This is a tough blog post to write, primarily because of an aberration of memory that renders me nearly incapable of holding onto anything other than the most vague impressions of my own life experiences. I don't know why this started or what I can hope to do about it, but I'll attempt to press through it and come up with some kind of vaguely cohesive storyline.
I was something of a bully in my younger years. I'm not proud of it, but that's how it was. I was a fairly large kid and not given to asking nicely or waiting patiently. Why should I wait for the toy when I can knock that kid over and take it right now? Thankfully, this didn't last terribly long. By the time I got to 1st or 2nd grade I was mostly done with it, and got into my "unpopular kid" phase. I wasn't actively picked on too much until middle school, and it got pretty bad at that point. Still, I never defended myself in any meaningful way (aside from one rather bizarre and totally ineffectual "fight" in 7th grade).
I had always been interested in fighting, as most American boys are, and used to play with guns and knives and grenades (all fake, of course) when I was younger. As I got older, I was still interested in weapons and fighting, but my mom never thought I would stick with martial arts, so I never tried it. I played a lot of other sports (poorly) but never really felt like I fit in with the people there. I was always a bit too slow, or clumsy, or nerdy, or whatever. I had a few friends, but they were all better at sports than I was, and even though we shared other interests, I wasn't ever quite cool enough to be a jock. I also wasn't satisfied being a total nerd without any prospects of popularity or dating or whatever else.
Finally, I convinced my mom that I would enjoy martial arts and that I would stick with them. We found a school that taught Hawaiian Kenpo. I really did well. It was the first physical activity where I actually showed significant promise. I really liked the style, too. We learned standard Japanese and Chinese martial arts techniques (kicks, punches, blocks, etc.) but there was also some grappling and some kickboxing involved. It wasn't nearly as in depth as you'd get from studying jiu-jitsu or muay thai specifically, but it was enough to give you at least a decent impression of the different arts. I really enjoyed the stand up fighting, but I seemed to do better at ground fighting. No idea why, I just caught on more quickly.
Fast forward several years. I have continued training pretty consistently through high school, and have even started teaching a number of classes. As I get into my senior year, I get more and more involved in theatre and debate and spend less time at the dojo. I didn't really think about it at the time, but if I had been better about going to classes, I probably could have made even quicker progress. In any case, that was when my sensei, the man who had taught me very nearly everything I knew about martial arts, moved very suddenly to the east coast. Since I hadn't been around very much, I really didn't have any warning. I show up one day and a new teacher is there. The new guy was also pretty great, but he wasn't the same and that really just killed most of my desire to keep training. Couple that with the fact that I was getting ready to go to college and I essentially just stopped going entirely. I was a third degree brown belt at the time, probably 6 months from my first degree black.
In college, I sort of tried to find another school, but I had a lot of other things on my mind. Within the first few months I had found the SCA and shortly after that I started fighting heavy and light, shooting archery, sewing, making armor, etc. I got very busy and the SCA fighting helped me with my desire to keep fighting. I did that for another few years, then sort of faded away from it as I got toward the end of my college career. After graduating, I moved back down to south Denver. I got into an apartment with a friend of mine and we just did normal geeky stuff for a while. After a bit, he and I, both experienced martial artists, and a few other friends of ours who had also studied various arts, decided to get together and start teaching each other what we knew. I had forgotten a lot, but it came back quickly. I concentrated mostly on teaching ground fighting, since I was the only one with much experience at it. it's also easier to practice grappling without punching your friend in the face than it is to practice punching your friend in the face without actually punching him in the face. Does that make sense? Anyway, we did that for a while and were all very pleased. One of the things that became immediately clear was that people who are very good at fighting on their feet can be absolutely terrible at fighting on the ground. It's uncomfortable for them, and they tend to panic and do exactly the wrong thing. They also tend to expend a lot of energy scrambling around and tire themselves out quickly. For this reason alone, I would take any unarmed, one-on-one fight to the ground as quickly as possible. A guy can completely exhaust himself fighting on the ground in a matter of moments, and if you know how to weather that storm and conserve energy, you can really take advantage of his inexperience. So, that was a lot of what we trained. How to maintain good position, a few simple submissions, a few very simple takedowns, etc. It was fun, but it didn't last for very long. We all got busy, several of us got injured, and we eventually stopped.
It was another few years before I decided to start looking for a place to train again. I wasn't really sure what I'd like to learn, but I knew I wanted something practical, where I'd have guys my own size to fight. As a big guy, you really can't learn much if you have to practice on a 14-year old kid or even an average-sized woman. You can practice your techniques and everything, but they will generally always work because your partner simply doesn't have the strength to resist. practicing with another big guy means you have to work for your progress and if you make a technique work it's because you did it properly. So, when I started looking at schools I knew I didn't want one that catered to housewives and their kids (no offense to any housewives) and I didn't want one where the intensity level was something like "Oh hey we're learning some punches today if you feel like punching maybe." I wanted a place where I could train hard and really push myself without being seen as a jerk who was just picking on people. Thankfully, the first place I went, Colorado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was perfect. As soon as I went in there, I felt the exact vibe I wanted. There's a fine line in a martial arts school between being intense about training and being a cesspool of jerks and morons. Everyone in the school was cool, though. They loved the art, they love training, but I haven't met a single person I wouldn't want to see regularly or even hang out with outside of class. They are all very cool, laid-back and fun while still being interested in serious training. I honestly couldn't have picked a better place to go.
So, in any case, this is where I've ended up. I'm truly loving my new classes and looking forward to each and every one. I'm learning a huge amount already, making friends, and hopefully not making too big of a fool of myself. I'm still a total noob, but I'm feeling like I'm picking things up quickly. The depth and breadth of the knowledge in this art is literally mind-boggling, but I've got great teachers and great guys to train with, so I think I'll make progress.
There you have it. Thanks for slogging through that whole thing.
A new thing
9 months ago