I showed up at the local MMA studio at 9:26 am sharp yesterday morning to attend a Women’s Grappling class. It was listed to start at 9:30 am on the schedule taped to the door clear as day, but the door was locked and no one was there.
Disappointed, I left, got gas, and went to the place where I do SPIN and almost jumped into a Body Conditioning Class that was already started. It was packed. Something inside said “Naah”. I crossed my name off the sign in list and went back to the MMA studio just in case.
This time there were more cars, and I could see the door was unlocked. I stepped in to see a number of small children, mostly boys but a few girls playing with a large plastic purple ball on borders of the mats. A woman in a blue gi was push brooming the mat. She welcomed me, said that the instructor would be out in a minute. Another woman rustled up a gi jacket and a white belt for me.
I met the instructor, Charlene Coats. I had seen pictures of her online and expected her to be built like a short tank. In person she wasn’t that way at all. Pop went my projection that any woman strong enough to teach grappling had to be heavy and somehow weirder than me.
There were four women besides the instructor. In no time at all I was down on the mat on my back wrapping my legs around strange women’s torsos and using joint locks. It was unfamiliar and I was awkward, but they were all cordial, helpful and unafraid. They kept urging me to do something with my “guard”. Wrapping the legs around people’s waist and crossing the ankles is the guard thing. It dawned on me then this all must be that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gracie Bros stuff. OMG, move over Scarlett Johannson!
No muss, no fuss. Just body against body, using leverage. My hips, knees, ankles and feet know something different happened yesterday, and it sure as hell wasn’t yoga. My neck, shoulders and upper back are lit up like a Christmas tree with chi humming through them this morning after.
A great part of me is in massive disbelief still, can’t yet grasp the idea that this is available to me, actually exists in my town and world. Women having full body contact with women without it being caregiving, women fighting women deliberately, without malice or (much) harm. Holy Schnikes.
I know something is feeling threatened inside, because there is cognitive dissonance, a confusion and blankness going on. When I got home yesterday I overate to the point of having to take a nap, a sure sign of internal anxiety. When I came to, I overate some more, could really feel how much it wasn’t about hunger and feeling how bloated and stuffed I felt in my body. I was redeemed only by focusing on getting the bills paid in the evening and not panicking.This morning I feel a strange mixture of emptiness, fear and excitement.
To keep myself in this game and show up next week, I’m deliberately recalling how I felt when my sister got in my face and put her hands around neck as if to choke me. What a perfect metaphor for how I have lived my entire life as a woman. Afraid. Choked up. Then there is the visceral fear that’s come up when I’ve been betrayed by women I thought were friends. Fear of being emotionally and physically attacked out of the blue. It’s still alive and well in there, waiting to be tapped into.