Tag Archives: Anxiety

Conquering Demons.

Hello again y’all.

If you’ve read this blog before, or have been following my ramblings for a while you’ll know that I have the occasional bout of competition anxiety. I consider myself lucky that my anxiety is entirely rational, as I know people that have bouts of anxiety that they just can’t control. A feeling of unrest over a seemingly random event. I don’t get that, thank Jebus. I can at least relate my bout to something in front of me at that very moment. I step onto the competitive mats and immediately fill my pampers with shit. Thinking the absolute the worst.
It takes me out of the moment, and can often affect my performance poorly. It’s not nerves or that, it’s a properly derailing experience when it happens. I just don’t deal well with the unknown in that moment. More competition experience is obviously required.

This comes from my lack of confidence as a grappler, and my knowledge of what a good grappler is. My brain will always compare me at my worst, to them at their best. It’s a losing battle, and one my mind regularly trips me up upon. I know you’re only meant to compare yourself to yourself, but when you know the people you’re up against; it’s very hard to do so. So I go all wobbly in the brain.

On Saturday the 22nd of April, I found myself down in Newcastle again for another of Speedy’s patented inter-club competitions. The Origin Team from the North East and beyond comes together in one spot to have a good laugh with one another, support one another and see how we fare in the throws of pyjama battle. It’s a great day out amongst family and friends, depending on how you view all of this Martial Arts stuff. I consider these people a family. That’s what Jiu-Jitsu or grappling is; I know that these people at least understand that part of me, and I understand that part of them. A shared passion for the art of breaking limbs, and choking one another. It’s rare people get on this well with their own family, so it’s a special feeling. Politics, music, tastes etc all go out of the window. We share a common ground, which happens to be covered by mats.

This time around, I made a considered effort to try and coach from the sidelines. It turns out I didn’t really need to, because Origin Tayside excelled themselves. The matches put on were competitive, fun and brilliant to watch with our team doing incredibly well. I’ve already told them how well they did, so I’m not going to give them the shout out they probably deserve. Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all.
I will however mention how important these days are as a team. When you’re training day to day, you do not see the shift in a person’s game. Assuming the world is fair, and attributes are even, you’ll all move at the same pace, progressing at the very same speed. I’ve created a false positive there, to dumb down reality. We’re dealing with a game of variables here, but that aside you just don’t know whether Tom has improved over Dick, or whether Harry has improved at all because you see these cunts every single day. You catch them, they catch you, etc. On these rare inter-club days, you see how far they’ve come and get to appreciate the side of their game that you miss in class because you don’t have to focus on your own shit. You can simply focus on them doing what they do, against someone else trying to do what they do. It’s fucking crack-a-lack-ing, as Snoop D. O. double Gizzle would say.

Once the white and blue belts had done their thing, we took a breather from competition to focus on Andy Bell. He’s a blue belt that had a motorcycle accident leaving him paralysed from the chest down. Speedy, Scuba and Tyrone all had a roll with him, with their legs tied up and the agreement that they wouldn’t use their hips. This was incredible to watch. You got to see the grit and determination of Andy, who is still a super competitive grappler regardless of his paralysis; and you got to see how immediately ineffective brown and black belts are without their hips in play. Suddenly a blue belt who doesn’t view this form of grappling as foreign, is getting the upper hand. He knows how to move, because it’s an entirely natural movement for him. It was a constant back and forth battle and really interesting to watch, but it also served another very important purpose. The room was fed a healthy dose of perspective.

Speedy always starts these inter-clubs by reminding us that we’re all friends and family, so this isn’t a serious competition. Now, whilst that remains in the back of our minds, we’re still doing our best to put on a good show for those that are judging us. Matches rarely do, but they can get heated. It’s a difficult to balance on the day, I guess – but Andy put things into perspective for me at least, and many of the other purple belts who were there. We had the most relaxed and technical matches of the day (Billy and Ant’s match was an incredible watch, an absolute feast of Jiu-Jitsu technique). The purples should be better to watch because of their technical understanding of the game, but I think it was less to do with that and more to do with the weight we had lifted before we were matched.
I looked at my opponents and knew that the worst that could happen was that I’d lose. That’s it. I’m not fighting at the Mundials, I’m no longer in the position where I’m getting battered all over the mats. So what did I have to worry about? Nothing. It was freeing. Andy lifted my spirits that day, and I think I performed better as a result.

