As I was saying, my goal for 2019 is to continue learning to build.
Truth is, I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions and goals for the new year. I’ve never understood why Jan. 1 marks the day for everyone to all of a sudden make changes in their lives. And besides: Most resolutions don’t stick, anyway.
But if you’ve been reading my column for a while, you may know that I’ve been hoping to be more physically active. Last spring, my girlfriend and I joined a flag football league, which was a lot of fun, but it was only once a week and it rained pretty much every week.
She tried to get me to do Crossfit, but those workouts are just insane, so, as much as I like the people there, that’s probably not going to happen.
Instead, in October, I finally took the step to sign up to do mixed martial arts at SoldierFit in Frederick. It seemed like an odd choice, even to me, because I don’t like fighting people. I hope I never have to fight another human being ever. But traditional workouts, like running or lifting weights, aren’t appealing to me. It takes me about 7 minutes of running before I get bored or staring at the ground or trees or houses. Lifting weights doesn’t seem particularly useful to my everyday life. I’ve never once in my life had to bench press something in order to accomplish a real-life task.
But mixed martial arts seems like it could come in handy for self-defense purposes if I’m ever put in an unfortunate predicament. Too often, I’ve seen how adults behave at bars or sporting events and I’ve always wondered how I’d defend myself if I was ever on the receiving end of a drunk idiot at a bar.
Mixed martial arts also seemed beneficial to me because, unlike running, I can’t just quit because I’m bored. Typically the workouts are partner-based, so if you quit, you could end up getting punched in the head or put into a chokehold.
Like many mixed martial arts academies, the gym uses a belt system for its jiu-jitsu and standup combative classes. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that, mostly because I don’t love labels. I thought, as a white belt, people would think less of me. That hasn’t been the case. All the other students at the gym have been accepting and helpful, and the belts are largely ignored.
The one thing I didn’t expect is that the belts would be used to keep me striving to get better. I’m typically not an extrinsically motivated person, but I enjoyed the pressure of attempting to earn my yellow belt several weeks ago. After succeeding in getting my yellow belt, work has now begun to try to get my orange belt.
But don’t get me wrong. I still suck. I get demolished in our submission wrestling classes on a regular basis. And there are times when I look pretty foolish trying to remember what I’m supposed to do during sparring.
But that’s OK. I do it for the workout and to learn. I’ve never experienced a workout quite like it. Jiu-jitsu uses muscles I didn’t even know existed. And I’ve learned some easy-to-use defenses, should I ever need them.
But gosh, I hope I don’t. I hope so much that I don’t have to use them, that I don’t even tell my friends I’m doing MMA in a public place. MMA is such a primal sport, that I feel like people think those who partake in it will drop the gloves in public at a moment’s notice. I worry that people will think that I view myself as a macho badass with a bachelor’s degree in spreading toxic masculinity.
I don’t. And no one at the gym does either. Truthfully, every time I learn a new move in class, I try to find the point in the move at which I could turn around and run in the opposite direction.
But even if I can run away, that would only last 7 minutes, so I guess I should keep practicing.
Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.