Sunday, November 27, 2016

Post-Fight Week & What's Next

Turns out your body adapts splendidly to not having sugar, dairy, and processed foods. The other side of this is, of course, when added back into one's diet, they wreak havoc.

Symptoms: I almost came down with a sinus infection and have been congested. Worst of all, the cool mental clarity I'd been experiencing almost instantly vanished.

It was like when you're driving along and your windshield fogs up. Except it was my primary modus operandi that was fogging up. Back on a clean diet as of today. Made some bomb-ass Indian style food tonight.

Trained every night this week and felt more beat up after two nights of jiu jitsu than I had after the fight. I told this to a teammate last night as we watched the fights and he laughed because IT'S TRUE. Jiu jitsu is hard on the body. Also, during commercials he played John Mayer, Relient K, and Ed Sheeran exceptionally on the guitar. Because those two hobbies go together. We're not your average meatheads.


Another fight card was announced for 18 February 2017. The promoter asked my coach if I would fight the same woman again since it was, in his eyes, a good fight. He also happens to be my opponent's coach. While I would prefer a different opponent, if none were to be had I would rather fight again than not at all.

This last week, with the fight over and some spare time for once, I've been considering what direction to go in life more permanently. I keep coming back to how short the time of a fighter is. Jiu jitsu can last a lifetime (somehow... although you might be a cripple) but Muay Thai really reaches a denouement around age 30. There's a lot I'd like to do in the future that wouldn't permit training. Which is okay, but sometimes the timing isn't right and to rush decisions that would be best acted upon in the future can be detrimental if they're made too early. Which sucks, but it creates a mental state of training very intentionally since it's looking like I'll have to enjoy it while it lasts. For the first time, I think I'm actually being honest with myself about where I want to be in 10 years and how I'd like to live my life.

Fighting and training has not given me a purpose to life, but has changed my way of thinking a great deal. Training, to me at least, has been like I think the Church should be for people. Or a family should be. It has been an invaluable way of sorting myself out in ways I thought would take a lifetime.

Since the gym is closed sometimes, or I want to get some extra stretching/sauna/bag work in, I'll go to LA Fitness. This song by Maren Morris has become one of my favorites to hit bags to.

I actually hadn't seen the video until linking it for a listen, but apparently I'm just another basic bitch who loves driving, has bird tattoos and a nose ring, annnnd a soft spot for men with motorcycle troubles.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Fight

*2/2 See previous post*

The first round and a half, we felt one another out. It became steadily clearer that my plan of uppercuts to get away could be avoided completely by utilizing my reach and tagging her to maintain distance while getting solid connection. When she did get in, I clinched her and threw the full weight of my legs into a knee to her body. I knew it was sloppy but it was a fight and that's how it was. She wasn't as aggressive as we had anticipated, or rather, as my teammates and coaches had foreseen, she wasn't dishing out any punches I hadn't been hit with a lot harder before. As my dad would remark on later when he recovered from the trauma of watching, "You can take a punch... and you give it right back."

On the stool, I lightly spat out the water coach brought to my lips as he told me, Keep doing what you're doing. Sometime after touching gloves a second time, she caught me with a solid overhand. I staggered a second and went in after her. I tried to stay serene, or not putting anger into strikes when I begin to slow and tell, but instead leveling her hits back out and doing my own damage regardless of the hits I was absorbing. We could feel the crowd surging with the punches; their shouts after a hit punctuating significant strikes.

It was early to middle of the third round, I couldn't know, when the blood appeared in her mouth, staining her teeth around her mouthguard. I sank my fist into the blood and her face again with my heart behind it, the aggression and thirst to do damage heightened at the sight of weakness. Of already inflicted damage. In my head, Coach's words, You've got the first two rounds. Keep doing what you're doing. It's working. 

The knees I had already careened into her ribs had visibly hurt her every time and I knew she might be tough, but I'd tagged her cleanly more than she had made solid contact with me. Between the second and the third rounds as I had tried to control my ragged breaths, Coach said, This round, it comes down to who wants it more.  

There was no way I would be leaving without leaving part my myself out there. And so we battled out the remaining time. 

"That was the best fight of the night," the ref said taking our hands as we awaited the judge's scores. We had been a good match-up. My height gave me an advantage that leveled out her experience and a heavy right hand that had caught me a couple of times. With blood staining her mouth and marks on her face, she thanked me for a good fight and we told each other we'd done well. 

It was a split decision until announcing the third score of 30-27.

Annnnnd the winner, fighting out of thaaaaaaa blue corner! 

Both my hands flew up in victory. There was no questioning it, the moment was mine. I'd fought for it and reveled in the crowd's cheers. Through the black cage, the shadowed faces applauded the win and the fight. "Love is what makes us great, and this display of strength, heart, and love is what brings us all to the fights," Sam Sheridan writes in A Fighter's Heart. Everyone was there to see a display of human work and sacrifice and to see who had gameness, who had the fight in them that night. 

It was one of the best moments of my life. Certainly I had never invested so much in anything before with such an uncertain outcome. It's just you in there when they lock that cage door and the ref claps his hands.

 It will always be one of the greatest moments of my life, for your first fight happens only once.

"What did you win?" People have asked since the fight.
"Nothing. It cost me a lot. But it was worth it. I got to fight. And- I won." I say with a smile.

Into the Ring

*1/2 See next post for The Fight*

"Are you drinking coffee? Don't drink coffee. Nate Jones did that and threw up."

Great. But I always drink coffee before the gym. I feel better when I drink coffee. Is coffee going to fuck up my stomach with the adrenaline? 

But all I said was, "Really?" And put it away. I nibbled on the corner of an RX bar to have something for my stomach to do besides roil and churn. 

Hit pads. Stretch. Watch my opponent warm up. Ask how Jeff's fight went. Watch him shake his head in disbelief at his loss. His frustration. Warm Malik up. Hit pads with Nick. Glance at my opponent through the cheesecloth-thin black dividers. Stretch. 

What am I doing? Can I do this? Am I just going to get fucked up? She looks really warm. I need to warm up to everything, especially striking. Will I get too warm and waste energy? How much is too much? Am I going to get an adrenaline dump? Can I do this? What if she just pummels me? What if I get TKOed and cry? What if this is for nothing? 

"Focus on what you're doing to do to her," Wally had said as he turned and wrapped my hands with gauze and special tape. "Make a fist." Wrap, turn, tape, wrap. "Stick to the plan." 

A guy named Mike taped my gloves on. Thoughts about losing, the unknown, pouring through my mind until it was one fight before mine. I couldn't take it and slipped my headphones on. 

Runnin' out of breath but I, I've got stamina...
Don't give up, I won't give up,
Don't give up-

I'm free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest
The greatest, the greatest alive...

Tearing through the pages of Sam Sheridan's book I found what I desperately needed to have in my head complete, "The key to understanding dogfighting is the concept of gameness. Gameness could be described as courage, but that's simplistic. I've heard gameness described as 'being willing to continue a fight in the face of death,' and that's closer; it's the eagerness to get into the fight, the beserker rage, and then the absolute commitment to the fight in the face of pain, and disfigurement, until death. It's heart, as boxing writers sometimes describe it, with a dark edge, a self-destructive edge; because true gameness doesn't play it smart, it just keeps coming and coming. No matter what." 

Shuffling to another hatch mark, "after training five months, he could feel the presence of God in a fight... in his 'deep waters,' he comes faces to face with divinity- and is reborn on the other side." 

And lastly, what I desperately needed to remember, "That's the secret: It's all about love."

