Okay, I have somewhat of a hit. Well, at the very least, I have a plan for the next couple months. I went back to first principles: what’s important to me right now? These things: training, competing, and finding a place to plug in so I can have a sense of community and a more regular routine.
So I figured out that LA is the place for me to do that for the time being. On the training front, my game has improved by leaps and bounds since I’ve been in LA, thanks to Johnny, Felicia, Jimmy, Rudy, and everyone else I’ve gotten to work with. On the competition front, the PanAms (the biggest BJJ competition in North America) will be in LA at the end of March, and the Mundial (the biggest BJJ competition in the world, usually held in Brazil) will be in LA in the summer. There will also be a crapload of competitions in between, and there is Abu Dhabi to help Felicia prepare for. (Ridiculous side note: Tim Sylvia, a UFC fighter, mistakenly referred to Abu Dhabi as “Abu Dhabu.” So during the week Anahi and I were basically joined at the hip, that morphed into “Hibbedy Dibbedy.” Doesn’t take much to make me laugh.)
And on the community front, I really did start to plug into the BJJ community there, again thanks to Johnny, Felicia, Jimmy, Rudy, and everyone else. I’m also still looking into muscle activation therapy; it just so happens that an internship starts March 23rd in Irvine, CA, so I sent an email to the organization to see if there’s still room in it for new registrants. And there are Trader Joe’s-es everywhere, so I can see if they’re hiring. What is it about me and Trader Joe’s? I don’t know. I just like the place, the food, the fact that Adamarie had such a good experience. So I could really build a network in LA.
Interestingly, I’m convinced that the first thing I need to do to build that network is move out of the academy. You’d think that living in the academy would signal my commitment to LA and to training, but it actually feels very transitory. Maybe that’s why I was able to live there for so long, because I knew I could pull up stakes anytime. And that’s probably part of what freaked me out about considering finding a place; finding and moving into a place will take effort, while crashing at the academy took none. So if I take the time to find and move into a different place, then it won’t be as easy to come to the academy, so coming there will be more of a commitment. I’ll still be spending a crapload of time there, but this way I can retreat when I need a different kind of energy. And lest I sound ungrateful, I’m not. New Breed has been my home in more ways than one for a while now, and it will continue to be. I’ll just sleep and pee and cook elsewhere—not all in the same room, mostly.
Anyway, speaking of cooking, I just also want a kitchen for the first time in the better part of a year. So since I decided that being in LA for the next couple months will help me meet my main goals of training, competing, and creating a community, I have been checking craigslist and thinking about what I want by way of domicile. Here’s what I want (I’m a firm believer that in order to get something you want, you first have to be very clear about what that is.) I want an apartment that I can sublease for 3 months (March 1-June 1) that:
1. is furnished
2. costs less than $1000/month
3. has ample parking
4. is in a safe neighborhood
5. is within 20-30 minutes from the academy on the San Fernando Valley side (so, west or northwest of the academy. Long Beach is okay too)
6. is a single occupancy unit (no roommates)
7. has no smokers living in the area
8. has laundry facilities in the unit or on the premises
9. is near some good restaurants and coffee shops
10. has wireless access
If I think of other things I’ll add them, but those are the basics. That will enable me to try LA on for size, sort of dip my foot in the pool. As my friend Julie, whom I’m staying with here in Silver Spring, MD, said, I’ll be going from the 10,000 foot view of LA to the 3,000 foot view. Julie has been a great sounding board too. She has basically said what others have said, which is that committing to any place is scary, but she has faith in me that I can make it work, no matter where I choose. This is why Julies are good to have around; when I forget to believe in myself, she and the other people who love me do it for me.
She and I also talked about how committing to a place means re-entering a world and a set of responsibilities and mundanities (is that a word?) that I had been able to push aside for a long time. I probably imagine that reentry means the end of the fun. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I just need to remind myself of that and make this situation fun rather than letting it freak me out. As she said, this could be a really exciting time in my life if I’d let it be. So that’s the intention now. Find a place to live and have fun doing it. Check the doubts at the door for 3 months so I can really give it an honest go. And the rest (job, community, routine) will fall into place thereafter.
This means that for the time being, I won’t be moving to Philly. But I don’t regret taking this trip for one minute. I had a BALL there and look forward to the next time I get to go. Plus, I saw some old friends and made some new acquaintances there that I’ll probably get to see at the PanAms. Heather, for one, said she’s coming, and she’d better be wearing her fight panties.
And I’m still working through why I needed to go there. Again, Julie was helpful with this. She observed that the experiences I was looking for when I decided to take the trip in the first place—excitement, a sense of adventure, all things new—are not necessarily the same experiences I would be looking for when it’s time to “re-enter.” Upon re-entry, I’m looking for things like stability, familiarity, a measure of predictability (but one that doesn’t devolve into boredom, of course). LA is completely foreign to me, so it makes sense that in the thick of the trip I would be drawn there. Philly is familiar in a lot of ways—I can’t tell you how familiar—so it makes sense that I would be drawn there upon completion of the trip.
But in a weird way, it seems that once I realized I have options, that realization freed me to be intrepid again. I think I was feeling a little trapped when I got to LA (oh my god, it’s so far away from my family, it’s forever, it’s different), and my trip to Philly gave me some much-needed perspective. And as I mentioned, it also enabled me to go back to my first principles, which are that I want to train and compete, and I want to build a community. And for now, I have decided, LA is the best place for me to do those things. I can change my mind at any time after May 31, but for the next 3 months, I’m committed to making a go of it in LA.
