Last Night Jiu-Jitsu Saved My Life

 

Last night jiu-jitsu saved my life

Sweat is running down my chin and pooling in my lap as I wait for the next round to start. The gym is pulsing with the energy you find when fighters are waiting for the next sparring session to begin. They catch their breath, the sway back and forth to stay loose, or they run through a mental checklist to prepare for the next six minutes. I have not done Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in close to six months, so I am attempting not to vomit on the mat (a goal I achieve by just the threshold of the door to the gym).

I have loved this sport for nearly 15 years, at times sneaking in private lessons before work and classes at night. I have competed in tournaments that I had no business being in because I wanted to know more about the art to discover more about me.

Sweat is running down my chin and pooling in my lap as I wait for the next round to start. The gym is pulsing with the energy you find when fighters are waiting for the next sparring session to begin. They catch there breath, the sway back and forth to stay loose, or they run through a mental check list to prepare for the next six minutes. I have not done Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in close to six months, so I am attempting not to vomit on the mat (a goal I achieve by just the threshold of the door to the gym).

I have loved this sport for nearly 15 years, at times sneaking in private lessons before work and classes at night. I have competed in tournaments that I had no business being in because I wanted to know more about the art to discover more about me.

 

But right now I am months away from that Eric, this Eric is worried about making it through a single hour-long class.

I am thankful that I am training with great partners right now because that makes the class as enjoyable as it can be when you are scrambling for position and trying not to get submitted — for sport.

What makes a good sparring partner?

For me, it has always been a guy or girl that wants to learn, not to win. This is a much harder lesson for some to learn because of the nature of the sport. The idea is to get to a position in order to make your opponent quit, it is a bit of a zero sum game.

However, the good guys and girls like to test themselves, let good submissions go for the sake of the “flow” or the ability to continue to roll. That is what is happening right now, I am rolling with a guy named Chad who is MUCH better than I am but you couldn’t tell because he is rolling in order to keep rolling not rolling to beat my ass — which he could.

The timer dings and I have survived another one and I am beginning to get my timing back. I am remembering why I need this sport in my life and I am forgetting all the bullshit that we all can focus on from time to time without this perspective.

I have forgotten the amount of times jiu-jitsu (BJJ) has saved my life, but it is most certainly at the very core of my being. Those long lapses in training dissolve as soon as I put the gi on, bow and enter the mat, and begin the warm-up.

The excitement I feel when there are people I have not trained with before because we are new to each other and, like a Rubix Cube, it is a new set of problems to solve.

One of the things I have always loved about BJJ and MMA is the “any given Sunday” feel about it. Yes, there are rankings but a division I wrestler in his first jiu-jitsu class is not a white belt regardless what his waist says. In the same way that a 42-year old blue belt probably has some tricks up his sleeves once he gets his cardio back up.

I find a new partner and he wants to start on his feet.

In this position I am the worst, wrestling never really stuck with me despite the hours of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior matches I watched. In all seriousness, wrestlers are a different breed and can do things that I have always thought were amazing and terrifying at the same time— so when we start on our feet I know I am going to end up on my ass.

grip fighting in BJJ

He circles and I keep pace as we fight for grips, which is the where we work to control each other’s wrists in order to control the match. When I feel him relax for a second I drop to the mat and pull him on top of me and start working for submissions.

Did I mention I am out of shape?

He passes my guard and moves to the worst position in BJJ, the mount and I know it is going to be a loooooooong 3 minutes. I move as best I can careful not to give up my neck, an arm, a leg, a wrist, an ankle, or a knee and some how survive until the end of the round. At that point my stomach reminds me it might be time to call it a day.

Part of the reason I love this sport is because of how I feel afterwards, sore, battle tested, and ready to do it again tomorrow.

Eric HultgrenComment