Some Startling Realizations

Having just gotten home from my second day of learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I'm starting to really grasp the shocking enormity of what I've taken on with this crazy quest.

After the (unbelievably strenuous!) warmup, we began working on "side control." If you aren't familiar with BJJ, imagine someone laying flat on their back, with their opponent laying chest-to-chest on them, but at a 90-degree angle, as shown in this pic I found on Google:


From the bottom position, I immediately found that it took tremendous effort to keep my partner/opponent from effectively doing whatever he wanted - jumping his leg over to "mount" me (leaving me vulnerable to any number of painful outcomes), swinging his legs over my face into a "north-south" position (from which he could do all sorts of unpleasant things to my limbs), or worst of all, from just smushing my face with his chest and shoulders, making it utterly miserable to even lay there struggling for breath. Fortunately my training partners were all gracious and eager to point out my beginners mistakes, and I'm starting to get a sense of where my most glaring weaknesses are.

My BJJ coach Diogo had to stop me several times during the practice to instruct me to slow down, breathe, pace myself, and not burn out in a wild struggle for survival. "It's not a sprint, Huxley - you not Usain Bolt, you can't go all out for 1 minute, 2 minute, 3 minute without breathing! Slow down, pay attention to what the other guy is doing, and make your move." He was right - I was flailing around, struggling for position (or just to breathe), but only being effective at creating even more openings for lost positions and lost limbs. There is something utterly primal about having someone with their arms wrapped around your neck, holding you down. Ten million years of mammalian instinct is screaming in your brainstem RUN TWIST ESCAPE ROLL FIGHT GO GO GO, and even when you aren't in immediate danger of being choked or having a limb painfully manipulated, the desire to FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT is nearly overpowering.

I've never felt both so proud of my progress at something physical and yet so utterly humbled at the same time. During the "free rolling" period toward the end of class, I paired up with a couple of different partners, both of whom I currently outweigh by 50-60lbs. Despite my weight "advantage," they were able to throw me, bend me, contort my body, extend my arms, twist my legs and basically use every movement I attempted against me, leaving me in a gasping puddle of sweat on the mat, with barely enough strength left to meekly "tap out" and pause their boa-like constrictions.

I haven't been this happy in a long time.