An with all that I'd done and endured over the last two years, I briefly considered how far I had come in life to this point. In it all, I had been training out of aggression, a need to feel alive. It was ultimately coming down to the fact that I had no one person in mind to channel years of hurt and anger towards, because training had wrought that out of me on terrible days already. I had healed within and outside of training and was here to fight not out of aggression and desperation to prove anything to myself. At least not in the beserker way some fight with a hatred and pent up rage that is unleashed on another person. I was here because of love and because I'd become a whole person. Marianne Williamson's quote pattered through my head, "'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world." 

I got pumped. 

I was here to fight. I was here because I had overcome years of sorrow and depression and had healed and become a whole-hearted person that simply had some natural, in-born aggression and had a purpose to live life fully from my soul. 

"Think about what you're going to do to her," Coach Wally reminded me. Focused me. I had the worst wedgie of my life and my gloves were taped on. He tried to help tug my shorts down with little avail. They called me over. Fuck it. A wedgie wasn't going to end me. 

I bounced in anticipation at the doorway that separated us fighters in the bright, yellowish florescent lit room from the darkened faces lit by the cave-blue light of the cage and ringing of the announcer's voice shouting my weigh- in weight and height.

"You have food in your teeth." The security walk-out guy looked down at me and raised his hand to his teeth in surprise. "Just a little bit right there..." I directed him as the announcer rambled on. "Ah, fuck it."

"Ready?" I nodded and followed him out. 

Freddie Mercury's clear, melodic voice rang out. My choice. 

Tonight, I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive and the world, I'll turn it inside out
And floating around, in ecstasy
So don't, stop, me now,
Don't stop me now....

It built and built as Coach rubbed vaseline on my face, I spat out some water and wiped my feet on a towel. 

"It's a good song, right?" I asked one of the ringside guys and two nodded. I trotted up the black grated steps and my feet felt the blue mat as Freddie sang how he was gonna make a supersonic woman of me. 


Friday, November 18, 2016

Weigh-In Night. Today Was Beautiful.

Today was beautiful.

It started out stressful, being two pounds over-weight for the 155 mark (you get a pound, but that's risky to play the game that way). 

I discovered this song  via the Spotify charts for New Zealand. They're always ahead of the U.S. in solid music. The Greatest by Sia is my favourite jam right now (video below). I heard it and was like, "God damn, YES." 

It instantly reminded me of this quote by the suspiciously well-preserved author, Marianne Williamson:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

The part you never see and rarely is talked about is how much a fighter's personal life impacts their training and thinking. I've seen more than a couple friends and training partners pull out of fights because their personal life finally infiltrated their training. 

Half-way through camp, I almost unconsciously began tying up loose ends and attempting to make peace in my own life. I wanted to fight unfettered by problems that have solutions if only I would take action on them. I quit two jobs (took another for less pay but that I love), saw someone that had left a devastating mark on my life but needed to see, and much to my surprise was honest with myself about some other feelings. It felt good, man.

 You can't live your life letting stupid shit get to you when you have the power to do something about it. I've felt freed by being truest to myself; it's always a process but there are certainly times where there's shit you gotta take care of and if you don't it'll poison your whole life. It eats at the back of your mind until its destroying you physically and mentally when all the while we often have the ability to take back that shine Williamson talks about. 

So I took out my motorcycle because on it I relax and can think clearly. It's like a magic potion to take that cures what ails you or at least gives you this out-of-body, objective clarity. I know I love my motorcycle and am secure in that so as a result can consider what else is important. 

It gets dark here. While I rode, I thought, "This is the part of the story where the heroine dies or ends up in a full-body cast. She finally sorts her shit out and is all ready for her big fight when she gets hit by a car." I realized I have lived a lot of my life thinking this way, which is a real shame because it was such a lovely day. I considered how great it is that I've changed my life from how I was raised. I've made decisions I am so happy with and grateful for that I could indeed be killed that moment and at the Pearly Gates would think, "Gee, that was not a bad way to go out. Couldn't have done better really. If only I'd lived a little more before that. Ah, well still quite good that was." 

And after that, I took a left away from town instead of a right to the city and cruised around a bit more. Slowly the sun began to shift the shadows above the ground and slid itself into the trees. It slowly shifted its light so the trees by the lake water sang with color as if they were those puff ball mushrooms popped in the woods. The small inlets off the road that run under it from the sea-like expanse of water were still and bloody with the red leaves huddling together in the water as if some battle had been fought. 

The whole day changed after that ride. I ended up back at the layman's gym  and warmed up in the sauna a bit to sweat a little more water out (but mostly to warm up since the sun setting began to cause my significantly leaner ass to freeze). My weight was below and I was sure of it this time. I was early to weigh-ins at another local fighting gym and four pounds below the acceptable weight. Water has never tasted so sweet.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow is, I am grateful to be here, where I am now with the decisions I've made in life and the training I have put in for almost two years. Moving forward, I sense a change in the winds coming which I've learned we can allow to pass through us on by or we can set our sails and ride with them. I intend to ride them out this time. 

Here's this sweet video from Sia. Worth the Garth Brooks ad. 

Showing Up- The Last Day

I want this.

I lay my damp red and black hand wraps linger patiently across the stair bannister in the hall. They hang quietly near the ever-still golden pathos that hangs from the second floor to the first in the gap of the stairwell.

At the gym tonight our jump ropes beat the mats at intervals, sometimes in tandem, as rain pat pat pats on a corrugated roof. Tonight was different though. It was the last night of the gym before the fights.

Everything was the last time before the fights.

Last combat conditioning.
Last bags and pad work.
Before that it was the last time I'd visit my grandmother who has no idea I have a fight coming up.
Last chiropractor appointment.
Last massage tonight from a teammate Jake.


There is no smell to the gym. Coach Wally works hard to keep everything clean so somehow there are little to no dust bunnies in the corners and we wipe the mats down every night.

After sparring was over, we all reconvened in a circle. There was three of us four fighters there tonight doing pads since the hard sparring was over last week. Everyone there went around and told each fighter something they'd notice that could help them in their fight.

Malik has been a stand-out this fight camp. At nineteen, a sometimes rugby player, Nas afficionado, and a recruit in the Rochester Firefighter academy, he never seems to get tired. He encourages us all and focuses us. He's incredibly obnoxious when he wants to be in your face during sparring with his long arms making him impossible to retaliate on with anything but kicks.

That is about the only thing I remember my teammates mentioning. Half of them I hadn't sparred with much but they remembered my kicks. Coach and a couple vets also mentioned that I'll have fun in the ring, hinting that I seem to have enjoyed the grind of this camp. It wasn't too bad until last week.

Tonight I left the gym at 156.2 so had salmon, spinach, a few slices of tomato, hummus, and a yellow pepper for dinner. I was supposed to cut out all water at noon today but sipped the last quart throughout the night. After leaving the gym almost at-weight I guzzled a raw coconut water, sipped the last of any drops left in the splay of quart mason jars scattered in my car.

The thirst that sets in makes you go a little mad. It presses on your comfort level "I deserve this" nerve the way a person pushes on a sore muscle. At first it's fine, then it feels a little good, and then it gets worse and you begin to writhe like a worm on a hook.

I was done tonight. Like so over thai pads that always slide off my arms. Over the feeling of having to pee but can't anymore because my body already has a lot of water in it but is also beginning to dehydrate.

One other thing Coach Wally mentioned is, "You'll finally get to spar with a girl." And a couple guys chimed in that she won't hit as hard as Wally's hit me or some of the other guys have. She seems aggressive but Wally hits pretty fucking hard. A lot of the guys do. I am EXCITED.

Just have to make sure I make weight tomorrow night.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Fight of the Mind

I have changed this camp, forever. Giving up sugar and concentrating on training has definitely cleared my mind. I quit two jobs during this camp, accepted another, and am applying to two more.