With that said, earlier that day we were told it was not only absolute for the purple belts, but James Bland would be joining us. Origin’s Big Daddy himself, and brown belt supremo.
I was first matched with Jimmy, who’s probably my size or a little lighter. So naturally he proceeded to batter me all over the mats. The aim is to get the submission, and Jimmy wasted no time in firing them at me. The match is a bit of a blur. What I can remember is he took me down and started working his passing game from standing. I’m rarely bothered by being passed, because I can usually recover. Jimmy worked an armbar and a reverse triangle at one point (probably picking up on how Mighele finished me last year), but I was able to free myself from his shackles. I know for a fact that the decision wasn’t going my way, so I had to do something. Speedy’s always telling me to be aggressive, but I play the defensive game against purple belts a lot, due to my previously mentioned confidence. I almost nailed him with a loop choke, but shifted my hips when I should have held my position, he started to gurgle but escaped like the crafty man that he is. As the match neared the end, Jimmy sat back into an achilles lock, rather than continue to pass my guard. This was Christmas for me. I moved my hips slightly, sat up and locked up an achilles of my own. I had the boot on so that his own achilles lock was nulled, and proceeded to squeeze my own before putting my foot into position on his hip. The reason I didn’t put my foot on is hip, is so that I could step over if he turned away from me. The squeeze was tight enough, and I got the tap. A surprising end to a mostly one sided fight.

My next match was against longtime training partner Paul. I haven’t sparred with him in yonks, because we have different goals and we train different days currently. He kept his legs out of play, because he knows I’ve been working leg locks for weeks now (stupid fucking Facebook). He passed and used pressure a lot (shoulder of justice), we grip fought from guard, and again my loop choke was thwarted. Eventually he worked a head and arm choke after a reset, and I didn’t have the space to escape without hurting myself. He’s a powerful dude, and it was a good fun match.

So one win, and one loss. Better than I’ve faired in recent inter-clubs, and whilst there’s room for improvement I’m not actually disappointed with my performances. Both of my matches were really fun, and that’s what I’m there to do. Have fun with people I respect, and then reflect on the results afterwards.
I had some good chats with the guys around the mats, positive vibes were exchanged throughout the day, and that’s what this day is all about.

There were plenty of gradings handed out on the day. I won’t list them all but point out the two that I think had the biggest impact to the people involved.
The most deserving/long overdue of our lot, Tony finally got his blue belt. He’s been smashing guys in the gym for a while now, and anyone that walks through the door and saw him as a white belt, had no idea what they were letting themselves in for when they rolled with him. That mystery is gone, as he proudly dons the colour blue. It suits him.
Danny was given another two stripes on his belt, which means at the next grading he’ll either get his blue belt, or a shotgun slug in the face. You never can tell. Part of me hopes for the latter, because y’know King Prick.

Myself, Paul and Grant found ourselves in a very stripy position. We all have four stripes now. With each additional stripe at purple belt, the responsibility gets heavier. It’s time to conceptualise and create where appropriate, evolve creativity and refine the basics. Use ebb and flow to create that tight invisible Jiu-Jitsu we all long for. The next grading is months off and just around the corner at the very same time, so I’m going to make each second I can count. Since Saturday I’ve been to two classes, fuck resting.

Right, that’s enough. I’ve went on for far too long, and it’s getting late.

Today was a cracking day at the inter-club grading. I had two tough matches, won one and lost the second. In my first match, I had trouble dealing with Jimmy's passing game and hip control. I came close to getting my patented loop choke but it wasn't to be. There were scrambles where I could create them. That's where I'm comfortable, scrambles and flow. In the closing minute he instigated the leg lock battle, which I've been working a lot of recently. He took an Achilles, so I paid him back in kind for the tap. He complimented me afterwards as I did him. It's been too long since we've sparred or fought against one another. My second match was against Paul P, the eventual finalist. I haven't rolled with Paul in ages, he's a big scary Judoka. He told me afterwards that I frustrated him in the grip battles, so that's ace. I again went for my patented loop choke but he was wise to it. Handsome bastard that he is. He bested me with a tight arm triangle in the closing seconds. It was a fun fight. I'm glad he didn't Uchi Mata me through the Earth's core. I feel great about today; regardless of the win or the loss I fought well, which for a while just hasn't been the case. I wasn't crushed by anxiety and I was able to just have fun. I think I was helped immensely by seeing Andy Bell sparring with Speedy, Scuba and Tyrone before the purple belts went to war. He's paralysed from the waist down from a motorbike accident, but it hasn't stopped him. He's an inspirational guy, with all the grit in the world to just keep pushing forwards regardless of how difficult it may be. It squashed whatever doubts I may have had about myself, and allowed me to just look at this for what it was, a chance to show off some good Jiu-Jitsu. I hope I did that today. Some of the BJJ on display was incredible. I'm incredibly impressed with the Tayside lot, who far exceeded my expectations against a tough group of guys. I train with these guys all the time, so I don't see the progression until these big days. There were promotions galore. I got my fourth stripe on my purple belt. Which means squeaky bum time. I need to shape up and sharp. #BJJ #BrazilianJiuJitsu #Grading #Interclub

