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The First Time

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May 28th, 2013

Nearly 4 years ago, I fell in love with a BJJ addict. I, a violent sports junkie, was playing roller derby at the time. When I lost my health insurance I turned to boxing (because it was less dangerous. Just think about that). After several years of boxing, circumstances changed and it was time to hang up the gloves. I began pursuing my accreditation as a yoga instructor, and ran my first half marathon. During this time, my BJJ addict boyfriend was promoted to black belt and husband status. I’ve been at his side through opening not one but 2 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies, and for 2 years have worked for him full time as business manager/front desk girl at the school. My life, for 4 years, has been absolutely consumed by BJJ. And yet, I’ve never done it. Not once. Not even playing around at home with my husband.

Until today.

Really, it’s a testament to my stubbornness that it’s taken this long. In the beginning he tried convincing me to quit playing derby and start doing jiu jitsu. Hell no. I wanted “my own thing”. While boxing, I even toyed with the idea of taking it to MMA, which would have been way easier to find opponents in. The kicker for me? No interest in learning the ground game. Since I stopped boxing about a year ago, there’s been a big void in my life that violent sports used to fill. My problem now is multi-faceted:

1). I’m not as young as I used to be, making my body more prone to injury in full contact sports

2). I’m working at Great Grappling during the hours in which every other sport takes place

3). I’ve gained some weight, gotten out of shape, and have a fair amount of pent-up aggression

Add to that the fact that 40 hours per week I am at a BJJ school, 90% of our friends do BJJ (or are married to someone who trains), and at least 95% of my husband’s conversations are directly related to doing BJJ, teaching BJJ, competing in BJJ, coaching BJJ, or running a BJJ school. It’s all BJJ, all the time. I’m signed up for that. For life.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Isn’t that what they say?

So, today during daytime class, for the very first time, I put on a brand new gi and a crisp, no-stripe white belt. I felt like I was playing dress-up for Halloween. I got some odd looks and a few laughs from our students who were wondering what kind of joke this was. I added one more dimension to the already unorthodox relationship with my husband/boss- he’s now my coach, too. As one of my fellow white belts said, “This is going to be awesome. Or awesomely bad”.

And how was it? Well…. it was way more fun than I thought it would be. Certainly a boat-load better than sitting at the desk for 2 hours. We worked from closed guard and I learned 2 cross collar chokes and an armbar. Within the first 3 minutes of Curriculum class I had a hair in my mouth, and it wasn’t my own. Blech.

After an hour of technique, it was time for sparring. Who did I get paired up with first round? My husband, the black belt. Slap hands, bump fists, GO. Go where? Do what? I’ve never done this before!! “Get to my back or mount”, he says. HOW?? “Just move!” So, move I did, for 8 minutes. It was like a cat playing with a little mouse, just teasing it. Batting it around some, letting it crawl away, then pouncing. He was nice, all things considered, but I was lost. Next round I was paired with a purple belt who showed me how to break closed guard, pass to side control, and get to mount. After a short break, my husband grabbed me again to finish out the 3rd round together. I immediately put to use the guard passing technique I’d just learned, hips and head staying low, and made it to mount. The purple belt is a former wrestler, and notorious around here for having a rather annoying, grinding game. I’d like to thank him for passing a bit of that along. A couple minutes later I found myself in closed guard, and then proceeded to mash-up the cross collar choke and armbar steps I’d learned in the last hour and get some sort of weird choke, right before the bell sounded. (Mind you, he LET me do that). A few more rounds, and class was over. My first day is under my crisp, new white belt.

Tonight, sitting back at the desk, class is happening. I can hear the instruction, the grunts & groans, the bell signaling the end of the round. For the first time, I’m thinking about jiu jitsu, and not the business end of it. I went to my husband’s instructional channel on YouTube.com/GGBJJ and watched the videos for the submissions we worked today, because I’m afraid I’m going to forget them. I shopped for a gi, because just in case I don’t want to use my Thursday night off to hang with my friends and would rather pull a 2-a-day, I’d need more than 1 gi. My back is sore, and I’m thinking about an epsom salt bath. I’ve got weird little bruises on my legs, a blister on my middle finger knuckle, and my knees are still a bit red. I’m starting to wonder when we’d be able to transition someone else to the desk full time so I could train more frequently.

Another area black belt today congratulated me on starting this journey, and said that white was his favorite belt because there are no expectations. Well, not when your husband is a black belt. There are a whole boatload of expectations that come with that. This is a totally different perspective than your average white belt. Most people don’t care to read a training blog from a white belt’s perspective. I totally get that. I’m not the first wife to train under her husband, for sure. I have the blessing and the curse to be married to my coach. I can ask him questions, rep moves, and talk theory (when my little white-belt brain has earned enough stripes to even think about theory). He’s really a phenomenal teacher, you don’t have to do BJJ to know that. I’d like to think that in 4 years of watching guys train, compete, record technique videos, and drill, that some of this BJJ stuff has sunk in and I have a little bit of technique-by-osmosis. Seeing and doing are two different things, so we’ll see.

But, for now, I owe my husband a “you were right”. I do like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu…. a lot.


Jeremy and Megan Arel on her first day as a white belt at Great Grappling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


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