When I Learn To Swim, Will The Water Change?

In a mythical future things would be better. Isn’t this what we all think about? One day, some day, maybe next time it will turn out right, turn out better, or turn out differently.

We wish we were satisfied while we realize there would be no progress without that struggle.

We feel guilty for our dissatisfaction since so many have it worse, and it could always be worse.

We strive for something better while we grasp and fumble on the details of how one actually accomplishes such a thing. How can I make things better? Can I? If it could be done, if it were so easy, wouldn’t life already be that way?

I can make ripples as an individual, but won’t the water just return to it’s still surface? Even if we all make splashing waves, the water stays the same.

Still, I have to believe we were put here to do more than just tread water.

When I learn to swim, will the water change?

If I start to drown, will someone save me?

Women in Grappling

I came across an article with a woman’s opinion how to attract women grapplers to your martial arts school.


Some things in there don’t matter to me. Women instructors and all women classes. Yeah. Whatever. I like a co-ed environment. I don’t even mind if the place I’m training seems like a matted cave or dungeon.

One thing stuck out for me:

“However, don’t assume that two women are a good match just because they’re women. At 110-odd pounds, I’ve been partnered with a 200-lb woman, just because we were the only chicks in the class. Probably it’d have been better to put me with the 140-lb guy and her with the 180-lb guy.”

I just wanted to run up to the author, shake her, and say, “So I’m not the only one who’s been in this position!?”

There was a period where this was frequently happening to me. I’m more like 150 than 110, but I think the woman I kept being paired up with was considerably more than 200. I felt bad, not being able to put her in my guard because of her girth versus my leg length, but I kept wondering if she felt even worse about the whole thing.

Maybe people of higher belt rank can deal with something like extreme weight differences in training partners, but this was happening when I was a brand-new no-stripes white belt and I think she had three stripes at the time.

There was no tactful way to bring it up to the instructor and no inoffensive way I could think to talk about it with my training partner. Looking back, it’s not something I should have ever been put into the position to need to address.

Keep in mind that had there just been not many people in class and literally the only person there was for me to pair up with was a mismatch, that’s a very different story and it happens. Where I currently train there is a mix of belt levels and sizes. I often train with guys bigger than me. It’s not a big deal.

The big deal is making the mismatched ‘chicks’ train together just because they’re ‘chicks’. There was more than one guy there around my weight I could have trained with and bigger guys she could have trained with. We were ONLY matched because we were both female, and put together in spite of us not being matched in size or even skill level (she was high white, me low white).

When you put together two people to roll who aren’t matched physically AND they’re both beginners, I think that can be pretty dangerous. Beginners don’t know subtleties of shifting weight slightly, training hard by using good technique and not muscle, when to tap, how to just make the person tap and not cry out in pain, or what slight differences in a move can make it likely to break someone’s wrist. Even drilling can be dangerous in this situation.

I remember a class full of particularly bad knee-on-belly instances. The reaction I got when trying to talk to my training partner about the fact I was being hurt were comments along the lines of ‘It’s not my fault’, ‘I’m not doing this on purpose’, and ‘Suck it up’.

My current coach is very careful about keeping an eye on safety. He lets us pair up, but if he doesn’t like the matches for whatever reason (safety or not), he’ll change them. If people are mismatched, he’ll make sure it’s still safe by telling the more experienced person to work on something specific or not to do certain things. If he sees someone not being safe, he’ll do whatever he thinks needs to be done to stop it. You might get told to do push ups if you know better. You’ll get a demonstration and explanation if you just didn’t realize you were practicing a technique incorrectly. He reminds those of us who are smaller and less experienced to only pair up with people we feel comfortable with, so I’ve never feel pressured to go with someone I didn’t.

I’m a proud person and it can be hard hearing him tell someone to ‘go easy’ with me sometimes. The smart part of me realizes that it has nothing to do with how tough or how much heart I have, he just wants to make sure we all can continue to train and will want to continue to train. If you get hurt or feel unsafe or frustrated, that’s not going to happen.

Let’s use an example. A guy in class has nasty headlock submissions that he can put on and crank at the blink of an eye. Pair that guy up with someone other than a guy who has amazing headlock escapes. You might have someone who’s neck is stiff for the next week (or worse) and feels very frustrated. You also have someone who isn’t learning anything, just doing the same moves that work for them at full force over and over. Fixing this isn’t just safe training, it’s smart training. The guy cranking on headlocks over and over needs to learn control. You can put a headlock on and then finish it with the minimal amount of pressure to make the person tap. He probably also should work on some other techniques so it’s not the only move he can use when it comes to competition or real life.

Jiu-jitsu is the gentle art. A perfectly executed move is done with minimal effort and exertion by the person doing it. Their technique is so dead on that they do not need to over-exert themselves. If they need to crank, pull, and muscle their way through a move, then their technique is less than perfect and they’re making up for it with size and strength. Sometimes I’m thankful that I’m not super athletic and strong. Since I can’t muscle and force my way through a move, I’m forced to learn the technique correctly or not get results.

The purpose of classes is not to win, it’s to learn. The only person you can lose is against yourself, and that happens if you’re not learning and improving.