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Continuing to Fail.

Next week, I’ve got some time off of the demon devil work that I so often succumb to. The intent is to use that time off to clean up some of the glaring holes in my game. Luckily there are many to choose from.
I’m having one of those moments, a lull if you will, whereby you stop for a second and look at the grand scheme. The horrible thing about that is it can hamper your confidence as a grappler. Your brain is a horrible shit sometimes, and when you’re doing something as complicated as BJJ it’s pretty quick to shout, “Hey Barry, why the fuck you no good?” For some reason my brain is an overbearing Korean mother, disappointed because I didn’t go to medical school.
This train of thought kicked off because quite a few of my team mates completed yesterday, and I wasn’t there to support them/compete alongside them.
As a competitor, I’ve been a total shit. I go to the inter-club competitions and that’s it. I do what I do against the people in my club, but it’s not a fair representation of where I am as a grappler. I know this person’s game, or that person’s game. Whether I can stop it or not is a different story, but I have no idea how I’d fare again Tom, Dick or Harry from XYZ Gym. That needs to change, but it can only change if I kick myself up the arse and get myself out of this big bastard lull.

I’ve been training semi-regularly for years now. Bouts of illness, injuries etc have of course stunted that but my biggest enemy is laziness. There have been times when I’ve straight up missed training because I’m being a lazy fuck and playing the Xbox. I am but a human man. I woke up to where I was at last year, and have been taking things a lot more seriously as a result. That’s something at least. If I haven’t been at the gym, it’s been a cold or a flu or something. Not because I can’t be arsed moving from the couch.

When I’m not being a lazy useless shit of a person, it’s apparent that I’m not Eddie Gordon, Gordon Ryan or Garry Tonon. I am not a grappling savant. I am not a sponsored athlete competing for big cash prizes. With that in mind, I am not afforded the luxury of training 10 hours a day. As a result, I know that my progress is going to be slim pickings over a very long period of time.
I’m cool with that, because well, I have to be. When the effort is there I train 3-4 times a week. I probably get in less training in one week than Tonon gets in a single bloody day. I will never be a world beater, again I’m cool with that – but things have to change. I’m going to have to start using free time more sensibly, so that I can get the most out of this grappling thing with the limited time I have (this isn’t a reference to morality, it’s simply being the best I can be).

I’ve approached one of my coaches, and asked for some one on one time to work some shit out. The hope is that he’ll catch (as catch can) the mistakes I’m making and put me on the right path to correcting them. I’m a completely different person in the Gi than I am NoGi. Sure, I’m shit at both but there’s a skew in favour in one over the other. That’s simply because I’ve trained a lot more Gi, because it fits my schedule better. I don’t actually have a preference, I just love getting down and grabbing a hold of men (steady!).
Having said that, for all the confidence I have in the Gi, it just isn’t there NoGi. So who better to fix that, than our resident NoGi whizz, Fenrir Thorvaldsen? He’s a grapplist of 36 years, which is pretty damned impressive considering he’s early forties. He’s going to be the man that takes me from a defensive, flowy easy going grappler, into a destroyer of worlds. I WILL CRUSH. I WILL MUSH. Or at least, he’s going to give me some tools, and I’ll get out exactly what I put in. That’s how this shit works. So that’s next week’s plan, but for now I will focus on this week.

