Walking into the gym for the first time my excitement quickly turned into timidness. Everyone in there was shaking hands and laughing. I was an uninvited guest walking into a close nit club. All are welcome to join but I was aware I was a new face in the crowd. In the changing room I didn’t speak to anyone, not out of ignorance but because I was struggling to put on my Gi. One of the guys tried to speak to me but I was in my own world trying to tie my belt, which I had practiced the day before in front of the mirror, and I was failing. He tapped me on the shoulder and said “Ha, don’t worry about it, you can just make a knot.” I smiled and nodded and followed him upstairs. 

There were guys walking onto the mat; shaking hands, stretching, bowing and talking. I followed a guy onto the mat and just stood at the end of the line. Silently waiting, my eyes darting around, watching the guys talk and laugh. The coach started talking then everyone bowed, I bowed seconds after everyone else. The coach began to demonstrate what we would be doing. I took it all in ready to begin my journey. As everyone began to pair off I felt like the clumsy kid in primary school. One of the higher belts came down and shook my hand. He told me to get onto my back and we’d try the move I’d just absorbed. As soon as I got the higher belt into my guard I realised I had no idea what I was doing, my mind had gone blank. Not just the jiu jitsu I had just been shown but everything, a blank void of silence eclipsed me. The higher belt again told me not to worry and walked me through what we had been shown, my brain rebooted. We practiced different moves through the class and I began to feel comfortable, enjoying the jiu jitsu, then it was time to spar. 

The reality of combat had arrived, my perceptions and ego were about to change forever. Swept, mounted, folded, choked and stretched. Larger, smaller, male and female were taking advantage of my flailing limbs. I think someone slapped me in the face with my own foot. I had no idea what to do, and what I thought I should do was not just wrong but allowed my defeat to come quicker. 

I was beaten, and I loved it. I needed to learn this and also how to defend myself. 

For some reason I always thought I could handle myself if a fight started. I thought that because I had been an MMA fan for years I’d pick grappling up quickly. My ego had been lying to me, as it does to most males. I was helpless and I wanted to learn.  

Most people do not want to face this reality, ‘You are useless and can be manhandled.’ Fragile egos will allow people to justify quitting with some bullshit excuse. It’s better to believe you’re a tough guy/girl than face the harsh reality of learning to fight. 

The addiction begins with those who put their ego aside and realise how effect and fun this marshal art is. With this train of thought I also remove the awkwardness of being a new face. Over months I went from standing at the bottom of the line to being at the top, in a fundamentals class. I had made friends who I greet and laugh with when I enter the building. 

I was unaware of what really happened that first day as I was experiencing it, the fear and excitement. I had completed my most difficult class. Not most physically demanding, not by a long shot which I would learn much later, but mentally. I began a demanding journey that would benefit my life. I did the most difficult thing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I started.