 1:20 to 1:30 group. This was nice as swimming around people the same speed. Felt good and focused on my stoke. Only crowded when going around the turns and got punched a few times. After 30 minutes my left goggle started leaking. The swim is two loops and you come out of the water. After 1st lap I was happy as in 43 minutes. I had a gel with me so was able to take this while running back into the water. But I also stopped to try and fix my goggles, but did not help. So for 2nd loop had to swim with one eye shut.

Coming out of the water was not happy about time but did bet my last IM time of 1:35:31

Transfer 1
6:08

After coming out of water went to grass were my wetsuit was stripped off. Then grabbed Bike bag before going into tent. Tried to go as fast as possible and resisted the urge stay long. Loaded my back pockets with food I exited the tent. I was greeted with two people that put handfuls of sunscreen all over me. Grabbed bike and had long jog to mount point. Now ready for battle.

BIKE (112 Miles)
6:26:06
AG place: 24

001To survive the day I knew had to hydrate and take in salt. Every 15 minutes I would take in Gatorade Endurance from my torpedo (I really like the torpedo). Coming into each water stop would suck my torpedo dry so would get as much as could. At the start of water transition would grab water to cool off head and then Gatorade for the torpedo. At the top of the hour would take a salt Stick and Powerbar Gel. At bottom of hour would take part of a cliff bar or protein bar. With 1.5 hours to go was taking a salt stick every 30 minutes. I felt doing well with my hydration as continued to sweet and able to pee throughout the bike ride.

The bike course is two loops of one short out and back one long out and back. The first out and back was around 15 miles through town and along the lake. The 2nd out and back starts with a climb and then a LONG LONG climb. Then some flats and a few up and downs before heading back.

The first loop I was doing well with power and cadence. On the climbs very strong and passing a lot of people. But on the second loop it got hot and on the first climb and downhill my neck got very tight and hard to stay in aero position. On the climbs I had to massage my neck so that I could be in the aero position for the downhills. With 18 to go at the water stop I decided to pore just a little water on my neck and put bottle in my back pocket. Then every 5 minutes pored some water on my neck. It was amazing by my neck started relaxing and able to stay in aero. WHY DID I NOT DO THIS BEFORE?

With 5 miles to go it was amazing with the number of people on the side of the road under shade trees. But I was doing well, as I did a smart race. With 1.5 miles to go I was cranking for the finish and pumped for the start of the run. At the start of this 1.5 I downed a salt stick and gel as thought was needed for the run.

Note: the last hour of the bike was like riding in an oven and could feel the heat coming off the pavement.

What would I do different on the Bike? My Hydration was perfect but I should have kept a water bottle in my back pocket. If I would have put water on my neck every 5 to 10 minutes I think would have cut 15 minutes off my time.

Transfer 2:
6:54

I was told that temp was currently 101

After dismounting my bike, the volunteers grabbed it, and then I stumbled a few steps to the stand were had two cups of water. Then a lady put an ice cold towel on my head and I called her my angel as it was what I needed. Just before the tent two people had big buckets of ice water that poured on my head. Inside the tent I put on my shoes and hat quickly. I then made a split decision that was the BEST decision I made all day. I knew that the key was to keep my head and neck cool so decided to keep the towel for my head in the run.

RUN: (26.2 Miles)
3:49:50
AR Place after run: 7
Temp: 105

I did not think the 105 was that bad as able to keep cool and my hydration was good.

I ran with the towel on my head under my hat. At every water station would do the following: Take my hat off and pore two (or more) cups of ice water, with ice, on head. Then drink half cup of Gatorade with full cup of water. Leaving would then put two or more cups of water on my head. Note: This is the first time in a Marathon (have run 46) that have taken Gatorade and I was doing every mile but I knew had to do this. Around 200 yards after water stop my stomach would not feel well with the Gatorade (every time) and I would put my finger in my mouth and then a BIG belch would come out and I was OK. Also had spectators with water hoses and I would hit every one of them; having them spray on my head and back of neck. My favorite station was were someone would grab my hat/towel and run ahead to a place where dipped in bucket of ice water and hand to me as I went by.