This is a personal one. Tomorrow is our final day of training before the weight cut and and weigh-in.

Fighting is mental. The physical is secondary. My body has failed me with my shoulder and difficulty cutting weight despite a clean diet. Everything else has been mental.

The last couple of weeks I'd experienced increasing frustration and my body was weakening. I began to wonder if it was a problem between the ears more than on the mats.

So I sent a couple more texts from the heart since those sorts of things left unsaid or expressed tend to manifest themselves if not with the mind and mouth, by forcing their way out and destroying your body.

I also saw a person I never wanted to see again last week. It had become clear to me I needed to see him to have peace and to know how I still felt seeing him face to face. And I felt nothing. It was as if I had never left except I felt some pity for him having made the choices he had made. It has been a reminder to make decisions in my own life differently. It was a bookend to a shaping but heartbreaking chapter of my life.

None of this I say is to divulge personal information better left unsaid. This is a way for me to look back and see where I was during this camp and in life but also because I am unabashed in my own life story. If I am telling it, eons of thoughts and emotions have been processed.

I was in love once. My little dog curls up in my lap. I am struggling to find out what to do in life. This fight camp has changed my life more than a little. I am lucky to be here. Lucky to fight.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


A quiet putter and crackle hisses in the kitchen like damp wood in the heat of the flame. Thank god a friend offered me to go in on a co-op order of wild caught Alaskan salmon a few weeks ago. It's saving me this last week dinner-wise.

An hour or so ago I was watching the sweat bead on ever pore of my legs and run in rivets as if they were following the invisible blue trail of the veins under the light Irish skin. Today was 2.5 gallons of water. Tomorrow will be three, and then Thursday only one before cutting it off almost entirely until weigh-ins Friday night at 6pm.

My body composition changes drastically from morning until afternoon as it tries to process the massive intake of water. It looks cut and like there is not much fat but carries water everywhere. After only an hour of Thai Pads I was two pounds lighter. Josh and I bounced lightly trading combos and returns. Both of us felt good. Our cardio isn't great- we're fatigued. His kicks were steady and hard as a cricket bat with each slam into my side. His face is thin and he looks older than when I started at the gym. He's lost a lot of weight training there and more in camp this time. We traded practice hits following our combos and spoke little. Coach Chris gave us some reminders.

He's been doing that every day this week; small clips of his vast knowledge with what we can utilize. Coach won't be at our fights. The ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) North American trials are being held in New Jersey the same day so he'll be there with a few of our jiu jitsu fighters. Coach Wally, the soft-spoken weapon will corner us.


Today was a breakthrough in the blues of camp. My head was clearer, my punches longer and fluid. More like how I felt before camp or half-way through.

There's a plethora of podcasts out there today but my favourite has always been NPR: TED Radio Hour. They compile related TED Talks into one cohesive talk hosted by this guy Guy. Tonight I listened to the one called Champions. Diana Nyad talked about her epic swim from Cuba to Florida. She said she felt made to be a champion on a cellular level. She failed four times before successfully making the swim at 64. Four times she stood on the shore of Cuba believing she could achieve her life-long goal and four times she could not.

And yet she still believed she could. That is fascinating to me. I think it's because she believed, not that she could do it, but that that aside she knows that her in her DNA she is a champion.

While sometimes I have been champion, arguably my cellular composition is a fighter. It certainly matters if I win- that is the goal. But to fight for a goal, whatever it is, is the part that is the realest. It is the fight and struggle that I exist and glory in.

Occasionally, this reduces me like a nice jam broiled in a pot to a sobbing heap of a human when I feel I have fallen short. But most of the time it causes me to survive and to take the harder road and to struggle. To sit in the sauna until my heart races and I don't think I can last until the time is up and then to stay in an extra minute, and then another, and finally an extra five minutes. Or to push through a hundred kicks and then take the knees and kicks of your partner's body colliding with yours. You displace yourself from the beating and can feel gratitude for the hours put in that has allowed you to continue. The threshold changes every time you push yourself no matter what arena you fight in.

Unfortunately there is one fight whose outcome I cannot change: it appears I have savagely burned my salmon...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

To Endure & Be Courageous

So, it's about to be fight week. I've been strict on posting on days I train only, but today is my half birthday, everyone so I'm taking this day to come to a truth about myself.

It's not FOMO.

I fear giving all and losing all. About sacrificing everything and still losing. About loving deeply and losing that. This is in life, in everything. In love, in relationships with people and things, and how I work and operate. 

WhenI was around 6 or 7 I must have learned about loving and losing things. One night my mom left for an AA meeting and I remember I had learned somewhere about people leaving when you think you'll see them again and the possibility of them getting into an accident and dying. It's one of the few memories I have at that age and I remember it was dark out, I was standing in the kitchen, and I began crying inconsolably. 


Walking down the hall this week after sparring, or as we're now referring to it as, The Great Meltdown, I realized I am terrified of envisioning myself winning and still losing. 

Josh told me, after I stood up from the ground still voraciously wiping tears from my face, to put my hands up in victory. That I had to imagine myself winning. Coach said the same thing. At this point, we're conditioned, it's a mental fight this week. He told us as we circled up that he had done what he could do but only we could mentally fortify ourselves. That we had to think about what we were going to do to our opponents, instead of what they could do to us. And we had to see ourselves as the victor. 

And yeah. Of course. 

But the more I've considered it, and this is not a new train of thought, the more I realized the fact that I don't want to lift my hands after a shit round or imagine myself winning is I know this alone will not cause me to win (right, I mean good vibes are all well and good but they're not that good). That aside, the elephant in the room I keep bumping into and ignoring is that at my deepest core in my heart and soul, that which from all decisions and desires are born in a person, I am afraid that I will give my all and my heart and still come up short or lose it. 

That's it. I fear that in love, in work, in fighting- in everything I do. 

That is not something that can be fixed by Saturday night when I step into the cage. 

Tonight I listened to a podcast on Courage from NPR TED Radio Hour. Margaret Heffernan spoke about a woman named Gayla Benefield on the asbestos poisoning of Libby, Montana. 

"The choice to say something is risky, and the choice of saying nothing is risky...There is no safe path, but what you do know is if you don't speak up, everything will stay the same." 

She was talking about exposing a toxin in a small mining town that was slowly killing people. 

I am talking about the risk of taking a plunge or not. It doesn't matter what it is. It is always true that if you don't speak up, or act and change, or make a different decision, everything will stay the same. This is toxic too, and how much more so than the fear of dealing with speaking up or changing?


And the best one, by Lord Martin Rees in his excerpt on how long we're all going to last on this rock from To Endure: NPR TED Radio Hour:

"We have the power to endure, we also have the power to destroy ourselves."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

One Week Out- Hormones & Why I'm Fucking Here

Combat conditioning this morning. Today I feel pretty fucking good. My shoulder feels the best it's felt in months- in since I can remember. 

Secret Time! There's this meme that circulates every woman loves that goes, "Do you ever start crying about something and then the next day you get your period and you're like I knew I wasn't a weak ass bitch." 

And this makes us feel like Wonder Woman to realize this. I suspected that was happening this past week but also knew it was Week 6 of camp and was under some stress/lack of routine. Turns out I was right.

Today is so much better. Still about 5# above weight, but suspect it's largely water weight. I dropped from 161.2 (after water, a banana, and coffee) to 159 after barely sweating in conditioning. This is good. That means I should have to sweat out about 3-4 pounds and some of the lady problems will have abated by the end of the week which will cut water weight a little more, so I hope. 

