Friday, November 25, 2011

And It's Back to Love...

I just have to say that I have the best kwanjangnim (gym owner) ever! I am not going to lie to you he has got to be one of the most genuinely nicest guys ever. Even though my attitude lately has been poor, and I've created so many problems for him, he still does everything he can to help me.

So if you read my last post, you know that I've had trouble at the gym while trying to train jiu jitsu. If you've followed me for quite sometime, you might know that I had similar problems at the last gym. I am training in South Korea, so there is a bit of language barrier. Even though I sought help from the first kwanjangnim repeatedly (at least 10 times, I even had real translators each time), he never really tried to do anything about the problem. He always told me that he wanted me to train there for a long time, and that he really valued my commitment; but really it didn't seem that way because he never did anything about how unhappy I was. Eventually, I couldn't not handle the stress from work and the added stress of training at that gym, so I quit. I decided to train at another gym. At first, it was pretty good, but then the guys realized that there was a chance that they might have to tap out while sparring me so they decided not to spar me. The kwanjangnim at the time spoke perfect English, and although I shared my frustration, he did nothing. I decided not to train jiu jitsu for a while and just do muay thai and fitness training at the same gym. Of course, after a while I got bored and wanted to train jiu jitsu again. All of the old guys that wouldn't train with me had left the gym (it's quite common in Korea for people to train for only a short period of time), so I figured it was worth a shot even if it was just for a little bit. While I was training muay thai, we got a new kwanjangnim. His English is good, but not perfect. We often have problems communicating, but he is very understanding. I trained with the guys for about a month this time before I noticed that I was sitting on the sidelines too often again. Kwanjangnim noticed it too. He also noticed that I didn't like how the guys treated me. So he started instructing the guys to spar with me. Still some would come up with the excuse that they were hurt somewhere and couldn't spar with me (obviously not too hurt to spar with a guy that's 20 pounds heavier than me and significantly stronger). Before I even talked to him he understood that I was disappointed. He understood my anger and frustration. So, he took the time to spar with me. Even before I talked to him about how I felt. One day while we were sparring, he asked me why I was upset. So I asked him if he were me and everyone refused to spar with him, would he be happy. He said, "no". The next day, I talked to him for a long time (with the help of Google Translator of course...which by the way has got to be one of the worst translations, but to give it some credit Korean and English have very different sentence structures and styles of speech so it is difficult for a computer to translate accurately). He said that he understood and that he had the same problem when he trained at a gym in Australia. The guys didn't want to spar with him because they thought he couldn't understand anything because he was Korean. Eventually, it all worked out, and he was able to spar quite a bit. Obviously, its not going to be the same for me. I have two strikes against me. Even if I wasn't foreign, I'm still a woman and no guy wants to tap out to a girl. Even though I have been training for over a year and a half so I should be better than some guy that's never done grappling before, they don't understand that. Their pride doesn't understand that. I know this. Kwanjangnim knows this, but he wants to change it. He told me that I shouldn't worry about the guys that don't want to spar with me because they aren't worth it. They probably won't be training for very long. He promised me that he would help me train more and that little by little he wants the gym to change. He also said that he wants more girls to train. I honestly don't mind training with guys (like I said before sometimes girls are a pain and there's too much squealing), but I don't mind paving the way for other girls who seriously want to train. Talking to kwanjangnim really helped, I feel better about everything. He still asks the guys to spar with me, and I still spar with him after. If one of the guys asks him to spar, he makes them spar with me first. Sometimes, if a guy refuses to spar with me, he makes them spar with the big hyungnim who in return kicks their butt because he loves me! Hahaha. Seriously, I spar with him everyday; I do get my butt kicked, but in a much nicer way.

I also read some articles about some of the professional MMA girls that train jiu jitsu. They said that they had similar experiences. Even after winning multiple professional matches, the guys still won't train with them. I also read that some of the girls won't spar with guys that aren't at least blue belts because the guys cannot control their strength. To be honest, there are only a few blue belts at each gym here in Korea (like I said most people don't commit to a gym for a long time in Korea). Most of the time, blue belts don't train every day because they get bored training with beginners (and women). So, I have to train with white belts. I'm not complaining as long as there are people to train with. When I spar with a guy for the first time, I always take it slow, and I let him make the first move. If he moves quickly, I will move more slowly than usual. If he is really strong, I will tap faster. I do try to give them a good spar, but I still let them win in the end (unless they do something stupid, like basically handing me an armbar). I do this out of respect for Kwanjangnim, not because I like the guy. Kwanjangnim asked me to go easy on most of the guys unless they are really good. There are only two or three guys that I'm allowed to seriously spar. I think that it is better this way for my safety and for the guys' safety as well. Even though, it's their own fault for being too prideful; I don't want to be responsible for hurting some one seriously. There have been several times that I do a submission on a guy, and they do everything they can to not tap. I know that they are in pain, but their pride is in the way. So, I just roll away and make them start again.

I really admire people like Kwanjangnim. He is an all around good guy...a genuine hunnam.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jiu Jitsu: Love and Hate

Seriously, jiu jitsu , at least for a woman living in Korea, is bipolar. One day, its fun and challenging; the next day it's dull or angering. Is this a problem other women jiu jitsu players have?