For nutrition, in addition to Gatorade was taking a gel and salt stick every 45 minutes. At 19 last salt stick and 21 last gel as I have found to do good on last 6 need gel around 21. One funny story is that at one point I went over to the side and just stopped. A lady was concerned that I stopped so fast and ran over to see if I was OK. I then told her “I am OK I am just peeing” she told me that was good and to enjoy the pee. Note: I was SO wet that I felt was OK to pee in shorts.

Because of the heat I decided that would run by feel and not by a select pace. But was surprised that my body decided to do around 8:20 pace and in some case faster. I also found that after .5 miles with no water I would start to slow down (to a 8:40 pace) but then after water stop would speed up, with same effort. I also made a big effort to hit as much shade as I could. A few places I would run off the bike path and run under the trees in the shade.

A little after 5 mi started a long uphill to mile 6 were greeted by lady with water hose to cool me down then little was further before turn around and head back. At around mile 13 started on the 2nd loop. I was feeling it a little but decided to keep to the same pace. At 19 mi started the long climb again and most people were walking but I was able to grind up at 10:30 pace with my goal of getting to the water hose at the top of the hill. After turning around was able to do sub 7:20 pace coming down the hill and at this point decided to focus on my cadence. At mile 23 was starting to get excited as so close and began to pick it up. At around mile 25.5 I ran through the water stop and the smiles came on my face and the celebration began. With 4 blocks to go you have a downhill through town and can see the finish. At this time my hands were in the air and it was amazing. The finish was a block long and I was clapping people’s hands on both sides as announcer stated “Craig Stoller from New Hampshire, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.

After finishing I had a little concern as my jaw was sore so talked to medical. She told me that I was OK as I was just smiling too much.

In this Marathon was about the best I have felt the last 6 and this was my 47th Marathon.

What did I do correct? Towel on head under hat to keep cool, use a hat and not visor (as can hold more water and ice), Good nutrition on Bike, Good nutrition on Run, and GREAT volunteers.

What did I do incorrect? Nothing.

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If You Really Want Something…

Do it.

It was a big goal of mine to make it to the 2015 European Championships but due to budgetary issues it looked like it wasn’t going to work out.

However, I just couldn’t get it out of my head and so on December 9th, I decided that I had to at least try. Even if I wasn’t able to go, I want to make sure that I exhausted every possible avenue to get there so that I could move on with no regrets.

I bought my plane ticket on the 11th! I started with nothing by way of funds and was able to personally raise just over $1,000 in two days without asking for help from other people. My parents raised me to be pretty independent so I prefer to work for what I get. I will however take this moment to thank Roger from twitter who messaged me and offered to help me out – it gave me a little extra fire to know someone was rooting for me enough to want to invest in this trip!

So was it easy? Not remotely! I raised most of the funds by selling hugely discounted holiday gift cards (about 50% off my normal rates) and will be working hard to redeem those for months to come!

The hustle was worth it. It just reinforced my belief that if I want something badly enough, there is always a way to make it happen. I am never able to save up for a competition. I just have to decide that I am going to go and then do it. Money is fluid and it will flow as it is directed.

Oh yea, it is the New Year…

It’s not that much different because to me, every day is the start of a new year with the opportunity to grow a little bit more.

The one big change? My registration form now defaults to “Master 1” division. Thank you IBJJF for making me feel old for the second it takes me to change it back to “Adult”!

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In Summary…

I’ve been neglecting my writing as of late because I’ve been focusing all of my energy on getting ready for Pan Ams. It’s officially one week away so I’m going to summarize what has gone on the last few weeks.

San Francisco Open

My flight left at 5 pm and was supposed to get in at 11:00 Saturday night, but my connecting flight got delayed at the gate for about 2 hours due to weather conditions. I finally got in just after 1 am and got picked up from the airport by a friend. Got to sleep from 2:00 am until 6:30 am because I had to be at the venue at 8:00 since I was working the event.

Honestly, I felt like poop about an hour in. I had been sick and not able to keep any food in my system for about 3 days – if it were a local tournament that I hadn’t already bought a plane ticket for, I probably would have pulled out of it. But hey, once I’ve put money on something – I’m gonna do it.

I had a division of six, needing three wins for gold.