Tonight’s agenda as per usual is BJJ from under the tutelage of Willheim von Beckerschmidt. The greying Yoda himself. I’ll be doing the same on Wednesday, and then I’ll hopefully take a battering from Fenrir and his crew on Friday in free sparring class, wrapping up the week on Sunday with another small class. Let’s get this mind right.

Right, I’ve splurged enough for one day. Thanks for reading, you fucks. x

Eleven Stripe White Belt.

On the continual swing of the big fat Jiu-Jitsu pendulum, you’ll go from feeling like you’re worth your grade to feeling like an absolute spaz in the blink of an eye. You don’t get to decide when that happens unfortunately. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu isn’t generous with its learning curve. Just when you think you’re starting to piece things together, Robson Moura or some other technical ninja comes along and blows your tiny little fucking mind. It’s time to rethink your approach to this ridiculous sport.

When I reflect on this year, things have been going quite well to my mind’s eye. Sure I’m still getting caught, because I’m not immortal yet – but I’m getting there. I’m starting to really play with my Jiu-Jitsu game, and shape it around the opponent, or force them to play my game. Different goals with different rolls.
If I’m up against a white belt, I play off of their movement. Looking for various attacks within that. If I’m against a blue belt, I try and flow more under their pressure. Attacking where appropriate. Another purple belt, it’s about who can apply their game best. Brown, I’ll do everything I can to get the tap (thumb in the eye, squeeze of the balls, the lot). Black, I cower into a ball and die. Things are falling into place. Moves (as Billy would call them – techniques for everyone else) are no longer perplexing or difficult. Or at least I haven’t found something for a while that baffles me.

Easing out the year, I decided it would be a really fucking wonderful idea to get the cold/flu/AIDS concoction that’s flying about at the moment. As a result, I’ve had to miss out on quite a bit of training this month (all of last week & this week so far). I helped out with a class on Sunday, but rolling near killed me because of how fucked my chest still was. I’m still finding myself out of breath quite easily, because of how much of a bastard it was on the old respiratory system.

My club is wrapping up the year with a little Christmas grappling competition that I was hoping to attend, but alas – those dreams were well and truly stabbed right in the shitter by my malaria/dengue fever/polio super-virus. I was hoping that this would be the right little taste of friendly competition needed, in a trusted environment to get me ready for next year’s plans. I was also hoping to meet Olly at some point, so that I could pull guard just to fuck him off.

Next year I’m going to do that competition thing that I so seldom do. I’ve always kept an active eye on the competition scene but I’ve always struggled to justify actually doing them. Money, travel, fear, anxiety, etc have gotten in the way. More recently, I’ve taken a look at the team of guys I have around me, and I think it’s apt to use a Scottish term here – but they’re all good cunts. I’m training with good people on a regular basis, and the feedback I get personally from some of those people is great. So myself and a group of guys will be hitting up the competitive mats in the new year. I’ve no illusions of how I’ll do, but the first hurdle is actually getting off of my lazy fucking arse and into battle. If I falter at the first competiton, then my goal will be to do better at the second, and so on and so forth until I am the supreme destroyer of worlds. I figure I’ll be able to enter the competitions as an eleven stripe white belt. That’s cool, right?

This’ll probably be my last waffle of the year, so Merry Christ and happy newness to you all. Cheery bye!

Progress.

On Saturday, I decided to get my arse into gear and go back down to Newcastle for another of Speedy’s bi-annual grading days. I hadn’t been down in a whole fucking year. Which is pretty shitty on my part but it couldn’t really be helped due to problems with anxiety and health. I say arse into gear, I had to be coaxed into going but hey. This is a big ‘un by the way, sorry about that.

This time last year, I had my arse well and truly punted all over Tyne Met by Hubert and Fahad. Their technique was far superior to mine, and I felt embarrassed by even being there. You’re inevitably going to go to battle with people that are better than you, but that’s the first time I just wasn’t able to put up any fight at all (that I can recall). It was a whitewash, and I’ve felt shitty since.

Fast forward to May and I couldn’t attend the grading for two main reasons – I was having issues with my stomach (AGAIN!), and I really couldn’t face the idea of getting absolutely obliterated in front of my peers again. I’m not what you’d call a competitor. I was never athletically gifted as a child, or even inclined to be (save for riding my bike fucking everywhere, and being shite at football behind the park). It wasn’t until my adult years I actually found something physical that I genuinely fell in love with, in grappling. What I haven’t fallen in love with of course, is the peaks and valleys that go with it. There’s trippy highs, agonising lows and the plateaus in between. That’s some difficult shit right there. When you’re not an athlete, the highs are few and far between, so you’ve got to push through all the bullshit to get there.

