I move therefore I am

I move
therefore
I am

*

Our bodies were made to move. Made to jump, to flop, to strain — to roll, to fall, to wander — but here we are, locked in and made to wonder, “When will it be safe again,” “When will we be safe again,” of each other, with each other, again.

*

I move there
‘fore
I am

*

Each breath was a chance to move, each step a chance to attack, each move a breath, an attack, a chance. When in doubt, where there was doubt, before there is doubt, move. To move was me and to me, to move was when I could truly be.

*

Each of us carry our thoughts upon our shoulders, heavy as we walk wall to wall within our living spaces, hardly space enough for living, and now, needing to house and bathe and clothe and face, every fear, doubt, and worry that visits unannounced, unsure when they will, when we will, if we will, leave.

*

It was easier before. That before when we could leave those thoughts at the door of the gym, the edge of the mat, the start of a roll. In that before, we could choose whether or not we would carry those thoughts once more. Before this, before now.

*

I move there
for I
am

*

I move, sometimes. I blink, I yawn, I stretch — I bend down to find a fallen pen, a piece of bread. I move minimally, only when it is necessary. Before, that was the goal. Efficient movement, saving energy, timing, timing, timing. Now, we have all the time in the world. But most of the time, we’re not moving. And so time moves without us.

*

I move
they’re for I
am

*

Where does one’s edge go when it is lost? Does it get washed up on the shore, found damp alongside one’s lost fire? Or is it like lost memories, never to be found? Locked in the before.

*

I move
their “for”
I am

*

My body is mine to move. I may not jump as wildly or as often as I used to, perhaps I flop only onto bed, and I strain only when cleaning underneath the far corners of the sofa. I am locked in but not locked out of the strength that has carried me through every roll, every break, every fall.

The being I was before still is — being, before. Before this, before now.

The body I am moving, the being I am becoming, is here, now. Moving the weight from my shoulders to my hands, my legs, to lift, to curl, to press, to pull. This is how I move, now.

When we leave, I will be me, a me I will only meet then, there.

I must move, forward, towards that day, that me, for me.

*

I move
therefore
I am

I move there
‘fore
I am

I move there
for I
am

I move
they’re for I
am

I move
their “for”
I am

When we say goodbye (An ode to my gym)

The mats were blue. They were long enough to fit at least seven forward rolls during warmups, wide enough to fit five pairs for footsweep drills, though someone always ended up swerving last minute, either to avoid the pair next to them or the soft spots between the mats.

On Saturdays, sometimes six pairs could fit for rolling, with a corner coned off for drilling, and a rope laid down to mark the space for those practicing Muay Thai. “Don’t get too close to Muay Thai land,” was the caution if you didn’t want an errant knee to your head.

The mats were chilly in the winter, slippery in the summer. Enough give for us to dive recklessly, enough resistance to make us think twice, but still try again.

(When we say goodbye, the mat is damp, clean, shining in the sunlight.)

*

March 14, 2020.

That morning, I had been planning the lesson for womens class the next day and was eager to run some ideas by my professor. There were also new techniques I wanted to try, drills I needed to practice, questions to ask, details to work out.

We didn’t know how long the closure would last. I remember leaving class that Saturday unsure of when but hopeful that we all would be coming back, sometime, someday.

*

The timer was a mystery. It always seemed to do what it wanted, whenever it wanted. Pressing the start button didn’t always mean begin, the buzzer didn’t always mean stop – until it did. But by then, it was already too far into the next round.

Above the timer hung the clock, a simple two-handed circle that we had to change when time leapt forward and fell back. On some days, it felt like the timer was using us to compete against time itself. One more rep, one more roll, next person, don’t stop, keep going.

(When we say goodbye, the timer is silent, the numbers round, red, waiting.)

*

December 6, 2017.

It’s faded now but the entry in my notebook is still legible. “Trial @ Elements” the heading says, with two columns underneath. The pro side is longer by several lines, with the last being just one word: “Welcoming.”

*

They weren’t benches per se but we used them as such. Inside was gear for visitors, for those who didn’t have or had never worn a gi before. We’d sit atop them and exchange names, exchange greetings – “Hi, first class?” “Oh hey, how’ve you been? Long time no see.”

It was on those benches that weren’t benches that we watched from when we were injured, where we rested when class was done. We did our best to keep our voices low as we talked about our rolls, about life outside our rolls, then inevitably circled back and somehow ending up on the floor in tile jiu-jitsu and even more ideas for next time. “Remember to write at least one good thing,” was the reminder when the benches were converted into desks for our notebooks.

(When we say goodbye, it’s at the benches first, sitting atop closed lids and bumping closed fists.)

*

May 1, 2020.

The pictures come slowly. The mats gone, the timer unplugged. The benches that had been used for storage with nothing left to store. The space is bare and I swear I can hear the emptiness echo through the screen.

*

There is no easy way to say goodbye. Yes, there is text and emojis and pictures and videos. There is memory and hope and promises and plans. And yes, when we say goodbye, it does not mean the end.

Tomorrow will come as it always does, and we will greet it when it comes.

Today, though, today is to say goodbye to what was.

Fear of forgetting (When we return to BJJ)

‘Will I remember,’ I wondered in the middle of a butterfly sweep, legs lifting an invisible partner, ‘Will I remember what to do when we’re all back on the mat?’

*

2020 was supposed to be a big year. I had gotten promoted near the end of 2019 and the tug of competition had grown more insistent at the turn of the decade.

Injury kept me from the first competition of 2020. Part of me regrets not participating in spite of it.

Who knows when the next one will be now.

*

Continue reading

Promotion

Been a while!  I’m thinking of changing the format for this into shorter “thought posts,” hopefully to be published every week or so.  Feel free to give feedback in the comments!

Promotion is a curious word.  I wonder if it was a conscious choice to use the word in regards to going up in the ranks.

A quick Google search gives two definitions.  The second definition is the raising to a higher position, but it’s the first definition that makes me curious.

Google definitions

Google definitions “promotion”

BJJ is a community, and I’ve always been of the mindset that you can’t roll alone. So if we take this first definition of “promotion,” it’s not just for the sake of the person being promoted – it’s also for the sake of others not getting promoted (giving them encouragement and goals), for the community within the school (to bring people together in recognizing each other’s efforts), and the community outside the school as well (giving others a glimpse into life within the school and even encourage others to join).  

Regardless of whether or not “promotion” was a conscious or unconscious choice of words, I think its continued use speaks volumes about the intricacies of the art…