My first match was a great fight! She pulled guard first so I got to work my passing game – which judging by the video needs some work. I made it past and got points, but it wasn’t pretty looking at all… Kind of like a fish flopping around out of the water really. I ended up winning by points, not able to finish the triangle I had her in before time was called.

My second opponent didn’t make weight so that put me into the finals.

That first match took my last bit of energy. I stepped off the mat and noticed my hands and feet were blotched purple. That’s the first time I’ve ever prayed for more recovery time than required. I got my wish since I had to wait for the other side of the bracket to finish up then give my opponent her appropriate wait time as well.

Finals match: I started off well. Up on points, but then made a mistake, and got triangled. So ended up with a silver in my division. I was actually fairly happy with that. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. If I can do that well when feeling that bad, imagine how I’ll do at Pans when I’m healthy!

The Open:

I started feeling progressively worse during the course of the day, I think my b12 shot was wearing off, so I was very close to dropping out of the open. About 30 mins before, I thought to myself:

“I came all this way, and have put in my time for this. I can choose to push when I wanna quit, or I can trust in the training I have had up until this point to carry me.”

So yea, I did the open.

I can’t remember exactly how many of us there were, but I think we had 6-8. I won my first match against a very tall girl by straight ankle lock. I was pretty happy that I remembered a sweep my coach had shown me on Friday. I wasn’t able to finish it, but it gave me the ankle lock set up.

I kinda fell over after that match, but it was able to recover in time for my semi match. Great match and loved the battle! I lost in the end, but was still happy since I lost to a friend who went on to win gold. Bittersweet ya know.

Nashville NAGA (Jan 22)

I decided at the very last minute to compete at the Nashville NAGA. Coach told me to enter the expert division. I did the no gi division first and here is the video

There were only two of us in No Gi unfortunately. But I got my first belt!

I did have a different opponent for Gi, but she pulled out after my No Gi match. They moved me back down to the intermediate level with the rest of the blue belts for the Gi divisions. I got more tired than I’d like to admit, but I managed to pull off another gold.

We had 6 ladies competing from our school that day and brought home 5 golds, one silver, and one bronze. Shannon won double gold in the white belt fly weight Gi and No Gi divisions with 5 matches total. It was a good day!

Outro:

That’s the highlights for the last few weeks. I’ll probably crawl out of my meditative hole before Pans to post on my competition preparation – but might not. I really have to keep my mind clutter free right now.

A Mothers Perspective on Aspergers

After reading my posts about My Aspergers, my mother wrote me an email response giving her perspective. It’s not really Jiu Jitsu related, but this is my blog and I can upload whatever I like here! Ha!

An Open Letter From My Mother

Looking back over 28 years, now knowing that you have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a lot of things now fit into place.  As a parent, you guilt yourself with questions like “how could I have not known” and “how could I have let my child down”; “how could I not notice their suffering”?  Back in those days, however, even though I was interested in different psychology issues and read a lot on the subject, including autism, it never even once occurred to me that there was something “wrong” with you in that regard.  You were our wonderful firstborn beautiful baby and you were perfect.

 Probably the first thing that stands out in my mind as something different from the norm was when you were about three years old.  We were at one of the Stoller Family Reunions at Lake Billy Chinook.  These annual gatherings had many, many children, since there was a big batch of “cousins” who all had children around the same time.  You wanted nothing to do with playing with the other children.  You preferred to go from adult to adult and talk one-on-one with them.  You especially loved spending time with your Uncle Don Sadler and would talk on a variety of subjects on a level much older than your years.  I also remember when you were four years old and in preschool that when I would take my time working in the co-op preschool, about 3 days a month, you never left my side.  I assumed that once you got used to the program you would gradually begin to play with the other kids, but that rarely happened.  Even after two years at the preschool you still would clamp to my side whenever I was working there.  When I wasn’t there, the teacher said you preferred to sit and read in the book corner or sometimes play by yourself.  We just thought that you were shy.  Since your brother was just behind you in age, I was a typical busy mom and didn’t really notice anything unusual.  We always considered you to be our beautiful, talented, extremely brilliant, somewhat quirky (in an affectionate way) and precious daughter.

