Twenty years. That’s how long I’ve been lifting weights. It’s important to me. Strength training has shaped my life; my mind and my body. As a result, I shamelessly admit I like when people tell me, “You are strong!”
Typically, I’ll politely accept the compliment. On occasion, I’ll kindly shrug it off by pointing out I’m unfathomably weak compared to the world’s strongest. The point is, I interpret the statement, “You are strong” as a compliment.
The funny thing is, when it comes to jiu jitsu, I can’t help but take that statement as an insult. “You are strong” gets scrambled by my mental filter, and the interpretation that sticks is: “The only reason you beat me is you are an ox. Your technique sucks!”
I know that I’m not the only grappler that shares this belief, so I made a point to tell one of my strong, gigantic training partners, Jared, that he will probably hear that insult veiled as a compliment quite a bit, as he is getting pretty damn good. He weighs upwards of 250, so I believe his technique will often be misconstrued as him winning simply due to his size. My buddy, Seth, overheard me and disagreed. He acknowledged that he, too, thought like me at one point. Seth went on to point out that in the majority of circumstances, the statement “You are strong” is meant as a compliment, even in jiu jitsu. That got me thinking, and I realized I was very likely projecting my own fears of not being very technical on to other people when they might be meaning well! From now on, I’ll just assume people mean it as a compliment in all aspects.
Note to self: If I set up and execute a smooth, technical arm bar on somebody and they promptly tell me I’m strong, I can always reply, “Thanks! The way to get out of that arm bar I just put you in is to work on your triceps kickbacks. Good luck, bud.”
My buddy, Arlo, summarized things greatly. I may add my thoughts at some point, but take a read!
Boldly Going Where No Mat Has Gone Before.
Have you ever watched MTV’s Catfish? Basically, the synopsis of every episode is some poor fool ends up finding out the person they have had an internet relationship with for a long time is not who they say they are. In an episode my wife and I recently watched, some dude fell in love with a beautiful woman online without ever having met her. The Catfish Crew ended up finding this purported vixen, hoping to unite the two star-crossed lovers. Turns out, she was, in fact, ratchet. (Am I using that right, kids?)
I have some questions for you, dear reader:
If you fell in love with somebody, but they ended up looking very different from what you’d thought, would you stay in love? If everything else about the person was the same, i.e., personality, voice, occupation, life story, would looks matter? Even if you could get past this, it’d be a pretty big breach of trust for somebody you fell in love with to lie like that, right?
Let’s set the obvious trust issues aside for a moment.
Humor me, and consider the following unrealistic, hypothetical. Think of the person you love most. Husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever… If that person went through a dramatic surgery, “Face Off” style, and completely altered their appearance, while retaining every thing else that makes them the person you love, would your feelings for the person change or remain the same?
By the way, spare me the “That’s superficial!” hyperbole. I’m not talking about the same person maybe gaining a little weight or going bald after previously having a full head of hair… I mean, a dramatic change in their appearance! What if they didn’t remotely resemble their former appearance? What if they stayed within the same range of “attractiveness” but looked completely and utterly different?
My theory is that in most cases, a dramatic change in looks would be a game changer for a relationship even if the person was similarly attractive but looked completely different (Nicolas Cage to John Travolta). I think physical appearance and facial features are closely tied with identity. We bond to that image. When we fall in love or attach to a person, we obviously fall in love with all the wonderful things that make up a person’s personality. It just seems all of that love for a person’s personality and characteristics are encompassed within the “snap shot” image we have of that person in our own heads.
The sensation I experience right before blacking out to a choke hold is hard to describe to somebody that hasn’t been there. It’s a curious mix between rushed panic and detached serenity. I like to imagine my body’s survival instinct is dumping its last vestiges of adrenaline to keeping me conscious while simultaneously releasing a merciful cocktail of endorphins to calm me in my final moments of impending doom.
Having consciousness, life, stripped from me at the hands of another person isn’t desirable! I try to avoid it at all costs. My survival instinct tells me to do exactly that, as the consequences of being choked unconscious can be dire. Yet, I willingly subject myself to exactly that several times per week while training jiujitsu.