I've also been taking more time to be "mindful". Reading some before bed, and not checking social media immediately after waking up. It's such a drag my alarm is on my phone but I think I need it. So today I listened to some classical music and read out of my notebook where I write down anything I've loved in a book. 

Favorite this morning was from Mary Oliver's book Blue Horses.

I don’t want to be demure or respectable.
I was that way, asleep, for years.
That way, you forget too many important things.
How the little stones, even if you can’t hear them, are singing.
How the river can’t wait to get to the ocean and the sky, it’s been there before.
What traveling is that!
It is a joy to imagine such distances.
I could skip sleep for the next hundred years.
There is a fire in the lashes of my eyes...

It is the fucking worst to not know if a night like Thursday is hormonal or your new norm and you're now going to just be a psycho. Your body basically fucks you over. I have probably the easiest time of anyone I know but still usually have the worst feelings of self-doubt, "what am I doing with my life" ruminations, and feeling like I swallowed a water balloon whole. 

Tonight is also my last night at a job I quit a month ago that's prevented me from going to the gym every night and sucked every weekend night out of my life since January. Tonight is also UFC 205. 

Hoping this upward feeling continues this week as I start a new job coaching and prepare mentally for the fight...

This is crazy! I'm fighting a chick in a cage. A CAGE. A FIGHT. Forget the cage- I've trained to fight another human being that's had 5x the fights I've had. 

Today a fellow jiu-jitsu guy posted, "The true warrior fights not because he hates the one in front of him but because he loves those behind him."

Some people get all fired up about wanting to kill their opponent, or destroy them and focus negative energy towards them. At least it seems like it. But I don't know this woman and bear no ill will towards her. To me she is another warrior in this sport, we just happen to be contending one another this time. I've been reading about love lately. Actually, I have always read about love because it's fascinating. It literally alters our minds. It makes no sense and is still the most powerful, driving force in the universe.

I posted earlier in camp from Sam Sheridan's book "The Fighter's Heart" that if you get a dog that loves to fight, he'll fight for forty-five minutes because of love and his heart is in it. 

I've always thought about fighting as a need to get out angst and frustration and deal with hurt and pain that's in me, but that comes out of you in training with discipline and learning what matters in life. How to accept things we cannot change and find courage to change things we can. When it's finally come down to a fight, I'm here because I feel made to fight. Created to fight. I love training. I love Muay Thai and jiu jitsu and learning throws and how the body works. 

So going into this week, I'm focusing on the privilege of being able to fight. I have arms and legs and the ability to have come this far. I've overcome sickness, injury, issues with getting blood testing, and bad days. I'm here because I've fought to be here. I've stayed because I love this realm of athleticism. 

I am fighting because of love. And I can't wait to fight.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Breakdown

It happened.

There have been hard days, and tough classes mentally or physically. But today was the worst day I've ever had at Empire. It probably started not getting enough sleep and having blood drawn for a third time today.


After we were done, I numbly made my way down the long hall to the bathroom and tried to throw up to alleviate the nauseous. But I don't have a gag reflex anymore (hold the jokes) from so many strep culture tests growing up, so I sank to the floor and shuddered trying to control my breathing and emotions.

There are twin, cigarette burn-size bruise marks on the median cubital veins in the crook of my arm. Gooseflesh was shattered across my legs unevenly from my body attempting to cool itself. And I sobbed pathetically.


From the start of class my gut felt weird and I was sluggish. Maybe it was all the uncertainty and actual blood drawing, or stress, or lack of sleep, or just my body and mind resisting being uncomfortable.

It was my mind that went and the body followed suit. In light sparring, Coach caught me in the liver with a swift and bat-like leg kick that had me doubled over.

This isn't light sparring anymore, he said and came back at me after letting me gasp a couple of times.

I didn't drop to the floor like I did last time he caught me in the liver.

Josh had gone a light round with me before and during hard sparring it sank in that he was still going relatively light and I was completely gassing out. I wanted to be done. My ears tuned themselves to nothing more than to wait for the double beep of 30 seconds remaining.

Malik was last. And I wanted to give up. In a fight, it would've been called and I would have lost by TKO. I wanted to take the punches but couldn't give any back. He was relentless and my arms wanted nothing to do with it, my legs flailed weakly, and he began to drop his hands to let me hit him a few times so, presumably, I wouldn't totally lose heart.

The tears had welled during Josh's round but by now they streamed freely. Mixing with sweat, they coursed down my face which worsened them as it sank in I was performing below my capability.

That is what kills me more than anything. Maybe it kills other fighter's spirits as well. But for me it's not when I am losing or making mistakes because someone is better trained, it's when I know I can do better and can't will myself to do it.


Coach found me as I was wiping down my gear. He told me to smile and that I'd done well. He wouldn't have lied to me, but I knew he was also trying to keep it in perspective. I responded with something like, "It was my worst day." And he said something I'll probably never forget:

Your worst day is your best day.

As in, those are the days that make you. Not the good ones. Sure, I learn every day. I've improved every week of sparring, every time I train. But on the bad nights, when you have to face yourself, those are the days that can change your thinking. That is when the mind is forced to grapple with itself. In rowing, we trained so that when we were most fatigued, our form is still held together because that is when it matters.


With the final bell, I collapsed, turtled up, and began sobbing. Malik pulled my headgear off and sat across from me. I don't remember what he said other than I had done well and she would never hit me as hard as he had and that I'd weathered it.

But I hadn't. I would've lost the fight. I disappointed myself because I didn't know how to mentally weather the stress. It's hadn't been about the fight until sparring with Josh when I started to fail. But that on top of the blood testing fiasco, a friend knocking on my door last night t(hat I had thought I wouldn't see for a long time and came with a wave of unexpected mixed emotions), concerns about making weight, annnnd I'm definitely experiencing the hormonal train wreck of the inescapable lady problems that are due to hit any day.


So that was it. Oss.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ready to Fight & Looking Ahead

9am: Muay Thai
12-4:30pm: Replacing everything in my wallet that was stolen.
4:31: Wallet not stolen. Someone is confused about the point of having a Lost & Found at a business...
5pm: Combat conditioning
6pm: Thai pads
7pm: Jiu jitsu

Today was fine until around 7:30 when I hadn't eaten much all day and it hit me. Had a protein shake before the gym, a KILLER good protein bar called Perfect Bar (they are pretty perfecto), then a huge salad in the car, and some cold brew right before conditioning and thai pads. So not a lot. I felt good but definitely needed some grub. 

I'm ready to fight. Ready to be finished with camp. Ready to go back to eating normal. Ready for my stomach to not feel like that foamy slime shit you played with as a kid that left your fingers all greasy. Ready to not constantly wonder if two bags of kale chips and vegan popcorn is going to affect my weight or how I feel. Ready to test myself against another human. 

I actually feel a lot better than I anticipated. My body is definitely strong; arguably the strongest it has ever been. My body is in the best condition of its life. There's small things that aren't healing quickly like my left toe, my big toe that I stubbed in sparring weeks ago, some bruising. Small stuff. 

What I am beginning to question now is what will happen after the fight?

Tonight in class Coach told my partner Josh that they found him an opponent. Earlier in the night he'd told me he was getting down about being in camp so long and the probability of them finding him an opponent in time growing slimmer. His punches were cleaner, harder, and he had an energy about him after Coach told him. 

He's excited to fight. He's fought twice now and is 1-1. I wonder how I'll feel. When I started training, in the back of my mind was just one fight. But now I've done two jiu jitsu tournaments and am on the cusp of a cage Muay Thai fight and I feel awesome. It is entirely possible I'll hate it and stick to training for fitness. But what if I don't? What if I love it? What if it ignites a lust and love for competition? 