 You excelled in school academics, but had trouble making friends.  By first and second grade you had a plethora of somatic illnesses that did concern me, as they did correspond to the school days; headaches, stomachaches, extreme bloody noses that were difficult to stop, to say the least.  You looked anemic very often.  Several times I took you to the doctor for blood work and a check-up.  After repeated tests and exams that were negative, they told me that they felt it was due to stress.  We did not know the reason for the stress, but since it related to school, we made the decision to homeschool.  I will say that we saw a reduction in those symptoms after that, although I get some criticism from both friends and family members who said I needed to “force you to learn to get along with other children”.  It was interesting to me that some of this advice came from people who HAD no children at that time!  You spent most of your time, when not schooling, in your bedroom reading, listening to music and/or involving yourself with your “critters”.  There was a wide variety, from frogs and lizards that you caught and fed crickets to, cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, your precious bunny, Oreo, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.  Chinchillas were your passion for several years.  You bred and sold them and they were a big part of your life.  Sunny, your first chinnie, was your special little buddy for some time.

 Interestingly, although you always had a fairly large “personal space bubble”, even as a teenager you would sit with me in church and spend most of the time leaning up against me.  Your lack of friends was always a concern and you never really bonded with your peers, but rather your animals were your best friends.  I think the other kids looked upon you as an oddity and they didn’t know what to do with you.  When they got a little older and more tolerant and tried to make friendly overtures to you, you would not accept them and would withdraw.

 Understand, that at this time no red flags went off.  Yes, you stayed in your room a lot with books, but so did I when I was a teenager.  Your dad also didn’t have a lot of friends growing up–he was too busy–so neither of us thought that this behavior was anything other than a personality trait.  It was concerning that you had a hard time balancing interests, although it is something that was less obvious when you were very young and is more prominent now.  When you took up martial arts, you would practice the form every day for hours.  You were very focused….but, your dad also had that trait, so we didn’t really think much of it at the time.  What became interesting and concerning to me as you grew older was that I noticed more that you focused on only one thing at a time and put all your time and energy into it.  When it was the chinchillas, you knew everything about them.  When it was the martial arts, you went at it full steam.  Then it was Bible college and music.  You had never taken piano lessons until college, but now you can play awesomely.  You also took voice lessons.  During your music phase you played, composed, sang, recorded and had lots of wonderful memories.  It is sad to me that as you moved through each of these phases, you would end one when you started another.  I was worried that you couldn’t find balance in your life and that still is something I know you work on.  It is sad to know that you once spent 3-4 (or more) hours a day practicing piano and now you rarely play and want to sell (or have already sold) your keyboard.  You left chinchillas behind you long ago.  As a parent, I would have liked to see you continue with the things that gave you so much pleasure, but in more balanced doses, but that may be something that takes a lifetime for you to do.

 Of course, now you have BJJ and just like your other interests, you give this one 150% of your time, focus and energy.  It shows, of course, in how well you have done and how you have progressed.  This worries me, of course, because I don’t want you to get hurt, especially with the line of work you are in, but you are an adult and I have to trust you to know your own limits and take care of yourself.

 Looking back, now, I sure wish we had known them what we know now about Aspergers.  I feel guilty that I couldn’t give you the tools you needed to help you cope better during that time.  Do I wish you didn’t HAVE Aspergers?  That is a trick question—of course every parent wants their children to not have to suffer or go through difficult times.  We want to make it all better.  However, I realize that this is who you are.  If you didn’t have this disorder, you would not be YOU.  Of course we would love you, but you would be a different person and I can’t imagine you as anyone other than Nicholle, yourself.

 Most of all, I am happy that you finally got peace with this diagnosis because then the world started making sense to you and things became clear.  I’m sure it still is a challenge, but you know and understand the WHY that is your thought and sensory processes, and that clarity helps bring order to chaos.

In Closing:

Thank you Mom for sharing! It means a lot to me, and just maybe it will help someone else as well!

How Good Could I Be?

Note: I find the best way to work through something is to write it out. By the time I’m done writing, I’m feeling back to normal again. So here is one of those type of writings…

I get very frustrated trying to train for competitions, being the highest ranked girl at my gym (and a smaller girl at that). If someone is left sitting out on the side of the mats, it’s usually me or one of the other girls.

