Monday, December 18, 2006

I coulda been a...............

Well, this weekend I entered my first BJJ tournament. I figured "what the hell?", right? I'm a relatively new blue belt, so I figured I'd give it a shot and see what happened.

Let me begin by saying that most people, especially in Japan, it seems, will not enter a tournament just for the hell of it, so what you end up with are people who are really good.

Like... People who have been a blue-belt for 6 years.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I got my ass handed to me. The following is a pretty good summation of what occurred:

I love competing, and competed all through college and in some capacities in the Marines. College was rowing, which requires an insane amount of team work. And not the type of team work required for a sport like football or soccer. I'm talking about taking 4 or 8 people and making them do the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same balance and trying not to have them kill each other. I'll never forget what Brando said the first time we got off the water in the Fall of 1994:

I just wanna punch someone in the face right now.

The boats list really easily, and if you're not careful you can easily end up in the drink if you're in a single or a double, which Brando and I also did once. Then we went to Perkins and had breakfast all soaking wet, and when I was shivering Brando said another memorable quote:

You're cold? I thought you were a meat eater.

(That was pre-USMC, by the way)

In any case, rowing was always frustrating because it always felt like someone in the boat (never yourself, of course) was fucking everything up, screwing up the set, and slowing you down. Some people obviously sucked worse than others, and like any other sport, they seemed to not only be unaware of how bad they sucked, but under the impression that they were actually really good. Or even the best. When the boat isn't set, the oar hits you in the stomach or slams your fingers into the gunwales, both of which hurt... and cause blind rage. Then the person who is causing it is making snarky comments about being stuck with a shitty crew. Then you have a coxswain who doesn't know how to shut her stupid mouth. Then people don't come to practice and you have to do two hours of land training. At 5:30am. Do this for 4 years of college, then have people in your boat quit right before a race your senior year.

Collegiate rowing was easily the most thankless, grueling, heart wrenching thing I'd ever been (and have ever been, maybe) a part of. We couldn't get NCAA status (ooh-rah Title IX!) yet we competed with NCAA teams who had NCAA funding. We had shitty gear and sometimes even shittier coaches. It was a chewing-gum and shoelace operation, but it was without a question the most important pivotal event in my life up to that point. A crossroads -- something that for the most part de-pussified me, taught me a lot about people and commitment, and formed the basis for most of my outlooks and philosophies on life and people today. The ironic part is that if I joined the same organization now, I wouldn't stay with it because I'd immediately recognize that the people were flakes, the operation was fucked up, and it would end in nothing but anger.

Aah, the bliss of youthful ignorance, how I miss thee...

A few years ago my mom asked me if I ever missed rowing. "Fuck no." I wanted to say, but I just shook my head (cuz I don't swear at mom). Sure, I miss being out on the water, and there's no better feeling than when you have a crew that's bangin' as one and gliding through the water.. But when I think about rowing I think about all the heartache that came with it -- not because of the sport itself -- but because of the people involved. In a crew of 8 people, 7 guys could train their asses off and have flawless form, but 1 guy could completely wreck months and months of practice because his attitude sucked or because he insisted on smoking weed all the time.

I suppose most aspects of the military are a "team sport" too, but after I graduated from college (and rowing) I took on a much more selfish approach to physical fitness. If I blew a fitness test, there was only one person accountable for it -- ME -- and I liked that. If I couldn't get 20 pull ups, it wasn't because 3 seat was dragging his oar, it was because I didn't workout hard enough at lunch. If I was gassed during a run, it wasn't because the coxswain didn't know what she was doing, it was because, well, I didn't run enough. Likewise, I didn't put up with people bitching about being in bad shape, and I didn't really go out of my way to try and get malingerers to a higher physical fitness. They acted like I was privy to some special secret on how to get increase pullups or have a faster runtime. "How can I get more pullups?" theyd ask, and I'd say "Do a lot of pullups". They'd ask, "How can I improve my run time?" and I'd say, "Run a lot." They didn't wanna hear that though. They wanted something like, "Burn the hair of a scandanavian whoremonger, along with with two newt eyes, and increase your pullups most certainly will, gaining much applause and surprise!" ..or something.. Anyway, I figured if they don't wanna get up and put in their time? Fuggem. They're just gonna drag me down, and it reminded me of college a lot. Putting on running shoes and running my ass off was free of collegiate sports politics, and I never had to worry about shitty coaches, people not showing up, or the motor on the coach's boat shitting the bed. There were no witnesses to my early morning runs. The only evidence left behind were countless pairs of worn down running shoes, and while my efforts were also a decidedly thankless endeavor, all I needed was the road to run on, and he'd never fuck me over. He was never late for practice. He was always there when I needed him, never asking for anything in return, always challenging me to push myself harder.

