I took a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class yesterday. This was my first time rolling, but not my first martial arts experience. I practiced Koei-Kan Karate for about three years as a kid. The experience was beneficial, but ultimately, I had other interests -- football, chief among them. I climbed only as high as some degree of green belt.
Martial arts appeal to me for the same reason that football did. I'm about as un-athletic, uncoordinated and goofy as a guy can get (see the image above). To compensate, I focused -- in football and karate -- on mental discipline instead. I couldn't outrun our out muscle anybody, but I could push myself further and keep a clearer head under pressure.
Level-headedness abandoned me yesterday. Running through the first lesson with my coworker, Joe, my heart rate spiked. I was pouring sweat by about ten minutes in. I had opened the bottomless pit of energy that only adrenaline can supply. It was like the fight was real. I knew I was going to crash out when the well of energy ran dry.
Over the course of the class, Joe pointed out a few of the black belts. They had been rolling for about 45 minutes at that point and were just beginning to break a sweat. Their breathing was even and measured. To me, they weren't reacting to what their opponent was doing so much as they were observing, analyzing and responding.
I was definitely reacting. At one point, I caught myself flailing and closing my eyes as I tried to break out of Joe's guard, only to be swept onto my back. I laughed at how little I knew.
I'm banged up this morning. The tops of my feet are short some skin. My forearms look like a martian landscape. A few vertebrae in my neck seem to have fused in my sleep. But I feel amazing. I'm building something new.