I don’t mind this when I’m not trying to prepare for an event, but when I’ve got a goal in mind, and I have to sit out because no one will make eye contact with me when it’s time to change partners… it’s really disheartening.

How Good Could I Be…

How good I could be if I was able to roll every round like the guys do?

How good could I be if I didn’t feel like every time I did get to roll, that someone was doing me a favor?

How good could I be if everyone would roll with me instead of just sitting on top of me until time is called?

How good could I be if I had a good training partner I could go toe to toe with and sharpen my skills against?

How good could I be if I got to go beyond just working defense on someone?

How good could I be if I actually got to finish subs instead of having them wrenched out of my properly placed hands?

How good could I be if I didn’t have to worry about my opponent getting more quality mat time in than I do?

How good could I be?

Seriously, I’d be awesome!

We all have the things we have to deal with when getting ready for my competitions. The point is, we all have to take what we have and make the most of it.

My frustrations become magnified when I’m training intensely. My brain works in efficiency mode pretty much non-stop, so when I get stalled, it really messes up my gears.

I’m trying to learn to shift gears.

If I have to sit a round, I take note and watch two of our upper level belts roll with one another. I study little things like the placement of their feet, how the hold their weight, a minor shift of a hand grip… and of course, the random cartwheel guard passes!

I am the one in charge of my response to my challenges. I’ll admit, some days I sulk in my office after practice. My coach has patiently listened to me rant at least once before each competition (it has become a tradition about 10 days before every tournament).

In the end, I pick myself up and get back at it. What other option is there? Quit? Ha! In the end, I push through the frustration and come out stronger and better on the other side. It’s just a part of the growing pains.

I will not let frustrations become excuses. Instead, I’m gonna use them as fuel.

So…

So I don’t have everything perfect?

So I have to count pennies to make tournament fees?

So I have to work a few extra hours?

So I have to push myself through circuits until I throw up?

So I have to wake up an hour earlier to get my conditioning in before anyone else shows up?

So I have to say no to distractions?

So I have to focus to the point where some people think I’ve lost it?

Yea… that’s the way it’s gonna be. In the end, I want to know that I’ve done the best that I can with what I have in my hands. It’s very rare few who have an “ideal” situation. If that is you, you had better be busting your butt, or I’m gonna bust it for you when I meet you on the mats.

And that, my friend, is a promise.

Jiu Jitsu and Aspergers pt 2 – It Fits

Wow!

I really wasn’t expecting such a huge response from part 1! I thought a few of my friends might read it and find it interesting. Let’s just say the last week has been a bit overwhelming. Thank you everyone!

My parents read it as well, and I guess I just took for granted that they should understand me. My Mom said she wished I had written that out years ago for them and she is currently composing an article on what it was like raising an undiagnosed spectrum child. I’m quite interested to learn her perspective!

All right, that said, on to part 2. If you haven’t already, check out part 1.

Human Contact

My biggest challenge when starting Jiu Jitsu, was my sensitivity to human contact. I don’t really even know why, but I’ve always been very aware of my personal “bubble” and would cringe and flinch away if someone else initiated contact. It’s weird I know. I love hugs, but have to be the one initiating them. I don’t know how to describe it other than it mentally hurts me and almost feels physically painful if someone else initiates contact.

Somehow, Jiu Jitsu has actually helped to reduce this sensitivity and I think it is the fact that BJJ gives me a flow chart of movements to follow. I’ve learned that for every action my opponent makes, I have at least two options that I can respond with. I don’t have to freak out because I know the appropriate response in a format that I understand.

This has helped me relax a lot with human contact even outside of the gym. I still have my off days but, for the most part, I don’t tend to jump when someone decides to spontaneously hug me.

Social Skills

This is another biggie. I’m blessed to have lived in Nashville for going on seven years now and have been surrounded by amazing people who love me. I make a social “boo boo” and they usually just shrug and say “well, that’s just Nicholle” and move on. (Shout out to my amazing friends!)

Still, I have never felt like I was able to really meld myself into a social group. I mentally knew I was included and accepted, but never really could fit. Believe me, that has been the source of many tears over the years!