While my running companion these days is the treadmill and I run a lot less, Brazilian jiujitsu allows me to continue with the "accountable only to me" philosophy. If someone beats me, they are better than me. Easy peasy. Even if there was a questionable call or it was "too close to tell," well, if I were better, it wouldn't be an issue now would it? I got my ass handed to me by a much more experienced guy than me this weekend, but being served my ass on a platter with a side of fries has always been something of a wake up call for me. My friends / training partners were like "whatever man, the guy was good", but fuck that. He didn't win, I lost, and there's only one person who is accountable for that, and only one person (with the help of my ninja training partners!) who can fix that and who can take responsibility for that.

Time to step it up a notch, bitches. Getting armbarred in front of 100 people is the Ghost of Dioxippus's way of telling me to increase the training a bit and keep from getting embarrassed again. Wish me luck.


Sorry about the bullshit self-exploratory nature of the last couple posts. I'll get back on track after a few shots of Turkey and a healthy dose of hate crime.

Just kiddin' bout that last part.

I'll leave you with this great video of Tokyo that someone made. Enjoy..

I Love New Tokyo


Blogger brando said...

Reading your post makes me want to get back on the water again. It would be really nice to go glide around. Wheee! Just effortlessly scoot around. What's that? It's actually hard? 200 heart rate?

I really like team sports. The magic happens when a bunch of people are fighting for a common thing. The synergy of the deal.

I was actually thinking about the Old Capitol (old people) rowing club this week. The rule was that we never step over the end of the boat, because you might trip and smash it. Don't be lazy. Walk the extra 20 feet around the bow. Then the old cap bunch comes in and starts le parkour.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

"le parkour" = actually made me lol

3:57 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

thinking of those fat idiots swarming the boathouse and doing parkour inside is still making me giggle.

remember when the lady bashed her head or fell over or something and you had to leave 'cuz u were about to start laughing? i remember that cuz everyone was gathering around her like she was a chemical burn victim or something, and she was just eatin' it up.

right before then they heave-ho'd the boat into a cement wall and were all like LMFAOROFL LOLZ! and we just looked at each other like, "hey, we gotta use that next season.."

then you referred to them as "incompetent", i chuckled, and the coach started yelling at me.

that was a fun summer tho..

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

I think your philosophy on Jooojisu is a little jaded by your recent lose. One of the things I like about grappling, or fighting in general, is that the best guy doesn't always win. If you have an off day or you allow yourself to be intimidated or if the other guy gets lucky, you can be ended very quickly. Even if you think you've dominated the entire fight. I think submissions and KO's are the equivalent of having a 50 point shot in basketball.

The North American Grappling Association puts on an annual tournament here in Chicago. It's great because it's really competitive but it still has a laid back, neighborhood fun feel to it. They have gi and no gi divisions. You can separate by age or skill level if you want and you can enter multiple divisions. You should come try it out sometime, I think you'd like it.

I know it sucks to lose but I still have a lot of respect for anyone that steps up and puts their name in the bracket. It takes a lot more balls than most people realize and more than most people have.

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Brando, I agree about the beauty of team sports. I always love to see football teams that don't really have a lot of great standout players but just play really well as team and win as a result of that. The Hawkeyes have a habit of being that way and I think that's why I like watching them so much.

5:46 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

tony-- true, there are days where im rockin' face at the gym and i feel like a purple, then other days i get completely dominated by someone who normally can't get anything on me. aah well. its frustrating and i get mad sometimes but i gotzta stay positive!!

7:39 AM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

Interesting post.

Did you at least poke one of those Japs in the eye or twist their scrote?

Not even a little bit?

9:04 AM  
Blogger Hammer said...

Although it is unfortunate that guy went all "Billy Jack" on you, you at least have some added inspiration to keep hitting the gym during the winter months that many of us spend just sitting around concussion-farting into the same sofa cushion for hours while we watch football and stuff our faces with pizza and Budweiser.

But hey, at least it was in a competitive sports environment. It's not like the guy walked up to you on the street and "de-hatted" you or anything.

12:14 PM  
Blogger B-Brod said...

Definitely inspiring.

10:39 AM  

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