I had a hard week the week of Christmas. It was only three days (four classes total), actually, but it was brutal.
Monday – Ground Fighting
I recently started taking Ground Fighting classes at my gym. It’s basically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was feeling good about this class though. I was getting the techniques.
At the end of the class, Travis leaves enough time so we can either continue working on the new concepts or we can spar (“rolling”).
Drew points at me for sparring and we move off to a side of the room to roll (my first time!).
Drew is about my height, but strong, smart, and fast. You might remember my most favorite class of all time was with Drew as my partner. He’s tough and he never, ever goes easy on me. I knew this would be a challenge.
As this is also only my second Ground Fighting class, I don’t feel confident in my skills. If anything, the more ground work I do the more I realize I never, ever want to end up on the ground. It’s exhausting.
We start. It takes Drew approximately six seconds to get me twisted and in a really uncomfortable position. I try to fight back.
“You’re trying too hard,” he says. “Relax until you see an opening.”
He’s right. I’m straining against him at all times. He keeps moving, his motions fluid, but heavy. I’m already exhausted. He keeps pretzeling me. We’re twisting, angling. My hamstrings are stupid tight and he’s able to roll me around in a ball of folded legs. He lands back on top, pushing his weight into my torso.
I push him away using my arm and he captures it.
“Bad idea,” he says holding it firmly. “This is mine now.”
I curse myself. Lesson learned.
I find an opening. His attention is on keeping my arm trapped. I twist, buck, and roll and I’m on top. I rejoice a little in my tiny victory.
“You’re on top, but I still have your arm.”
He’s right. How to get out? I have no idea. Can I use Krav Maga right now? I don’t know the rules. It’s no excuse. I try to find a non-Krav way out.
He slivers and twists and he’s back on top again.
The bell rings.
Two minutes of fighting, but it feels like 30. I’m wiped out, but I’ve learned so much.
The left side of my head feels bruised. Inside my ear feels bruised. My hair feels bruised. I see no signs of actual bruising, but clearly something exciting has happened to my head. Ground fighting is hard.
Wednesday 5pm – Krav Maga Level 1
Wednesdays have become my hard core day. I do three hours of Krav Maga and one hour of yoga.
My first Krav Maga class is at my work. The class is small with just four of us.
I partner with Leslie, a woman with a thin body type similar to my own. We work on front defensive kicks standing and from the ground. I feel confident in my ability to execute these kicks, but I also have Matt’s voice in my head to get my hips off the ground.
At the end of class, Brandon has us switch partners. I’m on the ground looking up at Nate*, a barrel-chested man. He hovers over me with a kick shield pressed against his chest.
I launch my foot up to meet the pad. He doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t move a millimeter.
I try again. I kick my foot up and focus on lifting my hips. Nothing. He doesn’t budge.
I grind my teeth into my mouth guard and try to focus. It’s all about timing. I try again. Still nothing.
It’s frustrating. I start to doubt myself and my abilities. Class is over. I smile and accept that it needs work. It’s hard.
6:30pm – Krav Maga Level 3
I drive straight to the gym and make it in time for Mike’s class. Chase and I partner. He’s easily 100 pounds heavier than me in muscle. This will be a hard class.
“Here’s the drill. One of you starts in the full mount. Your job is to stay here,” Mike explains. “For the person mounted, it’s your job to get out of it.” He chuckles to himself with part apology, part amusement, and no regret. “Kaci, I’m sorry.” I highly doubt it.
I lay down. Chase steps over my legs and sits on my stomach.
“Go!” Mike yells.
I buck. Chase barely moves and continues to hit me lightly. I buck again. Nothing.
“Come on, Kaci!” Chase yells at me.
I try to knee him in the small of the back and buck at the same time. He rocks forward, but I’m slow in rolling him over and I have to start over. It’s exhausting. Eventually, I roll him over and land on top, but I think he gives it to me out of pity.
When it’s my turn to be on top, he rolls me over easily.
We’re on to kicks. I struggle and know I need practice. We work on a few variations of spinning side and back kicks.