The combination of my conversational deficits and inability to read (or speak) non-verbal language, partnered with my one track mind really doesn’t make for a good party conversationalist. I have to choose between not speaking at all (appearing shy); or letting my one track, non-graceful thought train loose on the world (appearing arrogant or stuck-up). Given the choice, I prefer the first option. I’m not shy, but must appear so in order to keep my slip ups to a minimum.

Enter Jiu Jitsu!

When I got into Jiu Jitsu, I found myself surrounded by a community of people who didn’t find it odd that I wanted to talk about “bio-mechanics behind the proper placement of feet for the most energy efficient results when doing a tripod sweep”. In the past, I would discover an amazing concept, share it with someone, and be met with just a blank stare. Now, I am greeted with enthusiasm, and usually an exchange of even more cool information!

Oh wow! So this is what a real conversation is like! It is a lot easier when I am surrounded by people who are just as obsessed as I am. It makes me feel normal and accepted.

This helps me out immensely because I get to practice having actual real conversations with people! Since I started training, I have been getting better at holding conversations outside of the gym as well. Practice makes perfect!

No luck improving my non-verbal communication skills so far and I’m kind of giving up on the whole idea. Instead, I have started letting people know when I meet them that I take things literally and at face value. This foreknowledge helps to clear up misunderstandings much more easily.

Sensory Overload

Big competitions are interesting. I find the best thing I can do to keep from being overstimulated is to work at the competitions. If I have something to focus on, I am able to block out all the excess sensory input. I particularly enjoy working as a Ring Coordinator for IBJJF competitions. I love to set things in order and that job requires a huge amount of organization skills to make everything run perfectly. Good fit no?

If I’m at a tournament and am not working, I will be cheering on a team mate (or anyone I know). Without an “assignment” I’m usually wandering around like a lost puppy trying to find some task to do. It’s impossible for me to relax in such a busy environment, so I opt for distraction. Headphones and a book is my favorite combination.

Patterns!!!

About a week after 2013 Worlds, right before I got my blue belt, I had one of those “ah ha!” moments. Suddenly, I saw the moves I had been learning and practicing for the previous year in a whole new light.

Everything has a pattern. I remember arguing with my Dad that there is no possible way that a computer program can do something randomly – there is always a formula that the computer uses (aka: a pattern), and that formula is concrete, so it can’t produce something that is random.

Rabbit trail aside: I’ve started to see the pattern of Jiu Jitsu. I don’t understand it all yet, but I can see it when I roll and little bits and pieces are coming together. This really excites me!

The Journey

I started Jiu Jitsu because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted a physical activity with a goal in mind – but I’ve always been horrible at sports. In P.E. I was always the last kid picked, even after kids half my size. I had enjoyed TKD as a child however and decided I would go the martial arts route. So glad I did!!!

My coach, Shawn Hammonds, is amazing! I have never had a coach or a team before, and that is really what initially got me hooked and kept me coming back. They challenge me in a way that I have never experienced before, and I like it. I’d always craved someone to push me just a little bit harder, instead of being satisfied with what I had already done. I don’t think that’s a trait of Aspergers – maybe there is more to my personality than just that eh?

One of my favorite things, is that I’m allowed to have a bad day around my team. I can totally break down, freak out… whatever. They just shrug and it’s back to normal the next day. I don’t have to stress over being perfect and always on guard like I used to always be – except for when sitting on the side of the mat after class… you never know when someone is going to randomly jump on your back while you’re just chilling!

Less than a year into training, I expanded my team and added Raijin Fight Wear to my corner. It was a chance meeting on Twitter for which I am so thankful! I was amazed that a company would want to sponsor me, as a white belt, before I had even competed internationally! We exchanged messages and they told me that they loved my enthusiasm and would love to have me representing them. They have been cheered me on and encouraged me all through 2013 and then signed me on again for 2014. They are a quality company that matches my “strive for excellence” personality well and I plan to represent them all the way to the black belt podium and beyond!

My team has gone through a lot of transition in the last year. I may write some about it later, but that would be a monster of a rabbit trail right now…

What Now?

I’ve decided that there is just too much to say about this topic to fit it into one or two posts – so I’m going to make it a series that I’ll add to a little bit every Saturday. The rest of the week I’ll be doing my regular updates and random ramblings. If anyone has any questions about anything I talk about, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I can’t guarantee that I’ll know the answer, but I will do my best to find one!