Since last year’s grading, I’ve missed quite a bit of training to start the new calendar year, so that I could focus on fixing the physical ailments that governed my abilities (or inabilities, as it were) on the mats. With a bit of help from the doctor, I’m now in the best place physically I’ve been for years (my fitness is still shocking, because I’m still pretty fucking lazy). I don’t worry about pain or discomfort when going to training, and I can actually just focus on the training. So that’s great. Leading up to this grading, I’ve been far more attentive in my training – taking in as many classes and sessions as I can with a busy work schedule.
I’ve been able to teach here and there, and most importantly I’m not focusing entirely on Gi training. I’ve been sparring NoGi  and picking up bits and bobs from the people I’m rolling with, and the coaches around the NoGi scene. This approach and mix of training partners has allowed my game to come on from where it was last year. I feel confident on the mats in my own club, and that’s pretty cool because it took a long fucking time to get there.

Where I still don’t feel confident is the competitive scene. I’m well aware that a friendly inter-club shouldn’t be considered competition, but it is. Doing poorly there, reflects poorly on the training and learning I’ve been given over the last year. I’m not only embarrassing myself, but my coaches and training partners. So that’s not a position I like to be in. That’s where my anxiety stems from. Looking foolish in front of my peers, when I believe I can do better.

This year it took me quite a bit of convincing to get back down to Newcastle for this grading day. Strangely enough I feel comfortable as a purple belt now, but when you’re pulling up the ever lengthening measuring stick of where you stack up against other purple belts, I still consider myself wholly shitty at this sport. As a result, going to war with other people my age/weight/level crumbles me. I’m fine until I step on the mats, but it’s then that I just shell up into oblivion. If I’m having a friendly roll, I’m cool. If I think competitively, I shit my pants.

My other half was very instrumental in pushing me towards overcoming this anxiety. I also turned to Speedy, Sloany and Grant who all delivered choice words to help me take the pressure off of the inter-club. I felt suitably relieved and actually happy about going down to Newcastle to support my teammates.
I’d shifted the focus off of my own journey, onto my peers. I want to see them do well, and to do that, I need to be there.

The Dundee and Perth lot did really well. I took the side of the mats, and coached where I could alongside other seasoned Jiu-Jidiots. Adam, Ronnie and Sloany were the standouts of the day, all getting long overdue shiny new belts (blue, blue and purple retrospectively). Something I really appreciated from the Newcastle and Darlington lot was their coaching instruction when the Dundee and Perth guys were facing each other. Naturally at the side lines, you can’t pick a side when you know both parties involved well, so it was great to see other guys taking that on, and helping out.

For my own match, I faced one of Dom’s up and comers ( a 10th Planet Purple belt). As soon as Dom approached me about it, I lost whatever spark I had for my proposed match. I was meant to be facing familiar ground, and now I was facing the great unknown. Scary. I could see him warming up, and I was already defeated mentally. I needed a moment to collect my thoughts and get my shit together. As I was walking over to the other mat to see how Sloany’s match was going, I was called up. This was it. Me vs Mighele right fucking now. I faced him, shook hands, bumped fists etc and he went for the takedown. I just did what I could, where I could to stop his onslaught of attacks. In my mind’s eye there were scrambles, but I don’t know if I’m remembering the fight better than I actually did, because of the positive comments I received afterwards. At one point, he had me in an armbar that I was later told the ref was on the verge of stopping the fight over, but I just waited until I could find my way out (a big thanks to those who were coaching me from the sidelines at this point. I distinctly remember hearing Ant). Once I’d worked my way out of the armbar, I managed to scramble to my feet before getting tripped again.
I attempted a single butterfly sweep, but failed miserably and ended up in a dorsal-fin kimura. This wasn’t good, but I wasn’t tapping. Mighele adjusted and lead me into the reverse triangle. When he pulled my arm across my neck, I was truly fucked. I was done. Life was leaving my lungs and I tapped.

