I ache. Yesterday I went out and did something that’s way outside of my usual activities. Anybody who knows me from Ironhammers will now that I’m a complete nerd who writes about video games, so the idea that I’d go to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) class is normally way outside the realm of likeliness. But that’s what I did. And that’s why I ache.
As with many, my first exposure to BJJ came by way of watching mixed martial arts and the UFC. The more I watched, the more I became fascinated by the technicalities of fighting on the ground; the positioning, the submissions, and the way in which the slightest of wrong movements could lead to a fight being over within seconds. The majority of this ground game comes from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
To make the most unusual connection ever, it reminded me of my greatest video game adoration, StarCraft – a real-time strategy game, which just like BJJ is very often referred to as being similar to chess. They all have an almost limitless skill-ceiling, and rely on predicting what your opponent might do next while also trying to divert them away from predicting your own next move. The difference with both StarCraft and BJJ is that it’s not quite so polite as chess. The players don’t take turns.
I’ve always been interested in martial arts, but it was this cerebral separation that made me want to learn BJJ far more than I’d ever wanted to actually take up any others — and I really never fancied anything that’s striking-based for fear of being struck!
Simply going was possibly the hardest part.
As I said, this was way off the list of things I’d normally do. I’ll admit my lifestyle is among the less healthy ones you could partake in, so there was the concern that I just wasn’t fit enough (despite recently taking up running several times a week). However, I’m pretty awkward socially, so just the thought of going to an unknown place to grapple with unknown people was extremely nerve-wracking.
I had been really wanting to try it out for a massively long time, but I’d just been putting it off for little real reason. Would people there welcome me? Would I fit in? Was I too unfit? All minor excuses, but I was taking those excuses as a good reason to not get down there and find out.
This week I decided I’d been putting it off too long, and reached out to Bluewave Martial Arts here in Suffolk to ask about coming along to their Saturday class that’s held in Ipswich. They told me to come down anytime, and in saying that I would be there on Saturday, I’d already partially committed myself to turning up.
The class itself.
When I arrived, I felt far less awkward immediately. Everybody there was very welcoming and friendly towards me, despite my immediate admission to never having done anything similar in my whole 27 years of life.
I was thrown straight in with the rest of the class, and began a short warm-up. A warm-up which was thankfully nowhere near as gruelling as I had feared, and one which I completed with relative ease (although I probably would have struggled for breath had it not been for my recent running). We were then shown a few techniques by the instructor and partnered up to try them out for ourselves.
The lesson focused on the ‘side control’ position, including how to move from there into a Kimura grip. From this grip we were shown how to transition into an armbar, a Kimura lock, and also a way to roll the opponent over yourself in order to take their back. It was an unusual first class, as I’d soon find out the getting to side control is a mountain of a task in the first place (particularly when I had zero technique in mind of how to do so).
This is where things got really fun, though. By way of some strange numbering system, we formed a queue so that we could practice fully the technique by repeatedly starting with various people already in the side control position. The tapping begun. I found myself pinned to the ground below the instructor, only barely able to move and completely unable to escape. Then I found myself tapping out to a girl (not that the gender really matters, but I’m small for a guy, and she was considerably smaller than me) several times as she locked me into an armbar with minimal effort each and every time. I’m not a very egotistical person, but if I had been, I wouldn’t have been after all of this.
After this it was time to partner up and ‘roll’. A friendly white belt who’d been training several times a week for 2 months was kind enough to partner with the total ‘noob’ that is me, and proceeded to demonstrate just how useless I am at this current time. He also demonstrated just how fragile the state of conciousness is when he pinned me to the ground with his forearm across my throat, if I’d not tapped-out my lights would have gone out… in seconds.
I found that my inexperience allowed him to gain the dominant ‘mount’ position from wherever we were starting, from which he was able to literally do whatever he felt like doing to make me tap. He told me how important it was to keep my arms close to my body, and to try and protect my neck, and just from that small bit of advice I was able to hold my own for just a few seconds longer than I could in the beginning.
I want to ache even more.
I loved every moment of this first class. When I woke up this morning, every single muscle fibre in my body was (and still is) aching. It feels like I’ve been lifting weights with every muscle region, from my neck down to my toes. My knees are grazed and sore. My back is covered in scratches and red marks. I have a small cut inside my lip that stings every time I eat. However, if there was another class today, I’d have still gone again. I literally cannot wait to go back.
When I started playing StarCraft, there was a sense of learning that accompanied being beaten over and over again. Every game I felt like I’d learned a little bit more about this massively complex game. BBJ has given me the same feeling already, except it’s a little more painful than the occasional wrist-ache from holding a computer mouse for too long, and far more beneficial in so many more ways.
I hope the enjoyment continues (and hopefully grows) with each future class, and hopefully I can look back at this post in several months time with me being the helpful white belt assisting a newbie. Thanks to all at the Bluewave class this weekend for making it as awesome as it was.