I willingly risk life and limb every time I step on the mat. To me, however, there’s really no risk. I trust my training partners. I have to! From day one, in jiujitsu, I had to find a way to be okay with the idea that the guy I’m competing against could easily cause catastrophic joint damage, choke me unconscious, or even potentially kill me. But, I know the guys I train with aren’t going to do this. In fact, this wasn’t really even that much of a hurdle to get over from day one. By and large, the culture of jiujitsu is a kind, easy going, open, friendly one. That culture attracts kind, easy going, open, friendly people. People that are easy to trust.
Jiujitsu builds strong friendships through accelerated trust. It’s the jiujitsu habitus.
A cognitive schema is basically a nicely packaged mental shortcut comprised of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and information. Schemas efficiently help a person understand the world around them. A person takes in a TON of sights, sounds, smells, feelings, sensations, thoughts, and experiences every day. If we had to process each one of those sensations every single time we experienced them, we’d never get anything done! Our brain, therefore, does us a favor and creates these learning based shortcuts called schemas. You know how to hammer a nail in to a board, right? You don’t have to think about the nail, or the hammer, or how to hold the nail, or how to swing the hammer. You just do it. That’s a schema.
Here’s my real life example. A schema I have is beautifully kept long blonde hair belongs to women. That’s just been my experience. Other than Owen Wilson, the owner of beautiful, long, blonde hair is usually female.
Well, imagine my surprise when I walked in to what I thought was the men’s room and was immediately confronted by lengthy locks of luxurious, blonde hair softly cascading down a svelte frame! Yeah, I was embarrassed and shocked.
“Crap!” I thought to myself as my brain entered panic mode, “I walked in to the lady’s room!”
As my brain tried to register an explanation that wouldn’t later require me to put my name and face on some registry, I noticed something. The woman was facing a urinal!
“What?! There’s a urinal in the women’s restroom! H-How is she… ? Does she have a… ? No WAY!!!”
Okay. I’m an idiot. Obviously, I was in the men’s room. The blonde mane belonged to a dude. The thing is, the schema I have in my brain of hair and gender literally prevented me from seeing reality for what it was for a good five seconds. There was still some lingering doubt in my head as I settled in at the opposite end of the row of urinals. That’s a men’s room schema, ladies.
I felt comfortable this was a guy only after I got the sideways glance and head nod along with a baritone “Whassup bro?” Still shaken, my voice managed to crack a high pitched response of “Hey.” Hopefully the high pitch triggered his gender schema. Payback! Also, cut your hair… dude.
Look, I lead a pretty decent life. I try not to spend too much time talking about stuff that bugs me. Compared to a lot of people, I have it pretty sweet. Wife, career, car, house, friends, good health, and family… I have all that. I do, however, have some first world problems. Here’s three of them.
1. My voicetext must be dictated by a ninth grade girl.
I don’t know how she gained access to my phone, but she did. I call her Tausha. The little brat insists on abbreviating what I say, substituting symbols for words, and indiscriminately throwing slang in to the mix. As an example:
Killer J’s voice command: “Your session is at two. Please bring your money before I see you today.”
Voicetext Tausha’s interpretation: “Um, so be therr @ 2. Eww. YOLO! Bring ur dolla billz and all yo’ $waaaag b4 icu, boy!”
2. Swype is no better. In my phone, a little monkey runs the Swype show. I’ll type my wife’s name, Katchie, and what does the little chimp inside my phone type?
Yes, Swype-monkey, Kazakhstan needs to remember to pick up a gallon of milk, tonight. Have a banana, jack ass.
3. Gold’s gym doesn’t allow chalk.
I am currently on strike two for having been caught sneaking in my own chalk bag by the Neanderthal that sports the Size Smedium Gold’s Gym Staff shirt.
“Oh hey! Didn’t see you standing there, Bumbo. That white billowy cloud emanating from my general area? Nah, It’s cocaine, I swear! I quit chalk. Three years clean, promise.”