Every Time I Give My All In a Roll, I Give Up My Need To Be A Lady

By Kristina LeBeau Williams

As a woman, I’ve been taught to care for other’s feelings over my own. I’ve learned to back down in many unconscious ways. To give up the fight. To step down. Shy away. Hide myself for a pleasant smile, a laugh, a pretty face, always perfect manners. Always perfect. Always fitting into a mold, ensuring others think highly. Rowdy is for boys. Strength is for men. Men are imperfect. Domination is a man’s trait. Never show anger, hide that aggression. Be lady like. Don’t be too confident; at least don’t let it show. Never impose on others, make them uncomfortable or let them sacrifice for you.

I’ve never thrown a punch, been in a physical altercation or even raised my voice to someone I don’t know. The thought of getting hit, anywhere, scares me. I don’t like physical contact in general, even hugs. I’m not one to take a social risk, ever. I’m timid. I lack body awareness and have a hard time learning any type of physical movement. Once I learn it, I tend to forget it. I’m a klutz. I’m the opposite of someone you’d find in a BJJ class.

I almost didn’t make it to my first class. When I signed up, the only thing I knew about BJJ was that it was the best martial art to learn for self-defense. That was my whole reason for deciding to take the class. Unconsciously, I was yearning to feel empowered, to feel strong. I just didn’t know it yet.

The day of my first class, I Googled BJJ and much to my horror saw people “rolling” around in close physical contact. That’s when I started to freak. I needed some quick courage, so I posted about it on Facebook to lower my chances of backing out – everyone knew, so now I had to do it, if only to save face.

I ended up loving my first class. I learned the simplest move, the “bump and roll.” I felt empowered. Strong. I noticed I was carrying myself differently. I realized that is what I had really been search for. Yet, I shied away from my own strength, scared I would hurt someone else, and after a few classes I started to get frustrated when I wasn’t “perfect” and was struggling to learn the sport. My lack of confidence in myself started to show. So, I quit, not really knowing why, but full of excuses about the roll.

Somewhere, deep below the surface, I really wanted to go back, and after much nudging by my husband, I went back to class. My first class back was brutal. I couldn’t get any of the moves we were taught. I went to another class. I got the moves, but this time, the roll was rough. It felt like half of the class avoided rolling with me and the other half just did it out of obligation to the sport – I could only remember the bump and roll, no submissions, struggled to pass anyone’s guard. I questioned what I was doing back – this is how every roll was – and somewhere in the middle of a roll, I became very emotional. I finished class choking back tears and exited quickly to my car.

Remember everything I mentioned in the beginning? Perfectionism. Caring what others think and caring for other’s feelings. Timidity. Lack of confidence. BJJ was exposing all of these things, making me overcome them over and over again. Throwing it in my face when I couldn’t. All of these thoughts have been simmering under the surface until now. How much have these thoughts been limiting me my whole life? How many things have I not done because of them? When have I failed when I could have succeeded?

I’ve heard that “rolling” is the number one reason why many BJJ beginners drop out their first year. I believe “rolling” exposes your weaknesses, insecurities and all the unconscious thoughts and behaviors that hold you back, and that this is why most people quit, covered up as excuses of frustration and ego. It’s why I believe Renzo Gracie when he talks about BJJ changing your life, because I think if you can make it through the roll, make it to the point where you can win some rolls, you’ve overcome your own demons on the mat and are ready to do so in life. This is why I must keep going. Every time I show up to class, every time I ask someone if they want to roll, I overcome caring what other people think. Every time I try a move or force myself to go to class feeling like I still know nothing, I’m facing my own distrust in my own abilities. Every time I give my all in a roll, let it consume me, I give up my need to be a lady, show timidity, step down, hide strength. I am transforming. I am becoming stronger. I am becoming the best version of myself – a fighter.


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