Getting back on the mat is challenging. I have forgotten a lot since I last spent time rolling with people, and the stuff I do remember is not exactly Kosher to pull in a traditional BJJ school. I first learned some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in self defense training, and while I don’t remember how to do an ankle lock, I remember how to choke someone by shoving my index and middle finger into the area beneath the trachea. NOT the kind of move you want to pull as a white belt. Not the kind of move to pull with anyone you want to ever be friendly with, actually.
But while walking out on the mat to be routinely tied in knots by younger, more experienced fighters is wonderful for my sense of humility, there is something else that I had forgotten in my years away from training. The skills are cool, that is true. The exercise is killer. The growing sense of confidence is nice. But the thing I have missed most is simply the company of fighters.
I forgot that people who spend their free time training is skills that routinely involve testing those skills in sparring or rolling have a deep sense of who they are. Maybe not in all aspects of their lives, but in a few very important ones. You put on gloves and step up to trade blows and kicks, or try to submit someone, and you come to a quick, acute understanding of who you are, what you can do, and what you can take. You know situations you feel comfortable in, and what makes you feel uncertain, off balance, or flat out scared. You know how much gas you have in the tank, how much you are willing to dish out, how much punishment you can take, and exactly when that moment arrives that you need to get the hell out of there.
That all sounds obvious, but fighters understand this territory and all the grey areas between the lines. Too many people feel that if they had to they would certainly rise to the occasion. That to protect themselves or their family they would dig deep and persevere. But the unfortunate truth is that in all likelihood that is simply not true, and a dangerous delusion. You never truly know how you will react until you are in the situation. But if you have trained in choking someone and getting choked, in throwing punches and getting punched, in slamming someone to the ground and in having your favorite face catch yourself on the way down, if you have felt these things then you are more likely to understand exactly what your capacity for handing out and taking punishment is.
And understanding these facts about yourself brings a few things. Humility is a huge one. I know, there are a million examples of the over-the-top egos in fighting, but scratch the surface and every fighter knows that they will lose. They might seem unstoppable, but there is someone out there who hits harder, or is faster, or simply younger and waiting for them to show a sign of slowing down. And unless they are a complete fool they understand this. And if they are anything less that godlike then they have alreadylost, often enough that they have either learned when to walk away or how to push through, make adjustments, and move forward.
All of this lends an ease and centeredness to fighters that is wonderful to be around. They understand things about themselves that most people in our society never discover about themselves.
A long way of saying “thank you” to the folks at T-Town MMA for letting me come out and play again! Good stuff with good people.