Chase holds the pad for me. I’m graceless. I can feel how ridiculous my body looks: a newborn deer walking for the first time. Chase laughs at me. He’s not being mean, necessarily, but it still bruises my ego. He offers advice and I try again. Each time we learn a new kick, he laughs. I feel ridiculous. It wears on me to not get the technique immediately.
7:30pm – Krav Maga Level 2
Rachel is teaching. So far, it’s just me.
“I don’t mind a private class with you,” I tell her.
“Yeah! What do you want to work on?”
“Well, I suck at kicks,” I say, thinking about my abysmal show in the last class. “It’d be good to work on those some more.”
She nods, but corrects me. “You don’t suck. You’re working on it.” Ever the instructor to keep me from talking down to myself.
“Right. It’s a challenge I’m working through,” I repeat. She nods approvingly.
Chase pokes his head into the room. “Is it just you, Kaci?”
“Well, then I’ll stay.”
Cool. Another class with Chase. With kicks. I smile and take a breath. This will be okay.
We put on our shin guards and spar with kicks only. Defending is difficult. Half the time I block incorrectly, but I keep at it. I watch Chase’s body looking for the signs on which kick he’s throwing.
Rachel instructs us to add ungloved upper body strikes. We’re throwing open, relaxed hands careful not to poke out each other’s eyes. I get excited and ramp up the intensity. I never do this on purpose and Chase calls me out. I slow it down and try to focus on the technique.
“Good!” Rachel yells.
Chase lands some good strikes and I get discouraged. My brain is foggy and unfocused. I’m trying to keep my shit together.
Rachel corrects my form and I go back to it.
We move on to static kicks, no sparring. Rachel directs us to do a few advancing kicks on each other and I can’t seem to get it. My brain has shut down. We work on throwing kicks and follow up with additional strikes.
Chase throws a kick, a hand strike combination, and then head butts the pad at my chest. My center of gravity is off from bracing for the other strikes and I go reeling. My feet shuffle backwards across the mat. I’m still on my feet, but I’m quickly losing to gravity.
Fall break! Fall break! Fall break! I scream silently.
And then I land flat on my butt.
I laugh. I’m embarrassed. I didn’t die or get injured, but I also didn’t fall break. I’m mentally and emotionally tired. It’s affecting everything.
We do back kicks, advancing back kicks, side kicks, and advancing side kicks.
Rachel corrects my form and I throw a kick.
I try to relax and kick, but I’m dispirited and feeling hopeless.
It starts to feel insincere. I know logically Rachel is being sincere. I know I’m not likely doing as poorly as I feel on the inside, but the positive words of encouragement wash over my unyielding haze.
She’s being kind. These kicks suck.
“Good!” I grind my teeth.
“Good!” I feel like crying.
“Good!” I keep going.
Class is over and I’m thankful for it. I just want to stretch in peace and go home.
8:30pm – Stretching. (No yoga today.)
Chase stays and talks to me about stretching. I start to stretch like I normally do and he offers advice. After the classes I’ve had I feel sensitive and bruised. His advice comes from a good place and I try to be gracious in asking questions and hearing him out.
I’m tired and emotional.
As I drive home, I think about my week in the gym.
Drew pretzeling me up like I was moldable clay.
Nate not flinching at my defensive front kicks.
Mike chuckling at the injustice of me fighting Chase from the ground.
Chase laughing at my undeveloped kicks.
Rachel’s kind—but misplaced—words of encouragement.
I start to doubt everything. Maybe Krav Maga wouldn’t work for me. Maybe I’m kidding myself. Maybe I can never be good at this. I’m too small. Too weak. Maybe…
Some weeks are hard. Some days are hard. Hell, some minutes are hard. There are lots of people in the world telling me—in their own way—that I’m not good enough. They don’t even mean to, but I internalize it. In some ways, I look for those comments that confirm what I secretly believe: that I’m not good enough, strong enough, or smart enough for any of this.
It’s easy to get discouraged and want to quit. But I can guarantee you one thing: there’s only one way to get better and that’s to keep practicing.
And so I will. I’ll dig deep on the hard days. I’ll find lessons in the misguided comments and how I take them in or keep them out. I’ll rejoice on the days everything seems to click together.
Tomorrow is another day to learn something new.
*Some names have been changed in this post, because it does no one any good to name names.*