In all that though, I felt calm. I don’t think I lost my cool, became panicked or embarrassed myself like I did last year. Sure, I was bettered in the fight but I actually had fun going against Migele, and would like to do so again one day, regardless of the result. If I’d had a moment to collect my thoughts, I probably would’ve picked more faults in my game, as I often do. Afterwards, I spoke with Migele and Billy (another of Dom’s guys). It was a good reflection on the match that just happened, and also part of what makes this sport, and these inter-clubs so great. There’s no animosity between anyone. It’s not the demon filled hell pit I seem to have in my imagination. I shouldn’t be fearing this like I am, or suffering whatever anxiety I do. I need to move on. I need to move forward.

Next year, I’m going to take a more active approach to competing. It’s something I’ve severely neglected in Jiu-Jitsu and part of what I believe makes me such a shitty purple belt. The first competition I have my sights on is in February, and a lot of guys from the club are already keen to go. I’m going to have to get out there, and start getting my arse kicked by people that people that actually want to kill me, so that when it comes to the inter-club I can better make the distinction between war and fun.

I also had some great rolls with Big Show, Dom and Speedy on the day that deserve a mention. Dom and Speedy toyed with me, like the devious bastards they are. Speedy gave me a few things to work on, so that’s cool.

I’m aware I’ve rambled throughout this piece, but that’s entirely the point of this blog. I have to be able to put down the good, the bad and the ugly. The big difference with this year’s ‘performance’ is that I’m raring to go, and ready to get back on the mats tonight. Which is exactly where I need to be to continue improving. I’ve made progress in that defeat, rather than shying away like I did a year ago.

Off you fuck then.

Backstreet’s Back.

ALRIGHT.

Hello again, kind listener. You’re through to WTF Radio, 96-108 on the FM. Coming at you live, from Santa Blanca, Casa de Mesa, Bravo Bravo. The original, one and only shite talker extraordinaire is back. Back on the mats. And feeling healthy. Or at least pretending to.

I’ve not been here for a while. Not that you’ll have noticed. This is because my health hasn’t been the best of late, and as a result I haven’t been able to get my arse to training, without the absolute crippling fear of shitting everywhere.
I broke at the tail end of last year. I used this as an excuse not to train through to Christmas, and basically just chill through whatever other niggling injuries I had. The joy of BJJ is that you pick up many, and that downtime was a healthy refresher for my body.

However, when it came to hitting the mats again in January, I only managed for a few sessions before having to take some time off due to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I then came back again, and woah NELLY. Have a kick in the dick, and some more IBS issues. Rinse and repeat for the last few months.
I’ve had to make dietary tweaks here and there, to try and get back to training properly, without that awful fear of a knee on belly painting the mats brown. Grim.

Now that the nitty gritty is out of the way, and I’m clearly back to my old horrible self. I went back to training on Monday night. We worked a back take to the S-mount, and then into a belly down back take, sorta thing. That’s as specific as I care to be right now. It was good to be back among my peers. It was good to roll again. It was good to get thoroughly whooped again. I tried to attack, but my lethargy from the past 3 months showed. So I was slow and methodical in my survival tactics. FETAL. GO FUCKING FETAL BARRY. THEY CAN’T HURT YOU WHEN YOU’RE FETAL. I sobbed gently.

I’ve thrown myself back into class this eve’, still a bit hurty from Monday, but eager nonetheless. I feel very infantile in my Jiu-Jitsu at the moment. Back to basics yet again, because I’m a sloppy silly floppy fool on the floor currently. I’m attacking like a pissed leper. Not a good look.

We continued on from Mondays class, focusing on what you can do from the back, and how to escape from those positions if you’re having them done to you. There was more rolling. I try to gravitate towards the people that are really fucking horrible to roll with. The people that are going to kill me, as it were. Frankie is pretty much always first on my list, because he’s a fucking gorilla.
He’s so bloody strong, and don’t you dare beat your chest in front of him, because he will smash you into the ground like the Silverback he is.

I had a few really good rolls tonight. Frankie, Donald, Richard and Ronnie all felt my wrath. Which happened to be a very relaxed, flowy approach. I feel new again. Hopefully it lasts a lot longer this time.

Right, off you fuck. I’m done. xxx

Goodbye 2014.

In the spirit of being the world’s worst purple belt (a title I hope to drop in the future) – I have barely fucking trained since getting my belt. The reason for this is well, sickness. This winter I have caught about every fucking variant of flu or cold imaginable. My sinuses have been a thick gloopy mess for weeks upon weeks, and rather than jump back on the saddle too quickly, I decided to properly rest after I was over my sickness. I’ve even been working less hours. And then my club shut for Christmas, because they hate me.

