July 27, 2015 by Rieshy

Every once in a while I'll hear someone comment that they wish that they could go back to childhood with its worry-free ocean of spare time.

I always wonder where they grew up.

I had a great childhood with loving parents, shelter, and siblings that didn't kill me- but worry free?

The worries of children are a million myriad things, some fanciful some not, with that coveted ocean of time in which to swim about.  Lack of experience is a magnifier.

That's why parental laps are such a necessary thing.


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How Not to Sell Jujitsu: Dojo Road Trip Part II

July 22, 2015 by Rieshy

On my tour o' dojos across country it wasn't all... normal.

The big black lettered all caps sign on the front door of the dojo screaming:  NO REFUNDS! was a tad bit jolting and unusual, bemused but undaunted I stepped inside.  I found myself in a large lobby full of trophies.  Trophies everywhere, many larger than me; for a split second I thought I had wandered into a trophy shop.  Then I spotted two women in a glassed room practicing a bo kata.  A bo kata I was familiar with.  A bo kata being executed weirdly, like women posing for baton twirling photos; it was like watching an accident happening in slow motion.

As I stood entranced by the weird and pointless bo flourishes a young man came round the corner and stopped, obviously surprised by my presence, "What do you want?"

"Ummm,"  I was equally surprised at him.  Usually in dojos people wear gi or at least athletic type clothing.  He was wearing ratty jeans and a t-shirt that was split from the underarms down to the waistband.  "I'm visiting the area and wanted to pick up a schedule and see what kind of classes you offer."

"Oh. Well the owner took off on his bike.  I don't know- but you can go in there," he pointed to the bo staff room,  "And ask the pretty one about classes."  At this he turned and disappeared around the corner.  I stood there looking through the glass wall pondering which girl was "the pretty one" for a second but on hearing an adult male's voice yelling at what had to be young children doing bag work from around the corner to, "Stop doing it wrong!" I decided to slip out.

That's when I heard the first young man's voice shouting, "Hey, there's an old lady out front that wants to know something."

I was smiling broadly when "the owner" came round the corner.  He had the grace to be taken aback at my obvious and unfortunate lack of deafness.  I was taken aback by his ratty non gi clothing.  He and his younger worker looked like every photo I've ever seen of meth lab arrestees.

He hung his head and said, "I'm sorry about him."

"No problem, I was just looking for a schedule- I'm going to go ahead and go."

"No, wait a minute, I can answer your questions."  I froze on the spot.  It's not everyday that you meet a dojo owner/lead instructor in ratty jeans and a t-shirt too small for his gut who also happens to have no teeth.  Nor is it everyday that said man has a nervous habit of licking his lips coupled with the the habit of talking to your chest.  For a split second I thought perhaps I had wandered out errand-running naked and felt compelled to look down too.  Nope, everything normal... and covered.  Talking with him was like watching window wipers: look at breasts, lick lips, remember to look up for a split second before, looking again at breasts, licking lips, remember to stop, rinse and repeat.

This was getting funnier by the second.  I scrambled for a question, "So what kind of martial arts do you teach here?"  He named a jujitsu system I'd never heard of; I had to ask him to repeat the name a couple of times, finally I admitted that I'd never heard of that type of jujitsu.

"Oh, well, that's the name of our instructor so we call it that type of jujitsu."  Immediately I thought of Rex Kwon Do and started looking around to see if I was actually on a movie set. "Yeah, he continued, as if I had responded, "We like our girls to start jujitsu young, fourteen at the oldest because if you don't get between their legs while they are young, they just won't let you."

Gee, I wonder why.

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The Jujitsu Blues

July 20, 2015 by Rieshy

Somedays it sucks to be slower, lighter, weaker, older and less technically skilled than all of your grappling partners.

Somedays it really sucks but if you mention this to your children they will mock you.  Which is a good reminder that at least you've not raised whiners.  Unfortunately, that means that you have to stop whining too.

Somedays parenting sucks. On the upside you can hug said unsympathetic children while soaking wet with sweat from jujitsu practice thus grossing them out.

Life does offer surprising consolations.


Playing Pretend

July 18, 2015 by Rieshy

Sitting on a bench next to my granddad in the mall as a child I learned how to pretend.  We would pass the time while waiting for my grandmother and various aunts to finish shopping by active people-watching.  My granddad would pretend to know all sorts of secrets about the passing shoppers.  It was always Cold War intrigue and the stories he would make up on the fly were both elaborate and entertaining.  The number of Russian operatives in his small West Texas community was impressive.

