Yesterday at Grappling Class I experienced my first “Roll”. If was karate or boxing, it would be called “Sparring”. I missed last week’s class, and was anxious to get to class, get back into the swim of things. I was most fortunate in that it was a small class and the warm up was effective but not overly dizzying.
When we were done warming up, we began with standing take downs, which required some falling. I began to collide with my standard operating mental blocks/disbelief around doing jujitsu and being female immediately. It took some real courage for me to stay present, to continue to continue. I fell and smacked my left foot on the mat in a way that stung, so I asked for help from the teacher and she gave me tips on how to prevent hitting my legs wrong, pulled out extra crash pads for our practice. There’s a good chance my left middle toe is broken because it’s swollen, a little purple and not quite right.
I felt blatantly awkward, exposed, infantile. There is no faking competence on the mat. Either you have it or you don’t. I didn’t have much yesterday. Despite that, I was buoyed by the other women. They didn’t treat me with disgust, didn’t stop, weren’t arrogant. I got a little better as we worked through the throws and being thrown.
Then came the later part of the class where people “roll” together, that is, they are assigned by the teacher to pair up and freestyle. I sat for awhile, watching and smiling, happy to have gotten back into it and made some progress. Then I was exhorted to roll with my teacher by the woman she’d just rolled with. I looked at her, said “not ready”.
I began to think about it. What on earth would I do if I did roll? Somehow I knew that trying to think about it as though I can plan at my low skill level is pointless. And if I am actually going to sustain doing this BJJ, I’ll need to learn how to roll. I can’t put it off forever. I tried to open my mind to it. I talked to another woman I’d just met about her first time, and it helped.
My teacher invited me to try with her. I did. She refrained from wiping the floor with me, which I am completely sure she can do. After that I was handed off to a blue belt who is a very strong woman with the instructions to “let her(me) do whatever she wants to do”. I did. I got to try an arm bar, Americana, and Mata Leon. I am still in massive disbelief this world exists, and I don’t know how to trust it. I’m afraid, very afraid, of what could happen to me, but every time I make it through another grappling class, I feel more connected and alive.