Grappling with Grappling

“Jesus Man! You don’t go looking for Jiu-Jitsu! Jiu-Jitsu finds you when it thinks you’re ready” –Runter Chompson.

On the way to the tournament, AW and I fought like banshees over dominance of the radio.

AW was playing the sorriest excuse for rap music since Shaq dropped his mixtape.

Eventually, we settled on listening to the Joe Rogan Experience.

A colossal mistake.

The guests on the show were Joe Schilling and Yves Edwards and topic of discussion was on the side effects of head trauma.

My head hurt just thinking about it.

I inventoried all major and minor concussive events of my life.

Do I have CTE?

CTE could explain a lot of my bad decision-making.

The San Joaquin County Coroner is the man who the movie “Concussion” was based on.

I guess if I am murdered by some disgruntled farmer for channeling my inner George Washington(chopping down my Father’s cherry trees), I implore you, my dear reader, to inquire about the extent of brain damage I’ve incurred in the post-mortem.


AW, Miguelito and I arrived at the tournament two hours early.

The Kaiser Permanente Arena was ironically playing host to the 23rd U.S. Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament.

Ironically, because twenty-four hours after competing in the event, I’d be getting X-rayed for rib fractures at Kaiser Permanente of Elk Grove.

I had to pee every five minutes. Which meant that I was nervous.

Physical confrontation scares me.

At one point, I was nervous about not being nervous enough.

I had to remind myself that a trained, full grown man is going to try to strangle you in front of all my friends.

I’m nervous again.

AW and I weighed-in and warmed up together in the competitor bullpen.

AW was set to compete before me.

Which was good because watching my little brother compete is far more nerve wracking than competing myself.

AW submitted both his opponents handily.

“Now I can have fun,” I thought to myself.

The event coordinator called for my group, the over thirty, under 150lb pound division.

My first opponent looked like a Crossfitter’s wet dream. Heavily muscled and shredded with about five inches on me.

I was legitimately intimidated.

I repeat the simple, yet effective advice my coaches Randy and Lucas had given me,

“Get grips” and “Wait for the other guy to screw up.”

Neither Randy nor Lucas were there, but in their place was Olin.

Olin is eighteen years old and a Blue Belt at our academy.

Normally, I don’t take advice from eighteen year olds, but Olin isn’t your average eighteen year old.

He’s a trained killer with the maturity and bearing of someone twice his age.

I’m lucky to have him in my corner.

The referee signaled for my opponent and I to meet in the center of the mat.

We bowed and shook hands.

The ref said  “Combate” and we were off.

I circled around him and got dominant grips.

The second I got grips, I knew I would win.

It was a very instinctive, almost primal feeling.

The knowing.

My opponent shot in for a take down and I sprawled fracturing my rib in the process.

A flurry ensued and somehow, I took his back.

The match ended.

I won on points, but had to hobble back to the sidelines.

The pain was so bad I couldn’t breathe.

PVW “Tell me I will be okay”

Olin “You will be okay.”

The placebo worked.

Olin and I discussed strategy for my next match. We decided that my rib was broke and I should pull guard.

I felt like I was Daniel-Son in the Karate Kid.

Injured, yet soldiering on.

I used to tell people that my Grandpa Tim taught Mr. Myagi how to prune.

The best kind of lies are the believable ones.

Pat Morita (Mr. Myagi) grew up 10 miles from our hometown and Grandpa Tim was an avid pruner.

Karma is a ……


I used to tell people that learning Jiu-Jitsu is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I have to amend that. Watching my mother die, and learning to live without her was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Waiting on the sidelines for my next match, agonizing in pain, I silently wished that my mother could see me.

Broken. Powering through the pain.

I closed my eyes.

For the first time since my mom’s passing sixteen years ago, I felt her presence so acutely that my rib pain went away.

It was such a beautiful moment that I started to cry, being sure to face the opposite direction of my teammates, so I didn’t look like a wussy.

If being raised Catholic taught me anything, it was how to suppress negative emotions.

A feeling of invincible calm came over me about the time that the ref signaled for me to come to the center of the mat for my next match.

The match went by pretty quickly.

I remember pulling guard and sweeping him, but can not remember much else.

The referee yelled “Paro”(Portuguese for stop) and like every clichéd sports story, my hand was raised.

On the ride home, Miguelito and AW were forced to listen to me make complaints about my rib and absurd statements like “Man, I think I could do this shit for a living.”

But I really should know better.

Marry your mistress and you create a vacancy.