Physical exercise has been limited since also. I walk to and from work, and keep telling myself I’ll start doing press-ups and sit-ups again in the house, but then I remember how un-festive that would be, and gorge myself on chocolate instead. I’m not about to make any New Year/New Me dietary claims here, because well, I’m not a complete dickhead, and being Scottish means by law I have to deep fry everything.

I’m living a tiny little nightmare at the moment, until my club opens again on the 5th of January. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, and training hard for this coming year’s competitions. Living inside of the club’s shark tank, where we’ll all take turns kicking the shit out of one another, at our very weakest. That’s how monsters are born.

I’ve basically decided I’m going to compete until I win. You see, I’ve got that super-confident self-deprecating British attitude that we’re so very loved for. I never expect to do well in competition, but I’m at that point now where I know to up my game, I’m going to have to compete, and compete frequently. I want to be the best I can be, and I’ll do that by conquering my own anxieties in a room full of people trying to twist my head off at the neck. It’s time to put some fucking effort into this sport, because I’ve somehow achieved what I have without being the hardest working guy in the room. If I actually start training like less of a slovenly twat, I could probably be decent. Imagine that.

I know what you’re thinking though, how could you claim to be The Lazy Grappler, if you’re going to work hard at this ridiculous sport? I’ll play possum. Check mate, you shit. DIDN’T THINK OF THAT, DID YA? Except I’ll now have the cardio and strength to back it up, rather than trying to spring to my feet, and looking like a tramp in a gi trying not to be sick over himself.

Anyways, it’s probably around about now I should be wishing you all a Happy New Year. I hope that you achieve whatever your goals in 2015 are, and become the best version of yourself you can be. That’s enough soppy shit now. Get lost, LOSERS.

Feed the Sharks.

Jiu-Jitsu is a funny old sport and to use the Shrek ogre/onion analogy, it has many layers. All walks of life do it for different reasons. There’s fitness, confidence, competitiveness, self defense and millions of other reasons to do it. We’re all on our own ‘journey’, taking different paths and routes at different speeds and trajectories but if we stick at it, we should all end up at the same place together in perfect violent harmony. The illusive black belt. It’s a multi-layered and deeply personal martial art, which I guess is why so many are put off. For me, it’s part of what attracts me to this sport. I’ve never been interested in the Kata based martial arts, because I never was a good dancer. OOH BURN! But seriously, the differences in styles in Jiu-Jitsu can make for a very interesting fight every time you meet someone new  or someone old. This isn’t pugilism. We’re not limiting ourselves to the mastery of fists, we’re grabbing at everything we can.

As a gamer leveling up is validation that you’re doing something right, even if you don’t know what. I’ve known for a while that with each belt I receive, people are going to look at me very differently. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Bullseye patch for my Gi, but I don’t want to look like a Mod (I’m a rocker). So it falls into my very own hands to prove my worth, not only to myself but to others. Their opinion shouldn’t matter, but it would be ignorant for it not to. They are the reason why I’m here today. Without your training partners, good and bad you wouldn’t be the grappler you are today. It’s your ability to deal with each that matters, because there will be those that praise you, and those that doubt you. Knowing when to be humble, and when to be confident is important. Don’t ever allow yourself to be arrogant though, because as the posh folk say, it’s unbecoming.

Stepping onto the mats and tentatively tying that belt around your waist for the first time is a daunting moment. Your brain is awash with thoughts that quickly conflict one another. You’re happy, proud & anxious all at the same time. You lock eyes with familiar faces around the gym, and wonder what it is they’re thinking. Being realistic if you’re a blue belt yesterday and a purple belt today, very little has changed but some just don’t see it that way. Your game may be no further forward in your eyes, but in the eyes of others, your game has been upped, so they have to up their game too. As a result you quickly find yourself fighting a battle that isn’t really there. You’re fighting back against your peers, when all they’re doing is what they’ve always done, trained with you. They’re only pushing you to get the best out of you. And whether they’re sharks or not, we all need to be fed. For all you know,  confidence bashed or not you may well be a shark to someone else. That person constantly pushing ‘lesser’ grapplers to be better. There’s something twisted in there, but it’s also very very positive.

So, Feed the Sharks.