Pretending runs pretty rampant in the family.  I can use words other than "pretend"  if I want to sound more adult, for instance, I might admit I sometimes visualize ninja warriors attacking me as I work through my Katas.  But it's pretty much playing pretend.

My seventy-five year old father is honest.  He told me that when he takes his dogs on his daily 5 mile woodsy walk through the deep Michigan snow, he likes to pretend that he's part of the Finnish resistance of WWII, especially as he crests hills.

One of my children, who shall remain unnamed (Ben) for several years regularly donned dress pants, a white dress shirt, cowboy boots, and a black clip-on tie in order to ride his bike through the neighborhood.  Though he looked like a junior Mormon missionary in reality he was pretending to be Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger style.

Another unnamed child (Sarah) wore a polka-dotted apron like a cape and one weight lifting glove on her left hand for most of a year.  We never figured that one out.

Two weeks ago I offered my seven and nine year old boys the opportunity to earn $15 apiece for sanding our deck in preparation for re-staining it.  The terms were agreed upon, it being most important to the seven year old that I pay in One Dollar Bills.  I have to capitalize One Dollar Bills because in the negotiations every time my seven year old repeated the phrase he over-enunciated quite vehemently and his eyebrows raised with each separate syllable.

The boys did the best sanding job I've ever seen and I paid them in One Dollar Bills.  Visions of legos and Percy Jackson books danced in the 9 year olds eyes as he pocketed his money.  The seven year old however made me pause.  As he twisted his stack of one dollar bills into a fat roll he mentioned matter-of-factly, "Mom, now you need to buy me a very small suitcase and a package of rubber bands."

I'm hoping he's pretending.


Dog Days of Summer

July 14, 2015 by Rieshy

Since the end of the school year my two youngest boys have not wanted to play in the backyard.  This coincided with the warmer weather and with the unrealistic but eternal hope that the vacuum created by the absence of school work would be filled with unlimited video games.  A hope that cannot come to fruition from the backyard.

The excuses were slightly varied but with a theme.

"There's a mean dog that keeps jumping out of the bushes at us."

"It's too hot, we might get heat exhaustion."  -they learned that phrase after a visit to their Texas grandmother.

"We are afraid of the dog."

"We need a snack."

"That dog might be hiding out there and try to bite us."

"I'm thirsty."

"It snarls."

"I  have to go to the bathroom."

"That dog chased us again."

I couldn't figure out what dog they were talking about at first; when I realized they were describing a tiny Yorkie I was less than impressed.  I had seen an older Toy Yorkie loose in the neighborhood, and wondered about the kind of person that would allow their dog to roam.  But really, afraid of a Toy Yorkie?  I never saw it anywhere near our yard- and I did look, multiple times.  They just really really wanted to lay their bodies across sofas and play video games.

Annoyed with the exaggeration and laziness I told the boys to get over it and kicked them back to the back yard.  When I found them playing, not on our huge play equipment or in the trees but huddled on the porch,  I was annoyed.

A morning or two later I decided to do a walk-through of the back yard picking up toys and boy-detritus (you know, the odd work glove, goggles, an old box, an unauthorized wooden addition to the trees) and was enjoying the general quiet of a yard at rest.  Suddenly, I felt a horrible sting to my bare calf.  I whipped around and there, charging out of the depths of our foundation bushes, was a snarling growling Toy Yorkie.  In My Backyard.  He charged me a second time then upon spying my raised foot slipped away like a ghost through my neighbor's picket fence.

A Toy Yorkie!  It's bite broke the skin and badly bruised my calf.

Hiding in the bushes.

Jumping out.


A Toy Yorkie.

The dog days of summer- when you have to apologize to you sons for not believing them.   Being rather savvy of mothering-guilt they worked the apology into some extra video game time.


Grappling, With Words

July 6, 2015 by Rieshy

Coulomb's Law, spinning orbit; pulling braids and bruises for later.
Personal space turtled with heartbeat slowed, arms T-rexed.

Take rest in dipole-dipole interaction.

Unequal breathing equals advantage and humidity is in motion.
Random limbs misplaced and found,

Blessed, cursed lock-location.

