Today I had my first real, sustained chance to try sparring in jiu jitsu. I’ve rarely ever had so much fun 1) being defeated and 2) wearing myself to the point of exhaustion. I doubt I’ve had a workout so intense, and I haven’t tussled like that since I was a boy.
I wasn’t exactly doing proper jiu jitsu – more like flailing around and trying to use the small handful of moves I have learned. I admit I’m still almost completely ignorant of this art. But in practice, jiu jitsu feels a lot like wrestling. While your heart is racing, your mind is racing, too. You’re trying to anticipate your opponent’s next move much like you might watch a chessmaster. The difficulty is that everything is moving so fast.
You keep moving your legs, and your opponent grabs a sleeve. You go in for a chokehold, and your opponent gets hold of your legs. If you’re up against a better opponent, you’re going to be submitted every time.
I would say that I had my ass kicked repeatedly. But since there is technically no kicking in jiu-jitsu, perhaps a better way to phrase it was that I had my ass handed to me. All the while, though, I could still joke with and/or encourage my opponent. It was fun to have my ass handed to me by people who were better than me. I was learning, and I was watching some really cool maneuvers
At our gym, we’re doing this all to the beat of pop music hits that seem to come from the early 00s. There’s something ironic and innocent about it, and it helps to create a friendly and fun vibe for all the fighting going on around you on the mat. There’s little to no ego here, only a group of people who seem to genuinely like each other. The work and sweat are great tools for bringing people together.
At the end, my face was more purple and my body was more breathless than I remember feeling in a long time. But I felt great. The lessons I’ve learned about jiu jitsu outside of live sparring are starting to click.
Jiu jitsu has been interesting so far – compelling enough to keep me going. Now I can see how it can get addicting. We’ll see where I go from here, but hopefully I’ll be in a place to put in a few wins myself one day.