Okay, to be honest with you, I hate sparring with most women, too. I will not blame a man there. The truth is if you squeal when I do a move or cry when you get a slight bruise; I don't want to deal with it. If you have long hair, I don't want to deal with it. If you have long nails, I definitely don't want to spar with you. These are things that I have experienced doing jiu jitsu with women, and I hate them. Therefore, I cut off all of my long, beautiful hair. Do I like having long hair, of course, but at the same time, I don't mind having short hair and it's a little more convenient when playing jiu jitsu. Am I saying you should cut off your hair? Of course not. You can play with long hair, just make sure it's secured firmly on top of your head and out of the way when sparring. As a consideration to those I am sparring with, I also clip my fingernails weekly. They are never past my fingertips. The truth is when you grab someone to do a move, there is always a chance that you will scratch them; no one likes for you to draw blood. Of course, no one really likes bruises either but bruises aren't really messy and its a part of the game so you kinda have to get used to it. Also, it's dangerous for you too. Nails get caught on clothing often and get get ripped off which is very painful (and me on this one.) And now to the squealing part, yes, jiu jitsu is painful, but no one is really out to intentionally harm you. Everyone is just trying to get in a position of submission or win the game. That is the purpose of jiu jitsu. If you get bruised or a bump a long the way, do not cry or squeal. That just makes other people feel bad. It really is poor manners. Have I wanted to cry? Yes. Have I wanted to scream out in pain? Yes. But out of manners, I don't. Also, I spar mostly with men; so I know that if I scream or cry, they will not spar with me any more because they will think that I am too weak. All of these dislikes go for men to....I hate sparring men with long hair, long nails, and that squeal and cry. (****Ok side note here: I know from the sound of it, I seem like a very boyish sort of girl. I can assure you that I am not. I am quite possibly the girliest girl you will ever meet. I wear skirts or dresses everyday. I am definitely a high heels and make up person. I always have my toes painted. I'm girly even down to my favorite color, my favorite color is pink. Koreans consider me very much a "cutie style" person. I have what they call "egy-yo".)

So with so many sacrifices, I am continually asking myself why do I play the game. I play because this kind of fighting came naturally to me. I instinctively defend myself. It is fun at times, but it is also very painful. So why do I keep doing it? In my heart, I feel that I have to for two reasons. One, self defense. Two, it is a full body workout. We'll start with the latter. If you have met me in person, you know that I am not a small person. I could easily be very fat. If you know me well, you know I eat very little and still am not small. Therefore, I have to exercise excessively to stay fit. Jiu jitsu provides a good exercise for a short amount of time (I do not depend solely on jiu jitsu though, I run for my cardio workout). Now on to self defense, as a woman, I know what it is like to be in a situation in which I was completely helpless. I wished with all of my being that I was stronger and knew how to defend myself and others. I wanted to learn a kind of fighting in order to defend myself and others. I tried tae kwan do, but it was really repetitive and kind of boring and I never really got to try anything for real. It just seemed like a lot of pointless moves. I also tried kickboxing but once again too repetitive and it required a lot of repetitive prep work before actual sparring. There is judo, but that's mostly just take down here in Korea. The mat training here is kind of limited. Also, I would run into the same trouble in judo as I do in jiu jitsu. So jiu jitsu it is...

Now, here are the reasons I love jiu jitsu. As I said before, it is a really good exercise. Also, I am good at defense naturally. Also, it requires flexibility which I have a ton of. It requires technique which I am good at learning. I have a lot of technique. So most of the time, I get to spar the more challenging people because of my technique. I spar the biggest or the strongest or the quickest. But usually, only one time. I only get one chance. If the guy feels like I am not challenging enough, he will refuse to fight me again. If the guy feels like he could lose to me, he will not fight me again. Very rarely, here in Korea, will I find a guy that will except the challenge of fighting me continually. Do I mind fighting guys that are too big and could crush me every time? Not really. I want to practice. The truth is, if someone attacks me in real life, they aren't going to take one look at me and think "eh, she's not challenging enough...I'm just gonna walk away." Yeah, that doesn't happen. It makes me feel good when I am asked to take on the big guys. To me, it is the highest praise you could give me (on my jiu jitsu skill of course). Many people tell me my jiu jitsu is good, but they never want to spar with me which is pretty insulting to me. I feel like you are saying that I'm good, but I will never be good enough. These are the same people that are chatting me up after class or asking me out on a date. Really??? I'm sorry if you really cared anything about me, you would help me to learn to defend myself properly. So I feel like to them, I will always just be another pretty face. So, I dislike them intensely. No matter how much they compliment me; I will always dislike them. Yes, I know I keep getting back to the negatives...ugh...grrrr. Okay, so another positive, because I have technique, people often ask me for advice on what to do in certain situations. Even though my Korean is bad and there are other people that speak Korean that are better than me, they ask me because I'm weaker so they know that I can teach them how to fight the bigger and better people. Strong people don't always realize that it is difficult to do certain moves. Another positive, if a person really wants to train jiu jitsu, they ask to spar with me so they can learn. There are very few men, here in Korea, that are willing to sacrifice their humility to spar with me, but there are some. I also love the challenge of fighting someone that is bigger and better than me. It doesn't matter to me if I win or lose. I want to be the best me that I can be.

Lately, jiu jitsu for me has been unpredictable and very up and down. Even in the same day. For example today...I walked in and one of the long time kickboxers asked me if he could spar with me. He explained that he wanted to learn jiu jitsu, but he wanted to train with me because I had technique but I wasn't very strong. So he felt like he would learn more. After sparring for a short time, he was tired. So I was left alone. I sparred with no one. Seriously, I came down from a serious high quickly. The truth is jiu jitsu is a good exercise...only if you are sparring. I honestly have no clue how to get people to spar with me. I tried to go easy on people...even just taking positions with no submissions. I tried going my hardest and submitting people continually. I have never once complained about being hurt. I have never cried out or screamed when I was hurt or in pain. I have done everything I can to play this game...what am I doing wrong? What do I need to do to be able to practice? Seriously, I just want to exercise and learn how to defend myself. Has anyone else been through this? How can I get past this challenge?