Only a small percentage of people understand what it is we do, this sport called Jiu Jitsu. Very few get it for what it really is; many others portray it as violent or find it invasive. They see us tangled up and getting smashed and wonder how could they ever have fun or get anything of value from it. I’ll admit I too saw it this way but now it is one of my greatest passions in life.
I want you to imagine you are just 15 years old. You’re out with your boyfriend, his brother, his best friend and your best guy friend you’ve known for years. It’s just a night out bowling having innocent fun. You trust them 100% and never feel for a moment you are in an unsafe situation. Now what if they turn on you? What if as you’re climbing into the van to go home you think they are being perfect gentlemen by opening the door and having you get in first? What if as you step in they push you down from behind? What if they hold you down and violently attack and sexually assault you? You fight as hard as you can but it’s not enough, you’re outnumbered and out powered. As much as you pray to forget, you remember every single detail from that night. The events that took place change you, the memories haunt you and many choices made throughout life are a result of that one night.
What if years down the road you walked into a martial arts academy for a fitness class but the schedule changed and it was actually a Jiu Jitsu class starting? You’re bummed and ready to walk right back out but they encourage you stay. They convince you to just stay and try it one time, if you don’t like it you don’t have to come back. So you stay even though you have no desire to be there, knowing you will hate every moment of it. The instructor takes you aside to go through some basic movements. While walking you through an arm bar, he tells you that even with as small as you are, you have enough strength in your hips to break a grown man’s arm? Something clicks and you realize you didn’t end up there on accident but that God had placed you in that very place at that very moment for a reason.
What if I said that’s what happened to me? That this is my story… I won’t say it was easy or I was never uncomfortable, believe me there were days I wasn’t sure I could do it. Let’s face it all of my training partners with the exception of my coach were men twice my size. Placing myself daily in an environment where I was yet again outnumbered and out powered. However, I was learning that what I had previously viewed as a violent sport of people being ‘tangled up and smashed’ was really this never ending chess match. There was a counter for everything. There was always an option, always a way to improve the situation you were in.
The positions I focused on the most were not the ones I struggled with technically but the ones I struggled with mentally. When a teammate would make a comment how much they hated mount week I would just think to myself believe me I hate it more! Countless times it was only by the grace of God I made it through class still composed. Countless times as soon as my feet hit the pavement of the parking lot I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I would go straight into my husband’s arms as soon as I got home, he would embrace me and I would cry. He knew for me there was no giving up; I knew if I gave up that would mean ‘they’ won again.
What if I said I pushed through, kept trying, kept learning and growing? What if while in some of those positions that were truly my worst nightmare I learned not to panic? What if I was actually now capable of staying calm and using my knowledge I’d gained this far to get out or reverse the situation? Technique really did win over size and strength! I started competing to test where I was at, learn my strengths and my weaknesses. I had an amazing coach that I could trust and share my story with. She helped me through the struggles and celebrated my victories with me. She was one of my most treasured friends and inspiration. During training I was laughing and having fun, my teammates were quickly becoming my extended family. I wasn’t leaving class with tears anymore, I was leaving happy and exhilarated, carrying a new kind of confidence.
I ended up at class by ‘accident’, I went back for self-defense and somewhere through the battles and victories I fell in love with the sport and began healing old wounds. Jiu Jitsu is so much more than meets the eye. We all have out reasons for starting and for staying, each reason unique and beautiful in its own way. I know now that Jiu Jitsu is truly a gift in my life. My coach and I both know that I have not ended up here by chance but by destiny. I made a conscious choice to take something bad that happened to me and change how the story ends. My goal is to keep growing and learning as much as I can, inspire other women to find their true strength and embrace every moment of the journey.
We all have a voice and a story to be told, no more silence!