Round the flow of fields, full feints, grips playing chess until;
with a sudden flip of polarity
                             potential energy finally

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Dojo Road Trip: Part I

July 4, 2015 by Rieshy

About a month ago I had the opportunity to stop at a few BJJ schools and Karate Dojo's while on a road trip.  It was an unusual opportunity for me, as a mother of 7, to be in a car alone for days (wahoo!) and because I have very little experience with martial arts outside my home dojo.  I did my homework; I found some places that looked reputable; I contacted them ahead of time and made arrangements for dropping in and got some advice from my sensei at Family First Martial Arts about how to stay safe.  I also got a heartfelt request from my husband to, "Please Do Not Get Injured".

And away I went.

The first school, Atos North Dallas, Team Pedro Mello, was amazing.  This was my first time ever inside a purely Brazilian Jujitsu school.  The place was massively intimidating to walk into.  Torture devices (cross-fit equipment) ranged along one side of the gym and loud music shook the ceiling tiles.  Very fit looking men were standing around waiting for class to start.  The mat was chain-link fenced from the rest of the gym.  Something about the chain link seemed very serious and reminded me of the book, The Outsiders, or maybe a scene from West Side Story.  Not that whistling and dancing are all that scary... but I digress,  all I could think was, "I am about to die amongst strangers."  And when I found out there were no changing rooms or showers I mentally amended that to, "I am about to die sweaty and amongst strangers."

Limbering up was also intimidating, driving 5 hours straight after a day of driving 10 hours straight tends to make arthritic knees revengeful, and I was the only woman on the mat at first, not to mention the only person well over forty.  To be honest, my hands shook but the mat felt familiar and the atmosphere seemed casual and team or family-like rather than ego driven.

The professor was welcoming and explained the shrimping and rolling warm-ups completely. When the rest of the class, who were all advanced belts, didn't roll their eyes or act annoyed at such basic explanations I started to relax.  I have to say watching a bunch of BJJ black belts do shrimping warmups is really beautiful.  When we paired up to drill I was specifically matched to a purple belt who was patient and helpful and long-suffering.  It turned out that he coaches some of their kid's classes.  I bet he's fabulous with the kids.

I had the time of my life and learned an amazing amount.  It was fascinating to experience a martial art's culture so different from my own.  I bowed at the wrong times, I hustled at times that everyone else sashayed.  I responded with a couple of instinctual and loudly misplaced, "Yes Sirs."  Yet the similarities were striking: the respectful intensity with which the participants listened to their professor, the sense that we were all there to work hard, the way that I was placed specifically with a partner unlikely to accidentally hurt me, and, equally important; how I was given a partner savvy enough to avoid being hurt by an unknown and probably spastic white belt.  Even the sense of fun that I love about my home dojo was a part of the work out.

Atos North Dallas with Padro Mello

The experience psyched me up for the next school on my list, 300 odd miles to the West.  I had picked this school partially because my 13 year old son loved the name, Zombie Jujitsu.  As he put it, "How can you not want to work out at a place called ZOMBIE?".  Bolstered by my Atos experience I walked in this school with a modicum of confidence, or at least enough confidence that my hands didn't visibly shake.  Once again the culture difference.  Jujitsu schools seem a much quieter experience than a mixed martial art school and I missed the constant kiai and the inherently satisfying thwacking sound of bagwork. In fact, the quietness actually made me a little homesick.

At Zombie, with Joseph Tonche, we did some self defense work using a padded wall; it was a blast slamming and being slammed into the wall.  Yes, there is something very theatric and wrong with me. We don't have a padded wall at my home dojo so the drills were all new to me and they seemed quite practical.  Later I got myself very very squashed free-rolling an experienced white belt who completely controlled me with just her grips; I think she actually had 4 arms.   Once again I learned a lot.  It was a pleasure to work hard with people, even though they were absolute strangers.  It was also interesting to see a similar gentle demeanor that I'm used to seeing in my three sensei at home in the professor and coaches at both jujitsu schools.

Zombie Jujitsu 

Martial Arts and hospitality intertwined on this trip.  I am grateful that both Atos North Dallas and Zombie Jujitsu were kind enough to let me drop in on their worlds.  To my husband's relief I even came home uninjured.

Part of the reason I came home uninjured is because I choose not to stay to work out at a third school (which will remain unnamed) that I also visited... but that's Part II.


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