I'm about to apply for a job that would put me overseas for two years. It would likely start sometime next year. This would halt my training. For someone who is 27 1/2 and has been training just shy of two years, this will likely be my best chance to compete. Muay Thai is a small window for fighting. Jiu jitsu can last a lifetime. 

If I leave, would I ever be able to regain this level of dedication and fitness? Would I even come back? 

The worst fear, that occupies my mind constantly, what if I leave for a job/life I wanted for a long time growing up and saw myself doing but find it doesn't satisfy and I miss training and fighting?

I have to fight. I feel made to fight. It's amazing that we're conditioned to not hit people as a kid and "fighting isn't the answer" but it totally is. In a controlled setting, with training and coaching, it channels that inner need and lust for blood and competition. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016


This weekend had three days of just jiu jitsu. Last night was a submission only tournament and tonight is EBI. Awesome to train with people from out of town at other gyms and get some slick moves to work on. I was super bummed to not be able to roll since I have a fight coming up. It kind of leaves one feeling in the fringe, maybe it's since I normally would've rolled. I was excited to have another Jess from Ann Arbor, Michigan coming to train but Coach put the kibosh on rolling at all. 

Since I'll definitely be coming back to these posts whether or not I fight again, this is that day in camp called What the Fuck Am I Doing? Like I have this friend who's moving to Africa for two years and I have training every night so can't leave town to see him before he goes and probably won't get to see him again for a long time and that's majorly bumming me out. I quit a job to be able to train more and ended up quitting another job since it was affecting my shoulder (and overall happiness in life...). I'm hesitant to just find another since it's become a debilitating cycle of not knowing what I want to do in life. If there's one thing I need in life to get anything done it's a GOAL. Like solid, challenging, concrete goals. 

There's this part in Peter Heller's "Dog Stars" where the main character, who is virtually the only person left in a post-apocalyptic world, talks to himself. Which is what I do all day, naturally. 

I mean what do you want? What the fuck do you want?
You can't form a plan unless you got a mission. You can't have a mission if you don't know what the fuck you want. First rule. Have a clear mission, have an exit strategy... That's the first principle. Anyway what the fuck does it matter? You got a bigger problem to solve first. Which is: What the fuck, Hig, do you hope to accomplish?

I keep jumping from one job to the next, and normally I stay at jobs for a while. I'm having a mid-life crisis at 27. You know, I didn't do what I went to university for because I went without knowing what I wanted to do. So I job-hopped the last three and a half years but never have gotten into doing anything I really love except coaching. I'm stuck. Do I stay here and get a normal life and make money and train or should I do what I've always wanted to and travel and do whatever work I can find? 

Wendell Berry has this phenom quote, 

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, 
we have come to our real work 
and when we no longer know which way to go, 
we have begun our real journey. 

The mind that is not baffled is not employed. 
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

I've totally hit rock bottom with this. Seeing everyone this weekend who loves jiu jitsu and training pads with my teammates for our fight yesterday has me hesitant to leave a place I love and learn so much for a pipe dream. I get lonely and moody and bored and depressed when I'm alone, even travelling. I have to have alone time but also need people to converse with and something to learn and to be active and athletic. Those are hard to come by when travelling/living away from anyone you're close to.

Adding to this is the fucking stupidity of how my body basically is refusing to cooperate. It just gets gassy (sorry, not sorry) from all the vegetables and beans and shit but refuses to drop any weight. Like at all. I can cut water weight but walking around am the same as when camp started almost two months ago. While I am more focused and less moody (usually), my stomach and gut feels funky anyway. Everything is a learning curve though.

Maybe it's the utter depletion of Vitamin D in Rochester after September that's hitting me like a wall right now. Camp is going well and being at the gym makes everything better but I still have to figure out what to do outside the gym soon. 

Anyway, here's a pic of everyone from yesterday. Herbert somehow dove into the photo just in time. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Inadequacy & 10P Training Camp

Once I was afraid of feeling happy or sad so I didn't feel anything for a long time. Then I slowly let my heart make a decision here and there and I started to love things. With love came great pain but I was shocked to discover it had been worthwhile. So I allowed my heart to make more decisions, which led to heartbreak. Which led to being vulnerable and courageous. Still, the lessons learned were worth the pain.

Today marks two weeks until weigh-ins. I haven't cried after sparring yet, but am waiting for it. Maybe not for this fight, but I still am only breaking into hard-sparring. Caroline said it would come.

There's been hard nights. Harder in rolling than sparring but that's more since I rolled harder first and grappled with shoulder and back pain that left me frustrated to tears. Your body and mind adapts. But some nights the feeling of inadequacy hits. The moment that sets in on you as a spectre in the dark might as you focus your energy on regulating your racing heart with ragged, shuddering breaths. You're beaten, worse still, feel ill-equipped for the fight. Not the fight in the ring, but The Fight. The fight as an entity of itself. A roll on the mat, a single sparring session. You question if you belong, when so many others have been in it for years. Or you question if you should have pushed an injury further and maybe it's only your mind that keeps you from progressing and not just taking the pain.

Yesterday I felt amazing. Easily the best I've felt in weeks if not since  I quit a job I hated and we have the 10th Planet East Coast Training Camp this weekend at the gym.

Tonight was hard. My pinky toes tend to split open on the bottom and the right one has been tearing. Probably has to do with training since I'm also close to losing both toenails. The other pinky toe is a good ⅓ larger than the other but the bruising is showing up and spilled onto my foot which is good. The left knee is also bruised and my hips are really tight.

By the end I felt beat and couldn't roll. Coach said it's too close to my fight.

Zach Maslany of 10th Planet Bethlehem/Finishers MMA and our resident ass Scott taught tonight. Scott is the guy in a war movie who is a total asshole sergeant but would probably do anything for one of his men.

I was heavy- 163.8 so during rolling hopped on the air dyne for half an hour and after 2 quarts of water was still down to 162.

Note to self: : evening- bedtime is the witching hour for food and eating.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tight Mondays

Today I ate less for breakfast which seemed to be good. After drinking a little over a gallon of water all day, I was 160.2 when I got to the gym at 5:45 and 156.4 by the time I left. I've been unable to cut below 156 since camp started so headed to LA Fitness and sat in the sauna in a hoodie and running leggings to melt for 20 minutes. I only cut to 154.2 but that's below my weigh-in requirement so I immediately drank 2 quarts of water and headed to the grocery store.

The worst part of the gym was from the first time I threw a cross and Malik told me my elbow was out. I couldn't loosen it up. Then on the double-ender bag Coach was trying to get me to roll my shoulders and stay long. I knew what he meant but my shoulder wouldn't co-operate. It's too tight and the muscles won't release my arm to go straight- it has me doing this stupid thing where my elbow goes out and makes my punch weak. It is incredibly frustrating and exhausting. I've teared up several times this camp because of my shoulder being fucked. It gets in the way and makes improvement in that area nearly impossible because on a basic functional, physical level I'm not able to throw a punch correctly. It's painful sometimes, but not like it used to be. It's the physical incapacitation that makes my eyes go all watery.

Another issue is my breathing. I've gotten decent at controlling my heart rate through breathing but since I'm still fighting a cold, my nose clogs just enough where I can't get a deep breath.

There's really not a lot I can do to fix either of these things before the fight. Sleep more. Sleep on my back. No sugar. Go to the chiropractor. Get a massage. Sauna/hot tub. It all helps, but my shoulder seems to be pretty bad. If I lay on my back and place my right arm behind it, the scapula bone protrudes so much it lifts my entire upper back off the ground to sit on the bone.

This camp a steep learning curve.

