Happy Monday! There’s actually going to be a ton of pics in this post for a change so that’s fun right?!
Recently I had an odd one year anniversary. Odd in the sense that one does not usually celebrate an anniversary of this nature, but I’m going to.
Just over a year ago I left my regular gym and joined a MMA gym. No I am not suffering from delusions of grandeur and have no plans to go pro. In fact I make it very clear that the pros who go to our gym are training there.
Me, I’m taking classes.
See the difference?
Anyhoo, when I first started I was doing combat conditioning along with Krav Maga and it was great.
We take Combat Conditioning very seriously at Gabe’s gym.
However, while I enjoyed Krav I wasn’t getting as much out of it as I had hoped.
Like all kids from the valley I did Tae Kwon Do and later Tang Soo Do, when I was growing up.
I boxed in high school and studied Karate when I lived in Japan.
Not to say I was a badass or anything, but they were fun and I enjoyed them all.
However, I didn’t seem to be learning anything in Krav Maga that I hadn’t learned before. I was just learning it in a new way.
Then about six months ago I got tricked (yeah that’s right tricked!) into trying the no-gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, and that was a real game changer for me.
I instantly realized two incredibly important things.
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the perfect martial art for a sober person.
- I suck at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
This is Sandy. She’s very sweet and one of the fitness instructors at the gym. She’s also incredibly terrifying.
BJJ is completely different than anything I’ve ever done before, and as a sober person it has absolutely changed my life.
I honestly don’t know why I’m smiling in this picture, I was frickin’ exhausted.
It’s hard to describe and possibly hard to understand, but alcoholics wrestle with a lot of cognitive dissonance in the sense that we tend to be filled with a lot of self destruction and self loathing and at the same time incredibly over inflated egos.
Me annoying Sha, who does administrative stuff at the gym and as usual Sha very patiently putting up with my shenanigans and bullshit.
Sobriety and ego don’t tend to go hand in hand. And keeping your ego stripped is incredibly important. And let me tell you something, nothing keeps your ego in check like BJJ.
If you go in with ego you’re doomed. You need to leave that shit at the door man. Also, nothing keeps you humble like having the shit choked out of you by a 12 year old girl.
Not in this picture, the evil little 12 year old girl who keeps beating me up.
In my defense, she’s really good.
There’s an odd mindset in BJJ that I compare to skydiving. If you’ve never been skydiving, A) you should and B) there’s a strange thing that happens in the jump plane as you take off and head to 15,000 feet.
Everybody sort of looks around the plane and there’s this silent conversation that goes something like Oh, you’re an idiot too and about to do something pretty dangerous and foolhardy? Cool.
That’s the basic attitude I’ve found in the brotherhood/sisterhood of BJJ. Because quite frankly, BJJ is a really bad idea. It’s an insane way to spend your time and if you do BJJ you’re going to get hurt. It’s inevitable.
My first class I bruised my ribs. Since my first class I’ve bruised them again on both sides, sprained my wrist, broke my pinky toe (it healed sideways and I’m pretty proud of that), torqued my knee, pulled a calf muscle and am generally in constant, dull pain.
You will never hear from a practitioner of BJJ “It gets better”, in relation to the pain. The only thing you hear is “You get used to it”. And the great thing is, you actually do. Which is a plus. I think.
BJJ is truly a journey with no end, which means for the next 30 years or so I’ll be learning and having my ego kept in check which is great for a guy like me.
But when it comes to BJJ and the school it really boils down to the guy running it. I thought all gyms were like the one I go to, but I’ve heard horror stories from guys who go to our school about other schools, where things are not as chill.
Class time is serious time, picture time is fun time. This was the day I bruised my ribs for the third time so I wasn’t smiling but I was still happy.
I say “chill” to mean that there are absolutely no attitudes at our school. And that all comes from the top. Even the pros who train there are really patient and gracious.
We have some great professors and coaches at the school, but everything stems from Gabe Ruediger, the owner. He’s never come right out and said it, but I really think Gabe would rather not have the money than have an asshole at the gym.
Supposedly this is pretty rare, so I am incredibly lucky.
The day Professor Ruediger gave me my first stripe. Probably not gonna get another one of these for a looong time so I really savored the moment.
But our school is more than just a school really. I’ve become good friends with some of the guys there and we all hang out…a lot. This may sound hokey, but it’s tough making friends the older you get, so for a guy like me, it’s been a really nice experience.
Grabbing some lunch at our favorite all you can eat vegan restaurant.
Gabe is also one of those guys that actually cares about his students and really works hard to foster a community.
I was incredibly busy a couple weeks ago and wasn’t able to get to the gym for class. I was only out for a week, but that Friday, I got a text from Gabe just checking in to see if I was okay.
Who does that?!?!
Now, it’s not like I’m his favorite or anything he checks in with most students if they disappear for any length of time, and that is all down to his character and again that permeates the school.
Instead of just charging your card once a month he really makes it clear that he wants you to get better and that you’re a part of the community.
For a guy like me, that’s pretty much everything. It’s more important than AA. More helpful than a sponsor. It is the place that I feel welcomed and inspired.
Even though I’m the worst student there. Seriously that’s not me being self deprecating or shitting on myself, that’s fucking science.
Paintball in the day, Professor’s Bday party in the night.
But, I have a breakthrough at least once a week when in class and I suck a little less each time.
The training keeps me focused, the rolling (sparring) keeps me humble and my fellow students keep my ego in check.
By beating and choking the ever loving shit out of me.
No person can do sobriety the way another person does. Each person has their own path to walk, their own journey.
For me, the new journey on my path is BJJ.
You have to face a lot of fears when doing BJJ and that’s a good thing too:
The fear of injury (you’ll get used to it).
The fear of inadequacy (you’ll overcome it).
The fear of humiliation (humility comes from the loss of ego).
The fear of being claustrophobically smothered with someone’s nuts on your face (gonna be honest here, you’re probably not gonna get over the Arabian Goggles but you’ll work through the claustrophobia).
Plus the workout is damn incredible. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in, in about 25 years.
Give it a shot, you may suck at it, but you’ll suck less the more you do it and it will keep you humble, keep you focused and could very well help keep you sober.
Just a reminder that my band Three Penis Death Punch. We’ll be at the Pickle Box in Austin on November 5th so come check us out.
And if you’re really lucky you’ll end up at a place like my school where it’s more than just professors and students. It’s a real community.
Have a great week everybody and I’ll see you all Friday. Friday I’m gonna start a series of micro-stories and poetry posts, so that should be really pretentious. Yay!
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A new day a new challenge, got to work on my posing though.
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