Day 8 of World Grappling Games insanity
Sitting on a plane from Denver to Frankfurt, though it will obviously be far later when I post this. The past 30 hours or so have been a blur of training, packing, not sleeping, and travel. We're about a third of the way through our 9-hour flight to Frankfurt.
Yesterday, Labor Day, I went back to Whittier to drop off some extraneous clothes, and then Lisa and I ran some errands before going back to the academy for one last evening of training and Pod time. We trained in the evening to start to get used to the Turkey time zone; it's 9 hours ahead of LA. We did some competition style sparring, and I got to go with Tara, who arrived in town on Sunday evening. She is a professional MMA fighter for Bodog (do an internet search if you want more info), which was a little intimidating, but I'm happy with how I did. Plus, she's very nice and had good suggestions for me--and is from New Jersey. Today she gave me a copy of an MMA magazine that focuses on fighters in the Pacific Northwest, and who should be on the cover but her and Lisa! How cool is that? Not only that, but Lisa is also mentioned in the latest Parade magazine, that part where people ask questions about celebrities. I have pics of all of it, and will post them eventually. But if you have a copy of this past Sunday's Parade, look for Lisa's name.
There were some photo ops too, in No Limits t-shirts. Kenny was there also, and Felicia interviewed all of the competitors and coaches for their website grappletv. It looks like the plan is to make a documentary about the whole experience, using that footage and whatever else we come up with en route. See, Jason gave Malcolm a video camera to document the candid/impromptu stuff. I have to say, though, that even though the first place finishers are traveling en masse and without "chaperones," (all the coaches are on different flights), it's been challenging to come up with interesting stuff. Partly that's because we are exhausted, and partly that's because traveling is tedious. We'll work on it.
We left at 6:30 this morning on a shuttle to LAX after sleeping at Chris' place and his girlfriend Myrna's place. Thanks to Myrna for her hospitality.
Darren, Ricky, and Felicia have been having a little trouble because the travel agent got their names wrong: Letitia Oh, Darren Vyenoyama, and Ricky (instead of Richard) Lundell. Of course, it's not their fault, but it almost cost Darren his seat on the plane to Frankfurt. Okay, maybe that's a little excitement right there. Fortunately, he made it.
We have an 8-hour layover in Frankfurt before another 3 hour flight to Antalya, which arrives about 11pm local time. So all told, it's roughly 30 hours of travel time, door-to-door. Ay chihuahua.
For those of you who don't know, my family lived in Frankfurt for a year back when my sister and I were in high school. My father did a faculty exchange between The College of New Jersey, where he taught for about 35 years, and Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universitaet in Frankfurt. My sister and I went to a German high school (called a Gymnasium). I haven't been back in 20 years. We probably won't get to see any of my old stomping grounds, but just being at the airport will be a hoot. My parents reminded me that back in the day, there was a movie theater on the lower level of the airport that showed first run US movies in English with German subtitles. So when we were feeling homesick, we would go to the airport and watch movies. We'll have plenty of time for a double feature if that's still the case.
Since it's a Lufthansa flight, all the flight attendants speak German and English. I used to be really fluent in German, to the point where I apparently looked and sounded like a native, so I'm tempted to speak German with the flight attendants to see how it's holding up. But I won't because 1) what if they answer me in German? and 2) it just feels patronizing somehow. I'll have an entire day to practice in the airport, if I like, though Tara wants to go find something Oktoberfesty to do.
I played phone tag with my parents, who left me an incredibly sweet message about how excited they are for me and hopeful that I can just enjoy the journey. It made me cry--I'm tearing up now as I write about it--especially the part where they told me to take their love with me. Wow. They never cease to amaze me.
This whole experience has caused me to run the gamut of emotions: exhilaration, doubt, fear, anger, frustration, joy, gratitude solemnity, peace. It's the coda to my vision quest of the past year, the ultimate ballsy move after a year of what, for me, have been a relentless line of pretty ballsy moves. I just have a feeling that things will shift after this is over: get easier, feel less like I'm making myself vulnerable every single hour. Maybe some things will become clearer, like where I'll live, what I'll do to make money (and thank God in heaven I'm not teaching that course right now) and keep training, whom I'll love.
I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter whether I win or lose, though of course on one level that's not true. People want us to win. If we do, we get international bragging rights. I want to win. If I do, I get local bragging rights and credibility.
But if I think too much about those things, I get immobilized by fear. I worry about letting down the people who have worked so hard to help me prepare, shore up my confidence, love me. In fact, the main source of my anxiety about competing, I've realized, is what other people will think if I lose. Will they think less of me? Will they think I am an impostor and get the Jiu Jitsu Police to confiscate my belt?
And that sucks, to worry about what other people will think. Because I have spent the past year working my ass off to do what makes me happy and is right for me REGARDLESS of what other people think. I want to get to the bottom of why this generalized other matters so much to me, because I don't want it to have power over me.
I'm reminded of something Randy Couture said, which is that he finds the courage to compete by remembering that the people who love him will love him win or lose. And Randy is too classy to add the obvious second part of that thought, but I'm not: If you only love me when I win, then you can go to hell.
Hey, that felt really good. And you know what else feels good? Grappling. When I squared off last night, I was nervous at first, but then I remembered to have fun. And I did. I couldn't help it.
Wow, I honestly feel like I just released something there. From now on, for the rest of this trip and beyond, I resolve to remember why I do this in the first place. I grapple because I love it, and I compete because it makes my grappling better. So, win or lose, I win, because my grappling will be better after the competition than it is right now. And if you don't like how I do on Sunday, then as Natasha would say, f*ck that and f*ck you. The people who love me will love me on Monday, regardless of the outcome. And that's what matters.
Now, that being said, I plan to haul ass on Sunday. But I'll do it for my reasons: because I love to grapple and because competing makes my grappling better. So maybe that's the ultimate ballsy move: not competing, but competing for my own reasons and celebrating that. I haven't been doig that lately, and it's time to get back to it.