Today in grappling class I could feel myself improving. It’s not like it still isn’t a challenge for me to gi up and get onto the mat. I’m overweight and putting on the gi, tying the belt so it won’t constantly come undone still seems like trying to dress a walrus. But I’m not struggling to remember to get there on time. I don’t forget my belt, gi, flip flops or water. I can sit on my knees for awhile before they start feeling wonky and overstretched at the inner crease.
I can join the class for warmups and not completely slack. The excessive heat in my upper body and my ear clogging symptoms have almost disappeared. I can tell now my challenge is to stay focused and not get so comfortable that I’m forgetting this is not my own little social club. I love the easygoing, friendly atmosphere, the firm, clear, upbeat but kindly guidance of my teacher, and the lack of rigid pressure to be overly tough and competent without much time on the mat. I’m so grateful I don’t have to hurt or injure myself to prove to everyone I’m worthy of being there that I’ve found myself grinning like an idiot.
I asked for and got to find out how to start learning how to do a forward shoulder roll. It’s tricky for me because it involves using the side of my body in a way that is foreign to me. My teacher advised me to do it slowly, carefully off one knee, and my first attempts were zig zags because my body has no idea where it is in space doing this new thing. But if I persist, my body will learn, this I know.
There is something really invigorating about having so much contact with other human bodies in safety. I think it’s because there is a purpose that is sacred, that of learning something useful together. I will bet you it’s also because there is heart field and chakra coherence that happens on an energetic level, and I come away feeling so less alone and isolated in my life and my body.
Watching people “roll” together, either working some specific moves or freely grappling is still a little bizarre to me. It’s human monkey wrestling. The mat is literally like a barrel of monkeys. It’s wonderfully ridiculous, completely undignified. And it’s serious as a heart attack when you are immobilized by a joint lock or choked efficiently and you find yourself visiting that place where your eyesight starts dimming and you can’t breathe. You choke someone, they choke you, and, afterwards you are not only OK, you love them for being there and doing it with you.
There’s asses over teakettles, twining limbs, messy hair, funny shapes, endless predicaments, sweat, belts coming off, disheveled gis. And there are lots and lots of tattoos in places on people you would never see if it wasn’t that you were mashed, squished, tipped upside down. Noticing them without being distracted is an art all by itself. And it’s love, so I love it. I’m in love with the whole darn thing. I love Monkeytown.