P.S. If you're wondering, "Does drinking that much water make you have to pee a lot?" The answer is, yes. Yes it does.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Overall- 3 Weeks Blues

Three weeks from today, God-willing, I'll have fought.

This weekend was frustrating. It's still three weeks away, which is a little over half-way through camp. I expected that by cutting out processed sugar (i.e. chocolate, ice cream, everything I love), dairy, gluten, alcohol, fried foods, and eating out that I'd lose weight easier. I upped my water intake from around 1.5-2 gallons/day to 2+ gallons/day which likely plays a roll but still. If the apocalypse happens I'm set because despite working three jobs on my feet all day and going to the gym every day but Sunday, my metabolism is the equivalent of a large whale slumped on the bottom of the ocean that's eaten too much.

Then there's the fact that my face has a couple pimples on it here and there since camp started- something that rarely happens normally. I also have little energy and constantly feel full. Coach suggested I start eating breakfast to get my metabolism going which I did about three weeks ago but most days I have very little appetite. The one day I tried to wait until mid-afternoon when I started to feel hungry, I was light-headed and my body hadn't had a chance to process and utilize what I'd eaten.

Despite the weirdness overall, the last two weeks sparring have been my best yet. This December marks two years at the gym and February will be two years of Muay Thai. I didn't spar much until this summer though due to a couple jiu jitsu tournaments and injuries afterward. I do feel clearer mentally. My heart races less and I feel less moody and out of it at the gym. Better focus.

I'm just plain tired a lot though. My one day job is physically demanding and ruining my already bad shoulders. It's shit mentally since I spend the whole time thinking about how fucked my shoulder is and how I'm going to get out of there. It's the worst job I've ever had.

Going in, I knew my personal life was pretty messy and would be until after my fight at least. I was also aware my body has a tendency to fail and be weird (not respond well to diet changes). Despite this, I knew I'd regret not taking a fight. There was likely going to be no way to take a fight and not deal with these issues; be it now or in the future.

Things I'd Change:
- experiment with diets before camp (is it worth it in some world for me to skip dessert?)
- have a set work schedule that won't change during camp
- enjoy working enough where I don't consider quitting the entire time I'm working
- plan out off-day workouts in advance
- set up times with teammates before the week starts to hit pads before/after class
- keep food simple and portion out before the week
- make sure I have a day off from work to de-stress and train for fun
- go to the chiropractor every other week during camp
- record sparring sessions
- get 7-8 hrs of sleep, especially Tuesday and Wednesdays before sparring Thursdays

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sparring- 3 Weeks Out

Tonight went better than last week, which was better than any other week. Thank God I wasn't as sick and have been slowly defeating the head cold.

It's hard to balance not chasing someone down and also not standing there and doing nothing which leads to getting hit. It's a lot to remember and think about. Takes time to make it more instinctual.

My one allowance food-wise is that every Thursday I visit my grandmother and while I've managed to figure out timing enough to not be there for lunch or dinner, I cannot escape her offer to feed me Milano cookies. For some reason she loves to have me eat a cookie. Always has. Always will. I figure since I spend the other 167 hours of the week trying to devour as much squash, quinoa, lettuce, and beets as possible, my training and habits shouldn't be too affected by a couple cookies. It didn't seem to hurt sparring tonight.

Learning to spar light is difficult. It's intended to be technically sound and paced differently than hard or medium sparring. Hard sparring I'm still mostly trying to survive and throw at least a couple solid combos. Knocked knees hard with Jhordan tonight. "Fuck, fuck, fuck," I winced and stepped back. In a fight I wouldn't, but I'd never been nailed like that before and wanted to assess it once so next time it happens I know I'm fine. A lot of training is simply getting used to knocks and pressure. You have to first get used to being uncomfortable.

I used to tap a lot in rolling when it just became uncomfortable to not breathe. Now Coach yells at me that I wait too long when I'm being heel-hooked. last a little longer most times when a 220lb. (or more) dude has crushed the air out of my lungs and I take the smallest breaths I can while trying to make small adjustments to escape. Still haven't gotten to that equivalent point in sparring though. I turn away or shell up when getting hit and just stand there.

The other issue is that my emotions dictate my technique. It's my personality to be cool with whatever status-quo is for the moment but if someone ups the ante (or stops doing their job properly, say at work), I'll immediately react. As if my subconscious is always on her toes waiting for the moment she can unleash. Unfortunately she does not unleash with a whole lot of skill behind her aggression which costs me against a more skilled opponent.

Overall a good night. Drank a lot of water and Coach is content with my weight. Left at 158.4 tonight, so a little over two pounds away from fight weight. Icing my knee tonight in hopes it won't swell for a double shift of work tomorrow.

Bad Mind, Bad Body

It's important to know that people have bad days. Like even though my diet is on-point, I'm still fighting being sick and even though I'm doing combat conditioning and extra bag work and pads, I still feel slow and drained. Super slow today. 

Some days are good but today was not one of them. After Monday when my teammate Jake loosened my sub-scapula from the clutches of my lat muscles, I felt amazing. So loose and strong. Today was far from that. A new assignment at work that started today is aggressively worsening my shoulder to the point where I'm considering finding another job.

Knee pain during squats from poor form caused by a lingering ankle issue that happened in February on vacation. It's also noticeably affecting my left kick since Muay Thai kicks are thrown with the shin using power from the hip- a rotation that somewhat occurs off of the right ankle. Below is how it's done. 

Adding insult to injury, probably literally, I haven't been sleeping well again. The hardest part of training occurs in the mind, not the body usually. If your mind is right, all else follows. If the opposite is true, the body follows suit. My personal life is currently changing and I am considering even bigger changes down the not-so-distant road which keeps me up at night wondering what I'm doing as I put together an application. 

The one consolation I have is that in a few weeks I'll be able to train more and have one day off during the week. OK, the other consolation is that supposedly we learn more from mistakes and bad days than we do from good days. Today, I learned a new sub-scap exercise. Tomorrow we will see if housing butternut squash and quinoa soup makes you fatter. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Filthy Fifty & Fighting for Love

Saturdays are rough, man. After working doubles Fridays, I usually get up to hit the market to buy groceries for the week (Fisher Hill Farm and their beets have been my favorite for a couple years now). I'll get coffee and then head to Combat Conditioning. 

Today's workout was... The Filthy Fifty:

50 Box jump, tire
50 Jumping pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings
Walking Lunge, 50 steps
50 Knees to elbows
50 Push press, 45 pounds
50 Back extensions
50 Wall ball shots, 16 pound ball
50 Burpees
50 Double unders 

It could have been worse, honestly. I hacked half the time but other than some congestion am pretty ok. I broke some of them up to ease up on losing form for my shoulder. Afterwards I rowed 4K on the erg for some steady state/metabolism boost and then a fellow fighter Josh was nice enough to hold Thai pads for three rounds. He'd been up since 4AM working. 

Josh doesn't have to do that. He doesn't have to pay what we pay to come do workouts like we do, get black eyes in sparring, and hold pads for a teammate on a Saturday morning. He doesn't have to work shitty hours around when the gym is open. Most of us don't have to have odd hours at work, miss hours at work (money in our pockets), miss happy hour, possible relationships, dinner with friends, or whatever it is people do after work. None of us technically have to do that. 

For most of us, it's a stage of life we're in. Late-twenties, early thirties before serious relationships and settling down. It sucks balls to miss an 80 degree summer night of bridge jumping, or saying no to a guy who asks you out to dinner, or friends you barely get to see anymore because you're paying to learn how to straight ankle lock someone, if you're lucky. If you're not lucky, your neck gets cracked the wrong way and you have to spend precious free hours paying to see your chiropractor. If you're lucky. 

