The other day, a colleague of mine touched my arm to get my attention. She was pleasantly surprised at the firmness of my arm and the conversation kind of went like this:
Colleague: Oh. *lingering arm squeeze*
Me: Are you touching me?
Colleague: Wow, it’s so hard.
I’m not trying to boast. I tell this story because it got me thinking about how training BJJ, the changes in my body and my abilities – it’s the kind of long-term grind-y activity which is what FIRE is made up of.
I started BJJ end of 2015. I wasn’t overweight, just doughy and relatively sedentary. Soft. Normal BMI. I was always active as a kid growing up, and I did sports but it fell by the wayside when I came back to SG and got the blues. I remember that the reason why I needed a new hobby was that I realised I was drinking a bottle of wine over two days easily in the evenings, because I hated work so much. It was a glass on the weekends and then BAM! I was buying two bottles and some beer.
Anyway, I picked up BJJ and initially, it was just an activity. I loved it, but it didn’t really affect my diet (apart from helping me stop drinking so much) and I’ve always HATED going to the regular fitness gym so beyond classes, I didn’t do any extra work for strength & conditioning. Gradually though, the spillover effects of being obsessed with the sport permeated other aspects of my life – I began to change my diet towards a more protein-heavy, low-carb approach, take supplements for recovery, and picked up strength and conditioning. The changes to my body and abilities didn’t happen overnight – not even over weeks.
The changes take place on such a micro-level that it’s almost impossible to chart, and it’s attributable to the daily grind. Every. Fucking. Day. Rain or shine. Up or down. I just keep going to the gym. My colleagues have learnt that pretty much every day is gym day. On my birthday I went to the gym. I was at the gym on Christmas eve. And CNY. Sometimes going to the gym sucks. I get crushed by some 85kg men who can’t deal with the possibility of being submitted by a girl. I have to work with newbies a lot and they can be dangerous because they spaz out, or they scratch me. Sometimes the professor just wants to porrada and all I want to do is just flow drill because I’m tired. But I just go and shut my mouth and do the work and come back the next day. And the next. And the next. I figure that eventually I’ll understand the techniques better if I keep showing up and doing them.
My body is no longer soft and doughy. I’m about 18% body fat, with some nice muscle but I could definitely lose a bit more fat and put on some more muscle – which is the goal, really. But it’s 2017 March now, and I started training 2015 November. That’s almost a year and a half of daily work and I’m still quite a long way out. At some stage I thought ‘oh this must be my final form’ but I was obviously wrong.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is saving, making the right financial decisions and all that is pretty much the same beef. A lot of grinding. Daily struggles. Big, motivational days are few and far between and they won’t be there to keep you on the path. I suppose once you’ve convinced yourself that this is a way of life that the grind becomes more freeing, where it’s not really a choice because there is no choice, that’s just how life IS.
I thought about this too because after I did the right thing and saved/invested my bonus, I felt a little lost and empty. Now what? The nice feeling of having done the responsible-adult-thing went away pretty quickly and then the boredom set in. But if I’m relying on that feeling to keep me going, then I’m in for a huge slap in the face. It’s not fun. It’s boring. And grindy. Just got to keep at it. Someday I will wake up and it will be a weekday and I will meander through my lovely home to make myself a nice cup of coffee, read the papers, go walk my dog, head out to the beach for a surf, come back and read a book, have a leisurely lunch, train bjj, make a fire and fall asleep – that is the exciting stuff that I have to grind out for.
P.S: I love BJJ. Nobody is forcing me to go. But you have to put in the work and the mats don’t lie. Putting in the work is boring. The exciting stuff is winning competitions, or being a soul-crushing, dominating force of unstoppability on the mats. To get to that point, you must put in the work. A whole lot of work, especially for a small, female practitioner.