Omoplatas, Arm Bars and Self Love
By: Alexandra Finfer
I often hear my coaches and teammates talk about this journey we undertake as Jiu Jitsu practitioners. I didn’t quite understand what this journey was until I earned my blue belt. Like most people after a belt promotion, I started to reflect on my time training. I know I sound like a poster child for Jiu Jitsu when I say that one of the things that really stood out to me is how much more confident I am now than when I started training.
Insert Morgan Freeman voiceover, “Do a martial art and you, too, will have more confidence!”
Obviously, I have assurance in knowing I could protect myself in a self-defense situation, but this boldness is more dynamic than just being able to beat up a larger opponent. One of the fundamental skills we learn in Jiu Jitsu is how to use our bodies in favorable ways to create frames, space, and distance. The more you view your body in a favorable way, the more comfortable you become in your own skin.
Being secure with myself is something I have always struggled with. I always felt like I had to reach a societal norm. For instance, I wasn’t girly enough because I preferred to spend my money on coffee rather than a 30-minute manicure filled with awkward small talk and the abundant aroma of acetone. As social media started to emerge, my insecurities heightened. “Why can’t my body be like theirs? Why don’t I have long legs? Why do my shoulders have to be so broad?” When I entered high school, I quit playing sports due to my insecurities. On one hand, I felt that being the sporty girl made me less of a woman. And on the other hand, I was petrified of doing any athletics or weight training because I didn’t want to continue developing what I thought was a less-than-feminine body type. When I went to the gym, I would stick with strictly cardio. I thought a single rep of a 5-pound dumbbell would turn me into a bodybuilder. I had this belief and intense, irrational fear until I started training Jiu Jitsu.
After I started training, I noticed that my insecurities were fading. The biggest reason for this is that things I once viewed as flaws in my appearance became advantages in Jiu Jitsu and self-defense. My short legs that I once loathed helped me develop a tight guard. My broad shoulders aided me with pressuring into my opponent’s carotid artery. My strength I built up from my sporty years made me less vulnerable to male opponents. For the first time in my life, I started to appreciate my body for the things it could do. That new attitude allowed me to see value in myself, which in turn boosted my confidence.
When I went to the gym, I would stick with strictly cardio. I thought a single rep of a 5-pound dumbbell would turn me into a bodybuilder. I had this belief and intense, irrational fear until I started training Jiu Jitsu.
My Jiu Jitsu journey thus far has been a very enlightening one filled with learning a lot of technique, but also learning to love myself. Self-love is something I really struggled with for most of my life. I was always so obsessed with my weight, how I compared to other girls, and what I looked like. Jiu Jitsu has taught me a few things. First, as long as you have a 4-pound leeway to make weight with your Gi on, who cares what the scale says? Second, if you try to compare yourself to others, you’ll only end up failing. After all, there’s no point in comparing yourself to the brown belt who’s been training for 6 years longer than you. Lastly, and most notably, it’s not important, nor should you care what shape or size you are. I have met so many men and women, all built differently. Each body type has its own place in Jiu Jitsu. Once you learn what game works best for your body type, you will learn to love your body for what it can do, rather than what it looks like. Having insecurities doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. I’ve learned to recognize that the things I’m insecure about are what set me apart from everyone else.
But, you know what? It’s also really comforting to know that If anyone tries to point out the things I am insecure about, I know how to choke them.