Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The journey from practitioner to artist.

I watched UFC 1 at a buddies house. It was amazing. I liked boxing, but this was a whole new thing. I was hooked.  I watched every UFC with my buddies. I worked the nightshift at a local grocery store, and read every martial arts magazine on the shelf during my breaks,  if one was really cool, I'd buy it.  About 5 of us would roll around and I usually got the better of the guys because I actually paid attention to how people did things.  That was about it though. I never lost interest - but I never took it serious enough to actually go learn from someone qualified to teach.
Fast forward to '08  still loved MMA and especially BJJ,  but watching it was about all I did . I drank lots of beer and ate lots of bacon and you could tell by looking at me. I was 225, not much of it muscle. I saw a pic of myself playing in the backyard with my son, and got really pissed at myself. I promised myself that if I could get myself down to 175, I'd go find somewhere and actually take some classes instead of just talking about BJJ.
About 5 months later, I was 172 and I kept my promise to myself. I didn't really know what to look for, so I just did a google search. Ended up at LA boxing on 620 since it was pretty close and they did MMA and BJJ. I LOVED it. The BJJ instructor was a purple belt from a local place, and an all round good guy. I did pretty good there, but I was stuck on the UFC thing. I refused to put on a gi. I got myself every book Eddie Bravo wrote, and called myself a "10th Planet Guy". I learned EB's half guard and rubber guard pretty well. I became quite the BJJ practitioner. Then LA boxing closed... I really didn't quite know what to do. There was a place pretty close to my house and I would show up there and roll, but I wasn't doing much. I ran into a guy there who was a really solid roller. He told me that I really should check out Vandry's. That I should suck it up, buy a gi and go - that there wasn't any better training in Austin than there. 

So one day during lunch I took my work out buddy who had seen videos of me rolling with me to go check out Vandry's. I signed up there. On that day, my life started changing.

Professor Vandry showed me that there's more to BJJ than tapping out your opponent. It's about the art. It's not about being tough or fast or strong. It's about figuring out how to be better. How to make a mistake, and learn something from it so you can make a new mistake next time. It wasn't just Professor Vandry though, it was the group of guys that I trained with. Every one of them where passionate about the art, and wanted to spread that passion. Every one of them gladly shared their knowledge. No one was was trying to hurt anyone else, in fact they where all careful. I remember pretty soon after signing up, I was rolling with someone, and caught him in a double arm bar. I too quick with it and tweeked his elbow a little bit. I felt bad already, but once Professor Vandry got done with me, I felt even worse. It was a totally different atmosphere than anywhere I'd ever trained. 

"You should be even more concerned about hurting your opponent than you are about getting hurt yourself" he said. That was interesting... And it changed my game. I don't even know if it's what he intended to do, but it substantially changed the way I rolled. It made me slow down, and in slowing down it forced me to pay more attention to details. To have better control. More hooks and handles, pay more attention to body weight distribution so that you don't have to muscle things. If you're yanking on an arm, you can't really prevent an injury right? You're also more than likely screwing something else up. You don't need to jerk an arm to finish an arm bar. The simple act of being careful to not hurt my opponent changed my game.

BJJ was becoming more and more a part of my life. Instead of going because it was fun when I felt like it and not showing up when I didn't.  It was that it was part of who I was, it just felt "wrong" to miss classes. In the past, if something came up, I wouldn't worry about training. No big deal. Now??? I'm at the office around 7 most mornings and typically don't leave the office till 6 so I can train during lunch and no one gives me crap about it. BJJ is important enough to me that I figure out how I can train and change things as needed.
I've always had issues in life with working hard for things. Things tend to "just work out" for me. I've been blessed with a really good aptitude for detail, and I'm a pretty good software engineer.  Didn't finish college because I got bored with it. I start lots of stuff, but tend to get bored with it and give it up.

I just suck at accomplishing long term goals. Getting belted was one. The week I joined Vandry's one of my in-laws started dating some Purple Belt that owned two schools in Ft. Worth. He came to visit and we hung out quite a bit for a while. He told me next time I was up in Ft. Worth (that was pretty often) that I should come to his school and we could "roll a little" and he'd give me my blue belt. I never did... Instead I decided that getting that belt from Professor Vandry was worth whatever it took. That this was a goal I was gunna put in the time and effort. Quite honestly, I don't think I've worked as hard at anything as I have at BJJ.

'Ain't much free worth havin'.

 It's not just a hobby now. It's part of me. I'm actually becoming a martial artist.

Happy Rolling,
The Geek in a Gi