Some of us have had concussions, surgery, or are perpetually taped up. Coach walks with a limp. Coach Wally visits two chiropractors more than anyone I've ever met. And they roll with us, AND they do workouts with us plus extra on their own. 

None of us have to do it, and none of us ever say it to each other, but unspoken, we're there and we stay because we love it. Because our gym people are good people and they become like family. 

In "The Fighter's Heart" by Sam Sheridan, which I'm reading, this guy is talking to Sam about dog fighting and about how some dogs love it. He says, 

"'If you are fighting for something, you have to fight for what you love. If [the dog] doesn't love you, he's gonna quit. No one, no dog in the world, will fight for more than forty-five minutes without love and heart.' 

That's the secret: It's about love."


I've been having weird dreams lately. I've dreamt about my fight a couple of times. Shadowy recollections of strange scenarios where I missed my fight, or something went wrong before-hand. 

One of my greatest obstacles in life, and it took seeing this in another person I loved to see it in myself, is that I fear losing something I love. So I always hold back in reserve. I fear investing time and energy and love into something that will fail. That I will fail. I'll fail to follow-through, change my mind, not train hard enough; fall in love and it won't be reciprocated. Or I'll have been so set against love for so long out of fear that I'll be hurt more by loving something I'll lose that I won't even consider opening up to the notion. 

At the end of the day, I love training. I fear writing about it will somehow mark the acceptance that I've come to so deeply love something and I'll shirk and lose that feeling. As if speaking of it makes it vanish or lose its value

But I'm also at the point where my heart is growing tired of almost loving something and me pulling away. Or perhaps I've only dabble in infatuations, afraid to love deeply. Or maybe nothing before has been something to wholly give myself over to. 

So I said yes to this fight, even though I am afraid. And I've written a couple letters for once putting sentiment to paper, even though I am afraid. 

Because any time you break anything down to its purpose, it appears to be love. It's hard to argue what you should choose in any situation with a fact such as that. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

1 Month 'til Fight- Sparring Night- Will One Fight Be Enough

Wednesdays I work double shifts at two jobs and can only make it to LA Fitness for a quick workout between jobs. I run home, let the dog out and grab some lunch (pre-made) and eat in the car on the way to the gym. I'll get a workout from my conditioning coach or one off Onnit Academy. Coach Wally uses a lot of their workouts which utilize more strength-in-motion training...sort of. It uses things like mace bells, weighted bats, and sandbags. Awesome for form.

Thursdays, however, is sparring night. This morning I woke up at 4AM sick and was still sick by 8AM so called into work. It was either I could make it through work ( though I'd done most of today's work yesterday) or I could probably rest and make it through sparring. Our coaches are strict on not showing up sick because you could infect your training partners and put them out enough to miss their fight which is the worst thing you can do to someone half-way through camp. But I felt like if I slept, drank a lot of water, and medicated myself with oregano oil, Sambucol, Corelife Eatery with a lot of local red miso in it... I could be all right by 6PM for striking. It worked. I probably would have gotten sicker being at work. I read some Wendell Berry essays this morning which really helped me relax (something I rarely make a prioritize- actually, make that never prioritize...), watched "Warrior" and read A Fighter's Heart by Sam Sheridan for a couple seconds.

Sparring went the best it could have. Coach Wally sparred with me twice and went over teeps again which might be invaluable this fight. Malik pummeled me again. This was the first time I'd felt like I just wanted it to be over. Like, if this were a fight, I'd be thinking, "Is this ever going to end? How long can he keep this up for?" That's What She Said jokes aside, you really don't give a fuck when you're getting punched over and over and over. It wasn't hard, just constant pressure that makes it hard to get punches in. I felt less sloppy overall. More controlled. Last week Coach said I'm aggressive enough, which women tend to have a hard time with usually, but I get emotional and am easier to read when he's hit me so I tried to keep my cool more. Kept my hands up. Looked for openings, read where a combo might work...

There's a line somewhere of going all out too soon and gassing yourself and then holding back too much.

It was the last night my friend Caroline, who has fought five times, was at the gym before leaving for the state trooper academy in Albany. She is the only girl with enough experience to spar with. There's several benefits of sparring with her:

1) She is shorter, as my opponent will be
2) She has experience fighting
3) She has a woman's perspective on fighting

Guys are fine to train with- they're awesome. You get used to pressure, being hit hard by someone sometimes a lot bigger than you or more skilled is invaluable. But women fight differently than men and size makes a difference. My opponent is so much shorter I could kick over her head and miss entirely. Or, I could go to throw a cross to the body but she's much lower so I get nailed in the face. In this case, an upper has been a lot more effective. It's not on the guys, but on Caroline it works.

To be honest for a second, watching "Warrior" and reading helped me slow down and think about what I'm doing. I'm a huge asker of why. Why are we here? What are we doing with our time, our money? What is important? Does what we think is important and what we want line up with how we use our time/money/energy?

I started training because of curiosity; it was something I'd considered for a long time. Self-defense is priceless to women. But then it became an escape for this ongoing heartbreaking relationship I had with a guy I worked with. Now it's become something I need and love. My team is a family to me. This would probably break my mom's heart, but I am closer with my coaches and teammates than anyone in my family now. They're what families should be. They push you, choke you and crush you, knee you in the gut so you drop to the mat gasping, support you, and laugh and cry with you.

My one coach constantly teases me about dumb questions I already know and gets on me about shit, like not remembering the warm-ups. But when I sobbed pathetically after losing my first grappling tournament he hugged me and said I did well. My dad wasn't interested in coming. It still hurt a little, but I've mostly accepted he has his own issues and there's other people I'm lucky enough to have. Anytime I can I attend teammate's fights because I've watched them work hard, trained alongside them, and want to be in their corner for them on their day.

After sparring tonight, I was considering that if I by some miracle got this job I'm applying for that would send me overseas for 2 years, would I go? And is the gym a good enough reason to stay? Would I be leaving something I deeply value and love too early? Caroline was at the gym for four years and fought five times. Would one fight be enough for me, I wonder?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

1 Day, 1 Month 'til the Fight

Slap, slap, slap, slap.

My sweat-soaked braided ponytail hits my back as I trot to the bathroom for what seems like the thirtieth time today. Drinking around 2 gallons of water a day will do that.

Tonight was fun, though. Had a chiropractor appointment after work, grabbed coffee at my favorite spot, Ugly Duck (which my phone sometimes auto-corrects to Ugly Fuck when I text people), and headed to the gym at 5pm.

Tuesday's schedule is:
5- 6pm Combat conditioning
6- 7pm Thai pads/striking
7- 8pm jiu jitsu
8- 9pm grappling/rolling

I felt good today after rolling last night so decided to roll for half of grappling tonight. Could use to sweat out some water weight and practice. Almost everyone else in camp leaves after class so I figure at least I'm working if not hitting bags.

It was a huge relief to see the numbers lower on the scale after every class. By 9pm, after 25' on the spin bike after rolling, I'd cut from 160.8 to 156.0. With the weigh-ins you get a pound of wiggle room so I could have weighed in tonight for the fight and been on weight which is great a month out. It's nerve-wracking though. Women's bodies are different than men's.

Every three weeks our bodies just flip out hormonally and sometimes it's predictable but we're always changing so one menstrual cycle could have your body retaining a lot of water for a few days and the next could not. There's a lot of different outcomes so unlike men, we can't just skate by in case our bodies decide to hold on to three or four pounds for a few days. That could have us over-weight for a weigh- in when in 24 hours we could be below weight. All because of hormones.

By the way, this is rolling:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Training: A Case of the Mondays

Training went well tonight, albeit it takes a long time after a day and a half off to warm up.

