MY FIRST GO IN THE DOJO

BY ASHLEY TOKARUK

And in this corner, weighing in at 102 lbs and a towering 5’2 tall – Just kidding, that’s boxing, not jiu jitsu. But I have to admit that going into this class I had no idea there was a difference, or what I was about to participate in. 

Matt and Marcia MacDonald welcomed me to their jiu jitsu class at Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga. I went to the studio not having a hot clue what I was getting myself into. For those of you who are like me and need a quick little lesson: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art and combat sport that teaches a smaller person how to defend him or herself against a larger adversary by using leverage and proper technique. A dojo is a room or hall in which judo and other martial arts are practiced.

I walked into the studio nervously and was greeted by Matt. He handed me a gi (white lightweight pants and a jacket with a cloth belt to wrap around the waist) with hot pink stitching. I knew without a doubt this gi was made for me. Embarrassing moment #1: Matt tied my belt for me because I didn’t even know where to begin trying to do it on my own. Three-quarters of the class were kids under the age of 13 and they looked a hell of a lot tougher than me. 

We began doing some independent warm-up moves on the floor. We did hip escapes, wrestler’s sit out, hips forward, bridging, bridging weaving the leg under, and bridging swinging the leg over. These manoeuvres were tricky for me, but a breeze for my classmates. 

Embarrassing moment #2: True to character, I was “Beyoncé-fying” the movements, according to Matt. I laughed, probably blushed, and looked around to see that I was, in fact, extending my arm way too far out and flipping my wrist like I had needed to do in so many dance routines over the years. This taught me that though I looked a little tougher than normal wearing it, the gi can’t totally change the girl. I was already sweaty and sore when the warm-up ended, and this is when I realized how desperately I needed to start working out again. 

We moved onto practising defence moves with a partner. I was beyond relieved when Matt told me that he had made the class plan much easier knowing I was going to be in attendance. I wasn’t even embarrassed, just so grateful that I had less of a chance of dying during this class. 

I was paired up with the sweetest little girl, Fiona. Now I’m going to do my best to explain these moves that Fiona and I practised, but bear with me because like my muscles the next day, these descriptions may be painful. 

The first move we practised had me starting in guard position, which means I was laying on my back with my legs wrapped around Fiona, who was sitting firmly on her knees. I put my arms between her arms to break her contact with me. Then I was to pull her head into one side of my chest, lock one of her arms in along the other side of my body, and pull my knees towards my chest to break her base. 

I wasn’t awful, but it was obvious that I was an easy partner considering Fiona’s experience. We repeated the movement a few times, and while switching positions I asked how old she was. She answered 12. This girl is literally half my age and ten-times more badass than I will ever be was my main thought the rest of the night. 

  Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

  Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

I became more tired as we continued on to new exercises like swimming arms through while your partner was trying to posture up.

  Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

  Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga

Fiona was kind and talked me through my confusion with movements and positioning, but she really had me beat when we practised defending against your opponent grabbing onto your gi (establishing grips). She was in guard position as I was sitting in base, wrapped in her legs and trying to establish grips. She swatted my hands away like a whack-a-mole at the carnival and pulled me off my base so effortlessly, which was embarrassing moment number 3. I’d run fast if I crossed her in a dark alley; toughest little chick I’ve ever met. 

When class wrapped up we all stood in lines based on the colour of our belts. Matt and Marcia spoke about upcoming tournaments and how anyone who wanted to participate needed to be fully committed and attending class at least twice a week. This was no surprise to me, considering how strong and strategic you need to be to participate in an activity like this. We bowed and walked a line to give everyone in the class a hi-five, which was a really nice way to end the hour. None of the kids laughed in my face, so that was nice too.

I changed out of my gi and sat down to watch and photograph the next class. It was all of the same kids doing way more intense moves than we had just practised. I have serious admiration for them, and really anyone who practises jiu jitsu. It is an incredible work out for not only the body, but the mind as well. 

If you want to get fit and feisty and feel sore in spots you didn’t even know you could feel sore in, go visit Matt and Marcia at Balance Jiu Jitsu & Yoga. The embarrassment is only in your head, and it hurts so good which makes it all worth it. 

 
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BALANCE JIU JITSU & YOGA

1000 Notre Dame

Winnipeg, Manitoba

(204) 770-2715

GRACE STEWART