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Last night l walked out. I walked out of class and into the changerooms and sat right on the big masking tape X denoting its non-use and cried.  I’m not usually one to leave, I’m usually a peppy “you can do anything” type. This was not so last night.

Red eyes brimming and threatening to overflow, I quickly strode to my car and called my Mum (coz I’m a grown up).

“I can’t be brave today” I sobbed into the phone.

 I explained that the Jujitsu studio I go to has a ‘beginners and novice’ class that usually had a mix of people and a mix of belt colours (mostly blue, purple and black). It was all dudes (which was odd), there was one other white belt.  We learn new concepts, Professor moving so lithely and quickly that it’s hard to mentally track what his body is doing. I typically remember one of the three he demonstrates, then forget everything when it comes time to roll with another person.


The ‘rolling’ part of training is pretty straight forward. Make eye contact, agree to roll, do the hand slap/fist bump combo and then get at it.  This is where being brave comes in. Eye contact, lots of strangers, feeling super insecure because I keep showing up and I still feel like I have no actual skills available in the moment.

Picture this: sitting on the edge of the mat, all donned up in a gi (murder pyjamas), having just learnt how to thrust your shoulder under someone’s jaw and lean into a submission position. Room is full of dudes. Only one or two you’ve rolled with before, who are both purple belts (read: good).  The thoughts enter your mind “don’t bother asking”, “you don’t know what you’re doing”, “everyone is avoiding your eye contact”, “no-one wants to roll with you.” You sit on the mat for the first round of 5 minutes, mentally rallying. “Just sit here and watch other people, you can learn that way”. The round ends. The break between for water and switching partners. Eye contact is avoided again. The dudes all pair up. The white belts looking apprehensive but rolling none the less. Sitting through the rest of this round feels impossible. The emotion wells up and up and up. Exiting is the only option.

It’s been a month of showing up

Making eye contact and asking people to roll. Bouncy and new. Eager. Enthusiastic. Brave. Last night, I had nothing. I had no shred of being brave, to step across the chasm between people who don’t know each other and be the one to builds the bridge. It takes something each time, to step up, ask, to expose yourself and be open to learning whatever the other person decides to teach you.  I had nothing in the tank. All I wanted was to be recognised as someone who was there, who wanted to participate, to have someone build the beginning of the bridge.

Instead, I left, went and sobbed on the phone to my Mum. It’s not simply being brave on the mat, it’s being brave everyday in life. Continuing to get out of bed when it feels too heavy, to listen to people, be present and hold space when they need soothing, to balance the output of support with the input of self-care and personal resilience. Being uncomfortable is where I like to live, how I like to extend myself. Turns out, even my steady state optimism can take a hit in the middle of a global pandemic. A reminder that we need to continue to look after ourselves, everyday. With grace.

Mum bought me a massage (coz she’s the best)

I’ll return to being brave tomorrow.

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