If you’re in an environment where people are being matched with training partners that aren’t good for them, it can be very hard to learn and improve. Even of you think gender makes a difference when rolling, you have to concede that there are certainly factors that matter much more when being paired up. If it’s your only consideration when pairing up, then you might consider not taking classes (or teaching if you’re a coach) in a coed environment.

Done Training

Sometimes when I’m done training, I feel like a bobble head,

during a training, a sloth versus monkey.

The fish out of water, the kid in the corner,

the under dog, too old for new tricks, stolen thunder,

two seconds too late, over thinking what should calm contemplate,

the beginners mistakes, lessons sticking and slipping away.

Some things I enjoy, I have a natural talent in.

Some, I lag behind in.

On rare occasion, I have to remind myself I do it for the fun,

train for the challenge,

compete with myself no matter who is on the mat with me.

Colorblind to the belt, immune to the envy,

sometimes a single sweep a victory,

or just the heart I have to try and be here.

Sometimes when I’m done training, I feel like a better me,

who is never done training.

Falling, Failing, and Flailing in a Stream of Conciousness Emptying Into the River of Time

The same things that make many shades of gray also say that failure isn’t an end, it’s a temporary setback, or even better, a new beginning.

You can do it all again. You’ve proven you can go so far, take the risks, push the barriers, and for a second, maybe you even poked through. Take from and value the experience, no matter how bad at the time, the best you can. Let it hit you, let it pass through you, move beyond it.

As we grow up we think of the far off distances that come to us sooner than one would think possible. Hopefully we grow not only in age, but we learn to have minds of our own, how to come to conclusions on our own based not only on outside sources, but our own unique inner voice. Hopefully we find a voice to speak it with. Maybe that voice reaches someone and changes someone’s world for the better.

We have to remember to keep taking, singing, and expressing as you grow without self censorship for both yourself and others. Learn to love yourself. Continue listening to those other voices. Allow them to become clearer as you can discern more subtleties as time goes on. The trained ear hopefully still can learn to hear something new and never cease being inspired.

Know that you turned out fine. No one is one hundred percent, so it’s nonexistent and a non issue. We’ve all been screwed, screwed up ourselves, even other people, and still we somehow survive. Because we survive, we can seek more than to just be the base line. Give living a purpose.

It scares me when definitions become too loose or too solid. The balance of chaos, change, and chance balances precariously with the safe foundation of stability. We look for the right choice knowing there is none. We search for salvation when we just want to be okay and unattainably perfect.

We teach ourselves to be above average with the risk of failing and flailing as often as floating. We want a community to belong to while fostering our uniqueness and independence. Do what you can with what you have time and time again and do your best to stay above the current in the river of time.

We live in a time with virtual community, more and more variation and possibility, as well as pitfalls. For every opportunity to focus there is a easier way to fall. Bounce back. Bounce back. It’s never too late, but never use that as an excuse to put it off forever.

At least part of this has the right idea, and that’s enough to feel some pride that pushes me to keep moving.

Life as a Text Adventure

Recently on Neopoleon, the blog of one Rory Blyth, Betsy Aoki brought up writing a ‘choose your own adventure’ game back in the day.

We all think that ‘back in the day’ is something grand whether we’re in our twenties or seventies. I remember text adventures and think, “Wow, that was great… playing Guild of Theives on the Atari ST!”. I might even have the Bank of Kerovnia account card and Kerovnia Guild of Discret Entry And Removal Operatives contract pasted in an old jounal somewhere. Bank of Kerovnia Account Card

Video games are fun and recreation. Often times a video gamer thinks to themselves “I wish life were more like a video game”. You have multiple lives, the reset button, gain experience and gold for beating things, magic, and strange old women/men in huts who give you things. Yes, life would be better with these video game elements.

But would life be better as a text adventure?

Let’s find out.

“You find yourself in your bedroom, awake, but groggy. Exits are to the north.”
Go north.
“That’s kind of hard considering you’re laying down.”
Get up.
“I do not understand.”
Go up.
“Do you think you have the powers of flight?”
Go out of bed.
Go north.
“You are in the live-in-kitchen. Your cat runs north. There is a laptop sitting on the counter. An Ethernet cable dangles nearby. Exits are to the north.”
Get laptop.
“I do not understand.”
Use laptop with Ethernet cable.
Use laptop.
“You must open it first!”
Open laptop.
Use laptop.
“You must turn it on first!”
Turn on laptop.
“I do not understand.”
Turn on laptop.
“I do not understand.”
Look laptop.
“The laptop is OPEN. There is a blank screen, keys, a touchpad, and an on/off button.”
Use on/off button.
Look laptop.
“The laptop is OPEN. There is something displayed on the screen, keys, a touchpad, and an on/off button.”
Look screen.

Sans nostalgia, text adventures were nothing more than an exercise in frustration. Though I was taught about synonyms, spelling, and thinking/writing like a programmer, I am very glad I can now simply point and click characters to their destination or use the d-pad on a controller.

If life were really like a text adventure…

Jump out window.

“You must first open the window.”

Open window.


Jump out window.

“Why would you want to do that?”

Go window.

“I do not understand.”

Use self with window.

“I do not understand.”