Started the day with a 20' jog with the dog, worked, felt totally drained around 3PM and tried to nap with the dog while the chicken and beets were in the oven. #MEALPREPPER. Then hit pads before class with a teammate Malik who is on the same card as I am. Stayed for advanced jiu jitsu/rolling to sweat a little water weight out. My memory isn't as sharp on our warm-up technique having skipped some days to hit bags. The shoulder also tends to flare up after rolling which makes other conditioning and striking more difficult so I've laid off jiu jitsu more to focus on technique and work for my fight.

Lesson of the day: eating a 1/4 c. of roasted garlic to stave off an impending sick feeling before the gym is not a great move. Case in point:

Scott: "You smell like...kerosene."
Me: I think you mean garlic...
Scott [sniffs]: That's it!

Yesterday a teammate challenged me via Instagram (@jesse_smash) to 100 kicks for 7 days to raise awareness for drunk driving (somehow it helps...). If nothing more it gets me doing 700 extra kicks this week alone. So just for kicks (for shits and giggles?), after jiu jitsu I went to LA Fitness.

When Coach said he wouldn't promote me to yellow belt until I fixed my cross it became the bane of my existence. The harder I try to fix something like that the worse it gets. Tensing up is horrible for form because a lot of it is just staying loose and rolling relaxed shoulders into punches. So I practiced kicks a lot instead since I couldn't seem to get my cross right without being watched and corrected. They've gotten decent as a result. Tight hips are common in training and while mine are tight someways, my groin/psoas muscle allows for head kicks which can be a great weapon in a fight.

In Muay Thai, one kicks with their shins since it's the hardest part of the leg and with the leg acting as a pendulum from the hip, the damage can be devastating to a liver or head. At first, the kicks can be painful. I have knots of tissue on my shins but they don't bruise much anymore. The nerve endings eventually die and it stops hurting. Like a broken heart. Oh, damn... But really, it's ideal for inflicting damage.

All in all, feeling loose. Just gotta get this garlic out of my system.

Fight Camp- 4.5 Weeks Out

Three weeks ago four teammates and I started camp for a kickboxing fight on a November 19 card with Gladius Promotions. I changed my diet about four weeks ago, cutting out dairy (except sheep feta), processed sugar, and gluten. I'll post over the next four weeks leading up to the fight. 

The biggest struggle so far has been cutting weight. At 5'9", I walk around at 163 and have for years. It's been difficult for me to cut weight doing anything besides running. Even with the heat this summer and training 3-3.5 hours 4x/week didn't have me lose any weight other than right after training. You sweat out a lot- sometimes 4-5 pounds and that's with drinking water during training. 

The other issue has been an ongoing shoulder issue. I've seen two chiropractors and one strongly suggested and MRI but I don't have health insurance and even if I did need surgery I wouldn't get it. A) Can't afford it and B) It would put me out of training for months. At 27, I can't afford to lose that time. I'm down to rolling one night a week from three or four which has helped. Added combat conditioning 3x/week before night training plus two workouts on Wednesdays and Fridays when I work double shifts and have to squeeze a workout in between jobs at LA Fitness. Last week I started running in the morning or at night for 20' plus to get my metabolism going. Also started eating breakfast. 

If the apocalypse ever comes, there's a high chance I'll survive a while. My body basically holds onto any fat and has an incredibly slow metabolism despite an above-average workout regimen. At least that seems to be the issue. I look 145lbs. most of the time but weigh almost 20lbs more than that. This makes cutting weight more difficult. Or maybe I eat too much. 

The opponent the promoter matched me with is shorter and aggressive. She's 1-0 kickboxing, 0-4 MMA. So she's had her first-fight-stress-jitters. I've had a couple jiu jitsu tournaments but nothing like this. It's a different animal fighting with a specific person instead of a tournament. You can tap out in a tournament, but in kickboxing you've trained to fight a specific person. There is no tapping out. Either you're knocked out or go the full three rounds in the cage. 

I also quit one of my three jobs for another potential job offer so in three weeks I'll be able to be at the gym every day again which will be a huge relief. Unfortunately, it's only about a week before my fight so it won't help a lot except maybe more time to recoup a bit before the fight the week-of. 

At any rate, I am low-key excited to have a fight. When I started at Empire almost two years ago, I'd considered fighting but knew it was a long way down the road. Others at the gym had been training 2-5 years and were fighting. A lot of people say it's humbling to walk in to a gym and realize how much training is required and the level of skill that's in there. A lot of people leave after a week, or a month because they're not immediately able to fight or realize how hard it's going to be and that it's just not for them. 

Personally, I had almost no background in martial arts. Before joining, a friend/guy I was seeing briefly trained at the gym who was going through an MMA camp. With our schedules we really only saw each other after he'd been at the gym from 5-9pm training hard. So I knew it was taxing mentally and physically and the dedication required. 

Empire is one of, if not the, best thing that I have ever done. I've changed as a person and the skills I've learned are invaluable. In other sports, I had to drag myself through practice and wondered with bewilderment how people would do extra training outside normal training and how they could be happy to be there most of the time. Steve Jobs said it well:  "If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better as the years roll on."

Friday, September 16, 2016

Being Comfortable & Normal

Saw this thing about how "normal" is getting dressed in clothes for work and driving to work in a car you don't own so you can work to pay for the clothes and car.

There's this theory I have that there are things everyone is meant to do and until we do them we spend our lives in that cycle inwardly suffering. It's different for everyone. So when people tell other people what they should and should not do with their lives... they should stop speaking and think about what they're saying.

Why should that person not do it? Because it isn't "normal"? Somewhere at the gym I learned to get comfortable being uncomfortable and the sooner you do that the less miserable you are. Having a 300 pound dude on top of you trying to choke you sounds like the beginning of a Law & Order: SVU episode but it's actually quite helpful.

Jiu jitsu and kickboxing is changing me. I've learned that because you're uncomfortable does not mean you're dying, you're actually, aside from the discomfort, mostly fine and may even have the physical and mental power to improve the situation. Even if you pass out, you'll come around. I've seen it. Even if you get punched in the diaphram and drop to the floor because your body involuntarily momentarily shuts down, you'll be fine in a minute and better prepared for the next time that punch hits you.

It's amazing that I was raised to think that the goal is a comfortable life. I've had to spend years unlearning this. The question is not, "How do I make my situation more comfortable?" Because the goal is not comfort.

Comfort will kill you. It feeds on the mind and preys on the body. It weakens you.

Discomfort will keep you alive. It triggers survival mode. It makes you appreciate the rare moments of comfort and stability. It creates a gratitude mindset. One of my favorite TED Talks is by a monk on gratitude and happiness. TED talks and NPR TED Radio Hour is one of the greatest things that has ever happened on the internet.

We as a society have gotten into thinking normal and comfortable are tied to the American dream, and even if you're not American, that's still the ideal.

[Side note: The only way I could be more white-girl in this moment is if I had a PSL (pumpkin spice latte). I'm wearing yoga pants, eating home-made kale chips, blogging about life on a Macbook.]

My life is super comfortable and normal most of the time. I go to work, go to the gym, walk the dog- I'm fucking domesticated. It took me a long time to be OK being domesticated.

But being normal and comfortable doesn't teach you anything. You don't learn or grow or appreciate life as much.

When your coach decides to give detailed instructions while your 225 pound teammate is sitting directly on your rib cage and you realize there's no more way to breath, you just stay quiet and pray to God Joey doesn't ask any questions. You generally learn more by getting punched in the face than punching someone else in the face. You change when you encounter troubles and learn more in the midst of discomfort than comfort.