And lest Philly lovers get on my case for not choosing it or making it sound boring, believe me when I say that I could build a very happy, very exciting life there. I just know on some level that at this moment, it’s not the place for me. Doesn’t mean it won’t ever be, or that it isn’t right for everyone who does choose to live there. I lived in its shadow for 18 happy years. But right now a different choice is what’s best for me. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
So as Adamarie would say, I’m taking care of business. Slowly but surely. First thing is to find a place to live, second thing is to ENJOY MYSELF. Actually, switch those first and second things. Third and fourth and infinity things will then fall into place.
In other news, I had a great weekend. Julie and Patrick were out of town, so after I set off the house alarm, things were relatively quiet. All day Saturday and all day Sunday I was at Mario and Fernando Yamasaki’s academy in Rockville, MD, where my friend Dave, aka DAB, trains, and where Fredson Paixao was conducting a seminar.
Fredson is an unbelievable expert in jiu jitsu, and he specializes, at least lately, in wristlocks. For the civilians, hold up one hand. Grab the fingers of that hand with the other hand. Keep your forearm pointed toward the ceiling while pulling your fingers down toward the floor. Do this until it hurts. Now push your fingers back the other way so your palm is facing the ceiling. Do this until it hurts. Now imagine getting your hand trapped in your opponent’s gi, against your opponent’s chest, or between your opponent’s forearm and hand until you feel this pain. This is a crude description of a wristlock.
He showed some great setups for wristlocks, and during the training session the next day, you’d periodically hear his sparring partners—myself included—yelping in pain as he threw them on; they come on fast. He also showed some good guard passing details and moved so smoothly, unlike the flailers among us (read: me).
Fredson is also a very nice person, and I was lucky to get a chance to chat with him a little as well. Of course, he speaks limited English, and I speak limited Portuguese, so that made it kind of an adventure. I find Portuguese to be difficult to understand under the most optimal conditions, and Fredson has a tendency to swallow his words, so our conversations were probably amusing to observe: me taking 5 minutes to formulate and spit out a sentence or question, Fredson mumbling his response, and me smiling blankly and asking him to repeat himself 9 or 10 times until he got frustrated and wristlocked me.
No, that last part didn’t really happen. He is a patient and kind person, and he made me feel better by saying that even his wife, who speaks Portuguese, doesn’t understand him most of the time. So if I ever get to the point where I can understand him, I’ll really understand Portuguese. I’m not holding my breath. But it was fun to speak it! I want to work at it more.
I did get to spar with Fredson, where “spar” = Fredson reclined comfortably and hummed a tune while I spazzed around looking for some kind of opening and periodically tapped to the wristlocks he’d throw on with no apparent effort. I kid you not, I wasn’t even able to pick up his hand from the mat, because he didn’t want me to. I couldn’t get my hand under his neck. I couldn’t move him in any way. It was like trying to get position on a bag of sand.
Training with people like Fredson is so humbling, and it’s also simultaneously inspiring and depressing. It is possible to become so good at BJJ. And I have such a long way to if I ever get there. Eventually I offered to get Fredson a book or a magazine to look at while I tried in vain to force an opening because he was just so unchallenged. Next time we spar I’ll get someone to give him a manicure or something.
Here’s a cool thing: he saw my Team Estrogen patch and wanted to know where he could get some, both for his wife (who is a blue belt) and for his own competition gis. The women who post on the Team Estrogen forum have had this conversation before, about who can wear the patches. I think anybody who supports women in grappling can wear them, and I have made presents of them to several men who train. So I am really stoked that Fredson wants some and have already placed the order with my friend Alicia to get them to him. I can’t wait to see if he really puts them on his gis!
Here’s a pic of him loving the patch, along with me and Dave.
Here’s just me and Fredson.
Here’s me with Fernando Yamasaki, who graciously welcomed me to the seminar at his academy. I like his glasses! (You can't really see in this pic, but they have red stems.)
Here’s me with Daniel, my training partner for the seminar. I should really crop these pics. Too lazy.
And here’s me with Rosie, aka Supervixen, who was at the seminar but feeling under the weather. Feel better, Rosie!
I unfortunately didn’t get pictures of myself with Will, a purple belt who stirs the turd on the forum as Wannabe (and was a fun sparring partner), or Morgann, a black belt who kicked my ass up and down the mat—in a good way—and gave me lots of pointers. It’s funny; all those guys, including Fredson, told me that I’m as strong as some of the men who train. And by strong I don’t mean technique-wise, though I think they were pleasantly surprised by my technique too. I mean physically strong. Like they asked me if I lift weights or take supplements. They stopped short of asking if I take steroids, but maybe they wondered about that too. The answer to all of those questions is no. I guess I just have freakish, thirtysomething woman strength, which has certainly been enhanced by the jits.
Of course, I still can’t do a single pull-up. Well, maybe one. But that’s seriously it.
So thanks to Fredson for a wonderful and humbling BJJ experience, Dave for being my host, Fernando for welcoming me into his academy, and Morgann, Daniel, Will, and Luis for kicking my ass for about 3 hours straight. Life is good!
In other news, there’s a huge snowstorm gripping the Midwest, northeast, and here in the DC area. This is not good. Day after tomorrow a bunch of us are getting into a rental van and driving to Milwaukee for the tournament. And on Fri night Jimmy is getting a red eye from LA to Milwaukee to compete in the tournament. He is NOT happy. I’m just hoping that things will blow over by then and we’ll have snow on the ground to contend with but not coming down on us.
Meantime, tomorrow I’m having lunch with Jen*, some kind of interaction with Ken and his lovely daughter, and scary/awesome sounding training with Ryan and Seph (their academy, Lloyd Irvin's, will be closed because of the weather, but the instructors are going to get together in the empty building and have at it. Yoiks.).