I had a tough year. Dealing with an illegal eviction and a slipped disc for the entirety of 2016. I’ve often felt like a victim of horribly unfair circumstances. But sometimes the universe quickly changes your perspective….
Today I was training at the Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Manhattan. It was right after another court date that cost thousands of dollars. I hadn’t trained in a while due to my back issues so I wanted to take it easy. When it came time to spar, I picked a white belt about 20 pounds lighter than me.
“Hey, wanna roll?” I ask, with a hey-I’m-a-nice-guy-let’s-go-easy smile. He nods, solemn and straight-faced. The dude doesn’t say hey or introduce himself or EVEN LOOK ME IN THE EYES! I reach out to shake his hand. He doesn’t take it, opting to just square off instead. Alright, tough guy.
The buzzer sounds and he immediately attempts to throw a flying arm bar on me, a swift and dangerous move that can hyperextend or break an opponent’s arm in seconds. Borderline disrespectful, man! I struggle out of it and force him onto his back. Tough guy is working pretty hard to escape. I pass to his side and catch his far arm, putting him in something called an Americana lock. I start wrenching his elbow up while I use my weight advantage to keep his wrist and shoulder pinned to the mat. I keep cranking it, but he won’t relent. I feel like I’m getting close to dislocating his shoulder — and yet tough guy won’t tap! I use my chest and lean into the pressure a little more. Hey, it’s his responsibility to tap. Tap or snap, buddy! Finally, he taps out.
I quickly let go. “Wow, that was hard to get. Are you double jointed?” I ask, smiling again. No response. “Was that too much?” He shakes his head no, and I heartily extend a fist bump to him. He ignores it, shakes his shoulder out a little, and then squares off again. Alright, hard charger, it’s gonna be like that, huh?!
We wrestle again. I pass his defense once more, pin him, and fasten my grip on his far collar. He’s fighting harder than ever. I trap his near arm between my legs and bring my left forearm across his neck so my ulna crushes down onto his trachea. Come on, tap out or pass out, tough guy! I relax my weight to push deeper. Finally, he coughs and taps.
The buzzer sounds. The round is over.
“Hey man, you got really good movement. How long you been doing jits?” I ask.
“A year,” he says. Then “How much do you weigh?”
“Uh, about 190.”
With that, STILL NOT LOOKING AT ME, he moves away. Really, you just ask my weight? Looking for an excuse as to why you got beat, dude? Show some damn respect, I think.
After class, I’m changing in the locker room, which is nearly empty at this point. I see tough guy deliberately walking towards me brandishing a long stick.
The thought flashes across my brain: What are you gonna do with that stick, jerk?!
He points the stick down and starts tapping the floor with it. He taps the cane until he hits the wood of the lockers and then slowly feels his way up to his unit.
The guy is 100% blind.
Damn. I’m the jerk.
He didn’t look me in the eyes because he couldn’t see my eyes. He didn’t fist bump or shake my hand because he didn’t know I offered it.
Here he is, a young and blind white belt, training in a room with some of the best grapplers on the planet and willingly taking on any stranger who asks “Hey, wanna roll?” And here I am, a lazy and perennial blue belt, getting my ego involved like an ass and being a baby about losing an apartment and, boo hoo, an achy back. I’m the one who should have been showing this guy respect. I only wish I had his drive and courage. His adversity is 100 times more than any of the petty crap I whined about in 2016 or any year previous.
But I guess it mostly made me think that it’s important to remember that your perspective isn’t always the truth. And that the snap judgments we make about people are rarely, if ever, correct. I think now, more than ever, that’s something we all should be reminded of. And yes, I’m talking about politics too.
So, to the blind white belt I saw on the mat today: thank you for the life lesson…
and maybe take it a little easy with those flying arm bars.
Photo: Getty Images