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So healthy it’s killing me – the one month progress report.

January 1, 2012

One month.  It’s not that much time – enough for for the moon to go through it’s cycle, for a baby boy to gain over two pounds,  or for a jiu jitsu class to make you feel like your 49 year-old body slept on a mattress full of pool balls.  With lead sheets and steel wool blankets.  Don’t get me wrong, jiu jitsu is doing great things for my body overall.  I’ve managed to stick to four classes a week and it is definitely paying off.  I’m stronger, especially in my core, than I have ever been and my cardio is increasing daily.  But I now awake each morning to a complex process of unfolding my body out of bed like a rusty deck chair.

I am always sore, except during class where, once the blood and adrenaline start pumping, nothing hurts at all.  I always leave class feeling like I’m several prime-numbered birthdays younger than when I walked in.  Then sometime after the ride home and the shower, my body re-ages back into its former debilitated glory like a time-lapsed blossom of ache.  That’s when I notice the tweaked knee, the jammed finger, the aching hamstring.  They say you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.  I agree.  I guess I just hoped less of those eggs would be essential body parts.

My instructors are always encouraging, but the frustrating thing is that I know many of these injuries result from my own bad technique.  Jiu jitsu is based on leverage, position and timing, not strength.  I have often been amazed by how a particular move seems impossible until a small adjustment in posture is made, after which it seems effortless.  The converse is that a move meant to neutralize an assailant can just neutralize yourself if executed poorly.

This is especially true for throws.  It is remarkable how easy it is to throw a two hundred and fifty pounder with proper posture, hip placement and rotation.  And equally remarkable how hard it is to toss a one hundred and forty pounder with poor posture.  (On a side note, proper ‘posture’ is vitally important in jiu jitsu, especially when in guard, hence the frequent and slightly amusing instruction “posture up!” which always makes me feel like voguing.)  Without proper posture, the level of force required to execute a move goes way up and that extra force is applied to your knees or back.  Or, believe it or not, your fingers.  I have jammed fingers so often that I must now tape my hands into some permanent parody of the vulcan peace sign before class.

So I’m in a kind of race. In lane one, my aging body with its rusty joints and symphony of pops, clicks and groans.  In lane two, my (oh so slowly) increasing technique, strength and conditioning.  It’s been an up and down affair with several lead changes, but it seems like the technique, strength and conditioning are finally starting to pull ahead.  My re-tweaked knee has healed up nicely, I can finally keep up with all the sit-ups and push-ups in class, and that mattress full of pool balls?  Well, that’s still there.  But maybe they’re slightly softer pool balls.

And it’s not just my body that’s been altered.  Jiu jitsu is two games, one physical, the other mental.   And, no doubt, jiu jitsu has made me mental.  As in mental patient.  During this month, my internal patter, that egoistic mix of doom and elation that plays out in my semi-conscious brain like neurotic muzak, has been all over the map.  By week, I would say it’s gone something like this:

Week 1:  “I am completely awesome.  This is way easier than I thought.  It must have been all those YouTube video’s I watched.  Clearly, I am a natural, and my instructors will soon notice as much.  Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just move me up to the black belt class.  I mean, I know they have their “traditions” and all, but this is obviously a special situation.  I’ll probably invent my own signature move with a cool name, like the Blakinator, or the earthblake or the two-fanged blake bite of death.”

Note for the future jiu jitsu novice:  You are not awesome.  Everyone is taking it very easy on you, because otherwise ninety-nine percent of new starts would never come back for the second week.

Week 2:  “I suck.  No, I would have to improve to suck.  I am pre-sucky and maybe after years of hard work I can graduate to sucky. But probably not.  My instructors will undoubtedly soon inform me that they can’t afford to allow me to associate with the other students because my sucky habits are rubbing off. The only signature move I could invent is the suckinator, or perhaps the crapcake.”

Note for the future jiu jitsu novice:  yes, you do suck.  It doesn’t matter what sports you have played before or how many YouTube videos you watched.  But its ok.  You’re supposed to suck.  So just shut up and train.

Week 3:  “Man, I managed to avoid getting tied in a pretzel knot once in twelve attempts!  Not bad.  And I think I won that last match up!  Good thing I know I can defend myself against a one hundred and twenty pound woman taking her first class.  But she still seemed pretty happy.  I’ll resist the urge to tell her next week she’s going to think she sucks.”

Week 4:  “Ok, ego, I don’t like you and you don’t like me.  So we’re going to have to make a deal.  I’m going to leave you at the door from now on during class.  Afterwords, I’ll pick you back up and you can tell me how sucky and awesome I am.  Till then, I will be listening only to Mister id.  And mister id says only one thing: shut up and train.”

So there you have it.  One month down and who knows how many more to go.  And as my forty-ninth year on the planet ends, I have but one resolution: shut up and train.  That, of course, plus appreciate every single moment of my new son’s presence as if it were my last.  But I don’t think I need a resolution for that one.  I just need eyes.  And maybe functional hands capable of changing a nappy without being taped into flippers.  Happy New Years, everyone, live long and posture up.

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8 Comments
  1. Just so’s ya know… I have been really enjoying your journey, My friend. I love the writing and I absolutely love the subject matter. I’m sending you all the good shit I know to send. Vibes, JooJoo and all. I, too, am looking towards a grand physical/mental task and am looking forward to learning from the crucible. Thank you for the inspiration, sir.

    -Dion

    • Very glad I could provide some inspiration, but from reading Jessie’s blog, sounds like you both already have quite a lot. I am following your preparations for your walk and am equally inspired. We have just this one life to live and it always warms my heart to see people realizing that fact in their actions. As my Dad used to say, “this ain’t no dress rehearsal!”

      • Dion permalink

        LOL… “Ain’t no dress rehearsal”, indeed.

  2. Steve permalink

    Just stumbled on this from a sherdog post…..A++ Blog!

  3. “Week 1. I Am completely awesome….Week 2. I SUCK!” – I’m so glad it’s not just me brother 🙂 I can’t even remember how I happened upon this website but I am glad that I did. Keep pushing forward bro – there’s a bunch of us out there doing the same 🙂

    • Good to know. Rolling today with some absolute beasts (who are luckily very friendly, cool dudes) while visiting the twin cities. I think its going to be an “I suck” day, but every day I walk off the mats in one piece is a victory. Thanks for the encouragement and for reading. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update, though I am still training regularly, and your comment has steeled my resolve to start posting again. Cheers!

  4. chazzzi permalink

    You still doing it bro?
    I train bjj 2-4 times a week . Wt- 70kg
    Worst rolls- with heavier younger blue belts and above feels like being in a washing machine and the physical match of learning mandarin
    Preference – No gi
    Weakness- passing guard of heavier blues
    Favorite positions- North South and Side Control
    Favorite escape- guard recovery from Side Control and mount/ technical mount. Taking back with underhook from bottom Half guard
    Worst position- wrapped up in spider guard triangle etc
    Best takedown- single leg, snap down, modified flying armbar
    Gym work 2-3 times a week (35 minute sessions )
    Bjj Reseach and home drills- daily 1-2 hours!
    Practice dummy coming
    Need to- do flexibility training and improve diet
    Chaz , 50 – Australia
    Gym -GB
    Competed as a white belt with 30 year olds did ok- I ended up in the dominant positions but lost on points
    Training since 2013
    Blue belt
    Goal- brown belt by 56
    Fyi- our Professor is 71 Kg and 5.7″ like me
    Maybe ill be like him in 2022 (or half like him by 2018 (
    Theres a lot of us bjj oldies out there and we don’t look a day over 39 (fyi 50s is the new 40s) lol

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